Katherine Turpin

Your Professional Branding Strategist

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5 Quick Tips for Bias-Proofing Your Professional Brand

I recently watched a TED talk given by a fellow recruiter. In it, she quoted a study done by The Ladders, the first-ever of its kind, which measured the amount of time recruiters spend looking at a resume.

Do you know how much time that is?

Six seconds. 

All the more reason to do two things:  have a great professional brand, and cultivate other avenues to the end goal (your new job), like networking, mentoring, speaking, blogging, and generally being connected “out there” in the world.

To give your brand the best possible six seconds…

  1. Leave location off your resume.
    Provide your email address, mobile phone (not home phone), and a hyperlink to your LinkedIn profile.
  2. Use a professional-sounding personal email address.
    Firstname.Lastname@Gmail is best, in my opinion. AOL and Yahoo addresses, Comcast.net (for Twin Cities dwellers) sound vintage.
  3. Use a modern font like Calibri. No more Times New Roman.
  4. ‘Objective’ is out.
    Use ‘Professional Summary’ or ‘Summary of Qualifications’. Unless you’re a director or above, please don’t use ‘Executive Summary’.
  5. Have a crisp LinkedIn headshot with a neutral background.
    No wedding photos, fish, or 10-year old boudoir shots. Your photo should look like you (how else are your new networking contacts going to find you at the coffee shop?)

Read more about cultivating your network here.

In the end, job hunting is marketing. And marketing is about presenting a clear and compelling product, YOU.

Don’t let subtle, bias-inducing components get in your way. Give yourself an advantage & use these tips for a great head start.

PS: If you’re struggling, I can help. Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute get-to-know-you call.

 

Tell a Better (Professional) Story

For many people, writing (especially a resume) is right up there with a root canal.

Assembling details, knowing what to include, and finding the right words to describe one’s professional achievements is…tedious. It can feel like (uncomfortable) self-promotion. Also, there might be awkward gaps and regrettable choices, and now they’re being put on display.

But being seen is unavoidable when job-seeking. Or when ramping up a side business or making a foray into public speaking, for example. Take comfort in knowing that 99% of the population feels the same way (cringey), and then tell your professional story anyhow.

I recommend the following:

  1. Meet your reader where they are: to tell a good story, assume your reader knows practically nothing. If you’ve read any of the Harry Potter books, you’ll recall that JK Rowling takes time in each to thoroughly describe the setting and to review what happened in the previous book. She brings her readers up to speed with context.

Do the same with your resume:  what kind of business do you work for? How many people are there? What’s the annual revenue? Is it global? National? Local? Paint a word picture. Details are important to give context: what size team were you on/did you manage? What is/was the budget you manage(d), what’s the scale and scope of your work? Include accomplishments, ROI, and measurable impacts like $/time saved or efficiencies /profitability gained.

Your first resume draft should be a brain dump: get it all out. Then, revise (which brings us to step 2):

  1. Use the best (word) ingredients: Alice Waters is a Northern California chef who’s known for her exquisite, simple food. Her secret: in recipes with just a few ingredients, use only the freshest and best.

How does that translate to a resume? Here’s how: once you’ve written a first draft, read it out loud. Be on the lookout for redundancy (words or phrases repeated). Find different ways to say things. Get rid of stock phrases that have little meaning. If you’re drawing a blank, Google ‘thesaurus’ to help get you thinking. Slow down a little, and be discerning. When you find adjectives that describe you/your work aptly, use those.

Very important side note: avoid using overly dramatic words. Let others use “visionary”, “vast”, “outstanding”, or “authentic” to describe you. When you apply them to yourself, they sound hollow and self-promoting. Meaningful (and true, not trite) words carry your resume.

Finally,

  1. When you think you’re dressed, take off one piece: Coco Chanel, an early 20th century fashion disrupter, OWNED simplicity. In an era when fussy fashion was the norm, her minimalistic style stood out. Do the same with your resume.

Cluttered, busy, overly full resumes are overwhelming. OVERWHELMING DOES NOT GET READ.

When you think you’ve finished writing your resume, find things that don’t need to be there. Ask yourself, “Does it add value? Does it contribute to the picture I’m trying to paint?”

If not, be ruthless and TAKE IT OFF. Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Use space to your advantage ~ it will emphasize your well-chosen words and phrases. White space invites your reader in.

A resume is an appetizer, intended to whet interest and declare relevancy. It’s a preamble to the meal (the interview, the job offer). It’s not the meal itself (or the entire story of your career).

When you remember to tell your professional story using context, simplicity, and the best ingredients, you’ll stand out.

And isn’t that what you want?

 

Struggling with crafting your resume and/or LinkedIn profile? I can help!
Check out my Professional Branding Package here

Get Visible!

Congratulations! Your professional brand’s in place: your resume’s tuned up and you’re happy with your LinkedIn profile. Now what?

Here are some guidelines to help you get visible:

LinkedIn

  • Use the rule of “ABA”: Always Be Adding to your LinkedIn connections. Make it a habit to send a connection request to every new person you meet.
  • Beef up your connections: invite former workmates, leaders, vendors; people you volunteered with to connect (use your resume to help trigger your memory).
  • Ask for LinkedIn recommendations from the people who know your work. You can even write a ‘suggested recommendation’ ~ they’ll appreciate it (makes it easier for them) and you’ll get a more-specific accolade.

    Be a regular on LinkedIn (daily is great, relevant is key) and…

  • Preserve your brand: be mindful of what you’re ‘liking’ and sharing on LinkedIn. A good rule of thumb is 2 professional ‘likes’ or shares + 1 local- or professional-interest ‘like’ or share. It shouldn’t be all about business. What do you want to be known for? Let that guide you.
  • LinkedIn articles are a great way to stand out. Write a 500-word piece about a problem you/your team solved, a technology you’re exploring, a learning you’ve had in blending teams through M&A, a new idea, a personal experience around job interviewing or even a bad boss experience. Use an image (royalty free ~ you can find lots of them at www.pexels.com). Post & repeat.  Note: I help clients with ghostwriting or editing/proofreading their LinkedIn (or other) articles.

Expanding Your Circle

Be intentional. Make it your (fun) mission to see who and what’s ‘out there’. Tell yourself it’ll be interesting.  Keep it light but focused. Make it an experiment and follow the threads. Whatever (time, attitude, expectations) you put in will impact your results. 

  • Do some strategic networking. Think about the places where your next leader is likely to be. Ask others for recommendations of networking groups if you’re not sure. Find some likely targets. Go there.
  • Start & curate a list of target companies, the kind who’d benefit from your experience and that would offer you more satisfaction. Once you have your list, follow the company on LinkedIn, find out who’s running and working for them, and start building relationships.
  • Ask people you know for introductions. Vendors know lots of people. So do most recruiters. Don’t be shy. If there’s someone you want to meet, figure out how to meet them with a warm connection ~ someone you already know.
  • Invite someone you’d like to know better to coffee or lunch. When I want to learn about a new technology, I’ll invite them out. People generally like to talk about what they do, and someone with a genuine interest is, well, irresistible.

Even if you’ve let networking and LinkedIn sit on the back burner while (it seems like) everyone else was connecting, don’t worry ~ it’s fixable!

Use this strategy to get caught up.

GOT QUESTIONS?
WANT TO SEE IF WE’RE A FIT?

Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute intro call (don’t be shy).

When Your Job Quits You

3 Insights to Help You Maintain Balance

You’ve been let go: your company eliminated your position, your performance wasn’t up to par, layoffs happened. Most of us prefer being the one to decide to leave, but sometimes it happens: we get dumped.

It’s impossible to control the exact timing of finding your next job, but here are three things that are within reach:

1. Keep Calm and Carry On: Process your emotions, especially if this came as a surprise. Mourn, rage, do whatever you need to do. But then, be done dwelling in the story. A therapist I once knew said, “You get to tell the story twice. Beyond that, you’re just flooding your system with stress hormones every time you repeat it. Move on.”

Susan’s VP job was eliminated.  She’s got money saved, and her credentials are strong. Her biggest question was, “At what point should I panic?” Er, NEVER. People will step on each others’ faces to get away when the stink of desperation wafts up.

Desperate people often end up taking irrational action, like applying for all the open jobs at a company, even the ones they’re not qualified for (a surefire credibility-buster). Don’t be desperate.

Ratchet up your self-care: get enough sleep, spend time with encouraging people, get outside, move your body, eat good food, and tell yourself, “It’s okay” and “Things always work out for me.” Do this as often as you need to. Then, put Step 2 into action:

2. Stay busy. Give yourself assignments like ‘attend four Meetups in my area of interest every week’ and ‘have networking coffees with three new people’ and ‘find and apply to six appropriate jobs’.

Take a part-time job or a consulting gig to have some cash coming in (this is incredibly empowering).

Learn something you’ve been curious about but never had the time (extra points if it’s career-enhancing). Write and publish an e-book, volunteer at your kids’ school, help out at a food shelf or homeless shelter (you’ll feel incredibly fortunate). Run a GoFundMe for a cause you believe in. Start a new fitness program. One outplacement coach tells his clients to lose five pounds:  the discipline and feeling of accomplishment shores up their confidence.
Also (this is very important): take time to have fun!

3. Stare the fear down. If you’re awakened at 3am by panic at not having a job, here’s what you do: make an appointment with yourself to think about it in detail at 3pm tomorrow. Then, do your best to go back to sleep. NOTHING gets solved at 3am.

At 3pm the next day, reverse-engineer it, diving into worst-case scenarios: what would happen if you didn’t get a job? Maybe you wouldn’t be able to pay your bills. But would you get hauled off to debtors’ prison? Nope. Maybe you wouldn’t be able to buy groceries. Is there a food shelf in town? Maybe you would lose your place to live. Do you have friends or family who’d take you in?

Go all the way with your fear. Really feel it. Is it likely that any of those scenarios would actually play out? Even if they did, would you die? Not likely.

As Stonewall Jackson, a notoriously bold leader, said, “Never take counsel of your fears.”

Trust me: it’s OKAY to have gaps in your work history. It’s OKAY to pivot into a different job, it’s OKAY to take a bridge job. It’s OKAY to lose a job because a company downsized or closed its doors. It’s even OKAY to get fired (but, naturally, don’t make a habit of this).

Losing a job can feel awful. It can make you doubt yourself or question your value. It can also be an opportunity for reflection and growth. By being launched “out there” into the job market, you’ll learn things you didn’t even know you were missing. People will step up to help in ways you couldn’t imagine, and you’ll emerge stronger and surer.

You’ve got this. And these three insights will help you handle the challenge with grace.

Need to talk with someone who’s been-there-done-that and who can offer some clarity? Here’s a link to my calendar for a 15-minute, no-strings-attached call.

Networking for the Rest of Us

5 Non-Cringe-y Ways to Get Yourself Out There

You’re ready: you’ve got your professional brand tightened up.  Your resume is fine-tuned and your LinkedIn profile represents you well. You’re ready to take the next step in your search: putting the word out.

One of the most cringe-y activities I can think of is <insert dramatic movie music here> a networking happy hour.  First, because it’s hard to hear people talk over the din. Second, happy hours tend to be pretty superficial. And finally, all I want at the end of the day is to get home and unwind.

Happily, there are lots of other ways to put the word out.

Here are five to get you started:

  1. Have a clear message: I think it’s important to have a clear idea of the kind of job/company you’re seeking. “Confidentially, I’m looking for a senior director or VP role in a manufacturing firm that’s headquartered in the Twin Cities” is more actionable than “I’m looking for a new job”. Of course, if you’re not working and anything will do, your message can be just that. But assuming you’re currently working and that you have time to be strategic, clarity will get you farther.
  2. Start with your inner circle: Tell family members and close friends “Confidentially, I’m looking for a senior director or VP role in a manufacturing firm that’s headquartered in the Twin Cities”, followed by a question: “Who do you know that works for this kind of company?” Maybe they don’t have an answer today, but your question will have them thinking. Check back with them periodically to see what bubbles up.
  3. Touch base with former co-workers: maybe you’ve lost touch with them, but there’s a group of people that you’d love to reconnect with, and now’s the time. Use LinkedIn to find them. What are they up to these days? How can you help them? And of course, let them know, “Confidentially, I’m looking for a senior director or VP role in a manufacturing firm that’s headquartered in the Twin Cities” followed by “Who do you know that works for this kind of company?” Again, they may not have a contact for you today, but check back. And be sure to offer your help.
  4. Be curious about people outside of work: your network is larger than you realize, but maybe it needs a little cultivating. Notice and take an interest in the people you see at places other than work: at kids’ activities, at the gym, at sporting or cultural events, standing in line at the coffee shop, at church, during volunteer activities. Take an interest: What do they do? Where do they work? Can you connect them with anyone in your network?

    Dale Carnegie said it best: “To get what you want, help someone else get what they want.”


    5. Get yourself out of your comfort zone:
    no, I’m not suggesting networking happy hours (but be my guest if there’s one that calls to you!). Here are some ideas, though, for putting yourself in a target-rich environment: industry events, Meetup groups (find a topic that’s related to your career), focus groups, civic causes, fundraising for non-profit organizations. For best results, choose something that genuinely interest you. Authenticity is irresistible.

When you’re thinking about buying a certain kind of car, have you noticed that suddenly you see them everywhere? Well, once you start thinking about networking as more than a cringey happy-hour activity (and begin taking action), you’re going to find all kinds of interesting people. Some that will even help you get closer to that shiny new J.O.B.

Happy connecting!

If you’re NOT ready to begin networking (ie. you need help with professional branding), I’m your gal! Click here to get started on your new-and-improved resume + LinkedIn profile.

Not sure if we’re a fit yet? Let’s chat!
Here’s a link to my calendar for a no-pressure-no-strings-attached intro call.

A Recruiter’s Guide to Professional Branding

10 Tips for Enhanced Clarity (+ better job-seeking results)

There are people with such in-demand skills (ie. web developers) that a simple ‘I’m ready to look for something new’ brings a flurry of job interview activity. Yet even these folks can benefit from the long view of professional branding. Fuzzy branding begets fuzzy results (don’t be fuzzy and frustrated).

Here’s what I mean:

  1. Know what you want to be known for. As you craft your resume, begin with a ‘Professional Summary’ which includes 2-3 sentences that capture the essence of your professional self. Keep the idea behind those sentences short and powerful: “I make databases sing” “I’m a change agent” “I’m a people connector”.  Are you calling out your superpower here? You betcha.
  2. Know your “why”: Even if you landed in a career ‘by accident’ (like I did, though I don’t believe there are any ‘accidents’), know your answer to the question “Why do you do what you do? “Because I love it” “Because I’m good at it” “Because I like making a difference”. What’s yours?
  3. Variety = Balance (and a bigger network): Across your career, it’s a good idea to work at companies both small and large, startup and established. Try working both contract and perm roles. You’ll have a deeper understanding of how things are done in each, a broader perspective, and…a bigger network.
  4. Know why you chose the jobs you did: Maybe you were recruited; other times perhaps you needed a change (or your job went away) so you hit the job boards. There’s a reason why you accepted each job. As you describe them on your resume (and in interviews), focus on what you learned & how you contributed. PS: “It was the best option at the time” is also a-ok.
  5. Look ahead to your next move: There’s nobody shepherding your career but you. Think like an independent contractor or entrepreneur: keep a shortlist of companies you’re curious about. Cultivate relationships with the people in them. Change is a constant, and nothing is permanent, not even a permanent job. Let your loyalty be fairly divided between your current employer and your own future.
  6. Always be adding to your network: Pick the style of networking that fits you, whether it’s 1:1 coffees/lunches or big networking happy hours. Meetups and professional events are the obvious choices, but strike up a genuine conversation wherever you are. Talk to people at kids’ activities, church, the dog park, the gym, in coffee shop lines, on vacation, doing nonprofit/volunteer work, at sporting or cultural events. Add the people you meet to your LinkedIn network if you like them and want to stay in touch.
  7. Offer help: Dale Carnegie said it best: “To get what you want, help others get what they want.”
  8. Teach a class or mentor someone: There’s no better way to cement your knowledge (and your great reputation) than by sharing what you know. If you’re in technology, offer your help to the local high school’s STEM initiative. Find a student mentoring opportunity (Google ‘mentoring opportunities’ ~ you’ll be amazed!). Find someone in your current company who’s less-experienced that you can informally or formally guide.
  9. Ask for help: People generally like and enjoy helping others. Ask for an introduction, or tag along to a lunch or meeting. Find a Meetup with a topic you want to learn about. Take a class, either online or in-person. Find your own mentor who can help guide you in your career.
  10. If writing’s not your strong point: Hire a professional to polish your resume for you & make sure your LinkedIn profile is congruent. Whether you do it with me or get a recommendation from someone you know and trust, be sure your digital brand represents you well.

Why ‘professional branding’ and a long view toward visibility?

Because an ‘apply and pray’ strategy probably won’t bring great results when you need/want to find a new job. The most-successful and resilient job seekers have a robust network and a clear picture of their value proposition. You can, too.

And if you need help, here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute intro conversation.

 

Is Your Job ‘The One’?

(4 ways to find peace if it isn’t)

In every crowd, there’s at least one person who figured out what they wanted to be in middle school and never looked back.

But what if you didn’t (or don’t) have a strong vision for your career? Maybe you fell into a career path (or several) that paid the bills but wasn’t your true passion. It’s served you well. There are lots of aspects you enjoy, but you can’t say you’ve hit upon your life’s mission.

Do we need to find a work equivalent of ‘The One’ in order to be happy and fulfilled? I think not. Here are some thoughts and ideas that might help you relax:

1. Happiness is an inside job (pun intended).

A famous person once said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

We either decide to be happy and appreciate the good, or by default, we feed our misery. Which will it be? Say this to yourself: “Even though this isn’t my dream job, I appreciate the paycheck / people / short commute / stability.”

2. It’s a cultural habit to complain about work.

In the US, at least, people have a tendency to complain about their jobs. It’s an unconscious habit. But part of being human is the need to pay our dues in the form of work, unless you’re a trust fund baby or heir/ess. The problem with complaining is that whatever we’re focusing on tends to grow. If you truly have nothing good to say about this job, change the subject (and skip to #4).

3. If you’re bored at work, learn something new.

Ask someone to teach you part of their job. Volunteer for a new project or initiative. Become a subject matter expert. Attend a conference or trade show. Trade tasks (you give up something you dislike and take on something that a teammate dislikes). Take a class related to your work. Offer ideas on how to improve things.

As a baby copywriter, Alexandra Penney, former editor at Glamour magazine, created a list of improvements and turned it in to her then-boss. When she was called in to Human Resources (thinking she was going to be fired), they asked if she’d like to be promoted (she said yes). Challenge yourself to add value. Or keep doing your same old work, but use your spare time for creativity, education, or a side hustle. Do whatever it takes to keep your creative juices flowing.

It’s human nature to think the grass is greener somewhere else. There will always be a job that’s “better” than the one you have. If you’re an entrepreneur, maybe you love the freedom and creativity, but the hours suck and you’re the last to get paid. If you’re an hourly employee, you love the stability but hate accounting for every hour you work. There’s always something.

Decide to focus on the good and let the rest go.

Do you expect your life partner to be your sole source of fulfillment? Maybe your significant other hates sports on TV but you’re crazy for it. Do you stop watching because s/he won’t? Or do you cultivate a separate friend group for sharing this part of your life?

It’s the same with work: are you expecting your job to be your only source of satisfaction?

4. If you’re really unhappy, make it your mission to find a new job.

A terrible commute, a horrible boss or co-workers, a failing company or a toxic culture? Find something new and leave, ASAP.

If you’re really and truly unhappy, then by all means find work that’s a better fit. But that’s another post for another day.

In the meantime, decide to give your attention to all the things you DO like while you’re earning a living.

After all, what you focus on, grows.

 

Recruiters: Friend or Foe?

Chances are, at some point you’ll have the opportunity to work with a recruiter, either as a hiring manager (for a fee, they help you find the right candidate) or as a job-seeker (they recruit you for one of their searches or generously share their network with you).

Two tips for engaging with a recruiter: “Be nice,” and “Be discerning.”

Be nice, because even though you might get more calls and emails than you’d like from recruiters, at some point in your career, you might need them. It’s easy to say, “No, thanks” or “Thank you, not now”, whether you’re a hiring manager with a job posted or a candidate with hot skills. That very same recruiter you hang up on today might be the recruiter for that job you really want five years from now.

There was once a hiring manager who seemed to take great satisfaction in slamming the phone down on any recruiter who happened to call. He became known for his rudeness.

The years came and went. He was promoted from manager to director. Things seemed rosy as his company grew and grew. But the day came when his very successful company was acquired. Suddenly, he needed to find a new job. But the recruiters remembered his rudeness and stayed away.

Be nice to recruiters. You never know when you’ll need them.

And be discerning, because not all recruiters are equal.

How do you find a good recruiter? The same way you find a good doctor, daycare provider or dry cleaner: you ask people you trust to give you a referral. Are you a hiring manager looking for help in filling a role? Ask other managers in your company, or others in your area of expertise. Google ‘IT recruiters in (your city)’. Look on LinkedIn. Then contact the recruiter and let them know what you’re looking for. Find out how they work, what their most-common searches are, and ask for some success and failure stories.

How do you choose the right recruiter? Here are some good questions to ask:

  •    What’s your specialty / area of expertise?
  •    What’s your process like?
  •    What are your most-common searches? Not all recruiters cover all types or levels of searches.
  •    How do you find your candidates? How do you find your searches?
  •    How many recruiters does your firm have? What’s their average tenure?
  • Do you have references I can talk to?

A good recruiter will have at least five years of recruiting experience and over 500 LinkedIn contacts. They’ll have a professional LinkedIn bio and a crisp, clear head shot. Take a look at their recommendations, too. Are they recent?

A good recruiter will want to meet you, whether you’re a candidate or a client. How can they represent you (or your company) if you haven’t met? They’ll spend at least an hour with you and ask a lot of questions. They may have suggestions on fine-tuning your resume or your LinkedIn profile (if you’re a candidate) or your job description (if you’re a client).

The best recruiters are not afraid to ask the hard questions. They’ll tell you if they aren’t the right resource for you. They’ll respond to your calls and emails, they’ll offer feedback and they’ll be in touch even when you’re not actively looking. They’re relationship builders. When you’re underway on a search, they’re responsive, and they show their leadership by offering best-practices and advice for success, whether you’re hiring or being hired.

Bad recruiters can be sales-y, irrelevant, ineffective and around only when you have something they want, but the good ones are worth finding and holding on to. A good recruiter will be your eyes and ears in the marketplace. If you’re lucky, s/he’ll be your biggest advocate and your secret career weapon.

Creating Your Job: an Interview with Laura Frank

(plus some tips for work satisfaction)

The topics of jobs and work satisfaction fascinate me (What do you do for work? How did you get into it? What do you like about it? What do you dislike?).

It’s a good thing I fell into recruiting ~ I get to talk about jobs and work a lot. It also means I’ve had the good fortune to talk with people who inspire me with their career choices. Laura Frank is one of them.

Why? Because she has had the audacity to follow her own inclinations, creating a body of work that both satisfies AND pays her well. She didn’t just go out and look for a job that fit. She created one for herself.

Laura, who studied physics and theatre in college (more theatre, she says), wanted to get into theatre lighting. Her story of custom-designing a career by following her curiosity is fascinating. Today, she’s lighting huge, high-profile events like the Latin Grammy Awards, concerts (Madonna and David Bowie, to name a couple), films and the Olympics.

Early in her career, she deliberately chose gigs that would allow her to pick up the skills she wanted, even when they didn’t pay well or the hours were sucky. Later on in her career, she took that arsenal of skills and reinvented her work. She found new ways to use her experience. She created (and continues to create) her own job.

Now, maybe in corporate America there isn’t quite as much freedom to craft one’s own job (though I have one friend who’s done just that because she is clever and business-savvy as well as being highly entrepreneurial and a fabulous communicator).

Here are some highlights from my conversation with Laura (but you’re gonna want to watch the interview ~ it’s only 18 minutes long ~ because I purposely left some out):

  • Be authentic: follow your shiny objects.
  • Have the willingness and the expertise to let your career expand naturally. Your job or career doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.
  • Apply for jobs for which you’re not 100% qualified70% + some chutzpah will do nicely.
  • Stay challenged. If you start to feel like you’re doing things in your sleep, let that itch to keep learning pull you out of your comfort zone.
  • Keep 6 months’ of living expenses in the bank. Think of it not as money, but as buying yourself time. Need a respite? Need to stop and learn a new skill? This ‘time’ will support you through it.

Even if you’re mid-career and can’t couch-surf through New York following your curiosity, there are plenty of things you can do right now to move in a direction that’s more YOU.

What can I do? you ask.

  • Observe yourself. What draws you? Can you take one of your interests a step farther? For example, a couple of IT directors I know have started on-the-side businesses that feed their entrepreneurial inclinations. Take a class, challenge yourself to create something (write, paint, mentor, program, volunteer), jump the tracks and invest some energy in the direction of your own ‘shiny objects’.
  • Take back some of your time so you can do this. Be honest with yourself if you’re hearing the ‘but how will I find time?’ track in your head. Even 30-60 minutes a day spent following your own path adds up. Get up earlier. Leave the TV off. Say ‘no’ to should’s. Be lovingly firm and insistent with yourself. This is important.
  • Are you in a soul-sucking job? Can you change things about it? Even little tweaks go a long way when you stand up for what you need. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be NO.
  • Realize that, like a friendship or a marriage, unless you’re Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, no job is going be your everything. Don’t expect 100% fulfillment (hope for it, but don’t put the burden of your expectations on it). Find pockets of delight in other places to balance the less-than-delightful aspects.
  • When you try something new and it isn’t what you’d expected, you must still call it a success. You have new information, you took a chance, and that’s a win.

What I’m saying (to myself as much as to you) is, since we need to work, let your work honor your creative abilities. Do your best to find work that you enjoy. Let it be something that pays well enough so you don’t have to do it ALL of your waking hours. Choose to regard your work as a craft. Learn new skills, add new tools, and experiment along the way. Don’t sleepwalk through or clench your teeth and endure your work.

As much as I would’ve liked to be an heiress or a trust fund baby, my work has given me at least as much as I’ve given it. Way, way more than just the pay.

How do you think about your job? Do you think of it as your craft? Or is it just a means to an end?

In the end, I think work happiness begins inside. And that’s whether we’re solopreneurs, contractors, or fully employed. I think it’s a decision. Choose your work.

And enjoy the interview.

Managers: You Found a Great Candidate…WHY Didn’t S/He Accept Your Offer?

Hiring is, in my opinion, a lot like dating.

To do either one well requires strong communication and self-awareness. The best candidates (like the hottest dates) are sought after. They know their value in the marketplace. They are typically attracted to a confident, clear vision, whether it’s another person or a company. Remember, candidates are watching how you operate as you “court” them. If your hiring process lacks cohesiveness, leaves big communication gaps, or makes you seem indecisive, they’ll assume that your business is run the same way.

Here are five possible reasons why your offer wasn’t accepted:

1. The interview process was discombobulated.

All too often, interviewers operate in silos. Some preparation beforehand will go a long way toward optimizing the interview process. Ideally, your recruiter, hiring manager/decision maker and the interview team (not too many, please, unless you want to drag the interview process out while schedules are coordinated) sit down ahead of time to prepare: what skills/experience & traits should the ideal candidate have?

What can you flex on? Who’s going to ask skills/experience questions (and which ones)? Who’s going to ask behavior-based questions? Debrief with your interviewers as soon after the interview as possible so you can update the candidate (even if it’s a ‘thanks, but we’re passing’). If your company uses more than 2-3 interviews to identify a hire, let the candidate know at the beginning of the process what the timeline to offer stage might look like.

2. Your interviewers didn’t sell the opportunity and/or the company.

There’s a fierce competition for strong candidates, especially in IT. For each candidate that you like & can envision hiring, several other companies are probably thinking the same thing. Keep in mind that candidates are comparing your company against others in the same way you’re comparing candidates against each other.

Remember to bring up authentic examples of why your company is the one they should choose (even if they don’t ask). Sell a vision, not a job description. Paint a picture (if you like the candidate) that captures their imagination and includes them. If you’re aware of negative buzz about your company (you can find out on sites like Glassdoor.com), be sure to address it.

3. You took too long to decide.

Maybe your vision for the position changed. Maybe it was a budget issue. Maybe you didn’t foresee interviewers being out of the office.

Whatever the reason, when a candidate goes long stretches without hearing from you (and a weekend can seem like a long stretch when you’re waiting), it’s easy for them to assume you’re not interested, even if the exact opposite is true. If there are delays, make sure to communicate them. Stay in touch even if you don’t have a timeline update. It’s okay to touch base without an update. It shows you care.

On the flip side, if you’re talking with a passive candidate who wasn’t job-hunting, deciding too quickly can scare them off. Be aware. Asking candidates about their timeline for a new job is a smart move.

4. You haggled over salary.

In my experience, it’s best to present your best, strongest offer first. Make it clear that you really want this candidate to join your team, so you’re making them the highest, best offer you can. Tell them it’s your final offer. Lowballing leaves a bad taste in your candidate’s mouth.

You want them to be excited (and flattered) to join your company. Be that company.

5. You didn’t keep in touch with the candidate during the vulnerable notice period.

After your candidate accepts your offer (if they’re working), they are faced with giving notice. This is a time when counteroffers rear their ugly heads. Also, your candidate may be getting competing offers from other companies with whom they’ve been interviewing.

Once your candidate has said ‘yes’ to you, stay close. Ask them if they’re worried about a counteroffer (and if so, remind them why they decided to say ‘yes’ to your offer). Ask them whether they’ve told their other opportunities that that they’ve accepted an offer. Don’t do all this in a fearful way, but in a positive “we can’t wait for you to join us” way.

While you wait out the notice period, invite them to a team meeting. Ask them to join you for a team happy hour or lunch. As their manager, maybe you take them out for a 1:1 lunch or coffee.

You (or your recruiter) should be touching base with them every few days, making sure the transition period is going smoothly and to keep reminding them of why they said ‘yes’ to you.

After they join your team, stay close to them while they get acclimated during the initial, “what have I done?” period, especially if they were in their last job for a long time.

Communicate, communicate, communicate! One of my favorite managers often stopped by to say “Hi,” and “I’m so glad you’re here!” during my first months on the job.

Even if you get all of this right, it’s still possible to lose a candidate, and that’s tough. My advice in that situation: don’t close the door. It’s a small world, and you never know what’s (or who’s) just around the corner.

But by asking yourself whether your company is making these five common mistakes, your hiring success rate will take a positive spin.

Good luck!

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