Monday, May 31, 2010

How to Get a Job Without Experience - Larry Stybel

You know the Catch-22: "You can't get a job without experience, and you can't get experience without a job."

Young job seekers have always faced this dilemma. In today's shrinking job market, people with years of experience also struggle with it. Whether they face the reality of a layoff, or merely the threat of one, many older workers are trying to reinvent themselves in order to become marketable in a changed economy.

Whether you're launching your career or trying to change its direction, you can get around this Catch-22 with some creativity and humility.

Here's how I did it:

I was a clinical psychologist in a community mental health center. It was professionally satisfying and financially unrewarding. I decided it was time to make more money. I would become a business consultant.
Imagine my surprise to learn that I could not find a single company eager to hire me. Apparently, they couldn't see that my ability to counsel sexual offenders was a transferable skill!

I couldn't get business experience without getting hired. I couldn't get hired without business experience. What to do?

At a party, I met Dr. Charles Daily, an organizational psychologist and entrepreneur. Dr. Daily was trying to market a new product to help companies make better hiring decisions. He had a good idea and no money to hire someone to help him realize it.

I said to Dr. Daily, "I'll do telemarketing cold calls for your new product. But I insist on being paid. The first payment will be a title appropriate to the job I will be doing - say, 'Business Development Associate.'" The second payment, if I fulfill my end of the deal, will be a good reference and introductions to colleagues who might be able to help me."

For the next two months, two days a week, I did my best to help Dr. Daily get traction for his new service. I made hundreds of calls - hating every one of them. I ultimately was able to set up two in-person appointments for Dr. Daily.

Neither of those led to new business. But Dr. Daily said my job had been to open doors; it was his job to close deals. I'd performed well and would get paid, in the form of introductions to some business associates. Those introductions, along with a resume that included my new title, eventually led to a job with a talent management-consulting firm.

How can you use such a strategy to get out of the no-win loop that circumscribes your professional growth?

Look for a company with a great idea and no money to execute it. Then:
  1. Be specific about what value you will provide. I wanted experience in the sales and marketing of professional services. I said I would make phone calls and get appointments for Dr. Daily. I didn't say I would generate sales because I didn't think I could do that.
  2. Be specific about what value you will receive. For me, appropriate compensation was a title I could add to my resume and introductions and a reference from Dr. Daily. Compensation is about value received for value given - and you're thinking too narrowly if you define value only in monetary terms.
  3. Be specific about time frame. I promised to work two days a week for two months. Be sure that your commitment doesn't preclude you from actively continuing a job search - or performing well enough to keep your present job.

What? You're too proud to offer your services at no charge? Get over it. If you choose the right opportunity, you'll gain industry or functional experience that has immeasurable value - and will ultimately lead to a real paycheck.

Larry Stybel is co-founder of the global career management firm Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire. He also is Executive in Residence at the Sawyer School of Business at Suffolk University.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Résumé Quantifications: Present Your Value Effectively

When composing your résumé, it is always best to use numbers to demonstrate your competence. All hiring managers are interested in metrics. Metrics, when used and analyzed appropriately can greatly affect the company’s bottom line. The company’s bottom line is critical to its survival.

Your résumé should always show how you can answer the following question often posed by company CEOs, "What are We Getting for Our Money?" If you do not know how to quantify the results for your profession, I have provided some hints:
  • Operations – inventory turns, out-of-stock rate, service levels, product rejects, warranty costs, customer satisfaction, and raw material costs
  • Finance/Accounting – COGS, gross margin, SG&A and operating expenses, operating margin, DSO, cash flow
  • HR – absenteeism and turnover
  • Project Management – time, cost, and quality
  • Web Design – pages/visit, average time on site, clickthrough rates, and cost per thousand impressions
  • Marketing – brand penetration, cannibalization, customer retention, and market share
  • Sales – pipeline, closing ratios, new business, and quotas
  • Customer Service – customer complaints, consumer satisfaction index, average call time, and dropped calls
  • Collections – overdue accounts and collection costs
  • Training ROI - productivity and efficiency, sales and profitability, quality of products and services, customer service and satisfaction, health and safety

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cover Letters are Obsolete and Ineffective, Or Are They?

When is comes to putting your personal marketing collateral together, should a well written cover letter be part of the package? The answer to this question depends upon whom you ask.

Fact: Most HR departments will take the time to store résumés onto their database, but it is unlikely that they will so the same with your cover letter

Fact: Given a limited amount of time, most people will read a résumé long before taking the time to read a cover letter.

Fact: Hiring manager will read a cover letter only after they are satisfied that the candidate has met the requirements of the job.

Fact: Hiring managers will deny interviews based upon information found in their cover letters.

Job boards do not keyword search cover letters; job boards always keyword search résumés.

  • Don’t bother submitting cover letters to job boards or recruiting managers as they rarely have the time to read them.
  • Do bother customizing both cover letters and résumés when applying to smaller companies wherein it is likely your marketing collateral will be read by a human and not simply scanned into the company’s database abyss.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pregnant Pauses During the Interview Process

When job searching, the first thing that you need to wrap your head around is that, regardless of your vocation, you are now in the business of sales. Sales is all about knowing your product and presenting it well. You can take for granted that you know your product better than anyone does. After all, your product is you and who knows you better than you know yourself?

Now that you are looking for a new opportunity, it’s time to brush up on your presentation skills. Countless interviews are in the offing and you need to be ready for each and every one of them. Here are some tips to help you curb your ‘hmmms’, “errs’ and, “uhhs’:

Nature may abhor a vacuum, but that is no reason to fill the dead air with sounds that have no other purpose except to ‘buy’ you some time to think up something intelligent to say. Factually speaking, it does quite the opposite. Filling dead air with no real words, gives listeners the impression that you don’t know your subject. If the subject is you, how can that be possible?

Hint One: If , during the interview process, you need to take a moment to put your thoughts together before answering a question, do it. Take a pause. Say nothing until you have formulated your answer in your head and wait until you have the confidence to say it aloud. Pauses will always feel much longer to the speaker than they do for the audience. When you have said what you have to say, stop talking; then, visualize the first word of the next sentence and start again. Time, after all, is relative. Albert Einstein once said that, “A second with your hand on a hot stove feels like an hour, while hour with a pretty girl feels like a only a moment. He also said that, “Gravity cannot be blamed for people falling in love”, (but that’s a quote for another type of blog.)

Hint Two: Break your responses into smaller sound bites. It is always okay to refer to notes. Nerves will play havoc with your ability to remember the facts. If you keep the salient points handy, you are less likely to forget any of them.

Hint Three: Use the STAR technique for answering questions:

S = Situation - Describe what needed to be done
T = Task - Describe the steps you needed to take to solve the problem
A = Actions - Describe how you accomplished the tasks
R = Results - Describe the results in a quantifiable manner

Hint Four: When composing your ‘cheat sheets’ use large font and bullet key words to help you jar your memory

Hint Five: If you don’t understand the question that has been posed, ask that the question be repeated. This action will help you clarify the details you will need to answer the question completely and to the best of your ability.

Hint Six: Learn how to modulate your voice. Answering questions in a monotone voice will put your listeners to sleep regardless of the value of your message.

Hint Seven: Don’t forget to breathe.

In my many years of teaching people how to present effectively, I have seldom found a problem so crippling to credibility and connection with the audience that is so easily solved. Once you drop the ‘hmmms’, “errs’, and “uhhs’ from your normal speech pattern, you will be amazed at the increased impact you have on your listeners.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Job Search: Marathon or Walk in the Park?

Looking for a new job is one of the toughest task syou will ever endure. It is a marathon that tests your internal fortitude and only the fittest will survive. Start training today!

When preparing for any marathon, it is important to start training for it. Unless your name is Forrest Gump, you don’t get up on a sunny morning, put on a pair of running shoes and decide to go for a casual jog, that ends up being 26 miles long. You will need a plan to help ensure your success:

  1. Plan your job search in detail. Identify the route[s] that will help you succeed. Change routes on a regular basis. Know that the fittest folks can run the hills as well as well as the plateaus.

  2. Check your breathing; pace yourself. Being ‘winded’ or gasping for breath for the entire run is not healthy. Be calm and work each resume and cover letter - know your potential employers.

  3. Harness support from fellow runners. Only those who are in the race with you truly know how gruelling the race can be.

  4. Improve your inner dialogue.“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right!’” ~ Henry Ford

  5. Visualize what ‘success’ looks like for you.

  6. Remain open minded to the course, as it will not always be a straight line. This new courses will give you the opportunity to be exposed to new possibilities, new ideas and new experiences, all of which can be drawn upon in the future.

  7. Surround yourself with those who can cheer you on.

Once you have learned how you deal with setbacks, obstacles and problems that cross your path, you will be ready for the many challenges that success brings.