"The trouble with the rat race is that if you win, you're still a rat!"
   — Lily Tomlin

Tips, techniques and teachings on the job search from the facilitator of the Marketing Professionals Network.

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“Life. Is. Hard.”

When it came time to look for a job, no one promised you a rose garden as the book title famously put it. Today, it’s probably exponentially harder: hiring managers are notoriously uncivil; people don’t answer your emails or calls unless they want you for something; HR recruiting software forces you into a box when you apply; and then you frequently have to go through a gauntlet of interviews to get the job. I’d say the deck was rigged, but that’s the way it as. As the headline implies — it’s a quotation from Laurie Reuttiman, a.k.a. The Cynical Girl — many things in life are hard. It’s then up to you: you can make it harder by fighting the process every step of the way… or just go along with it and lie back and think of England. The more you protest, though, the more pissed off you’ll be and that will not bode well for either job interviews or networking. After all, who wants to hire, let alone, help out someone with a chip on their shoulder. That’s why MPN networking can be so effective: the people you can talk to have all gone through it and will be more sympathetic your challenges. In most cases, they’ll have had to swallow their own anger at the system and jump through the same hoops. In turn, they can help you to understand what’s important and what’s not. So don’t’ look a gift horse in the mouth: make use of the MPN network as much as you can. Just remember to smile and say please and thank you, as my brother always instructed his children, who are all now not very well behaved at all !!! Still, shorten the headline and you get “Life. Is.” And that is something you can’t argue with!

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How the Other Half Works.

I was recently in California visiting my daughter and son-in-law, Bastien. He’s the Vineyard Manager at a winery in the Sierra Foothills about an hour east of Sacramento. The vineyard hires Mexican day laborers on a regular basis and he has gotten to know some of them pretty well, especially the crew chief. Bastien told me that this guy works six days a week in the in the vines at the vineyard, and then last weekend, spent Sunday, all day, working on his brother’s vines. Such a work ethic and commitment to his craft, not to mention his family, impressed Bastien considerably. As it should all of us. In fact, it got me to thinking: how many of us could do the same? Ready to do some marketing or blogging on the side next weekend? Would you even want to? For those who do blog regularly, i.e. daily, you have to hand it to them: it really is a labor of love. Is this your idea of work? Are you ready to make that commitment? Or do you have another concept of work? Not sure I have any great answers or wisdom on the subject… just asking the question.

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The Email Problem.

Chris Anderson has defined the problem succinctly: “We all love the power of email connecting people across continents. But… we’re downing in it.” The corollary of this, or rather one of the causes of this is that, “ The total time taken to respond to an email is often MORE than the time it took to create it.” Think of the times you dashed off a quick email to someone with a simple query. Now think of all the steps it would take to answer your email: checking on past emails; actually finding those past emails; talking to anyone else involved in the process; finding the time to sit down and, first, read your email and then, second, to thoughtfully answer it. Phew. It’s tiring just thinking about it. What’s more, if you try to cram in a ton of items in one email, it may take longer to get an answer and often the answer will have missed some of your questions/concerns. I found recently that when I wrote an email to my daughter and numbered the questions, one through five, she responded: “I like this kind of email, as the questions are easy to answer!!” So before you shoot off another email to either a friend, a colleague, a networking contact or a prospective employer, consider: Will they be able to say what my daughter did? Will the email be clear and easy to answer? Will  it make for much more work for them? Because, remember, the easier it is to work with you now via email, the easier it will be — or least hiring managers will think the easier it will be — to work with you later on… and therefore they’ll hire you!

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What have you been doing with your summer so far?

And…what will you say when you’re asked this at your next interview? Hanging out at the beach? Taking in the latest films at the multiplex? Doing a little of this and that? Painting the house? Or have you been going at it full force as one MPNer reports: She’s had a plethora of opportunities come her way and she’s aggressively following up on each of them. Others are using the time to take on-line courses, make new contacts in new industries and generally expand their networks. So during summer the living may be easier, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to drop out. Not that vacations aren’t important. In fact, it’s sometimes much harder to take a vacation when you’re out of a job than in one. But resist the temptation: get away from it all for a week or two. Be with family and friends. Put your worries behind you. Recharge. It can be a long search process as a couple of MPNers who just landed (below) can attest to. So some R&R is definitely in order… although to the extent that the Admin Guy did in June and July jaunting about the Continent sampling all the sights and foods and (especially) wines of France and Spain might not be the best way for you. After all, the saying is NOT sample all the rosés, but take time to smell the roses!!

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“What’s in a name?”

…as the Bard famously wrote. (And that’s not Daniel Bard, the pitcher for the Red Sox, either!) Un-employment. Job-less. Let go. Fired. Out on the street. Think of all the terms we have for that period when you don’t have a full-time job – note “you don’t”. It is, at least linguistically, an empty space, a nothingness, an emptiness, as opposed to those lucky ones who are full and complete and whole. In fact, one MPNer recently wrote in an email that when he was negotiating with a potential employer, he was looking to be made “whole” again. Yet… if you stop and look at people who are, in the far more pc appropriate way of putting it, “in transition”, they are busy either looking for a job, networking with people who might help them find that job, taking courses and seminars to polish up their skills to qualify for a new job, or actually doing contract or freelance work that is paying the bills. Or, they may be working at a “survival” job. Or, as in more cases than I can count, they are caring for a sick family member; often an elder who is failing and the duty naturally falls on the one who has the most time. Supposedly. That’s fine about the time, but don’t tell me that the so-called job-less are not working, and working hard, because I see it every day in all the meetings and all the emails and all the questions they have. Sometimes I think MPNers are getting more out of life than those stuck in cubicles and in roles that may be as constraining as they are supposedly fulfilling. So don’t put down those in the job search mode. As one MPNer said at a meeting the other day, “It’s an adventure!” And it is; here’s hoping those of you who are not working at an “official” job have the best adventures of your life this summer!

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Why Marketing Is important.

What the hell is marketing anyways? It’s certainly perceived as an expendable cost center by the current crop of finance whizzes masquerading as CEO’s. To sales people it’s just a source of collateral and leave behinds that don’t have much impact compared to their sophisticated sales tactics and carefully practiced closes. To engineers like Dilbert, it’s the home of dopes where there is a two drink minimum to get into events. But to Peter Drucker, the renowned consultant and “Father of Modern Management”, marketing is crucial to the success of the corporation. The following definition of marketing that has been attributed to Drucker says it all: “The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. [It]…is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself. Ideally, marketing should result in a customer who is ready to buy.” [Ital. added] You can’t say it any better than that. Too bad more CEO’s aren’t listening. (Source: The Definitive Drucker by Elizabeth Haas Edersheim)

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Time and Money; Money and Time.

In yesterday’s Boston Sunday Globe, an artist was quoted as saying along the lines of, “In business, time is money; for an artist, money is time [to work on their art].” In many ways the job search can be about time, too. How much money do you have to allow you to look for that perfect job? How are you going to use the hours of the workday to find that job? And, more fundamentally, what would you like to accomplish in the remaining hours/days/years of your life so that you’ll feel good about your career? It’s why, when we do a SWOT Analysis for the Job Seeker, the MPN Way, we substitute the concept of “Time” for “Threats”. Of course, you need to take a fresh look at your Strengths particularly in terms of how valuable they are to a hiring manager; and you need to assess directly and honestly your Weaknesses so that you can adjust your goals and your style of job searching. These can help you sort through the multiple Opportunities out there just waiting for you to take advantage of them. But if you don’t have an acute awareness of what you want/need/are called to do with your time, your search will be just that: a constant searching about for the next position, the next salary grade up the ladder, rather than a journey like the one that Katie P. took that ended up with her developing a fertile network and experiencing true personal growth. It is a major theme of the video “Lemonade” that I referenced in a previous post. Isn’t it about time you made the best use of your time?

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Who Says April Is the Cruelest Month?

Early Spring has always brought an admixture of forces to bear both on the land and our expectations. This spring has been no different: for two weeks we were deluged by rains of Noah’s Ark proportions; the Charles River nearly overflowed into the basement office of our building. Now, there are sunny warm days that would please even the most demanding denizen of the Santa Monica beach scene. On the job front, the story is much the same. Currently, we have few landings to report. Some people have started at jobs, but have either failed to send in the particulars yet, or are not sure enough of the job to want to get the news out. Others are still mired in that late winter overcoat of offers stalled by leaden-footed or timid employers too fearful of making a mistake to act. So spring brings both hope and frustration. As T.S. Eliot famously wrote: “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain. Winter kept us warm, covering earth in forgetful snow…” So don’t be surprised by mixed messages — and feelings — this month. But take heart: the 2010 CareerXroads Annual Source of Hire Study finds that “2010 looks bright…This year only 10.8% [of companies surveyed] predicted further reductions in hiring while 48% expect to grow and the remainder to hold steady.” That’s quite a change from last year when “not a single firm predicted they would fill more openings in 2009 than the previous year!” The report is also quite interesting in its tracking of where hires come from. Over 50% of hires came from internal sources. Of external hires, 26.7% came from referrals. (Proof positive from a different angle that networking is so important in the job search process.) Corporate career sites came in second with 22.3% of external hires so don’t neglect them in your activities for the week. Job boards represented a respectable 12.3% of external hires, and the authors of the study noted that it would be premature to turn away from this source as “There is much life in this category.” Not surprising, as we have more MPNers that find jobs through the big boards than you would think. Direct sourcing was responsible for 6.9% of external hires. This category encompassed both recruiters and social networking. The latter, the authors thought, “is still in its early stages vis-à-vis attributed hires”. However, more and more companies are using Social Media to source candidates as anecdotal evidence from around the table at MPN meetings would confirm. The three top company initiatives using Social Media: Facebook Fan Page, Official Company Blog, and LinkedIn Groups. In short, much of this is familiar; but the prospects they report for 2010 are as new and fresh as those bright yellow daffodils in the garden. And they’re backed up by the experience of one MPNer who had been out much too long for her own liking who is this day looking at two firm offers and two solid potential ones. In short, this is your year. Carpe diem. [Source for CareerXroads study: http://www.careerxroads.com/news/SourcesOfHire10.pdf]

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Now on Computer Screens Everywhere: A Video For Those Who Have Been Laid Off and Looking for What’s Next.

Yesterday afternoon, I saw “Lemonade”, the 37-minute video that has been making its rounds of the job-seekers community. Written, filmed and produced by recently laid off advertising executives, it’s an impressive production. It follows a group of creatives who were laid off from their jobs; how they dealt with their layoff; and what they then did with their new-found time. At first, you see people struggling to deal with the shock of the layoff, some directly, many others wrapping themselves in some protective form of denial. Then, as the reality settles in, some of the characters decide to take matters in their own hands and make something of the lousy hand they were dealt. (Thus the title: making lemonade from lemons.) One older man throws himself into his painting, something he had been good at and always wanted to do since he was a kid. His first showing sells 16 out of 17 of his pictures; and he’s off and running. A young woman who was the most happy at being let go, turned to her passion for yoga and started a studio on her own working much longer hours, and much harder, than she did at the agency. And, then there was the copywriter from Arnold who was laid off for the third time in ten years: Eric Proulx. He decided to start a blog for other laid off creatives called “Please Feed the Animals” and the video grew out of that. Worth watching? A definite yes. First off, it’s inspiring to all of us. How can you not like a guy who turns his attention to his daughter who has Cystic Fibrosis and finds out that surfing is the best thing for her health (truly) and gets involved in her surfing life. But it also poses some hard questions in the course of the video (naturally, it’s well written). Ones that we all should be asking ourselves, such as: Why do you get up in the morning? What have you done with your time since being laid off that feels like it’s really valuable? And, more provocative still, what dream have you always had but never had the time or the gumption to follow? Tough questions; real questions; and, hopefully, after viewing “Lemonade”, you too will be moved to answer them. If you don’t make lemonade, you might, as one of the creatives did, start a coffee-making business. As the tagline to the video says, “When you get laid off, it’s not a pink slip, it’s a blank page.” So…what are you going to write in the blank pages of the book of your life?

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So…What Makes You So Special? Huh?

Hear the intonation in this question: it brings back taunts from the playground, put downs from parents and teachers… and, worse yet, our own inner voices that aren’t sure that we are all that special at all. Yet…and this is a big yet…you need to define why you are special — and what your specialty is — in order for an employer to hire you. Some job seekers think that they should emphasize all aspects of their background. After all, they’ve done, as an example, classic direct mail, managed a sales force, and learned the ins and outs of non-profit marketing/communications, why shouldn’t they talk about all three? Simple. Today, in our world of ultra-specialization, we look for experts; no, we can find experts, and, therefore, because they’re there, we insist on hiring them. Got a head cold, sneezing and eyes watering? After you see the internist, you might go to an allergist, an otolaryngologist, or even an infectious disease specialist. In the same vein, an employer often looks for a specialist. How many times have job seekers tried to cross over into a new industry, be welcomed with open arms, go through five interviews, and, at the last moment, come in second place…to someone who has had specialized industry experience? Therefore, it is necessary for all job seekers to define their specialty; what they do best; what they’ve had the most success with; and what they want to do the most of in the coming years. It’s not that you can’t be successful in other areas of marketing, but making a transition into another specialty or industry takes more time, effort, and, above all, luck. So spend some time thinking, defining, writing down and talking about what you do best; what your specialty is that will attract employers. As for what makes you special, in the more existential playground sense, is simple: it’s you! Which is more than good enough for most of us, but not necessarily your future employer.

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