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Monday, August 31, 2009

Layoff: Final Words

1. Ageism: Some advisers offer the following advice: If you’re in you are in your 30s or 40s, finding a job will take a few months; it’s even likely you’ll get a better one. This just happened to one of my clients. If you’re in your 50s the cycle is slower. And if you’re in your 60s, it gets even tougher. In fact, I’ve recommended such experienced people start their own businesses…it’s faster and far more lucrative. Bottom line, despite what most HR people will tell you, ageism is alive.

2. Arrogance: No single characteristic gets people fired and NOT hired faster than arrogance. Even if you’re the smartest person in the room, never act like it. Let others discover you. It’s hard, slow and nerve-wracking if you do know all or most of the answers, but if employment interviewers pick up that you’re lecturing them, they turn off and you lose, not them. Jim Collins in his now famous book: Good to Great looked at the most successful CEOs ever in the history of the US. He found two characteristics of the great CEOs: Humility and Strong Will. Pretty good advice I’d say.

3. Finding a job IS your job: I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. As we used to say in the Marine Corps: The main thing is to keep the main thing…the main thing! Same here. When you’re looking for a job, if you’re not putting in at least 6 hours a day calling, writing, searching, responding, thanking, interviewing—you’re not doing your job. The good news: If you do your job, you’ll get a job.

Best of luck.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Layoff: The Value of Follow-Up

What we value on the job, we should do in search for one—follow up.When we hire someone, one of the first characteristics we look for in the first 90 days of their performance is how well they follow up to get the job done. Use that same mindset when it comes to your own job search. To demonstrate how YOU follow up. Employ the most basic winning follow-up tactic: A Thank-You Note. As always, your mother remains the best source of advice: Always thank people for a gift, their time, or in this case, an informational interview.

Here are a few tips that I recommend to executive clients of mine.Send a detailed thank-you e-mail note within 24 hours of the interview:
1. Thank the person for taking the time.
2. Express your continuing interest.
3. Recap your critical qualifications directed specifically at the job—-remember they talk to a lot of people and having your info in front of them helps.
4. If you did not answer any question well in the interview, raise it in this note and answer it.
5. Be respectful, humble and thankful. Arrogance and impatience can get a door slammed faster than you can say “No way.”
6. NOTE WELL: Most people do not send e-mails. So, by sending a thank you note, you get your resume remembered and moved toward the top of the pile.

--Follow up with a short personally written note. Snail mail is fine and reinforces the e-mail and your good manners. Keep this one note short and personal because it follows on the heels of the more direct, comprehensive e-mail mentioned above. Remember that snail mail can take 2-3 days to get to your recipient, and that’s assuming that their mail room works with any efficiency it all.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Layoff: Informational Interviewing

One technique that outshines them all is informational interviewing. We use this approach for university students who are looking at what industry might fit them best. However, it’s and equally an excellent way for those suddenly laid off to approach the job search. Instead of being new to the workforce—you’re experienced. Nonetheless, you’re new to your situation…being unemployed and wanting to explore future options in industry categories you may never have considered. Now is the time to explore what you really want to do.

I particularly like a list of job searching tips from Pepperdine University’s business school:
Lots of good info on this page. Here are just a few highlights:

1. Make a list of friends and colleagues, especially people who have access to leaders at organizations you’re interested in and who are willing to introduce you.

2. Work the list 5-7 hours a day. That’s right…note that finding a full-time job IS a full-time job. This is not for the faint of heart.

3. If you call, the primary goal is to schedule a fact-to to face meeting. Avoid merely sending your resume. Better, MUCH better, to deliver it in person.

4. Tell the truth about your departure, even if you were fired. You may relate to the circumstances, even what you got out of the difficult experience. Denial gets you nowhere except in a jam eventually when people get the word through the grapevine and they usually do.

5. Don’t ask for a job. This is not the venue for that. Doing so only makes people defensive and ends the conversation, before it actually has time to mature and grow potential fruit.

6. The Pepperdine article noted above gives many more detail. The bottom line: Engage your friends, relatives, former business associates—everyone who knows you and would connect you if eve asked

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Layoff: Keep Selling

Contact Organizations: There are a number of organizations like chambers of commerce, fraternal and civic groups like the Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary International, and any number of groups you may already be connected to. Staying active and connected, especially in a time when you’re not feeling great, helps you overcome the drag of temporary unemployment. The estimates now are that you may be looking at 3-6 months or more in this transient condition. So, get used to being there while still reaching out. This is also a great time to re-kindle former affinity group connections like fraternities and sororities.

Get Connected Online: By now, most people are online, whether it’s just through e-mail or through more involved, sophisticated affinity groups like Linked-In, Facebook and Twitter. One way to reach out to people comes by looking through your e-mail list for particular people who might be helpful to you and your quest for a new job. Simply asking people to pass along your resume or provide a lead or two is a good way to start. Caveats: Don’t appear to be whining, don’t beg, or seem desperate. Try to project optimism, confidence, energy and genuine inquiry. Here’s a decent article on Slate (online magazine owned by The Washington Post) that deals with ways to use online resources like Facebook, Linked-In and Twitter.

• Also, note the caveats regarding merely posting on line:
http://www.slate.com/id/2213976/pagenum/all/

• Top Ten Best Job Sites: This site includes major job search engines for job searchers, including private, public and government jobs.
http://websearch.about.com/od/enginesanddirectories/tp/jobsearchengine.htm

Friday, August 21, 2009

Layoff: Get out and Sell

After you decide what direction you’ll take—looking for a new job or starting your own business—here are a few next steps:

Sell the product
: This is the one most people hate to do, but it’s a “Get over it” kind of thing. I’ve had many people tell me: “But I hate tooting my own horn.” OK fair enough, but if you don’t market yourself, who do you think will do that for you? So again, get over it and pick up the phone, crank up the e-mail, or start texting friends, neighbors, and associates. They WILL help you, only IF you ask them. People IF you ask them to help….so ASK.

Networking: You will need to just get out and mix it up. In fact, I recommend that if you’re looking for work you should find a local Starbucks or coffeehouse to establish as your new central office. Key issue: Get out of your house! Don’t worry about the cost of a latte—it’s well worth it to get you up and out in the morning. Most people have been getting up for years, taking a shower, getting breakfast, and heading out to work at another place. The dual venue is a pattern that’s become almost part of your DNA. Then, all of a sudden you have this new pattern. Frankly, for many it’s confusing. Being part of a public place, like a coffee house, also allows you to “bump into people” (even if only the coffee barista—who knows a LOT of people) who, when they get to know you might be of great value in your quest. Also, finding a venue helps you re-establish your work-home DNA pattern…more vital to your happiness than you might think.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Layoff: Start Getting Paid

Getting Paid (con't): For some, perhaps the most difficult part of this model is figuring out how to get paid for what you love to do. As the saying goes, figure out how to work at what you love (are passionate about), and you’ll never work a day in your life. There are at least a couple ways to get paid:

Find a new job: If you went through the process above, you’ve come up with several critical skills that you love to work at. In essence, you’ve written your “best case” job description. Start your job search there—with the skills you’re really good at, that former bosses would attest to, and that you’d like to do going forward in your life. Now you have the product: YOU.

Start your own business: Some people at this stage figure out that they have a product or service that they’re willing to try to develop into a business. Many feel like this is a tremendous risk. I respectfully disagree. I’ve just seen too many people work at it and make it work. If you want to read a good book, check out The E-Myth Revisited. If you’re interested in investigating how to start a business, find the local Small Business Development Center (sponsored through the Small Business Administration).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Layoff: First, Inventory Your Skills

Inventory your skills by looking at three areas:
  1. Critical strengths: List whatever your previous supervisors have told you that your key strengths are. For example, they may have written in previous performance appraisals words like analysis, synthesis, working with people, finishing the job, etc. Make this list as comprehensive as possible. And don’t be afraid to drill down into the weeds. For example, if you’re really good at Microsoft Excel, definitely list it. List ALL your skills. Aggregate the list into several (3-5) key areas, categories or clusters. Wade through the data you’ve created and place your key skills into critical strength skills areas like communication, analytical skills, strategic, sales, engineering, etc.
  2. Passion: After you have the list, decide on which skills you’re really passionate about—the kinds of skills that would get you up in the morning with a smile saying, “I can’t wait to get up and go to work on…..” Then, go through your critical strength areas and check those passionate areas. For example, you may have been told that you’re very good at analyzing mounds of data, but you really don’t enjoy the task. Don’t check that one. Only check things you love to do—tasks you’re passionate about performing. Passion, whether for a person or a profession, provides the drive to sustain that interest. Without passion, sustainability is short lived.
  3. Getting Paid: We will discuss this one on the next post. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lost Job...like a Death.

Losing a job is like the death of good friend. I’ve watched as a number of friends and associates have been riffed from their positions due to the economic downturn. It’s difficult for everyone because it’s a profound loss of an activity, a purpose, colleagues, and a culture. As in any case of loss, the person goes through the stages of grief, outlined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who wrote eloquently about the loss of a significant other (and a job is a significant other) The stages of loss (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally—Acceptance) are necessary to the process of moving forward.

So, what can you do after you finally accept the loss? Regardless of your ultimate goal, consider what kind of company you would start. This thinking makes you contemplate the kind of skills that you think people would pay you to provide—whether you decide to work for a company or for yourself. So, even if you don’t eventually start your own company, the process of discovering what value you bring to the employment table is paramount. Ultimately, YOU are the PRODUCT that you’re selling.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Surviving a Layoff: Inventing Your Own Future

Surviving a Layoff: Inventing Your Own Future

Layoff—it’s not a pretty word. It stinks, especially if you, a friend, or a relative is the one being laid off. It’s no picnic either for the people laying off others—guaranteed, it’s the hardest personnel action a leader will ever take. And for the survivors (those colleagues at work who remain on the job), it’s no better. They keep waiting for the other shoe to fall—when it might be their turn. They also have the stress of shouldering the extra responsibility of work left behind by their departed colleagues.

This series of posts over the next week or so will focus on the person being laid off and what can be done to find a job in this economy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Last Words About This Issue of HBR


Also in this issue worth the read: The End of Rational Economics (unlike standard economic theory of rationalism—behavioral economics says people make irrational and unconsciously biased decisions). HBR Readers’ View: How Bleak is the Landscape (a survey of HBR readers—many neat stats around such questions as: When do you think the US will emerge from the current downturn? What is your company doing as a direct result of the current economy? And much more…worth reading this issue!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Post-Recession Consumer

This is the fifth of several posts this week covering my review of the July-August 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review. I recommend getting a copy.

Understanding the Post-Recession Consumer by Flatters and Willmott looks at what post-recession consumers will look like. In short, like their great-grandparents of the Depression, the post Post-Recession consumers will be focused on thrift and simplicity.The authors, who have studied consumer forecasting and analysis for 20 years, have concluded that certain trends will slow and others will grow.
  1. Slowing Trends: Here are a couple of trends that will slow: the decline of deference (less thumbing their nose at institutions and authority); extreme-experience (less zip-wire or skydiving).
  2. Growing Trends: Here’s a couple that will grow: Demand for simplicity (less complicated stuff, more plug and play); Discretionary thrift (less squander, more squeezing the nickel—even by the wealthy). For anyone with a strong consumer-based business, this article is a must.
For more trends, read the article.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Generation Y and Baby Boomers

This is the fourth of several posts this week covering my review of the July-August 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review. I recommend getting a copy.

How Gen Y & Boomers Will Reshape Your Agenda By Hewlett, Sherbin, and Sumberg tell us that these two generations—the one heading out and their main replacements—have many of the same needs, surprisingly, and the population size to demand them. So pay attention. Here’s a quick summary from a great sidebar of this article: Gen Y (born 1979-94) rates rewards (as important as compensation) #1. High-quality colleagues; #2. Flexible work arrangements; #3. Prospects for advancement; #4.Recognition from one’s company or boss; #5. A steady rate of advancement and promotion; 6. Access to new experiences and challenges. Now compare and contrast to what the Boomers (1945-64) say…very close but in a different order: #1. High-quality colleagues; #2. An intellectually stimulating workplace; #3. Autonomy regarding work tasks; #4. Flexible work arrangements; #5. Access to new experiences and challenges; #6. Giving back to the world through work; #6. Recognition from one’s company or boss. Big Point made by the authors: Gen Y and Boomers (called bookend generations) want “remixed” rewards: “Flexible work arrangements and the opportunity to give back to society trump the sheer size of the pay package.” This article needs to be mandatory reading for anyone who’s ever said, “I don’t understand this younger generation.”

PS Gen Xers (1965-78) you’re the sandwich kids on the block and must learn how to adapt up (to the Boomers) and down (to the Xers). Fun being the middle child, isn’t it!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Adaptive Leadership

This is the third of several posts this week covering my review of the July-August 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review. I recommend getting a copy.

Leadership in a Permanent Crisis By Heifetz, Grashow, and Linksy is another “keeper.” Anyone who’s read my blog knows that I’m a huge fan of these guys--born of the Kennedy School of Government (where Heifetz and Linsky have taught for years). Their particular brand of scholarship has developed the concept of adaptive leadership—teaching leaders how to embrace the almost certain atmosphere of change (well after the recession), develop “next practices” (not staid, best practices that people hope will last for years), and open their arms to disequilibrium (the notion that people only change when there’s sufficient angst, but not too much). These guys understand the rough seas ahead and teach that as leaders we have to turn up the heat to get people to change and turn it down when it causes panic. Adapt or fail, I’m certain would be their mantra. But these guys can speak for themselves. Also, have read their book: Leadership on the Line (one I recommend to every executive client) and The Practice of the Adaptive Leadership (which I think should be a standard text in any first-rate business school and in the library of every serious corporate leadership trainer).

Thursday, August 6, 2009

HBR: The Ten Trends you Have to Watch

This is the second of several posts this week covering my review of the July-August 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review. I recommend getting a copy.

The Ten Trends you Have to Watch by Beinhocker, Davis, and Mendonca (McKinsey & Company authors) point out important trends to watch for post recession. Here are a couple:

--Low trust in business is like the heart attack is to people…it’s the silent killer (my word, not the authors). Without trust, costs go up and speed of doing business plummets like a rock. Not a good thing if you’re a strategist hoping for a productive future. Government control—no kidding—is on the rise, with seemingly good reason. When business feels like a football game with now rules, you have to bring in the referees.

--Shifting consumption, another trend ID’d by the authors, raises the question if not we in the United States, then who will be the big consumers in the future? Think China and India.

There’s a lot more in this article. Read it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

HRB's New Editor


This is the first of several posts this week covering my review of the July-August 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review. I recommend getting a copy.

This issue (July-August 2009) is the first issue under new editor Adi Igntius. We can already see changes and rumor has it that more is to come.

For example, “The Decent of Finance” by Niall Ferguson (a new author to the Review) is intelligent prospective on how the US economy may well undergo a deeper depression, what he calls The Breakdown, which will leave the US with a shrinking economy, and the rest of the world in even worse shape. Ironically, the US could provide a safe haven for other countries hit by economies that grind to a grindingly slow pace…calling for the US to act as the global cop, keeping would be bandits at bay.

Another example of a new, exciting author (in the July-August issue), the type heretofore rarely seen in the Review is science fiction writer Cory Doctorow (no relation to E.L. Doctorow I’m told). Cory is a big proponent of copying from the Internet. He sees the Internet as the great enabler of personal freedom—others have called it the great democratizer of knowledge. He also is for relaxing the copyright laws and admitting that most of us do every day—download and freely use information from the Web. He’s got a very different slant on the world…refreshing as is the newly evolving Review.

This issue focuses on what happens after the recession—regarding trends, leadership, economics, and consumers. This week, I’ll explore the highlights of the issues, and as always, I suggest subscribing every C-level officer in your company. It’s well worth the price and the discussions it will spawn for your company will be priceless.

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