My 2012 is coming to an end in much the same way it began, at least according to my email, with questions regarding career management, the resume and how to deal with recruiters.
Career Management – My email is balanced between people who are concerned about losing a job, or those already in transition. Very seldom do I hear from an employed executive who is seeking to maximize career management effectiveness since the vast majority in this group do not think about managing their career until they are ready for a promotion or they hear about a job they really want. That can lead to a bad surprise along the way.
- Everyone, all the time, should be thinking about managing their career, or, at the very least, their personal career brand. Organizational changes occur, sometimes rather suddenly. Once you are going over the cliff, it is really too late to catch up. Networking is for everyone. Building and nurturing a robust, focused network of contacts is a very important asset in the career management universe
- Do not take a big step back financially, even if the new job will expand your portfolio of skills
- Social media sites like LinkedIn are important tools to build a network and to look for jobs. If you have not mastered this platform, do so ASAP
Resumes – For some reason the resume is the career management tool that confuses or intimidates even the most accomplished of executives. Just remember these two overarching themes: the resume is your personal brand document, and it is the FIRST interview with a potential employer.
- Keep your resume up to date. Store it someplace besides your office computer. The same goes for your networking list. Having to rebuild a resume after 5 to 10 years in the same job is an invitation to make mistakes on dates of employment, titles and, more importantly, your scope of responsibility and accomplishments
- There are no ironclad rules regarding resume length. It should be proportional to your years of experience and accomplishments. If you have been employed as a healthcare executive, it is a safe bet you cannot successfully cram those 20 years of increasing responsibility and accomplishments into a two-page document. If you are an early careerist, please do not expand your resume to appear to be someone you are not.
Recruiters – How do you connect with recruiters is another frequently asked question. The answer is that it varies, depending on where you are in your career, and the type of job you are interested in. For the most part, the senior level executive positions are handled by retained search firms, or in-house recruiters. Lower level supervisory and management positions more typically are handled by internal recruiters, contract sourcing firms or contingency search consultants.
- Always take a recruiter’s call, and try to help them even if you are not interested. Recruiters appreciate that a great deal. If the recruiter is a jerk, do not take their calls in the future. They are not someone you or the client needs
- Regardless of your level in the job food chain, do NOT waste your time with a recruiter who does not know, or will not divulge, the starting salary for a job. If you cannot get that basic bit of information, then walk away. It is better to frustrate a recruiter on the front end than to make the client frustrated on the back end. This happens frequently
- Failure in a new job is almost never about skills or qualifications. Culture, style and performance expectations are more often than not the issues that trip up even the most successful of managers and executives who move into a new position. Do NOT take anything for granted
So, here we are again preparing to say goodbye to another year. 2012 was a great year for JGSA and 2013 appears to be starting with a boost of energy, two facts for which I am very grateful.
To my clients, candidates, friends and family, best wishes for a Happy New Year and a successful and prosperous 2013.
© 2012 John Gregory Self
It is really hard to be disciplined when there is panic in the air.
Job creation is anemic—yes, there is job growth, but it is not keeping up with the rate of new workers entering the market. There is a foul smell that suggests the U.S. may be heading for a second economic dip as is the case with Europe.
The unemployed, those who have just lost their jobs and those who have been out of work for more than a year, are growing increasingly desperate. Desperation and shaken pride are two key ingredients that spur panic in the job search market. Now is not the time to abandon discipline in the job search process.
Over the past two days, my colleagues and I have been reviewing dozens upon dozens of resumes for a Chief Operating Officer search for a U.S. Hospital. The postings that we have produced for LinkedIn and the American College of Healthcare Executives websites are very specific regarding the criteria necessary to be considered for the job. We could have added, “Candidates who do not meet the criteria need not apply” but it would not have done any good. Increasing numbers of candidates are resorting to a time-honored, but very unproductive job search strategy: Post and pray. Too many candidates are flooding the market with resumes, using shrinking resources and wasting time on jobs they have no hope of landing. More is not better.
It is time to get back to the basics. For executives and managers who want to increase their chances of finding a job, here are some points that I have discussed before but clearly bear repeating:
- Executive recruiters only handle about 35 to 40 percent of all the job openings. While it is important to build contacts with search firms, developing a robust network of industry contacts is more important and productive.
- Make your network an active, not passive, tool. Having a big network is useless unless the contact information is current and you understand the connection relationships between your network contacts. LinkedIn provides an invaluable tool by showing you how your contacts are related. That is critical. See #3, a key strategy for job seekers.
- The best job is usually the job that is not posted or referred to a search firm. It is the one in which recruiting has not started or the search is being handled internally on a colleague referral basis. This means you have to stay in contact with your network while continuing to look for productive new contacts. Jobs come and go in the marketplace on a regular basis. Calling or emailing once every six months is not adequate. On the other hand, you should not overload contacts with calls or emails. You have to have a carefully thought out strategy to ensure top-of-mind awareness without appearing desperate. No plan is a fast-track pathway to no job.
- Personal brand management is critical. Employers and recruiters shy away from people who appear panicky, desperate. Finding a job is a full-time job. Set a routine for being in your job search office and stick with it. You have to work your network every day. Building and developing your network is a never ending process. Maintain your professional association memberships. Those should be one of your last expense reductions. If you are going to post information on websites, be sure that you are adding valuable information that supports your personal brand. Stay out of the current political fray. You may be passionate for candidate A or B. Good. But remember that the person you are networking with—the man or woman who might be able to help you find a job—may be just as passionate about the opposing party, candidate or issue.
- Appearance is important. In times of stress, people react differently. Appearing fit, healthy and on top of your game is very important. There are literally dozens of stated and hidden reasons why candidates are not hired. It is a hyper-competitive job market. Do not give a potential employer an easy reason to eliminate you.
© 2012 John Gregory Self
I have had a wonderful career, uniquely varied, filled with multiple successes, some disappointments, but mostly great reward and satisfaction.
I was on the start-up team and served as the first director of Hermann Hospital’s acclaimed Life Flight program in Houston. I played a major role in setting up the next 13 programs nationally. I helped build one of the largest not-for-profit network of community hospitals in the mid-1980s. I have built two successful search firms and recruited in six countries on four continents. In the US, I have been involved in numerous high-profile executive searches. In 2010, I was honored with the Regent’s Award as Senior Healthcare Leader of the Year for North Texas.
I do not have a master’s degree, fellowship, or certifications from any of the professional associations.
The chances that I could replicate my career and its success without the graduate degree and credentials today is doubtful. The opportunities are more limited and the competition for career opportunity is intense. Today it is simply not sufficient to be a great relationship builder, communicator, or rainmaker. I had talent, but in an era of new rules where hiring mistakes are increasingly expensive, employers want more.
Employers today are elevating the bar for credentials, experience and prior performance. These three are the gold currency in today’s hyper competitive job market. For each one of these important qualities that you lack, you drastically reduce your chances for landing a top job.
Here are some strategies to enhance career management:
- Have an updated mission statement. Who are you, what do you stand for, what do you want to accomplish with your career? This document should drive what you do and say, as well as the career opportunities you pursue. If you do not have the academic and/or professional credentials, you must address the deficiencies within your plan. If you cannot produce a compelling personal vision statement, how can you motivate and lead others?
- Keep a career journal. Not only will this help you maintain an accurate account of employment dates, names of supervisors and compensation increases, but you can also record your significant accomplishments. Moreover, it is a tool for regulated thought—the practice of reviewing decisions from a different perspective. It is the process of thinking about what you could have done differently or better with your decision making and execution. Athletes and musicians, for example, practice. Regulated thought is a form of “practice” to improve your decision-making skills. Think of it as replaying the game film of, for example, a meeting where you executed on an important decision.
- Cultivate an effective professional network. Size is important, but bigger is not necessarily better. You want a network that adds value. If you are a hospital executive in rural Montana, being connected to a telemarketer in Lahore, India or a financial planner in Northampton, MA who wants to sell you something, is of questionable value. Link with people who can help you solve a problem, or connect the dots for the next new job that will advance your career. This is a career-long endeavor.
- Be active in professional associations—nationally and locally. Continuing education and professional development are essential to remaining relevant. Be open to new ideas because the transformation of healthcare will produce a tidal wave of new ideas and innovations. Volunteer for committees or even the board. This is a key part to building a network and enhancing your brand and can position you to achieve a credential.
- Share your ideas on LinkedIn and other business and social media sites. Your posts should add value to your brand, which includes everything you write, post or say. If you enjoy writing, then blog. The blogoshere is crowded, but consistently delivered fresh ideas have a way of moving to the top. And this takes us back to having an up-to-date mission statement which should drive the boat for career management. If your posts and comments are not consistent with that statement, you may be drifting into image muddle.
Above all else, pay it forward. When someone helps you with your career, turn around and help those coming up behind you. Surprisingly, this is not a common practice in business today but is one way you can distinguish yourself in the market.
© 2012 John Gregory Self