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Job Hopping: Why A Million Jobs Is a Good Thing

photo Let's face it, no one sails through their work life with grace and ease. We stumble, we fail, we struggle and we learn some pretty great lessons along the way.  For me, those lessons have come from 32 different, paying jobs in 21 years. You heard that right. 32. From orientation leader to cold caller, I wouldn't believe it myself if I hadn't written them all down.* Am I flighty? Do I lack work ethic? Am I a poor performer? Not a bit.

We've been chastising millenials for job hopping and holding too many jobs. We assume the worst--lack of promotions, laziness, perspective--but maybe there's more to it, especially early in your career. What if having a million jobs was a good thing?

For me it was. It deepened my skill sets and ability to understand how diverse groups of people work. I figured out what interested me and what didn't. I didn't understand it then but as an orientation leader at Virginia Tech, I first learned the art of HR and onboarding. I fell in love with the opportunity to welcome people to a new community and help them fit it in.

There were more practical lessons too. I quickly learned the very-valuable lesson of how much money mattered to me. I started working at 13 in hourly jobs. The more I worked, the more I made. But I had to balance the tradeoffs--did I want more cash or more time with my friends? Annoying decisions to make back then. Transformative lessons when I look back now.

But if I thought I worked many jobs, I don't hold a candle to Scott Crawford, the now Director of Career Services at Wabash College in Indiana. Scott's had double the amount of jobs I've had. 64 jobs to be exact from cloth cutter to human trash compactor. And he's nowhere near the end of his career.

You might think Scott the definition of job-hopper, but truth be told, he's been in the same field for over 20 years. And in his current job for eight. However, he's not shy about his job-hopping past. In fact, it might be the reason he's been successful in his field and happy in his job now.

"I think the main thing is that every [workplace] thinks they’re somehow unique or special but they’re usually more similar than they think. After awhile I could tell immediately if (a) I was going to like it/fit in, and (b) if the place was run well or not," says Scott. "I quit one place after 3 days.  I could tell it was going nowhere (really poor training/orientation), and it closed shortly thereafter."

The more experiences you have, the more sure you might be when you finally land. And the more obvious it will be when you don't. I wrote about the job hopping people do in The Right Job, Right Now (St. Martin's Press), and the idea that we overcompensate. We hate our boss in one job, so we look for a better boss. We find that better boss in our new job, but the growth potential we took for granted at the old job is now missing. Not the best strategy in our professional careers. But it is early on.

Having a million jobs early on helps you make key decisions. After working retail, I knew I didn't want a job in fashion. The perks of hospitality are great but the pay isn't. And multiple internships in public relations helped me codify specific skills and understand the reality of the corporate world before I fully committed.

As for Scott, he looked for leadership inspiration:

"One of the best run [places I have worked] was Wichita State University. The President there at the time really created a ‘we’re all in this together’ kind of atmosphere, and communication flowed freely. He moved his office to the bottom floor of the Admin Building from the previous President's suite at the top) right at the front door, with his doors open.  One thing the President said that made a big impression on me 'if you see a piece of trash on the sidewalk, pick it up and throw it away.  Don’t assume someone else will, or that it’s the groundskeeper’s job to do that.  We’re all responsible for how this school is perceived.'  I think about that a lot," he says.

The way we work, our successes now and our engagement in work are a result of where we've been. Forget conference best practices and what's worked for everyone else. Look back to your own experiences to remember what influenced you. What did you like the most and how can you find that and emulate that moving forward? A million jobs means a million lessons, leaders and projects to take the best from.

Just ask Scott: from a broom factory to wrapping gifts to stocking fine china, he's got a lesson from every single, solitary experience.

"My shortest job was one day. They'd fired the guy that hired me, and forgot he'd [just hired me]. Then, they had no position for me, so they gave me three months severance pay," says Scott.  "Management styles and bosses, however, varied wildly, and I most definitely enjoyed working in more collaborative and participatory atmospheres, with bosses who actually cared about the organization or product/service, not just their own careers."

As for me, I'm still learning, and still counting:

  1. Snack Bar Attendant (1988)
  2. Camp Counselor
  3. Customer Service Associate
  4. Cashier
  5. Head Cashier
  6. Customer Service Manager
  7. Lifeguard
  8. After School Program Leader
  9. Call Center Associate
  10. Public Relations Intern
  11. Public Relations Assistant
  12. Waitress
  13. Retail Salesperson
  14. College Orientation Leader
  15. College Orientation Assistant
  16. Graduate Student Affairs Assistant
  17. Training Coordinator
  18. HR Generalist
  19. Recruiter
  20. Recruiting Manager
  21. Sr. Manager, Member Services
  22. Program Director
  23. Career Coach
  24. Assistant Director, Career Services
  25. Author
  26. MBA Intern
  27. Director, Talent Management
  28. Director, Talent Acquisition
  29. Senior Director, Employer Brand
  30. Consultant
  31. Speaker
  32. Founder (2013)

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Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce strategy that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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There's a Better Way to Quit Your Job

Another day, another viral video of a frustrated, tired employee quitting a job in a dramatic fashion.  First there was the chute-sliding JetBlue flight attendant and then the brash marching band incident followed by the forthright op-ed from the ex-Goldman Sachs employee. And now there’s the dancing video producer who’s simply had enough.

In her case she claimed the work environment in Taiwan wasn’t bearable. So why not just move on? Or better yet, look for work opportunities in countries where employment laws and work environments generally tend to be a bit more supportive of work-life balance?

If only we could all vent this way. About everything. 

Public displays of resignation are entertaining and attention-getting. But they won’t take you anywhere except on the 15-minutes-of-fame-train. Look, we’ve all been there. I’ve had bosses throw things at me, yell, and storm out in temper tantrums. But employment is free will. And if you’re quitting anyway (meaning you’re not stuck in the job to feed your family), why behave like a toddler just looking for attention? I’m all for creative and sticking-it-to-the-man when deserved, but no one looks back on a tantrum with pride.

There’s a better way to quit your job if you just can’t take it anymore.

First, assess the situation.

Is your misery project or person related, but you love much about your company and co-workers? See if there’s an opportunity to move departments. It could be that management is well aware of your difficult boss (but she brings in too much business or is too tenured to fire). Not that it makes it right to keep the boss in seat, but without sharing confidential information, management could reward you for just asking for another opportunity internally.

If it’s systematic, then you may want to leave. When the entire founding team is behaving badly, or emulating a model of work-life balance you find deplorable, that’s a sign. And if your health or family life is being affected? That’s a sure sign. But only you can decide–and define–what behavior and cultural attributes are enough to make you quit.

Second, devise a plan and a timeline.

Consider current work you don’t want to leave unfinished and aim to help provide a smooth transition.  For example, you may despise your boss, but you don’t want to leave your reliable co-workers with a difficult situation. Then start laying the ground work (confidentially) with your network to get a sense of how hard it will be to find a new job so you’re financially prepared to be unemployed for a specific period of time. It’s important to know that even if you give two weeks notice, a company could ask you to leave on the spot–always be prepared for this...

Read the rest of this post over on Tech Cocktail.

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This post originally appeared on TechCocktail written by Susan LaMotte, the founder of exaqueo. A workforce consultancy, exaqueo helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to grow in the right way.

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Talent and HR News Roundup: Understanding Candidates Edition

Screen Shot 2013-09-06 at 3.25.43 PM Remember that Mel Gibson movie where he can foretell what women want? Imagine that power in the workplace. We think we know what job seekers want but we're never really sure.  But understanding candidates might be the next best thing. We can't get supernatural powers in the blink of an eye, but we can pay attention to what candidates are learning.  This week's roundup is a collection of stories to help you understand what candidates are reading and learning. It may give you the insight you need into your hiring strategy!

1) How Not To Reject Job Candidates at The Fast Track

"[Don't reject them] by phone. You might think that it’s polite to phone candidates to let them know they didn’t get the job, but resist that impulse and send an email instead. Phone calls put candidates on the spot: They have to react to the rejection while they’re still in the immediate moment of disappointment. It’s awkward. And the call often creates a moment of false hope, which then dissipates when the candidate has to pull it together to be gracious about disappointment seconds later. (Besides, email is better on your side too, since some candidates will try to argue your decision.)"

2) 5 Things You Should Look For in Your First Job at Brazen Careerist

"Early in your career, the most important thing you can do is gain as much experience as possible. Even if you secure a job in your desired field, you won’t be in the same position forever. To advance, it’s important to have a variety of experiences under your belt.  Before you accept a position, consider what kinds of experience you’ll gain. If you’ll be working in publishing, for example, will you be working with the Adobe Creative Suite? Will you also be able to learn new skills such as website design or pagination? No matter what direction your career goes, it never hurts to have skills in multiple areas."

3) 5 Ways to Get More Out of LinkedIn at Time

"This is a great opportunity to let prospective employers see your crowning achievement or even an award you’ve won. It works with a wide range of formats including PDFs, Power Point Presentations, pictures and videos. However, it won’t generate an image of a website or blog. If you want to show that off, you can always take a screenshot of it and upload that."

4) Ten Recruiters Share How to Impress at Glassdoor

"Candidates are getting more and more creative with getting attention.  I’ve been impressed with several candidates recently who have built infographics, videos and even full blown websites to convey their experience!  I’m a sucker for creative people with an awesome design sense.  But, this is not required to get the job.  Not everybody has these skills and we always go for the best person for the job.  As long as you are applying online and convey your experience, passion and goals clearly, you’ll have a fair shot at getting into the adidas Group."

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exaqueo is a human resources consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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Talent and HR News Roundup: Understanding Candidates Edition

Screen Shot 2013-09-06 at 3.25.43 PM Remember that Mel Gibson movie where he can foretell what women want? Imagine that power in the workplace. We think we know what job seekers want but we're never really sure.  But understanding candidates might be the next best thing. We can't get supernatural powers in the blink of an eye, but we can pay attention to what candidates are learning.  This week's roundup is a collection of stories to help you understand what candidates are reading and learning. It may give you the insight you need into your hiring strategy!

1) How Not To Reject Job Candidates at The Fast Track

"[Don't reject them] by phone. You might think that it’s polite to phone candidates to let them know they didn’t get the job, but resist that impulse and send an email instead. Phone calls put candidates on the spot: They have to react to the rejection while they’re still in the immediate moment of disappointment. It’s awkward. And the call often creates a moment of false hope, which then dissipates when the candidate has to pull it together to be gracious about disappointment seconds later. (Besides, email is better on your side too, since some candidates will try to argue your decision.)"

2) 5 Things You Should Look For in Your First Job at Brazen Careerist

"Early in your career, the most important thing you can do is gain as much experience as possible. Even if you secure a job in your desired field, you won’t be in the same position forever. To advance, it’s important to have a variety of experiences under your belt.  Before you accept a position, consider what kinds of experience you’ll gain. If you’ll be working in publishing, for example, will you be working with the Adobe Creative Suite? Will you also be able to learn new skills such as website design or pagination? No matter what direction your career goes, it never hurts to have skills in multiple areas."

3) 5 Ways to Get More Out of LinkedIn at Time

"This is a great opportunity to let prospective employers see your crowning achievement or even an award you’ve won. It works with a wide range of formats including PDFs, Power Point Presentations, pictures and videos. However, it won’t generate an image of a website or blog. If you want to show that off, you can always take a screenshot of it and upload that."

4) Ten Recruiters Share How to Impress at Glassdoor

"Candidates are getting more and more creative with getting attention.  I’ve been impressed with several candidates recently who have built infographics, videos and even full blown websites to convey their experience!  I’m a sucker for creative people with an awesome design sense.  But, this is not required to get the job.  Not everybody has these skills and we always go for the best person for the job.  As long as you are applying online and convey your experience, passion and goals clearly, you’ll have a fair shot at getting into the adidas Group."

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exaqueo is a human resources consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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Talent and HR News Roundup: Understanding Candidates Edition

Screen Shot 2013-09-06 at 3.25.43 PM Remember that Mel Gibson movie where he can foretell what women want? Imagine that power in the workplace. We think we know what job seekers want but we're never really sure.  But understanding candidates might be the next best thing. We can't get supernatural powers in the blink of an eye, but we can pay attention to what candidates are learning.  This week's roundup is a collection of stories to help you understand what candidates are reading and learning. It may give you the insight you need into your hiring strategy!

1) How Not To Reject Job Candidates at The Fast Track

"[Don't reject them] by phone. You might think that it’s polite to phone candidates to let them know they didn’t get the job, but resist that impulse and send an email instead. Phone calls put candidates on the spot: They have to react to the rejection while they’re still in the immediate moment of disappointment. It’s awkward. And the call often creates a moment of false hope, which then dissipates when the candidate has to pull it together to be gracious about disappointment seconds later. (Besides, email is better on your side too, since some candidates will try to argue your decision.)"

2) 5 Things You Should Look For in Your First Job at Brazen Careerist

"Early in your career, the most important thing you can do is gain as much experience as possible. Even if you secure a job in your desired field, you won’t be in the same position forever. To advance, it’s important to have a variety of experiences under your belt.  Before you accept a position, consider what kinds of experience you’ll gain. If you’ll be working in publishing, for example, will you be working with the Adobe Creative Suite? Will you also be able to learn new skills such as website design or pagination? No matter what direction your career goes, it never hurts to have skills in multiple areas."

3) 5 Ways to Get More Out of LinkedIn at Time

"This is a great opportunity to let prospective employers see your crowning achievement or even an award you’ve won. It works with a wide range of formats including PDFs, Power Point Presentations, pictures and videos. However, it won’t generate an image of a website or blog. If you want to show that off, you can always take a screenshot of it and upload that."

4) Ten Recruiters Share How to Impress at Glassdoor

"Candidates are getting more and more creative with getting attention.  I’ve been impressed with several candidates recently who have built infographics, videos and even full blown websites to convey their experience!  I’m a sucker for creative people with an awesome design sense.  But, this is not required to get the job.  Not everybody has these skills and we always go for the best person for the job.  As long as you are applying online and convey your experience, passion and goals clearly, you’ll have a fair shot at getting into the adidas Group."

—-

exaqueo is a human resources consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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How NOT to Get a New Job

Here at exaqueo, we take on a few career coaching clients each month. And inevitably, some cringe when they realize how much hard work is required for a successful job search.  Every once in a while we have to really be clear---and sarcasm does the trick.  Check out my latest post on Forbes: How Not to Get a New Job in 2013. If this doesn't make an impression on your favorite lazy job-seeker, nothing will!

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Forget Work-Life Balance. I Mean It.

I'm pretty sick of the work-life balance argument. It's not one or the other. Or sublime balance all the time. It's flexibility how and when you want it, understanding that working less may mean earning less. But it's your choice. Read my latest Forbes post "Forget Work-Life Balance: Give Us Choices Instead."  I'd also love if you added your comments here and/or on the Forbes site--this is such an important topic for women and men.

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Tips For Job Seekers: What Recruiters Don't Want You To Know

As a talent strategy consultant and career coach, I tell clients all the time: "I get the other side of the equation."  Companies like that I am coaching job seekers, and job seekers like that I consult with talent acquisition teams at companies. Having a foot in both worlds means I don't forget what it's like on both sides of the aisle. It's like recruiting bipartisanship. But every once in awhile, I take sides. And job seekers, this is for you.There are a million nuances to being a recruiter--like many jobs, to an outsider it may seem straightforward. But there are multiple stakeholders, laws and budgets vying for attention that make it really difficult sometimes. And the more you know and understand, the more effective you'lll be. Recruiters may not want you to know their secrets but here are five tips to help you get both feet in the door and the attention of a recruiter.  You'll thank me now. They'll thank me later. 1) An important part of the job is inside sales

Like any job, recruiters are measured, evaluated and lauded (or not) based on how well they perform. But it's often with strange (to you) metrics like time to fill, or percentage of job postings (called requisitions) that have closed. More rarely are they measured on quality of hire (i.e., how well you're performing a year after you're hired.) This means recruiters are biased towards selling candidates to the hiring manager. Hard. They want that job to close fast. So make it easy on them to sell you.

Bottom line: Don't assume they'll figure out your skills are transferable. Apply for jobs where you're clearly a fit and supplement any networking, cover letters, and phone screens with clear examples they can turn around and use. One time a candidate had a unique technical skill so he called to explain it and tell me why it mattered in our business. I loved that.

2) Weird behavior makes recruiters nervous

Being on the phone all day can make a recruiter crazy. That means in between interviews, sourcing calls and offer deliveries, they're sharing tales of insanity--odd calls, strange answers to interview questions, and tales of incredulity (such as: "Why did this guy apply to three different jobs? Does he not know I can see all of them?")  There's nothing wrong with getting a recruiter's attention, but if you cross a line, they're just going to ignore you. It's JUST like dating. Say "I love you" too soon, call too many times in a row, or try too hard and you're out.

Bottom line: Make an effort to get noticed but don't border on pathetic. Follow-up and check on your candidacy but don't call every day or start sending LinkedIn invitations to the entire team. If it feels strange don't do it. Making the recruiter nervous is a reason for them to focus on someone else. I once had a candidate email me every day. Stalker--you're out.

3) Sometimes it's a crapshoot

A recruiter typically has a collection of requisitions she is responsible for. In most companies, it's usually an unmanageable number (at least to the recruiter). So in the morning, she may come in and open her ATS (applicant tracking system) and start looking at what resumes came in for what position (requisition) overnight. She's human, so while scanning resumes, she might be distracted by her boss popping by, a tweet or a phone call. That means some resumes get the six-second glance, some get 30. There's no guarantee of fairness--it's absolutely impossible.  And if she already has enough candidates interviewing, she might barely glance, if at all, at new resumes.

Bottom line: Sometimes it's a crapshoot. You might feel like you're a perfect fit for the job, but the timing of when you apply or simply how busy the recruiter is that day could determine your fate. That's where networking comes in. Never apply for a job cold. Make a connection in the organization first that can check up on your candidacy with the recruiter. Depending on where she is in the process you might not get a fair shake, but at least you'll be in the know. As a recruiter, I could ignore resumes in my ATS queue but I couldn't ignore a colleague at my door asking about a referral.

4) They influence but rarely, if ever, decide...

A hiring decision usually comes from the hiring manager. It may even have to be approved by his boss. But the recruiter doesn't decide. She will contribute to the discussion and provide opinions on interactions with candidates. She'll provide context like salary ranges, or market analyses, But she won't decide.

Bottom line: Don't rely on the recruiter throughout the entire process. Figure out who else is important in the decision-making process and build relationships. Send follow-up emails that show you did your research and take them up on the offer to ask additional questions. Just don't go overboard. Weird behavior makes hiring managers nervous too. (See #2).

5) ...but they have a tremendous amount of insider information.

Recruiters know what the hiring managers are like, what matters most to them and what interview strategies succeed. So don't ignore them. It's really important to have the recruiter on your side. You want to make their job easier and set them up for success. In turn, the recruiter can share that valuable insider information if you just ask: "As I prepare for the interview later this week, any suggestions you have on what matters to the hiring manager are greatly appreciated--I really value your advice." The worst they can say is no.

Bottom line: A strong relationship with the recruiter is part of the equation. Recognize that she's busy and may have a million priorities (while the job you want is your only one right now). Respect her time and help her help you. In return, she may be able to help you prepare, understand and strengthen your candidacy over others who don't even bother to ask or care. As a recruiter I often felt under-appreciated. Thanks from a candidate and recognition that I played an important role in the process went a long way.

 

 

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What's Your Place?

I had a great discussion over dinner last night with some friends about the "place." The one place that makes you feel most at home--the place that is the core of who you are. For one it was Prague, because that's where she fell in love. For another it was Vienna because that's where he was born and spent his formative years. For me, it might be Nashville or Geneva for two very different reasons. But the core of the conversation, was about where you feel most you, most impactful or most impacted.  What if we took that sentiment and applied it in another way? Let me explain. I was in Nashville to get my MBA. I'd been living in DC for nine years until then--in the city, taking public transport everywhere. I hit museums, bars and restaurants on a regular basis. When I applied to B-School I was at a crossroads personally and professionally and decided I wanted to apply to schools all in places I thought I'd never live (Raleigh-Durham, Nashville, Ann Arbor). And Nashville won out.

I thought it would be funny, a great joke to later tell at dinner parties: "I lived in Nashville for two years, ha!" But then it became my place. For the first time in nine years I was a full-time student again. In a laid-back city full of culture, live music and great food. I fell in love with learning, new music, new people. It became my place.  Now when I go back to visit, I literally long for those days.  I was at my best, in my place with life.

What if we did that with our careers? What if you stopped and asked yourself, "what's my place?"

Do it. Think back throughout your career. What's your place? Are you there? Were you there? When (if ever) did you feel most at home in your career. When (if ever) have you looked around and said "I can't believe my luck?"

I'm in the middle of looking for my place. And that's how I came here, with Exaqueo. It's mine, and I'm at home. I'm working with individuals to find their home through personal brand creation and management and career coaching. I'm working with companies to help them define their talent and brand strategies.  And I'm slowly coming back to my place.

What's yours?

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It's You.

“Why do people want to work with you?”  “I have significant experience in these types of projects and demonstrated evidence of execution from start to finish.”

“Great, now why do people want to work with you?”

So went the conversation I had with a branding client recently looking to build a personal brand and execute it in preparation for an eventual job search or entrepreneurial venture.  When I asked the question a second time to my client, let’s call her Trina, she was stumped.

“Honestly, I’d never thought about the question.” And she’s not alone. So much of job searching, especially for the practiced, is about the job description, the technical questions—the typical proving ground of “I can do this job.”

We tend to tie our strengths to the physical things we have done—programs we launched, people we managed, strategies we created. But how did we get these things done?

Well, we rock. We’re…

  • Creative
  • Unbiased
  • Reliable
  • Energetic
  • Detail-oriented
  • Intuitive
  • Organized
  • Thoughtful
  • Eager
  • Smart
  • Political
  • Mindful
  • Instinctive
  • Plucky
  • Efficient
  • Trustworthy
  • Eager
  • Honest

Each of us isn’t all of these things—but it’s the set, the collection that makes you unique. You need to know these things—and not just for your resume. You need to be able to set yourself apart for promotions, business development, marketing and personal brand purposes. I've always called this pairing your adjective to your nouns. 

For example, Jose  may be a great presenter, but so is Trina. Jose may be great because he is very planful, he puts a great deal of thought into preparing, planning and understanding his audience. Trina, on the other hand, is very intuitive and flexible. She waits until she's in the moment and adjusts accordingly. Two great presentations, but two different strategies and personalities behind them. You may have a situation where Jose's presentation style is best, or where you really need Trina.

So get yourself an ego.Figure out why YOU rock.  Then manage that ego carefully. You don't have to shout it from the mountaintops but you should be able to respond immediately and with confidence when someone asks "why should I hire you?"  As Laurie Ruettimann puts it, everyone can be awesome--your biggest competition is yourself.

Tie your strengths to your experiences and your personality. That’s the magic combination someone’s buying. It’s you.

 

 

 

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The Brand Experiment

Social media means that for the first time, consumers can be so honest and open. They can tell you when you suck and that can spread everywhere.  Their CEOs hate it, but in actuality, it's gold.  Marketers truly know how their products and brand are perceived and the can re-market and re-brand if needed. And that got me thinking. About me. If ask someone flat out: "what do you think of me?" I'm likely to get a vanilla, bland response. Few people have the guts and honesty to tell me the truth. My years in HR have made me pretty self-aware. I know what I can and can't do.  But as I was working on re-branding my website I realized I don't have a good sense of what people really think about my brand.  Brand isn't just skill--it's the entire package, the perception, the "who you are in a moment."

These days, companies seem to be moving away from 360-degree feedback.  They're focused on engagement which is often a measure of managing upwards.  You may get to give feedback on who's above you but you don't have a true sense of those around you. And these days, 360 isn't about the circle, it's 3-dimensional.  Who's in front of you, paving a path for you to follow? Who's behind you with a better idea or solution? And what can you learn from it all? That's where social media comes in.

Social media makes it even more complicated.  It takes who knows you to exponentially new levels.  More feedback, right? Sort of. You can measure who follows you and how often your content is shared. But unless you're Lady Gaga soliciting a reaction from the crowd, it's really hard to measure true sentiment. Honest, real, sentiment that's not a reaction to an incendiary blog post.

I love working. If I didn't I wouldn't have started at 14 and never stopped. I get real value from helping, teaching, innovating, strategizing, problem solving and making sense of chaos.  I get feedback every day--at work, from friends and family and online.  But it still leaves me wondering: what do people REALLY think of me?

It's simple really. There are ten questions. It's totally anonymous. All I ask is that you keep it professional, and keep it honest. Here goes...

commence The Brand Experiment: tell me what you think.

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Brand: Andy Goldman

Brand: YOU. What do you stand for? What makes you, you? Starting this week, I'll be posing that question to great professional brands, like HBO's Andy Goldman.  It only took minutes for Andy to capture the attention of a recent MediaBistro crowd, his brand clear, his intentions pure.  Let's talk personal brands (and TV) with Andy. Brands aren't about having the basics.  Every cable channel has a good mix of programming from movies to reality to comedy. But it's not the basic ingredients that make a brand. It's what stands out beyond the basics. It's what surprisingly draws people in (The Wire), what people can't get anywhere else (boxing) and what you're known for (The Sopranos). Finding that right combination is key.

Andy Goldman, vice president, Program Planning and Scheduling for HBO has done just that.  Sure, he knows his technical stuff, and has the experience to back it up (see his bio at the end), but so do a number of people in the industry. His brand is all personality:  it's warm, welcoming, high-energy, honest, and funny. It's all Andy.

The best way to build your own person brand is to examine the elements of someone else's brand to see what makes it unique. What do you hang your hat on? Andy was kind enough to answer a few brand-breakdown-ish questions and give you a glimpse inside what makes his brand.

(Susan) So Andy,When you first meet someone, how do you introduce yourself? (Andy) I look the person in the eye, extend my hand (for a handshake) and say “Andy Goldman—nice to meet you”.

Ok then, well let's say I'm reading an article about you. If you had a headline, what would it be? Life is not a dress rehearsal.

Nope, definitely not, unless it's a show (even a reality one).  Let's get technical here. What consumer or product brand would you most compare yourself to and why? I know this sounds like shameless self-promotion, but HBO.  In a ever-changing world, the HBO brand continues to be something that resonates with people of all demographic backgrounds.  It connotes a image of out-of-the box thinking and strives to be the best in everything it does.

After hearing you speak that makes sense. I've always admired HBO for that.  Have you always been that way? When you were in college, how would your friends describe you? A very loyal person who could also be a wise-ass.  I was (and am) a person who knew what he wanted and either knew how to get it or figure out how to achieve my goal of getting it.  I love puzzles.

I'm more of a Words With Friends gal, myself. But puzzle solving's a great metaphor. To get what you want there's always some solution-finding in order which can evolve a brand. Are those descriptors the same today? Now, how would your team now describe you? Here’s a few directly from them (I am humbled):  “Knows the TV and movie business better that anyone”, “Funny”, “Calm under pressure”, “Don’t get on his bad side”, “Great teacher”, “Smartest person in the room”, “Forward thinking”, “Loyal’, “Will do anything for his staff if he believes in you”, “Great husband and father”, “Knows everybody in the biz”, “Loves to help people”.

No need to be humbled. Knowledge of your brand is power. As you mentioned before, HBO's got a great brand. What HBO program is most like you? “Entourage."

Hmm. I don't really see you as an Ari, a Drama or even Lloyd. But I can see how you've got Ari's drive, Drama's passion and Lloyd's likeable nature. But that personality, that brand, didn't just evolve, right? You've done a number of things to develop and strengthen it.  What's the most important thing you have done to strengthen your own personal brand? Do not be afraid of change—embrace it.  Know what you are supposed to know, and know more.  Learn as much as the groups you are dealing with on a daily basis.  Also, network with people in your industry and other industries.  All people, all fields.  Take any/all speaking engagements.  And be sure to always find time to open your door to someone who reaches out to you.

And that's surely worked for you. What advice would you give to young professionals who are just starting to build a personal brand? Be fearless, not reckless.  Network-network-network.  Reach out to people in a proper manner and ask for informational interviews.  Envision a successful career strategically.  And once you get a job, continue to network.  One of my mentors said, you do your job from 9-5, but your build your career from 5-9.  It’s absolutely true.

What a great line. And ending on a great line is great for show business and the business of brands. Andy, thanks for guest-starring today. You're welcome.

Stay tuned for our next Brand profile.  Want to suggest someone fab?  Let me know.

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Andrew Goldman's Bio:

Andrew Goldman is vice president, Program Planning and Scheduling, HBO/Cinemax, for Home Box Office, responsible for the strategic planning, acquisition and scheduling of programs for Cinemax’s eight multiplex channels. In addition, he oversees the development and management of new ventures, such as SVOD and Hi-Def, and supervises HBO/Cinemax’s film library analysis and inventory management.  He was named to this position in April 2003.

Goldman joined HBO in 1986, first as a kit coordinator and then senior guide coordinator, responsible for planning and supervising the design and production of the HBO cable guide.  In 1989 he was named media listings manager, Guide Publications, where he oversaw the implementation of the monthly guide information packet. Goldman moved to Scheduling and Program Planning, Cinemax, in 1992 as an assistant manager and was promoted to manager in 1994.

He briefly left HBO in 1998 to work at Showtime Networks, Inc. as director, Program Scheduling, where he managed and executed long-term programming strategies for their multiplex channels.  He rejoined HBO that same year as director, Program Planning and Scheduling, Cinemax.  Goldman began his career in 1985 as a screenplay analyst at Warner Bros., where he worked with various studio-based producers. He holds an MA in Cinema Studies from New York University’s Tisch School of Arts and a BA in Political Science from Syracuse University.

He is a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS), the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS), the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE), the British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA ), East Coast, and has been appointed to the Board of Governors at the Friars Club and the Alumni Council at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.  In addition, he has been an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Film & Television at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts since 2006.

 

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Quitting Is Good For Your Brand

I can say no to camping, spicy food and bug retrieval.  But yet I can't seem to say no to work.And when I take on something else, the only thing left to cut seems to be sleep.  With toothpicks propping open my eyes today after a paltry 5 hours of sleep last night, I'm reminded that quitting can be a good thing.

In 2005 I went back to get my MBA at Vanderbilt. Two music, bacon and case-study filled years later, I finished but had a hard time letting go of Nashville. This Philly girl loved, loved, loved the city and being back in school. So I couldn't resist when they asked for my help leading the Alumni Council.  I give back, looks great on a resume, and I have the privilege of attending the Alumni Board meetings with some pretty amazing alumni. But I just quit. Yep, I am a quitter.  I was feeling bad about it until Stephen Dubner told me (and all of radio land) that it's not such a bad thing.

Inn my role as Alumni Council President, I launched an alumni-led survey and gave some fantastic feedback to the school. I reached out to my own class and shared some cool ideas to energize others. But this year, frankly, I've sucked at my job. I'm taking longer to respond to email requests for help, and I haven't been innovative, interesting or proactive in the least.

I felt bad about quitting, but after the Freaknomics therapy, I realized it's actually better for my brand.  When you overcommit, you take away from something. And no matter what that something is--family, hobbies, day job--you feel guilty about it. And that hurts your brand.  For me it was sleep. And when I'm tired, I'm super cranky and I don't think well.  Which is important since a big chunk of what I do involves strategy and innovation.

So while I hate to let the responsibility go, I know in the long run it's better for me, better for my brand and for Vanderbilt. I can sleep tonight knowing that giving up breadth of focus means I'm getting much more depth.  And it's the depth of the brand that matters. Sounds caffeinating to me.

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Talent Strategies For Post-Recession: Prepare to Connect

Attention companies: this post's for you. In September, The Conference Board predicted that salary increases for 2010 would only be 3% (lowest in 25 years). In Canada, increases are projected to be only 2.8%. Unemployment hit an all-time high in October. But manufacturers and retailers are predicting turnarounds in 2010, and that means jobs won't be far behind. What does that mean for talent? It means it's time to strategize and time to connect. It's not just social networking, it's a conversation. Your candidates want to talk. I did a survey recently of job seekers to see how their habits have changed over the past year.  Now the recession certainly has been going longer than that, but 12 months of change will tell you a great deal about the habits of job seekers. I had planned to cull a list of top trends for companies to pay attention to in preparing their talent strategies for 2010, but there's truly only one thing to keep in mind about your job seekers: They're online. And they're looking for you. Not your company, but you.

When it comes to talent and recruiting, being reactive is the worst possible strategy. After all, when the economy does turn, all of the great talent in the market will diminish quickly, and unprepared companies will be left scrambling. In order to be proactive, it is important to see what's changed since the economy turned. And for 2010, it's all about the connections.

In the past ten years since job boards have grown to be a job search staple, job seekers are increasingly using online strategies more and more in their searches. What's different though, is how they're using their online time--to connect. And as we begin to close out 2009, the increase in connections, means companies must rethink they way they interact with their job seekers.

In the down economy, job seekers were inundated with advice to network: "tell everyone you know you're looking for a job." Dozens of career experts included networking and the use of social media in their tips.  Business Week even started a Recession Job Search online information exchange.  Job seekers are increasingly going one-on-one to get what they need--from career advice to open positions.

In my survey, when asked where they're getting their advice, online experts is overwhelmingly the top answer. But when the same respondents were asked what they wanted online experts to do better (open ended question), the common response centered on individuality. It's not that job seekers are high-maintenance and need alot of attention. But web 2.0 means that more online users have the ability to learn from each other. And knowing it's possible means that they want it. From career experts and from companies.

"I want more personalized help. Following general advice is one thing, but when that advice doesn't work - what next?," said one respondent.  Simply put, another replied "candor." Others wanted help on talking to companies directly, complaining they never hear back from employers, and that they can't find one person to talk to.

The emerging trend is direct contact. When career experts are telling job seekers to seek out connections through expanding networks and social media, job seekers are taking that advice seriously. They're finding out names of recruiters and calling and emailing them in record numbers.  Several recruiters I spoke to indicate that job seekers are no longer just waiting to hear. They want to talk, they want to know. Now.

But companies haven't yet been able to fully answer that trend. While there are more than 50 companies recruiting on Twitter, and dozens more with freshly minted Facebook pages, job seekers continue to get frustrated that these efforts are more information sharing, than they are networking.

"I wish people who list themselves on job sites/social networking sites would also list their phone number so I could just call them and ask them directly if they are hiring or their company is hiring" says one job seeker.  And it's a common sentiment.  In the almost two years since the recession started, job seekers have become increasingly aware that sending their resume into a black hole is highly unlikely to result in a job.

In fact, when asked what advice they need most, survey respondents consistently asked for help in making direct connections. They can find the people. But they just can't get to them.

"Most people I email don't ever respond at all for any reason or when they do, it's weeks later and there isn't a job opening at their company. It's nice to find people's names and job titles but what good is that information if you can't [reach] them [directly]?"

Seems fair, especially when 44% of job-seeking respondents say the primary reason they use social media is to connect with people they wouldn't find otherwise. It isn't that easy of course. The economy means that companies haven't had as many recruiting resources, or resources to put into social networking or other sourcing strategies to more personally connect with candidates. But we're looking forward, toward 2010. And companies that want to be able to compete when the economy turns better have resources in place to connect.

How can companies plan to address this trend as the economy rebounds? Prepare to connect.

Start with online connection strategies. If you're going to use social networking, then you have to actually network and talk to the people who want to talk to you. If you're only posting jobs on Twitter, then it's not much of a network, is it? Use social networking to actually network.

  • Join the conversation on your company's Facebook wall. Don't overmanage, but join.
  • Put names behind those company logos online. Make sure people know who they're talking to.
  • Reply to your "@ replies" on Twitter. Engage candidates!
  • Host chats to easily answer candidate questions.
  • If you don't have the resources to engage effectively on social networks, then don't tout them.

And for those busy recruiters who can't answer email and phone? Or those candidates who aren't online?

  • Customize voicemail messages so candidates expectations are set.
  • Use out of office tools daily to manage expectations on email as to when candidates will hear back (if at all)
  • Be clear in job postings and on your careers site, how and when candidates will hear back and where they should go to find the answers they need.
  • Use employees outside of recruiting and HR to answer questions. Post their names on your Careers site and rotate them.
  • When a current employee refers an candidate, have an automatic email reply go to that current employee with an FAQ so the employee can answer the candidates' questions.

And then think about strategies for the future:

  • Are you prepared to directly connect with candidates?
  • How will your Careers site evolve to allow for networking?
  • What's the messaging you want to convey to candidates?
  • How does networking fit in with your Employer Brand? More networking means more people representing company messaging. Have you prepared them to network?
  • What other company tools can you re-purpose for networking? For example, if you're company sells products online and you have a customer service center, why can't you have a candidate service center (phone, online messaging capability etc.)

The key thing to remember is that connecting isn't just about social networking or being online. It's really the candidate experience. It's finding the best way to make the process as personal as possible while also being realistic. No one wants to feel like a number--whether you're returning a scarf or applying for a job. You want to be able to get answers, help, and information when you need it and feel like it was tailor-made for you. That's the direction job seekers are headed.  Companies, are you?

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