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The Value of Local Learning: RecruitDC

imagesRegardless of the business you're in, learning has to be a regular part of your routine. Otherwise you miss technology, innovation and quite simply, what's happening all around you. It's one thing to engage in online content, but another to hear it live, engage, ask questions and hear what others think about what you just heard.  But while conferences have value well beyond our online selves, they're often overwhelming or hard to navigate. That's where local comes in. Every locale, every geography has its own set of challenges that make doing business there hard. And DC is no different. Besides the government shutdown, (the small issue you might have heard about on the news), the uniquenesses about where I live and work most days play heavily into how I do business.  While understanding what global colleagues face is important, it's often more productive and easier to learn here at home.

Case in point: if you're a recruiter or recruiting leader here in DC, your candidates have a different combination of challenges than they might somewhere else. Commute + security clearances + transience. Oh, and did I mention income? Six of the ten wealthiest counties* in the United States are in the DC-metro area. Consider how that impacts your compensation strategy. And that's why local learning matters and why I'm proud to be a part of RecruitDC.

A local, grassroots conference, RecruitDC takes universal challenges local. And this Fall is no different. Our sell-out conferences (2x a year) highlight the classic needs talent leaders face here.  November's event will feature big data, mobile recruiting and building influence and trust on the job. If you're a local HR leader, it's a can't-miss event. So the next time you're creating your professional development plan and trying to learn on a small budget, think local!

And if you're local to DC, I hope you'll join me on November 14. Grab your tickets before they sell-out!

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*The latest Census data puts the top five median incomes by county as DC-area counties. I'd show you the data of their latest study but it's not available because of...you guessed it, the government shutdown.

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exaqueo is a workforce 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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Covering Talent Issues: A Reporter's Perspective

I sit on the Board of our local talent acquisition non-profit group, RecruitDC. And since the inception, we’ve been lucky enough to have exceptional keynote speakers at each of our sell-out conferences. This year, with so many economic and government factors affecting our local talent landscape, we’re taking a different approach. Washington Post reporter Sarah Halzack will lead a panel of executive HR leaders to address some of these issues.  Halzack, a Capital Business Reporter and Web Editor for the Post, has a unique perspective on the area’s talent market. In advance of RecruitDC’s May 23rd Spring Conference, I sat down with her to talk talent, reporting and her own unique job.

Susan LaMotte: How did you land at The Washington Post? And tell us a little bit about your beat and the topics you cover?

Sarah Halzack: During my senior year at George Washington University, I worked as a research assistant for Laura Sessions Stepp, a journalist who was then working at the Washington Post and was in the process of writing a book.  When I graduated, she pointed me to apply for a job at the Post as a news aide, our most entry-level position. At that point, I was still somewhat unsure about what I wanted to do for my career; I had majored in journalism, but had only done internships in media relations. But as soon as I began working in the newsroom, I knew that I was exactly where I wanted to be.  I loved the energy of the place and I loved being surrounded by such bright and curious people. Currently, I am a reporter and Web editor with our Capital Business publication. I cover employment and workplace topics. That includes anything from how the labor market looks and what it says about the broader health of the regional economy to more HR-specific topics such as talent attraction and retention, compensation and benefits/rewards.

SL: I’m so glad the Post continues to dig into these topics especially since we spend so much time talking about politics in DC. Now, business journalism isn't as contentious as politics, but what have you learned about staying objective?

SH: Fairness is at the core of what we do in any department of the newsroom. I think the best way to achieve it is by thinking about a story from all 360 degrees and making sure you’ve been thoughtful and deliberate about what information you’ve included, what sources you’ve talked to, and whether you’ve given all the stakeholders a fair chance to comment. And I think it’s helpful to not make assumptions in reporting.  That helps ensure that you arrive at the most objective framework for your story.

SL: I think that’s good advice for business leaders too. We tend to have preconceived notions about solutions or even who to hire for a specific role! The 360-degree approach is something we could surely learn from. From the reporting you’ve done for the Post, what are some of the business trends you're seeing in our market?

SH: As we noted in the most recent edition of Post 200 (The Washington Post's annual report on the area's top businesses), it seems that many of the biggest businesses in the Washington region got a little bit smaller last year That manifested in different ways: Some shrunk real estate footprints, some reduced headcount, and others spun off business verticals. And so it seems that this year will be about adjusting and adapting to those consequential changes.  As for the local job market, the unemployment rate is ticking down slowly.  However, we are not adding jobs in the professional services sector at a fast enough pace to rev the engine of economic recovery.  Lately, our biggest job creators have been the health-care industry and the hospitality industry.  However, these are sectors that don’t tend to pay especially well, so that could weigh on income growth in this region.

SL: As part of preparing this year's Post 200, you talked about talent as a primary issue for many CEOs. What particular concerns and challenges do you find them to be facing right now?

SH: As I talk to folks in the local talent industry, a few themes emerge.  Some say that talent retention is a difficulty, particularly amid this climate of tightened budgets that might not allow as much room for compensation increases.  I also hear often that certain jobs remain hard to fill because they can’t find workers with the right skill set.  I’ve heard of and reported on lots of different ways of dealing with this—building talent pipelines with local colleges, creating internal training programs, or recruiting from unexpected places. For example, I reported last year on Merrill Lynch’s Washington office and how they are recruiting veterans, accountants and lawyers to work as financial advisers. In another story, I wrote about how Vocus was hiring a food truck for a day and giving out free pizza to lure people to apply for jobs. In other words, it seems many talent professionals are looking for outside-the-box ways to get the best people to come to their organization.

SL: There has been a great deal of conversation in our industry about a talent shortage versus a shortage of certain skills. But that’s just one of many key topics we’re talking about right now. It’s a crowded platform of challenges and I know we’ll delve into then for our panel.  Now, like many journalists, I'm sure story ideas are constantly crowding your mind. What do you do outside of work to clear your head?

SH: I perform with a professional contemporary dance company called Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Co.  We rehearse in the evenings and on weekends and perform throughout the Washington area.  It feels great to get up and do something physical after being behind a desk all day!  And dance calls for a different type of creativity than I use as a journalist, so that is refreshing as well.  I’m also a big fan of yoga. 

SL: Me too. We lead such crowded lives I find yoga a great way to eliminate all that noise if only for a hour.  And with all that you do, we appreciate you taking the time to join us at RecruitDC.  We look forward to hosting you and our panelists on May 23: 

-       Melody Jones, Chief Administrative Officer, CEB

-       Angela Mannino, SVP Human Resources, Inova Health System

-       Jeff Perkins, Chief People Officer, NPR

-       Bridgette Weitzel, Vice President, Organization Development & Chief Talent Officer, BAE Systems North America

 

 

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How to Really Find the Best Talent: Meet the Author of The Rare Find

A recruiter’s job description can be narrowed down pretty simply: find the very best talent.  And that’s what we all aim to do. We experiment with different search tools, search strings and partners day in and day out. And while technologies have changed, our methods really haven’t. We want that perfect fit.But what is perfect fit? And is it even the best goal to have?  Is there a better way? George Anders, a New York Times-bestselling author and a journalist thinks there is. His book, The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Everyone Else addresses the key talent questions we all crave answers to: what defines exceptional and how do we find it? I have the honor of joining George this week to talk about The Rare Find at the sold out RecruitDC conference.  We sat down ahead of the conference to find out why he’s so intrigued with the talent question.

Susan Strayer LaMotte (SSL): I’m looking forward to our conversation later this week, but I wanted to take a few minutes to introduce you to the recruiting community. We’re used to the battle scars here, but talent is a newer topic for you. What was the impetus for writing The Rare Find?

George Anders (GA): I'd been intrigued for many years by how the best organizations pick talent. It seemed as if there must be some common language that helped define success, and when I set out to create this book, I wanted to discover as much that commonality as possible.

SSL: How do you describe the book to readers? Is it simply a primer on finding talent?

GA: There are three key insights that define the book. First, that there are some universal truths about hiring and we can learn a lot by exploring talent systems in all kinds of places.  Second, there's far more talent out there than most bosses realize. Two of the great hiding spots can be described as "talent that whispers" and people with "jagged resumes."  And finally organizations with an especially good eye for talent are uniquely demanding about specific character traits and success factors.

SSL: We’ll certainly talk more about those insights later this week. With the numerous examples you cover in the book from the Army’s Special Forces to Facebook to the University of Utah, you probably had a number of surprising insights along the way.  What was the most surprising thing you learned?

GA: Funny you should ask. I was part of a private school's search committee for a new head of school during the time that the book was under construction. The jagged resume candidates did intrigue us. We did a lot of hard thinking about our two or three most essential traits, eventually reaching the point where we felt confident picking a maverick who could do the most crucial elements extremely well, rather than getting distracted by trying to match everyone against a long list of 20 "nice to have" elements.

SSL: On the flip side, what was the most frustrating theme for you--something you saw happening over and over that made you react: "I can't believe so many organizations are doing..."

GA: The most jarring experience for me is coming across bosses who don't [care] about hiring. Even otherwise brilliant executives suffer from this. They're always too busy to spend much time with candidates, let alone get immersed in the hard work of defining a job. Then they complain a year later that they have to keep firing people. I'm astonished that such cycles persist. But they do.

SSL:  After all of the learnings from writing this book, what's the most important piece of advice you'd give CEOs and HR/talent leaders moving forward?

GA: Be bold. Be willing to compromise on experience, but don't compromise on character. Have the courage to hire people whose potential fascinates you, rather than settling for the safest resume every time.

SSL: The Rare Find is your fourth book in addition to your admirable journalistic career.  Why does journalism and writing in general, excite/engage/intrigue you so much?

GA: I'm endlessly curious. Both book contracts and journalism jobs provide a great calling card for meeting fascinating people and finding out what makes them tick. Fitting together the research and insights into a coherent piece is hard work, but it's very satisfying when it's done.

SSL: Like any good recruiter, I have to ask, how did you get your start in journalism?

GA: Talk about the power of accidental discoveries. I was on the math/science track in high school, until stumbling into a journalism elective junior year. Everything about finding stories, interviewing people, getting in print, etc. was thrilling. In college, business intrigued me, too. That led to a long career at The Wall Street Journal, where I could write about business and many other matters as well.

SSL: And now your career has evolved into a writing business, if you will.

GA: I'm the world's smallest multi-media conglomerate these days. In the journalism world, I've recently written cover stories for Forbes magazine about LinkedIn and Amazon, with more projects coming in 2013. On the speaking circuit, I'm appreciating the chance to share The Rare Find’s messages with business and academic groups in the U.S., Britain and Latin America.

SSL: We’re glad you’re making time to stop here in DC. It’s actually an old stomping ground for you?

GA: Yes. I actually lived in Washington from 1994 to 1997 and my first son was born in Sibley Hospital.

SSL: DC is such a political town, what's your take on the role politics does/should play in an organization?

GA:  In the corporate world, when things are going well for us, we hardly notice internal politics at all. We form alliances, negotiate compromises, swap favors and coolly keep track of who's gaining or losing power. It's all part of getting things done -- whether we're on K Street or out marketing Special K. It's only when our faction is struggling that we start sputtering about how much "politics" are ruining everything. Sometimes it's easier to grumble about politics than to accept the fact that our cause is a loser, this time around.

SSL: When you’re not talking talent what’s taking your time these days?

GA: Outside of writing I'm a slow but stubborn hiker, having made it to the top of Mt. Fuji, Mt. Whitney and in Nepal over the years and I'm a cook too.  My wife, Elizabeth Corcoran, is a recovering journalist who is now CEO of EdSurge Inc., a fast-growing startup specializing in education technology. We live on the edge of Silicon Valley, sharing our house with two teenage sons whose everyday conversation is a mashup of Starcraft, Shakespeare and Tony Stark movies.  At some point in 2013, it will [also] be time to start another book. I'm intrigued by how companies run their pipelines for high-potential employees (for good and bad), and whether there's something to be said about how all of us can make the most of our own potential.

SSL: It helps to have a journalist dig into these questions with a fresh, curious perspective, and that’s surely a topic we can relate to.  In the interim, we’ll have plenty of time to dig more deeply into your lessons from The Rare Find at RecruitDC on December 6.

GA: Thanks for having me!

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George Anders is a New York Times-bestselling author and a journalist with three decades of experience writing for national publications. He started his career at The Wall Street Journal, where he became a top feature writer and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for national reporting. He also has served as West Coast bureau chief for Fast Company magazine and as a founding member of the Bloomberg View board of editors. His work has appeared in leading publications worldwide, including The New York Times, BusinessWeek, The Guardian and the Harvard Business Review. In January 2012, he joined Forbes as a contributing writer.  George is the author of The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Anyone Else (2011), as well as three previous nonfiction books including Perfect Enough: Carly Fiorina and the Reinvention of Hewlett-Packard (2003), a New York Times bestseller.  Find George online at www.georgeanders.com and follow him on Twitter @GeorgeAnders.

 

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8 People Who Changed My Life in 2011

I could and should be looking ahead and making resolutions for 2012. But before I do, I’m looking back. And for good reason. I’m about to return back to my entrepreneurial roots as a talent strategy and brand consultant.  Like any brand shift, it happened slowly and evolved over time as I thought about where I can best make an impact in a way that fits my talents and work style the best. But change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And as I look back over 2011—a year of many firsts for me, I realize there are some key people who’ve had a serious impact on my life, my thinking and my work. These are people you should watch, follow, listen to and take note of. They’ve changed my way of thinking and can impact your world too.

Francisca Martinez

Her official title is Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition, Marriott International. But for the past five years I’ve known her as my boss. A driver, Francisca isn’t about pushing for the best, she’s focused on pushing for the best in you. While most executives want to remind you how much they know, Francisca’s all about finding out what she can learn. When I first brought up social media five years ago while we were working together at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, she didn’t balk or see it as a fad. She asked me to tell her more, share more and then carefully helped me educate other executives and make our case. Four years later, in Summer 2011, as I watched her give a Spanish interview with Univision on our new social recruiting game, My Marriott Hotel™, I sat back in awe. While I had no idea what she was telling the reporter in Spanish, I knew that her style, leadership and focus—being a driver—worked for us both. I can’t wait to see what she (and the team) do next.

Rehan Choudhry

I first met Rehan in business school. He was a technology and government consultant looking for something new and better. Now, almost five years after we finished those MBAs, Rehan’s leading the brand activation charge at the country’s coolest and most popular hotel: The Cosmopolitan. As the hotel’s Director of Special Events and Entertainment his Facebook photos rotate between posing with Adele and Mumford and Sons. I’ve watched his meteoric rise and along the way provided him some humble advice on brand strategy. And this year I’ve marveled at this amazing career change and success he’s had in such a short time. He’s a complete reminder that anything is possible if you work really, freakin’ hard.

John Sumser

Have you ever met someone who makes you smarter every time you talk to them? That’s John Sumse rfor me. I might call him the leading “independent HR technology and recruiting analyst” or really just refer to him as the smartest guy I know in recruiting who doesn’t take any BS from me.  The founder of HRExaminer, John’s unique combination of innovation and honesty and beyond appealing. Rarely do you meet someone who really gives you frank advice and feedback because he wants to see you succeed. Rarely do you meet someone who makes your brain hurt. In a really good way. In 2011, John’s done that for me.

Andy Goldman

Earlier this year, I spoke at Media Bistro’s Career Circus and I was struck by the guy who spoke after I did. Andy Goldman, Vice President, Program Planning and Scheduling for HBO had a bright smile, a strong presence and a great message. Sure, I’m HBO-obsessed. But after that day I couldn’t stop thinking about Andy’s gracious and selfless style. Here’s this important executive for an incredibly popular brand, and he couldn’t be more interested in just helping people. He graciously agreed to a brand interview for my blog in which I learned that his altruism was as genuine as it gets. Sure, he’s busy, but he’s so open with his candor and advice you can’t help but marvel at how he stands out in a dog-eat-dog industry. We should all be at least, a little like this.

David Kippen

One Tennessee afternoon in 2006, I cold-called David Kippen. I was living in Nashville for business school and decided the hybrid of HR and marketing was something really intriguing. I Googled “employer brand” and the results were all David. He was the guru, the expert. He took my cold call that day and opened his doors and his mind to me. His eloquence and gracefulness of thought introduced me to the strategy and research behind employer brand that so many people overlook. Over the next several years we stayed in touch and —I became his client and his fan. As I worked with him on multiple projects through his firm, Evviva Brands, in 2011 I was keenly reminded, no one knows or does employer brand strategy better. No one.

Christa Avampato

I met Christa in the summer of 2006 when we both started working at The Home Depot’s corporate office. We bonded over many things that summer, but I was in awe of her deep focus and passion to do something with meaning. In 2011, I wasn’t surprised when she started writing every day, (for 364 days as of today) focused on curating a creative life. I’ve been inspired by her daily musings and passionate pleas to find the best life has to offer. It culminates in reaching an aspiration of her own—founding the non-profit Compass Yoga providing yoga and wellness programming to people who have mental or physical health challenges. Not only did reading her blog encourage me to take up yoga again, but her ‘breath-of-fresh-air’ writing is just what a girl like me needs.

RecruitDC

Nothing sparks passion like seeing a grassroots initiative come to fruition. And over the past year, I’ve been thrilled to watch RecruitDC take serious shape here inWashingtonDC. Led and influenced by Ben Gotkin, Kathleen Smith, Kelly Dingee and numerous others, the grassroots designed to create networking events for recruiters by recruiters here in DC has already had numerous, sold-out events. I’m constantly motivated by people who want to advance their field or industry in an unselfish (and unpaid!) yet important way.

Peter LaMotte

Full disclosure here—Peter’s my better half. But when I think about my work in 2011, his creative and genius leadership of the aptly-named GeniusRocket (GR), had an incredible influence on my thinking. Peter joined GR, a creative crowdsourcing agency, only a few years ago as their Director of Marketing. And as their President in 2011, he’s completely turned the business on its head. Peter takes customer, client and partner feedback in a way like no one I’ve ever seen. He was nimble enough to turn that feedback into a completely new type of model with a new name: curated crowdsourcing. Having a vision like that and a belief in that vision is something I can only aspire to.

And that’s my goal in 2012. Continue to work, partner, learn, meet and connect with people who help energize me to make my aspirations a reality. That transition, that change, that’s what works all about. Happy new year, people.

------------

Follow List for this post: @JohnSumser | @RehanC | @ChristaNYC | @PeterLaMotte | @David_Kippen | @RecruitDC

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8 People Who Changed My Life in 2011

I could and should be looking ahead and making resolutions for 2012. But before I do, I’m looking back. And for good reason. I’m about to return back to my entrepreneurial roots as a talent strategy and brand consultant.  Like any brand shift, it happened slowly and evolved over time as I thought about where I can best make an impact in a way that fits my talents and work style the best. But change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And as I look back over 2011—a year of many firsts for me, I realize there are some key people who’ve had a serious impact on my life, my thinking and my work. These are people you should watch, follow, listen to and take note of. They’ve changed my way of thinking and can impact your world too.

Francisca Martinez

Her official title is Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition, Marriott International. But for the past five years I’ve known her as my boss. A driver, Francisca isn’t about pushing for the best, she’s focused on pushing for the best in you. While most executives want to remind you how much they know, Francisca’s all about finding out what she can learn. When I first brought up social media five years ago while we were working together at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, she didn’t balk or see it as a fad. She asked me to tell her more, share more and then carefully helped me educate other executives and make our case. Four years later, in Summer 2011, as I watched her give a Spanish interview with Univision on our new social recruiting game, My Marriott Hotel™, I sat back in awe. While I had no idea what she was telling the reporter in Spanish, I knew that her style, leadership and focus—being a driver—worked for us both. I can’t wait to see what she (and the team) do next.

Rehan Choudhry

I first met Rehan in business school. He was a technology and government consultant looking for something new and better. Now, almost five years after we finished those MBAs, Rehan’s leading the brand activation charge at the country’s coolest and most popular hotel: The Cosmopolitan. As the hotel’s Director of Special Events and Entertainment his Facebook photos rotate between posing with Adele and Mumford and Sons. I’ve watched his meteoric rise and along the way provided him some humble advice on brand strategy. And this year I’ve marveled at this amazing career change and success he’s had in such a short time. He’s a complete reminder that anything is possible if you work really, freakin’ hard.

John Sumser

Have you ever met someone who makes you smarter every time you talk to them? That’s John Sumse rfor me. I might call him the leading “independent HR technology and recruiting analyst” or really just refer to him as the smartest guy I know in recruiting who doesn’t take any BS from me.  The founder of HRExaminer, John’s unique combination of innovation and honesty and beyond appealing. Rarely do you meet someone who really gives you frank advice and feedback because he wants to see you succeed. Rarely do you meet someone who makes your brain hurt. In a really good way. In 2011, John’s done that for me.

Andy Goldman

Earlier this year, I spoke at Media Bistro’s Career Circus and I was struck by the guy who spoke after I did. Andy Goldman, Vice President, Program Planning and Scheduling for HBO had a bright smile, a strong presence and a great message. Sure, I’m HBO-obsessed. But after that day I couldn’t stop thinking about Andy’s gracious and selfless style. Here’s this important executive for an incredibly popular brand, and he couldn’t be more interested in just helping people. He graciously agreed to a brand interview for my blog in which I learned that his altruism was as genuine as it gets. Sure, he’s busy, but he’s so open with his candor and advice you can’t help but marvel at how he stands out in a dog-eat-dog industry. We should all be at least, a little like this.

David Kippen

One Tennessee afternoon in 2006, I cold-called David Kippen. I was living in Nashville for business school and decided the hybrid of HR and marketing was something really intriguing. I Googled “employer brand” and the results were all David. He was the guru, the expert. He took my cold call that day and opened his doors and his mind to me. His eloquence and gracefulness of thought introduced me to the strategy and research behind employer brand that so many people overlook. Over the next several years we stayed in touch and —I became his client and his fan. As I worked with him on multiple projects through his firm, Evviva Brands, in 2011 I was keenly reminded, no one knows or does employer brand strategy better. No one.

Christa Avampato

I met Christa in the summer of 2006 when we both started working at The Home Depot’s corporate office. We bonded over many things that summer, but I was in awe of her deep focus and passion to do something with meaning. In 2011, I wasn’t surprised when she started writing every day, (for 364 days as of today) focused on curating a creative life. I’ve been inspired by her daily musings and passionate pleas to find the best life has to offer. It culminates in reaching an aspiration of her own—founding the non-profit Compass Yoga providing yoga and wellness programming to people who have mental or physical health challenges. Not only did reading her blog encourage me to take up yoga again, but her ‘breath-of-fresh-air’ writing is just what a girl like me needs.

RecruitDC

Nothing sparks passion like seeing a grassroots initiative come to fruition. And over the past year, I’ve been thrilled to watch RecruitDC take serious shape here inWashingtonDC. Led and influenced by Ben Gotkin, Kathleen Smith, Kelly Dingee and numerous others, the grassroots designed to create networking events for recruiters by recruiters here in DC has already had numerous, sold-out events. I’m constantly motivated by people who want to advance their field or industry in an unselfish (and unpaid!) yet important way.

Peter LaMotte

Full disclosure here—Peter’s my better half. But when I think about my work in 2011, his creative and genius leadership of the aptly-named GeniusRocket (GR), had an incredible influence on my thinking. Peter joined GR, a creative crowdsourcing agency, only a few years ago as their Director of Marketing. And as their President in 2011, he’s completely turned the business on its head. Peter takes customer, client and partner feedback in a way like no one I’ve ever seen. He was nimble enough to turn that feedback into a completely new type of model with a new name: curated crowdsourcing. Having a vision like that and a belief in that vision is something I can only aspire to.

And that’s my goal in 2012. Continue to work, partner, learn, meet and connect with people who help energize me to make my aspirations a reality. That transition, that change, that’s what works all about. Happy new year, people.

------------

Follow List for this post: @JohnSumser | @RehanC | @ChristaNYC | @PeterLaMotte | @David_Kippen | @RecruitDC

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8 People Who Changed My Life in 2011

I could and should be looking ahead and making resolutions for 2012. But before I do, I’m looking back. And for good reason. I’m about to return back to my entrepreneurial roots as a talent strategy and brand consultant.  Like any brand shift, it happened slowly and evolved over time as I thought about where I can best make an impact in a way that fits my talents and work style the best. But change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And as I look back over 2011—a year of many firsts for me, I realize there are some key people who’ve had a serious impact on my life, my thinking and my work. These are people you should watch, follow, listen to and take note of. They’ve changed my way of thinking and can impact your world too.

Francisca Martinez

Her official title is Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition, Marriott International. But for the past five years I’ve known her as my boss. A driver, Francisca isn’t about pushing for the best, she’s focused on pushing for the best in you. While most executives want to remind you how much they know, Francisca’s all about finding out what she can learn. When I first brought up social media five years ago while we were working together at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, she didn’t balk or see it as a fad. She asked me to tell her more, share more and then carefully helped me educate other executives and make our case. Four years later, in Summer 2011, as I watched her give a Spanish interview with Univision on our new social recruiting game, My Marriott Hotel™, I sat back in awe. While I had no idea what she was telling the reporter in Spanish, I knew that her style, leadership and focus—being a driver—worked for us both. I can’t wait to see what she (and the team) do next.

Rehan Choudhry

I first met Rehan in business school. He was a technology and government consultant looking for something new and better. Now, almost five years after we finished those MBAs, Rehan’s leading the brand activation charge at the country’s coolest and most popular hotel: The Cosmopolitan. As the hotel’s Director of Special Events and Entertainment his Facebook photos rotate between posing with Adele and Mumford and Sons. I’ve watched his meteoric rise and along the way provided him some humble advice on brand strategy. And this year I’ve marveled at this amazing career change and success he’s had in such a short time. He’s a complete reminder that anything is possible if you work really, freakin’ hard.

John Sumser

Have you ever met someone who makes you smarter every time you talk to them? That’s John Sumse rfor me. I might call him the leading “independent HR technology and recruiting analyst” or really just refer to him as the smartest guy I know in recruiting who doesn’t take any BS from me.  The founder of HRExaminer, John’s unique combination of innovation and honesty and beyond appealing. Rarely do you meet someone who really gives you frank advice and feedback because he wants to see you succeed. Rarely do you meet someone who makes your brain hurt. In a really good way. In 2011, John’s done that for me.

Andy Goldman

Earlier this year, I spoke at Media Bistro’s Career Circus and I was struck by the guy who spoke after I did. Andy Goldman, Vice President, Program Planning and Scheduling for HBO had a bright smile, a strong presence and a great message. Sure, I’m HBO-obsessed. But after that day I couldn’t stop thinking about Andy’s gracious and selfless style. Here’s this important executive for an incredibly popular brand, and he couldn’t be more interested in just helping people. He graciously agreed to a brand interview for my blog in which I learned that his altruism was as genuine as it gets. Sure, he’s busy, but he’s so open with his candor and advice you can’t help but marvel at how he stands out in a dog-eat-dog industry. We should all be at least, a little like this.

David Kippen

One Tennessee afternoon in 2006, I cold-called David Kippen. I was living in Nashville for business school and decided the hybrid of HR and marketing was something really intriguing. I Googled “employer brand” and the results were all David. He was the guru, the expert. He took my cold call that day and opened his doors and his mind to me. His eloquence and gracefulness of thought introduced me to the strategy and research behind employer brand that so many people overlook. Over the next several years we stayed in touch and —I became his client and his fan. As I worked with him on multiple projects through his firm, Evviva Brands, in 2011 I was keenly reminded, no one knows or does employer brand strategy better. No one.

Christa Avampato

I met Christa in the summer of 2006 when we both started working at The Home Depot’s corporate office. We bonded over many things that summer, but I was in awe of her deep focus and passion to do something with meaning. In 2011, I wasn’t surprised when she started writing every day, (for 364 days as of today) focused on curating a creative life. I’ve been inspired by her daily musings and passionate pleas to find the best life has to offer. It culminates in reaching an aspiration of her own—founding the non-profit Compass Yoga providing yoga and wellness programming to people who have mental or physical health challenges. Not only did reading her blog encourage me to take up yoga again, but her ‘breath-of-fresh-air’ writing is just what a girl like me needs.

RecruitDC

Nothing sparks passion like seeing a grassroots initiative come to fruition. And over the past year, I’ve been thrilled to watch RecruitDC take serious shape here inWashingtonDC. Led and influenced by Ben Gotkin, Kathleen Smith, Kelly Dingee and numerous others, the grassroots designed to create networking events for recruiters by recruiters here in DC has already had numerous, sold-out events. I’m constantly motivated by people who want to advance their field or industry in an unselfish (and unpaid!) yet important way.

Peter LaMotte

Full disclosure here—Peter’s my better half. But when I think about my work in 2011, his creative and genius leadership of the aptly-named GeniusRocket (GR), had an incredible influence on my thinking. Peter joined GR, a creative crowdsourcing agency, only a few years ago as their Director of Marketing. And as their President in 2011, he’s completely turned the business on its head. Peter takes customer, client and partner feedback in a way like no one I’ve ever seen. He was nimble enough to turn that feedback into a completely new type of model with a new name: curated crowdsourcing. Having a vision like that and a belief in that vision is something I can only aspire to.

And that’s my goal in 2012. Continue to work, partner, learn, meet and connect with people who help energize me to make my aspirations a reality. That transition, that change, that’s what works all about. Happy new year, people.

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Follow List for this post: @JohnSumser | @RehanC | @ChristaNYC | @PeterLaMotte | @David_Kippen | @RecruitDC

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The University of Sumser

Class is in session at the University of Sumser where the Dean is opposed to idea that there is a quick fix to everything. If you’ve taken a class here before, you know that staunch opinion and firm beliefs always make an appearance. But there’s always an interesting discussion in the works. Next week, John Sumser takes his thought university on the road to keynote recruitDC, the region’s premiere recruiting conference and meet-up, for a course on localizing recruiting.  The king of industry analysis, John’s been diving into all things recruiting and technology for much of his career. His recent leadership in the field includes a deep look at social technology in recruiting and HR, a multi-year investigation of influence in HR and a number of engagements with recruiting operations, employer brand initiatives and product designs. I snagged John on his virtual campus to talk a little bit about his upcoming class, his history and ironically, his own influence.

Susan: You create these great influencer lists sharing great leadership examples across multiple disciplines. And yet, you’re actually a key influencer yourself. Where did all of this begin?

John: I’ve always worked in sales and influence to some extent. At eight years old I was selling magazines. When I made my way to college I decided to major in philosophy, which entitled me to be a door-to-door Santa Claus. It’s a great story actually. Polaroid had just developed an instant movie camera and for $1500 you could get an instant movie and Santa would come to your house for a party. But it was the same year that Sony introduced Betamax for $100 less. So technically my first post-college job was a bunch of Santas sitting around an office, smoking cigarettes and waiting for phone to ring. I think I was terrified that was going to be my life.

S: Santa to recruiting is a pretty big jump. I imagine there’s something in between?

J: There was. I cut my hair and then moved into the defense industry in Washington, DC and became the lowest paid employee in all of Westinghouse. As a copy boy I made $19,000 but surprisingly, really liked it. So over the next five years I [complemented that philosophy degree] with certificates in organization development and engineering. And I learned how to code.

S: And then you went from coding to recruiting?

J: Not quite. I became a technical writer and then a trainer. I didn’t even know half the stuff I was training on, but I had a mentor who told me “all that matters is that you’re an hour ahead of the class at the end of the day.” So I taught all day (crazy subjects like teaching the Chinese Navy to make frigates—don’t ask) and then I learned at night.

S: Fast forward some technology projects and proposals and then what?

J: I ended up as the VP of R&D. I had become the guy who was interested in the [new thing called] the Internet and the future of publishing. I stayed there 15 years.

S: It makes sense that they’d want someone interested in the future to be steering the future of the company, namely, research and development. But I still don’t get the connection to recruiting.

J: It came through technology really. I moved from Westinghouse to run a non-profit. But it was staffed by a bunch of hippies and I ran it like an engineer. I got fired. Since times were tough and the non-profit was ground zero for the commercialization of internet, I got three T1 lines for my severance. I used them to start to look for a job online in old usenet groups but it was boring and it wasn’t working. Then I decided to see how many jobs I could apply for. I applied for 70 jobs a day for 17 days straight before I needed a break which got me wondering--how long would it take to apply for these all at once?

S: And that’s how you became an analyst, delving into statistics and trends in recruiting?

J: That’s right. I founded interbiznet in 1994 because I had the statistics. I became an analyst for an industry by default. Many people then know the rest of the story. I sold it in 2006, edited recruiting.com for a year, worked with Jason Davis to build recruitingblogs.com and then started HRExaminer.

S: I know there were other things in there too—you started Salary.com and also played a role in the Jason Davis versus Jason Goldberg blogging controversy. In fact, it seems you gravitate towards controversy.

J: Look, I’m an analyst for an industry who evaluates technology and trends and in the world I operate in, (the world where you evaluate for a living), the truth is a scarce commodity. The culture craves big dramatic solutions.  It’s normal for vendors and consultants to paint their products and services in very stark relief as if that was how one solved problems. Most real world answers are nuanced and subtle. I stay neutral and honest. I have a habit of noticing that the emperor is naked.

S: It’s funny how honesty can build and burn bridges at the same time.

J: Yes. I’ve often positioned myself as the guy who knows how the game ought to played and people don’t always want to hear that.  But that’s fine. I’m okay with people being mad at me. I think high performance teams prefer candor. But high performance is not what everyone wants. Candor and civility are not always compatible.

S: Because of, or, in spite of the controversy, you’re clearly influential. What role or experience has had the most influence on you?

J: I learned as much from mowing lawns and selling magazines and bartending, so I am not sure. What I do know is that showing up and doing shit has an amazing effect.  Showing up and talking doesn’t get you anywhere.  But talking (which I learned as a bartender) is important while you’re doing stuff.

S: Is that part of the analysis? You’re talking out a solution, learning as you go?

J: Learning as you go is. I really didn’t know anything until I was out of work and started a company. There’s nothing but you and the cash flow and you have to decide between a ream of printer paper and a box of mac and cheese for dinner.  The bottom line is I bore easily and am really curious and I’m capable of getting interested in what’s right in front of you.

S: I’ve been there—there’s no better learning experience than being an entrepreneur. You can make some serious mistakes and still come out the better for it.  Would you brand yourself as a learner? Is that what drives the influence?

J: I guess. I think I’m most like a university. The essence of what I do [as a leader in the industry] is teaching. But I also take pride in being a laboratory for ideas. And then I never let my assumptions go unchecked.

S: Because of that you’ve predicted a lot of recruiting and technology trends. It’s a real talent of yours. What’s one you were ahead of the curve on?

J: I still really believe in talent communities but I was writing about them 15 years ago. I guess I was exceptionally ahead of the curve there. But everyone’s still getting the idea of communities wrong. It’s not about you throwing it out there and letting people decide if they’re a member of your community. It’s honing in on who the target is and focusing there.

S: Have you ever hung your hat on something that was totally wrong?

J: Honestly, not really. I’m a scout and I like to be able to see things ahead of their time.  What helps is getting in early to understand it. There’s a great book, “The Timeless Way of Building” that talks about the only way you can really understand something in a way that matters is to get dirt under your fingernails and build it yourself.  I try not to ever, have an idea that I haven’t tried to turn into something. You have to figure out how to do it before you tell people it’s a good idea.

S: Before I let you go, let’s talk recruitDC. Coming on the heels of some cities that have a really strong recruiting community (like Minneapolis), DC is coming together stronger than ever. You’re keynoting the upcoming recruitDC conference. What advice would you give recruiting and TA professionals about working effectively within their local market?

J: Most people assume that the world is like the place they live in. But everywhere is really like a weird bubble. That’s why recruiting is local. But you can’t assume that everyone outside of your bubble is like you. What I’m going to talk about are the solutions that work in the world you operate in.  If your company is in Washington, you need to recruit in Washington.

S: So what’s next for you?

J: I’m actively looking for that next opportunity. I have a real interest in problems people have. I actually want to move away from controversy into something deep and new. That’s really the trajectory of my life as a whole.

S: Well then maybe it’s time for a university sabbatical of sorts? Teaching back to problem-solving and R&D? Sometimes it’s easier to be controversial when teaching – you can blame the school. Either way you can still be influential.

J: Isn’t that the truth.

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Have a problem you want John to solve? Contact him www.hrexaminer.com or john@johnsumser.com.

This interview was compiled by Susan Strayer. Contact Susan at www.exaqueo.com.

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