For 9 years my wife told me, “You can get into that business, but don’t quit your day job.” I was working at EDS. I wanted to start my own company.
I matured over those years. I learned a little about business and life. I started and failed at a few small part-time businesses. Then one day I said, “I want to leave EDS and start a company.” My wife said, “I think that is the right thing to do.”
I was surprised, but she was right. It was finally time to make a change. I was finally ready. My wife helped keep me in touch with reality.
Spouses motivated by love and in a spirit of honesty can be great counselors. As a recruiter I have repeatedly seen spouses give counsel that I personally disagreed with. Then later it turned out they were right. I misread employment situations that they saw clearly. The person closest to the candidate knew what my candidate wanted much better than I did. Often a spouse “just knows” when something isn’t a fit. On the other hand, they also are pretty sharp about pressing people to leave a bad situation too.
Value the counsel, hunches, and assertions of the person closest to you. A lot of times it is the best advice you can get.
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Have you talked with your spouse and family about your job situation lately? Ask them about quitting, relocation, companies and career paths. You may be surprised at what they really think.
Half the executives I talk with every day are keeping their eyes open for a new job. That includes CFO’s, CIO’s, COO’s, Directors, and VP’s at every level. They may not be actively looking, but they want to talk to me. Even CEO’s and Presidents who are not founders are talking to me more.
Senior professionals are more stable
Professional level employees like Senior accountants, engineers, and programmers are less likely to be looking than their bosses. They have their eyes on their projects…on what needs to be done today.
Do you know what gets them to call me? They like working from home and don’t really believe any other employer would let them continue working from home. When their managers say, “You have to start coming into the office 4 days a week now,” they want to talk about a new job.
Regular staff have a foot out the door already
Staff and Junior level professionals are looking. They don’t just have their eyes open, they are checking out the job boards and checking company sites for jobs. These are people working for their company for less than 3 years. There has been a boom of accountants, admins, clerks, and engineers talking to me.
When I call these people about jobs, they want to talk to me in-depth even if they just got a new job.
Shop floor and warehouse workers
Turnover is unbelievable. Leaders at every level say they are being killed by the turnover levels. Staying ahead of the market requires constant diligence.
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What are top companies actually doing? What is working from the management and employee sides?
Not everyone wants to get promoted. I knew an accountant who was approaching retirement who had done nothing but the lowest level accounting positions since he’d gotten out of college. When I offered him a promotion, he laughed and said “I’ve been doing exactly what I wanted for the last 40 years. I don’t want a change.”
Some businesses have an “up or out” style of promotion. Get passed up for a few promotions and you may find yourself out of a job.
How do you get respect and a chance to keep a job that people usually get promoted out of?
Wrong ways that keep you from getting that promotion
Keep dice in your drawer. Whenever your boss asks for a decision, roll the dice. Pull out a chart and run your finger down the rows. Then give the correct answer, not the one from the chart. That will keep you from getting promoted, even if it only LOOKS like you’re using the dice to find a solution. Of course you may lose credibility with your boss, but not all plans are perfect.
That’s a terrible idea. Don’t do it.
The right way to prevent getting promoted
You can keep from getting pushed out if you don’t want a promotion. First of all, let your boss know you love your job and don’t want a promotion.
Next, don’t get stuck in place. You should become the company’s greatest mentor. You can be a mentor as a technician, manager, HR specialist or assembly line worker. Just help others with their careers.
Keep an eye out for complainers and whiners. Avoid them. There is usually very little you can do for them. Look for people who sincerely want to advance. Find the diamonds in the rough. These are people who put in extra work, take night classes and are always helping others. Find the one or two shining examples in the workforce and help them advance.
Often the biggest thing you can do is to recommend one of your diamonds for a project. Then help them to see the critical path for the project and follow it. Give them encouragement along the way. Make sure they know where the levers of power are. They need to know who really makes things happen in the company.
As a person who doesn’t want a promotion, you need to help the people blocked by your permanence. Help them move up beside you or to hop over you. If you get a reputation for developing leaders, you will never be laid off. Good companies covet good leaders.
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You should be developing leaders whether you want to stay where you are or not. In your job journal write down the names of the top one or two candidates for promotion in your group. Help them out. Be a mentor even if you aren’t above them
When I was 17 I bragged that I had gotten every job I applied for. That was 5 jobs at the time. I set my own expectations and hit them. I continued to get every job I applied for. Looking back, I was lucky and that luck kept me from doing better.
I always had enough money to survive and my desires weren’t huge. I was going to college by then and just wanted to graduate. That is why my luck hurt me so bad.
After I left college I found out that my Geology Department would have gladly given me jobs while I was at school. I just never asked. I could have gone on to graduate school and jobs would have been lined up for me so I could afford it. I never asked. During the summer break there were jobs available for aspiring geologists, but I had already lined up something else selling books or working in the library. It was so easy to get the jobs I applied for that I never got the jobs that would advance my career.
Even when I graduated I applied for a job in geology that was being filled by high school graduates at the time. Of course I got the job. And I earned less than I could. And I didn’t look for another job until I was laid off.
It took me 3 years after that lay off to get a good job with a bright future. It took me that long to learn that if I accept every job I can get, I get jobs without a future.
I was a slow learner. I didn’t start failing until after I was laid off. I finally learned. Sometimes getting every job you apply for means you aren’t aiming high enough.
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Do you have a real career plan?
I have talked with programmers earning $50,000 per year and others earning $120,000 per year. They had the same basic talents. The better paid ones had chosen to work in SAP instead of Visual Basic. They really had to pay a price to get into SAP. Now they are reaping amazing rewards compared to the programmers who applied for jobs they knew they could get.
Do you really have a career plan? Or is it just a downhill career path?
If you focus on the innovations happening around you, it can change your career. When an idea, technology or procedure is new, it takes a week to become an expert. A year later it takes a year to become an expert.
I became a database expert in a week when Oracle 1.0 (yes, I’m that old) came out. I talked my boss into springing for $100 to get a copy. I parlayed that into becoming a DB2 guru by buying a book. One book. I became a data modeling expert because no one else had a clue what that was. One innovation led to another, and my bosses had no desire to stop me. All the industry magazines and experts were using the buzzwords I could implement. I was on the leading edge. I was riding the wave of innovation. Every career progression was caused by taking two weeks to prepare for an upcoming, essential, mystifying technology.
Do a little internal innovation and focus on using other’s ideas and new technology. It is always easier to become an expert when technology and techniques are new. What is new in your field?
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Try it again. The greatest lunch topic you can talk about with your boss is, “What is the emerging world changing technology, technique or skill in our field?” Figure out what the buzzwords are that people are barely starting to define in your field.
Do you pick up money you see on the ground? Do you stop your career in order to do a menial project or take a job someone else should do?
Bending over to pick up a hundred dollar bill is a bad investment of your time if you are Bill Gates. He has averaged earning more than that every two seconds since Microsoft started. I did the math.
Imagine you’re the fastest pizza maker in the world and make the best pizzas ever. However, your name is also Tom Monaghan, and you founded Domino’s Pizza. Is the best use of your time to make pizzas and sell them? No. Not even close. No matter how good your pizzas are, or how many you can make, if you focus on making pizzas instead of making a corporate empire, you will be wasting your time.
Just because you are the best person for the job, doesn’t mean the job is the best opportunity for you.
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What are you doing that keeps you from tackling more important projects? Who can you get to do that job for you?
How to engage the hiring manager in a conversation
The heroes in Men In Black have to stop a giant cockroach from leaving the earth. If it leaves, the earth will be destroyed. They are able to engage it in a conversation, sort of. They find out what is interesting enough to get the cockroach to come down and interact with (try to kill) them.
“Hiring managers are like giant cockroaches. They just want to hide in their offices and get away from you.” If you can engage the manager or their assistant in a conversation you will multiply your chances of getting an interview or a job. Here is how you do it:
First, make sure you want the job and that you are a decent fit. The Men In Black were the guys in charge of saving the earth. They were motivated and had the tools, they just had to figure out how to do it. If you are qualified to become a computer technician, audit manager or director of international sales, engage the hiring manager in a conversation. If you are not qualified for the job, just send him a resume through Indeed or ZipRecruiter. That way it only takes you 10 seconds to send it and the computer will automatically delete it for them. Conversation only works if you really want the job and really are qualified.
Now, write down the titles the hiring manager may have. Then call up the company and ask for that person. You may get through to him or you may get routed to someone else. If you get routed to someone else ask, “Are you helping (title) find the person for (job name)?” Push your way through until you get to someone who actually is helping him find a new employee. It doesn’t matter if it is them, the HR department or a receptionist. It has to be someone directly involved with the hiring process for that particular job.
When you get to the right person, say, “You are looking for a (job name). What has been the hardest thing for you to find in the right person?” Then wait. Engage them in a discussion of what they are having a hard time finding in a new hire. Make sure and ask, “Is there anything else you have a hard time finding?” Ask that last question again and again. Probe their answers. Find out what the problem is that they have to solve.
Another good question is, “For the (job name), what is causing you to throw away most of the resumes that you get?” Then probe that too. Add, “Is there anything else?” Listen. Ask more questions. Find out what can disqualify you.
Be helpful. If you find out you are the wrong person, offer to tell someone else who is qualified about the job. If you are the right person say, “I really fit that job, what is your email address so that I can send you my resume directly?” You have a 50-50 chance of getting their direct email address, and that will get your resume right on top of the pile. If you really are qualified, that is a great place to be. And you get there by engaging them in a conversation.
Don’t forget to specifically change your resume and cover letter to match their needs. Then call up an hour later and ask, “Did you get my resume? What more do you need to know?” You may just end up having a phone interview right then and there.
That is how you get a hiring manager to talk to you.
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Make a list of a few jobs that you really want and are qualified for that you have not already interviewed for. Whether or not your resume has been sent in, call them up and try this out. Change your resume after your conversation and highlight things you didn’t know were so important. You just may get that job.
In the last article I talked about how hiring managers are NOT God. I even went as far to say, “Hiring managers are like giant cockroaches. They just want to hide in their offices and get away from you. You are a waste of their time unless you tell them something that proves they need you. They would rather have their receptionist shred your resume than take the time to talk to you.”
The hiring manager is not God. They are a giant cockroach.
You cannot assume that a hiring manager will glean 4 key words and 2 key points out of a 3 page resume. You get no points for length and thoroughness. You get no points for briefness. You get points, or an interview, for saying the key words and phrases that the hiring manager wants to hear. If you don’t shout those key words and phrases, the manager’s receptionist will shred your resume. Then the cockroach, the hiring manager, can hide in their office where you can’t get to them.
To find the right words and phrases you need to do some forensic language work. Like a crime scene investigator. Take 3 or 4 job listings on Indeed or ZipRecruiter for different jobs with the same company. Place them all side by side. Highlight all the phrases that are identical. Identify the stuff the human resources department puts around the description the hiring manager wrote. That fluff may possibly be necessary to get you past the HR department, but it won’t get you a job.
Now take your blue highlighter. Mark every misused acronym, word, technical term or technical phrase. Those are the words the HR person didn’t understand. They could very well be critical. You need to have an exact match on those words in your resume.
Continue marking with an orange highlighter. Again look for all the technical terms and acronyms. Mark them all. The orange words are the most likely to be used by a computer or receptionist to screen out resumes.
Finally, go back over the resume with a pink highlighter. Mark the skills that are the most difficult to find. What are the things in the ad that everyone wants and nobody has?
I bet those ads look terrible. That’s good. It means you have taken the time to study the exact words that will get you an interview. You need to include those words and technical phrases in your resume. They will force the screener to pass your resume on to the hiring manager. He will have to call you in order to see if you can do the job. You will prevent him from closing his door and hiding from you.
Something to do today
Get some highlighters and go through ads on the internet. Find the really key words and phrases. Alter your resume before you send it out. Make it so they cannot miss the things that are important to them.
A giant cockroach steals the hero’s gun and swallows it, So the hero taunts the cockroach until it eats him. A few minutes later the cockroach explodes and our hero is standing there holding the huge gun the monster ate a few minutes before. Men In Black was a lot of fun. In that case the only way to save the world was to survive in the stomach of a giant bug.
There has to be at least 5 great job hunting analogies there. Create your own, then read mine. I bet mine is different.
The giant bug wants nothing more than to get into its spaceship and get away. Of course the earth will be destroyed if it gets away, but that is not the bug’s problem. The two puny humans must do everything they can to keep it from leaving. They taunt it, harass it, insult it, and step on small earthly cockroaches (relatives and friends) to get it to delay its departure. They figure out what the bug can’t ignore and get it to come back and deal with them.
Hiring managers are like giant cockroaches. They just want to hide in their offices and get away from you. You are a waste of their time unless you tell them something that proves they need you. They would rather have their receptionist shred your resume than take the time to talk to you. Take three lessons from the way the Men In Black fought the giant bug:
You have to find the right words
You have to engage them in conversation
A relative or friend may be able to get them to talk to you
Over the next three articles I will show you how to do each of these things. The giant cockroach, the hiring manager, will give you all the hints you need. I’ll show you what those hints are.
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What do you need to do to get a hiring manager to need to talk to you?
Google puts first things first. They figured out how to rank pages by how they are connected. They put the page that will be the most useful to you at the top of your list. That saved so much time that people abandoned the other search engines.
Connecting web pages is a simple concept. A web page links to my website. Another site links to that first web page. Now, all three are connected.
There are simple and complex strategies to being ranked highly by Google. All of them are forms of networking. The two most common strategies are: 1) you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, and 2) become the expert.
You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours
You offer to list their web page on yours if they list your web page on theirs. That way you both get a lot of recognition.
It works in job hunting, too. Although it’s not as simple as with websites, the basic idea is to help as many people as you can, and they will help you.
Getting articles published in trade journals is one example. There are literally thousands of local, state, regional and national associations and publications that need authors. Call up one and tell them you want to write an article. Local newsletters are especially useful. If you do a great job, they’ll publish it. The people who get those newsletters will then consider you an expert. They may just call you to help them with a question. They may offer you a job.
If you have something interesting to say, and already know you are a good speaker, contact your chamber of commerce and get on their speaker list. If you would like to be a great speaker, contact Toastmasters. I know there is a club near you. Go to https://www.toastmasters.org/. They are the best speaker trainers in the country.
Become the expert
When you are the expert, everyone seeks to be connected to you. You can get to be known as an expert by getting certifications or doing consulting work.
Certifications are available for almost every field: sales, HR, accounting, real estate management, security, law, computers, etc. Often hirers search resume databases for the certifications and assume a good person will be attached to them.
Consulting work can really mean just getting a temporary job in the field. If you are unemployed, you have little to lose. Contact all the temporary staffing agencies and ask them if they place people with your skills on temp jobs as well as permanent ones. If they don’t, ask them who does. I was surprised that there is a market for temporary doctors in Antarctica, temporary electrical linemen in Alaska, and temporary environmentalists in Butte, Montana.
Figure out how to get connected to as many people as possible. It is a Google job search method that gets you in front of the competition. It could eliminate all your competition.
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Make a list of ways other people have connected to you in your job, even people who you might not have worked with directly. Track down how they got connected to you. Think of ways you can use that to connect with more people.