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Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

It’s important to know the what and why about the company you’re interviewing with, but for your sanity, dig deeper. The more you can learn about an organization’s “personality,” the better. See what Orson* and Peggy * did.

Orson* interviewed for a sales rep position which would cover a several county area.  He was pleased with the salary he had negotiated, and learned that he would also be getting a company car to cover his territory.  This was in an area that was new to him, and moving expenses were included.  All in all, he was excited for his new challenge.

When his offer letter came, however, his excitement soon faded.  A provision had been inserted which said that he would be starting at 80% of his negotiated salary, on a 3 month probationary period!  This had never been discussed – not during any of his interviews, nor over the phone.

He called his manager for clarification, asking why this had been put in the offer letter.  Her only response was that it was “standard,” and she wouldn’t budge.

Orson had also met with his manager’s supervisor during the interview phase, so he then felt he had no recourse but to call the district manager.  It wasn’t the best way to start out a new job, he felt, but he had been offered his full salary, and told the district sales manager so.

The district manager agreed, and a new offer letter was sent to Orson, stating that he would start with the originally negotiated full starting salary!  Orson was proud that he had Fixed It! and signed the offer letter and returned it to his manager, hoping that there wouldn’t be repercussions.

Shortly after he began his new position, he asked his manager, “How do I take care of my moving expenses?  Does the company get billed, or do I get reimbursed?”

She responded, “Oh, you don’t get moving expenses.  Didn’t you read your offer letter?”

“I was so burned up!” Orson said.  “I actually called her boss again.”

This time, though, the district manager was less inclined to be supportive.  He asked, “Does this prevent you from taking the job?”

I said, “No,” Orson recalled, “But looking back, I wish I’d played hardball.”

Orson later learned that his territory had two reps before him in the past year, and his company’s sales reps for the entire state saw more than 100% turnover in one year!

“I, too, ended up leaving the position within the year,” Orson recounted.  “That organization was terribly unhealthy, and I wish I’d noticed the many, many warning bells that were going off around me!”

Peggy* had made it as a finalist for a job she felt would be a good step up in her career, and was interviewing with the woman who would be her supervisor, should she get the position.

Things had been going well, and Peggy began to ask some more direct questions about the history of the organization and specifically, the position itself, such as, “How long has this position been vacant?” and “Why did the last person leave?”

Typically, these answers are not only revealing about the position, but also about the person answering them, and whether or not they are forthcoming.  This is true especially if the previous staff person departed under difficult circumstances, such as getting fired.  Seeing how delicately (or not) a manger handles describing such a situation is very revealing.

On the other hand, if the organization promotes from within, it can be a good sign – and also a bonus to know that the staff member will be available to answer questions while learning a new job.

Peggy was relieved to learn that the answer was somewhat benign:  The former staff member left a month ago because she had a baby and decided to become a full time mother.

The director continued by saying what a loss it was to the organization when the staff member left, then added, “And it’s really so foolish of her, sabotaging her career like that!  I even offered to let her work part time, too!  What can she be thinking?”

Peggy was so startled, she didn’t know what to say.  It certainly seemed as though she was being given a directive that if she had children (or was planning to have them), she’d better not be considering staying home full time and leaving her job!

Before Peggy could think of what question to ask next, the director continued the conversation and changed the subject back to the job and organization, much to her relief.  Peggy finished the interview, all the while searching her memory, wondering if she had dropped any references to her family situation during the interview.

A couple of weeks later, Peggy got the job offer, but politely declined, saying she had accepted another offer (she hadn’t).  She decided to Forget It! and not work for someone who so obviously declared that she knew what was right for everyone else’s situation.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

 

            

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Job interviewing can be stressful enough by itself, but what happens when you and a friend wind up competing for the same position? How do you maintain the friendship during and after? See what Imelda* and Josie* did.

Both Imelda and Josie were clients of mine who not only had me design their resumes, but sought my career counseling services. They also knew one another professionally for some time and had become friends over the years.

A particular position had been advertised recently that they each wanted to apply for, and they knew that the competition would be fierce, so they wanted to be especially prepared. They both wanted to hire me to coach them, knowing the other would also be using my services to try to get the position as well.

This was an unusual situation – and an unusual couple of friends – that I encountered.

The first thing that I instructed each of them to do was to make absolutely certain that nobody in the hiring process knew that they knew the other was applying, or that they were doing this “as friends.” Nothing turns off an HR director faster than applicants who come in pairs, because it’s an immediate sign of weakness — that someone needs a prop just to make it to an interview.

I also asked each of them to seriously consider how they were going to feel if the other one got the job when it was all over. Perhaps it would be better to take a hiatus from their friendship during the interview process, so they wouldn’t have to Fix It later?

Each of them laughed at my suggestion and told me (separately) that they had already agreed that if one of them got the job, she would treat the other one to dinner out on the town.

Nevertheless, I assured them both that my sessions with each of them would remain confidential. Whatever I learned from one of them during the process, I wouldn’t be sharing with the other, and vice versa.

As it turned out, I didn’t have to reassure anyone, as both Imelda and Josie freely shared interview information with one another! I spent time coaching each of them on how to prepare for the recruiter they dealt with, which got them both through the phone interview and first and second face-to-face interviews.

Imelda was scheduled earlier than Josie for the first face to face interview, and filled her in on everything that happened, so that she was very prepared for it – including the need to leave early enough so she wouldn’t have to speed! (Imelda got a ticket on her way to the interview!)

Josie reciprocated when she had the second interview before Imelda, leaving her knowing what to expect before she walked in to meet with the interviewers, for the most part.

After the second interview, they were both notified that they had made it into the final three candidates and would be called back for the third and final interview in the next couple of weeks! They were both thrilled!

A couple of weeks went by, however, and the recruiter mentioned reason after reason why there would be delays in scheduling the final interview . . . among the remaining four candidates.

Four? This seemed odd. Imelda and Josie were grateful that they could confirm with someone else that they had initially been told there were three remaining candidates. “Ok, now I know I’m not crazy,” Imelda said. “You heard it, too. They just changed it on us, and figured we didn’t notice?”

The entire tone of the final interview seemed to change, they both also noticed. Everyone seemed polite enough, but more rote, as though they were on “auto pilot,” Josie recounted.

It turned out that neither Imelda nor Josie were hired, but politely thanked for their time and effort – which ended up being considerable!

Several weeks later, they checked the organization’s website to see who did get the position, and it turned out to be someone who already worked at the organization!

“So much for the identity of the mystery fourth,” said Josie. “I suppose they’ll be listing his position soon.”

“If the recruiter contacts us for that position,” Imelda said, “He can Forget It!  The organization is clearly poorly managed. If they wanted to hire from within, why spend a fortune on a recruiter and the better part of a year to do so?”

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share? Send it to me, and it might help others. Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
— Rita Mae Brown

 

Similar Posts:

(When) Should I Start Looking Elsewhere?

Arlene* and Burt* Face Challenging Interviews

Wilma* and Zoe* Downplay Their Skills For Interviews

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Culturally, women are conditioned to be agreeable and cooperative. That, combined with those who feel the need to help a part of society, yields an abundance of women in nonprofit with a calling to serve in a congenial way.

While this is certainly good for society, it’s not always good for the agreeable – and often, non-confrontational – women, particularly when it comes to their careers.  Often, all the traits that make such women the ideal candidate to work in the nonprofit arena actually work against them when it comes time to lobby on their own behalf.  They frequently learn – too late – that they have been passed over for promotions, raises, or generally left out of conversations that they should have been consulted on.

It has become more important now than ever before, with such a competitive job market, that women speak up and speak out at every opportunity – whether currently employed, or actively job hunting – so that their voices and ideas are heard by management and others on a regular basis.

Bonnie* had discussed her current work situation, where she felt that the director had used the economy as an excuse to whittle down everyone’s position essentially to being his serfs.  Bit by bit over the last couple of years, he had made everyone feel that if they didn’t comply with his latest “cost cutting” idea, they might be next on the chopping block.  This included petty things, such as his removing the office refrigerator and microwave, to “save electricity.”  (Bonnie did notice that, although all of the women in the office now had to modify the types of lunches they brought to eat, the director still managed to treat himself to eating lunch out on a daily basis.)

When Bonnie decided to Forget It! we worked on finding her another position, but kept in mind the dynamics which led to the situation she ultimately found herself in.  She wanted to make certain to define what type of treatment she would – and would not – tolerate right from the beginning.  I explained to her that a great many parameters are set in the first few weeks of employment, when you make your first impression.  Her boss and the other employees would see what they could expect from her during this initial phase.

While it’s important to be eager to learn and get along with others, of course, you still don’t want to project yourself as a doormat, either.  If, for example, Bonnie had given the idea that she would be willing to do everyone’s filing (whether it was her job or not), all those on staff would immediately be thrilled to have her do it for them . . . and anything else they could delegate to her.

When Bonnie began her new position, she had difficulty getting her business cards printed in the first couple of weeks.  The position that usually handles the task was vacant, and the procedure in his absence was arduous.  She learned that the last person who went through the procedure not only waited a long time, but her cards weren’t right.

Bonnie decided this would be one way to define herself.  She took action and had her own cards printed and simply submitted the receipt afterward.  Her director was surprised at first, but then she explained why, and he signed the expense report.  Bonnie was pleased with her first step toward defining her new self as someone who wouldn’t sit around and wait for second best.

Caitlin* defines herself as a “very shy person,” but came to me for assistance, because she felt that she was “invisible” in her organization.   She wanted to work on her networking and socialization skills, but didn’t know where to begin.

“I don’t feel as though I can just barge in on the already established social groups at the office and ask to join them for lunch,” Caitlin says.  “They’ve been having lunch together for a couple of years now.  Nobody has ever invited me along.  It’s like they don’t see me, even though I’m right there.”

Since Caitlin didn’t feel comfortable encroaching upon what she already felt was “established territory,” I suggested we Fix It! by trying some new territory, and had her join a local chapter of her professional society.  Not only was it good to work on her skills with a new group of people, but, I explained, it’s always best to extend your professional group beyond your immediate workplace, anyway.

One excellent way for someone shy to mingle at professional functions is for them to volunteer to work the function, and Caitlin signed up to help at a few upcoming events.  This provides several benefits.  Not only did she get the lay of the land beforehand and feel more at ease, but if she ever felt awkward at any time while talking, she could always excuse herself, since she had “something to do,” because she was working the event.

In addition, the leaders of the professional society got to know Caitlin in an informal setting and became appreciative of her hard work.  I had given her advice on several talking points to make about herself, as well as targeted questions to ask of others when chatting at these events, and it was working well.

After Caitlin had worked at several of these events and was becoming more comfortable speaking with people she’d recently met, I had planned on having her apply these techniques back at her workplace, so she wouldn’t feel as isolated.  It turned out, though, that it became unnecessary.  Caitlin made several good contacts with her new networking friends, and one of them offered her a better job, which she accepted!

Now, Caitlin works in an atmosphere that is more inviting, and she no longer feels “invisible.”  She also makes a point to participate more actively, to ensure that she’s seen, too.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Abby Wants to Break the Cycle of Bad Bosses

Whitney, Yolanda & Zelda Deal With Being Taken For Granted

Sadie & Tanya Work on Their Negotiation Skills

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

When researching a company prior to an interview, it’s important to go much further beyond “the corporate face” presented on its website.  These days, a great deal more information is available to guide you in your decision.

With such a tight job market, it’s not uncommon for job seekers to spend six to twelve months looking for the right position.  Of course, much of this depends on a variety of factors, including profession, experience, geographic location, time spent each week actively searching, level of networking, etc., but the fact remains that the market is tough.

Because most searches are lengthy, though, I advise all clients to keep track of not only their past applications and interviews, but also to try to remember the listings that they view, because after time, trends or patterns may start to appear.

Magda* had come very, very close a couple of times as a final candidate, but still hadn’t gotten hired after several months.  However, she had learned a great deal after each interview on how to perform better next time, she felt.

Still, there were some losses that stung more than others.  [Organization Y] was one in particular.  Not only had she been a promising finalist, but the Executive Director concluded the interview with a reassuring, “I’ll call you soon,” only to put her off a couple of days . . . followed by a couple more, until finally, he sent her an email, stating, “Thanks for your interest, but we’ve made an offer to another candidate, and they’ve accepted.”

“That one really hurt,” Magda explained, “Not only because I didn’t get the job, but because of the way I was treated.  It seemed obvious in retrospect that I was the second choice, and had just been strung along until they heard back from the one they made the offer to.  Plus, he couldn’t have done me the courtesy of a phone call?”

Less than a year later, Magda was reviewing job listings, as she does weekly, and – much to her surprise – she saw the same job listing for [Organization Y] appear once again!

“As disappointed as I had been last year,” Magda recounts, “That’s how relieved I was not to have gotten the position, upon reading the listing so soon!”  Although still looking, she was ready to tell [Organization Y] to Forget It! this time.

After a few more months of interviewing, Magda did land a job offer with an organization that was a good fit for her, and thinking back to “the bullet I dodged,” she could see how much she had learned over the past year that helped her select a better, more stable place of employment that she felt good about.

At Ned*’s previous place of employment, he had given his all to the company, which left him virtually no time for socializing or networking.  When he was laid off, he found that he had very few contacts or connections to reach out to, because he hadn’t done much to maintain those relationships while he had been working so hard at his job.  One of our first goals was to Fix It! with regard to his social media skills, which would likely translate to any new position he ended up getting.  Regardless, I explained, they would certainly be of use to him while searching for his next job.

Ned made a point to work up a list of the few dozen companies that he most wanted to work for, then he not only followed them on Facebook and Twitter, but also monitored their LinkedIn activity closely.  In addition to tracking the companies’ job listings, Ned worked on building up his various social networks, regularly adding friends, followers and linking with new contacts as much as possible.

Whenever Ned saw a position that he felt was a good match, we reviewed his various networks – particularly LinkedIn – for possible connections to the company, narrowing down to the department, if it was a larger organization.

If Ned was directly linked to someone at the company, he wrote to them for advice on how best to apply (e.g., “To whom do I send my resume?  What is her/his email?”).  If he was a second degree connection, he would ask for an introduction to the right company person, or advice on how to proceed, if they knew.

In many cases, this approach led to expanding Ned’s network even further as he continued his job search.

A great deal of “background research” not found on company home pages was to be gleaned from company social media channels, including peripheral channels, such as employees’ blogs, Twitter feeds and posts to LinkedIn groups that were often fed back through the employees’ personal pages.

This type of up-to-date knowledge helped Ned impress others during interviews, establish more contacts, and ultimately, get hired in his new position.  (He also makes a point to continue networking since having been hired.)

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Eileen* and Frieda* research social media and email marketing

Noah* and Odelia* learn the importance of networking

Nell* and Otis* witness effects of sour workplace networking

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

One of the first things I assess with a client is their career goals – both short- & long-term.  Many people assume that theirs are the same as everyone else’s, but they’re not.  They’re as diverse as those who seek my help.

For quite a few people, making rent is the immediate and overwhelming goal, but for others, having a flexible schedule is more important, so they can attend class, pick up the kids, or tend to their aging parents, etc.  Still others find it necessary to do challenging or interesting work during the day, or be around people  (“I’d just die if I had to do data entry all day!”), while others prefer a more solitary environment and appreciate the absence of gossip and politicking that comes with too many co-workers.  And these categories only begin to cover the clients who are seeking something.

There’s another litany of job seekers who haven’t found the time to do this yet.  It’s too luxurious.  Their current job situation is too hellacious and they can only focus on escaping whatever prison they’ve been sentenced to report to everyday.  It’s more common for this type of worker to seek help from a career counselor, because they are at or near their wit’s end.  These stories are for another days’ column, however.

Many clients are mindful of their careers in addition to their paycheck, location, hours and day-to-day activities, too.  They really do think about “Where will I be in five years?” and “How is this helping me to get there?”  Wherever you’re at in your continuum, it pays to extend the effort so that the next job is better than the last one you had . . . each and every time.  If you take care to ensure this, you are making progress in your career.

Frances*came to me to begin her job search because she felt that she had done all she could in terms of career growth at her present position after several years at the same nonprofit.  Although she had been successful, she didn’t feel that she would really learn much more there, and it was too small an organization for her to move any higher.  Her director was a poor mentor, and although she could probably do her job a bit better, she knew her director wouldn’t be leaving any time soon.  The only way to gain more experience was to leave for someplace larger, with a more experienced staff, she concluded.

It wasn’t long before Frances landed an interview with a nonprofit that was slightly larger.  It was also older and steeped in more tradition, which was promising.  One of the problems, Frances felt, with her current place, was that the organization itself was less than ten years old, and was going through some growing pains.

When Frances and I debriefed after her interview, I pointed out a couple of segments of the conversation that could have been answered better by the organization, so she followed up on these items during her second interview.

Frances wasn’t impressed with the responses to her follow up questions, however.  Instead of hearing about how they wanted her talents to take them to new levels, she consistently felt that they were telling her, “This is our tradition . . . it’s the way we’ve always done it.  We just want more of it.”

Initially Frances had been tempted to accept the position, since they clearly wanted to hire her.  It was more salary and managing a larger department, but looking ahead several years, she felt that she wouldn’t really be able to say she accomplished anything new – just larger versions of the same campaigns she’d already been managing.  She decided to Forget It! and politely declined the position.

“I hope I don’t regret this in the months to come,” Frances told me, knowing that job searches can take a long, long time.

A few months later, Frances was at a large networking luncheon and happened to sit next to the gentleman she had turned down for the position.  They politely exchanged greetings and while catching up, she mentioned that she was still looking for employment and asked how his new hire was working out.

The director told her that he was “okay,” but not nearly as skilled as Frances.  He went on to explain it’s meant he’s had to invest in him attending events such as these networking luncheons and other trainings, in order to bring him up to par.  He expressed regret that they couldn’t work something out so that she ended up working for his organization instead of the new hire.

Then, as the director continued, lamenting about his new hire not being “so bad, though,” Frances saw him motion to the other side of him, to a man who was speaking with another person at the table!  She couldn’t believe it!  The director had been talking in a disparaging tone about his new employee the entire time he was sitting there!  Luckily, she thought, he was otherwise engaged in a conversation, and probably hadn’t heard what his new boss said, but she was still stunned!

“That incredible indiscretion on his part put to rest any doubts I had about my decision to turn down a position working for him – or that organization!” Frances said.  “I’d much rather wait and find the right fit!”

Several more months of interviewing went by for Frances, but ultimately she was able to accept a position with an organization that was much better suited to her and her career goals.  She was able to Fix It! by taking her time and not settling for something that wouldn’t have put her on the path to where she wanted to go.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.

—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Craig* and Debbie* worked for directors with commitment issues, preventing progress

Gwen* and Howard* had bosses whose myopic views left no room for employee input

(When) Should I Start Looking Elsewhere?

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