Calling BS on Some Career Coach “Advice”

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It’s time again for me to post another episode of “Squirrelly Career Advice” as offered by some career professionals. Whenever I spot banal platitudes that offer zero value for those desperate for some tidbit of wisdom to help them move forward with a new job or career, I will call BS on it here.

In this installment, I highlight the completely useless utterings by several career coaches in a recent post at a theundercoverrecruiter.com, which usually has great content. Here is a sample of the career advice they gave:

  • “You can do anything you put your mind to.”
  • “Ensure you get credit for any good work that you do.”
  • “You can’t afford to take your eye off the ball…always ensure you have options.”
  • “What you achieve is up to you.”
  • “Follow your passion.”
  • “Join relevant industry organizations and get to know people.”
  • “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

How’s that for getting you to the next step in your job search or career? I half expected to see, “No matter where you go, there you are” listed as advice. I certainly hope clients aren’t paying for such Poor Richard’s Alamanac-type witty quips because they devalue time-tested expertise provided by all career professionals. The truly top career strategists noticeably move the needle for their clients in all media channels at all times. They have social proof of their ability to effect positive change forward for people who come to them for their wisdom, insight, and experience.

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Donn LeVie Jr. helps meeting managers, conference coordinators, and professional development managers reach SuperStar status. Donn is a keynote speaker, career strategies seminar leader, and award-winning author. He has nearly 30 years experience in various hiring manager positions for such Fortune 500 companies as Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others. In addition, Donn has worked for the federal government (U.S. Dept. of Commerce – NOAA) and taught at the University of Houston Downtown College (Dept. of Natural Science and Mathematics).

Donn is the author of Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (Second Edition), which was the WINNER of the 2012 International Book Award (Business:Careers) and the GOLD MEDAL WINNER of the 2012 Global eBook Award for (Business:Employment). He is also the author of Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted, which was the RUNNER-UP of the 2016 International Book Award (Business:Careers) and the SILVER MEDAL WINNER of the 2016 Global eBook Award (Business:Employment).

Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

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Part II: How a Strong Career Development Presence Can Boost Your Association Conference Return on Event (ROE)  

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Taking Your Successful Conference Professional Development Track to the Next Level

In Part 1 of this series (How a Strong Career Development Presence Can Boost Your Association Conference Return on Event (ROE) – Part I), I discussed several ways association conferences could greatly impact both the return on investment (ROI) and return on event (ROE) for their members through the establishment of a strong Professional/Career Development program.

ROI might be considered the ultimate measure of event success by finance people; for those in charge of membership retention and growth, ROE may be deemed the most important consideration by conference and event coordinators. But in truth, both measures try to take into account the extent that psychological, attitudinal, and behavioral changes translate to added value in the workplace environment.

A strong ROE usually indicates the event has a long tail; in other words, it’s value remains high as measured over time after the event through what’s termed the “chain of impact.” (This chain of impact is more often associated with ROI evaluation.) The impetus for positive behavioral or attitudinal change (i.e., learning) begins at some time point during a conference (during a keynote, a breakout session, a one-on-one conversation) and in time leads to the acquisition of new skills or knowledge, which in turn influence the performance of a work-related task that later results in some increased value to business performance.

We know that the further removed we are from a conference, excitement, inspiration, and retention drop off precipitously. Streaming presentations and using cloud storage for registered attendees helps revisit content to reinforce retention. We also know that without frequent reinforcement, the gains experienced immediately following the conference can be lost altogether. But even with retention reinforcement, assigning ROI in the absence of methods to measure at various links in the chain is a difficult proposition.

So the question becomes: What post-conference approaches can associations embrace to help attendees extend that chain of impact to a measurable result?

POST-CONFERENCE RETENTION APPROACHES

Not all conference attendees are looking for the same thing from a Professional Development track. Career development is part of professional development and a good percentage of attendees want to know not only how to do what they do better — some want information on getting their careers to the next level. Attendee expectations are very often tied to their current or future roles in the workplace and differ from one industry or profession to the next. That understanding (roles vs. industry) will be critical when designing post-conference follow-up email and tweets to help reinforce knowledge retention. Segmenting members/ attendees by role instead of industry will help make follow-up microlearning more individually relatable because it contextualizes the content specifically to the function, increasing the likelihood of the message being viewed or read.

Drip marketing is used to maintain a “top of mind” position for a product or service. The same technique can be used for post-conference retention efforts whereby brief emails, ads, blogs, YouTube messages, or tweets “drip” information from keynotes or breakout sessions at frequent intervals to attendees. Often all that’s needed to induce recall is the repetition of a brief statement or fact. Someone watching that conference video on corporate compliance might benefit from an email with a link to a related TED Talk or blog post. The association’s social media staff should work with HR and education managers to develop a strategy for drip marketing channels.

When a conference Professional/Career Development program helps send the ROE through the roof, how can an organization capture that value for its members and incorporate it into a more permanent option rather than at annual events or sampling during the chain of impact?  One successful method is to integrate those successful elements from the conference into a member benefit (or student benefit) package.

PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE

If your organization already has an online job bank where employers post vacancies or a résumé upload database that lets employers review member résumés, well..that’s a good start but it’s not nearly enough today. Every association and organization has a percentage of its members who are looking for a job, considering a career change, or advice on building their business to get more clients or customers. A professional development member benefit package today must incorporate effective, high-value career development strategies that are easily accessible for members.

Here are several ideas for incorporating career development strategies as part of an organization’s Professional/Career Development member benefit package that can enhance and extend the event ROE.

“Connected Career” Column

Have career strategists from a recent successful conference provide a career strategies column for the organization’s newsletter, website, or magazine. Authors for that column can be rotated among those interested. It’s a great way to maintain the post-conference “buzz” with topics and authors the members are familiar with.

Cover Letter, Résumé, LinkedIn Profile Evaluations

Cover letter, résumé, and LinkedIn profile evaluations are likely to be the most popular option for a career development strategies member benefit package. There are several ways in which this program can be incorporated. The association can partially subsidize discounted evaluations (perhaps through a subscription fee to the career strategist conducting the evaluations), or members can pay for the evaluations themselves.

Podcasts, Webinars

Another career development strategy is to have career strategists provide webinars and podcasts on different aspects of moving forward with careers or developing small business, all designed to extend the conference ROE value (the event) into the member benefit package (the program).

“Ask the Expert” Column

Another resource is to have guest career strategists respond to career questions from members on the association website or newsletter.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Extending the chain of impact, drip marketing, and even gamification (using gaming techniques for elearning) can help keep those high-value conference learning opportunities and career strategies “top of mind” with conference attendees once they have returned to their jobs. Perhaps a future “return on extended event” () measure might yield some interesting ROI.

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Meeting planners and conference coordinators: Would you like to upgrade your status to Superstar? Contact Donn to learn how he can help you push that ROE over the top. Visit  donnleviejrstrategies.com to learn more about his Career Strategy Member Benefit Subscription Program.

Keynote speaker, seminar leader, career strategist, and award-winning author Donn LeVie Jr. helps event planners and conference coordinators become superstars.

Donn has nearly 30 years experience in hiring manager positions for such Fortune 500 companies as Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and many others. In addition, Donn has taught at the University of Houston Downtown College in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and worked for the federal government with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Donn is the author of Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (Second Edition), WINNER of the 2012 International Book Award and the GOLD MEDAL WINNER of the 2012 Global eBook Award for Business:Careers. He is also the author of Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted, RUNNER-UP of the 2016 International Book Award and SILVER MEDAL WINNER of the 2016 Global eBook Award for Business:Careers.

 

 

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How a Strong Career Development Presence Can Boost Your Association Conference Return on Event (ROE) – Part I

 

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Fine-Tuning Your Conference Professional Development Track for Added Association Value

The world of conferences and conventions is a magnet for gathering people of like minds, professions, and interests. Like moths to a flame, conference attendees congregate to learn the latest tools and techniques in a variety of breakout sessions, to check out new products in exhibit halls, and to network with other professionals in the hallways and corridors.

Such events typically are viewed as investments for a specific purpose. As an investment, event planners should be aware of the different measures available to assess the financial value of such programs. They should also be responsive to those methods for evaluating the intrinsic (psychological, attitudinal, behavioral) value for attendees, which often can influence projected financial expectations for future events.

Many conferences host job fairs with local or industry employers, or have conference- sponsor HR representatives provide cursory cover letter and résumé feedback in response to the ever-present percentage of attendees looking for jobs or career changes. Such minimal services hardly qualify as “professional development.”

There’s still room for enhancing professional/career development services beyond the aforementioned cursory options which in turn can improve the conference “return on event,” elevate the return on investment for attendees, and generate higher feedback ratings for the sponsoring organization. But first, let’s briefly look at return on event and return on investment individually in this context.

RETURN ON EVENT (ROE)

Ira Kerns, Managing Director of GuideStar Research and Meeting Metrics, described the term “return on event” (ROE) in 1991 to account for the perceived benefits expected before an event (the baseline) with post-event benchmark results from various measurements and attendee feedback. The greater the positive difference between the anticipated results and measured results, the more successful the event, yielding a high return on event.  While many pre- and post-event variables must be measurable and quantifiable, some variables (such as written and verbal attendee feedback) provide a different dimension regarding the success of a conference.

Kerns also developed the Core-7 Meeting Dimensions that identify psychological and behavioral perceptions that have become useful pre-event baseline and post-event assessment measures:

  1. Knowledge/understanding (“I know”)
  2. Opinions/perceptions/beliefs (“I agree”)
  3. Feelings/attitudes (“I want to”)
  4. Abilities/skills (“I can”)
  5. Intentions/commitment (“I will”)
  6. Behaviors (“I am doing”)
  7. Business results/impacts – ROI (“I am delivering value”)

A pre-event baseline consists of identifying the needs, interests, and priorities of the targeted event audience, and then developing marketing/communication collateral for the appropriate channels to create interest and registrations from that audience. This phase must involve potential attendees in a focus/planning group who can provide that necessary perspective.

A post-event measurement or evaluation assesses attendee satisfaction or value received (for example, did not meet/met/exceed expectations) regarding the acquisition of new knowledge or skills offered through different conference tracks; change in behaviors, perceptions, or attitudes as a result of information presented; the value of pre- and post-conference workshop content; effectiveness of speakers, trainers, etc.

The following questions help assess that ROE:

  • Did the programming of topic tracks, presentations, and speakers result in changes in attitudes, perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors?
  • Are there processes in place to ensure attendees will both act on or retain those changes post conference?
  • How will attendee evaluations and feedback shape subsequent conference/event planning to provide even more value for members and attendees?
  • What are the long-term implications of high ROE on the association/organization?
  • Can lessons from a post-conference ROE evaluation lead to changes in association/organization member benefits?

RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)

Conferences and other similar events have no hard and fast across-the-board rules or financial benchmarks for which to determine event success and attendee retention. Each gathering consists of intangible experiences shared by event planners, attendees, and participants; however, there are two components to attaching overarching value to ROE:

  1. The financial return on the investment (ROI) which compares actual costs to real and perceived benefits to the sponsoring organization
  2. The “grass roots” return on investment that confers a financial value on individual feedback (numeric and verbal) and measurement results on the value (knowledge received, incentive for behavior change, etc.) received by attendees

Professional associations exist to serve the needs of the membership primarily, which suggests placing an equal if not slightly heavier emphasis on the “grass roots” ROI than the financial ROI in most cases. Professional associations exist so long as the membership is being served by highly valuable conferences, networking opportunities, valued certifications in the profession, and other member benefits. Member retention rates are critical to the organization’s financial longevity and health.

Professional associations can extract strategic value from ROI and ROE in many ways (use of mobile conference apps can engage more attendees to provide real-time feedback and may allow for on-the-fly event changes):

  • More focus on conference breakout session categories that attendees find higher value with
  • Eliminate those conference amenities that attendees don’t feel add significant value
  • Increase conference registration and attendance for subsequent recurring events
  • Invite speakers that attendees rate high to submit proposals for future events
  • Delivering high content value for attendees can lead to increases in association membership
  • High ROE adds to the overall value of other member benefits provided by the association or organization

HOW A FOCUSED PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT TRACK CAN BOOST ROE VALUE

A focused Professional Development track (or stem) can enhance all of the 7 Meeting Dimensions that contribute to a highly successful conference. In every professional association there are members who are looking for a job or better internal opportunities, seeking a new career, or trying to add customers or clients. Members and attendees want those psychological and behavioral perceptions affirmed and fulfilled at conference events that take them to the next level in their jobs or careers. Yet, in many professional associations, the extent of “professional development” is limited to an online job bank or “post your résumé here” option.

As a speaker, seminar leader, career strategist, I have also served on the board of several national and international associations. I have also participated in helping other associations shape successful Professional Development member benefits as well as Professional Development tracks for conference attendees that have directly contributed to higher ROE, increased membership, and enhanced membership value.

Here are a few suggestions for creating a focused Professional Development track that goes beyond inclusion of breakout sessions:

  1. Focus on providing breakout sessions geared toward individual aspects of finding a job or changing careers (cover letters, résumés, LinkedIn profile reviews, etc), or strategies for adding clients to an existing business; invite career experts* to lead breakout sessions or pre-conference half-day seminars
  2. Include session tracks that teach attendees the latest social media strategies for gaining access to decision makers and hiring managers
  3. Hire career strategists to conduct personal career evaluations with conference attendees. One successful approach is to have attendees pay a discounted fee ($30 to $50 per person) for a 30-minute session with a career strategist. The discounted attendee fee helps offset the career strategist fee charged to the conference sponsor.
  4. During morning and afternoon conference breaks in the exhibit hall, have speakers present short mini-sessions on a stage or platform in the exhibit hall. Such topics might include: “20-minute Cover Letter Makeover”; “7 Cover Letter Clichés You Must Avoid”; or “An 8-Step Social Media Plan to Gain Access to Decision Makers.”
  5. Hire a portrait photographer to take free head shots of attendees. At a recent conference at which I was hired for conducting personal career consultations and several breakout sessions, for two days the line for the free head shots was easily 30 to 50 people long most of each day. Attendees thought that the free head shots was one of the best Professional Development activities of the conference.

* I use the term ”Career experts” to include seasoned hiring managers, expert career strategists, and those who have actually screened, hired, and managed hundreds of people. Be cautious when hiring “certified” career professionals as many of those certifications can be earned by watching web-based videos and taking an exam – all without the experience of hiring anyone.   

When such a Professional Development package is so positively received by conference attendees, the next step to consider is whether some of these activities and services can be incorporated into the association member benefit package.  Such services could include cover letter evaluations, résumé evaluations, LinkedIn Profile evaluations, and Job Interview Coaching strategies.  Be sure to hire the best available career strategist(s) to take on these responsibilities – preferably professionals that members have interacted with at a recent conferences.

BENEFITS FOR CONFERENCE COORDINATORS AND EVENT PLANNERS: HOW TO LOOK LIKE A SUPERSTAR TO ASSOCIATION MEMBERS

When conference coordinators and event planners can provide value-driven Professional Development options (and the right people to deliver them) that exceed conference attendee expectations, their strategic contribution to the event success makes them look like superstars. That momentum can carry over into growth for the association or organization as word spreads throughout the professional community about the value-rich events associated with that organization.

(Watch for the followup article: How a Strong Career Development Presence Can Boost Your Association Conference Return on Event (ROE) – Part II)

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Meeting planners and conference coordinators: Would you like to upgrade your status to Superstar? Contact Donn to learn how he can help you push that ROE over the top. Visit  donnleviejrstrategies.com to learn more about his Career Strategy Member Benefit Subscription Program.

Keynote speaker, seminar leader, career strategist, and award-winning author Donn LeVie Jr. helps event planners and conference coordinators become superstars.

Donn has nearly 30 years experience in hiring manager positions for such Fortune 500 companies as Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and many others. In addition, Donn has taught at the University of Houston Downtown College in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and worked for the federal government with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Donn is the author of Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (Second Edition), WINNER of the 2012 International Book Award and the GOLD MEDAL WINNER of the 2012 Global eBook Award for Business:Careers. He is also the author of Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted, RUNNER-UP of the 2016 International Book Award and SILVER MEDAL WINNER of the 2016 Global eBook Award for Business:Careers.

 

 

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Leap of Faith: Why I Turned Down a Lucrative Job Offer (long post)

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Several years ago I had an amazing opportunity come my way from someone in my professional network, while I patiently awaited a long-delayed approval on a six-month extension of a high-paying part-time contract I was working on.

An engineering manager friend contacted me to see if I’d be interested in a director-level position with his company (a former employer of mine). I wasn’t interested initially as it didn’t figure into my career strategy. I passed along several names of other candidates for his consideration, but he was persistent in wanting me to think about the position: “We need someone with a passion for excellent customer documentation and your name keeps coming to the top of the list,” he told me.

Part of the reason for my reluctance to accept the position was that I was winding down my career for working for someone else. I had written two successful career strategy books with others in the works, and was giving keynotes and presenting seminars at conferences (part time). I wanted to pursue that direction full time when my six-month contract extension (if approved) expired.

Another reason for my reluctance was that I had been working from my home office on contracts for the past four years, supporting microprocessor design projects for companies in the U.S. and China. Working from home, as you might expect, offers so many conveniences and savings. I was sure that this director-level position would demand my presence on site five days a week plus occasional travel.

So, I agreed to speak with him and his manager about the director position. I had a slew of questions for them that were critical to my giving serious consideration to the position, which was Director of Technical Publications for a particular line of microprocessors. After our hour-long meeting, I came away convinced that I would have a difficult time being successful if I accepted the position.

Here are a few of the considerations that would be problematic for me:

  • No existing customer documentation (functional specs, programmers reference manuals; design specs, architecture specs, application notes) was available for the past 15 years
  • Engineering documentation resided on an internal wiki site and SharePoint with little navigation structure and resembled “notes to self” more than true documentation that wasn’t available to customers (thankfully!–no documentation is much better than poor documentation)
  • The existing documentation was written by design engineers, who are more focused on how the microprocessor works – not on how customers would program and configure the chip for their consumer products
  • Design engineers are notoriously reluctant to document anything (generally)

When I asked about the general attitude of the engineering team to start providing better documentation, the engineering director told me, “No one gives a hoot about writing documentation.” That wasn’t what I wanted to hear but what I expected to hear.

I saw this situation as a time-consuming, slow implementation of change, and an exercise in futility. I had been in similar situations with other companies over my career and I just wasn’t going to push that boulder up another hill. And it would mean setting my book and speaking projects on the shelf for several years. I didn’t want to do that as I had been developing some momentum in those areas.

Then I asked about salary. “Name your number…,” they said, so I did. A big one; much larger than anything I’d earned in the past. It had to account for all the pain and suffering I saw that laid ahead. They didn’t bat an eye.

I discussed the position and the salary with my awesome supportive wife, who essentially left the decision up to me. I knew that I would regret not pursuing what I wanted to do with the rest of my life if I accepted the position (with all its attendant issues) just because of the big bag of money they dangled before me (we were fortunate in that we worked hard over the years to already have a solid financial position).

So I declined the offer.

But in so doing, I explained to my engineering manager friend the issues I saw with the position (and he agreed with them). I also suggested to him…

“The person you need with a passion for excellent customer documentation is an engineering director, not a technical publications expert. Engineers don’t report to the technical publications manager, so there’s no incentive to embrace and comply with what’s needed for developing any customer documentation. Without a revised vision from engineering of the importance of documentation as a critical business asset, the documentation director will be confronted with a continuously uphill battle to fulfill those responsibilities to the company’s customers and shareholders.”

I offered to help get them started with defining the process for creating customer documentation (working from home as a contractor, of course), but they declined. Four months later, the position was still unfilled, but the company was now running ads for a “Director of Applications Engineering” based on my suggestion.

Nine months after my interview, that company’s business unit underwent a reduction in workforce. Two weeks after my interview, that six-month contract extension came through and I didn’t look back.

That decision proved to be the right one because I chose what was my passion instead of what would have been a temporary financial reward.

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Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






Donn LeVie Jr. (The ONE Hire Authority) is a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and has worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). Donn is the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, Silver Medal Winner of the 2016 Global eBook Award, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).  

Donn leads career strategy seminars (for job seekers and for hiring managers wanting to know how to spot talent) at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. He also offers a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.

Conference planners/meeting organizers: Do you need an informative and entertaining keynote speaker or a professional development seminar for conference attendees? Donn’s 2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact him directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com for more information or use the Contact page on this blog.

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Why Are We Still Talking About a Skills Gap?

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The skills gap that has been in employment news since the mid-1990s continues to be an issue in some areas of the marketplace. The old truism of higher education providing a sufficient supply of qualified and skilled workers for meeting the demands of the job market is in jeopardy. Part of the problem is the rapidly changing job requirements, thanks to many different variables such as the global economy, the changing demographics of the workforce, and even Gordon Moore’s Law about how technology changes by leaps and bounds every 18 to 24 months or so. When we experience increases in microprocessor speed and lower power use–all that stuff that makes things faster while using less battery power means a revolutionizing of the “footprint” of new and current personal handheld (and other) devices and “tools” used in nearly every profession. It’s no surprise that the necessary job skills for these technological advances change in parallel, requiring individuals to make adjustments to their career strategy.

The skills needed to keep pace with these technological advances quickly outpace what many colleges and universities can do to provide the necessary supply of qualified workers, much the way Austin traffic improvement projects are out of date by the time they are completed. In some cases, companies try to pick up the slack with internal training programs, internships, and apprenticeships. In others, community colleges offer quicker solutions for helping fill the skills gap by offering Associate degrees or courses that lead to certain types of licenses or certifications.

While some fields profess a solid inventory of talent for white-collar office positions (usually with bachelor’s, masters or doctorates in tow), the struggling manufacturing sector increasingly may have to rely on trade schools for skilled workers to help add fuel to the nation’s economic engine.

It was Alexander Hamilton who insisted that the future growth of the United States was tied to manufacturing. If Hamilton’s political (and personal) foe, Thomas Jefferson, had had his way, post-Revolutionary War America would have been an agrarian society (Jefferson once wrote that, “…the class of artificers [i.e., manufacturers] as the panders of vice and the instruments by which the liberties of a country are generally overturned.”).

Perhaps we’d be having a different skills gap conversation today.

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Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






Donn LeVie Jr. (The ONE Hire Authority) is a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and has worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). Donn is the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, Silver Medal Winner of the 2016 Global eBook Award, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).  

Donn leads career strategy seminars (for job seekers and for hiring managers wanting to know how to spot talent) at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. He also offers a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.

Conference planners: Do you need an informative and entertaining keynote speaker or a professional development seminar for conference attendees? Donn’s 2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact him directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com for more information or use the Contact page on this blog.

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5 “Soft Skills” Interview Questions You Must Prepare For

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In a recent survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 40 percent of business unit executives stated that candidates lack critical communication competencies; 39 percent stated that candidates were also deficient in critical evaluation/critical thinking skills and leadership and navigation.  That is what is known as a leadership crisis.

When hiring managers ask probing questions that relate to your ability to communicate the value of your expertise, they are looking not only for communication and critical thinking skills, they are looking for evidence of leadership potential. It’s the “soft skills” portion of your responses that provide an inkling as to that potential. Teaching soft skills (problem solving, collaboration, organization, communication, delegation to name a few) not only is a daunting task, but also increasingly difficult to find among candidates because of the subjective nature and how these soft skill priorities and types vary across organizations and industries. Hiring managers (and HR in particular) must have a grasp of those soft skills that reinforce the company culture prior to conducting candidate interviews.

But there’s no question that a command of these soft skills helps companies development competitive advantages in the market – maybe even a market dominance.

So, here are some sample questions a hiring manager may pose to extract hints of the presence of soft skills – and leadership potential – in your response.

  1. “What is it that gets you up in the morning and inspires or motivates you to come to work every day?” Most of us have heard this one a few times, and I’ve asked it many times. Your response helps the hiring manager get a feel for your thoughts on collaborating with others or whether you’re more suited for a more task-oriented role. It’s another one of those questions designed to know a little more about who you are and what drives your ambition.
  2. “Tell me about a difficult project when you were tasked with not enough people/time/budget and how you executed the project…” Another popular hiring manager question designed to get a glimpse of your ability to organize, delegate, crisis manage, and juggle multiple priorities. If some approach you took didn’t work, provide a brief hindsight analysis as to why and what you should have done differently. It shows the hiring manager that you can close the loop.
  3. “Describe for me when you’re firing on all cylinders…what does that look like and how are you engaged in the job or task with/without a team?” Another question designed to get look at your “inner” workings that you consider important for personal on-the-job satisfaction either working solo or with others in a collaborative effort.
  4. “From your experience, what does a successful team look like? What does an unsuccessful team look like?” Again, this question helps hiring managers understand your approach to successful collaboration, delegation, project management, and communication by comparing and contrasting previous team involvement.
  5. “How would you rank these qualities in order of importance: communication, collaboration, delegation, critical thinking, and organization?” You may have a clue as to what the organization values by studying the job posting or company website as this question may be one designed to determine how well your list order coincides with the organization’s priorities. 

Such questions help hiring managers identify soft skills gaps, and when a candidate is hired, contribute to shaping shaping the necessary training to close those gaps. Managers with strong soft skills help boost their team or department’s performance by as much as 30% because people feel their work is valued and rewarded, clarifies the sense of corporate culture standards, and provides an incentive for motivation., according to research by the Hay Group.

As one global business owner friend confided in me years ago, “I hire for attitude; I train for aptitude. It’s much easier than the other way around.”

What other soft skills do you feel are critical for leadership development? Contribute to the conversation.

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Download a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets for your association members. You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss to help your association’s professional development/member benefits efforts.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






My name is  Donn LeVie Jr. and I am The ONE Hire Authority.  I’m a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and have worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). I am the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, Silver Medal Winner of the 2016 Global eBook Award, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).  

I lead career strategy seminars (for job seekers and for hiring managers wanting to know how to spot talent) at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. I also offer a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.

Conference planners: Do you need an informative and entertaining keynote speaker or a professional development seminar for conference attendees? My 2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact me directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com for more information or use the Contact page on this blog.

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If You Don’t Like the Hiring Game, Change the Rules

Kobayashi_maru_st2

Most of us have never been faced with a no-win scenario. In the Star Trek movies, Captain Kirk,when a student at Star Fleet, beat the Kobayashi Maru simulation scenario (which was specifically designed as a no-win scenario) by secretly reprogramming the simulation to provide him with a viable way out of the predicament.

He changed the rules of the game because he didn’t believe in the no-win scenario.

You can do the same thing with the unwritten, invisible, or non-existent “rules” of the hiring process. Here are three examples (long post).

Several years ago, I was driving past the main entrance to a large high-tech company here in Austin. Standing on the median outside the entrance to the employee parking area was a gentleman dressed in a sharp-looking suit, wearing a large sandwich board sign that said “Will design advanced microprocessors for food. Free résumé.” Nearly every other driver in the left-turn lane to enter the employee parking area rolled down the window to take a copy of this individual’s résumé as they drove past him.

Someone contacted the local news stations about this fellow, and later he was on the evening news being interviewed while he handed résumés to drivers. He followed this routine for several days at different high-tech companies. Within the week, he was hired. His creative approach—and probably some excellent TV exposure—helped him get the attention of hiring managers.

He changed the rules of the hiring process to his advantage. He made himself memorable.

My cousin lost her job in the finance department of a high-tech company based in New England. I helped her create a professional skills, knowledge, and expertise portfolio  (“PSKE Portfolio” as I refer to it in my books) and revised her cover letter. Less than two months later, she was on the short list for a vacant slot in the finance department at a major corporation that packaged and sold seafood around the world. Prior to being called for a second interview, she learned from the hiring manager’s executive assistant what his favorite cookies were. She showed up for her second interview with a batch of fresh-baked cookies—and got hired.

Bribery? Some may see it that way but the cookies were offered to others in the office—the cookies just happened to be the hiring manager’s favorite kind. What a creative coincidence. Was it the cookies that got her hired? Hardly. It was, after all, her second interview; the cookies simply reinforced her name and her PSKE Portfolio with the hiring manager.

She changed the rules of the hiring process to her advantage. She made herself memorable.

My friend Eric found himself in a similar situation. He asked me for any last-minute suggestions (other than baking cookies) just before his interview. I suggested he pay attention to the personal items displayed on the hiring manager’s desk or wall. They often provide clues to the things that are important outside of the hiring manager’s work environment, and may help establish some rapport with the hiring manager beyond the normal small talk preceding the harder interview questions. We all want to work with people we like and who have things in common with us, and that includes hiring managers.

Eric later told me that the hiring manager was a Houston Astros baseball fan and Eric (a New York Yankees fan) was able to engage him in some banter about a subject they both had an interest in. After Eric’s very positive interview, he purchased two tickets (less than $30) to a Round Rock Express game, which is a local Triple A farm team for the Texas Rangers, and dropped them off at the hiring manager’s office. Eric mentioned to the hiring manager that he would not be able to attend the game, so he thought the hiring manager would know someone else who might be interested in using the tickets. Eric purchased the tickets after his initial interview as a strategy for getting the hiring manager to remember him from among the other candidates.

Enticement? Not really because the tickets made their way into someone else’s hands (Eric knew the hiring manager could not accept the gift), so there was no intentional or perceived quid pro quo from such a transaction—other than the hiring manager remembering Eric’s positive interview and, of course, the gesture with the baseball game tickets.

He changed the rules of the hiring process to his advantage. He made himself memorable.

Eric’s strategy of doing something different to be remembered paid off. He did receive a job offer from this company, but he turned it down for a more rewarding out-of-state position.

To be clear: these three examples of creative rule changing were not cheap tricks. None of these examples would have been successful if these individuals did not already have strong cover letters, résumés, and interviews. They simply used cookies, baseball tickets, and off-the-wall approach as outside-the-box mnemonic devices in their overall strategy to keep their names and their qualifications at the front of the line.

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Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






(portions of this post excerpted from my book, Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0, Second Edition.)

My name is  Donn LeVie Jr. and I am The ONE Hire Authority.  I’m a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and have worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). I am the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).  

I lead career strategy seminars (for job seekers and for hiring managers wanting to know how to spot talent) at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. I also offer a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a professional development seminar for conference attendees? My 2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact me directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com for more information or use the Contact page on this blog.

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Career Plan vs. Career Strategy: What’s the Difference?

strategy vs. plan

When it comes to the terms “career plan” versus “career strategy” is there a difference? It depends on who you ask. Some see the plan subservient to the strategy; others (like me) see just the opposite. While to some, it may be a matter of semantics, a career plan in today’s economy and job market is like sailing from Galveston to Tampa using dead reckoning as navigation. You have a plan, you know from standing on the bow of your sailboat in Galveston Bay with a compass, sailing charts, LORAN, and GPS at the ready that Tampa is “out there, a few degrees south of due east.” Well, that kind of planning will get you just beyond the Texas coastline, but even with such great tools, you still have to make adjustments along the way to account for currents, tides, wind, storms, angry white whales, and other navigational obstacles to end up in Tampa and not Havana.

How you account for these weather and navigation challenges is your strategy, and each involves specific tactics to be successful.

where-will-you-be-in-5-yearsNowadays you don’t hear the question: “Where do you want to be in 5 years?” much anymore. That’s an interview question about planning. “Still working” would be an acceptable answer in this job market, but having a plan with well thought out steps along the way for contingencies is, of course, a wise move. I always expected to have a career in the earth sciences when I graduated and worked as a research geological oceanographer for NOAA and then on to Phillips Petroleum as an exploration geologist. But then conditions beyond my control intervened, even with my best laid plans, and I was forced to consider other options when the price for a barrel of oil fell to around $10.00. Time for a complete career change, which took about one year to land that first job in a new career (not my first career change, either).

What are those tangible and intangible qualities that could translate into another career if you were forced into such a situation due to layoffs or the desire to do something else? What skills, knowledge, and expertise (don’t forget “soft” skills) that you now possess can add value to a secondary area of interest should it have to be a primary one? Take inventory now of those tools in the toolbox that can be a lifesaver should the need arise.

Even the best sailboat captain has an orange life vest stowed away down below.

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Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






My name is  Donn LeVie Jr. and I’m a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and have worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). I am the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).  

I lead career strategy seminars (for job seekers and for hiring managers wanting to know how to spot talent) at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. I also offer a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a professional development seminar for conference attendees? My 2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact me directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com for more information or use the Contact page on this blog.

 

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Avoid Appearing Desperate After Job Interviews (Stop Whining, Too)

waiting for the phone call

One of the most frequently asked questions in job and career discussions groups is, “How long after the interview should I wait before checking back with the recruiter or hiring manager?”

My question is: Why on earth are you waiting for anyone? Do you not have a long-term career strategy in place or does your vision stop with the next job? You have to take control of your career by avoiding useless passive activity such as waiting for a phone call or email about the position for which you recently interviewed.

All hiring managers want to hire people with initiative and hit-the-ground-running attitudes instead of wait-by-the-phone mindsets. Hounding a recruiter or hiring manager every few days is sure to get your status downgraded too.

woman by red phone

The passive activity of waiting to hear back from a recruiter or hiring manager about whether you are moving forward in the hiring process after job interviews are over unnecessarily builds anxiety and worry (and isn’t worry a prayer for things you don’t want to happen?). There’s all kinds of advice floating around and much of it supporting a groveling approach such as, “call the recruiter and ask again when you can expect a response…” or “you just have to be patient and wait.” Gimme a break. Counteract that tendency to be another lemming by continuing to promote your professional brand and expertise to the hiring manager after job inteviews are over as part of your overall forward-moving career strategy. See one of my previous posts for details on how to do that.

Waiting for a phone call or email is just sitting dead in the water, relinquishing control of your career trajectory and momentum. Other candidates are moving forward…and faster.

Shouldn’t you be doing the same?

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Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective. I really do appreciate your comments, suggestions, and thoughts.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






My name is  Donn LeVie Jr. and I’m a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and have worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). I am the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).  

I lead career strategy seminars (for job seekers and for hiring managers wanting to know how to spot talent) at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. I also offer a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a career strategies seminar for conference attendees? My 2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact me directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com for more information or use the Contact page on this blog.

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How to “Ace” the Behavioral Interview

Question Mark Key Shows Doubt And Help

Many people panic before and during job interviews for a number of reasons. The two most common in my experience are: (1) Not being prepared by not knowing their résumé backwards and forwards; and (2) taking an “employee” attitude toward the hiring process. First, the résumé is the foundation of the script you use for nearly every question posed to you during an interview. You should be able to speak at length to any single bullet list item on your résumé. Second, an employee attitude is the wrong one to walk into an interview with; the hiring manager has a need for a problem solver, and YOU need to assume the attitude that YOU are that problem solver who bears the expertise and the accomplishment-focused résumé to back that up.

The figure below illustrates the STAR structure of behavioral interview questioning along with suggested response approaches. behavioral-questions There is no “right” or “wrong” response to any behavioral interview question; only different approaches to a particular situation. Your response is likely the right response for the situation in which you were involved at that time. The STAR structure is the very same approach you would take if you were to write-up a case history (of which at least one case history should be in your portfolio of documents).

Hiring managers and interviewers are looking for evidence of articulate vocabulary (not a lot of uh’s, umm’s, and you know’s or other meaningless vocalizations), evidence of critical thinking ability, and evidence of problem-solving skills. The “think-aloud protocol” is another type of behavioral interview technique whereby candidates verbalize their thinking process while attempting some problem-solving exercise.

Be prepared ahead of time with one or two scenarios you can speak at length to using the STAR structure in response to any behavioral interview question –  without the meaningless vocalizations.

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Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






My name is  Donn LeVie Jr. and I’m a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and have worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). I am the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).  

I lead career strategy seminars (for job seekers and for hiring managers wanting to know how to spot talent) at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. I also offer a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a career strategies seminar for conference attendees? My 2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact me directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com for more information or use the Contact page on this blog

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