No, You CAN’T Pick My Brain!

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Like many other consultants and strategists, I’m constantly asked by friends and strangers if they can “pick my brain over lunch” or just flat out email me for my advice on a business strategy matter after reading one of my books, LinkedIn articles, or articles in a number of other publications. This subject has been addressed in many forums by many different authors and experts. In fact, there’s a book with the title, No, You Can’t Pick My Brain: It Costs Too Much! Love it…

How to Avoid Being the Smartest Consultant in the Poor House

I provide free valuable information through several channels and that information has helped lots of others. Most people would never think of asking their attorney or CPA for a brain-picking session camouflaged as a pretense for “doing lunch.” But those who don’t want to invest the time or money for expert advice, but want to get it from me for free – need to be educated or at least made aware of their bonehead requests.

One of my best friends is a realtor, and in one of our real estate investment deals, we worked through the motivated seller’s broker with an all-cash offer. My friend offered to represent our interests at no charge (he wasn’t going to get a commission because of how the deal was set up), but we insisted on paying him the standard commission anyway. We needed his expertise, and we gladly paid for it. Professional courtesy all the way around.

When conference coordinators and meeting planners hire me to provide a keynote, a seminar, or even breakout sessions, I’m always available to answer questions, sit down with an attendee to address some business issue –  I even give away many copies of my books wherever I speak. If I’m being paid for speaking over several days, those same freebies apply.

Think about this: If brain pickers already knew the answers to their questions or the solutions to their problems, they wouldn’t be engaging you. Likewise, if they didn’t have to open their wallets to get a solution to that problem, why would they need any help in the first place!

Whenever I find a brain-picking request in my in-box or on voice mail from someone local, I usually respond with a question: “Are you interested in becoming a client, or do you just want to have lunch?” For all others, I’ll ask only if they are interested in becoming a client. If not, I point them to my books, this blog, my website with free articles and downloads, my Twitter feed, etc. That usually separates the professionals from the amateurs (or, as one of my marketing/speaking coaches calls them, “broke-ass losers”).

Solving their particular problems or challenges requires an investment on their part for the expert’s wisdom, experience, and knowledge. To paraphrase the Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, there’s a time for charity, and a time for business. You have to decide where to draw that line for your own purposes.

Many years ago, I agreed to meet a former co-worker for coffee to discuss a business issue he was wrestling with. An hour later, I walked away thinking: “That cup of coffee just cost me $300.00…I have to stop doing this.” And I did, but I changed the rule to make it work for me.

I can’t claim original ownership to this approach, but I agreed to exchange some of my time only if the person requesting free advice would provide a video testimonial about the ease with which I solved their problem and the value of my solution. Such video testimonials become another example of social proof of your expertise that you can leverage and distribute in many channels.

As Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.”

Nuff said.

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Speaker, positioning/engagement strategist, and former Fortune 500 hiring manager Donn LeVie Jr. is the author of Strategic Career Engagement (SILVER MEDAL WINNER of the 2016 Global eBook Award and RUNNER-UP of the 2016 International Book Award for Careers), and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (GOLD MEDAL WINNER of the 2012 Global eBook Award and WINNER of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers). 

His next book, The Mindworm Contagion, addresses strategies for consultants and business owners for pre-engaging decision makers using social media. It is slated for Spring 2018 release. 

 

 

“Résumés? We don’t need no stinkin’ résumés!”

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“I’m too busy to be updating my résumé…” “I think résumés are a waste of time when I can use social media to promote my expertise…” “Who needs résumés today when we all have LinkedIn profiles?” (Recent comments from LinkedIn posts.)

Who needs résumés today? Recruiters and hiring managers, to start with. Regardless of your opinion about résumés, they are still the de facto document for most professional positions in most industries and fields. Look at all the posts from career coaches and résumé writers on LinkedIn if you have any doubt about the importance of an achievement-focused résumé. Not the “duties and responsibilities” kind that testify to your being just another employee, because hiring managers have too many employees just doing their assigned tasks and duties.

An achievement-focused résumé takes planning and more than a few drafts to get it right. Hiring managers (and recruiters screening résumés for hiring managers) want game changers, solutions providers, and problem solvers who can demonstrate or prove a track record of accomplishment (usually backed up quantitative evidence). If you write in a cover letter, “I have a track record of proven accomplishment” or some other similar cliché, you’d better be able to back it up on a résumé with revenues generated, costs avoided, percent efficiency improvement, or some other objective measure instead of lightweight, subjective verbiage.

The question of the value of résumés is a moot one because it doesn’t matter at all what you think, believe, or feel about their worth. For now, and into the foreseeable future, résumés are what hiring managers and recruiters want to see from candidates. Even if résumés were no longer required, they still are another weapon in your arsenal that attest to your value, brand, and expertise to others having a need for it.

The same goes for cover letters. It doesn’t matter what you think about who reads them; The cover letter is another arrow in your expert quiver that testifies to your ability as the hiring manager’s problem solving, go-to professional. The cover letter is not a summary of your résumé. Omit them at your own peril.

As for LinkedIn profiles, I used to use them as a confirmation tool that the candidate presented as a professional on a résumé likewise did the same on LinkedIn. Social media can be a double-edged sword, where some hiring managers eliminate potential candidates by what they find on social media sites.

I imagine the people bemoaning the need for updated résumés have either been unemployed or underemployed for some time; it might be a result of having a poor attitude — or a poor résumé.

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Donn LeVie Jr. has nearly 30 years in various hiring manager positions for Fortune 500 companies in the earth/space sciences, software development, and microprocessor design support. He is the author of Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 and Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted, both Global eBook Award and International Book Award winners. Today, he is a keynote speaker and seminar leader on positioning and engagement strategies for professionals seeking greater career and business trajectories.

Are There Really Generational Differences in the Workplace?

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We keep reading about soft skill generational differences among Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millenials and whether these real and perceived differences should be accommodated by employers. The truth is that each generation arrives in the workplace strongly influenced by whatever technology drivers are current for them as well as the influence of pop culture.

As a career strategist and former Fortune 500 hiring manager, I personally never bought into the idea of a business or company accommodating a particular generation’s work ethic (“soft skills”, however, are a different animal) over those of other generations. To me, that’s the tail wagging the dog. It contributes to vertical silo social/organization structures rather than horizontal structures.

Instead, what I have found to be more effective for accommodating the workforce generational difference and the bottom line is a combination of several factors, primarily aligning/re-aligning people across generations based on their particular work styles and perspectives.

Deloitte created a system called Business Chemistry that identifies four primary work styles (Drivers, Guardians, Pioneers, and Integrators), and related strategies for accomplishing shared goals. Existing personality tests aren’t tailored to the workplace and rely too much on personal introspection. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and other personality assessments put people in one category or another, but the brain isn’t wired like that and even the Myers-Briggs Foundation cautions against integrating results with hiring decisions. The Business Chemistry process, which is based on neural chemistry, pulls diverse work styles together – regardless of generation. These four primary work styles are found across all generations, not just within one age group.

According to the research, organizations that emphasize cognitive diversity rather than generational or even racial diversity can harvest the catalytic benefits such organizing work styles offer. In it’s search for effective value-driven diversity in the workplace, could neuro-diversity base on cognitive assortment be The Answer?

Want to know if you’re a Driver, Guardian, Pioneer, or Integrator? Email me and I’ll send you the Business Chemistry self-assessment worksheet as found in the Harvard Business Review March/April 2017 edition.

So, what about those soft skills?

Here’s a scary statistic: Only 23% of employers measure quality of hire, a metric that has been shown to be critical to understanding the effectiveness of an organization’s hiring process (source: SHRM Research, 2016). When employers complain about bad hires, it’s sounding more like the echo of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you don’t at least look for soft skills proficiency, well…you get what you pay for.

The higher up one advances in the organization, the greater the need for soft skills execution (see my previous post for more of soft skills). While some assessments can provide a window into a candidate’s soft skills inventory and application, most companies will have to select those soft skills that do the best job reinforcing their particular business process. HR and hiring managers will have to work together to determine which soft skills to look for and assess.

Work environments must establish an atmosphere that provides opportunities for people to succeed with hard and soft skills. While a person’s core personality core can’t be changed, they can learn strategies for engagement and influence to better manage the daily interactions with peers and upper management.

YOUR TURN: what are you strategies and tactics for addressing generational work style differences in the workplace? Are they working, or are you looking for something else? 

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Donn LeVie Jr. is  a former Fortune 500 hiring manager (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corp), award-winning author (Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 – Second Edition and Strategic Career Engagement), keynote speaker/seminar leader, and strategist. Over a 30-year career, he has reviewed thousands of résumés and cover letters, interviewed hundreds of candidates, and hired countless technical, marketing, and communications professionals in the earth and space sciences, software development support, and microprocessor design support. 

Today Donn speaks on career engagement strategies; positioning and influence strategies; and personal breakthrough strategies as well as providing 8-week Elite Small Group Mentoring/Strategist programs. Follow him on Twitter or contact him directly at donnleviejr@gmail.com.

Cultural Fitness: Are You in the Right Shape to Get Hired?

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In today’s ever-morphing hiring landscape, employers are devoting more energy for determining if a candidate is a good cultural fit. Beyond just assessing whether a potential employee will be a squeaky wheel, cultural fit is an important element for succession planning as more Baby Boomers exit the workforce.

What is “cultural fit” anyway? Cultural fit addresses ideas of shared assumptions in a workplace environment, such as how to treat others, how time is managed, how work gets done, how to communicate, how to dress, which behavior isn’t tolerated, how resources are allocated, etc. When hiring managers or decision makers ask themselves, “Do I like you?”, that question encompasses all the above-mentioned criteria.

Soft Skills

Cultural fit includes the possession of such “soft skills” as collaboration, creativity, curiosity, problem solving, communication, conflict management, strong work ethic, adaptability, social awareness, empathy, emotional intelligence, clear and concise self-presentation. These soft skills apply to not only the day-to-day job, but to cultural fit because they represent core values and drive the business agenda.

But these skills are difficult to teach and can be very challenging to screen for in just one or two interviews. An Adecco Staffing survey found that 44% of executives said a lack of soft skills was the biggest proficiency gap in the U.S. workforce. Another survey by the International Association of Administrative Professionals, Office Team, and HR.com discovered that HR managers said they would hire someone with strong soft skills even if the technical skills were lacking because you can always teach technical skills. The mantra today is “Hire for attitude; train for aptitude.”

There’s no simple across-the-board answer that can apply to all jobs in all industries or professions. Multiple interviews and engaging discussions, as well as observed behaviors, help employers measure how well these factors match the organization’s core beliefs.

Here are some other approaches to cultural fit and the cost of the wrong hire.

http://www.jobscience.com/blog/avoiding-bad-hires-with-cultural-fit-assessments/

http://essencerecruitment.ca/testing-cultural-fit/

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Donn LeVie Jr. is  a former Fortune 500 hiring manager (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corp), award-winning author (Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 – Second Edition and Strategic Career Engagement), keynote speaker/seminar leader, and strategist. Over a 30-year career, he has reviewed thousands of résumés and cover letters, interviewed hundreds of candidates, and hired countless technical, marketing, and communications professionals in the earth and space sciences, software development support, and microprocessor design support. 

Today Donn speaks on career engagement strategies; positioning and influence strategies; and personal breakthrough strategies as well as providing 8-week Elite Small Group Mentoring programs. Follow him on Twitter or contact him directly at donnleviejr@gmail.com.

Millennial Job Interview FAIL: TBH, It’s the Fault of the Pre-Frontal Cortex…I Can’t Even…

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If you’ve seen the YouTube video, “Sh!t Millennials Say…in the Workplace” (http://bit.ly/2hMajbM) you know you laughed at the banal facial and verbal expressions (betraying misfires in social cognitive factors) because we’ve all seen them and heard them in the workplace. We’ve been told in recent publications that the whole Millennial characterization craze is simply another episode of how different generations approach work, and it’s alot of noise about nothing. In fact, the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute reviewed 18 years worth of data from 115,000 employees and discovered that “individual characteristics, such as personality traits, job autonomy, and manager relationships accounted for 98 to 99 percent of the differences across employees, whereas generation accounts for just 0 to 2 percent.” (http://ibm.co/2hMeCnA)

Not buying it….completely anyway.

Remember “relationship marketing“?  That’s still a viable approach to courting clients and customers because, if I like you, I’m inclined to do business with you. However, the term “cognitive-focused marketing strategies” is being touted as the next level of market research because of how different generations process information. For example, marketers should target messages for the still-developing millennial brain – specifically, the pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for decision making and moderating social behavior. That may explain why many decisions by younger millennials have to first be run through their social network for approval/acceptance/validation. That’s decision making by consensus, not critical thinking – something companies want in new hires.

But the “moderating social behavior” function of the pre-frontal cortex often misfires, thus creating fodder for such aforementioned YouTube videos on millennials in the workplace. While I mostly chalk up Millennial workplace characterizations to generational differences and try to set aside stereotypes, I sometimes pause to reconsider that position when clients relate stories of job interviews with millennials. Such as….

  • While interviewing a young Millennial applicant for a writer position, the interviewer asked, “What writing accomplishment do you consider your greatest success?” The applicant responded with, “Writing masters theses and doctoral dissertations for students…” The applicant was completely unaware of the ethical issue with such an endeavor. Oh…did I mention that she was interviewing for a position with a global anti-fraud organization that is BIG on ethics and compliance?
  • Candidate asked the interviewer is she could use some of the hand lotion that was on the interviewer’s desk. “Sure,” the interviewer replied. The candidate then pumped out a palm full of hand lotion, hiked up her skirt, and applied the lotion to the inside of her thighs. How do you continued an interview after that?
  • A young attractive Millennial was hired for a front desk/receptionist position. After several weeks on the job, she requested a move to a different position because “the front desk activity interferes with my online shopping.”

What’s worrisome is that such awkward or inappropriate social behavior often is not recognized as such by these individuals. Inappropriate responses to social situations are legitimate causes of concern to hiring managers and employers who may feel that such candidates, if hired, may inflict injury to the company brand or reputation, or at worse, be a lawsuit waiting to happen.

MILLENIALS WANT MEANINGFUL PROJECT WORK: EMPLOYERS WANT MEANINGFUL RESULTS

While Millennials are eager to contribute to meaningful project work, they are just as eager to be rewarded for those contributions. Millennials often seek that reward by job hopping, which is then perceived as an absence of loyalty to an employer. Employer loyalty isn’t what it once was, but what offers more significant upward mobility for any employee is the development and application of new and needed skills lead to meaningful contributions to project work.

But “meaningful contribution” is something above and beyond daily task completions and duties/responsibilties. Your reward for those “contributions” is your paycheck (most of the time).  It’s not a one- or two-time event, because even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then. Doesn’t mean we can crown him “The Acorn Hunter.”  Meaningful contribution from the company perspective (the company, after all, is who provides the paycheck and sets the rules) can be thought of as a track record of demonstrated accomplishment that significantly contributes to the strategic objectives of the organization; it is a history of solving problems and providing resolutions to issues that impact the revenue or mission goals of the organization consistently over time.

The Society for Human Resource Management (https://www.SHRM.org) performed a study in 2016 that showed Millennials over Boomers preferring job-specific training (95% to 83%), career development (88% to 76%), and career advancement opportunities (89% to 73%). Those results are not surprising given they represent the demographic endpoints of the workforce. In those respects, Millennials are like other generations in the workforce; But if I’m a Boomer (and I am), I’m looking forward to golfing at Doral, fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, or cruising down the Danube River on any weekday afternoon.

THE WORKPLACE IS A HETEROGENEOUS DEMOGRAPHIC ENVIRONMENT

The workplace environment is a community of multi-generational workers, not segregated tribes of Millennials, Gen Y people, or Boomers. A company’s hiring, training, and operations policy must balance the needs of a heterogeneous workforce with the financial or missional goals of the organization. Any top-to-bottom corporate-wide re-architecting to accommodate the needs of a particular generation is “wagging the dog” and such an action would not find favor on Wall Street (or shareholders).

Millennials entering the workforce or changing jobs must understand that getting hired isn’t about them; it’s about what the hiring manager needs; it’s about speaking that hiring manager’s language and not in memes, acronyms, emojis, or GIFs; it’s communicating and promoting the future benefits of your expertise and less so the features of your past experience.

So long as the hiring process involves interactions with people, hiring decisions will be strongly influenced by (1) the candidate’s use of impression management language in cover letters, résumés, and interviews; and history of accomplishments (when available); and (2) the hiring manager’s bias (aka “positive prejudice”), “gut reaction” (intuition) about a candidate’s potential for future success, and who best fits in with an existing smooth-running team.

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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.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






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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.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






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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)

refuse-job-offer

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?

skills_gap_0

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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