The whoopin’ in the Biz School back-room

A chain of posts through the Net Impact LinkedIn group led me to rant again about the disparity between the innovation that is taught in “better” business schools and the conformity that is foisted-upon new graduates.

Ivy League universities hire distinguished faculty to teach classes in “innovation;” these same professors rally around the need for change to compete in the global marketplace.  Yet as students approach graduation and complete their exams, theses, and dissertations, it seems they are ushered into the back room to have the creativity beaten out of them.  The Biz School back-room “whoopin” leaves new graduates wondering about their considerable investment of time, money, and faith.

Resumes must conform to a specific style to earn a place in the recruitment “book; ” cover letters may as well be automated, and networking is almost incestuous (maybe due to over-reliance on alumni).  I shouldn’t complain, as many students seek the services of experienced career professionals to flesh-out their personal brand and manage their job search campaigns.  (Look for CAN and other career strategists at the Sept. 17th PA Governor’s Conference for Women,  as well as several MBA Career Expos and the November Net Impact Conference.)

The NetImpact group discussion led me to a related post by Matt Madden, a Presidio School of Management student who is writing a book tentatively titled Status Quo Values. The purpose of this project is to explore status quo value systems – economic, political and social values – and discuss the role these values play in our society’s aversion to change.  The goal of the work is to define status quo values, discuss the historical roots of our institutional embrace of status quo values, examine the role our institutions play in promoting these values to individuals and investigate examples of institutions and individuals adhering to alternative value systems.  Sounds like a continuation of the dialog started by Robert Reich in his Fast Company issue, Your Job Is Change.  I’ll be looking for the book, Matt…

Marketing guru, Seth Godin: a new platform for “I am” and “I know” skills

Godin, blogger and thought leader among personal and permission marketers, has re-framed the thinking of Richard Bolles, author and esteemed guru of career and life coaches. 

I'm always looking for a topic that might add real value to the career space, so I was grateful to a friend who sent me Seth Godin's recent post, What are you good at?    Taking a marketing perspective, Seth appropriately suggests that those looking for their next big gig" should consider the distinction between skills that can be categorized as "content" and "process."

Godin uses 21st Century terminology to make his point:  "Content is domain knowledge. People you know or skills you've
developed… Domain knowledge is important, but it's (often) easily learnable."
  While Bolles' terms may not resonate with Millennials, his discussion of this topic is as relevant today as it was in 1980, when the Quick Job Hunting Map was first published.  Bolles describes skills residing in the content domain as "I know skills" ,e.g."I know how to use SAP, "I know financial accounting," "I know movers and shakers in the logistics field."

Godin  uses the term "process" to describe "emotional intelligence" – what Bolles would call "I am skills."  When explaining process skills, a speaker is likely to start a sentence with "I am able to manage multiple projects," "I am persuasive," "I am adaptable," etc.  These are the skills, abilities, and personal qualities that can differentiate a candidate from the many others who share their credentials and knowledge skills.  As Godin says, the process "…stuff is insanely valuable and hard to learn." And I agree that these personal qualities are likely to be overlooked by screeners and scanners. All the more reason to dig-deep and seize control of your personal marketing campaign – to manage your career.

An infinite number of people share the same content domain, but precious few offer the same mix of process skills and personal qualities. Long-term career health, preceded by successful assessment, preparation of marketing documents, interview preparation, and offer negotiation, is dependent upon your understanding of these ideas.

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.

Six Questions to Consider RE: “International Update Your Resume Month”

I belong to several excellent professional associations, Including Career Directors International (CDI), which has designated September as "Update Your Resume Month."

The fall is one of the seasons of the year that is traditionally associated with self-evaluation, work-life management, and change resolutions. This is a great time to seize the opportunity to manage your career and life situation: to be proactive rather than defensive, especially in the face of challenging economic times.

Many people call, asking that I tweak their resume; in most cases, a more complete revision is needed. What are some of the factors you should consider when considering how to proceed?  Remember – the resume is a marketing tool that speaks for you when you aren't there…

  1. Does your resume make a convincing case for where you want to go – in the future?
  2. Do you use industry-specific keywords?  Do you use terminology that helps to make a transition?
  3. Is your resume more than 2-pages long?  How dense is your text?  Is your writing style clear, concise, and compelling?
  4. Does your resume describe job duties or success stories?  Does the text of your resume support your "brand" or "your SSP (special selling points)"?
  5. Is your resume relevant?  Do you emphasize quantifiable and recent accomplishments; those that are relevant to your future goals?
  6. Is your resume an effective marketing tool?  Never lie, and never market yourself in a cheesy or over-the-top manner… Know yourself: plan your campaign strategically; tell your story with understated enthusiasm, in writing and in-person.

See the archives of this blog for other posts on resume-writing; see CAN's tips to "Avoid the Round File" (Download 0405-TRIBUNE_EDITED_E-MAIL.pdf); see books by Enelow and Kursmark for current samples, including those by this writer.

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

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…

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

Philadelphia Boomers: trying-out for a Second Act

Athena D. Merritt‘s recent article in the Philadelphia Business Journal alerted me to an interesting partnership between IBM Corp. and the U.S. Department of Treasury: The FedExperience Transitions to Government program. 

Designed to serve as a model for other companies and federal
departments and agencies, IBM will match its experienced workers who
are leaving voluntarily with some of the 162,000 federal jobs that are
expected to become open in 2008. This scenario looks like a variation
on the familiar saying, “when a door closes, a window opens.” The
retirement of fellow Boomers and new vacancies will create
opportunities for those who are leaving private sector jobs, but not
yet ready for the golf course…

As of January 25th, there were 642 federal job vacancies in the Philadelphia area. The Federal government offers a broad range of opportunities for
experienced workers, and the government is becoming a more flexible
employer: check-out the opportunities at USA Jobs®. Those considering government employment might also consider nearby state capitols: Harrisburg, PA, Trenton, NJ and Dover, DE. 

Many BabyBoomers expect to face age discrimination in their quest for their next job, especially in the corporate arena.  Consider that state and federal governments are likely to be
among the most non-discriminatory of employers (Federal law prohibits
discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, religion, and
age; local statutes may extend protection based on other factors not
related to job performance.)

Candidates whose experience has been in the private sector may find
the federal and state application process to be daunting: candidates
must express their value via Knowledge – Skills – Abilities (KSAs). A
career professional can guide you through this process; it is similar
to other assessments that are part of the “tool bag” of career
strategists. Links to information about this process are available
through the United States Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.


Change is just a 6-letter word

As we conduct a campaign in search of the "right job," so too are we focused on the campaigns of politicians who seek job and societal change. What is it about this word, "change" that it keeps popping-up in political commentary? Who can and should claim the flag of change?  2008_change_2

Those of you who read my post last week, Resolve to enter the "neutral zone, will probably guess that I am going to recommend that job seekers of all types, including politicians, abandon the search for "change." While it is an appealing rallying cry, William Bridges is correct to suggest that change is likely to offer only short-lived solutions. Instead, job seekers would do well to create the time and space necessary to process the endings that will ultimately lead to new beginnings. 

Instead of offering pre-fabricated solutions or intangible promises of "change," perhaps politicians should encourage citizens to embrace "the neutral zone" – that extended period of reflection and discomfort that may eventually morph into transition and new beginnings. Isn’t this what the primary and general election period is designed to offer – an opportunity to discuss issues of importance , consider new paths, make new connections…?  A candidate who understands and promotes the neutral zone is leading to a very dynamic place – those involved are likely to be fully engaged.

So, should we recommend that William Bridges serve as an adviser to our political candidates?! It would be healthy for politicians to lead toward transition: to embrace a process similar to that employed by job seekers – one that begins with an ending and transitions toward a new beginning. 

Resolve to enter the “neutral zone”


With a brand that promotes "career change and success strategies…," you’d think I’d be all over the New
Year as a time to make resolutions and embark upon ambitious goals.  I’d like to be a cheerleader for
easy change, but experience tells me that successful transitions are not governed by the solar calendar.  Instead, I’d like to defer to the wisdom of William Bridges, author of Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes

Bridges makes the argument that transitions start with letting go of what no longer fits in your life – transitions start with endings. Once you know what you don’t want to continue, Bridges suggests that you enter the "neutral zone."  This is the uncomfortable period when you are confused by all the advice, information, and clues that might lead you to your expected outcome.  You might not be surprised to learn that this theory comes full circle with the belief that the transition process concludes with new beginnings.

My point in writing this post is to encourage you to give yourself the time and emotional energy needed to navigate the "neutral zone."  For some, the "neutral zone" is so painful that any acceptable relief is preferable.  For those who need the "quick fix," it may seem preferable to quit a job, apply for a transfer, or quickly accept another job.  These options may relieve immediate pain, but it is unlikely that hasty solutions will guide you through the 5-6 transitional periods of your personal/work life.

Navigate the "neutral zone" the way a paramecium navigates an aquatic environment: take in new information, reach-out to others, ask for feedback, respond to clues, read voraciously.  It may not sound like a fun place to be, but with a little help from your friends and a career professional, your investment in this zone should be enlightening, invigorating, and rewarding. There is no perfect calendar date or prescribed length of time for this process: the reward you can expect is a new beginning toward the next stage in your work/life.

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