Monday, November 8, 2010

Time For Your Annual Career Tune-Up - 2010--->2011

I have been publishing the Annual Career Tune-Up since the company was formed in 2002. The tune-up gives a quick reflection of the current year and a forecast of what may be in store in the coming year. Included are also some recommendations that you may want to consider for 2011.

As we reach the end of 2010 and look forward to 2011, there are indications that brighter economic times may be ahead. The chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics below illustrates the cause for some of my conservative optimism:

Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National)

While we are far from a rosy job and employment market, we are seeing increased demand for consultants and full-time employees. Here are some quick stats:

* Year to date, the revenue at KnowledgeStaff have increased by over 60%

* Sales within the healthcare sector accounted for close to 61% of the total revenue; financial services accounted for 27%

* Consultant pay rates have
begun to creep upward

When the employment marketplace is uncertain but showing some signs of recovery, several things occur:

* Supply and demand forces cause salaries and consulting rates which have been depressed begin to show signs of improvement. My sense is that this will be a slow gradual improvement.

* Staffing cycle times slow; with more candidates in the marketplace, corporations are more likely to hold out for the “perfect’ candidate.

* Corporations will begin to ramp up their hiring. Traditionally we see an uptick in consulting requirements before full-time hiring although this recovery may be different as most companies needed to cut deeper within their full-time ranks.

Establish your Learning Budget
Resolve each year to acquire some new skill, tool, technology, or subject matter expertise that contributes to your ongoing career development. My recommendations for this year include:

* If you are a learning and development professional and you do not have some exposure to e-learning authoring tools, you are at a distinct competitive disadvantage. The tools that we see demanded most, in order of importance, are Adobe's Captivate, the suite of tools from Articulate, and Trivantis's Lectora ProSuite. Most if not all of these vendors offer free trial versions of their software.

* Begin to research DITA. The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) is an XML-based architecture for authoring, producing, and delivering information. This standard has been in use within the technical publications world and we are seeing it discussed with the L&D community more and more.

* Attend and/or participate in industry conferences.

* Research the impact of social media within the L&D space. If your organization is not discussing social media, they will be.

* Read Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd's book, The 2020 Workplace, published by HarperCollins. This book presents a forecast for the future that I believe is spot-on and is a must read.

* Consider enrolling in a certificate program to enhance your current skill set.

In some cases your employer will absorb these expenses but if not, an appropriate annual investment in your professional development would be $1,500 - $2,500 per year. You're worth it.

Take Time to Reflect
Many of us, so consumed with work and extracurricular activities, drift through our careers without being mindful of its direction. The answers to these questions will help in determining whether the time may be right to investigate new career opportunities:

* Is your current position consistent with your short and long-term career goals and objectives?

* What are the new trends in the learning marketplace and is your current position consistent with these trends?

* Is your career moving forward with acceptable velocity?

* What new roles and responsibilities do you need to assume to move your career forward?

* What conversations and actions are required to get your career back on track?

* How vulnerable are you to a future downturn in the marketplace?

If you have any questions or would like a "no-obligation" appraisal of your current situation, please contact us at 866-742-2410.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Interview Questions: What Should You Be Asking?

So have done your due diligence prior to the interview and reviewed the company’s web site, googled the names of all of the people that you may be meeting, and reviewed the job specification again. You have also set aside the business interview suit, organized your portfolio to highlight the experience that is reflected on the job specification and committed yourself to getting a good night’s sleep and setting out early enough to account for traffic, public transportation breakdowns and the like.

Great job! But if I were to ask you what the goal was for tomorrow’s interview would you have an answer? Sure, the goal is always to try and have the interview result in an offer however will you learn enough during the course of the interview to know whether it is a job that is consistent with your career aspirations and goals?

When I speak with people that are seeking to embark on a new job search, they often mention negative aspects of their current position that they were not aware of when they accepted the job, aspects of the position that were misrepresented, or questions that they neglected to ask during the interview stage. I offer that you need to be asking questions during the interview related to three critical areas:

1. Roles and responsibilities: Sure you have a copy of the job description however how accurate is the job description? What will be the focus of the position during the first 30 days? The first 90 days? How are roles and responsibilities delineated within the department? How might the focus of your day shift over time? For instance, will you be working to maintain existing learning programs during the first six months and then begin to focus on new development initiatives? Can you see samples of the team’s work?

2. Management and Career Development: The quality and competence of your manager contributes more to your job satisfaction than any other factor. It is very important for you to try and learn as much as you can about how you will be managed and how you will be assessed. Questions could include:

  • If I were to ask members of your staff how would they describe your management style?
  • How do you communicate with members of your staff and what kind of reporting do you require?
  • How often will we meet to discuss my progress?
  • Do you develop annual performance plans with your staff that discusses job and professional development goals?
  • If bonuses are a component of the compensation plan, what criteria is used in determining the bonus award?

The key here is to try and learn as much about the manager’s style and skill as possible. Be sure to validate the answers you hear with your potential peers. There is a world of difference between a skilled and secure professional manager and a poor manager that resorts to micro-management and indecision.

3. Work environment: I strongly advise using your power of observation in assessing the company’s work environment. What words would you use to describe the feeling that you had when you entered the reception area (i.e., warm, collegial, cold, hectic, loud)? How were you made to feel by the receptionist and all of the people that you interacted with?

Try and gauge what a typical work week is like in terms of work load and overtime. Are there specific times when the overtime kicks in? Is overtime the norm? Also, what is the company’s policy regarding working off-site? You goal is to determine whether the work environment will support you in doing your best work.

Take these tips and questions to heart and the likelihood of being unpleasantly surprised will decrease significantly.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

So You Want to Be a Top-Tier Consultant? The Four Key Attributes

Having spent over 25 years of my professional career working with consultants and representing consulting services to a Fortune 500 clientele, I have come to recognize and truly appreciate top-tier consultants.

Below are four key attributes that I have been able to identify that are consistent with these top-tier consultants. Top-tier consultants possess all of the key attributes. So how do you stack up?

  1. Masters of their craft: The top tier consultants are masters of their craft and are firmly rooted in the philosophies and methodologies that govern their industry. Within the learning space this would include formal grounding in adult learning theory, instructional design, organization development/effectiveness, and performance improvement. They are dedicated students of their craft with a commitment to remain ahead of the bleeding edge. They typically are active in professional societies and associations, attend and present at industry conferences or write for industry publications. They have built a social and professional network where they are recognized for their knowledge and the quality of their deliverables.
  2. They are true business partners: Top tier consultants have rock solid business and performance consulting skills. They are able to understand and uncover business goals, breakdowns, challenges, and objectives. All solutions are designed to support the client in meeting their underlying business challenges. They are viewed by clients as a business partner, not as an outside resource. Their opinions are valued and respected and in most cases their engagements lead to other engagements. They are resale machines.
  3. They are extraordinary communicators: These consultants have an uncanny ability to communicate with people at all levels of the organization. In times of conflict and stress they are able to work with clients to resolve any issues that pose a threat to the success of the engagement. They are keenly focused on the ultimate objective of the engagement which can often get blurred when times get tough. They have the extraordinary ability to blend with clients to resolve disagreements. These consultants speak honestly and directly and their commitment to excellence is never questioned.
  4. They are hard-wired to serve clients: Everyone knows the importance of satisfying clients but I have found that the top-tier consultants are almost genetically inclined to serve and satisfy clients. When you speak with them about the jobs that they held when they were beginning their careers, serving customers is a consistent theme. Serving clients is not a concept but a mantra. Top tier consultants recognize that while their assessments are valid, the assessments of their clients are most important. They are finely tuned to the satisfaction of their clients and are sure to consistently check in on their satisfaction. Difficult conversations are had the moment they arise, communication is proactive and engagements end positively.

Top-tier consultants are in high demand by clients and greatly minimize risks associated with a consulting engagement. For organizations like KnowledgeStaff that provide consulting services, top-tier consultants offer us a sense of comfort and peace of mind. We just know that the job is going to get done.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

So You've Been Out Of Work For How Long?

For the past 6 months, I have been supporting a family member in his search to locate a new job. He has been seeking employment for close to a year. The mental, emotional, financial, and physical toll of his search for employment has been deep. Sadly, he is not alone. There are numerous stories of people within the KnowledgeStaff network that have been on the hunt for a new job for as long and longer. None of these people I mention are dead wood, poorly skilled or problem employees. They are all struggling job seekers, members of a fraternity that none chose to join.

But there are promising signs out there. Slowly, I am hearing stories of people landing new jobs or assignments. At KnowledgeStaff our activity with full-time placements has picked up noticeably. Predictions of a slow economic recovery seem to be on target.

A question that I get asked frequently is “How do I explain being out of work for so long?” with the follow-up question “How do I let this potential employer know that I am not damaged goods?’ These are not easy questions but the best answers to these questions may come from dissecting the concerns of the potential employers that are behind these questions.

It is important to remember that employers are readily aware of the job market and economy. In many cases they too have experienced downsizings. Unlike other market downturns they are clear that many very qualified people lost their jobs and that layoffs went much deeper than just eliminating the poor performers or dead wood.

The most frequent concerns that I hear from employers when considering candidates that have been out of work for a while are:

  • Why so long? They basically want to know the story behind the story. What were the circumstances that caused you to be out of work and why have you not secured a position to date? What they are listening for is sincerity and to be sure that there is no remaining bitterness. They want to hear that you are in a mood of resolve and excitement about beginning a new position and making a contribution to that organizations' success. A small dose of humility can also go a long way.

  • How have you been spending your time? Has the job search been a full-out endeavor? Have you been volunteering your time or done any consulting work? Candidates that appear to have been sitting on the sidelines or putting out anything less than a full-out effort may raise concerns about work ethic and commitment.

  • Have you made any investments (time or money) to improve your skill set and marketability? If the answer is no, there is still time. Take an online course, read some books or download a free trial version of a software tool that will enhance your marketability.

  • How much? We are all aware that there is a new reality when it comes to compensation. The law of supply and demand is just not in the favor of job seekers. Candidates that show a willingness to consider positions at a significantly lower level that what they are accustomed raises serious retention concerns for the employer. The best answer that I have heard presented by a candidate was to offer to commit to remain with the new employer for a period of time (12-24 months seems reasonable). Please note that the employer may not raise their concerns about retention - just know that it is most probably there and any answers that you can provide during the interview to stress your commitment and the fact that you are not a job-hopper can only help.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Human Capital Management: Opportunity or Threat?

Senior level Learning and Development professionals interested in ongoing career development are often faced with the question, "What's Next?" Within the corporate sector, the primary goal is to attain the role that sets the overall strategy and direction for learning within an organization. In the best of all worlds, the position is afforded C-level status in the form of a Chief Learning Officer role.

Over the past several years, Human Capital Management (HCM) and Talent Management have garnered significant press and corporate investment. This hire to retire approach incorporates:
  • Organization design which involves the strategic alignment, competency development of people and associated HR strategies
  • Workforce planning and deployment encompassing skills inventories, career pathing, and succession planning
  • Recruitment and selection
  • Professional development covering both hard and soft skills learning and development
  • Knowledge management for harnessing and leveraging the intellectual capital of an organization
  • Performance management and measurement

HCM seems to represent an opportunity for Learning and Development professionals to move beyond the traditional boundaries and responsibilities. HCM may serve as a new answer to the "What's Next? question. At the same time HCM should be provoking some real questions:

  • Do I have the qualification for this role?
  • How do I acquire the skills to grow into this role?
  • Am I best qualified?
  • Will HCM limit my sphere of influence within the organization?

I think that the jury is still out with many unanswered questions. Will the person that leads HCM come from the Human Resources world? Will someone with an Organization Development or Organization Effectiveness orientation be tapped to lead this type of initiative? How can a traditional Learning and Development professional gain the skills to move in this direction?

I invite your thoughts, comments, and suggestions...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Your Resume and the 10 Second Rule

During my career I have read hundreds and probably thousands of resumes. I have come to realize that I tend to make my initial assessments on a person and their experience in about 5 seconds but never more than 10 seconds. Normally when I am reviewing a resume there is a job requirement that I am looking to fill. So my initial scan is to see how many of those specific skills are reflected in the resume. This is even more the case when I am reviewing the resumes of candidates that have responded to a particular job posting.

I am not alone in this thinking. In speaking with colleagues, other recruiters and some hiring managers, many agree that their initial assessments are made very quickly. Depending on how busy I am at a given moment will determine just how deeply I get into a resume. For people that still rely on a cover letter to answer the question “Why should I invite you in for an interview?” I have bad news. I rarely read cover letters – in fact I don’t remember the last one that I did read.

I am not claiming that all HR reps, recruiters and hiring managers deal with resumes the same way that I do but I do believe that there are a large percentage that do. So your resume needs to produce an assessment within the first 10 seconds that it is worthy of further review.

The simplest way to accomplish this is to customize a Summary section at the beginning of the resume. The Summary section should list 4 or 5 bullet items that convey your value proposition for the position that you are applying for and basically state your case for why you should be called in for an interview. In writing your Summary section (and the rest of your resume) be sure to use words and phrases as they are used in the job description. Your description for each job that you have held should support these 4 or 5 bullet items. Remember, that while employers may care about other skills and experience, you can be sure that they DO care about the experience and skills indicated on the job description.

Give this suggestion a try. I would be surprised if you do not see an increase in the number of interviews you are able to generate.