Tag Archives: job search

Learn what you’re stepping into before you take the job.

He came for the amazing opportunity at XYZ (the name is changed). A year later he was gone. He quit. That happens a lot at XYZ. It seems like half the people who join the company are transplants. It has been the case for at least 15 years. 

They are hired from across the country and move to Harrisburg, PA. It is one of the biggest companies in its market, a national powerhouse. But an unnatural percentage of its executives, computer experts, accounting gurus and even retail purchasers have been relocated here. Of course many love the place. It is just that their first year turnover is huge and local people avoid the company.

I always warn people I place at XYZ of the reputation. I help them find out if they are a fit before they join. So, how can you avoid getting one of those short term, bad fit jobs?

Check the company references

Talk to 3 of their references. They want to talk to your references, you can ask for theirs. You also need to find a few references on your own. Finding references on a company will get you a clearer perspective on them and it is also a good networking tool that may get you a different job.

The best company references you can get are:

  • A talkative recruiter who knows the place
  • A happy ex-employee who works at another company
  • Someone doing your future job at a competitor
  • An HR person from another company
  • Someone you know who works in that department

I did not include a disgruntled ex-employee in the list. They know why they quit, but usually not what the trends for the company are. It’s okay to talk to disgruntled ex-employees, just filter their responses. They may have an ax to grind.

How to find them

Connect through LinkedIn to the HR person and anyone you talk to at the company.  That way you will get networked into other people at the company now, and former employees. 

Make a few phone calls. You need to find out who the competitors are anyway. You can find them online then call them. Make it a habit to search them out. Look for former employees at competitors. They may have a better opening than the one you are looking at.  At the very least, you’ll be able to ask questions about the job you are considering.

Something to do today

Check references on the last 3 companies you interviewed with. It is good practice.

Make your job search into a learning experience 

2 1/2 pounds of trail mix per boy each day for a total of 90 pounds. 3 packages of hamburger helper for one meal for 6 boys. Oatmeal every day for breakfast for 6 days on the trail. Coyotes, raccoons, elk and a 20 acre meadow of ripe blueberries. It was a great adventure. By the end the boys learned they had taken way too much trail mix and hamburger helper. They also stopped liking banana flavored oatmeal. They planned, saw, did and learned things they would never have known about without that 50 mile hike. Later most of the boys did 70 and 100 mile hikes. On the later hikes they carried less weight and had even more fun.

Job hunting

If you want to constantly move up you have to stop looking at your job search as an occasional sprint. It has to become a planned excursion. It may become a safari.

Job hunting does not get any easier at the next level up. When you get better at what you do, it takes longer. The number of jobs decreases and the number of good people looking for the great jobs increases as you move up. Moving laterally isn’t hard. Moving up is hard. Getting a promotion is tough. Beating the 20 other people who want to be raised to Executive Vice President or be the highest paid technician in the company is very hard. 

It takes one month of job searching for every $30,000 of salary in today’s market. That’s how hard it is to advance. That is how much harder it gets later.

If you start now and decide to LEARN while you search for a job, you’ll do better next time. You need to study and try different ideas. Find out what works for you and what flops. Everyone is different. There is no reason for you to do things exactly the same as someone else.

My boys started out with 2 mile, 10 mile and then 20 mile hikes. They got better, but kept learning. The 50 and 100 mile hikes were a lot of work, but not as painful as the 20 mile hikes because they had learned and prepared better. Your job searches may get longer, but they don’t have to be as difficult as your current one if you keep on learning.

Something to do today

Go to your job journal. List your employment dates so far. Also list your promotions. You will probably see a pattern. If the new jobs or promotions stopped, was it really your idea or did you just stop advancing? Write down how quickly you really can earn that next 3 raises, promotions or jobs. You may want to set up a personal progress program.

12 tricks to stand out in your next interview

A moth trap can teach you how to stand out, be remembered, and be hired. The principles can be used in interviews, resumes, and networking.

The moth trap in our pantry is supposed to be much better than the average one. It has the same sticky glue and pheromones, but instead of just a white sheet of cardboard, it has black stripes on it. I don’t know if it really is better, but I paid a few dollars extra for it. If it is better, great. I made a great decision. If it is only as good as the cheaper trap, I still made a good decision. Either way the trap will catch the bugs before they lay eggs in our flour, cornmeal and popcorn. I get protection either way, and maybe I get a little better protection with the more expensive traps.

In every interview you have to have something that sets you apart. It is nice if it is a huge difference, but that is not absolutely necessary. One of the reasons a college degree or certification in your field is valuable is because it sets you apart. People can remember how you are different and hopefully better. Other things that can set you apart are:

  • Putting yourself through college
  • Courses you have taken
  • Projects you have lead
  • Having lots of kids… or having no kids
  • Your volunteer work
  • Your passions and hobbies
  • Dressing sharper than is required
  • Shoes that shine like the sun… or suede tennis shoes
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Someone you know who already works there
  • Long hair… or a marine haircut
  • Something amazing and relevant you did in high school

Remember why I bought the expensive moth trap. It MIGHT be better. Anything you can do to show you just might be better than Mr. Bland will help. 

For the moth traps, it was just a black stripe on cardboard. What is it that you can do, say, be, or show that makes you worth a few extra dollars?

Something to do today

Every time someone is hired at your current job, go find out what was different about that person. When you are told, “They were more qualified,” ask, “Were there any small details that seemed to confirm that they were better?” You may be surprised what little details separate first place from no place at all.

“Lone Eagles” join flocks, too

I used to believe that eagles don’t flock. I’d seen flocks of geese, starlings, and turkeys. Never a flock of eagles. For some reason, I believed the best people didn’t flock either. After all, my employer used it as a recruiting slogan. You have to find the great people one-by-one.

8 years into EDS, I worked with a dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist. On her wall she had the Sierra club calendar. There was a picture of a dozen eagles all sitting in the bare branches of an Alaskan tree. I commented on the incongruity of all those eagles flocking together. She said, “My husband and I were in Alaska when we took that picture. It really isn’t that uncommon of a sight where there are a lot of eagles.” 

Close Photography of Bald Eagle

Looking for flocks of eagles became a hobby of mine, particularly since my employer’s recruiting slogan denied that eagles flock. I found that there really are a lot of lone eagles. They are islands of expertise and productivity in an ocean of mediocrity. My current profession is to find those eagles and move them into flocks. 

There are a few flocks of eagles in every industry and city. Places where eagles are naturally attracted. Once you know where those places are, it is pretty easy to get an eagle to move to that flock. Some choose to remain the lone eagle among sparrows. I can’t blame them. Besides, they can move to a flock anytime they want.

Just being around eagles makes you grow. You can’t help but want to be like them even if you are just a sparrow. Somehow, you absorb their attitude and habits. Even if you don’t really want to become an eagle, being around them is exhilarating.

So keep your eyes open for flocks of eagles and individual eagles. Find a way to work closely with them. You’ll learn and grow. You’ll find your career is enhanced and your outlook improves whether or not you ever want to become an eagle yourself. 

Something to do today

Ask around. Where is the flock of eagles you would like to work with? Where are the lone eagles?

9 reasons it’s time to leave your job

Other than money, most people have to leave a job because of a major problem. It can be like an arrow wound for some people. This is called a job wound. Money can be the arrow, but it has to be a major problem, not just wanting to leave for 5% higher pay. 

Common job wound in a person’s job search are 

  1. being passed over for promotion, 
  2. a boring job, 
  3. a horrible boss, 
  4. dishonesty around you, 
  5. an abusive environment, 
  6. the company is failing, 
  7. long hours for months on end, 
  8. too much travel, 
  9. or lack of personal growth. 

A job wound is a serious problem. One that can’t be overcome by doing your work a little better. I will always try to find your job wound before I try to place you.  That’s because you are likely to spend a lot of time job hunting, only to stay where you are if you don’t have a painful enough job wound.

Many people will live with a severe job wound for years. A good spouse, friend, or recruiter won’t let you live with a bad job wound. We poke our fingers into the wound to see how deep it is. I use a little rubbing alcohol to help clean it out because it really stings. Then after I know how deep the wound is, I’ll pour in a little salt occasionally. I want someone who is thinking of changing jobs to hurt so bad that they don’t make the same mistake again.

Sometimes you need someone with a vested interest in change to get you to do something about your problems. If you have a severe job wound, it is time for major surgery. You need a job-ectomy.

Something to do today

Show this article to someone who is willing to do some surgery. Ask them to help you probe the size of your job wound. Write down all the details and emotions you bring to the surface. 

Look for a job while still employed

It is absolutely legal and a good idea to look for a new job while you are still employed.  It can also be theft, treason and absolutely illegal.  It depends on how you do it.

There was a running joke at one place I worked.  

“Hey, Jim, this is the fourth day this month you’ve worn a suit.  Are you going to see the dentist again?”

It was obvious when people were interviewing for a new job. None of us minded as long as the person didn’t slack off. 

The principles are simple:

  • Honestly keep earning your income at your current job
  • Don’t give away any company secrets

Here are some things I have noticed about job hunters that I respect:

  • They interview at lunch or during a normal job downtime.
  • They use their own email address or know the company policy on using their work email for personal use.
  • They are careful about who can hear them when talking on the phone.
  • You can’t pry confidential company information out of them.
  • Getting their work done despite looking for a new job is important to them.
  • Sabotaging workplace morale is out of character.

It is pretty simple.  Treat your job, boss and coworkers how you would like to be treated.  Be worth every penny you have been paid and will be paid.  Switching jobs is not a crime unless you make it one.  

Something to do today

Decide what ethical job hunting really is.  Write down some rules.  Live by them.

Why to ask your spouse for guidance in your job search

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.

Something to do today

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.

Executives are jumping ship but slowly

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.

Something to do today

What are top companies actually doing? What is working from the management and employee sides?

How to make sure you are picked for a promotion

Julie called my office. She wants a promotion. I’m a recruiter, it’s my job to help her find that promotion in a new company. I hate to have someone turn down a job because their boss makes them a counter offer they can’t refuse. I asked her, “How often do you tell your boss you want a promotion?” 

“I told him at my last performance review.”

“How long ago was that?”

“It has been over a year. We’re so busy the managers just can’t find time to do them.”

She’s a superstar performer going nowhere. When the office is jumping with activity for months at a time, no one counts her performance as exceptional. They just know she isn’t any trouble.

So, I suggested she declare her candidacy in a way that makes her an obvious choice for that promotion. It will also make it easier to find a new job with a promotion. First Julie needs to invite a few of her bosses out to lunch. She needs to let them know she wants the promotion. She needs to find a mentor. Then she needs to get a plan put together with her mentor’s help. She needs to prepare for a promotion. 

Deciding who to promote in an office of heads-down hard workers is tough. There is no standout leader. No one has already taken the helm. However, in an office with a bunch of hard workers, one of whom has been working with the boss to develop leadership skills for a year, which will get promoted? Obviously the boss’s protégé. The person who has declared themselves for the job. 

Julie may need to take a bookkeeping course, sales training, management classes and take the lead in 5 or 10 projects. What she needs can be determined with her mentor. As she does these things, she will be seen as the obvious choice for a promotion. Her bosses and her coworkers will both see she is the obvious choice for promotion.

If you want to be promoted, ask one of your bosses to help you prepare now. Find a mentor.

Something to do today

Invite your boss or his boss to lunch. Ask him to mentor you and help you get ready for a promotion.

Look for the right place to cast your resume

When I was a child I tried fishing in a puddle in front of our house. When the sun dried it up I could see there were no fish there.

At college I saw a video of a man fishing in one of the larger fountains there. When people asked how the fishing was, he pulled up a nice string of large trout. That made for interesting conversations, but no one believed him. They could see there were no trout in that clear fountain water.

On a Scout outing John and I were lying on a creek bank and looking down into the water. We could see 3 nice trout in the tree roots. When a fisherman came by we asked how he was doing. Only one fish so far. John told the man to cast his lure at the tree root. In a dozen casts the man caught all three fish.

To catch fish you have to cast your lure where the fish are.

This applies to new jobs and promotions 

A recruiter can be that kid lying on the bank of the creek looking into the water. He says “Cast your resume over here and you’ll get a job.” He knows where the jobs are.

Ask your friends and acquaintances who are hiring. They may have a good idea where to go. Look at the financial news stories and find out what industries are “going public” in the stock market. Ask what companies are growing the fastest and look for a job in that industry.

Your mentor at work will tell you, “Volunteer for that project. It has great visibility. Avoid Jill Montoya, she’s poison.” The mentor knows where the rewards and pitfalls are hidden.

Always be looking to the future. Where are the jobs being created? What do you need to learn to be in a high demand field?

Fish where the fish are. You’ll have better luck.

Something to do today

Ask the people you respect most in your profession where the jobs are and where the industry is going.