Stay the Course … or Pivot?

You thought I was going to talk politics, right? Another day, perhaps. But I am going to borrow from a current political message.

Disregard people’s responses at your own peril. And while that certainly does apply to companies, government, and CXO’s who set strategy, what about on a much more personal level … your job search.

What responses are you getting to …

Your resume? Interest? Inquiries? Interviews? Or, Silence? Unless your answer is one or all of the first three, what can you do differently to move from silence to activity?

Networking? Is your network providing you with introductions to your target market? Or, are people hiding behind closed doors because you asked them for a job and they can’t deliver? Is it time to hone your message?

Search strategy? Sitting in front of a computer and responding to posted positions is easy and it sure can make a person feel productive. But what is the return on your investment of time and energy? If decision-makers are not responding, the search strategy might need an overhaul.

Online Presence? Do you have one? Is it credible? Is it attracting the kind of opportunities you want? If your message is not resonating with your target market, then perhaps the messaging needs to be refined. 

I know you know this. If you keep on doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll continue to get what you’ve been getting. If you’re getting what you want and need, great! If you aren’t, then it’s time to pivot. Unless you embrace change, it’s unlikely anything will change.

Executive finance positions, and particularly CFO roles, are limited. There are only so many available slots at the top. Move away from the masses (competition) and the same ineffective strategies they all use and craft (no pun intended) a strategy that gets you out in the open where you can be seen and found by those who need to know about you, need what you have, and are willing to pay to get it.

Make it Personal, PLEASE!

I don’t often rant, but I’m about to. I’ve blogged previously about the importance of personalized invitations on Linked In … and yet … I still get invites that are canned. At least I can look at the profile to determine who the person is. I’d like to suggest, strongly, that personalizing Facebook friend requests is also highly recommended. 

This morning I received a friend request on Facebook with no personal message and no way to determine who this person was because all of his settings were at the highest level of privacy. I didn’t know who he was nor could I glean any information from his info page. He was a nameless person who, for all intents and purposes, could have been unsavory. How would I know?

I sent him a very nice message stating that I was careful about who I friended and asking how he found me and why he decided to reach out to me. His response …

Delete the friend request. Too complicated.

Seriously? This from a professional? Too complicated to personalize an invitation to someone with whom you would like to connect? Where I come from, that is actually professional and courteous. If you're going to invite people to join you, give them a reason to say yes.

Four Things Jobseekers Can Learn From Recruiters

Who better for passive and active job search candidates to learn from than one of recruiting’s foremost thought leaders? Kevin Wheeler’s latest article was on the 4 things recruiters should have learned this year and, it’s a wealth of information for prospective candidates (today, next year, or 2 years from now) as well.

Here are the lessons Wheeler lays out, with my job search candidate interpretation and hopefully, grace from the author.

“Lesson #1: Building and maintaining candidate relationships and generating referrals are keys to survival.”

I see two key takeaways for job seekers (particularly passive candidates) in this lesson. First, build recruiter relationships … long before you need them. And then, maintain them. If you don’t stay top of mind then you aren’t anywhere near the top.

Build your network. And then, maintain your network. If recruiters are looking for referrals, they will in all likelihood be talking with people within your cone of influence who can pass those opportunities on to you. 

“Lesson #2: Use targeted, bold marketing and branding to appeal to the types of candidates you want.”

Targeted, bold marketing, and branding to appeal to the types of companies where you want to work. Recruiters are doing it. Job search candidates should definitely be leveraging the power of targeted, branded positioning.

“Lesson #3: Do not just use, but embrace, emerging technology.”

It’s Web 2.0 and it’s not going anywhere. Job boards are out, social media is in. Maybe not all the way yet, but it is trending that way. Despite that trend, almost 75% of CFOs polled by SmartBrief indicated they either had a Linked In profile but were not actively using it or they didn’t have a profile and weren’t interested in having one. Which begs the question, if you aren’t in Google, do you exist?

I’ll be writing more extensively on this in my next post, but a recent article by another recruiter was lamenting the fact that her client (the company) would no longer accept candidates she found in Career Builder or Monster. I’ve mentioned this before, my recruiter contacts have told me they are not getting paid to present candidates that are found in job boards. It’s time for job search candidates (active and passive) to embrace emerging technology.

“Lesson #4: Accept change as a way of life.”

This is the most frustrating thing I hear from my senior executives. Finding a job isn’t the way it used to be. The rules have changed. The playing field isn’t level. Good isn’t always good enough.

The rules HAVE changed, and if you don’t understand today’s game it’s even tougher to compete. Just as Wheeler instructs recruiters that traditional recruiting methods have gone the way of the dinosaur and traditional recruiting skills will become liabilities, so will not proactively managing a career come at a  much high cost to executives, finance and otherwise.

How Critical is Linked In?

That was one of the many great questions asked during one of my recent Netshare Ask-a-Coach calls. My response … so critical that it is part of every package I sell and we spend at least one coaching session around how to leverage the power of that Web 2.0 technology. While you are launching a proactive effort, Linked In is an ongoing, powerful, portable, 24/7 strategy.

In order to understand how important Linked In is to my clients’ career management strategy, I talk with recruiters. I have yet to talk with one who does not use Linked In as one of his or her primary tool to source passive candidates. In fact, “A Recruiters Guide to the Universe” ranks Linked In and Linked In Groups as the two primary ways to connect job seekers and recruiters. Networking accounts for 40-70% of all opportunities. Being active on Linked In is networking. 

So what’s “most important” about your Linked In profile. I’ve come up with 5 things:

Create a Powerful Branded Summary 

 

This is not your daddy’s boring bio either. This summary, limited by 2,000 characters, is your opportunity to showcase how you do what you do (your brand) that is different and unique from others who do the same or similar things.  

 

More is Better 

 

It is great to have your employers and job titles, past and present, listed as part of your profile. But that is not enough. In the world of key searches, more is better.  The amount of information online acts as a pre–qualifier and gives both you and a prospect a framework to begin establishing a relationship. 

 

Create your Vanity URL 

Linked In allows you to create vanity URLs, and it is a great way to increase your Google rankings … if you have also made your stellar profile available for public viewing … which I highly recommend.  

 

Join Groups 

 

The big fish, small pond analogy definitely applies here. Joining groups allows you to mingle with like–minded folks and gain access to their contact information … even if the person is not a 1st degree contact in your network. Be sure to set your contact information option to open, so others can contact you as well. 

And finally … 

Third party recommendations are extremely important on Linked In. These are very powerful endorsements that add credibility to the statements in your profile and employment history, and are critical to your positioning.

The “Spaghetti” Job Search Strategy

There’s a lot of angst in the LinkedIn CFO group this morning. Not hearing back from recruiters these days is enough to send even the most stable senior finance executive to the edge of the cliff after a period of unemployment. The job search system is already flawed, and the Internet has exacerbated the breakdown … candidates send resumes to a big black hole and never hear back from anyone. If you haven’t read my article “Everybody Lies,” email me and I’ll be happy to send it your way. 

Anyway, the flawed search strategy that almost every job seeker uses is what I call the “spaghetti strategy.” They throw their resume into the black hole hoping it will stick to something. It doesn’t have to be the “right” thing, just, please, let it be “something.”  

When HR has posted a position or a recruiter has been hired to do a specific search, they are in “screen out” mode. If you don’t meet these specific requirements – every one of them – you’re out. And, short of a solid long-term relationship with a recruiter that might sway them, there is nothing you can do about it.

Playing the posted position game elicits this advice from some … “you must modify your resume for every position to which you apply.” That is because when you are throwing your resume into the black hole and hoping it will stick to something, it requires you to be “all things to all people.” You’re like a chameleon constantly changing colors depending on where you’re standing … or in this case, depending on what the job posting says. 

I believe there is a search strategy is that far more effective, much less anxiety-inducing, and focuses on what you want rather than anything that’s available. It is hard work AND it requires you to move away from the job boards and into a position of strength. 

You first need to identify your sweet spot. Business coach Deborah Gallant, in summarizing points from “What Would Google Do,” said this …

“Mass market are irrelevant, it’s all about niches: identifying what you do really well and doing it supremely well.”

The next step is figuring out who needs what you do really well and then how you can get on their radar screen. Whether that company has a position posted is irrelevant because if you can take away their current pain, having a conversation with you is always an option. It’s hard work, certainly more challenging than the spaghetti strategy, and generally much more effective! 

The Wall Flower Syndrome

A couple of my colleagues wrote some good posts about networking this week … See  “How to Find Your Old Contacts” at the Interns Over 40 blog and “Explain to your network how they can best help you” by one of my favorite bloggers, Paul Copcutt.

Here’s the sticking point for many of my CFOs and senior finance executives. IF they show up, few of them actually engage. Networking … is a verb. It requires action. Standing against the wall and hoping a) no one notices you, b) someone will reach out to you first, or c) merely enjoying the chow … does NOT constitute networking. Neither does using your name to create a place holder within social networking sites. 

MyCFONetwork.com has launched a great regional networking site specifically for senior-level finance executives. It’s a great concept and an even better, easier, and more efficient way to network with your peers. However, just showing up doesn’t constitute networking in today’s social media world. A wall flower is still a wall flower whether in the physical sense or the social sense. 

Wouldn’t you like to be the finance executive who got a call from a networking contact with the inside scoop on an opportunity at a much bigger company with a very nice increase in annual salary and a cushy benefits package that resulted in a new position within just a couple of weeks … even in this economy? If so, you must move away from the wall!

If you aren’t connected with me, please connect with me on …

Linked In 

Facebook 

Twitter 

And, of course, I would enjoy engaging in conversations with you in any of the MyCFONetwork.com communities!

Pain Talk

One of my client coaching calls yesterday afternoon was around how to answer questions in a more powerful, and succinct, manner. He is very analytical and his tendency is towards providing lots of details. The kind of details that unless he is talking to his peers, might cure even the most challenging case of insomnia. What’s great is that he recognizes that tendency and is open to getting the coaching he needs to converse more effectively.

After a bit of coaching, I put on my networking hat and asked him what he did. He responded … “I’m a CFO for XYZ company.” While that was true, and may be true for you, I hope that is not how you respond! That answer screams … COMMODITY! Absolutely no one is going to hire you because there is an empty corner office with a “CFO” placard on the door, and they are looking for a body to sit at the empty desk. 

Companies ARE hiring finance executives who can take away their pain. In the course of the conversation, the most powerful words anyone can use are “pain connectors.” Those are the words that resonate with your target audience, letting them know convincingly that you understand their pain, problems, challenges, or situations … and have solved those exact sorts of things in the past. 

For example … I work with CFOs who may be feeling restless, dissatisfied, or unhappy in their current corporate finance position and are contemplating some kind of career transition. 

Restless, dissatisfied, unhappy … CFOs. Pain connectors + target audience.

Who is your target market and what are their pain connectors?

Where There’s Change: There’s Opportunity

The most effective search strategy is networking … because anytime there is change, there is opportunity. Being one of the first to learn about upcoming changes from your circle of influence, positions you to act early and swiftly.

When Boards make leadership changes, that can often also include changes in those around the leaders. Look at what’s happening at GM, for example:

[CFO] Young’s departure is one of several possible changes amount senior executives, and the board is reviewing other positions, the source said. (Detroit News

In a true private sector situation, those changes aren’t usually announced until after the fact. Passive candidates who already have solid recruiter relationships, a compelling value proposition, and strong visible presence will be the first to be tapped for those opportunities.

Networking = early, swift, effective. If you snooze, you just might lose!

CFOs … Learn from Social Media Thought Leaders

Todd Raphael offers insights following the recent Social Recruiting Conference at Google headquarters and a conversation with Linked In founder, Reid Hoffman. It’s an insightful article, and CFOs can certainly learn a thing or two about how recruiters are using social media to recruit. 


One of the industries that Hoffman mentions as needing to be an early adopter of social media in order to avoid being at a competitive disadvantage is venture capital. He goes on to say,


“If your business is based on talking to people you don’t know, you have to be very competent with these tools….”


I agree, and, taken to the next level, managing your career is all about talking to people … many of whom you don’t know, yet … who can help you achieve your career goals. Social media is a tool for doing just that.


One of my colleagues recently mentioned a reticence on the part of her clients to build a strong online identity (digital footprint). She asked me about my finance executive clients and whether they were questioning this social media phenomenon. When clients work with me, they come in knowing that building a visible online presence is a key piece of an overall career management / job search strategy. If they don’t want to or are unwilling to do so, then I’m not the right person to work with them. 


I want my clients to be successful. Getting there requires them to embrace social media as a key strategy to achieving their goals. Read the article, and then get on board!

You Should be Networking

I find that my senior finance executive clients seem to struggle with networking. Either they are so busy working in their jobs that they don’t have time or energy to devote to networking. Or, they are lulled into a false sense of security (I have a job) and therefore avoid what they don’t feel comfortable doing.

"Why You Should Be Networking" provides some valuable insight into the benefits of networking. A couple of my favorite snippets include …

“As an outplacement consultant, I see a lot of people who have lost their jobs because they haven’t networked,” Challenger says. “And the ones who find the best jobs are really wired. They’re a lot more successful than the people who have been more introverted.”

Since introverts tend to be listeners, they can actually be perceived as very good conversationalists because with a few well–worded questions they let the extroverts do all the talking!

“At this rate, your kids could grow up believing that unless other people are thinking about them—constantly!—they don’t really exist.”

This could well become the new definition of networking!