Katherine Turpin

Your Professional Branding Strategist

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Tag: Networking (page 1 of 2)

For the happy-hour averse

start right where you are :: INTERNAL NETWORKING

 

A few weeks ago, while prepping for a Genesys Works training session, I was pondering the program: these interns have a stunning opportunity to start building their professional networks while they’re still in high school. They learn new skills, showcase their work ethic & personalities and pre-pave the way to college internships and full time employment. I was thinking that a really savvy intern would do well to leverage the heck out of this opportunity to network.

Considering the internship program got my brain firing (because traditional external networking brings to mind cringey, superficial chats with strangers at noisy happy hours, juggling business cards, hors d’oeuvres and a wineglass):

What if each of us networked inside our own companies intentionally?
Duh! A ready-made common ground + a shared mission.

So.Simple! Find and get to know people at your company who are outside your normal work trajectory. Get to know them via a committee or project, working shoulder-to-shoulder. Soon they’ll be able to vouch for your shining personality / skills / work ethic / impact. They’ll become a part of your true network, far more likely to help you if/when you need it (and hopefully, you’ll do the same for them!).

In a job that demands every second of your day, adding internal networking might be the last thing you’d choose. But I think getting to know others makes work more fun and rewarding. And who knows where those new connections will lead? So it’s a little bit selfish, in a good way.  I’ve heard of folks who brilliantly (and often innocently) landed great new jobs and built amazing careers through internal networking. Maybe you have, too.

things you can do right now
(besides being great at your job, which speaks for itself):
  • Volunteer to help anywhere it’s needed. Join committees of all kinds.
  • Offer to research / document / investigate / figure out and report back.
  • If something is wanted or needed but doesn’t yet exist, figure it out or create it.
  • Invite someone you don’t know well to have coffee, eat lunch or go for a walk.
  • Make introductions ~ help connect others. Inclusivity is IN!

In my first year at TCF Bank, I signed on for (almost) every opportunity that crossed my path: my department’s FUN committee, the IT Hackathon planning committee; IT book club, IT donut club, IT ambassador group, IT & Friends (volunteer) committee. I even launched a new club, the TCF Travel Junkies.

I didn’t think of it as internal networking at first ~ I just wanted to be a better cultural ambassador. I’ve never been part of so many initiatives before.  The benefits? They’re plentiful: getting to know great people outside my department  = more enjoyment! When I need an answer, it’s easier to find. Or when I want to get something done, I have a friendlier ear. I get to reciprocate, which also feels fantastic.  Not to mention enjoying the results of our efforts. As far as stepping out of my comfort zone? It feels a little awkward at first. And then, it’s 100% satisfying.

“Your network is not people you know; your network is the people you know who are willing to help you.”  ~~ Sol Orwell

A communication tool is helpful (we use Slack). A core group of networking-minded people helps — there are many in my company who are committed to fostering a collaborative culture. They generously share their connections and are a huge help & inspiration. But even if your company isn’t similarly inclined, you can (and should) branch out.

When you work alongside someone, you get to know them in a different way than if you’ve just chatted over drinks at some industry event. And since we  (usually) have just one boss and one team of peers at a time, we exponentially increase the number of people who know our work when we work on initiatives and projects outside our our normal scope.

It takes extra time & effort to be involved, but it also saves time: answers come more quickly. Folks with whom I’ve worked on projects are more likely to jump in when I need help. There’s a sense of fun and camaraderie.

There’s still a ways to go before I know everybody, but the gap is narrower than if I just did my job day in and day out.

Some bad news: you’ll still need to occasionally attend external networking happy hours. But with intentional internal networking, you’ll need it less.  So start building meaningful connections where you are. Get out of your office / cube / comfort zone and GET INVOLVED!!

I help mid-career professionals figure out their brand, get connected, and launch rockets of all kinds.
Want to chat?
Here’s a link to my calendar for a no-strings-attached intro call.

Because Hope is Not a (Job Hunting) Strategy

The old ‘post-and-pray’ model (where Talent Acquisition publishes a job on the company ‘Careers’ page and HOPES that the right candidate applies) doesn’t work well.

We still post, of course, but we’re also reaching out to candidates and actively recruiting them.

‘Apply-and-pray’, the job seeker’s equivalent to ‘post-and-pray’, doesn’t work well either (unless you’re a mid-level developer). You might get lucky if you’re one of the early applicants. But especially at manager- and director-levels, your resume might not even get read unless you’re in the first wave.

I think the way we go about finding a new job needs to evolve.

That’s where marketing steps in.

You’ve heard of marketing campaigns, right? Companies create and run a series of visibility-raising programs to launch new products or to sell more of something.

In other words, while ‘apply-and-pray’ is a possible method (except, hope is not a strategy), there are other more-proactive (and interesting) routes to take.

Here are three:

  1. Create your professional brand 

Which problems do you most often get asked to solve? What kind of work do you love doing (and get paid for, of course)? Where are you happiest and most effective? What are you known for? How do you want to be known?

Are your resume and LinkedIn profile aligned and accurate? Do they clearly showcase your talents & accomplishments?

Once you’ve got your professional brand nailed (and you don’t need to do this with me), TAKING ACTION is important.

Because otherwise, you’re just putting yourself on a shelf and WAITING.

  1. Decide how you’ll market / promote yourself. 

You can do this in lots of ways:

  • Work with a trusted agency recruiter who’ll leverage their relationships (and credibility) to connect you with the decision-maker (but beware: the fees charged by agencies can be a barrier);
  • Find and nurture connections who have relationships with decision-makers inside the company(ies) you’re looking to join;
  • Develop a relationship with the company’s talent acquisition recruiter who can connect you with the decision-maker (best to do this far ahead of need);
  • Get out there in the world and meet new people;
  • Ask how you can help others (really!);
  • Offer your expertise and opinions (by mentoring, publishing LinkedIn articles or blogging, volunteering, attending industry events and workshops);
  • Change your LinkedIn status to ‘open to opportunities’ (passive, but helpful);
  • Participate regularly in ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ relevant LinkedIn posts (especially those posted by people you’re trying to get to know)
  1. Settle in…this is a campaign

Campaigns are not flash-in-the-pan, do-it-for-a-coupla-weeks strategies. Companies, PACs, the military, and political candidates devote significant chunks of time to them.

This requires consistency, courage, and curiosity. But being visible is a worthwhile practice even when you’re not actively job seeking.

Instead of networking in a burst to find a new job, think of networking as part of your career responsibilities.

Decide to participate in the larger community and make new contacts AT ALL LEVELS regularly. Connect with them in a meaningful way, and of course, nurture your LinkedIn network.

I’ve worked with some job seekers who relish marketing themselves & networking, and others who dread it. Guess which ones land sooner? Guess which ones feel more confident in their futures?

I’ve been taking an informal poll, asking every single (former) job seeker how they found their new role.

And do you know what? 99% said they got connected through someone they knew.

 

Need a jump-start on your professional brand? Let’s chat! Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15 minute no-strings intro call.

To Cover (Letter) or Not?

The real scoop on using cover letters today
quiz: use a Cover letter (pick one):

a) always;
b) never (they’re old-fashioned);
c) to hammer home why you’re a perfect fit for the job;
d) a and c;
e) b

I know, right?

Back when resumes were snail-mailed, a cover letter was an integral part of the application process, a genteel ‘nice to meet you.’ Today’s online applications have kicked cover letters to the job-hunting curb. Mostly.

So when DO you use a cover letter? What should it say? And to whom should it be addressed?

correct Answer:
use a cover letter when it’s not immediately apparent why you’re the right person for this job.

For example:

  1. Location (you live out of commute range): use a cover letter to briefly address:
    • What brings you to our fair state? (ie. to be near family, partner got a job or grad school placement here).
      We recruiters are leery of relocating someone JUST for a job, especially when Minnesota has things like…winter;
    • Timing (will you find a job FIRST, then move? How soon do you expect to be local?);
    • Will you be visiting the new metro (ie. be able to interview) before your move?
    • Are you looking for a relocation package (we’ll ask anyhow)?
  2. Job pivot : When you’re applying for a job that’s different than the ones you’ve held, help us connect the dots. Use a cover letter to address the reason why your skills/experience are a fit (tweak your resume, too).
  1. Stepping down:  From CIO to director, manager to sole contributor. Again, help us understand. Keep it short, acknowledging that you’re applying to a less-weighty role. Focusing on the value (experience) you can add while dialing your work responsibilities back, ie. “I’m ready to move from a leading role to a supporting role.”

That’s the ‘when’;
Some tips on what to say

 

  • Select 1-2 key requirements from the job description (don’t just match years of experience ~ find something juicier: talk about similar industry, company size, growth trajectory or how you’ve successfully tackled issues your target company may be facing);
  • Craft a couple of sentences about your experience as it relates to those requirements (ie. “with experience creating scalable processes within a rapidly-growing company, my background should be a good fit.”
  • Invite: “I’d welcome the opportunity for a conversation / interview / discussion. I’ve heard great things about <company / company’s transformation / other buzz>.”

And to whom

  • Do a quick LinkedIn search on the company you’re applying to. Can you figure out who the hiring manager is? If so, address it to that person and say something like, “Based on my research, it seems likely that this position reports to you.”
  • If you can’t figure out who the hiring manager is, see if the job is posted on LinkedIn. If it is, who’s the recruiter listed as ‘point of contact’? Use that name. If there isn’t a recruiter named, address your cover letter to ‘Talent Acquisition’ or ‘<company name> Recruiter’ or ‘Hiring Team’.

put it all together: A template
(you’re welcome)

<Date>

<first last>
<title, department>
<company name>
<city state>

RE: <position title + job / requisition number from the company’s Careers page, if you have it>

Hi, <first name>,

I hope your week’s off to a great start. I’m very interested in being considered for the role of <insert job title> at <insert company name>. With my <insert relevant skill #1>, <insert relevant skill or industry experience> + <insert soft skill>, my background should be a good fit.

I look forward to hearing from you or someone on your team!

Warm regards,
<your first and last name>
c 123.456.7890
<your email address>

Want your cover letter to be read?

Keep it short, relevant and curious/confident (not ‘pick me! pick me!’).

There are no guarantees that your cover letter WILL get read, but when you’ve kept it tidy and trim, it’s much more likely.


I’m a word-nerd + recruiter who loves to help mid-career job seekers refine (or define) their professional brand.

Need some help? Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute chat.

Ask a Better Question

When it’s time to change workplaces, the question most people ask is, “Where do I find my new job?”

We gravitate to Careers pages on company websites, search LinkedIn, or head to the job boards. It’s pretty easy to search for a title, spend a few minutes applying  / connecting / asking. The hard part is the waiting for a response. Lordy, the waiting is the hardest part.

But what if we changed the question? Instead of “where do I find my new job?” what if we asked, “Where do I find my new leader?”

I think looking for a new leader is a much more interesting proposition.

In the traditional sense of looking for a job, we match skills and requirements. The leader is kind of an afterthought.

When the new leader is a focal point of a job search, the skills and requirements are still there, but the whole question is elevated: who do I know that I’d love to work for? Who have I worked for in the past that I’d really like to partner with again? Who in my current circle of acquaintances knows someone? Who’s a thought leader? Which companies foster a culture of engagement and innovation?

Looking for a new leader could also mean finding a different leader within your current company. If you’re generally happy with your workplace but need a change, could you network internally onto a new team?

Or how about this: who’s solving interesting problems?

The only way you’re going to find out for sure is to start asking around. Sleuthing, making connections, following the thread.

Recruiters do this all the time ~ we find out where the fire is: who’s changing technologies | growing | shedding | transforming? That’s where the interesting work is.

Find that, and then figure out how to get their attention. Know your value proposition. Come with an idea of how the application of your unique skills and experience can contribute.

The most-satisfied seekers are doing more than just looking for their next job. They’re finding great leaders and interesting problems they can help solve.

 

I help people who are 10+ years into their careers better-tell their professional story. Struggling with yours? Here’s a link to my calendar. Let’s see if we’re a fit.

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.

 

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.

The Elephant in the Room

what’s “old”? some insights (and tips) on DEFLECTING age bias

A vital, intelligent middle-aged woman with much to offer recently told me: “A friend who works in HR said I should plan on this being my last job.”

Ouch. 

I’ve also heard this: “I’d like to look for a new job, but I’m worried about companies passing me up because of my age.  So I guess I’d better just stay put.”  Or, “I’m pushing 50; I need to be careful.”

There’s real fear coming from the 50+ crowd. It’s understandable, given past trends of jobs being outsourced or companies getting rid of tenured workers in favor of younger (read: less-expensive) ones.

So we pull back, not wanting to talk about that elephant in the room, age. Notably, OUR age. We start believing that we need to settle, gratefully accept what we have, sit on the sidelines, be passed up or passed by, lucky just to have a job. Never mind stepping out and looking for a new one ~ with all our experience, we still might not get hired.

is this true?
Not so much: SOME (GOOD) news

 

According to this article from CNBC, the unemployment rate for 55+ workers is lower than the general unemployment rate by almost a full 1%.

And studies are showing that mental and emotional abilities peak at different times. It’s not like we thought, a burst of brilliance at age 30 followed by the inevitable slow decline. There are plenty of role models for hitting one’s stride later in life: people who changed careers or built businesses and made it big later, celebrities who got a slow start, people who didn’t follow a traditional path (if there still IS one).

The rules have been kicked to the curb.  People are marrying + having kids later, living longer, waiting to retire (if they do at all) and reinventing themselves along the way. PLUS there’s a shortage of workers. A pretty rosy picture, all in all.

Still, if you’re “of a certain age”, it pays to be a bit crafty. Be bold, be unapologetic, but be mindful of the possibility of age bias.

In other words, don’t give them any ammo.
How?
  1. Your resume: avoid phrases that lead with decades of experience (“25+ years”) or long-in-the-tooth descriptors. Instead of “vast”, for example, use “deep” or “extensive” or “rich”.  Also, don’t go back for decades with your work history. Especially in tech, the last 10 years or so is plenty. Add a “Prior Roles Include” section if you want to capture relevant earlier titles.
  2. Address the “older workers are more expensive” conversation (at the appropriate time): seasoned workers may be more expensive, but I’ve also heard it eloquently said, “I’m at a point in my life where money is less important: I’m an empty-nester, my kids are out of college, I have flexibility to choose the work I want to do.” This one can be a little tricky, though. Don’t lead with “I’m inexpensive” — you want to be fairly paid for your expertise.
  3. Keep learning + adding new skills: find out what the hot ones are, then pick one up that’s relevant. Not just because I told you to. Be interested in it and have some kind of practical application for it. Udemy has skazillions of courses, cheap. There’s also YouTube (free) and all kinds of interesting problems to be solved in the world.
  4. Mingle with all generations: add younger folks to your network ~ your peers may be retiring. How to find Gen Y’ers / Millennials? Go where they are: mentor, teach what you know, volunteer (find a hackathon or a social engineering opportunity). Bring Genesys Works into your company, get invited to your local high school to give a career presentation, hire college interns. Meetup.com and Evite are full of ideas.
  5. Be mindful of your appearance: stay reasonably fit + at a healthy weight. Walk with a spring in your step (want to see how you look when you walk? have someone take a quick video). Hold yourself tall. Cultivate a personal style (that suits you) based on current trends. This includes shoes, glasses, hairstyle, makeup for gals, your pearly whites. Strike a balance, though. You’re not trying to look like a Millennial ~ you be the best version of you.
  6. Listen to yourself: are you talking like a curmudgeon? Steer clear of topics like illness, surgeries, aches and pains, too many stories about the grandkids or decades-old events, how things were “back then” or “we always did things that way”. Your brain is always listening and will faithfully recreate whatever you focus on. The best part: you can reverse it! Don’t do this for them, do it for you. Read this.
  7. Cultivate a youthful attitude: open-mindedness, focused in NOW, flexibility, curiosity, an appreciation of different perspectives and an interest in new ideas. “Old” is a mindset as much as it is a chronology.

I’ve heard that after age 50, we must choose whether we’ll engage with life or drift toward the sidelines. Even though stepping back might seem appealing, decide to stay interested and relevant, whatever that looks like for you. Put energy into learning, experimenting, and getting outside of your comfort zone regularly. Not just professionally, do this in your life.

Chuck Squires, a 35+ year veteran of Robert Half International, role models this beautifully. He’s retired, but stays connected through mentoring, networking, giving back to the business community. On vacations, he’s off hiking in the Andes or volunteering somewhere. His zest for living is infectious and inspiring.

“There is a fountain of youth: It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

— Sophia Loren

At any age, your network is your best professional asset (keep in mind, your network is the people who will help you, not your number of LinkedIn connections). Cultivate it with consistency, and be sure you’re helping others along the way.

A LinkedIn article popped up in my feed recently ~ the topic: could older creatives compete with younger talent? The headline photo: a middle-aged guy with a full gray beard. He was sitting on the ground, MacBook Air atop his thighs.  Dressed sharp, wearing Clubmaster shades, muscles faintly visible under his rolled-up sleeves, sockless-in-oxfords-with-tanned-ankles. My god, he looked HOT. Experience and perspective + curiosity and energy are irresistibly intriguing.

You have much to offer: your unique perspective, your experience, your skills, your sensibilities. Stay in the game. We need you here.

I help mid-careerists tune up their professional brand.
Embarking on a job search? Gunning for a promotion? Launching a speaking sideline?
I use my recruiting and writing experience to help you get clear.
Want to connect?
Here’s a link to my calendar for a 15-minute no-strings-attached call. 

 

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