What Difference Does 3% Make?

According to Peter Weddle, keynote speaker at the CMA annual conference last month, quite a bit. Robyn Greenspan, Editor-in-Chief at ExecuNet, offers this quote from Weddle in its most recent newsletter … 

While 2001 sparked a jobless recovery, the current recession is actually eliminating jobs. Where there were once 1.7 job seekers for every open position, now four candidates compete for the same role.

The advantage for job seekers lies in the 3% separating them from everyone else. Weddle asserts that we are all just 3% different from each other, and those who identify, strengthen and express that small portion can become the A-players who are in demand in any economy. "Find the 3% that makes you special, your best self.”

It may not be easy to find that 3% difference, but it is well worth the effort to do so. Unless and until you identify and clearly convey your branded marketable value proposition (MVP), you are playing in the very crowded field of commodity.

Two More Linked In Mistakes

One of my very brilliant colleagues, Louise Fletcher (@louise_fletcher), just tweeted about a great article she penned on seven common mistakes made in creating a Linked In profile. I’ll add two more.

–Not having recommendations

Some recruiters will pass you by, not matter how great you are, simply because you do not have any third party endorsements attached to your Linked In profile. Not only “having” recommendations, but “how many” recommendations.

Another equally brilliant colleague, @CareerPro, tweeted this a few days ago …

A client just told me that for a VP of Finance interview the interviewer wanted xx amount of Linked In endorsements just to get past the screen. [emphasis mine]

A sub-mistake of not having recommendations is to, upon reading this post, send an email out to everyone in your Linked In network asking for a recommendation. Please don’t. If I don’t know about your work, your attitude, your contributions – I sure can’t write a recommendation about it.

–Not being branded

If you aren’t unique and different, you are just … a commodity. I’m sure you know that commodities don’t hold much value these days. They are not only cheaper, but we will often hold out for a coupon or discount before making a commodity purchase, further devaluing it.

Branding touts what’s distinctive about the way you contribute. Rare – now that’s valuable!

Are You an Explorer?

If you are, recruiters are looking for you! What, exactly, is an Explorer?

Earlier this week, Lou Adler delivered a teleseminar for ERE.net entitled “A Story About Bulls and Bears – How to Tame the Economic Cycle.” The purpose of the seminar was to guide recruiters in sourcing top quality candidates in this crazy economic period where the tendency is even greater for candidates who are employed to stick their head in the sand and pretend their position is secure.

With all the “unemployed candidates” available, why would such a teleseminar even be necessary? If you’ve been following my posts, you know that I talk constantly about the high desirability and value of passive candidates. The Explorer is the crème de la crème of passive candidates.

Mr. Adler drew an arc and starting at the bottom left with an “employed candidate,” he continued along the arc with Explorers, Tiptoers, Googlers, Networkers, and Posters … these are the phases a candidate will pass through as he moves from job to job. According to Adler, the folks recruiters want are the Explorers … semi–passive and, because they are not looking, will need to be found by recruiters … and NOT through public job boards.

Are you one? With a solid record of contributions, a clear and compelling brand, and a strong digital footprint, you, too, can be a highly–coveted Explorer. And if you are currently unemployed, the moment you land is the time to position yourself as the Explorer recruiters are seeking.

More from the Kennedy Conference

Thanksgiving was here and gone and it’s already December. Only 3 weeks & 2 days until Christmas, and then we will speed right into the New Year. Are you already thinking about your New Year’s resolutions? Dreaming about what you would like to be different next year. Thinking and doing are two different things.

As you think, and plan to do, here are a few more gems tweeted from the Kennedy Conference that might help you in your planning.

––36% of CEO's lack confidence in their own company's recruiting department (Steve Lowisz, CEO of Qualigence)

It seems inconceivable that CFO–types would actually want to be going through HR to secure their next position. But, when you play the Internet job search/job posting game, that is exactly what you get … unless it is a specific TPR (third party recruiting) listing, and those are rare.

Sitting in front of a computer searching for posted positions on public job sites is safe, and a HUGE timewaster, because it is ineffective and keeps you from doing the things that are effective and will move you towards that next position. Remember the old cliché, “if it looks too good to be true it probably is.” It’s true.

HR is a screen designed to filter out candidates who do not meet the list of requirements. They have no decision–making authority. Great candidates rarely succeed in this process. Even if they meet all the skill requirements there is still culture fit, work ethic, and track record of bottom line impact to consider. Bypassing HR gives great candidates a fighting chance.

–– Elements of a killer brand: Choice and expectation. Every choice that will be made will be based on expectation. (Steve Bonomo and Steve Fogarty, Adidas)

Expectation – People make decisions in life – and in the hiring process – based on emotion. And decisions about the brands with which we choose to associate are incredibly emotional. An assessment about you is typically made within the first 3-5 minutes of an interview. Think of the power your brand brings into that interview. They probably already like you based on the connection they feel – which is based on who they believe you to already be. Set the expectation.

Choice – The candidate gets to choose where he wants to go rather than accepting whatever is offered. What is different and unique about what you’ve done in your finance career that will position you from a place of power rather than commodity, and shift the paradigm to choice … yours?

Interview Your Future Boss?

 Should you interview your future boss? Absolutely! While it seems like a novel idea, it really isn’t. Rather, it is a strategic move … whether you are a CFO or other senior–level executive. Your ability to ask great questions of a potential company says as much about you as do your answers to their questions.

Interviews should be conversations, not interrogations. Landing in a new position should be a mutually–beneficial decision. If it isn’t the right place for you, the result is a costly mistake for the company and another job search for you.

CFO.com’s article, “Nine Things to Ask Your Future Boss, the CEO,” is a good read. I would add that being clear about your brand – how you do what you do – will increase the likelihood that the answers to these questions will be what you want to hear.

Lies and Job Search – Lethal Combination

CFO.com recently published “A CFO Wannabe’s Litany of Lies.” I addressed the issue of lying in a recent article, “4 Tips for Avoiding Brand Suicide.”  Here’s the relevant excerpt:

Never, ever, ever lie!

That statement seems like a no–brainer, right? Apparently not, because people are constantly making the news about careers that are ruined because someone grossly exaggerated (or flat out lied) and it caught up with them.

You may remember the high–profile MIT admissions dean who incorporated just enough untruths in her resume to undo her career. And, of course, a Notre Dame football coach gained notoriety when his lies were uncovered. And the latest tombstone to make national news was front page on Fox. Just imagine the gruesome details that would be associated with a senior–level finance executive. Remember the TV show, the “Untouchables”? It would not be pretty. (The “Litany of Lies” certainly reinforces my statement.)

The Internet serves as a lie detector, and eventually the lie will be uncovered. In the world of the global Internet, little white lies, exaggerations, and misstatements can be just as devastating as big lies.

If you would like the full article, send me an email with “Avoid Brand Suicide” in the subject line and I'll be happy to send it your way.

Career Killers

CFO.com recently published an article, “Restating: The Career Killer,” CFOs fired for erroneous financial reporting are finding it difficult to secure comparable jobs — if they can get one at all.

Here’s an excerpt from my recent article “4 Tips for Avoiding Brand Suicide” that can also lead to difficulty finding your next opportunity.

Never, ever, ever lie.

A no–brainer, right? Apparently not, because people are constantly making the news about careers that are ruined because someone grossly exaggerated (or flat out lied) about something in their background.

You may remember the high–profile MIT admissions dean who incorporated just enough untruths in her résumé to undo her career. And of course a Notre Dame football coach gained notoriety when his résumé lies were uncovered. And the latest tombstone to make national front page news is the Dinner: Impossible chef. His goose was over–cooked.

Just imagine the gruesome details that would haunt a senior–level finance executive. Remember the TV show, the “Untouchables”?

The Internet is a global lie detector, and eventually all lies will be uncovered. Little white lies, exaggerations, and misstatements can be just as devastating as big lies. 

CareerXroads Source of Hire Study

CareerXroads conducts an annual study on methods company use for sourcing candidates. It’s an interesting read and I’ve highlighted, and commented on, a couple of important findings below.

––Personal referrals from employees, vendors, alumni, customers, and friends is the #1 external sourcing strategy, with employee referrals constituting between 80–90% of overall referrals. The study says that one out of every three referrals turns into a hire.

That statistic confirms the validity of the power of networking. Talking to people who work in companies that are interesting to you, can lead to opportunities you would not otherwise be privy.

––Retention strategies are leading many competitive companies to promote from within, with the goal of filling 40–50% of their openings internally.

Even if you are the greatest, most hard–working, and contributing employee, if the higher ups don’t know about you it really doesn’t matter. A strong, visible brand can help you stay on the radar screen of people who need to know about you.

A Business Plan for Your Career

It was a very interesting discussion in the CFO–Career–Forum yesterday. Recruiter Tim Norstrem and I were discussing the merits of having a career management plan … a business plan for your career.

Tim suggested that your plan should include

––a clear vision of your industry / discipline,
––an “admission” of your strengths (interesting word choice and great insight in the follow up discussion),
––your unique basket of skills (i.e., personal brand),
––a solid networking strategy, and
––a compelling value proposition and the ability to articulate it.

According to the 2007 Executive Job Market Intelligence Report,

––Executives stayed 2.7 years in a single job, 3.3 years with a company, and 4.2 years in the same industry.

––Corporate HR professionals identify 14 months as a critical point of demarcation for the newly–hired executive where the excitement wanes and dissatisfaction creeps in – and 35% see the disengagement occur in fewer than 10 months.

If an executive is unhappy in his new position in a year or less, chances are good he probably didn’t have a very good plan or more likely, any plan in place. While the unexpected can happen in a new position that can lead to early dissatisfaction, clearly this is not a welcomed trend. It seems to me that having a career plan in place would ensure that the next move was well–researched, well–thought out, and designed to help him achieve his longer–term goal.

Additionally, the average executive job search is 21.6 weeks. What Tim said to me after the call was significant … having a solid career management plan can reduce an executive’s time on the market to zero days.

If you know you are going to be moving every 3–5 years, doesn’t it make sense to be prepared to make that move? Imagine never having to conduct a job search again, and all because you chose to run your career like you run your company.