Tag Archives: communications

Are You Selling What They Want?

Are you selling a product that an employer will want to buy, and do you have enough of what that employer wants?

Allow me to switch gears here.

Have you ever been to a major-league baseball game? If you have, did you ever notice those people inside the ballpark who carry those trays in front of them with all sorts of food and snacks to sell? (We often refer to them as ballpark vendors.)

I’ll bet you’re wondering why I would be writing about ballpark vendors in a blog that is to be read by job-seekers, especially when it’s October and the regular major-league baseball season is over.

Here is my analogy. You, the job-seeker, are a ballpark vendor, and your target employers are the fans at the major-league baseball game.

Vendor_02

There are some differences here. First, ballpark vendors usually will have only one or two different items in their tray, while a job-seeker can have many skills that he is trying to “sell” to a potential employer. Second, on any given day, a vendor’s “target market”, can number well into the hundreds, or even the thousands. I doubt that most job-seekers have a list of “specific” target companies that is more than one or two hundred. Third, we job-seekers research companies before putting them on our list of target companies. The ballpark vendor does not have to do this; to him, you become part of his potential target market just by showing up at the ballpark. Fourth, when researching potential target companies, we job-seekers attend various networking meetings and use our networks to find out information about those companies. Ballpark vendors simply yell out what it is that they’re selling, and leave it up to you, the prospective buyer, to decide if you want to buy that item.

Finally, when a vendor runs out of an item, that person simply goes and gets more of that item. On the other hand, we job-seekers have to learn new skills that potential employers may be looking for.

Let’s go back to the items being sold. The ballpark vendor is simply trying to sell something which can be consumed. You, the job-seeker, are trying to sell your “skills”. If the potential employer does not need someone with your skills, you are not going to be able to sell anything to that employer, just like the vendor will not be able to sell a customer anything to drink if that customer is not thirsty.

If that same employer is looking for someone with a skill that you have, but wants someone who is “more experienced” with that skill than you are, or who has other skills that you don’t have, you also will not be able to “sell” to that employer. A ballpark vendor will not be able to sell one-half of a hotdog to someone who wants a whole hotdog.

So, if your skills stack up very well to those jobs that you are trying to get, then you have something to sell to your target companies. Go out and network to try to get into those companies. If not, you have two options. Add to your skill set, or change your career direction.

Now, do you have enough of the skills that your target employers want?

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

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Getting Good Counsel

By Cynthia Simmons

We all want to be right—on the right side of the argument, of the law, of the street even! And we all want people to agree with us. We want to have the best opinions, and to be respected as well-informed people.

But for me, at some point as an adult I recognized that honesty is superior to agreement. I mean, I can get sympathy most days from a good friend. But if I want honest and objective feedback, I need to present my situation, my problem, honestly and objectively.

This is leading to my argument that having friends who are different than I am is invaluable—friends who have different values, backgrounds, and preferences.

Most of us have heard the story of the six blind men and the elephant. (This is a teaching fable cited in many cultures.) Each of the blind men stood next to a different part of an elephant and was asked to describe what sort of creature it was.

elephant, kiryat-motzkin zoo (5) brighter(2)

The blind man by the elephant’s trunk, said it was like a snake. The one by a leg, said it was like a great tree. The one by the ear, said it was like a fan. And so on.

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Each one was both right and wrong, because what he knew was from feeling only part of the whole elephant.

 

Wisdom is gained from perspective. And perspective does not exist as a singular entity.

As you travel the unknown and uncertain territory of job search, seek out and befriend people who are different from you. You will gain treasured relationships that you may wish to maintain for many years into the future.

Consider that possibly living with only mirrors of your own images, values, and perspectives can be boring. And incomplete.

Instead of considering how limited each perspective was – that each blind man was blind to the whole picture, instead consider that each blind man experienced his own perspective and his own version of the truth. His own insight. Having friends with points of view that are different from yours teaches you malleability, flexibility, and plasticity in your thinking.

A case in point: I was puzzled about someone’s motivation for a particular action. It didn’t make sense to me, so I asked a relative who is older than I am and from another part of the country. Her explanation was, “Of course, that’s what some people do, because…” And then I thought, “Really? I would never do that!”

In a small way, I was enlightened, and my mind opened up to more possibilities.

file0001739728230 - add contrast (2)Cynthia Simmons has a background in publishing and publications.
Photos credited to the morgueFile.com
© 2014 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job. All rights reserved.

Dealing with irrelevant information, or, lookout for information overload

As I was backing my car out of a parking space recently, looking out the rear window and making sure there weren’t any people or cars behind me, all of a sudden I heard this strange, female voice saying “Welcome to the hands free phone system…” I stopped the car, somewhat in a state of shock, still partly in the parking space. At first, my thoughts went back-and-forth between “What did I just do?” and “How do I get this message turned off?” One look at where my left hand was on the steering wheel gave me the answers to both of my questions. I had inadvertently touched the “call” button on the steering wheel. I wound up hearing two or three more sentences from that female voice before I figured out that the way to stop the message was to hit the “cancel” button right next to it.

 

What I had just experienced is another one of those new-fangled contraptions allegedly designed to help me do something. Cell phones, laptop computers, this thing called spell check, and computer mice are other examples of these. At this point I must admit that I am a bit old fashioned when it comes to some of the electronic gizmos that are found on the cars of today. (The car I traded in to get this one last year was bought in 1996.) My cell phone, which still doesn’t get much use, is usually off while I’m driving; if I have to make a call, I pull over, stop the car, and use my cell phone. Therefore, I do not need a hands free phone system. All of the information in that message was not relevant to me.

 

What does this have to do with searching for a job? We are periodically affected by the results of well-intentioned people giving us some help at a time when we are not in a position to receive it, like when we are showering or sleeping. At other times it may be OK if we are receiving helpful information for our job search from only one person, or at a networking meeting where your request for help is implied.

 

But go to a family get-together, beware; you could get as many different ideas on how to do your job search as there are people attending the gathering. If you are not careful here you could end up getting something that I call “information overload”.

 

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The advice others give you will depend on their prospective, and whatever the norms were when they last looked for a job. They might not realize that what you have to do to get a job today is quite different than it was back in the 1950’s, the 1970’s, or even the 1990’s.

 

Remember, when you get your next job, it will be your name that will be on that paycheck, not theirs.

 

Using your best social skills is a good idea here; nod your head, or smile and say “Thank you”. After that, do whatever you have to in order to retain any relevant information. And then forget the rest.

 

In order for me to start writing this post, I pressed that “call” button again, and wrote down the first words of that message. Then I hit the “cancel” button, because the rest of that message was not relevant.

 

 

Dave Vandermey is a web developer. 

Deliberate Conversations

I just spent an evening having deliberate conversations, otherwise known as networking.  As an introvert, I have to talk myself into going to an event that has a specific purpose of meeting and greeting lots of people.  The standard advice is to go into the event with a clear goal or two in mind.

 

My goal was to ask everyone a question about what they would like to read about regarding job search.  Plenty of them did tell me that this is a crowded field of material with a variety of people writing on the topic, and I can’t disagree.  How many of them are giving advice, though?  The answer would be most of them, where our objective here on this blog is to talk about the shared experience of job search and not dispense advice.

 

Public Domain Image

Public Domain Image

I did get plenty of ideas which I will write about in coming posts.  Even from a couple people who at first thought that they didn’t have any suggestions.  It just goes to show that job seekers are a creative bunch.  And energetic.  Everyone that I know who is in job search is open and learning at a much higher rate than the folks who are working.

 

Had any deliberate conversations of your own lately?  How did they go?

 

Beth Anne Reed has a background in Customer Relations, Process & Project Management and a deep interest in Written Communications.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Remembering Stone Soup

By Cynthia Simmons

Driving to work one morning, I heard someone on National Public Radio talk about Stone Soup — one of my favorite children’s books. She was a consultant for executives attending the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

That made total sense to me.  Because… Stone Soup is the story of three soldiers returning home from a war, trudging on foot across unfamiliar territory, and stopping to stay the night in a town where they are not welcome. They try to persuade someone to sell or give them food. Apparently there is no extra food in that town, not for those three soldiers.

The magic of the story is that the soldiers had carried a big empty kettle with them, and when there was no supper to be had, they fill the kettle with water from the river, light a fire, and then place stones in the boiling water to give it flavor.

Someone becomes curious at the sight of  the soldiers sitting around their fire with their kettle full of boiling water. Someone comes up and asks, “What are you cooking?” The answer is “Stone soup.”

Then the question, “Well, may I have some?”

The response, “Well, yes, of course you can have some. It’s not quite ready. But it would be even better if we could add a potato or two.”

And the response to the response, “I have some potatoes for the soup.”

The rest of the story continues predictably with the questions and the answers, as people from the town become curious and find themselves offering to contribute to the soup. With the individual contributions the soup becomes a feast.

The lessons are, “People who are not interested in helping you in your job search may decide to help when you share a common interest.” and “Think carefully about how you approach strangers for help.”

(The version of Stone Soup that I know was written and illustrated by Marcia Brown. I first read it many years ago.)

 

Cynthia Simmons has a background in publishing and publications.

© 2014 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job. All rights reserved.

Hitting the Right Note

What does it take to be that best candidate, the one that gets the job offer?  We have to hit all the right notes, of course.  What are the right notes?  Having the right skills, certainly, but there are plenty of intangible parts too.   A big part of the job search is that feeling of wanting to be liked, to fit in.

 

“Be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of another writer.”

~ David Morrell

 

Let’s substitute the word candidate or perhaps professional for writer in this quote and it suits my point.  Sometimes when we want to be liked to fit in, we attempt to do or be something that is already acceptable to the group.  Something that might not really be true to ourselves.

 

When I started a job shortly after my divorce years ago they already had a Beth in the department so they asked me if they could call me Beth Anne.  Now Anne is my middle name and I use it when writing, but it is silent.  Beth Anne is what my mom said when she was pretty mad and almost at the point of using all three of my names.  Wanting to be liked and fit in, I agreed to let everyone at my new office call me Beth Anne.  And it quickly grated on my ears.  And then I had to backtrack and tell them it wasn’t ok, after realizing that I hadn’t agreed to a short term thing.

 

I did fit in just fine with that group and we made a joke that I was the other Beth and the first Beth started to tell everyone she was the better Beth.  It would have been ok to tell them I didn’t use the Anne every day.

musical note

I like to fit in just as much as anyone else.  But I remind myself that fitting in is a two way consideration and my part is to be comfortable and confident with the self I am in that workplace.  Interviewing isn’t about being the perfect candidate.  It is a chemistry experiment – testing if the various components will mix together to create something wonderful and sustainable.  Or, to tie back to my title – it is composing a song with all the right instruments to develop the tone that you mean to convey.

 

Beth Anne Reed has a background in Customer Relations, Process & Project Management and a deep interest in Written Communications.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Getting It Wrong, and Then Getting It Right.

By Cynthia Simmons

We all hear the tips, tricks, networking secrets, expert advice from executive recruiters and job coaches. And, yes, from our friends, former co-workers, relatives (mothers, parents, older siblings, younger ones), and any authority figures in our vicinities – be they geographically proximate, or daily electronic companions communicating from afar. We are getting a superabundance of help and advice. A superfluity of advice.

Having only one pair of eyes, we can look in only one direction at a time. And we can walk in only one direction at a time. But if we are constantly turning and defying our physical limitations, are we turning in circles? Maybe even standing still? Perhaps even, stuck?

So, today, I am addressing some ways in which the job search can fail. How you can fail your job search.

Here’s how to fail:

  • Not apply for jobs.
  • See a job and sit and think about it until you feel inspired enough to write a convincing pitch letter to send as your cover letter. Wait several days… a week, a month?
  • Not send a cover letter at all with your resume.
  • Write your resume, cover letter, and application, bless them, and send them out into the world, alone, and then never follow up.
  • Never call to find out the hiring cycle. Never even take the time to hunt for someone who knows someone who knows… the hiring manager, or at least some person at the company you are courting.

Speaking of courting—job search is a courtship.

Know that.

And know that, like the reasons that fellow never called you or that girl wouldn’t give you her number, you may never know why you weren’t hired or even called for an interview.

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St. Valentine’s Date Night Shoes

Your best choices are to gather up your confidence, put on your dancing shoes, and be ready to dance with someone else.

Maybe you feel like a wallflower. That no one will ever ask you to dance. Are you dressed to dance? Is your head up and are you smiling? Do you look like you’d like to dance?

It’s Valentine’s Day. Don’t let some stupid old job break your heart.

Cynthia Simmons has a background in publishing and publications.

© 2014 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job. All rights reserved.

I Have an Example

Storytelling is hot right now – it has become clear that the ability to tell a compelling story is an indicator of potential success for businesses, the media, politicians, and the list goes on.  This is true for job seekers as well, and there is a name for job seeker stories: SARs.  SAR, in case you haven’t already stumbled upon this in your research, stands for Situation, Action, Result.

 

These short stories are your chance to explain how your experiences will be just what this potential new employer needs to solve their pain points.  You want to show that you know your stuff and you can apply it to help them to meet their goals.

 

For instance we all know that money is a big driver – this is what we are pursuing and what keeps the doors open at the business where you are interviewing.  Have you found ways to make or save money at your past employers?  Polish up those stories, they need to be told.  And told well.

Wikimedia Commons: Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo's The Storyteller

Wikimedia Commons: Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo’s The Storyteller

 

How do you tell the story well?  Remember back to your school days when you were taught story structure – beginning, body, conclusion and marry this to situation, action, result.  Set the stage briefly by sketching out the situation, tell what you did to create your solution, and end with a strong emphasis on the results.

 

Write it down, yes seriously.  Read it out loud to yourself until it sounds smooth and natural.  Then find a family member or friend to tell it to.  Practice is as much an important part of the SAR as deciding the right story to tell.  As a hiring manager, I can’t tell you the number of people who have sat across from me and couldn’t come through in telling a compelling SAR for even the most straightforward question.  This wasn’t even about research for my company, this was about identifying their own pertinent stories to share with me and getting them ready to tell.

 

I’ve barely skimmed the basics here, but even with just this little bit you will be ready in your next interview to say confidently, ‘I have an example’.

 

Beth Anne Reed has a background in Customer Relations, Process & Project Management and a deep interest in Written Communications.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Communicating Your Passion

By Tim Klepaczyk

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/timklepaczyk/

I am a member at an outplacement center that provides a series of workshops to help people searching for new jobs.  One of the first workshops was also one of the most interesting to me.  Strengths Finder is a survey used at outplacement centers and in industry to help one identify the types of tasks where one excels.  Much about Strengths Finder can be easily found on-line.  I talked before about how I find Strengths Finder, Meyers-Briggs, and other surveys fun.  Today I will talk about how you can use the insight gained from Strengths Finder to do better in interviews.

Public Domain Image by Ambro from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Public Domain Image by Ambro from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When I was talking to my career coach a few weeks ago, I relayed the good feeling I had in an initial interview with a company.  I told him I felt I did well was because the requirements for the position are a good fit to the strengths that were identified when I took the Strengths Finder survey.

My coach followed this up with some really good advice.  Frame answers to interview questions in the context of your personal strengths.  For example, a common interview question is to discuss one of your weaknesses.  An effective way to address it is to bring up an example from your career when you were tasked with doing something that does not come naturally to you, and that takes special effort to persevere.  After all, even the best jobs have tasks that can be a chore.  One of my natural strengths is that I am a Learner – I have a voracious appetite for new information.  I was able to do this task well when I realized I could lean on this one strength, in spite of other aspects that weren’t as engaging to me.

Frame your interview answers in the context of your personal strengths and your passion will come through naturally.

Tim Klepaczyk is an RF & microwave engineer with over 20 years of experience in applications & sales and product design & validation.  He also loves writing.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Working with Recruiters

By Tim Klepaczyk

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/timklepaczyk/

Up to now I’ve talked a lot about networking.  Networking should be the top priority of your job search effort, requiring a majority of your time in one form or another – in-person networking being most important, but time spent on LinkedIn also factoring in to the equation.  However, tried-and-true old methods such as submitting applications directly or working with recruiters should also always be part of your effort.  It’s worthwhile to consider how to take advantage of services provided by recruiters.

First, recognize that recruiters work for the companies and not for you.  Most recruiters are friendly and certainly like to see job seekers do well – it’s a sign of a good job market upon which their livelihood depends – but ultimately their efforts on your behalf depend on how well you match the requirements of the position they are trying to fill.  They receive compensation from the company, so if you find a recruiter impatient because your qualifications aren’t a really great match with the job description, don’t take it personally.

Be respectful - call them Recruiters! Public Domain Image

Be respectful – call them Recruiters!
Public Domain Image

Recruiters are usually well aware of the salary you can demand for a position.  You still need to do your own homework regarding this, but in my experience recruiters are generally on your side in such negotiations.  This makes sense since if most recruiters only filled open positions without regard to just compensation people would stop using them.

Finally, most people are aware that the common vernacular for recruiters is to call them “headhunters”.  Most recruiters don’t mind this, but I still recommend using the more respectful term “recruiter” in direct correspondence with them.  Such consideration may make a good impression.  They may be working more for the company than for you, but they’re more likely to work harder in a mutually respectful environment.

Tim Klepaczyk is an RF & microwave engineer with over 20 years of experience in applications & sales and product design & validation.  He also loves writing.

© 2013 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved