ALC Consulting

October 16, 2009

A Radical Suggestion

Filed under: LIfe Balance,Passions,vision — Anne Cloward @ 8:03 am
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Several weeks ago, while teaching at the library, I made a radical suggestion to the job seekers. I am going to repeat it to my readers here now.

Remember when you were a little kid while watching TV on a sunny day and your mother would come in and turn off the set?

The conversation would go something like this:

“It’s a lovely day outside. Why are you sitting here watching TV?”

You would give all sorts of excuses, but the bottom line was that you were mesmerized watching the images dance across the screen.

Well, it’s many years later, and you are still sitting there watching the images on the screen. Now they are bigger, flashier and louder, but you are still sitting there passively. I am not going to debate the value of the programs you watch, but I am going to suggest that the activity of watching TV all day is harmful to your mental health. I even worked for one of the big three networks at one time, and learned that the industry was all about ratings and numbers of eyeballs that were watching. The more you watched, they more they could sell to you. Quality of programming was second to earning money for the network. They do not care about you as a person, only as a person who has a wallet with money in it.

Eleven years ago, I moved from one city to another and was only able to bring as many personal belongings with me as I could fit into a 8′ x12″ trailer (that’s all my car could safely carry). There was no room for a TV, and besides all of them in the house belonged to other people who lived with me. So I decided to see if I could live without it, and it was much easier than I thought it would be to give it up. When I moved from Minnesota to Oregon, I moved in with my son, who had also chosen to live without TV. Our household is really a lot more peaceful because of it.

What does that have to do with you and your job search? Right now all of the news coming across the ether is negative. Unemployment is up. This is a “jobless recovery,” foreclosures are up, and conditions are the worst they have been in years. It’s as though we are addicted to the next awful headline that comes down the pike and pretty soon we can be wallowing in it. We can throw ourselves and feel as though we can justify it, one big pity party. It won’t help you get a job, but you can enjoy your misery for a while and feel connected to everyone else who is out of work.

The challenge is to get out there in the sunshine and interact with the world, and not let all that negative energy engulf you. There is not much you can do about the national picture, or even the global one. Right now you are struggling to keep yourself going, to continue your job search in spite of all of the odds that you are told that are against your finding one.

So don’t listen to the news. You need to take a break and fill your environment with more pleasant thoughts. It is up to you to decide what you want to have occupy yourself instead. Whatever gets you going and keeps you finding joy is what I vote for. . For a while there will be an empty hole in you and you keep feeling something is missing. You start to wake up, and sometimes it takes getting used to.

How about trying to find creative ways to meet new people, market yourself, go out into the community and help others?

The national news is not about you, so don’t buy into the group think. Go out into the sunshine and discover the world. You just might find a whole new world to explore and enjoy.

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October 9, 2009

There Should Be No Question Here

Filed under: LIfe Balance — Anne Cloward @ 6:18 am
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Note:

There is no question here for me. If you ask me to help you with your résumé, this is the policy I will follow. This is taken from a newsletter I receive weekly. Marc’s thinking aligns with mine, and I feel his advice is sound.

Here’s the dilemma: you’re proofreading your friend’s resume and it becomes pretty clear to you that he is taking more than a little bit of liberty with the truth – saying he conceived the idea rather than just implemented it, calling it a promotion rather than a lateral move, and glossing over that 13-month stint at that crazy start-up back in the dot.com boom.

What do you tell him? Remembering that competition is stiff out there – you know it’s the “Great Recession,” after all – and that he needs to stand out from the crowd.

So what do you tell him?

Well, Readers, I hope you’ll remind him that honesty is the best policy.

That struck me as I was reading this Vanity Fair profile on Harvard-educated lawyer-and-criminal Marc Dreier:

Dreier says he can’t remember the moment he actually began considering fraud. But he acknowledges the decision was made easier by a long track record of what he calls “cutting corners.” As he acknowledges, “Yeah, I took advantage of expense accounts, statements on tax returns, that kind of thing. You know, I discovered once you cross a gray line it’s much easier to cross a black line.”

And once you cross the gray line, it becomes much harder to get on the right side of the truth. The little fib that you inserted into your resume winds up on the website in your biography, so your next employer asks you about it at the interview. Then the press repeats it when you are speaking at a conference. Before long, you’re stuck.

And once you’re stuck, you will be discovered. As we found in this interview with Accu-Screen, even the simplest resume fibs will really come back to bite you.

Honesty is just the right thing to do, you should tell your friend. Not only will you not have to cover your tracks, but you’ll sleep better at night.

So I hope that if you ever come across a friend who is bending the truth a little bit, you’ll send them this 10-page .pdf that we put together on the topic: “To Tell The Truth.”

And finally, folks, while I was researching this topic this week, I came across this page of quotes on honesty and thought I’d share these eight favorites with you:

No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar. ~Abraham Lincoln

A half truth is a whole lie. ~Yiddish Proverb

Those who think it is permissible to tell white lies soon grow color-blind. ~Austin O’Malley

The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold. ~Aristotle

Who lies for you will lie against you. ~Bosnian Proverb

The most dangerous untruths are truths moderately distorted. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

With lies you may get ahead in the world – but you can never go back. ~Russian proverb

Always tell the truth. If you can’t always tell the truth, don’t lie. ~Author Unknown

Credit is due to Marc Cenedella (marc@TechnologyLadder.com) who sent me this article. You might want to check out his website http://technology.theladders.com/?LK_ID=327

Click on Career Advice.

October 4, 2009

Enjoying Life

Filed under: LIfe Balance,Passions,Professionalism — Anne Cloward @ 11:49 pm
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My sons bought tickets several weeks ago to see an award winning flamenco guitarist named Jesse Cook. I had heard several of his albums before, but had never really listened to him. My mistake, for sure. I had no idea what an accomplished artist he is how enjoyable the evening would be.

Last night changed my mind. After struggling to find a parking spot (I declare that can be as difficult a task as it was in St Paul), and walking two blocks on bumpy sidewalks, we made it to the theater, which has seen better days. Inside, though, there was nothing but excitement. Ardent fans assured me I was in for a treat. As the band quickly entered, they picked up their instruments and began to play. Within 30 seconds, I knew something special was happening. Those in the know were already cheering. Jesse’s pictures all look like this, which is misleading, because most of the time he is performing, he is smiling and enjoying himself.

For the next two hours, they played to a most appreciative crowd. They were having fun, lots of it. We bought CDs, grateful they had them there for us. After the show was over, the band members started to pack up their gear, but they were stopped by ardent fans (including me and my son) who wanted to express appreciation and have them sign their CDs. Brief conversations followed, as they got ready to go on to their next stop. They are just regular guys with extraordinary talent doing what they do best, giving of their talents to an appreciative audience.

For more information on this remarkable artist, go to his website, http://www.jessecook.com/#/home/

What has this to do with a job search?

  • Jesse knew at a young age what he wanted to do with his life. He got training and learning his craft. He still does. This tour is in support of his 7th album, which has just been released.
  • He surrounds himself with equally as talented and passionate artists who go out on stage and give all they have to their customers.
  • What do you do with such passion in your life? How can you create that kind of joy for yourself and others in your work?

September 28, 2009

The Secret to Finding Jobs When “There Are No Jobs”

Filed under: connections,job search,Networking — Anne Cloward @ 6:18 am
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Condensed from an article by Richard N. Bolles, (author of What Color Is Your Parachute?) in Bottom Line Magazine, September, 20009.

Common Strategies That Do NOT Work

% Success

Strategy

Notes

7% Mailing out resumes /submitting or posting them online They get lost in the massive pile. Often are scanned by machine and never get viewed by human eyes.
7% Responding to ads in trade journals Only lower level positions are posted here.

Might work if you have an exotic skill set.

10% Responding to ads on Internet job sites These jobs are usually posted as a last resort or if you are in IT. Your information is often sold and you get a lot of spam.
5-24% Responding to jobs in newspapers Mostly low-paying minimum wage jobs are posted here.
5-28% Working with a private agency or search firm Many employers are cutting costs and not using them. Recruiters are struggling.

Best Strategies That Do Work

% Success

Strategy

Notes

33% Networking for leads Employers like personal recommendations. Build your network
47% Knocking on doors unannounced at employers of interest Works best on small to medium companies, NOT large corporations.
69% Calling on companies of interest listed in the Yellow Pages Works with small companies. Best to schedule and informational interview.
70% Partnering with other job seekers More eyes looking out for you, but you need to reciprocate.
86% Taking inventory of yourself, then targeting potential employers It can give you a focus and clarity that other seekers don’t have.

Upon reviewing this information, how will you modify your job search?

September 9, 2009

Best Practices II

After the First Day

Oops! This never got posted when it was supposed to. Anyway, here goes.

Life in the office takes on a general rhythm, most of the time, and the unfamiliar begins to feel more comfortable. I struggle during meetings my first week or two, to learn names, company acronyms, and programs. If nothing else, I can observe how the team interacts and how meetings are run.

There are some personal habits that I try to follow here. I have listed them here, not in any particular order.

Create and send a weekly status report to your boss, and to the account manager or recruiter, if they would like. It is a one-page document that lists what has been accomplished for the week, what the goals are for next week, and any problems or other information the a manager needs to know (vacations, changes in work schedule, etc.) Some project managers have requested them and then use them for reports to their bosses. It’s a tool that helps assure management that you are aware of priorities and are on the same page.

If the account manager for the contracting firm does not want to view it, that’s fine. But I offer to email it weekly. I use it for myself to track my progress.

Keep your own “to do” list and other job aids. I often am asked to create several different documents concurrently for a project, and I track where they are in the writing process. If there is a style guide for the company, I use it. If no style guide exists, I create one for my personal use. If there is no glossary of terms, I create one.

On some projects, peer editing is the norm and it’s good to know who is supposed to be reviewing what. When sending a document out for this kind of review, I will include guidelines, asking the reviewer to focus on content and let me worry about grammar and spelling.

Keep administrative documentation in order. Documents that I need to keep may be either in electronic format or hard copy, but I keep them for tracking purposes:

Employment agreements

Confidentiality or Non-disclosure agreements

Any correspondence from the contracting firm regarding details of my assignment

Time sheets (copies, if the boss needs the originals)

Status Reports

Company phone directories,

Meeting notes with assignments marked. (To go on to my “to do” list)

Have an end of day routine. Even if I am in the middle of something, I leave my cube in order. Papers are either filed or put into an inbox, and other materials are put into the trash. Now, the boss may have the most cluttered desk I have ever seen, but as a contractor, I don’t have that luxury. It also helps to keep track of things.

I check my calendar for the next day. There is nothing more distressing than coming into the office and finding I have in five minutes or five minutes ago that I had not been aware of. If possible, I print up any documents or agendas that I need for the meeting. Walking into a meeting late because I was doing some last minute printing is unprofessional. Printers are fussy creatures and can detect when you are in a hurry, and immediately run out of toner or jam on you.

During the day, use the calendar that usually comes with email. Many companies use an electronic calendar to schedule meeting and conference calls. I use it, and set up an alarm to be set at least 15 minutes in advance, (adjustable to the circumstances.) If it takes me 20 minutes to get to the conference room, I set the alarm accordingly.

Always create an agenda. If you call a meeting, and send it out to the participants, asking for feedback and attach any relevant documents. Many times team members appreciate having the documents in advance and actually read them. Agendas make meetings more productive and it seems that you are organized. A focused meeting makes the best use of peoples’ time. The most common complaint I hear is about non productive meetings that keep the “real” work from getting done.

Try to be a team player. One phrase that is really unprofessional is “that’s not in my job description.” Sometimes the task may not be a part of a normal job description and the request is outrageous, but other times, it’s better just roll up my sleeves and get the job done. More than once I have printed up documents for meetings or prepared boxes to ship. You do whatever you need to in order to meet a deadline or complete a project. An AA may work for several departments and is not available to be at anyone’s beck and call, and often that means a contractor does what needs to be done.

Often I will receive a request from a co-worker for help with a Word document, since they assume I know all about the program. Some IT types don’t know how to use the program well and get frustrated in trying to get the page to work right. If it is quick fix, and I am able to help, I will oblige. The same goes with Visio. I try to explain what I am doing, so they can repeat it on their own. This does not mean I am giving classes on using Word, it just means, I help a co-worker with a report using a tool they don’t know all that well..

Another thing contractors have to deal with is the corporate culture and the unwritten rules that govern them. In some companies, the rules for employees are different than for contractors. I been in companies where long time employees shoot the breeze for half an hour every morning, make long personal phone calls, take two hour lunches and think nothing of it. Such behavior in contractors is totally unacceptable, and a good contractor behaves accordingly. I only make personal phone calls (dentist and doctor appointments, for instance) during lunch, and keep them short. I do not give out my company phone number, but use my cell phone.

People who have worked together for a long time find themselves sharing some personal events, be they a new addition to the family, a wedding, or even a birthday. On some assignments, I have signed good wishes and sympathy cards, admired new babies, and even participated in a secret Santa exchange. When asked to participate in breakfast exchange or pot luck, I do more than bring a bag of chips. At other companies, the line has been drawn and contractors are not asked to participate. It takes time to learn what the rules are in a company regarding contractor participation, but if asked, I participate.

Charge the client for time spent doing productive work. If Dave in St Louis is on the phone for two hours working on a problem with me from 11 to 1, I do consider that time that is charged to the client. Time spent in cafeteria with co-workers for lunch is my time and off the clock. My goal is to be productive and make the best use of my time while I am there on the job. Late or early meetings or overtime spent meeting deadlines are part of my work ethic. My focus is on making sure the job gets done and the client is happy with the documentation that is produced.

One Major Issue

We contractors are busy often quite independent people, who may have more than one iron in the fire. But some contractors carry this too far, and in the process give all contractors a bad name

I worked with a fellow writer who took advantage of the fact that our boss was one floor away and was not a hands-on manager. His side business was an e-commerce website and at least half his day was spent filling orders and emailing customers’ he even used the client’s PC to conduct his business.

Another entrepreneurial soul with whom I worked had several programmers working under him on a separate project for a different firm. When their programs needed debugging, he would spend hours on his cell phone talking to them, at the same time charging for his time spent onsite.

One fellow contractor was a multitalented person. He ran a dance studio, was a personal trainer and taught at the local community college in addition to the assignment he had taken on to provide training for an application being developed by our client, a major financial institution. He was constantly late to every meeting and often would be found out in the hall advising a client on his workout routine. Deadlines were missed, and the user documentation went out without any review. Training materials were thrown together at the last minute and went out without any testing. He had committed to the training effort, but several hours a day were spent on his other enterprises, and it showed in the quality or lack of it, in the incomplete training materials he sent out.

These three may have thought there was nothing wrong in what they were doing, but they were stealing from the client. The client becomes aware that the contractor has other interests that are requiring his time and attention and is not happy. The contracting firm often suffers also, since the next time they recommend a contractor; he or she is not regarded favorably. The damage has been done.

The client is being billed for a contractor’s time and expects the best from the contractor. When he feels he is not getting his money’s worth, the relationship between the client and the contracting firm suffers. A once favorable relationship has been compromised and the contracting firm finds it difficult to place a new contractor there.

July 15, 2009

Walk Out of Your Job Interview in a Blaze of Glory

Filed under: Interviewing — Anne Cloward @ 3:42 pm
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From an article by Scott Ginsberg

Interview questions that stump employers in any job interview.

Picture this: The job interview is (almost) over.

You’ve answered all their questions.
You’ve jumped through all their hoops.
You’ve taken all their tests, assessments and personality profiles.

Meanwhile, your brain hurts from over thinking. Your butt is numb from over sitting. And by now, you’ve managed to sweat right through that crisp, new white shirt you bought just for today.

“Just hire me already!” You think.

Not so fast. There’s still one thing left to do:

Walk out of that interview in a blaze of glory.

Today I’m going to teach you a job-hunting strategy that will instantly make you more approachable; hireable; employable; promotable; buyable; bookable; unforgettable; and, most importantly, call-back-able.

And all of it hinges on your ability to respond effectively to one of the most common (yet one of the most under leveraged) interview questions:

“So, do you have any questions for me?”

Prospective employers almost always ask this one – especially at the end of the interview. And most job-hunting books, interviewing resources and career coaches will advise you to respond with intelligent, creative questions such as:

  • Why is this position vacant?
  • Do you promote from within?
  • Do you have a formal training program?
  • What are the future goals of the company?
  • How will I know that I have met your goals?
  • Why did you choose to work for this company?
  • How would you describe your company’s culture?
  • How will my performance be evaluated, and how often?
  • What is the average work week of the person who will fill this job?
  • Will I be hearing from you or should I contact you?

Those are great questions. They’re smart, focused and goal-oriented.

There’s only one problem: Everybody else asks them, too.

And that instantly eliminates the probability of standing out.

Here’s the reality

The less boring and normal you are – and the more rules to which you are the exception – the more hireable you will become.

So, try this: Next time your interviewer asks, “So, do you have any questions for me?” I triple-dog-dare you to answer with one of the following responses :

  • Do you see any gaps in my qualifications that I need to fill?
  • Are there any reasons I’m not fully qualified for this position?
  • Is there anything I’ ve said today that might hurt my chances of being hired here?
  • Now that you’ve had a chance to meet and interview me, what reservations would you have in putting me in this position?
  • What have accidentally I said or done during today’s interview that’s inconsistent with your perfect candidate for this job?

Here’s why this strategy works:

You put the interviewer on the spot. After all, you’re not the only one being interviewed here. So, turning the tables in this manner helps you maintain power because – contrary to popular conditioning – the listener controls.

You prove counterintuitive thinking. I don’t care if you’re applying to work the night clean up shift at Reggie’s Roadkill Cafe – employers love people who think this way. Not just someone who “is” unexpected – but someone who actually thinks unexpectedly.

You demonstrate openness to feedback. My great friend, Joe Rotskoff, HR manager at Crescent Plumbing Supply in St. Louis, was the person who first educated me on this interview approach. “The secret is twofold,” Rotskoff said. “First, you display openness to how others experience you. Second, you show a dedication to improving self-awareness. And that’s exactly the type of employee companies seek to hire in this tough economy.”

You exhibit dedication to personal improvement. Which makes you an employee who adds value to the net worth of her human capital – and, therefore, the net worth of the company’s assets – every day. Wow.

You close the sale. Job interviews are sales calls. Period. You’re selling the company on you, your skills and your long-term potential as a valued asset to the team. So, when you ask closer questions like these, you’re essentially “asking for the sale.” And you’re doing so in a professional, tactful, confident manner. How could they not say yes to you?

Now, here’s the worst thing that could happen

Let’s say you ask one of these questions. And let’s say the prospective employer (unfortunately) responds with an answer that indicates you’ve done something wrong. Or missed the mark. Or come up short in regards to the position.

Fantastic! You’ve just received specific feedback that you can leverage to add value to yourself and become more hireable in the future.

So, if this is the case for you, here’s my suggestion: Physically write down his response to your questions, right then and there. This demonstrates active listening and further reinforces your openness to feedback.

Then, when you write your thank-you note to the interviewer later that evening, be sure to:

1. Thank him again for the helpful feedback on your performance

2. Explain what your commitment plan is for remedying that inadequacy in the future. Hey, he might even change his mind after that!

But here’s the best thing that could happen

Picture this: The interviewer’s jaw hits the floor, his pen falls to the ground, and he stares at you like you just told him that his company was going to be featured on the front page of The
Wall Street Journal.

Then, once he mops up the puddle of drool on your job application, he racks his brain trying to come up with an answer to your powerful question.

But he can’t find one.

Because there isn’t one.

Because you, my unemployed friend, are pretty amazing.

And you deserve this job a hundred times more than every other candidate who walked in the door before you.

That’s what happens when you stick yourself out there. That’s what happens when you’re approachable.

You walk out of that job interview in a blaze of glory.

And then, come Monday morning, you walk back into that same building. But this time, you’re not there for an interview – you’re there to see how spectacular the view is from your new office.

Good luck.

June 5, 2009

Informational Interviews– Part III: The Bad and the Ugly

 

HMr_EL_VanTech_web

These get pushy, in my opinion.

About preparing for this career:

  1. Does your work relate to any experiences or studies you had in college?
  2. How well did your college experience prepare you for this job?
  3. What courses have proved to be the most valuable to you in your work?
  4. What courses do you wish you had taken that would have prepared you?
  5. If you were a college student again, what would you do differently to prepare you for this job?
  6. How important are grades/GPA for obtaining a job in this field?
  7. What do you feel is the best educational preparation for this career?
  8. How do you think [name of your college]’s reputation is viewed when it comes to hiring?
  9. How did you prepare for this work?
  10. If you were entering this career today, would you change your preparation in any way to facilitate entry?

About your interviewee’s career path:

  1. In what way did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
  2. What was your major in college?
  3. How did you get your job?
  4. Did you enter this position through a formal training program?
  5. What jobs and experiences have led you to your present position?
  6. What kinds of things did you do before you entered this occupation?
  7. Which aspects of your background have been most helpful?
  8. What other jobs can you get with the same background?
  9. What were the keys to your career advancement?
  10. How did you get where you are and what are your long-range goals?
  11. What is the job above your current job?
  12. If your job progresses as you like, what would be the next step in your career?
  13. Where do you see yourself in five years?
  14. If your work were suddenly eliminated, what kinds of work do you feel prepared to do?
  15. If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? Why? What would you change?

About the culture of your interviewee’s company or organization:

  1. Why did you decide to work for this company?
  2. What do you like most about this company?
  3. How does your company differ from its competitors?
  4. Why do customers choose this company?
  5. What is the company’s relationship with its customers?
  6. How optimistic are you about the company’s future and your future with the company?
  7. Has the company made any recent changes to improve its business practices and profitability?
  8. What does the company do to contribute to its employees’ professional development?
  9. What systems are in place to enable employees to give management feedback and suggestions?
  10. How does the company make use of technology for internal communication and outside marketing? (Use of e-mail, Internet, intranets, World Wide Web, videoconferencing, etc.)?
  11. What other technologies are integral to the company’s operation?
  12. How would you describe the atmosphere at the company? Is it fairly formal or more laid-back and informal?
  13. Do people in your department function fairly autonomously, or do they require a lot of supervision and direction?
  14. What are the people like with whom you work?
  15. How would you describe the morale level of people who work here?
  16. Do you participate in many social activities with your coworkers?
  17. Is there a basic philosophy of the company or organization and, if so, what is it? (Is it a people-, service- or product-oriented business?)
  18. What is the company’s mission statement?
  19. What can you tell me about the corporate culture?
  20. Is the company’s management style top-down, or do front-line employees share in decision-making?
  21. Is there flexibility in work hours, vacation schedule, place of residence, etc.?
  22. What’s the dress code here? Is it conservative or casual? Does the company have dress-down of casual days?
  23. Can men wear beards or long hair here?
  24. What work-related values are most highly esteemed in this company (security, high income, variety, independence)?
  25. What kind of training program does the company offer? Is it highly structured or more informal?
  26. Does the company encourage and/or pay for employees to pursue graduate degrees? Is there a tuition reimbursement program?
  27. Does the company offer an employee discount on the products it sells?
  28. What’s the best thing about the company?
  29. How does the company evaluate your job performance?
  30. How does the company recognize outstanding accomplishments of its employees?
  31. What does the company reward?
  32. Are there people within or outside the organization that the company holds up as heroes?
  33. Does the company observe any rituals, traditions, or ceremonies?
  34. What is the typical job-interview process at the company? How many interviews do candidates generally go through before being offered a position?
  35. What does the company do to foster innovation and creativity?

About the company’s needs:

  1. In what areas do you perceive there to be gaps in personnel in this company? If the company had unlimited resources for creating new positions, in what areas should those positions be created?
  2. In what areas do you see the company expanding? Do you foresee the opening of new markets or greater globalization? Do you predict development of new products and/or services? Building of new facilities?
  3. How can employees prepare for any planned changes at the company?
  4. What obstacles do you see getting in the way of the company’s profitability or growth?
  5. If you needed someone to assist you in your job, what tasks would you assign to your assistant?

About opportunities for advancement within this company and/or field:

  1. How does a person progress in your field?
  2. What is the highest-level job one can hold in this career?
  3. What is a typical career path in this field or organization?
  4. What are the advancement opportunities?
  5. What is the average length of time for an employee to stay in the job you hold?
  6. How rapidly do people move to the next level in this career?
  7. What incentives or disincentives are there for staying in the same job?
  8. Would someone in this field need to relocate to advance in his/her career?
  9. If I performed well at this company, where could I expect to be in five years?

Seeking advice if you are a career changer:

  1. My current career is ________________________. How easy or difficult do you think it might be to make a transition from that career to your career?
  2. The skills I use the most in my current career are ________________. To what extent and in what ways do you think those skills are transferable to your career?
  3. What aspects of my background do you feel would be the most helpful in making the transition to your career field?
  4. What aspects of my background do you feel would be the biggest obstacles to someone making the transition to your career field?
  5. What skills needed in your career field do you think someone in my current career might be lacking and might need to develop?
  6. What would be the best kind of training to get to make the transition from my current career to your career?
  7. What’s the best way for me to get more experience in your field without taking major steps backward from the level to which I’ve progressed in my current career?
  8. How do you think someone in my current career would be viewed by those with hiring power in your career? Would you personally hire someone coming from my current career field?
  9. The things I like the best about my current career are: _____________________. Will I find some of those same things if I switch to your career?
  10. The things I dislike the most about my current career are: _____________________. Will I encounter any of those same challenges in your career?
  11. Do you know of any other people in your career that have made the transition to your field from my current career or a career similar to my current career? How did the transition work out?
  12. I’ve heard that people in your field have characteristics such as _______________________, which I have not had the opportunity to develop in my current career. How important is/are that/those characteristic(s).
  13. What sacrifices do you think I might have to make to make the switch into your career field?
  14. Knowing what you know about your career field, and knowing what I would have to do to get into this field, do you think you would make the change if you were me? If not, can you suggest any other fields that might be more appropriate for me?
  15. Could you take a brief look at my résumé and suggest ways I could tailor it to make myself more marketable in changing from my current career field to your career field?

Seeking general advice and referrals from your interviewee:

  1. Can you suggest some ways a person could obtain the experience necessary to enter this field?
  2. What is the best way to obtain a position that will get me started in this occupation?
  3. What do you wish you’d known before you entered this field?
  4. What are the major qualifications for success in this occupation?
  5. What are the skills that are most important for a position in this field?
  6. What courses should I be taking?
  7. How can I assess whether or not I have the skills needed for a position such as yours?
  8. With the information you have about my education, skills, and experience, what other fields or jobs would you suggest I research further before I make a final decision?
  9. Do you know of other people whom I might talk to who have similar jobs?
  10. Do you have any advice for someone interested in this field/job?
  11. Which professional journals and publications should I be reading to learn about this career?
  12. Are there any other written materials (such as company brochures) that you suggest I read?
  13. Which professional organizations associated with this career should I join?
  14. What kinds of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage for anybody pursuing a career in this field?
  15. Who else do you know who is doing similar kinds of work or uses similar skills?
  16. What other kinds of organizations hire people to perform the functions you do here?
  17. If I am unable to obtain a position in this field, what other fields would you recommend I consider?
  18. What special advice do you have for a student seeking to qualify for this position?
  19. Do you have any special world of warning or encouragement as a result of your experience?
  20. These are my strongest assets (skills, areas of knowledge, personality traits and values):___________________________________. Where would they fit in this field? Where would they be helpful in this organization? Where might they fit in other fields? Where might they be helpful in other organizations?
  21. What should I do to prepare myself for emerging trends and changes in this field?
  22. How would you assess the experience I’ve had so far in terms of entering this field?
  23. What qualifications would you be looking for if you were hiring for a position such as yours?
  24. What qualifications would you be looking for if you were hiring for a position subordinate to yours in the office?
  25. Do you have any written job descriptions of positions in this field/company?
  26. What areas of the company would be most interested in hiring people with my background?
  27. If I wanted to obtain a job here, who would the best person to contact?
  28. If I wanted to obtain a job here, what would be the best way to learn of job vacancies?
  29. If you were conducting a job search today, how would you go about it?
  30. Would you be willing to answer more questions, by phone or in person, if I need additional advice in the future?
  31. [If you feel comfortable and it seems appropriate:] Would you mind taking a look at my resume to see if you have any suggestions?
  32. How would you react if you received a resume like mine for a position with this company?

June 4, 2009

Informational Interviews—Part II: The Good and the Bad

chp_interview

This came from Google, and I think it is way off base. Someone got lost along the way and felt the need to turn an informational interview into a job interview. I have bolded the questions that I think are inappropriate. (from me)

Be prepared when you conduct an informational interview with questions to ask your interviewee. Below are 200 possible questions. Of course, you can’t ask anywhere near this many in an interview of 20-30 minutes, but this plentiful list will ensure that you choose questions to which you really want the answers. (Google talking here)

General questions about your interviewee’s career field:

  1. What are the various jobs available in this field?
  2. What types of training do companies offer those who enter this field?
  3. In what ways is your occupation changing?
  4. How is the economy affecting this industry?
  5. What is the employment outlook like in your career field? How much demand is there for people in this career?
  6. How quickly is the field growing?
  7. What are the growth areas of this field?
  8. Can you estimate future job openings?
  9. What parts of the country offer the best opportunities in this field?
  10. What are the opportunities in this career like in [geographical area you are most interested in]?
  11. What is the typical entry-level salary in this field?
  12. What is the salary ranges for higher levels in this occupation?
  13. Is there a salary ceiling?
  14. Aside from such visible compensation as money, fringe benefits, travel, etc., what kinds of mental dividends (such as job satisfaction) does this career yield?
  15. Is this industry heavily regulated?
  16. What do you find unique about your career field?
  17. From everything you’ve observed, what problems can you cite regarding working in this career?
  18. What skills or personal characteristics do you feel contribute most to success in this industry?
  19. What sacrifices have you had to make to succeed in this field, and do you feel the sacrifices were worth it?
  20. When people leave this career, what are the usual reasons?
  21. What are the typical entry-level job titles and functions?
  22. What entry-level jobs offer the best opportunities for the greatest amount of learning?
  23. What are the most significant characteristics of this industry?
  24. What trends in the field would be most likely to affect someone just entering this career now?
  25. What kinds of people experience the greatest success in this field?
  26. What is the most important thing that someone planning to enter this career should know?

All about your interviewee’s job:

  1. What is your exact title?
  2. Do other people in your company with the same job title that you hold have the same responsibilities?
  3. What was your title when you first started here?
  4. What precisely do you do? What are the duties/functions/responsibilities of your job?
  5. What is your job like?
  6. To what extent is it you expected it would be?
  7. How much job security do you have in this position?
  8. What is a typical day like?
  9. What kind of hours do you normally work?
  10. Do you have to put in much overtime or work on weekends?
  11. Are the time demands of your job specific to this company, or would anyone in this career be expected to put in the same hours?
  12. Do you ever take work home with you?
  13. What kinds of problems do you deal with?
  14. What do you do if you can’t solve a problem on your own?
  15. Do you have to deal with a significant amount of conflict in his job?
  16. What systems are in place for dealing with conflict?
  17. What constraints, such as time and funding, make your job more difficult?
  18. What kinds of decisions do you make?
  19. Describe some of the toughest situations you’ve faced in this job.
  20. To what extent do you interact with customers/clients?
  21. What percentage of your time is spent doing each function?
  22. How does your time use vary? Are there busy and slow times or is the work activity fairly constant?
  23. Which other departments, functional units, or levels of the hierarchy do you regularly interact with?
  24. How much flexibility do you have in determining how you perform your job?
  25. Is your work primarily individual or predominately in groups or teams?
  26. How are work teams or groups organized?
  27. What are the most important personal satisfactions and dissatisfactions connected with your job? What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying? Most challenging?
  28. What are your interests and in what way does this job satisfy your interests?
  29. What do you like and not like about working in this job?
  30. Do you find your job exciting or boring? Why?
  31. Are there aspects to your job that are repetitious?
  32. Is multi-tasking a skill that is required for this job?
  33. What projects have you worked on that have been particularly interesting?
  34. What particular skills or talents are most essential to be effective in your job?
  35. How did you learn these skills?
  36. What are the educational, requirements for this job?
  37. What other types of credentials or licenses are required?
  38. Is graduate school recommended? An MBA? Some other graduate degree or certifications?
  39. What obligations does your employer place on you outside of the ordinary work week?
  40. What social obligations go along with a job in your occupation?
  41. Are there organizations you are expected to join?
  42. Are there other things you are expected to do outside work hours?
  43. How has your job affected your lifestyle?
  44. To what extent does this job present a challenge in terms of juggling work and family life?
  45. What are the major frustrations of this job?
  46. If you could change anything about your job, what would it be?
  47. Is there a great deal of turnover in this job?
  48. What interests you least about the job or creates the most stress?
  49. What is the job title of your department head or supervisor for this job?
  50. Where do you and your supervisor fit into the organizational structure?
  51. How many people do you supervise?
  52. How would you assess your prestige or level of status in this job? In the company?
  53. If you ever left your job, what would most likely drive you away?
    Next: More interview questions, the Bad and the Ugly.

March 1, 2009

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I used to hate that question, since it usually came from someone who had really no interest in the answer. And since I was a baby boomer, I always gave the acceptable answer.

“A Teacher (with a capital T),” I would reply. I guess that was the truth. I did become a teacher, and it was a good career choice for me.

My second choice would be a writer, though in my heart, that’s what I really wanted to be. And I have made a living at being a writer for long time.

But I am posing this question in terms of contracting. What is it that you have a passion for? But, secondly, What is it that you do incredibly well that you can make money doing? That’s what a good contractor does, knows what he or she wants to do and does well and works at that. I want to share a few examples of people who have figured out what their passion is and have developed their talents well enough to make a life doing it.

large_bruceI am currently listening to Bruce Springsteen on my PC. I recently watched an interview he gave, reflecting on his life and career. The man, at the age of 59 looks fabulous! And when he performs onstage, the energy is there. The guy has been making music his way for over 40 years, not a bad gig.

kay_newNow for a lesser known, but equally passionate person, is my fabulous friend, Kay. Adams. In the 80s when I was dealing with stuff, I instinctively resumed keeping a journal. In my attempt to get beyond the “Dear Diary” stage of journal writing, I picked up a copy of her Journal to the Self. Over 20 years later, this well marked book still holds a revered place on my bookshelf and I return to it again. It is one of The books I love to read. Check out her website at http://www.journaltherapy.com/index.html

One last quote: “In an internet poll on About.com, Kathleen Adams was listed (with Anais Nin and Anne Frank) as one of the three most significant influences on contemporary journal keeping.”

And I get to hang out with her next week!

janet-book-coverJanet Kay Jensen, was a successful speech pathologist and supervised graduate students at Utah State University, one of the premier schools in that field. Despite that success, she decided she wanted to be a published author, and took a leave of absence to pursue this passion. Go to her website: http://www.janetjensen.com to see how well she has done.

My buddy, Scott had an interested in family history and organizing it, and creating a tool that helps people organize their family pictures. It’s a simple and powerful application. He started working on it several years ago, and gave a huge sigh of relief when he got let go after 19 years at Intel. The fruits of his labor are on display at http://www.photoloom.com/

I am not giving shameless plugs here, but trying to show how people within my circle of family and friends have given thought to the question and come up with their own answers.

I am amazed at the number of mature job seekers out there, who give their history, and then come up with “What I really want to do is . . .” and then reveal a dream that has absolutely nothing to do with what they have been doing for the past 20 years. I always wonder how did they get so far away from their dream.

There are some good sites out there with talent inventories, and personality tests at career sites that could help. Most of these are free; you do not need to pay for them. If you are working with your local workforce agency, they can administer them to you. It may give you an idea of what your real talents are and what would be a good fit for you. I found this great URL for evaluating such tests.  http://www.quintcareers.com/career_assessment.html

Maybe it isn’t too late to dig in to find the answer to that question.

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