Katherine Turpin

Your Professional Branding Strategist

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Tag: Career Strategies (page 2 of 2)

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.

A RECRUITER’S GUIDE TO LAUNCHING YOUR SEARCH FOR THE RIGHT NEXT JOB

Sure, you can find jobs online and apply to them, crossing your fingers and HOPING you’ll hear back….

But mapping your job-seeking journey using mindfulness, preparation and some initiative will more likely get you to the right destination: a job and company you really like.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Update your resume. With data, yes, but also review and fine-tune it. Do your best to capture the essence of your strengths without overwhelming the reader. For recruiter-recommended best practices, check out this video.
  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile is looking good: use an updated head shot, the right amount of information in your ‘about’ section (not too long or blocky), along with some recommendations from current co-workers or clients. Make sure dates align with those on your resume. Be careful about being overly active on LinkedIn, though ~ it can be a red flag to your current employer that you’re looking (or shut off notifications).
  • Create a target list of 20-30 companies whose work and culture you find attractive. Keep commute in mind, too. Find your target companies using online research and talking with people. Another good resource is the Business Journal’s “Book of Lists”, available in larger cities.
  • Conventional job search wisdom would tell you the next step is to look for open positions on your target companies’ CAREERS pages, and if you didn’t see anything, you would drop that company from your list. BUT more than 80% of job seekers find their new roles outside of the traditional application process! Set Google alerts to help you stay informed of new postings on your target companies’ Careers pages so you’re in the know.
  • THEN… narrow your target list to around 10 first-choice companies, your shortlist.
  • Start networking: meet as many people as possible (ideally at least 5) from each company on your shortlist.  Do not use LinkedIn messaging for this ~ figure out their work email address. In your email, ask them (in a non-stalker way) if they’d be willing to meet up for a 20-minute coffee to tell you about what it’s like to work at their company. Don’t call it an “informational interview”; you’re simply making connections. And connections are what get you to the front of the hiring line.
  • Craft an elevator pitch about what you’re good at and the kind of work you’d like to be doing next. Role play with your partner (or friend, or in front of a mirror) until this 30 second description flows out of your mouth like you’ve been sayin’ it all your life.
  • Make sure your self-care includes enough sleep, regular exercise, plenty of water, healthy food, not too much caffeine or alcohol. Add in positive self-talk  & creative/ social downtime. Create balance, because this isn’t a sprint.
  • Ask your references ahead of time if they’ll put in a good word for you when the time comes (and then alert them when that time arises). Yes, in many cases, references are still checked. Also ~ be aware of what your references are saying about you! If you’re not sure, ask them how they describe your work. Even tell them what kind of role you’re being considered for so they can have their thoughts prepared.
  • Stay positive & be patient. Remember, you don’t know what lies around the next corner: that next conversation may lead to a wonderful job. Don’t give up a few inches shy of the gold!
  • If you’re between jobs, consider contracting. The all-or-nothing “get a permanent job only” mission might rule out otherwise-great opportunities. Know how much you need to earn to cover your expenses. Have an idea of what health insurance will cost you. Be aware of the going rate for your skills niche so you don’t inadvertently price yourself too low (or out of the market). If you’re working with a recruiter and your rates are at the higher end of the scale, their markup may make you too expensive.

By following these steps, you’re creating a vision and a brand for yourself, as well as building a network along the way. Time spent in figuring out your destination ahead of time, preparing yourself, and asking for a little help with directions will help you arrive at the right destination.

Have a great trip! If you need a little direction, click here for a free 15-minute “Ask me anything” call.

You’ve Got the Perfect Experience. WHY Didn’t You Get the Interview?

5 Common Resume Missteps

Of course, there could be other factors why that interview didn’t come your way. But if you have a hunch that your resume isn’t opening doors, try taking a look at it with these 5 tips in mind.

1. Your resume is too long. But how long should it be? you ask. My answer: it depends. Generally, 2-3 pages (contractors’ might be longer because assignments are typically outlined). If you work in technology, tools change quickly, so while the work you did 10 years ago may be relevant, the tools have likely been replaced. A common technology mistake: listing every single tool or technology ever used. Trim it to the ones you know best. If you’re mid- or later-career, going back more than 10-15 years can make you look out-of-step.

A resume is an appetizer, not the meal.
It should whet the appetite, not overwhelm it.

2Your resume doesn’t highlight your skills for THIS job. I know, I know. You don’t want to tailor your resume for every job to which you apply. To an extent, I agree. However, pay attention to the key requirements (from the job description) and call yours out. Especially if it’s not a clear match, if you REALLY want this job, and/or you don’t know the person receiving your resume (HR/Talent Acquisition).

As one of my hiring managers once said, “If they’re applying for a six-figure job, I expect them to tailor their resume at least a little bit.” You decide.

3. Your resume is hard to read. Take an objective look: have you used blocks of text? A block is anything more than a couple of medium-length sentences strung together. People tend to skim when reading resumes, so format yours with the reader in mind. Use bullet points, shorter sentences, and proofread it from their point of view.

Does it draw you in? Or is it overwhelming?

4. Your resume is poorly-worded or has inconsistent grammar/spelling/punctuation. I’ve seen resumes whose ‘responsibilities’ sections were copied from a job description. Or they’re written in a way that assumes the reader has familiarity with you and/or with what you do. It bears repeating: keep your reader in mind as you write your resume. Also, make sure verb tenses align (they should all be past tense, except for the job you’re in now). Spell check! Punctuate correctly. When you think you’re finished, have a picky friend review your resume.

Ask , “If I were the hiring manager, would I want to talk to me?”

5. It’s not long (or detailed) enough. Create context: how many people did you manage? What was your impact (# users, # facilities)? What was the $ savings / % growth / whatever you achieved? What’s the size and industry of your employer if it’s not well-known? Instead of writing ‘fifty million dollars’, use ‘$50 million’. Did you notice how the symbols also drew your attention in?

There’s a fine line between ‘too long’ and ‘too short’, but your resume shouldn’t just be a few Cheez Its.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of resumes. Most are perfectly fine and will do the trick (especially when you have a sought-after skillset). Some resumes are incredibly good, and some are really bad. But if you’re applying and not getting interviews, try these 5 tips.

If you’re still struggling and would like 1:1 resume advice, let a recruiter revise your resume (it’s like having the IRS prepare your taxes).

Kryptonite Thinking

Maybe you just need to change your mind

There are times when life flows: appointments synch up, green lights beckon, bank accounts balance perfectly, and interactions with people of all kinds are a delight.

And then BAM! the rose-colored glasses fall away. What was flowing smoothly becomes an oozy quagmire. Interactions are jarring, sleep is disrupted, nothing seems to connect.

What happened?

Everything, and nothing. To paraphrase Max Ehrmann, author of “Desiderata”, “…no doubt the Universe is progessing exactly as it should.”

But if you have more jarring cycles than gentle ones,
the problem could be in your thinking.

What do I mean by ‘kryptonite thinking’? It’s the kind of thought that weakens resolve, rattles confidence, erodes happiness, encourages self-doubt.

Some examples:

  • Self talk: your inner voice loops on things you were told as a child: “You’re not good enough.” “You never finish things.” “Your butt is too big!” Or you’re frequently reviewing things you said/should have said/didn’t say and finding yourself falling short. OR (or!) you’re telling yourself how hard life is, struggle being a measure of worthiness (“I worked SO HARD for all this!”). Sigh.
  • Judgment track:  a running negative internal commentary on what others look like, do, or say.
  • Complaining: do you (even jokingly) natter on: about the weather, the traffic, the government, bad people, things you “hate”?
  • Comparing: looking at “what is” and finding it lacking: your salary should be higher. The house needs work. The expensive vacation was disappointing. Your butt’s still too big, even after all the dieting and exercise.

Here’s the thing:
Do any of these thoughts make you feel good?
Of course not. THIS IS KRYPTONITE THINKING.
It’s toxic. Stop it.

Stop it for two really good reasons: 1) feeling good is better than feeling bad; and 2) what you think about tends to show up.

A short explanation of how our thinking affects “reality”:

  1. All matter is composed of tiny packets of energy. These show up in either wave or particle form.
  2. Experiments have shown that these energy packets respond to observers’ expectations.
  3. When the observer anticipates the location and form of the energy packet, it obeys, converting itself from wave to particle.

They also act in surprising and random ways, sometimes even showing up in two places at once.

Weird but True: human thought affects the world.
= YOUR thought affects YOUR world.

Thankfully it takes a substantial amount of focused thinking + intentional, inspired action to change things here on Earth. But everything begins with thought.

“But won’t the world run amok if I don’t comment / judge / push back?” you ask. No, friend, it won’t. But you’ll feel awful.

The most insidious part is, once you decide how something is, you’re collapsing the quantum field (you know, the part where waves become particles). Instead of limitless possibilities, there is only the thing you decided on, and found lacking.

It’s easy to know when you’re doing kryptonite thinking:  you can tell by how you feel.

When you’re feeling glum and hopeless, or crunchy and judgmental, your thinking is out of synch with possibility. If you’re feeling neutral, at least you’re keeping the quantum field fluid. When you’re feeling happy (especially for no apparent reason), you’re in alignment with creative forces.

So talk nicely to yourself, like you’d speak to your kid or a friend. Watch your habitual word tracks: stop complaining, and if you can’t think of something nice to say… don’t. Pay attention to the ease we enjoy (electricity, heat, available food, water, freedom) and the beauty all around. Say thank you. Make a game of only noticing + commenting on the good.

Feeling happy ALL the time for fear of disrupting the creative cycle of the Universe is NOT required. It’s normal for feelings to oscillate a little.

But to uplevel your native inner state to a more harmonious one, all it takes is a decision to look at the bright side + a little (okay, maybe a lot of) practice. Declutter your thinking the way you’d clear out a closet.

Check in with your feelings.
Does this thought feel good? Yes? Keep it.
If it doesn’t serve, banish it.

Want more? Check out Pam Grout’s amazing bestseller, “E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality”.

You can change your life by changing your mind. I guarantee it.

I help mid-career professionals better tell their story.
I also offer 1:1 “Ask Me Anything” coaching calls.
Curious? Let’s chat.
Here’s a link to my calendar to schedule a free 15-minute intro conversation.

Behind the (agency) curtain

Some tips on engaging more effectively

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, agency recruiters and search firms are a fixture on the job search (or hiring) landscape. But they’re not interchangeable and they do need some cultivation. Here’s a roadmap to save you some time and potential heartache.

PART 1: they’re not all created equal :: Things to know

Agencies have different focuses. Some search firms only recruit and place people with deep skills in a particular technology tool (ie. Office 365 or Salesforce). Others focus on a skillset (developers, scrum masters, etc). There are agencies that target midlevel (2-10 year) candidates and others that only work on executive search (senior- and C-level). If you’re new to working with agency recruiters, take a look at their ‘available opportunities’ to get an idea of their practice. Make sure their area of specialization aligns with your skillset.

They often have different lines of business: some work strictly on contract or contract to hire job searches, others only work on permanent placement. Find out what their ‘bread and butter’ is ~ and then, if their focus isn’t the same as yours, keep moving.

Just because a recruiter calls does not mean you need to work with them. Do your homework! For instance, if you’re looking for a perm/direct hire role, don’t waste time (yours or theirs) with a firm that only places people in contract roles, unless you’re truly open to a contract position.

In the direct-hire / permanent placement world, there are different kinds of searches:

Contingent (the agency doesn’t get paid unless they find a candidate that the client hires); usually non-exclusive and a race with other firms to present qualified candidates.

Engaged (the client company pays part of the agency fee up front), which generally gives the agency some exclusivity and traction with the client.

Retained (the client company pays the agency fee in installments, even if the agency doesn’t find a candidate). Essentially, the agency is getting paid for its time, and hopefully for a well-suited candidate. Retained searches are most-often used for senior- and executive level searches.

Why is this relevant? Because the agency’s influence depends on whether the client is using them exclusively or putting the search out to many firms.

Recruiters vary wildly in experience. The big firms like Robert Half  and Modis hire inexperienced recruiters, train them up, and see who makes it. Recruiting is a tough and competitive game with a high turnover rate.  Especially if you’re 10+ years into your career, be discerning. Work with a recruiter with 5+ years of experience (and proven success).

Just like the rest of us, agency recruiters have relationships of different degrees with their client companies. It’s worth asking how well they know a hiring manager and whether they’ve made recent placements with the company before agreeing to be represented there.

Here’s why: once an agency presents your resume to a company, the agency can charge a placement fee if you’re hired. Agencies typically claim this right for 6 – 12 months.

The problem comes when a company is NOT willing to pay an agency fee. If you’re competing against someone who comes in via the company’s Careers page or a referral, it could easily tip the balance in their favor.

So ask your recruiter: how many people have they placed with the client company?  Who pays the agency fees: Talent Acquisition (which might say no even if the hiring manager agrees to consider agency candidates)? Or does the fee come out of the hiring manager’s budget (meaning s/he has decision-making power over paying an agency)?

An agency recruiter who’s invested in your success will generally have answers to these questions. They’ll also tell you if their relationship is strong enough to get traction on your behalf.

PART 2: How to work smart with your agency recruiter

NOTE: You are not the agency recruiter’s client ~ the hiring company is. You’re paying your recruiter zero dollars. Please don’t be that candidate who expects their recruiter to do everything. They’re not your agent, though a good and well-connected recruiter will often act as one for a top-notch candidate.

  • Unless you have sought-after skills (and even if you do), collaborate. Stay in touch (find out from your recruiter how often is appropriate). Ask about positions you’ve seen on the agency’s ‘opportunities’ page. Mention jobs you’ve seen posted on companies’ Careers pages to see if they’ve got a lead in.
    DO NOT APPLY TO THE POSITION FIRST AND THEN ASK YOUR AGENCY RECRUITER FOR HELP ‘GETTING IN FRONT OF THE HIRING MANAGER’. Once you apply to a role directly, the agency cannot represent you at that company.
  • Give back: offer to help your recruiter by tapping your network, by introducing them to potential candidates, etc. If you’re a hiring manager who needs help filling a job on your team and you can use a search firm / agency, your recruiter should be your first call.
  • Don’t be needy. Calling for daily updates or expecting your recruiter to fix your resume / LinkedIn profile is asking too much.
  • Slow down a bit and ask questions, especially as you get close to an offer. It’s your future. Here is where an unscrupulous recruiter (who’s getting paid to place you) might not be 100% forthcoming. If you have niggling doubts, address them. Ask for a final phone call with the hiring manager or HR if you’re not clear on things. Better safe than sorry.
  • You can work with different agency recruiters. However, you cannot (generally) be represented by more than one agency to the same company (even for jobs in other departments) within the same 6-12 month period. Once your resume is inside the company, that’s the agency who’ll get the fee if you’re hired.

A longstanding relationship with a trusted recruiter provides a lens into the marketplace, even when you’re not looking. As with any relationship, it needs attention, care and feeding.

Consider it an investment in your craft
to have a good recruiter on speed dial.

I use my agency- and corporate recruiting experience to help mid-career job seekers.
Got questions?
Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute Q&A.
Don’t be shy.

Red Flags in Job Opportunities

a cautionary tale + some real world advice

A story I’ve heard more than once: a posting for the perfect job appears. You apply. Astonishingly, you get a call and an interview request shortly thereafter. You go in. The office is gorgeous. The people seem to be exactly the kind you’d like to work for (and with). After the requisite number of interviews, they tell you an offer is forthcoming.

You’re elated ~ this came together so effortlessly! It seems like a great next step. You’re ready to give notice and climb aboard this new train.

Is this the real thing? Or is it too good to be true? Of course you do your research, like reading Glassdoor reviews.

What constitutes a red flag? Here are the most-common:

  • You didn’t meet or talk with your new leader or future peers (true story!).
  • The reason the position is open is vague or hasn’t been explained to your satisfaction.
  • You’re not a senior leader or C-level exec, but you’re asked to come in for an inordinate number of interviews (>3).
  • You’re going to be in a leadership role, but your request to meet with your future team without your prospective leader in the room is denied.
  • There isn’t a clear set of measurable expectations for your success (ie: “If we fast forward 3-6 months, what should I have accomplished in order to be on track?”).
  • The offer, the position, the speed with which it all came together is amazing, but you still have this niggling feeling that there’s something you’re not being told.
  • OR things move quickly at first, but then drag out for weeks or months, with a lot of unexplained communication gaps.
  • The salary is okay but the bonus potential is fantastic. However, they can’t quite come up with the track record for bonus payouts, confirm when bonuses are paid or describe the parameters / requirements for qualifying.
  • There’s disturbing press about the company or negative word on the street. You inquire, but your interview team is not forthcoming about what’s being done to address it or fix the problem.
  • You ask about the company’s mission / vision and the C-level exec says, “I guess we’d better get one.”
Some general guidelines for your due diligence:
  • Meet with 360 degrees (subordinates, peers, leaders). Extra credit if you have friends on the inside and/or vendors with a trustworthy lens into the company (ie. do they pay their bills?)
  • Get a satisfactory answer for why the position’s open, especially if there have been several people in the role within the last few years.
  • Know what will be expected of you. Corollary: make sure your leadership is invested in your success.
  • Trust your gut. If you have doubts, slow down and find out why.
  • If the bonus is a large part of the compensation, know what you need to do to achieve it and what the payment history has been.

None of these red flags mean you should automatically decline an offer. They ARE indicators that you need more data. Asking too many questions during the interview process makes some folks uncomfortable ~ they worry that their chances of being hired will be clipped.

You’re vetting your future company to the same degree that they’re vetting you. If you can’t satisfy your curiosity without getting kicked to the curb, is this a place you want to work?

And…what other opportunities are you letting go of for this one?

Questions are good.
Red flags can also be good.

Answers are better. Get them before you make big decisions.

I use my recruiting + writing experience
to help mid-career professionals better-define
their professional brand.

Curious? Let’s talk.
Here’s a link to schedule a 15-minute, no-strings-attached 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.

 

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