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Archive for April, 2009

48 Days to the Work you Love by Dan Miller:  Book Review

This is a continuation of the in-depth review of the book:  48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller.  To read the Previous Chapter, follow this link: Chapter 6:  6 Job Offers in 10 Days

Chapter 7:  Finding Your Unique Path

This chapter focuses on two main things.  First and foremost, it does a great job on how one should conduct a job search.  Second, it has a motivational/inspriational tone to it that reminds the reader not to beat themself up if they can’t find a job as quickly as they’d hoped.

The chapter starts off talking about the difference between “production work” where one does manual labor type work and gets to go home at night with a clear head; and “knowledge work” where one never really gets away because their tools of the trade is in their head.  Their skills are more transferrable.  On the bright side, where manual labor production can start to diminish after age 35, a knowledge worker can work well into their 80’s.  

Next, the author describes the different methods for doing a job search, and the odds of landing a job using that method. 

Ineffective Methods:

  • Newspaper ads: 8/100
    • The higher the position, the less likely landing a job using this method. 
    • There is a time lag by the time the job is even posted in the paper.  By the time it reaches the paper, local employees have already seen the posting internally.  If employees aren’t biting to take the spot and they didn’t refer any friends or family for the spot, what might that say about the position?
    • If it is a desirable position, there may be over 300 applicants, the odds of your resume standing out among the pack are slim.
    • The newspaper posting may just be a formality, and a candidate may already have been chosen.
    • Some ads are “blind ads” without a company listed.  This can be posted by recruiters in an attempt to stir up prospects without real positions available, individual companies to survey the candidate pool, or companies attempting to see if any current employers are job hunting.  
  • Private employement agencies/headhunters: 4 to 22/100 (depends on level)
    • You can’t delegate your job search.  You can’t just sign up with a couple of agencies and hope to have the work done for you.
  • Answering Ads in trade journals: 7/100
    • No real good explanation here as to why it’s not a good option.  I am assuming that they only post for real high positions in trade journals.  The example in the book told a story of a woman who went through a rigerous interview process.  Out of 386 applicants it was narrowed down to 8, then 3.  In the end, she didn’t get the job.  The author did some follow up, and it turns out the woman was the best candidate, but there was a little bit of nepotism involved when the position was finally filled. 
  • Internet Ads:  Less than 1%
    • People using the internet as the main focus of their search are avoiding contact.  
    • If you find the posting on the internet, so did thousands of other applicants.  Good luck standing out in the crowd.  
    • Companies are reporting negative experiences hiring candidates from internet responses.  They are reverting to ‘behavioral interviewing’ where they spend more face time with employees in the hiring process.  
  • Applying directly to employer without doing research: 47/100
    • Walking in the front door works almost half the time.
    • Effective for lower level positions (restaurants, department stores, etc.)
    • Works well for people in transition, even professionals looking to make ends meet.

Effective Methods

  • Asking friends: 34/100
  • Asking family: 21/100
    • Don’t be hesitant to let friends and family know you are looking.  
    • Utilize the ‘3-foot rule’.  If you can get within 3 feet of someone, tell them your situation.  Even if it’s just to ask for advice.  They might recommend finding a match for your skills.
  • Placement office at the college you attended: 21/100
    • Colleges realize finding a position for a graduate is not a one-time event.  Graduates return back years later for feedback.  

The author mentions, and I’ve read this elsewhere, that every $10,000 in salary takes 30 days of job-hunting.  So a $60,000 job may take 6 months to land.  2/3 of job hunters spend 5 hours a week on average.  People would be better off spending 35 hours a week, but in a focused effort.  This leads us to:

Efficient Method

Although more time is required up front, the duration of the job search will be much shorter.  This can also be done while you’re with your current employer, as the bulk of the work can be done outside of working hours.  

Step 1:  Identify 30-45 companies you want  to work for.  This will require you to figure out the types of places you want to work: large or small, corporate or non-profit, as well as specific industries: healthcare, energy, education, federal, etc.  Utilize available resources to find companies in the locations you desire:  Business Directories, Chamber of Commerce, local libraries, etc. 

Dont’ freak out if these companies aren’t hiring or have any job postings.  If they did, that would put you up against a larger number of candidates.  This method may only put you up against 2 to 3.  

Step 2:  Send a letter of introduction to the company.  The book recommends sending no more than 15 at a time so you can do appropriate follow up in the later steps.  The purpose of this letter is to build name recognition.  It’s using the power of 3’s.  Theory has it if you can get soemone to hear about a product 3 times (you are the product), the likelihood of them buying that product goes up dramatically.  This is the first time they are hearing about you.

Step 3:  Send your cover letter and resume 1 week after the introduction letter.  Make sure it’s addressed to a specific person, whether it’s the VP of Operations, Sales Manager, or the CEO.  Just make sure you don’t send it to “HR” or “To Whom It May Concern”.  The author references Hoovers (www.hoovers.com) and http://www.webopedia.com as sites that give a lot of good information about companies.  This is the second time they are hearing about you.

Step 4:  Call to follow up.  As important as this step is, as few as 1-2% of hunters do it…but it can bring your name to the top of their list.  You have to be persistant.  Keep calling until you get the person, do not leave voice mails.  If you hear the voicemail kick in, simply hang up the phone.  If you call back and get the receptionist, ask when it is likely the person you are trying to reach will be available.  When you get the person, tell them you are following up on the recent letter and resume you sent.  Let them know you know the company and think you can add to its success.  Ask when a good time would be to get together and talk.  

The author mentions if you just send cover letters and resumes alone, you have about a 1 in 254 chance of getting a job offer.  If you combine the resume and letter with a  phone call, you increase your chances to 1 in 15.  Incorporate the introduction letter, and they improve.  The book reiterates the point here to not take the ‘shotgun approach’ and blast your resume out to 10,000 different job postings.  If you do that, chances are 9,999 of them will get deleted upon receipt.  

No Experience Required

Another point that is made in the chapter is that people worry they won’t be able to land a job because they don’t have the right experience.  They won’t be able to land the marketing job because they’ve been practicing law for the past 20 years.  The candidate should focus on his skill set in this scenario, highlighting the things he can bring to the table to get the job done.  They can downplay actual job titles and history.  A good skill set can be transferred from job to job.

The rest of the chapter is more motivational.  It tells you not to beat yourself up if you can’t find a job right away.  Don’t take the job search casually.  Be persistant and change your luck by being efficient.

Continue to: Chapter 8: Do They Like Me?  Do I Like Them?

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48 Days to the Work you Love by Dan Miller:  Book Review

This is a continuation of the in-depth review of the book:  48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller.  To read the Previous Chapter, follow this link: Chapter 5:  Am I an Eagle or an Owl?

Chapter 6: 6 Job Offers in 10 Days

Wow.  This may be my favorite chapter.  It contains a ton of great advice.  There are certain parts that made me realize that I am doing a lot of things wrong, which I’ll explain below.

The process of creating your resume is more important than the result of that process.  When I first read this, I disagreed, but the more I thought about it I realized it made complete sense.  The process of creating your resume allows you to discover who you are.  It will prepare you to tell your story during interviews.  Furthermore, he says we should always be updating our resume, no matter what our job situation.  Regardless of whether or not we’re secure in our job, have the job we love, already have an offer on the table, or are going to be handed the family business.    

The author recommends having an “elevator speech.”  We should have a story that we can tell people that describes ourselves in the time it would take an elevator to move from one floor to the next.  This is a similar approach I remember hearing in this podcast.  The main link to the site mentioned in the podcast can be found here.  When I’m done reading the book, I’ll see if I can put together my own elevator pitch.

A great resume provides only 10% of the process of an effective job search.  We have to understand what is involved in the other 90% to have an effective search.  In constructing our resume, we have to be careful not to list all the accompishments we’ve done.  We need to tailor the resume to be relevant to what we want to do.  My current resume may have a ton of project management experience listed on it, and I definitely want to utilize those skills in whatever job I endeavor, but I don’t want to be a project manager.  I would be better off tailoring my project management skills around the accomplishments I am trying to promote.  I utilized good planning, organization, and project management skills when working with and implementing new clients; turning around unhappy customers, gathering feedback from experts to relay to developers (these are the things I enjoy doing).  

Don’t lose the fact that the purpose of a resume is to get you an interview.  We have to be prepared of what to do after we get the interview.  We need to be ready to discuss our accomplishments with confidence.  Companies do not hire people after reading their resume.  Therefore, we don’t want our resume to be a ‘tell-all’ story that leaves the recruiter with enough information to make a decision on hiring us.  The resume should pique the recruiters interest so they want to contact you for an interview.  

Once we land the interview, we have to make sure we’re prepared for the interview.  Recruiters make their decisions on whether or not they like you within the first 3-5 minutes of meeting you.  We need to sell ourselves so the recruiter believes we are the best candidate for the position.  We need to make sure we answer these questions for the recruiter:

  •  Do I like this person?
  • Will they fit in well with the team?
  • Are they honest?
  • Are they fun to be around?

Resume Myths

The author then tells a few myth’s about resumes, which is where I realized I made a few mistakes with my own.

Myth 1:  A Good Resume and Cover Letter Will Get Me the Job
Reality:  Resumes and cover letters advertise for interviews.  It shouldn’t give enough information to allow the recruiter to make a decision on the spot.  An analogy the author made is equating your resume to an advertisement for a La-Z-Boy recliner.  The ad should tell enough information to make you want to go to the store and try out the recliner to see if you like it.  

Myth 2: The Candidate with the Best Education, Skills, and Experience Will Alaways Get the Position
Reality:   There are more factors that go into hiring a candidate than just their education, skills and experience.  I think this ties in with the questions asked above.  When it comes down to it, the real question is “Are they a good fit for this position and this company?”  The author makes the point that often the candidates with the best qualifications on paper often do not get the job.  The best analogy I could make to this statement is to look at the New York Yankees from 2001-2008.  Arguably the best team on paper from year to year, yet they still haven’t won a World Series since 2000.  Personality and character are two important factors that go into the decision of being a good candidate. 

Myth 3:  Getting a Job is Really a Matter of Who You Know or Being in the Right Place at the Right Time
Author’s Reality:  Luck is when preparation meets reality.  Create opportunities that make you a good candidate for a position.  
My Take: I agree with the author’s statement, but in my experience, especially in a tough market,  I think who we know is an extremely important factor in a job search.   I guess you can take the author’s point  in the sense that you’re always creating opportunities by keeping in touch, networking, meeting new people through organizations.

Myth 4:  Employers Appreciate Long Resumes Because More Information Saves Time Spent Interviewing
Reality:  Resumes are typically given a 30-40 second glance.  If we don’t catch the recruiters attention within that time-frame, we probably lost the interview.

Myth 5:   Always Put Your Salary Requirements and History on Your Resume
Reality:  I agree with this statement being a myth, although it’s tough on some online applications that specifically ask for it, (or during an interview, and yes you can try and re-direct the question but if they ask again you have to answer).  He points out that putting a specific dollar amount on your resume can eliminate you for consideration.  If the position is paying $76,000, and your last job paid $41,000, you will appear as to low a candidate.  On the opposite end, if you made $92,000 in your last job, they will be hesitant to interview you.  He mentions that compensation packages typically are flexible, so if a company really wants you, they may be willing to adjust the salary.  The main point is to not eliminate yourself from being considered for an interview.  

Myth 6:  Always Close a Cover Letter with “I Look Forward to Hearing From You”
Reality:  Here’s one that I’m guilty of.  Every cover letter I’ve ever sent out ended with this sentence.  Instead, we should be more assertive, with something like “I will call you Thursday morning concerning any questions we both may have and to discuss a personal meeting.”  Being persistent will pay off in the long run.  This is something I definitely need to work on.

Myth 7:  The More Resumes You Send, the More You Increase Your Chances of Getting a Job
Reality:  30-40 resumes combined with quality cover letters, and follow-up calls are more effective than a shotgun approach of sending your resume to every single job posting.  I listen to a career podcast and this is mentioned in numerous interviews with recruiters.  They all say that just clicking the ‘Apply’ button on job boards like Monster and CareerBuilder are equivalent to sending your resume into a black hole.  Chances are we won’t hear back from them.  

Myth 8:  Once You Send Your Resume, All You Can Do is Wait
Reality:  If we don’t take action, just sending out our resume is probably a waste of time.  We should always follow up by phone.  

Objectives

The author moves onto discuss resume objectives, and here is another huge mistake of mine.  Here is an example of an objective he mentions: “To support the growth and profitability of an organization that provides challenge, encourages advancement, and rewards achievement with the opportunity to utilize my experience, skills, and proven abilities.”  

Here’s the objective taken from my current resume:  “Utilize my professional and educational experience to add value to a company that recognizes the characteristics of intelligence, loyalty, and integrity.”

Sound familiar?  They’re very similar.  The problem?  They tell absolutely nothing about the person.  What are his skills?  What type of job is he looking for?  If a resume has a lifespan of 30-40 seconds, the objective should tell the recipient something that would make them want to see the candidate immediately.  We’d be better off opening the resume with a skills summary.  An example:  Over 14 solid years in technology planning and management.  Experienced in strategic systems and organizing and overseeing projects.  Knowledgeable in R&D, product development, and financial management.  Team player in maintaining company policies and procedures.  Expertise with IT businesses, especially those with complex technical, logistical, and implementation challenges.”

We shouldn’t waste our time with generic lead-ins that get us sent to the bottom of the pile.  We need to use those precious 30-40 seconds to convey our value.  

Transferrable Skills

This ties in with some of the points I mentioned at the beginning of the chapter.  Our resume shouldn’t list in order all the accomplishments we’ve done over the course of our career.  Instead, we should list accomplishments in such a way that relate to the job we are seeking. In describing ourselves we need to brag.  We can’t be modest or hold back.  We need to list specific skills that make us stand out from the pack.  

This may mean we have to come up with different versions of our resume that are tailored to the job in which we are applying.  The  skills in the resume should relate to requirements in the job posting.  

Job Hopping

The author mentions how changing jobs early and often isn’t the liability it once was, and may even benefit the job seeker.  Employers are starting to favor candidates who have moved around, and may even be put off by people who have stayed too long in one job or one company where their skills have not had to keep pace with the marketplace.  Rather, if the candidate’s history shows consistent increases in salary and responsibility, job hopping may tag them as ‘hot property.’  

This point was backed by a recent EAP Change Management meeting I attended.  The speaker, who is contracted through Cigna, basically reiterated the points mentioned above.  She said recruiters do not mind job hoppers at all, and in her experience the candidate’s job hopping was not brought up in interviews.  Employers are looking for what works for them at the present time.  

Errors on Resumes

The author lists a bunch of resume bloopers on this page.  Some I thought were pretty hilarious, so I’m going to mention them here:

  • Note:  Keep this resume on top of the stack.  Use all the others to heat your house.
  • Referees available upon request.
  • Work experience:  Dealing with customers’ conflicts taht arouse.
  • I am a rabid typist.
  • Proven ability to track down and correct erors.
  • I am loyal to my employer at all costs.  Please feel free to respond to my resume on my office voice mail.
  • On a cover letter:  “I’ve updated my resume so it’s more appalling to employers.”
  • Experienced in all faucets of accounting.
  • Worked party-time as an office assistant.  

Education

The author mentions the fact that education isn’t everything.  10 years after graduation, 80% of college graduates are working in something totally unrelated to their degree.  There are two reasons we go to school:  

  • To get a piece of paper so someone will give us a job
  • Personal development

If we only go back to school for the first reason, we will be disappointed.  The second reason can never be taken away.  However, personal development doesn’t have to take place in a classroom.  It can happen anywhere:  charities, books, clubs, etc.

 

Continue to: Chapter 7: Finding Your Unique Path

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