Saturday, October 18, 2008

Job Search 911

Ladies and gentleman…hang on because this ride may be a little rough. We are in the midst of some tough economic times and the employment market has tightened considerably. Here is a quick brain dump of to-dos that you should consider if you are currently seeking a new opportunity.

  1. Customize every resume that you submit for posted job opportunities. Yes it will take some additional time, however in many cases your resume is winding up in a resume database. The resume must use the same words that are found in the job description and stress all of your relevant experience for that particular position. If you adopt this strategy, your chances of being called in for an interview increase substantially.
  2. Consider developing a version of your resume that de-emphasizes your industry experience but instead focuses on your core competencies and mastery. In today’s marketplace any candidate with a strong concentration of experience in financial services may be at a disadvantage. While it still makes sense to seek out opportunities in the financial services industry, prepare a copy of your resume that will appeal to opportunities in other industries.
  3. Speak about the solutions that you have developed in general terms – “Worked closely with business stakeholders to analyze, design, and develop business process training that incorporated best practices and enabling applications.” – as compared to – “Created Fixed Assets self-instructional modules to teach commercial bankers to identify client's financial vulnerabilities and market appropriate solutions.”
  4. Activate your “network of help.” This network of help will include former colleagues, managers, internal and external clients, friends, family, and the like. This is not the time to be shy. Let people know that you are seeking a new opportunity and check to see if they can help. Please do not forget that anyone that does help deserves to be re-paid in some manner.
  5. Develop a Hit List of companies to target. This list should include companies that:
    · are competitors to your previous employers
    · have products and services that you are familiar with
    · have been reporting positive financial results
    · have been awarded significant contracts and grants
    · are major employers in your geographic region
    · you admire and would be interested in working for
  6. Review the career pages from the web sites of the companies on your Hit List.
  7. Review the career pages from the professional society web sites. Be sure to check the national and local chapter web sites. These societies include:
    · American Society for Training & Development:
    · International Society for Performance Improvement:
    · Society for Human Resource Management:
    · Organization Development Network:
    · Society for Technical Communication:
    · Good Manufacturing Practices - Training and Education Association:
    · American Medical Writers Association:
    · IEEE Professional Communication Society:
    · Society of Insurance Trainers and Educators:
  8. Find someone that can help you manage and maintain a positive mood. This person can be a friend, business advisor, employment agency rep, or family member. The key here is to try and maintain a positive outlook during your job search. The cold hard truth is that your search may be difficult and make take longer than you desire. Maintaining a positive outlook will be critical in locating a new position. In my experience, job seekers that fall into moods of resignation, despair, and defeat find it exceedingly difficult to find new employment. During your job search obstacles will appear. Some resumes you send will result in an interview but more will not. Some companies will reply to your submission but most will not. The most effective person for this role will be able to recognize when your mood is slipping and will be able to offer coaching, support, and guidance. There are more methods that you can use to locate new opportunities than I can list. The key to maintaining a positive mood is to remain firmly grounded in the quality and caliber of the skills and experience that you can offer to a new employer AND to continually explore new avenues and methods that can help lead to your next opportunity. If you do not do this, someone else will.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

DELL Computer: Customer (Dis)Satisfaction

OK – time for my first blog rant. Dell Computer has used up all of the good well that they had built over the past 10 years. I have been a faithful customer for my personal and business computer purchases however NEVER AGAIN!

Having dealt with numerous customer service and repair issues over the past 9 months, several themes are consistent in my dealings with Dell:

  1. You NEVER get the person that you need to speak with on the phone the first time. On average it takes three phone transfers to get to someone that can actually help. It seems to be a game of attrition with Dell where they hope that a certain percentage of people just cry “UNCLE” and hang up.

  2. Much is promised but little is documented…on two separate occasions I was promised refunds and credits for the trouble that I was experiencing. I took down the name of the person that I was speaking with however they were impossible to locate later on. Emails that were promised to be forwarded documenting the phone calls never arrived.

  3. It is all outsourced…and in the great majority of cases the communication skills of these off-shore workers is poor at best. The corporate executives at Dell must know this but are clearly committed to something other than satisfying their customers (HINT: $$$).

  4. Dell’s out-sourced customer service reps all possess names that cannot be understood. I have come to appreciate the off-shore customer service reps that answer the phone, “Thank you for calling Dell. My name is undecipherable but you can call me Thomas.”

  5. I defy you to try and get the name of someone based in the US to help in the Customer Service department. The off-shore staff will not provide this info and after a half-hour trying to find the name of someone to call I gave up (see attrition comment above).

  6. A percentage of Dell’s profits are expected to come from dissatisfied customers that get lazy, sloppy or just plain tired. I was overcharged on two occasions for service repairs and it took considerable effort to track down the people that needed to correct the problem. (Additional information on Item 1 above: It takes 5 phone transfers to get a refund at Dell).

As an aside…I am very happy with the HP desktop that I recently purchased and the service that I have received from their Customer Service department. A good portion of their operations appear to be off-shored as well but they just seem much nicer and committed to helping.

I invite you to join my one-man crusade to bring down the Dell Empire…

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

When the Internet Job Sites Just Aren’t Working…

…you need to get creative and take alternative actions. Here are five tried and true steps that you can take that may help you uncover the harder-to-find job opportunities.

1. – Unlike Monster, Hotjobs, and Careerbuilder, spiders corporate career pages and pulls job openings. A search on will uncover positions that exist on corporate sites but not necessarily on the more popular job sites.

2. Professional society job pages – Almost every major professional society will have a Career or Jobs section on their web sites. While most job seekers will check the main society sites, many will not check the local chapter web sites. In many instances these local chapters will have job postings not found on the society’s main web site. Be sure to check out:,,,

3. Attend professional society meetings. At most meetings members are given an opportunity to make announcements and you can often hear about job opportunities that aren’t otherwise published or promoted.

4. Leverage your professional society investment. Most professional societies will provide an online directory of members. In some cases, these members can represent a pipeline to consulting and permanent job opportunities.

5. Scour corporate career pages. Here are the steps that I would take to maximize my time investment.

** Develop a list of the corporations that are the major employers in your area

** Develop a list of the corporations in your area that are the major employers within the industries that you have worked (you are most marketable to these corporations)

** Develop a list of corporations in your area that appear to be doing well (increased stock price, positive press, awarding of contracts, etc.)

** Visit the career pages of the corporations on your list to see what jobs they may have posted.

** Submit your resume or better yet attempt to speak with a hiring manager within the corporation (HINT: don’t forget about those membership directories).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Time for Reflection

I just returned from an incredibly relaxing family vacation in Mexico. Having the opportunity to kick-back, relax and just spend time with family was rewarding and rejuvenating. For years I was in a heads-down, white knuckle, business-first mode and admittedly lost sight of the importance of spending quality time with my family and allowing myself some much deserved R&R.

When I founded KnowledgeStaff one of the resolutions that I made was that I was going to structure the business in a way that gave me more balance between my personal and professional commitments. I am happy to say that thus far, I have been very successful in honoring that resolution and that as a result, my family relationships and mental well-being are better than they ever have been. It is just plain working.

With my back against a lounge chair, a frozen margarita in my hand and the beautiful ocean in front of me I remember having three distinct thoughts:

The first was the importance of spending this quality time with my family away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life…this time is precious and should be enjoyed whenever possible by everyone

The second was the realization that from time to time I just need some time for myself to leave all of the issues of business behind and allow myself some time to relax and recharge my body. As I near 50 years of age this is becoming more and more important (did I really say 50?)

And finally, a confirmation of the importance of working with true professionals that get the job done – no matter what. At no point during my trip did I have any concerns that everything at work was being taken care of. I cannot tell you how liberating this is and in fact, it was these very people that allowed me to have the great time that I did. The hiring of great people is so important to not just getting the job done but to also creating any sense of balance between your personal and professional commitments.

I challenge you to take an objective look at the people around you to see if they allow you to have the type of freedom and peace of mind that I had on my recent vacation.

If they do, CONGRATULATIONS on doing a great job of identifying great employees and be sure to keep them happy.

If they do not, what actions are necessary to right the ship?

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A resume reader’s confession…some truths about resumes from my perspective

I am busy and probably have ten other things on my plate in addition to reviewing resumes and screening candidates. You have no more than 10 seconds (and in many cases less) to grab my attention. That’s it. So how are you going to grab my attention?

Most resumes today are housed in large resume databases. Most searches of those databases are done by HR generalists and recruiters that while skilled in the art of staffing, are not fully versed in all of the positions that they recruit for. How can they be? That is the dilemma that you face. Your solution is…?

I am busy. At this moment, I only care about what I am looking for. You either have the skills and experience I need or you don’t. As I am reviewing your resume very little else matters to me. Can you help me fill my need?

Sorry, but your marital status, age, weight, high school attended and love of butterflies really doesn’t interest me. In fact, it has me wonder why you would think I cared in the first place.

The look and feel of your resume does matter. With all of the books, articles and general information about writing resumes available, if your resume isn’t well formatted and visually pleasing, consider the red flag

Typos = Careless = Poor Quality = NO THANK YOU.

I rarely read cover letters. I will read the email message that accompanies a resume. If your resume doesn’t pique my interest in the allotted 10 seconds I will NEVER read your cover letter. Couldn’t you address whatever you want to say in the cover letter in the resume itself?

Unless you are in academia the only purpose of your resume is to generate an interview. If your resume is not generating interviews it is not well constructed or you are not targeting the right jobs. Don’t use what doesn’t work.

I would be happy to offer some simple and pragmatic solutions to all of the scenarios and questions posed above. Just ask…

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Reading the Economy

Having now been in the learning and performance improvement business for 25 years I am now experiencing the third major market downturn. Interestingly, each market downturn has followed a similar business cycle:

Full Steam Ahead: All is well with corporations and the economy. Corporate profits abound with ample budgets for investment and expansion and personal income increases. In almost every instance during this phase of the market cycle, the demand for talent is greater than the available talent pool and corporations are fully staffed with full-time employees and outside consultants.

Trouble Brewing: Market uncertainty raises its ugly head as corporate profits begin to lag, rumblings of layoffs and downsizings begin, and corporate budgets are re-evaluated and pared. Normally, outside consultants are the first to be impacted as assignments or projects are either ended or not extended. The number of full-time opportunities begins to decrease and the available pool of talent begins to increase.

Market Crisis: Business takes a marked downturn with consistent stories of significant corporate losses, layoffs, and cut-backs. The general mood in the economy is one of concern and worry as the prevailing economic indicators point to a recession or stagflation. Full-time staff levels are cut and organizations re-evaluate their organizational priorities. Full-time positions are few and far between with a large number of qualified candidates vying for the few positions available. Critical projects requiring additional resources are most likely to be filled with contractors or outsourced to third-party vendors. Salaries for these positions decrease in relation to supply and demand market forces.

Signs of Life: The prevailing conversation in the business world is one of a market rebound and improving business climate. While conditions in the economy are beginning to look better, most corporations are wary of adding to their permanent headcount. The number of full-time positions begins to increase slowly with most new initiatives being staffed with outside consultants or outsourced to third-party vendors.

I find a large percentage of professionals that we encounter are not mindful of the climate in the marketplace until it is too late. Each of the phases listed above require different actions to ensure ongoing income and employment.

This mindfulness is also important for consultants and business owners. As a case in point, during the last significant market downturn, we placed a heavy marketing focus on the pharmaceutical and health care markets. These industries are historically less impacted by market recessions. It proved the correct strategy as our revenues remained steady at a time when most competitors suffered significant decreases in sales and several competitors left the marketplace entirely.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Iraq War: A Lesson in Poor Performance Management?

In watching General Petraeus’s recent testimony on Capital Hill I was struck once again by how varied the assessments were of the United States’ progress in the Iraq War. Partisan politics was again on display as most Democrats asserted the troop surge a failure while most Republicans viewed the surge as a success. Clearly different standards exist in terms of the conditions of satisfaction for assessing the surge as a failure or success. And so the debate rages on…

What I found most interesting is how the 18 Iraq Benchmarks were not a major topic in the discussion on our progress in Iraq. These 18 Benchmarks, as defined in the Iraq Supplemental Appropriations bill (H.R. 2206) and signed into law on May 25, 2007 indicated that the “…United States strategy in Iraq, hereafter, shall be conditioned on the Iraqi government meeting benchmarks, as told to members of Congress by the President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

It would stand to reason that any assessment on success or failure would have to be predicated on a review of the progress in meeting those 18 Benchmarks. But when was the last time you recall hearing about these benchmarks? How many of these benchmarks do you recall?

It would not be a bad idea for representative of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to visit Capitol Hill and the Defense Department. The
U.S. Office of Personnel Management definition of Performance Management includes:
  1. planning work and setting expectations,
  2. continually monitoring performance,
  3. developing the capacity to perform,
  4. periodically rating performance in a summary fashion, and
  5. rewarding good performance.
It is hard to imagine taking the time to establish these critical Benchmarks for performance and then not continually monitoring and rating the Iraqi government’s performance in fulfilling these benchmarks. Continuous monitoring and assessment are required to keep these types of standards for performance relevant. Without this consistency these performance measures fade into the woodwork and lose all relevance.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Differentiation: Pragmatic or Cold-Hearted Management?

I recently uploaded some books on CD onto my iPod. In listening to Jack Welch’s Winning, he discusses the concept of differentiation where he advocates that organizations segment their people, business lines and products into three groups and that each should be treated differently:
  • Top 20%: should be highly praised and showered with rewards for their fine accomplishments
  • Middle 70%: are incredibly valuable to the organization and should be trained, kept engaged and motivated. The focus should be on moving potential high performers into the Top 20%
  • Bottom 10%: should be removed from the organization
In essence, Jack Welch’s concept of differentiation promoted “cultivating the strong and culling the weak.”

The book reminded me the time I was invited to fly down to my client’s headquarters and give a presentation on KnowledgeStaff’s capabilities to their Learning Board. The board was comprised of the various learning leaders throughout their enterprise. The presentation was to be given during the lunch break of their Annual meeting however I was invited to sit in on the morning session.

After the introductions, the head of the Learning Board asked all members to write down the names of the bottom 15% of their organizations. These were individuals who had been involved in professional development conversations throughout the year but had just not risen above the 15% threshold. The names were compiled and it was clear that these employees would soon be seeking new employment.

I was struck by the businesslike tone of the meeting to this point which bordered on ruthlessness.

Each member of the Board was then asked to write down the names of the top 10% of their organizations. The names were gathered and the Board then reviewed all of the current openings throughout the enterprise to see if any of these individuals merited a promotion to one of these positions. In several cases names were matched with the open positions and conversations were scheduled with the employee.

The head of the Learning Board then asked each member to write down the name of any member of their organizations that the company could not afford to lose. Several names were listed and within a matter of about 30 minutes, four new positions were created.

Finally, a discussion began on the succession planning of members of the Board. The discussion included a conversation on the career advancement of several members and who within the organization could possibly fill their shoes. That portion of the meeting concluded and I began my song and dance during lunch which thankfully went very well.

On my flight home I played back the meeting over and over. It was very clear to me that this organization was not ruthless but instead firmly committed to excellence.

I highly recommend Winning. Jack Welch does a very good job of introducing the importance of implementing a solid performance management program where goals and expectation are clearly defined and where ongoing conversations are had to continually evaluate individual and organizational performance.

What do you think? Is differentiation pragmatic or cold-hearted management?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

If the RECESSION hits…

Over the past 5 years much has been written about the movement to try and quantify the value that Learning and Development provides to the organization. The ROI and Measurement movement has produced seminars, books, new methodologies, and new career opportunities.

As the evidence of recession continues to build some late adopters are scrambling to put some facts and figures in front of the decision makers that may, at this very moment, be reviewing organization charts to determine where the cuts, if necessary, will be made. These late adopters are probably too late.

The questions I pose are:

Will the efforts of the past several years to validate the value of Learning and Development pay off?
Will Learning and Development organizations, traditionally viewed as an expense line item, suddenly be viewed as profit producers?
Will the cutbacks that have occurred in rough economic time within Learning and Development be as severe or will senior management have a new regard?

These questions remain unanswered however it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.