Patient Planning

Tonight is Game One of the Kansas City Royal’s second trip to the World Series in as many years. Any fan of the Royals can tell you how excited they are to see their team finally contend.

The Royals resurgence is largely the work of one man – Dayton Moore. His years in Atlanta taught him how to scout and develop players – the key to building a great farm. After taking over GM responsibilities in KC he combined Billy Bean’s “Moneyball” strategy with a mandate to put quality human beings who would be TEAM players on the club’s roster. It’s taken nearly nine seasons to pull it off, but here they are – repeat American League Champions and another shot at the title – because of Dayton Moore’s plan and the patience of the Royals owners and front office who were committed to the plan from the beginning.

There are many parallels to this story when searching for career opportunities. There is no overnight solution to finding the right place. You need to know how to apply your God-given abilities and education and/or experience to the market place. You need to bring passion, a strong work ethic, and a desire to win to every aspect of your search and career. You need to think critically about what you’ve done, what you’re capable of doing, and what will ultimately make you a happy and engaged member of the workforce.

Before Moore the Royals seemed happy with the status quo (no need to compete when you’re making money.) If your job puts food on the table and not much else consider making the same move Moore did with the Royals and change your career playbook. Just because you’ve been making or selling widgets for twenty years doesn’t mean that’s what you should be doing for the next twenty years. Sometimes pursuing the same career with a different employer is an easy move, but it’s not the right move. If your status quo isn’t fulfilling make a change.

Moore took the Royals helm in the midst of their fourth straight 100 loss season and in his first full season (2007) they broke that streak with a 69-93 record. While still a miserable record in baseball terms, Moore laid the foundation of a plan that has taken the better part of a decade to come to fruition. I’m certain that by exercising some patience you can put together a plan that will bring you to your ultimate goal much quicker.

What Book are you Reading?

I’m interviewing to fill an internal position at RiverPoint right now and the title of this post is a staple interview question. What are you reading and what are you learning? Personally, I just finished “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Stinek which is a book about leadership and building a great company culture. If you want to know what I learned you can go to my Shelfari profile and read my review.

Which brings me to the point of this post. YOU NEED TO READ!

I like Shelfari because it’s a portal not only to remind me what I’ve read and learned, but it also can be viewed by others as part of my “personal brand.”  What you read is important. What you learn is more important.

If you haven’t read a book in a while I challenge you to visit your library and grab something that looks interesting. Take an hour a day away from social media, television, or sports and read. Your brain will thank you.

Tolstoy never wrote a resume

I received a 10 page resume today. While not unprecedented, it is unusual. I get 6+ page resumes at least once a week, but pushing into the double-digits is something that happens only once or twice every three months. The worst offender in my 15 year recruiting career was a 26 page resume complete with a Table of Contents.

I have to review dozens of resumes a day. Without getting into the finer points of how to get my attention, I will tell you a 10 page resume gets enough attention to deserve a post. I won’t read it, but I will give you some pointers.

One: A resume is not going to get you a job so you don’t need to regurgitate every experience you’ve had since you were in junior high school.

Two: A resume is designed to spark interest. Figure out how to get my attention, build some curiosity about finding out more about you, and leave it at that.

Three: LinkedIn & a Blog are excellent places to put additional content that can build interest in your background.

Four: If you’re a fresh college grad your resume will have a different “voice” than if you have 20 years of experience.

Five: Most resumes are a recitation of tasks. I’m more interested in what you can do for us.

Six: Ditch the objective. They all sound like “Desire to use (talent / skills / background) to (add value / advance at / benefit) my next employer.”

Seven: If you can’t say what you need to say in 2 pages or less I’m out.

Eight: Ditch the business speak and use some of your creative writing ability. Read every sentence aloud – if it sounds off in the natural course of speech re-visit how you’re expressing your thought on paper.

Nine: Spell check doesn’t catch they’re / their / there type grammar issues. Proof read it, have someone else proof read it, then proof read it again.

Ten: Challenge yourself to get a job without using a traditional resume. There’s no rule that says you must have a Word document at the ready or there is no job for you.

Send a well thought-out and written one to two page resume targeted to the specific job and employer and you’ll be amazed at the results.

Cover Letters

I had a friend ask my advice on cover letters today & wanted to share the thoughts I sent to her.

Cover letter advice will be like resume advice. 10 people will have 12 different opinions. Here’s mine:

  • Most importantly keep in mind that much like a resume, a great cover letter isn’t going to get you the job, but a bad cover letter can cost you an opportunity. Ask yourself “do I need a cover letter in this situation?”
  • TARGET your cover letter to the company & specific job – if you know the individual who will be reading it even better.
  • If you’re emailing your resume the cover is the body of the email, not an attachment.
  • If you’re putting your resume into an ATS is likely does not matter because its 50/50 at best it will be opened.
  • In the rare case someone wants resumes snail mailed you want a cover.
  • If you are at a job fair or networking event you DO NOT need a cover letter. YOU are your cover letter in those situations.

This article from the MUSE has a comprehensive list of things you need to be considering when you sit down to compose a cover letter. Cover letters and resumes are only a piece of the overall marketing puzzle. Your LinkedIn profile & a blog are underutilized resources that can help you tell your story.

Off the Beaten Path

I wrote a post today over at my personal Fifty Again blog sharing a bit about a motorcycle ride yesterday. The Cliff Notes version is we left with a destination in mind, but no specific route. The ride ended up being a lot of fun and we ran across a couple cool places that will be worth checking out in the future.

The more I think about the ride, the more parallels I see between my time “in the wind” yesterday and a job search.

We knew our destination but we did not have a hard deadline to get there. As much as I know you would like to have a great job tomorrow, the process takes time. Keep moving toward your final target, but don’t get anxious when it doesn’t happen according to your schedule. If you’re in a big hurry you’re going to miss out on the good stuff.

We took a map. There are a lot of options to get to Excelsior Springs from Lees Summit. The direct route is up 291 to 65, but that’s no fun on a motorcycle.  You take the indirect route on a bike because Missouri is full of fun to ride county roads – some of it will challenge you, some of it will be a lot of fun. It’s easy to get lost on those roads – that requires a map so you can make adjustments in the middle of the ride. There generally is no direct route to a job. You’ll ride through a lot of curves and have a lot of ups and downs – some of it challenging, some of it fun. The ups and downs of the ride are necessary to get to the destination. You’re going to need a map (or at least some advice) when you get to a turn and aren’t sure which way will be your best move.

Discovery. I’ve found plenty of neat little places riding the back roads. These are the places that don’t advertise and they aren’t conveniently located off I-35. You would be amazed at the number of great mom & pop diners, lakes & beaches, parks, and other interesting attractions scattered across our state. If you’re searching for a job on the internet super highway you’re going to miss out on much of what the market has to offer. Get offline and seek out the places that aren’t advertising.

Gravel. I don’t like gravel. It’s loose. It’s unpredictable. It doesn’t take much to put you in the ditch. Inevitably riding means you’ll run into gravel. You can run away from the gravel (i.e. turn around) but that would have closed the door to a discovery yesterday. The more I ride dirt roads the better I get on gravel and the less likely it is to put me in the ditch. You’re going to have to do some uncomfortable things in a job search: Interviewing / Networking / Cold Calling. The more you do these things the more comfortable you’ll become and more doors will open.

Lunch. I could focus on the difficulties. I was pelted by bugs (big and small) for 100 miles, ran on gravel for 5 miles which got dirt all over a bike I had just spent several hours cleaning, got a sunburn because my sunscreen expired, and had a sore rear end from sitting on the bike for 2 solid hours. If that was the story I shared you’d wonder why I subjected myself to such torture, right? Well, all those things were true – but that’s part of riding and does nothing to detract from my joy in the journey. It was a great ride that ended up in a nice lunch where we got to watch the Royals walk off another win against the Twins.

Looking for a job is tough, frustrating work. You’ll have some battle scars. Rather than focusing on the wounds – focus on the victories (big and small.) Be thankful for what you learned, who you met, and what you saw along the journey. Before you know it lunch will be served.

Grandmother Approved

Social media and the internet has become our de-facto forum to offer opinions, vent, debate, and say things without thinking first.

I stand guilty as charged.

Typing words into a social media site or a blog has expanded life’s certainties by one. We are all going to pay taxes & die and EVERYTHING you post online will be there FOREVER.

I have posts on Usenet from the 90’s I want to take back, but there it is for all the world to find. If it were possible, I’d travel back in time to have a conversation with 23-year-old Dave about ranting online. Frankly I should probably visit 47-year-old-Dave as well.

There’s a rule of thumb to follow before hitting send. You may have heard it before – is this something I want my grandmother to find? Now I realize some people’s grandmothers might be downright nasty people themselves so this isn’t a universal rule, but you get the picture.

Before you post something think.

  • Am I contributing to a reasonable discussion?
  • Can my response be misunderstood?
  • Am I being mean to a person or group of people?
  • What benefit will myself and others get from my contribution?
  • Is my response argumentative?

Donald Trump went on a rant about illegal immigrants last week which all but guarantees he’s wasting his money running for President and cost his beauty pageants and The Apprentice their TV deals. Pundits on both sides of the gay marriage debate have been blowing up Facebook (again, guilty as charged.)

Everything you ever have written or will write online can be found – even if you delete it. Your next employer is going to be looking. You might want to run some of that stuff past granny.

Roadblocks

Murphy’s Law for Traveling – when you are in a hurry to get somewhere you will hit a roadblock. Returning from Iowa I hit a closed road this morning and happened to be in a hurry for two reasons.

  1. I told my team I would be at work by 11am.
  2. I was on a motorcycle and rain chances went from 25% at my planned arrival time to 40% just an hour later.

Allow me to share some lessons about dealing with roadblocks from this morning.

1. Give Yourself Some Margin for Error.
Best case scenario was 3 1/2 hours from the time I left West Des Moines until I walked in the office. I gave myself 5 hours because rain dramatically slows safe interstate speed on a bike. Even though there was only a 1 in 4 rain chance at my scheduled arrival time I assumed that it was going to rain. The roadblock did not impact the rain factor – I encountered rain – the only difference is I would have gotten wet 10 minutes sooner if the road had been open. Without a margin for error I would’ve been nearly 90 minutes late.

2. Ask for help.
There was no detour sign but a worker happened to be present. I did something very uncharacteristic, I stopped to ask directions. His solution was one mile back. West Des Moines roads have dramatically changed since I left in 1997 and the alternate route I would have taken was 5+ miles back. When you ask for help someone may improve your Plan B.

3. Accept Your Current Situation.
Life would be so much easier if it was 100% in our control, but it’s not. Accept things aren’t going to be 100% to plan. Whether it’s a closed road, repeated unreturned calls, or lost opportunities – there’s not much you can do to get someone else to remove a roadblock. Rather than take an Eeyore approach (Oh Bother) start to look for alternatives.

4. Don’t Lose Focus on End Game.
I ran into an obstacle but I didn’t turn around and spend the day at my parents house. You might have to adjust your timeline a bit. You may have to put off some others things to meet your objective. You probably are going to break some eggs, but you can’t forget you’re there to make an omelet.

5. Look for the Positives.
I don’t seek out opportunities to ride in the rain so I’m not a terribly experienced rider on a wet road. I am, however, more experienced today than I was yesterday and that makes me a safer rider. The experience also inspired this post and I’ve been struggling to find something to write about. Dwelling on the negative is never good. When you don’t carry much baggage your burden is much lighter.

Roadblock shouldn’t keep you from fulfilling the promises you’ve made and the goals you’ve set. My roadblock had no impact on anyone else’s morning.

Yes the road was closed. Yes I got wet.  Yes. I made it to work on time. If I hadn’t said something no one would have ever known.

Disruptive

Growing up I loved attention. I’d do things and say things simply to get a reaction. I was a disruptive child. I don’t love attention as much as I used to, but I do like doing things to get a reaction. I’m a disruptive adult.

The internet’s definition of disruption is a disturbance or problems that interrupt an event, activity, or process. Disruption is not always a negative – being disruptive changes things – often for the better (unless you print dictionaries.)

The entire process of attracting top talent needs disruption. Here’s why:

Job Descriptions

We need approved from legal and other bureaucrats in the company leading to a posting that is nothing but a recitation of generic job duties and obvious qualifications like “excellent communication skills.” In some cases it leads to ridiculous qualifications like “must be able to make and receive phone calls” and “must be able to successfully exit and enter a vehicle.” Don’t laugh, I’ve seen both which is sad. Are there people in society so afraid of a lawsuit that they feel compelled to tell me I need to know how to use a phone or get in and out of a car in a job description?

Why can’t we get creative and talk about the actual job? About the company? The team dynamic? Maybe even have a little fun? I’ve seen good job descriptions, but for the most part they’ve looked the same for the 15 years I’ve been in this business.

Candidate Resume Assessment

This process has been outsourced to a computer. We use the internet as a collection agent for thousands upon thousands of resumes – mostly in Word or PDF format – that end up being seen by human eyes only when the right combination of buzzwords appear in sufficient quantity to push the resume to the top of a search. What we call a Business Analyst someone else might call a Systems Analyst. That simple discrepancy can bury the best candidate for the job in a sea of data.

Sidebar – I have a question: what would it do to your reputation and revenue if you ignored a high percentage of inbound customers interested in your products? At the very least someone needs to understand the value of an incoming resume as a potential customer and turn them over to sales & marketing. The most common complaint I hear from job seekers is they never hear back on job applications. This is a completely untapped revenue source for most organizations.

Talent Acquisition shouldn’t be a function of Human Resources

See this post for why I’ve made this bold and disruptive statement, but let me sum it up – they’re too busy handling existing employee issues and HR degree programs don’t teach talent acquisition. If it has to be a function of Human Resources then hire (or train) 100% dedicated recruiters. My opinion? You guys are buried – turn the process over to sales & marketing with minimal (if any) influence from legal.

Top talent does not post their resume to the internet or participate in the “Click to Apply” process. They understand those are broken mechanisms. Top talent needs to be identified and courted. (i.e. RECRUITED). A whole industry revolves around supporting talent acquisition efforts of the private and public sector because this process is broken internally.

Resumes

Sweet Baby James, where is it written than I need a one or two page Word document at the ready to determine whether or not I’m worth considering? Type my name into Google – there’s plenty of collateral to provide sufficient information to determine whether or not I’m worth consideration. I read dozens of resumes every day – it’s an exercise in reading the same thing over and over and over. Much like job descriptions, resumes are rarely creative or stand out.

Name / Address / Phone.

Objective / Summary.

Education / Skills.

Responsibilities / Achievements.

Yawn.

I mentioned I like being disruptive so I put this resume together for fun.

As my musical hero once said….

Uncertainty

If you have parents I’m going to guess at one point they said the only things that are certain are death and taxes. That leaves a lot of room in our lives for uncertainty.

We spend a lot of time assessing and managing risk. Some risk is low – I had cereal this morning & used milk that expires tomorrow. Other risks are high (has anyone have a hot dog on buck night at the K this year?)

Food analogies aside, each of us has a built-in mechanism to identify and deal with risk. As an individual, your “risk meter” is going to be different than mine. I’m not afraid of heights, but I won’t bungee jump. I ride a motorcycle, but I’ve been through a safety program, ride responsibly, and ALWAYS wear a helmet. Usually I also buck the “black leather jacket” trend and wear a neon yellow armored jacket – if you see me you won’t hit me.

Our careers are uncertain. Career stability for baby boomers was largely employer based – you could spend an entire career with one organization and retire with a great pension. Today career stability is based on your ability to sell yourself, your performance while employed, and your ability to adapt to the marketplace when you are between employers.

“Adapt to the marketplace” has uncertainty. If you’ve been in a job category that is disappearing you have to find another category that isn’t on it’s way out. If you are tired of making widgets and want to do something else, getting into that something else has unknowns. There will be some risk transitioning to a whole new career.

Uncertainty is scary. It’s risky. When thinking about risk, we need to ask ourselves some questions: What would the world be like if Edison was afraid of failure? If Bill Gates had gone for the “big money” and sold the copyright for MS-DOS to IBM?

Fearing failure IS failure.

Risk is necessary.

Uncertainty a constant.

It’s Broken

Several weeks ago the links at this site disappeared. I don’t think it was anything I did – they just went *poof*

I immediately contacted my friend who hosts the site to enlist his help. Unfortunately his schedule was much like mine and the only assistance he could provide is access to his server and advice to upgrade WordPress.

This involved signing into his server via VPN, downloading software and performing an upgrade. Being the technophile that I am I got as far as click on the link to the VPN which took me to a site where I was completely out of my element. I immediately put the “fix my website” task down the priority list.

That was a month ago. Fast forward to last week. The links mysteriously appear as quickly as they disappeared. *Poof* Back in business.

What’s the lesson? Sometimes it pays to procrastinate? Even though it worked in this case, that is not the lesson here.

Many of my long time followers and the new people I direct to the site rely on the links. The links are important. Fixing the links was important, but it wasn’t urgent. I didn’t lose any sleep over getting them fixed because I’m spending my time in the Urgent / Important quadrant of the Eisenhower Matrix. I also admit there was a bit of the “pucker factor” doing under the hood technical things with the site that could bring the whole thing crashing down.

Balancing priorities. Being cautious when taking risks. There’s your lesson.

I was going to spend some time this weekend getting things up and running. Big thanks to the magic internet fairy who fixed it for me.