25 June, 2010

Play The High Percentage Job Search Game of Getting Mentioned By A Social Co-Signer, Not The Low Percentage Game Of Sending Resumes And Interviewing

Can you spot the obvious, common flaws in these tweets by people who purport to be job search experts?

“Is your Resume getting thrown in the Trash?”

“Can you describe your "personal brand" in less then 3 sentences during a job interview?”

“Do you know how to give great phone during a job interview?”

“Do you have a "two minute pitch" for your next job interview?”

These questions were tweeted by people who use the question to tell you something they hope will give them the chance to sell you something. These questions are examples of a kind of social media push polling.

But have you spotted the common flaw in these push polls yet? If you are a regular reader of Higginbotham At Large you already know the answer: The advice that these so-called job search experts want to sell you starts at a point way too late in the job search process to be of help to you.

If you’re a regular reader of Higginbotham At Large, you already know that sending out resumes and going to interviews is a low percentage game. Your chances of getting a job as a result of sending a resume and walking down the runway in the swimsuit competition of the interview process are just slightly above zero.

Higginbotham At Large wants you to play the high percentage game of getting your existing and future network of friends and colleagues to say your name to headhunters and employers. The goal is to get people to say your name. Getting people to say your name is the holy grail of job search or business development. Getting people to say your name instantly puts you in the running for jobs that haven’t been advertised anywhere, jobs that are casually mentioned over coffee, at church, on the golf course or by a headhunter who calls and asks one of your friends or colleagues “Who do you know who has expertise with X?”

As I’ve said before, yes, it’s possible that you might get a job because you have a better resume or give good phone the real goal of every job seeker should be to trade the low percentage game of resume-sending and interviewing for the high percentage game of getting recommended. I don’t care of you’re a plumber who wants new business or if you’re a job seeker who wants a new job, the shortest distance to what you want is to get recommended by somebody.

And the reason you won’t see push poll tweets about how to get recommended is because the push pollers can’t figure out how to make any money off the truth that sending resumes and waiting for interviews is a low percentage game. While you’re waiting for a window-dressing interview with a guy who’s never heard of you, the successful candidate is across the street at Starbucks getting introduced to his new boss over a latte by their mutual friend. The guy at Starbucks didn’t send a resume and didn’t have to glide down the runway in the swimsuit competition we call the interview process. He moved to the head of the line for that job when his “social co-signer” said his name.

How do you get people to say your name?

Well, it starts with making sure your social co-signers know what you do. As I write this blog post, a headhunter is asking a guy “Who do you know who has expertise at X?” and the guy he’s asking can’t say your name because he doesn’t know you have expertise at X. As I write this post, a boss is confiding to a mutual friend that he is going to fire his X and find a replacement. Your mutual friend doesn’t mention your name because, despite being your friend, he doesn’t really know what you do.

First, let’s get organized: I want you to take out a legal pad and make a list of all your neighbors (if you’re friendly with them). The guy across the cul de sac, the lady next door.

Then I want you to make a list of all the people you know at social orgs or clubs you belong to.

You get the idea. Make a list.

Include the social circle of your significant other.

Now go to your Linkedin account and your Facebook account and your Twitter followers and make a list of contacts who like you and respect you and would be good social co-signers for you.

After you’ve completed your list, I want you to systematically start educating or coaching these social co-signers on just exactly what it is you do. Where possible, do this face-to-face. Yes, you can send tweets and emails and Linkedin messages, but also try to have a phone or face-to-face conversation.

Tell each of your social co-signers what you do and how to recognize opportunities to recommend you.

Some of my readers - like Jeff Foster of Lexington, KY, with whom I worked at Lexmark - have jobs that are hard to describe. For instance, if Jeff told you he is a "business analyst" at Lexmark would you have any idea what he does? probably not. People like Jeff have more work to do than people with simple, easy-to-understand titles. I challenged Jeff to come up with a 15-second or 3-sentence speech with which to describe his work at Lexmark. Here's what he gave me: "I work with people in different countries to develop a standardized process for a set of tasks, document all aspects of the process, develop training materials and then transition the tasks to a low cost country."

Jeff, advise your social co-signers to listen for words like "offshoring" and "outsourcing" because that's also what your work facilitates.

And , Jeff, your elevator speech is timely. Have you seen what Seth Godin and Daniel Pink have written about turning autonomous, creative, heuristic jobs into "algorithmic", repetitive jobs?

And, Jeff, you may not have thought of this but what you do is, in many ways, related to franchising. When a franchisor sells you a turn-key franchise, he is selling you more than a well-known business name, he is selling you his methods of turning operations and jobs into "algorithmic", robotic , repetitive jobs that might be better matched to low-wage, low-intelligence workers than to, say, people with high IQs who are used to making good money. So, Jeff, tell your social co-signers to listen for the word "franchising" when a headhunter calls.

And tell them to look at the Linkedin recommendation I wrote for you.

"Follow up the oral communication with an email that contains some carefully selected verbiage about what you do and what you want to do. The goal is to help your social co-signers recognize a referral opportunity when they hear one. Each time you tell somebody how to recognize an opportunity to recommend you to a headhunter or boss, you’ll get better at it and by the time you send the email follow-up, you’ll have a great 3-sentence or 15-second “elevator speech”.

See why nobody’s tweeting about this? Push polling tweeters can charge you $100 dollars for writing your resume or $500 for giving you classes on how to interview but the truth is free and it’s unmonetized. The truth is, if somebody mentions your name to a headhunter or to a boss, you move to the front of the line – without a resume and without an interview.

When a social co-signer mentions your name, you might become the first and last candidate for that job. It’s happened to me on several occasions.

If I’m right – and in your heart you know this is how it really works in the real world – what good does it do to pay people to write you a better resume or coach you on how to interview if the jobs are being filled through referrals and recommendations?

Sending resumes and waiting for interviews is for suckers. Yes, jobs are occasionally filled that way but the overwhelming majority of jobs are filled through an informal, nearly invisible process.

Even when you see a job advertized online or in the newspaper, it doesn’t mean the job hasn’t already been filled through that informal, invisible means. Employers maintain a fa├žade of transparent, “meritocratic” hiring. Advertising job openings is window dressing to keep the appearance of a meritocratic, transparent hiring process.

Sometimes my readers ask me why they aren’t getting calls from headhunters. I tell them there are two reasons: First, nobody is mentioning their name. At its core, headhunting is just calling and calling and calling until somebody says “Yeah, I know somebody who can do X.”

Second, if you’re not getting calls from headhunters it means your name isn’t turning up in Linkedin searches. Headhunters plug the pertinent search terms into Linkedin and start calling people whose names appear in the resulting list. If you don’t have a Linkedin profile that is replete with buzz words you won’t show up in search results.

If you don’t have a network ( Linkedin group memberships, Linkedin 1st level connections ) you’re invisible.

To get hired, get mentioned by a social co-signer. It’s the way more than 90% of white collar and high-paying jobs are filled.

Higginbotham At Large is happy to publish comments from people who hate me but Higginbotham At Large will not publish comments from anonymous or pseudonymous posters, posters with childish “CB handle” IDs, or posters who resort to obscenity.

24 June, 2010

Why Is It Called Higginbotham At Large? Why is It Called Drinking Liberally?

Like most of my posts, this one is meant to answer questions I've been asked enough times to warrant a public answer. Today I'm answering questions about the name of my blog and the name of the liberal social group I re-launched.

Question 1 : “Why Is Your Blog Called ‘Higginbotham At Large’? Are You Running For Office?”

Every once in a while somebody asks me if the name of my blog presages some future run for an at large office. No.

Higginbotham At Large was the name an editor once gave to a column I wrote for him. He couldn’t pay much so I suspect he gave my column a name he thought would appeal to my ego in lieu of, you know, something useful like cash. Anyway, I liked the name and kept it for my blog.

Question 2: “’Drinking Liberally’? What Do You Guys Do, Sit Around Getting Drunk?”

I didn’t think of the name, I just started (or more accurately re-started) the Charleston chapter. The Charleston chapter was actually begun by lawyer Jennifer Hughes but was inactive when I re-launched it (with her blessing) in Fall of 2009.

The name “Drinking Liberally” has been problematic. The Charleston Newspapers wouldn’t print my meeting announcements in the Bulletin Board section under the name “Drinking Liberally” so I started sending in announcements under the name of the umbrella org, Living Liberally.

I even get grief for the name “Drinking Liberally” from other liberals. All three times I’ve appeared as a guest on his Huntington radio show, Bobby Nelson has made hiccup noises and asked about the name so I had to explain to listeners that, no, we don’t just sit around and get drunk.

Some young dudes who, I suspect, may have thought of it in a New York bar at around 2AM started drinking Liberally 7 years ago in a place very, very different than Charleston, WV. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time but young New York dudes had no way of knowing “Drinking Liberally” might not sell out here in flyover country where people who drink beer don’t admit publicly that they drink beer because they go to Baptist churches where nobody else admits publicly that they drink beer.

So let me take this opportunity to say what Drinking Liberally / Living Liberally means to me. I think the mission and purpose of the Charleston chapter of Drinking Liberally is to provide lonely liberals who have no other tribe with a tribe. It’s no accident that 3 of our 4 hosts are transplants and that most of our “regulars” are not native West Virginians. Natives already have tribes. Transplants or new liberals don’t have liberal tribes so Drinking Liberally can be their tribe, that place where they’re not an outsider. At every meeting we give everybody plenty of opportunity to make a 3-minute introductory elevator speech to tell us about their issue, their political campaign, their organization, job openings at their organization or anything else they may want to tell us. After everybody has had a chance to introduce themselves and exchange business cards, we talk about whatever people want to talk about. These discussions lead to collaborations, employment, donations and fun liberal fellowship.

If you don't have a liberal tribe, come to a Drinking Liberally meeting. Most of us know what it feels like to have no tribe so we'll welcome and accept you.

Now, let me tell you what Higginbotham At Large means to me. Higginbotham At Large is simply a public place where I park my thoughts on the subjects that people ask me about. When the same question comes up a few times I write an answer, park it at Higginbotham At Large, and then send the link to people who ask that question in the future.

Occasionally, one of my posts gets unexpected attention and tempts me to start writing for a different audience and for a different purpose. Back in December of 2009 I wrote a couple of posts about "Referrals and Relationships" that SMPS.org decided were "outstanding business development advice" so they put a link to my blog on their site. While it was nice to get emails from SMPS members around the nation I was briefly tempted to make Higginbotham At Large a different kind of blog. Similar things have happened when I've written about gay rights and why I'm not a member of AARP and a few other topics, but these are just distractions. Higginbotham At Large is just a public place where I park my answers to recurring questions.

If you would like to be a guest blogger, email me at JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com or call me at (304) 550-6710.

Higginbotham At Large publishes reader comments, both positive and negative but Higginbotham At Large will publish no pseudonymous, anonymous or profane comments or comments from readers hiding behind those childish “CB handle” IDs or the names of businesses or organizations.

Your Higginbotham At Large blogger is serving on a broad-based private / public task force whose mission is to reduce the disproportionately high unemployment rate of workers age 50 and up. In today’s job market, people in their late 40s and early 50s are the first fired and the last hired. When we have the right combination of private and public sector employers and employment experts at the table we will form a branded, org that performs public services and provides networking and educational events designed to help enlightened, self-interested employers connect with talented older workers.

Do you know someone who should serve with me on this task force? If so, please send them my way at (304) 550- 6710. We are especially interested in getting PRIVATE sector employers at the table.

19 June, 2010

Using Game Theory To Explain The Difference Between Liberals And Conservatives

When people ask me why I’m a liberal I often cite the following excerpt from William Poundstone’s wonderful book, Prisoner’s Dilemma:

"In US politics, a liberal is a "cooperator", someone willing to share, and even be taken advantage of if there is a chance the common goodwill benefit. For example, liberals are willing to pay more in taxes to help the homeless …”.

Conservatives, on the other hand, can be viewed as "defectors", in that they believe one should enjoy the fruits of ones labor alone, and not share them with anyone else. They worry that taxes may be squandered, so they favor lowered taxes, so that income can be kept under one's individual control. They worry that another nation will exploit a unilateral arms reduction. They fear being laughed at, for making the "sucker payoff" to welfare cheats, and arms treaty violators."

I have no idea what Poundstone’s political views are but in a book about game theory, Poundstone has, I think, gotten to the heart of the difference between liberalism and conservatism. In game theory terminology, liberals are cooperators and conservatives are defectors. I am a cooperator therefore I am a liberal.

Conservatives like to say “A rising tide lifts all boats” but then they don’t do anything to raise the tide precisely because that tide isn’t selective in which boats it raises.

That’s why liberals want to find ways to put everybody in the same boat so that whatever the height of the tide, we’re all in this thing together. That’s the purpose of government.

Let me go back to game theory for just a moment. In game theory, there are times when you wish to construct a game in which certain people are incented to defect. The most famous of these games is the Prisoner’s Dilemma. You’ve seen it on TV. You’ve seen it in movies. The police bust a couple of criminals on some small charge like jaywalking or petty larceny but the police know these guys committed a murder. They can’t prove it so they’re trying to get one criminal to “defect”, that is, to turn on the other. They offer both crooks a deal. Turn on the other and we’ll give you a lighter sentence. The cops know that each of the crooks distrusts the other and that one or probably both of them will turn on the other and they’ll get the info they need to convict somebody on the murder charge.

Still other games – the ones we use to discourage defection, the games we use to encourage cooperation – are useful in societal and civic matters, matters where we need to keep everybody “in the same boat”, as it were, to get a job done. Perhaps the most famous of these games is called Rousseau’s Stag Hunt. In Rousseau’s original construction, hunters go out to hunt small game. Small game are hard to shoot with a bow or a spear and even if you get one, it feeds you and your family for a day and then you’re hungry again tomorrow. If you don’t get rabbit, you go hungry.

But suppose instead of many hunters hunting small game individually, these same hunters cooperate to encircle and bring down a stag. If they coordinate they are almost certain to kill a big stag and the big stag feeds everybody for today and tomorrow. Cooperate a few times and the hunters can actually accumulate a surplus of meat and take the occasional day off if they want to. Or they can salt and store the excess meat and keep it for a “rainy day”.

And here’s a word to all you non-profits and volunteer org people out there: your model, if it were a game, is designed to encourage defection not cooperation. Most of you are operating on a model that is mathematically identical to the Prisoner’s Dilemma game which, as I said before, is a game law enforcement people use to encourage defections. That’s why my very fine conservative Republican Baptist correspondent emailed me once a few years ago when he was president of a Main Street program and told me that, at the last hour, one of his town’s biggest businessmen reneged on his promised contribution to the Main Street project jeopardizing the whole project. The reneger had defected and there was absolutely nothing the Main Street program could do about it. Why did he defect? He defected because the Prisoner’s Dilemma creates a situation in which the temptation to defect is greater than the perceived reward for cooperating. In other words, the reneging businessman believed he could better enrich himself personally by using his time and money increasing his business empire and the reneging businessman knew that the polite (read “sucker”) Main Street program would not go around town telling people he had reneged on his agreement.

The Main Street program could have turned their defection-encouraging Prisoner’s Dilemma into a cooperation-encouraging Rousseau’s Stag Hunt in either of two ways that are, perhaps, a little beyond the scope of this blog post. The point is, private sector groups are too often playing The Prisoner’s Dilemma game when they should be playing the Rousseau’s Stag Hunt game.

Government is a civilized society’s way of changing the Prisoner’s Dilemma into a Rousseau’s Stag Hunt.

Government, properly used, is like a great big Rousseau’s Stag Hunt. The “hunters” (taxpayers, stakeholders, citizens) cooperate (pay taxes, obey laws, pool their risks, pool their talents) to encircle and bag big prey like national defense, public education, and one day, perhaps, universal healthcare so that no American employer is at a labor and cost disadvantage when competing against European and Canadian companies that don’t have to provide healthcare coverage for their employees.

Have you read T R Reid’s The United States of Europe? It’s a little dated now but it quotes average man-on-the-street Europeans about why they love and are willing to pay for their free college and free health coverage. They really believe that a rising tide lifts all boats and they are willing to pay more taxes to make the tide rise.

My very fine conservative, Republican Baptist correspondent tells me that it takes too much faith in human nature for him to be a liberal. He’s wrong. It’s precisely because we know and distrust human nature that liberals are happy to superimpose government over the good intentions and the moral flaws of humans to create a Rousseau’s Stag Hunt game in which all hunters help encircle and bag the big game.

Liberals know, for example, that if we let health insurance companies construct the healthcare game they’ll construct a game in which people who have paid for the boat all their lives can be kicked out of the boat when they get old or when they get cancer.

Liberals don’t like “Big Government” for the sake of big government. Liberals just want to live in a better society and a better world and leave a better society and better world to the next generation.

A recent story from the world of baseball has provided me with yet another way to say why I am a liberal. I’m referring, of course, to Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga’s June 2 perfect game which, as you must have heard by now, was ruined by an umpire’s bad call. Despite the fact that the instant reply clearly showed that the ump’s call was wrong and that the ump himself later admitted that his error had robbed the young pitcher of his rightful place in sports history, Major League Baseball has refused to step in and give Gallaraga the perfect game that he earned.

In the debate that followed, I noticed something instructive: conservatives defended baseballs’ refusal to overturn the ump’s admittedly bad call. Liberals were outraged at the injustice and, since correcting the ump’s call would make no difference to the outcome of the game whatsoever, liberals were shocked at baseball’s refusal to do the right thing.

This sports story illustrates another reason I am a liberal. Conservatives are not much bothered by unfairness and injustice and, even in cases where righting a wrong is easy as in the baseball story above, conservatives won’t lift a finger to make things right. Conservatives are willing to tolerate and even defend very high levels of injustice and unfairness. Conservative callers to talk radio shows even argued that bad ump calls are “part of the game of baseball” and should be allowed to stand. Liberals argued that in a case where the umpire himself said he got the call wrong, where the instant replay clearly showed that the ump got it wrong and where the outcome of the game wouldn’t be changed at all if the bad call were reversed, there is no excuse for not setting the record straight and letting Gallaraga have the place he earned in the record books.

I am unwilling to tolerate high levels of injustice therefore I am a liberal. With Dr. Martin Luther King liberals everywhere say “amen” to Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

When one branch of American conservatives felt the need to add the modifier “compassionate” to their brand of conservatism they admitted that regular ol’ garden variety conservatism is something other than compassionate. They must not have vetted that wording with their PR people or with conservative wordsmith, Frank Luntz, because they essentially admitted that conservatism is uncompassionate. Conservatism is – let me supply the word – Darwinian. Pretty ironic – don’t you think? – that the party of fundamentalists and evangelicals who don’t want their kids being taught evolution in school has no problem at all with a society where people who were lucky enough to be well-born, gifted with good parents, good genes, a stimulating environment and good health should rise higher and go further than people who had the misfortune of being born poor or otherwise disadvantaged.

But my liberalism is not about compassion. I think even a heartless pragmatist can be a liberal if he loves his kids and wants them to grow up in a better world than the socially Darwinian world conservatives have built.

And my liberalism is not even about positions on the issues. Occasionally, my liberalism leads me to take a position that is not popular with other liberals.

And my liberalism certainly isn’t just about narrowly electing liberals to political office. We’ve seen where it gets us when we merely elect a guy with a “D” after his name without also giving him a different culture in which to lead.

The culture change I seek is one where people are taught how to think cooperatively as well as competitively. Since I opened this post with game theory, I’m going to illustrate my belief that people can be taught how to think cooperatively with another lesson from the world of game theory.

When I went to work for a Fortune 400 behemoth, all new hires were required to take a course called “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” based on Covey’s book by the same name. To help us understand Habit 4 (Think win/win) our excellent instructor, Sal Elmo, divided us into teams of 5 or 6 to a table then gave us a simple assignment: from a list of business models and situations, pick the one which will make the most money. Sal adapted his little experiment from the groundbreaking work of Dr. Robert Axelrod.

My team instantly saw that the model that would make the most money was the one which required cooperation, not competition, with other companies.

But years of being taught only how to think competitively, not how to think cooperatively, blinded our classmates to the obvious so instead of working to make the most money, they, instead worked to beat each other. In other words, where my team heard “make the most money” they heard “outscore the other guy”.

The whole point of this exercise was to learn how to see and achieve “win/win” situations. Their purely competitive worldview, their years of playing zero sum games in which the only way to win is for somebody else to lose rendered the other teams blind to even that most fundamental of all conservative ideas: “make the most money.”

If you’re a conservative, let me ask you something: before I mentioned the Prisoner’s Dilemma game and the Rousseau’s Stag Hunt game were you even aware that life presents us with anything except zero sum games in which the only way you can win is at the expense of someone who loses? Did you even know there were other models for how to interact with others?

Conservatives have a difficult time envisioning anything but pure competition. Perhaps that’s why some conservatives believe in a conspiracy to reduce the Earth’s population to perhaps half a million people. They can’t imagine how the human race can continue unless there are fewer people competing for scarcer and scarcer resources.

My liberalism doesn’t come naturally in a society where kids are only taught to beat the competition bloody, where we’re only taught to see every life situation as one where it’s “eat or be eaten”.

But since my conservative readers are social Darwinists, perhaps they can see that while it may best serve the less intelligent beasts to believe in an eat or be eaten world, humans are capable of evolving, capable of imaging a world in which pure competition is not the answer to every problem and where there are interaction models besides a zero sum game in which you can only win at the expense of a loser.

Higginbotham At Large is happy to publish dissenting comments - even insulting ones - but Higginbotham At Large will not publish anonymous, pseudonymous or obscene comments.

18 June, 2010

Staff Nullification - And What To Do About It

A lot has been written about abusive or bullying managers but, as far as I can tell, very little has been written about a form of bullying and professional sabotage in which subordinates conspire to undermine an unpopular boss or co-worker until the victim quits or gets fired.

Terms like “office politics”, “bullying” and “professional sabotage”, though accurate, are too imprecise and too general for the behavior I’m describing so I’m going to offer a term: “staff nullification”. When a jury doesn’t like a law and, in effect, overturns that law by ignoring evidence and issuing a verdict different from the verdict demanded by the evidence and the law we call it “jury nullification”. Similarly, when staff conspires to, in effect, overturn the hiring or promotion decisions of management by sabotaging that new hire or new manager’s effectiveness, I call this “staff nullification”.

If executive management tolerates staff nullification once it will happen again and again. So-called “revolving door” jobs are often the result of such staff nullification. It’s a form of “managing the boss” and it doesn’t take long for even low-wage, non-exempt employees to figure out how to get rid of a boss or co-worker they don’t like.

In an environment where staff has learned how to overturn hiring decisions or promotions, the non-exempt employees have typically been together for a long time. They socialize outside of work. They often attend the same church. They have kids who play on the same Little League or go to the same school. In departments that practice staff nullification and the overturning of unpopular hiring decisions, it’s not uncommon to find that conspirators are distantly related either by blood or by marriage.

The unpopular new co-worker or new boss is an outsider. The outsider is often of a different race, different gender, different religion, or different sexual orientation – characteristics that should have no impact whatsoever on an employee’s success or failure in the workplace.

New hires who are perceived to be on a fast track to management are often suffocated in the crib, so to speak.

It’s easy for the insiders to isolate and nullify or cancel the outsider. Information is withheld from the outsider. When the outsider makes a mistake nobody tells the outsider what he’s doing wrong but the insiders make sure executive management knows. Rumors are started. It doesn’t take long for the ostracized, illegitimated victim to quit or get fired.

If you are a manager, executive or owner in a company where promotions and new hires are overturned through staff nullification, there’s a simple solution: make the success of the team a component in individual performance reviews.

Write up and pass around a new performance review template that gives great weight to showing leadership in the onboarding and success of co-workers. Make a little speech about what the desired behavior looks like. Make it clear that employees who are unable or unwilling to show leadership in onboarding and helping co-workers succeed will be passed over for promotions and pay raises. If you see role model behavior in the area of onboarding and assuring the success of co-workers, make a big deal out of it by somehow recognizing the employee who exemplified the role model behavior.

We already do it with corporate bonuses. When I worked for a Fortune 400 behemoth, our annual bonuses were dependent upon a number of components. It wasn’t enough that the corporation reached its profit goals. Departments had to meet certain performance goals, too. Departments that didn’t deliver projects on time didn’t share in the bonus pie.

Tie individual performance to team or departmental success. Make it clear to every employee that helping other team members succeed is everybody’s business and that employees who show the greatest leadership in helping their co-workers succeed will get the biggest pay raises and promotions.


Higginbotham At Large welcomes and publishes dissenting comments but will no longer publish anonymous comments.

09 June, 2010

Yes, Consultants, Headhunters Know Self-Employment Is The New Unemployment - And Yes, They'll Still Call You If You're Good

Self-employed entrepreneurs and solopreneurs often ask me if starting their own company signals employers, recruiters and headhunters not to call them about job openings.

Many of these self-employed consultants and solopreneurs had entrepreneurship thrust upon them when they were downsized out of those comfortable $75k to $100k middle class jobs that aren’t coming back. What these downsizing victims are really asking is “Do headhunters know that I’d jump at the chance to get back into a $75k job?”

Yes, accidental entrepreneurs, headhunters know that self-employment is the new unemployment. Go ahead and put on a good show. Print your business cards, write your blog, build a website. Fake it until you make it or until a headhunter calls you with a $60k job that used to be a $90k job. Headhunters know that nobody is unemployed anymore, everybody is a consultant and, yes, they'll still call you about job openings if you're good.

Yes, reluctant solopreneurs, headhunters will still call you about job opportunities even if you’re trying real hard to look like you’d never go back to working a “real job” because headhunters know that, while there are exceptions, most of the self-employed consultants aren’t doing as well on their own as they did when they worked for The Man.

And, no, don’t send unsolicited resumes to headhunters to assure them you’re still interested in a real job even though you’re trying real hard to keep up appearances as a self-employed consultant. Here’s what goes through a headhunter’s mind when you reach out to him: “I’ll be this guy’s sending resumes to everybody.”

Headhunters don’t want to present their clients with candidates who are actively sending resumes to everybody. Why? Simple. Clients don’t pay headhunters to bring them the candidates they can get on their own just by running an ad on Dice or CareerBuilder. Clients pay headhunters to bring them passive candidates, candidates who aren’t actively looking for a job. It’s that simple.

At a University of Kentucky “Career Night” a recent grad asked me how to find a headhunter.

“You don’t find the headhunter”, I said, “the headhunter finds you.” Then I added “but not for a few years, because, the truth is, clients also don’t pay headhunters to bring them new grads. Clients pay headhunters to bring them experienced, proven talent.”

Learn to think like a headhunter. If you were a headhunter and you were looking for someone with your skills and experience, how would you start your search? You’d go to Linkedin and specify some geographic parameters and then you’d put in some search terms that would likely appear in the Linkedin profiles of the kinds of candidates you seek. Right? So pack your Linkedin profile with the kinds of search terms a headhunter would use if he wanted to find you.

Don’t worry that your recent self-employment will scare headhunters away. It won’t. Headhunters know that self-employment is the new unemployment so they know you’ll take the call.

08 June, 2010

Do I Really Need A Cover Letter? Inc's Jason Fried Says You Need It More Than You Need A Resume

After I blog about job search strategy I get emails asking me if cover letters really matter, if anybody really reads them.

This time I’m going to answer that question by referring job seekers to Jason Fried’s “Never Read Another Resume” in this month’s Inc. magazine. Fried says, “cover letters say it all.”

Now before I give you the link and send you off to read why Fried says cover letters are far more revelatory than resumes – which Fried says are full of exaggerations and lies anyway – I should warn you that Fried’s philosophy simply won’t work at companies where candidates’ submissions are scanned for keywords by recruiters who don’t even know what the buzzwords mean. But if you’re looking for a job in a smaller firm like Fried’s you’re going to find Fried’s remarks very important.

Here’s the link: