Networking Valentine: What’s black & white and read all over?

Periodically, I like to remind my readers and prospective clients to look for networking and new business opportunities in the most obvious place: your daily newspaper.  It is still black and white (whether online or in-print), and it contains many gems if “red” (sic: read) all over!

Let’s take a look at the Monday edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, with its daily focus on different business themes (Monday = “Small Business”).  Since there is no business news over the preceding weekend, the editors publish the weekly “Business Calendar” and “People in the News” in the Monday edition. (BTW: It seems the calendar may not be accessible online anymore, so you’ll have to decide if there is sufficient ROI to warrant .75cent investment in the good-ol’ fashioned newspaper.)  My ROI analysis:

Business Calendar for week beginning Jan. 31st:

Week beginning Feb. 7th:

In the “People in the News” section, find names of people you know (or want to know) at companies that are alive and well: they are hiring and promoting people.

And of course, you can indulge in some of your own out-of-the-box thinking by reading about what others are doing, e.g.

  • Rajant Corp of Malvern, a maker of wireless communication networks whose products are now successfully exported to Australia, Canada, Mexico, and elsewhere, improving our balance of trade and local economy;
  • A cabinetmaker and fine woodworker “went with the flow” of a career change (suggested by his Dad); his elevator remodeling business is projected to generate $50 million in annual sales, with a new factory on the drawing board for western USA.

Senior-level executives are in demand per Execunet

While the business climate may be ugly, the economic recovery depends on people like you to turn it around.  Perhaps you are one of the visionaries that can think outside the box – perhaps you have the connections needed to collaborate with others – perhaps you have the passion to set the economy on the right track. 

The ExecuNet Report is well-regarded, and it points to a job market reality:  companies need people to create business opportunities, sell products and services, and manage their operations.  See below:

NEW: The Executive Job Functions Most in Demand

 Executive Job Functions That Corporate Employers
Expect Will Create The Most Growth In 2008 Executive Hiring
 Business Development 14.8%
 Sales 12.9%
 Operations Management (including Quality,
 Supply Chain and Logistics)
 General Management 10.3%
 Finance   9.1%
 Engineering   9.1%
 Marketing   8.7%
 MIS / Information Technology   6.2%
 Consulting   6.1%
 Research and Development   5.7%
 Human Resources   3.5%
Source: ExecuNet 2008

Demand for senior-level executives with significant business
development, sales, operations management and general management will
outstrip corporate appetites for management-level hiring this year.
That's according to the findings of ExecuNet's 16th annual Executive Job Market Intelligence Report survey of more than 250 employer organizations.

Scale the Brick Wall: some inspirational words suitable for a downturn

A client has maintained a constant training regimen
to scale her brick wall: technology is sending her job to the scrap-yard. 

She is an incredibly positive and tenacious
person.  The transition/training process has required nearly 6 months of
patience and focus; now she is close to realizing her goal.  One door may be closing, but a window is

Her recent e-mail referenced this excerpt from the
last lecture of Professor Randy Pausch, who offered a legacy talk shortly
before his struggle with cancer ended with his death. Perhaps these words will inspire
those who are trying to scale their own walls


The brick walls are there
for a reason.

The brick walls are not
there to keep us out;

the brick walls are there
to give us a chance

to show how badly we want

The brick walls are there to stop the people

who don’t want it badly

They are there to stop the
OTHER people!


Download randy_pausch.m2YH4U3WTBO0QA.htm

Randy Pausch

Successful interviewing at all levels: secret weapon is P-A-R

you’re reading this article, you probably understand that job
successful job seekers talk about what they have accomplished in
previous positions, and present a “mini-business plan” to relate to the
needs of a prospective employer. Review the following list to be sure
you are prepared to interview successfully:

  • You have
    clearly and concisely described one – two “success stories” for each of
    your previous employers, using the Problem (Challenge) – Action -
    Result model.
  • You have analyzed your accomplishment
    stories to identify the personal qualities, skills, and areas of
    knowledge that made it possible for you to achieve your successes.

Going forward, you need to re-frame this data in terms of what is needed for the specific position you are applying for.

Step #1
- Study the job description and organization to identify the criteria
for the job (not “requirements”). The criteria are likely to be “soft
skills,” e.g., flexibility, team orientation, interpersonal skills,
etc. Create a grid, with the criteria on the left and your previous
employers across the top.

Step #2 – Fill-in the cells
with a note about each employer/accomplishment that addresses the new
job criteria. (Without the ability to post a table online, I can’t
provide a good-looking sample – contact this author for a complimentary
copy of this worksheet..)

Step #3 – Once you’ve
completed this “homework,” use your notes to prepare for questions and
conversation with the interviewers. Be careful to limit your responses
to three – four crisp sentences, using the Problem (Challenge) – Action
- Result model.

Ironically, you’ll need to rehearse these responses so you can deliver them in a style that appears to be totally spontaneous!  Rehearse
wherever you are alone and won’t feel silly talking out loud to
yourself, e.g., while driving, drying your hair, etc.  Want to hear a supportive refrain while practicing?  Try Frank Zappa’s 2005 The Classic InterviewsZappa Classic Interviews_7358270

Go hire one of Business Week’s Top 50 Hot Growth Companies

Image - business week
Assuming that you are experimenting with the concept of proactive job search, check-out this list of preeminent small companies. They've been selected by Business Week for "showing resilience in the face of a worsening economy." 

Why should job seekers give greater consideration to smaller companies, e.g. those with fewer than 500 employees?  Because this sector of the economy has been more nimble since 2003; they are most likely to seek innovators as they navigate the current economic downturn.

  • Beginning in 2004, Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job creation moved from larger to smaller companies.  A few of the simple reasons:
    • Smaller companies need to hire to fuel and sustain their growth
    • Larger companies may be under the spell of "slash and burn" CEO's

Read the full article referenced above (by Richard Kirby) to think about small versus large employers. For our purposes, consider the following criteria when evaluating the Business Week Hot Growth Companies or performing a SWOT analysis on any potential employer.

Is the company focused on organic growth from the inside . . . or
growth through external M&A?

•  Does the company reward and promote high achievers?

•  Do they truly value their employees?

Perform your due diligence using the strategies suggested in 5 clues to your next big thing and answer these (and other) questions
before you decide to sign up with a new employer. 

5 clues to your “next big thing” (Hint: look next to your morning coffee)

I'm using this post to demonstrate how you can use your morning newspaper as a guide toward your "next big thing."  Your newspaper doesn't have to be delivered to your door or purchased from a street-corner;  online news will also help you accomplish the goal. 

It is fair to say that we accept the need to demonstrate that we are current in our field, that we understand how events in the world affect our
industry, and that we offer a unique value to a prospective employer.  While the thought process that I'm going to suggest isn't new, it seems that job seekers have abandoned the news and therefore, removed themselves from current information that can inform their unique value proposition and brand…  An example:

Many of my current clients are looking for B2B,  marketing, or communications opportunities in industries with staying power in the Greater Philadelphia area, including Allentown, Princeton, and Wilmington.  So, to become familiar with the major industries in the area and keep abreast with what's happening with innovative ideas, products, services, and key people, these clients check-out:

Monday's Inquirer featured an article about competition between regional health insurers, principally Capital and Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Sheild, as well as their non-Blue competitors, Aetna and Valley Preferred.  Public regulators are holding hearings to evaluate the wisdom of a Blue merger, and the writer offers a very informative history of the business of health insurance in the corporate arena.  This is a very large and profitable industry;
opportunities exist in a multitude of roles, including executive
management, sales, IT, finance, marketing communications, etc.  To
paraphrase JFK's 1960 inaugural address:  think not about
what Blue can do for you; think of what you can do for Blue, or any other company of interest…

  1. Take a few moments to look at the About Us page of the company web site; this page will lead you to think of the possibilities you might create or fulfill based on what you offer. The Jobs or Careers page reveals what is available now; while it is possible that you might find the perfect job, it is unlikely.
  2. Once you determine your genuine interest, dare I say, "passion," then start looking for connections – people who can help you gain access and information about the company to better determine what you can do for them. These connections can be found in the weekly "People In the News," in the body of news articles, through company web sites, through online networking sites, and in the office next-door to yours…
  3. Perform a SWOT analysis on the company; learn about the company's competition; develop a few proposals.
  4. Practice listening to understand how you can meet their needs, both those that are stated and those you'll intuit based on your research.
  5. Prepare targeted marketing materials – resume or profile, letters,
    e-mails, 30-60-second commercial, exit summary, etc.  The operative
    word is "targeted;" the operative perspective is WIIFTHM – What's in it for them…

A client meeting last evening led me to the March 21-27 issue of the Business Journal that featured Gamesa, a Spanish wind turbine maker whose US manufacturing facility has filled a large part of the space once occupied by the US Steel Fairless Works. This firm will employ 115 at its Center City headquarters office, and has leased 3x more office space than it previously held. So why should job seekers care?  The alternative energy industry offers an excellent opportunity for those who are good communicators and also comfortable with science and technology. Moreover, it may be an excellent alternative to industries that are more likely to be adversely affected by the economy, e.g. housing, construction, pharmaceutical.

While sipping your coffee, try these 5 clues to discover what you'll be when you grow up, or where you'll find your next big gig…

For 2000 years, we’ve known that hiring is not a science…

What follows is a guest post written by Ed Zenzola, a colleague and President of The Zenzola Group, a boutique executive search consulting firm specializing in the development of hiring strategies and performance profiles.  The principals of this group offer senior-level HR experience with global organizations; their executive recruiting expertise allows Zenzola Group to match opportunities with exceptional individuals who will quickly become high-performing talent.

This post was originally written for client companies who are frustrated by the challenge of identifying and retaining top talent.  The readers of Career Acceleration Notes will gain valuable insight by considering the perspective of those on the other side of the desk.

About two thousand years ago, the officials of the Han dynasty tried
to make a science of the hiring process by creating a long and detailed
job description and rigorous tests for civil servants. Archaeological
records show that those same officials were frustrated by the results
of their efforts; few new hires worked out as well as expected.
Experience and studies have shown what the Han officials discovered in
200 BC: it is impossible to turn hiring into a science.

and retaining talent is improved by how we approach interviews. Here
are five steps that should be part of every interview.

  1. The
    key is structure
    . A structured interview is the most reliable technique
    for predicting performance and for communicating expected performance.
    This requires having well prepared questions developed from the
    Performance Profile we discussed in a previous email.
  2. The interviewer must be extremely familiar with the performances and
    measurements that are required in the position
    . From these required
    performances and measurements, questions can then be posed to the
    candidate regarding relevant prior experiences. The questions should be
    posed to truly understand the candidate’s actual role and the
    significance of the performance. A rule of thumb for preparation is 2
    to 1; if you expect a structured interview to last 2 hours you will
    need to spend 4 hours preparing for the interview.
  3. Determine
    Listen closely to the candidate’s descriptions of prior
    performances. You should be listening to the candidate 80% of the time
    and only interjecting to pose additional questions. Your questions
    should be structured around a SOAR format; the Situation or Opportunity, the Action taken, and the Results.
    To determine problem solving competency, ask questions such as, “what
    were the 2 or 3 biggest challenges you faced on the project, tell me
    step-by-step how you handled the biggest one.” Questioning like this
    will reveal if the candidate has exhibited all the critical
  4. Determining
    a cultural fit.
    Beyond the tangible performances and competencies are
    the intangible issues of cultural fit and emotional intelligence.
    Cultural fit is even more critical to an employee’s success within an
    organization than education, experience, skills or intellect. There is
    an old saying: You hire for experience and skill and fire for
    personality and attitude.
  5. During
    the candidate’s SOAR (a.k.a., P-A-R or C-A-R) description of prior performances,
    interject with
    questions; “how did your boss manage you on this project?” “Is this how
    you like to be managed?” Or, “describe the recognition you received.”
    Avoid asking direct questions; “describe the environment and culture of
    your previous employer” and “what did you like best and least?”  More
    often than not the response will be a rehearsed answer.
  6. Consistency.
    The entire interview team must be on the same page. Whether a group
    interview or single interviews, everyone, regardless of position, must
    know and agree to the relevant factors in ranking candidates. Of course
    everyone should have the Performance Profile and an understanding of
    the position’s required competencies. Assign interviewers a sub-set of
    the competency model and require them to provide detailed evidence to
    support their assessment. Review the interview results in a group
    setting with the hiring manager and senior people, making their
    comments last. Also start off with the positives rather than the
    negatives to increase group objectivity.
  7. Don’t
    sell; at this point, be a buyer. You can’t convince a top quality
    candidate that your position is the best among competing offers if the
    interviewers oversell and under-listen. The key to recruiting top
    quality talent is to over-buy and under-talk. This means you need to
    get candidates to talk more by asking in-depth, tough, and challenging
    questions. Describe the challenges in the position and get the
    candidate to describe relevant performances. The more you put the
    candidate in the selling position the more the candidate will describe
    prior performances in detail.

To Get to Yes, each party must move away from positions toward an understanding of the needs of the other party.  This post offers a valuable glimpse into the needs of organizations who are recruiting talent.  Sharing this post illustrates the synergy that can exist between career professionals who support organizations and individuals.

WSJ view of Second Act served-up like cold mashed potatoes

A well-meaning friend sent me today’s Wall Street article, Second Acts: Career Paths For Worn-Out Executives.  Not only does this article present an elitist view of the type of career transition available to older workers, the vignettes offered are not even newsworthy.

The article profiles senior executives who can afford to follow their avocation, like Mr. Orner (Bank Vice President to Executive Chef at a Yacht Club).  It is true that many Traditionalists and Boomers want to have another chance to give back to their communities; many are willing to sacrifice compensation to do so: this is yesterday’s news.  But the profile of the Traditionalist who sacrifices by making her own copies and travel plans is demeaning.  An older worker who transitions from corporate to nonprofit must surely understand and respect the non-hierarchical and self-sufficient culture of nonprofit organizations. Indeed, the personal assistance "sacrificed" by Ms. Shillings has gone the way of the electric typewriter, even in the corporate world. It is these profiles, not the executives, who are "worn-out."

I’m disappointed that the esteemed WSJ does not look into the more urgent generational issues of the day. I’d like to read about middle-managers, professionals, technicians, and working people who have successfully transitioned from their long-standing careers. Regardless of their status on the rungs of the ladder, Boomers and Traditionalists share membership in the "Sandwich Generation." They are likely to shoulder tremendous financial and emotional responsibilities for their parents and children. Financially, they cannot afford to leave or lose their "First Act," much less take on a lower-paying "Second Act." 

The issues are vital to our economic well-being: the discussion needs to go beyond "worn-out" profiles of well-heeled people. Among other things, we need to discuss effective cross-training, an acceptance of digital natives and digital immigrants, and a campaign to promote family-friendly corporate policies.  It would be fascinating to examine the synergy that exists between the values of Milliennials, Gen X’ers and Boomers, and harness that synergy to achieve a change in social policy.

The dynamic between generations in the workplace will be discussed at the upcoming Kennedy Conference: The Annual Gathering of Career Management Professionals, in Minneapolis, MN on May 2.  Two Boomers and One Millennial will present, "Mind the Gap: Connecting the Generations."  We hope to generate some buzz about this topic among our colleagues in the careers profession.  To weigh-in before the presentation, please comment here…  Look for blog posts from the Conference…

Where are the growth opportunities in the Executive Suite?

Talented executives are needed more than ever during difficult economic times. It is the business development and sales executives who bear the burden of generating the revenue. The "recession" represents an opportunity for those who can demonstrate their ability to understand the needs of the company and its customers – those who CAN create a clear and compelling executive brand.

Interesting predictions by employers from ExecuNet:

NEW: The Executive Job Functions Most in Demand for 2008
Executive Job Functions That Corporate Employers
Expect Will Create The Most Growth In 2008 Executive Hiring
Business Development 14.8%
Sales 12.9%
Operations Management (including Quality,
Supply Chain and Logistics)
General Management 10.3%
Finance   9.1%
Engineering   9.1%
Marketing   8.7%
MIS / Information Technology   6.2%
Consulting   6.1%
Research and Development   5.7%
Human Resources   3.5%
Source: ExecuNet 2008
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