Tuesday, May 31, 2011

We May Like Our Message, But Does Our Audience?

A recent Harvard Business Review blog post got me thinking about how others perceive us, how we think they can perceive us incorrectly, and how those misperceptions might be our own fault.

The post tells of how a successful research analyst who had lived by and succeeded with a set of values instilled by her father had a difficult time landing a new job after losing her old one. In her job interviews, she exuded a long-held confidence and decisiveness, thinking those qualities were a winning combination anywhere.

What she didn't anticipate was how her interviewers would see that. She discovered that her style was off-putting to some and a big reason she had a difficult time finding a new job.

To adjust, she did what every job seeker, sales representative, and even every journalist interviewer should do: Consider the conversation from the point of view of the other person. What are they looking for? What makes them open up and offer more information? Is there something in your manner, your tone, or your level of empathy that can get them to do what you would like them to do, such as hire you, buy from you, or give you valuable information?

For many of us who are passionate and driven, this is difficult to accomplish. But the most important communication comes in listening: how you process not only what is said, but how it's said, and what kind of body language a person emits during a conversation. Many people (and there really are many) depend too heavily on e-mail, texting, and instant messaging to communicate with others, even when they're within earshot. That can give you the courage you can't muster when it's time for a face-to-face conversation that's less than pleasant, but you tend to miss a lot that lies beyond the spoken word.

So, if you're wondering why you can't make it to the next step of the job search process, why you can't land a big sale, or why others question your motives, think about the message you're sending beyond your words.

And if you rely too much on your fingers to do your talking, step away from the keyboard and use your mouth once in a while.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Journalism Will Always Be a Noble Calling

There are a few veteran journalists and former journalists who no doubt relish the prospect of giving one word of advice to teenagers who are thinking about working in media.

That one word? "Don't!"

True, it's not an easy place to be with information consumers getting their news from various sources - credible and otherwise - and only when they want to read or hear it. And the flight of advertising revenue away from newspapers has changed the way they do business while prematurely ending a few journalism careers.

It has been several years since I worked in a pure journalism setting, although I have utilized the same skills in different arenas. Many former colleagues have undergone similar transformations and now work in such fields as marketing communications and public relations (others freelance for a living). But even if you take an experienced journalist out of journalism, you'll have a hard time taking journalism out of the journalist.

Why? It starts with the curiosity about how things work, how things happen, and how everything comes together in one cohesive story. You know what's important to the reader and how to communicate it. You like putting threads of stories together and write or broadcast it in a way that makes sense to both you and your audience. You crave for those moments when the information you write has made an impact on someone's life.

That's what has driven the journalists of yesterday, and it's what drives those who want to enter the profession today.

Earlier this month, Robert Krulwich, an award-winning broadcast journalist, acknowledged the difficulties and challenges that new journalists graduating from college face today. In his commencement speech to journalism school graduates at UCal-Berkeley, Krulwich told them to keep pushing and make their own breaks. "People who fall in love with journalism, who stay at it, who stay stubborn, very often win. I don't know why, but I've seen it happen over and over."

I have too. I have seen former colleagues who used to wonder why they majored in journalism go on to rewarding careers. And I have seen journalists pursue something else after enjoying success in the field. It happens anywhere and everywhere.

The world will always need people to pursue the story: get the facts, assemble then into a coherent whole, and present them in a compelling way that says "Here's why this is important."

It's a noble and sometimes stressful calling. But it will always be necessary no matter the age in which we live.

So,  you want to be a journalist? "Do!"

What's your view on the current state of journalism? Please share them in a comment below.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

3 Tips to Plug a Gap in Your Resume

As I was watching ABC News last night, I listened intently to its report on how long-term unemployed Americans are facing an unfair - but for the most part legal - discrimination in the job market. Employers have included the following phrase (or something similar) in their job postings: "Must be currently employed."

In other words, if you've been out of work more than six months, don't even think about sending a resume because you're damaged goods, and if no one else will hire you, why should we?

What was even worse was an employer's response to a reporter's question on why the phrase is in the posting: "That's what many employers do." My initial response as I shook my head? "So, if many employers were jumping off a cliff ... "

As if it's hard enough being tossed out of work through no fault of your own.

But this underscores a hard and valuable lesson for the millions of Americans out of work, whether it's been a week or a year: Don't sit around doing nothing! You need to stay in the game by doing at least one of the following while you search for new full-time jobs:

  • Line up freelance or contract work. It may not be consistent, but if you can do something to bring in at least a little money, you can maintain your skills or build new ones. And you have something to add to your resume.
  • Volunteer. If you have a cause you're passionate about, and it can benefit from having someone with your skills and background, contact someone at an appropriate non-profit. This website - VolunteerMatch - acts as a recruiting tool for thousands of non-profits.
  • Go back to school or obtain a certification. Can you improve your chances of landing the kind of job you want by taking a course or two? Adding a technical certification? Going back to school for a bachelor's or master's degree? Surf the web for both online and in-class opportunities.

The lesson here is that doing something is better than doing nothing. And if you're facing a lengthy unemployment, it's up to you to fill the "gap" that will eventually appear on your resume if you do nothing. The fleeting nature of jobs and changes in corporate goals and strategies have all but killed the concept of "job longevity." It's up to you, the job seeker, to manage your career rather than have your employers manage it for you.

If you're unemployed, how have you kept yourself busy? Tell me in a comment below.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The CIO’s New Role for a New Decade

It’s amazing what the aftermath of a recession can do for the position of chief information officer.

When we emerged from the downturn of the early ‘90s, we saw the rise of the CIO as the manager of the corporate IT function. The problem was that the CIO was seen more as a glorified technical expert. IT was a function that needed to be managed while it kept the networks running.

Fast-forward a few years. The Internet became a critical part of every business strategy, and after the recession of 2001 and 2002, more businesses were viewing IT as a strategic asset that needed a leader rather than a manager. So, CIOs began reporting to CEOs, business analysts talked about the need for “strategic alignment” between IT and the rest of the business, and CIOs were tasked with answering questions about “how IT can help us deliver on our strategic goals.”

Today, of course, we’re coming out of the Great Recession. I can say that without hesitation because I have yet to find a survey or research report that says IT spending is not going up. But, just like the aftermaths of the two previous economic downturns, there are new issues on the CIO’s plate, namely:

  • Whether cloud computing can help IT and save the company money;
  • What to do about the use of mobile devices throughout the workplace;
  • How to enhance the user experience through mobile technology as a way to boost revenue;
  • How to manage the risks in such strategic undertakings as cloud computing and offshore outsourcing; and
  • Watching out for new technologies that can boost revenue and provide competitive advantage.
It’s that last bullet point that can define the CIO’s role for this decade. The IT leader who can see the potential in a new technology, effectively link that with a strategic business goal, and line up the right resources to execute that goal will be the most valued among his peers. Chris Curran addressed this “power of prediction” in a recent article on CIO.com, linking the power of today’s technology as an aide for forward-thinking IT leaders.

“We now have powerful tools for predicting the future, and the data, technology and people who know how to use those tools to generate actionable information and reliable forecasts,” he wrote. “Digitally enabled conversations, movements tracked by a global positioning system (GPS), and online communications can be valuable (if sometimes controversial) sources of information for analysis, baselines and comparisons. It seems like every company I talk to lately is interested in creating an information advantage. I think they're on the right track.”

If he’s right, the role of the CIO will have completed its 180-degree turn from simply a manager of an ancillary function to a key strategic partner.

What do you think? Are more CIOs now seen as key players in the executive suite? And are they earning that status? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Leaving Your Job? Don't Go Out Like the Lakers Did!

There's going out with a bang, going out with a whimper, going out with class, going out angry - and then there's the 2010-2011 Los Angeles Lakers.

When you leave a job, voluntarily or not, it's important that you leave on the most positive terms possible. Otherwise, you may be carrying some unnecessary baggage to your next job interview and for many years into your career.

Sure, you have the right to mutter and muse privately about how the job was difficult, the boss was a control freak and ogre who never met a cocktail he didn't like, or that your co-workers were incompetent backstabbers. But dirty laundry is and should always be a private matter.

Now, as for the Lakers, they ended their basketball season with a highly discordant bang and a boom Sunday. In their playoff-eliminating loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Lakers lost by an embarrassing 36 points and saw two of their players ejected after committing harder than hard fouls.  It was an ugly exit for a team that won the NBA title last year. When the team takes the court again in less than six months, that exit will still be on the minds of more than a few basketball fans.

Here are two reasons why you should leave a job with class and keep negative feelings to yourself:

  • Look forward, not backward. Your focus should be on the next step in your career. If you're asked about what happened at the job you left, state the reason factually and without a hint of emotion. ("My boss and I had differences of opinion on how to get the job done. Try as I did to do it his way, he still thought things weren't working out.") Then, turn the focus to what you learned on the job and how it can help a new employer. There's a better chance the hiring manager will focus on that and not on the reasons behind your departure.
  • Employers don't like malcontents. If you diss a former employer, the hiring manager for what could be your new employer may wonder if he or she will be in for the same treatment once you leave. They don't want that. They're looking for someone who will do the job, get along with coworkers, and have good things to say about the place during and after your employment.

If you want a hiring manager to remember you well after a job interview, be sure it's for something positive, memorable, and thought-provoking that you say that can create a great, lasting impression.

What advice would you like to share about leaving a job that created a lot of negative, personal feelings? Please share them in a comment below.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Want to Get Hired? Follow
This Hiring Manager's Stern Advice

Ahhh, but if all hiring managers were like Mark Hannan ...

Hannan authored a letter that was highlighted earlier this year in a post on the blog Career Enlightenment.

The letter states what he as a hiring manager expects to see on a job seeker's resume and cover letter, in no uncertain terms. Among his expectations:

  • "I am not looking to provide a temporary pit stop on applicant’s road to the perfect job."
  • " ... The percentage of applicants who provide thorough, complete and correct applications is low, so you do not have to do anything “eye-catching” or extra ordinary. A simple well-written cover letter and a well organized, standard resume will stand out from the rest, believe it or not."
  • "Please do not regurgitate the job posting in your cover letter. I wrote it so I know what it says. A specific detail or very specific, short example of your past success that will directly apply to your future success with the company will pique my interest and encourage me to read more about you."

All the more reason that, if you're applying for the job, you had better be ready to tell the hiring manager what you can do in the short term and how you can fit in with the company long term. Don't take the attitude that this will be merely a pit stop.

Also, make your resume and cover letter easy to read. As an editor, I advise writers to "give the reader a break" by using bullet points, boldface type (see above) and some italics for emphasis. (uhhh, I got a bit carried away.)

Finally, know yourself, what you've done, and how your past accomplishments can be repeated in the future. If they can't see it in your resume and cover letter, it's your job to make them see it. Unlike the stock market, past performance is an indicator of future success.

What do you think is critical to getting hired? Share your views in a comment below.