20 March, 2011

Why St. Albans' Crime Problem Is A Leadership Opportunity For Generation X and Generation Y

There aren't enough humane officers or police officers in St. Albans to stamp out all of the drug activity and cruelty to animals unless neighbors once again start acting like neighbors and citizens begin exhibiting good citizenship.

A few days ago, a warrant was issued for the arrest of a Georges Drive woman who had starved a rabbit and some dogs. It turns out, there were people in that neighborhood who knew this abuse was occurring but did not notify the police or the humane association.

More humane officers or police officers on the street would not have saved those animals.

More police officers in uniform or undercover cannot purge the drug problem from St. Albans unless citizens and neighbors take some responsibility for what they allow to go unreported in their neighborhoods.

Do you see a tethered dog baking in the sun or shivering in the cold without water, food or shelter? Kanawha County now has a law against that. If you aren't sure who else to call, call the police. Call the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association. Call the Kanawha County Sheriff. If you don't know who to call, call your neighbor and see if they know who to call. Call somebody.

Do you see yellow smoke billowing from a house in your neighborhood? Smell funny smells? Do you see what seems to be odd traffic patterns at a house in your neighborhood? It may be nothing but call the police anyway.

There isn't enough tax money to protect our neighborhoods from abuse to animals or the manufacture of methamphetamine until the residents of St. Albans engage.

St. Albans doesn't need more police. St. Albans needs more good citizenship, more neighbors looking out for neighbors, more eyes and ears paying attention to what's going on in their neighborhoods and reporting what they see and hear.

Mayor Richard Callaway cannot clean up St. Albans. City Councilman, Desper Lemon, cannot rid Ordnance Park of meth labs no matter how much he talks to reporters or talks on his HAM radio about it. New Police Chief, Brent Coates, cannot hire enough new cops to run the meth labs out of town unless the citizens of St. Albans start paying attention to what's happening in their neighborhoods and reporting what they see to police.

And the Kanawha Charleston Humane Association can't possibly know about cases of cruelty to animals unless you report it.

A reader told me it does no good to report drug activity or abuse to animals because the police and the humane officers won't do anything. if the police or the humane association fail to do their jobs, call the Charleston Gazette, the Charleston Daily Mail, WOWK, WCHS TV, WSAZ and any other news source you can think of. Embarrass somebody. Make the police chief, the mayor, and the humane association explain to a TV viewing audience why they won't do their jobs.

Are Desper Lemon and Mayor Callaway the only people in St. Albans who know how to call the news media? Call Ashley Craig at the Daily Mail or Aran Jenkins at the Charleston Gazette or Anna Baxter at WSAZ.

If you don't think St. Albans' titular leaders are leading, then step up and be a leader. You don't have to  hold elected office to be a leader. Maybe you think your city council member should be walking his ward, knocking on doors and asking citizens to act like citizens. If he won't go, you go. Don't want to go alone? Call me, I'll go with you. Don't want to be associated with me? Fine. Call a neighbor and say "Let's go knock on some doors".

For the same reason shoplifting can be reduced when clerks actually pay attention to patrons, the mere act of going door to door will discourage a great deal of illegal activities of all kinds. When the bad guys see their neighbors talking to each other and knocking on doors and paying attention, they'll look for a new place to set up shop.

Don't wait for Mayor Callaway to ask you to serve on a committee. You don't need his permission or his blessing to be a leader and if he hasn't asked for your help by now he's not going to.

If you are a member of Generation X or Generation Y and you think your parent's generation and your grandparents' generation are not leading, then you stand up and lead. Don't ask their permission and don't wait for them to put you on a committee.

As my regular readers know, all outcomes are the result of systems. Systems produce what they are designed to produce. Every time. If your city government or your city "partnership" don't produce anything then it's because they are designed not to produce anything and because the people who designed and maintain the system don't want it to produce anything.

Design a new system, one that is intended to produce something.

Let me get biblical: Don't try to put new wine into old wineskins. (Matthew chapter 9, Mark chapter 2, Luke chapter 5). In other words, don't try to reform the old wineskins. They can't hold the new wine. You have to put new wine into new wineskins. Make new wineskins.

Right now, St. Albans gives criminals exactly what they need to survive and thrive: a citizenry that doesn't want to get involved.

St. Albans doesn't have a crime problem as much as it has an apathy problem and apathy is fertile soil for crime.

Higginbotham At Large is tired of explaining to readers that this blog publishes no anonymous or pseudonymous content including reader comments. Send all comments, questions and hate mail to JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com or, discuss this and other St. Albans topics at LinkedSt.AlbansLinkedin. This post has been submitted for discussion at LinkedSt.Albans on Linkedin.

13 March, 2011

St. Albans' Anonymous Website Owner Phones Higginbotham At Large

In yesterday's post I said I didn't know the identity of the person or persons behind the anonymously published website that quotes from and links to my blog. That is no longer true.

Yesterday I got a phone call from a man identifying himself as the owner of the web address of the site that calls St. Albans a meth-making "badlands" and publishes photos and news stories that are unflattering to St. Albans and its elected leaders. The man apologized for using my blog without my permission and offered to remove the quotes and the links. I told him he could continue to quote and link to my blog if he would simply put a disclaimer on his site explaining that Joseph Higginbotham and HIgginbotham At Large are not affiliated with his site.

The anonymous website owner told me he is not alone in posting stories and photos to the site.

When I urged him to publish under his own name instead of anonymously he told me that a lot of people in St. Albans already know his identity and then he explained why he prefers not to publish his name on the site he owns.

If ever there was a town that needs to have a citywide conversation about its drug problem, it's tiny business tax base, its geriatricity, its declining population, its citizen apathy and its utter failure to engage the people with a stake in St. Albans' future (young people) this is the town so I really hope St. Albans' "badlands" website owner will publicly identify himself and make his site the place where this citywide conversation might start. In my opinion, people are more likely to read and trust a site whose ownership and management are known. I, for example, don't trust any business that doesn't publish the names of owners and management on their website.

When I was explaining to the anonymous website owner why I think his site has a greater chance of starting the citywide conversation St. Albans needs to have about its problems and its future, I took the opportunity to explain to him that I chose Linkedin as the platform for my LinkedSt.Albans discussion group precisely because Linkedin groups afford me the opportunity to verify the identity of every participant. There are no pseudonyms, CB handles, nicknames or screen names at LinkedSt.Albans. Every member of LinkedSt.Albans is what the Linkedin terms of use call a "natural person" with visible connections who can verify their identity.

LinkedSt.Albans does not accept members whose account names violate the Linkedin terms of use. I will accept no members who attempt to hide behind organization names such as "St. Albans Partnership" or company names such as "JP's Daily Grind" but if Jesse Post is welcome to join LinkedSt.Albans under his real name.

If you are among the 80 million people with a Linkedin account, just point your browser to www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=2053370 or go to your "groups" field and type "LinkedSt.Albans" to join. LinkedSt.Albans is a "members only" Linkedin group which means your comments can only be seen by other LinkedSt.Albans members.

Get your free Linkedin account at www.linkedin.com then  point your browser to www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=2053370 or go to your "groups" field and type "LinkedSt.Albans" to join LinkedSt.Albans.

Higginbotham At Large no longer publishes reader comments.  Send comments, questions and hate mail to JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com. Higginbotham At Large has no interest in the opinions of  readers whose identities cannot be verified.

12 March, 2011

Higginbotham At Large Is Not Affiliated In Any Way With Anonymously or Pseudonymously Published Sites

Last night I got an email from a print media publisher who mistakenly thought me to be the publisher of a website that prints unflattering photos and news stories about St. Albans and its elected leaders. This was the first I had heard of the site so I Googled it and found that this anonymously published site prominently features a quote from one of my blog posts and links to my blog in at least two ways. I was never asked for permission to quote from my blog or to link to it nor would I have ever granted permission for any unaccountable, anonymous publisher to link to or quote from my blog.

Let me be clear: I, Joseph Higginbotham, have no connection whatsoever to any pseudonymously or anonymously published site, have not granted permission to quote from my blog and do not know the identity of the person or persons responsible for the aforementioned site that portrays St. Albans as a meth-making "badlands".

This is not to say that I disagree with everything the anonymous site says. The difference is that when I have something unflattering to say about St. Albans or its titular leaders I say it under my own name where I can be held accountable for what I say. Three of my July 2009 posts dealt with bad leadership and one of them seems to have provided some inspiration for the anonymous site.

The difference between me and the anonymous website publisher is that when I have something unflattering to say about St. Albans or its titular leaders I am accountable for what I say.

I hope the anonymous web publisher doesn't fancy himself (or herself) some kind of modern day Thomas Paine or his website a kind of 21st Century Common Sense just because Paine's tract was first published anonymously. Paine was committing treason against England and might very well have been arrested and killed for what he wrote. I doubt that Mayor Callaway would order the St. Albans police to shoot the anonymous website publisher on sight if he were to disclose his identity.

I, for one, would have greater respect for him (or her) if he/she boldly published his name.

Nor do I disagree with the anonymous website's determination to provide an online forum where St. Albans residents can interact with one another and become better engaged with their elected leaders and their neighbors. In fact, I've met with Mayor Callaway and with members of Council and asked them why the mayor's office has not provided this leadership and this online forum.

But I strongly disapprove of any online forum that allows anonymous posts.

If you want to tell the police about the meth lab next door, you can already do so anonymously but if you wish to get St. Albans talking about its crime problems and its rising median age and its declining population and its lack of citizen engagement, you need to do that publicly. That's why my LinkedSt.Albans group is on Linkedin, a site that is all about accountability and real IDs.

In fact, let me put in a plug for the only St. Albans discussion forum with which I am affiliated, LinkedSt.ALbans. I started LinkedSt.Albans in hope that it would kickstart some citizen engagement in a town where 4 votes will get you a seat on city council because nobody else bothers to run.

If you would like to join LinkedSt.Albans just go to :: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=2053370.

Higginbotham At Large does not publish reader comments but if you identify yourself I'll read your email and even reply if necessary. Send all comments, questions or hate me to me at JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com.

11 March, 2011

Why Free Market Forces Haven't Rid West Virginia Of The Dog Killing, Money Losing Dog Racing Industry

Until last night, I thought the reason the Tri-State Greyhound Park in Cross Lanes/Nitro continues to operate is because dog racing makes a lot of money.

It doesn't.

Until last night, I thought that if a business was doing something cruel and barbaric, good decent people could simply boycott that business and force them to change.

Last night I found out you've already boycotted dog racing at the Tri-State Greyhound Park and that you continue to boycott it and that sometimes there are more dogs on the track than spectators in the stands for the races so while boycotting may work when an online book retailer sells pedophile instructional books it doesn't work against the dog racing industry because dog racing isn't kept alive by spectators who buy tickets it's kept alive by lobbyists who buy legislators.

At last night's Drinking Liberally meeting Jennifer Krebs, VP at Grey2KUSA.org, explained to us that dog racing is a dying business kept artificially alive by lobbyists who represent dog breeders. Krebs explained to us that. to keep the demand for racing dogs high, breeders' lobbyists have persuaded legislators to pass laws that require casinos to maintain live animal racing. Krebs explained that in states where casino gambling has been de-coupled from live animal racing, live animal racing dies because there's no money in it. Live animal racing is a "loss leader". Very few of you, it seems, actually enjoy watching greyhounds crash into each other and take bone breaking, "career" ending tumbles so if  free market forces were allowed to work, casinos like the one at Cross Lanes wouldn't continue to operate dog racing tracks.

Here's who makes money from dog racing: dog breeders, the breeders' lobbyists and the legislators who are wined and dined by the breeders' lobbyists.

Free market forces alone won't rid the state of West Virginia from this cruel, money-losing industry. Only legislation will get the job done. And the good news is that we don't even need legislation to outlaw dog racing, all we need is legislation that de-couples live animal racing from casino gambling.

By the way, I also learned last night that one of the big breeders in the state of West Virginia is acting-as-if-he-were-the-governor-Tomblin's mother, Freda.

For more on how human activity keeps animal populations artificially high and animal suffering unnecessarily frequent, see my July 1, 2009 post at ::http://higginbothamatlarge.blogspot.com/2010/07/how-to-reduce-animal-suffering-by-doing.html

Higginbotham At Large no longer publishes reader comments. Send your hate mail, suggestions and questions directly to me at JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com.

05 March, 2011

Why Most Job Search Workshops Omit The Most Important Job Search Info

The guy who was leading the job search workshop started by triaging the audience.

"Hold up your hand if you send out hundreds of resume but don't get any interviews" he said. When people raised their hands he told them their resumes were no good and told them to cluster together on the left side of the room.

"By show of hands, how many of you get a first interview but then don't get second interviews" said the workshop leader. When people raised their hands he told them their interview skills were no good and asked them to cluster at the center of the room.

"How many of you get lots of interviews but no offers?" asked the workshop leader. When people raised their hands he told them their resumes were good and their interview skills were good but there was something wrong in their backgrounds or with their references that was preventing them from getting offers.

After he triaged the attendees by deficiency - bad resume, bad interview skills and bad background or references - he worked with each group on their specific job search weakness.

This was good work as far as it went but it (a) didn't go far enough and (b) started in the wrong place and (c) omitted the most important thing a job seeker needs to learn.

If you've been reading my previous posts about why your job search needs "co-signers" and how to get "co-signers" then you already know where I'm going. This workshop leader's advice to job seekers would have been terrific if the best way to hunt for a job is to send resumes to strangers, then interview with those strangers, then hope for an offer from those strangers. But, as the readers of my previous 7 posts already know, a job search workshop that only covers resumes, interviews and background problems is like a "How To Get Published" class that doesn't teach you about how to get an agent or where and how to sell your writing. Job search workshops that don't teach you how to get "co-signers" for your job search only pretend to prepare job seekers for their job search. So why are there no job seeker workshops that teach job seekers how to really find a job? It's simple. There's no money in it. Let me explain:

If you take a look at who's sponsoring or renting booth space at these job search workshops you'll see staffing companies like Adecco, Express, Randstad, Kelly and Manpower. You may even see some technical staffing firms like Aerotek. You'll see some companies that offer to write you a killer resume for about $100 - 500 bucks. You'll see companies that offer to make you a killer video resume. You'll even see vendors who offer to completely manage every aspect of your job search for about 5 thousand dollars.

You won't see any vendors or sponsors who teach you how to leverage your existing network of the hundreds or even thousands of people you already know to get that next job - even though all these vendors and sponsors know that's how most professionals get hired.

There are two reasons the people who pretend to teach you how to get a job don't tell you the whole truth, the most important truth: (1) They can't figure out how to monetize the whole truth and (2) they know that humans prefer silver bullets, myths, fairy tales and urban legends to the truth. People want to believe that there's a "secret" to weight loss that doesn't involve the proven math of burning more calories than they consume. People want to believe that if they just send $100 to the TV evangelist God will send them $1,000. My octogenarian interlocutor wants to believe there's a way to increase your chances of winning the Powerball that doesn't involve "odds" or statistics. People want to believe in snake oil so I understand how tempting it is to believe that if I just pay this woman $500 to do my resume or if I just pay this company $5k to make me a video resume and set me up with job "leads" then I'll get a job.

The truth, as readers of my previous 7 posts know, is that there are two ways to look for a job. There's the low-percentage game of sending resumes to strangers, interviewing with strangers and hoping for job offers from strangers. Then there's the high-percentage game of leveraging the professional network you already have to get you out of the stranger category and into the friend or friend of a friend category where you may get a job without even writing a resume until after you have the offer.

The truth, as readers of my "How To Get A Co-Signer" post know, looks like a lot of work but is far and away more likely to get you a new job faster. And I'm telling you the truth for free.

I don't want you to spend another day playing that low percentage game of uploading resumes to strangers who don't even know how to understand your work experience and completing online tests and tweaking your resume and sweating through window-dressing interviews. The truth is, while you wait in line for the opportunity to go to 5 interviews only to be rejected, the candidate who will get the job you interviewed for 5 times is across the street at Starbucks being introduced to his next boss by their mutual friend. That's how professional jobs are really filled about 90% of the time. HR departments spend an enormous amount of time and energy trying to perpetuate the myth that their hiring processes are meritocratic but here's the truth: no matter how much they spend maintaining the illusion of a "fair" and meritocratic hiring process when the hiring manager walks into the HR office and introduces the guy he was just introduced to at Starbucks by their mutual friend, HR doesn't say "Gee, I'm sorry, Mr. Department Head, you can't hire this guy because we didn't get the chance to misunderstand and then lose his resume and then jack him around through 4 or 5 interviews."

Higginbotham At Large welcomes comments as long as those comments are not anonymous or pseudonymous. Readers and "lurkers" may remain anonymous but there will be no anonymous or pseudonymous comments at Higginbotham At Large. No Ring of Gyges for you.

04 March, 2011

"What Are Headhunters Looking For?"

I'm often asked what headhunters are looking for.

Headhunters are looking for their next check. Headhunters are mercenaries. Headhunters don't represent the candidate, they represent the employer.

Yes, I know, when you ask what headhunters want you mean what do they want in a candidate.

See first answer. A headhunter is looking for his next check so he presents candidates that he thinks can lead to that next check. If the headhunter believes his client will only hire someone with a Ph.D. then he's looking for a Ph. D. If the headhunter knows his client is ageist and homophobic and racist he won't bring that client a gay, black, 60-year-old no matter how well-qualified that person may be. Why? Because the headhunter is looking for his next check.

"How do I get the attention of headhunters?" people sometimes ask me.

First, refer to my previous post about why headhunters prefer "passive" candidates and why you shouldn't send your resume to headhunters unsolicited and unbidden.

Second, be good at your job. Headhunters network til they find what they need. That means that if somebody mentions your name to a headhunter, you just got on his radar and he will call you if he can find contact info. Make sure headhunters can find your contact info in case people are mentioning your name. if you look at my previous post about passive candidates and how I found Bob Maynard and collected a handsome payment for bringing him to my client, then you will understand how headhunters find candidates. Headhunters network until they find what they need. After a half dozen people  told me Bob Maynard was the oxygen king of the Florida panhandle, I knew he was what I needed. That's very typical of how to get on a headhunter's radar. Be good at your job like Bob Maynard then make sure people who are looking for you can find you.

Is there contact info on your Linkedin profile? Are you sure? Only about 3 or 4% of the Linkedin profiles I see have any contact info on them so go look at your profile and ask yourself if you can be reached.

But don't wait for a headhunter to hear your name. Get your friends and colleagues and former co-workers and former bosses and every professional contact you've ever had to say your name to employers. Getting a great new job through a headhunter is good. Bob Maynard has thanked me two or three times for not giving up on him and for persisting until he agreed to meet my client. BUt don't wait for a headhunter. Read my posts about "professional co-signers" and start getting your professional contacts to say your name to people who can hire you. Do it now. Don't waste another day sending resumes to strangers. Yes, there's a chance you may get a job that way but play the high percentage game, not the low percentage game.

Higginbotham At Large no longer accepts or publishes reader comments. You may send questions, comments and hate mail to JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com.

Why Headhunters Prefer "Passive" Candidates

The job search discussion we're having in my Linked Liberals group on Linkedin reveals some misconceptions about headhunters and how to work with them.

Many job seekers think they increase their odds of getting the attention of a headhunter if they send out their resume -unsolicited - to as many headhunters as they can. Wrong. Don't send resumes to headhunters. When you send an unsolicited resume to a headhunter he knows you've also sent it to every other headhunter and employer and that you have wallpapered Corporate America with resumes. The headhunter who receives your unsolicited resume sees you as a lightweight. The headhunter who receives your unsolicited resume would rather work with a "passive" candidate, not an active candidate.

What is a passive candidate? Instead of just giving you a lifeless definition, let me draw you a picture of an actual passive candidate I recruited for a client way back in the early 90s.

My largest client needed a GM for one of their offices in the South. I knew that qualified managers in that market would likely be under non-compete contracts so I focused my attention on markets that were a commute away in hopes of finding someone who would either relocate or commute the adjacent market. Back in those days we didn't have Linkedin and Google so we had to identify good candidates the old-fashioned way. I started with my Rolodex - remember those? - and started calling everybody I knew in the markets surrounding the market in which my client needed the GM. One name kept coming up: Bob Maynard.

"The guy you need for this job is Bob Maynard", they'd say. "I don't know if Bob is looking, but he's great."

Not only was Bob not looking, Bob wouldn't talk to me at first. Bob had a steady job with a company that didn't appreciate him. Bob was underpaid and he probably knew it but, emotionally, he was at a place in his career where he was willing to swap job security for the chance to make more money and get on a track to career advancement. My client offered all that and I knew that if I could just get Bob to talk to me I could get him to meet my client and that when  he met them he'd leave his old employer and come to work for my client. I was right. Bob started as a GM and worked his way up to a VP job. He stayed with my client for 15 years and had what we call "a good run".

Incidentally, while it was a headhunter who got Bob to come in and talk, he was not unknown to my client. People in the organization knew who he was. His reputation had preceded him. All I did was get him to the table but Bob really earned the job by being a great center manager for a competitor.

Bob is the perfect example of a passive candidate. He was a great manager who didn't have a current resume and wasn't looking for a job but deserved a better job than he had. That's a passive candidate. Headhunters love passive candidates.

Had Bob been sending his resume to everybody I could have invested a lot of time in him and lost him to another employer.

I was once an "expert panelist" at a career night event. Someone in the audience asked me how to find headhunters. I said, "You don't find the headhunter, the headhunter finds you - if you're good."

As I've said in previous posts, headhunters network until they find what they need.

But it's still better to be introduced to an employer by your professional co-signer than it is to be introduced by a headhunter. I'll tell you why in tomorrow's post.

Higginbotham At Large no longer accepts or publishes reader comments. You may send questions, comments and hate mail to JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com.

To Get The Job, Get Out Of The "Stranger" Category

A Fortune 400 company advertised a position in their government affairs office. According to the published ad, the successful candidate would be someone who spoke an Asian language fluently, had lived in Asia, and had worked for a government agency.

The person who got the job had never worked in government, never lived in Asia and couldn't speak a foreign language of any kind, Asian or otherwise. The successful but unqualified candidate had something the qualified candidates didn't: she had a relationship, a professional co-signer, whose intervention made all those pesky "minimum qualifications" requirements melt away.

Having a professional co-signer can launch less qualified candidates past better qualified candidates. It happens every day. It happens in large Fortune 400 companies like the one above and it happens in the small mom and pops.

Until my Linked Liberals group on Linkedin started having a big discussion about job search, I had no idea that so few professionals in their 40s and 50s have somehow failed to notice that the hiring process is not "fair" and that the best candidates don't get the jobs unless they have professional co-signers who vouch for them.

The sooner you realize that life isn't fair and that the hiring process isn't meritocratic the sooner you'll spend your time looking for a professional co-signer instead of spending your time playing the low percentage game of sending resumes to strangers.

I've said this in my previous few blog posts but I haven't fully defined what I mean by the word "stranger".

Harry Beckwith has correctly observed that people don't like to do business with strangers if there is a non-stranger available. So what is a stranger? A stranger is someone who is both unknown to you and unknown to anyone you know. In other words, a stranger is 3 degrees from you. To get the job, you don't have to be the hiring manager's best buddy, you just have to get out of the 3 degrees away category and get to the 2 degrees away category. That happens when a mutual friend or colleague - this is your professional co-signer - introduces you to the hiring manager. The hiring manager immediately warms to you when your professional co-signer introduces you to him.

In my next post, I'll address some misconceptions about working with headhunters.

Higginbotham At Large welcomes comments as long as those comments are not anonymous or pseudonymous. Readers and "lurkers" may remain anonymous but there will be no anonymous or pseudonymous comments at Higginbotham At Large. No Ring of Gyges for you.

03 March, 2011

Answers To Questions About Working With Headhunters

Lately, I've been getting some questions about headhunting and headhunters. How to "hire" a headhunter to find you a job. How to attract headhunters.

Since I'm not interested in writing about boring, "inside baseball" stuff and since I'm not interested in starting a war with headhunters whose methods I dislike, I'm going to use the question of how to work with a headhunter as an excuse to show readers how to exploit this arcane information in your job search whether or not you ever talk to a headhunter.

First of all, headhunters don't usually "find" candidates that were previously unknown to their clients nor do headhunters usually bring their clients candidates they couldn't have "found" for themselves. This was true in 1993 when I first started "finding" talent for a a few clients and, in the age of Linkedin and Google, it's even more true today. Over the years I have placed nurses, respiratory therapists, sales reps, managers, engineers, architects, marketing gurus, pharmacists, etc., with clients only to find that my client either (a) already knew the person they had just paid me to find or (b) my client could have easily found this candidate for themselves by leveraging their existing network of professional contacts. After I have arranged a meeting between the client and the successful candidate, we learn that Bob in accounting knows the new hire from a previous job or Sally from R&D knows the candidate from a civic group or the hiring manager actually knows the candidate from church or because their kids go to the same school. 

On a few occasions, clients have actually provided me with the names of people they wanted me to recruit.

"Why" you may be wondering, "would an employer pay a headhunter to "find" someone he has already found?" There are several reasons: A lot of employers are like insecure high school boys who won't ask the pretty cheerleader to the dance until he knows for sure the answer is "yes". Also, employers don't want to lose the upper hand in salary and benefits negotiations so they don't want the desired candidate to know he or she is on the short list of preferred candidates. If the headhunter fee is less than the salary, perks and benefits advantage the candidate would gain by knowing how badly the employer wants him, it makes sense to pay the headhunter, not the candidate. 

Notice that if the hiring manager wants to talk to you about a job but he doesn't want to appear too eager, it really doesn't matter if you're brought to him by a headhunter or by Karen in marketing who knows you from a previous job. 

Knowing that employers are so bad at leveraging their own networks that they will actually pay headhunters to bring them candidates they could have "found" and hired without the headhunter provides you, the job seeker, with a great opportunity to exploit their ignorance or laziness. How? Networking is a 2-way street. If the boss is too lazy or too networking-challenged to use the network that connects the two of you together, then you can use the network the boss is ignoring.  

Remember the list I told you how to make 2 posts ago? Perhaps Karen in marketing is on that list and perhaps the hiring manager wants to talk to you but he'd rather somebody brought you to him. You need a job, right? is Karen from marketing on the list? Call Karen and ask her to be your professional co-signer.

Second, make yourself easy to find and contact. Headhunters and enlightened employers use Linkedin. to identify people with the right degree or the right experience so make sure your Linkedin profile has actual contact info on it and make sure it's replete with all the appropriate buzzwords that show off your SKEs - skills, knowledge and experience. When using Linkedin to identify prospective candidates, a headhunter may type "P&L" instead of "profit and loss" so put both in your profile. 

About 97% of the Linkedin profiles I see contain no contact info. Make sure either your phone number or your email address or both are on your profile. If you don't know where to put it, look at my profile.

Join Linkedin groups that connect you to the kind of people who might want to hire you and to the people you may have worked with in a previous job. 

This piece of advice may seem counter-intuitive but don't send your resume to headhunters. 

Headhunters prefer "passive" candidates, not "active candidates". I'm not saying you should play hard to get but I am saying that desperation gives off a bad smell that repels everybody. I could write an entire blog post on that last point - and perhaps one day I will - but for now, just know this: there is no reason to send your resume to a headhunter unless he asks for it and has a specific job opening in mind. Sometimes I don't ask for a resume until I've already arranged the meeting between client and candidate. Sometimes I don't even send the client a resume, just my own notes on what I know about the candidate. 

Finally - and this may be the most important thing I can tell you about working with headhunters - it wouldn't have been necessary for the employer to secure the services of a headhunter had the employer's existing network brought employer and candidate together so work proactively to network yourself to the employer whether or not there's a job opening that you know about. If Bob in accounting or Sally in R&D are on that legal pad list I told you how to make two posts ago, call them and get yourself recommended to your next boss. 

Higginbotham At Large welcomes comments as long as those comments are not anonymous or pseudonymous. Readers and "lurkers" may remain anonymous but there will be no anonymous or pseudonymous comments at Higginbotham At Large. No Ring of Gyges for you.

02 March, 2011

Age Discrimination Revisited

My previous two posts have generated a lot of questions about age discrimination. Despite the fact that I recently served on a task force whose aim was to identify employers who are eager to hire so-called "older workers" and despite the fact that I have written on this topic many times before both in this blog and in publications like Business Lexington and Living Well 50 Plus, a few of my readers seem to think I don't believe bias against older workers is real. They misunderstood my last two posts and completely missed my point that issues like your age and your unexplained employment gaps only matter if you are wasting your time playing what I call the "low percentage game" of sending resumes to strangers, assuming that the hiring process is meritocratic and fair. You shouldn't, it isn't.

The hiring game is not a fair fight. The people who get the jobs are the people who have an unfair advantage over the competition. The people who get the jobs are the people who have a relationship the other candidates don't have. If you have such a relationship, your age and your employment gaps won't matter because you and the hiring manager have a mutual, trusted colleague or friend who is "co-signing" for you, assuring the hiring manager that you are the person for the job. 

My point is not that age bias and employment gaps won't hurt you in a fair fight against younger candidates with better resumes: my point is that you shouldn't be in a fair fight because it's not the people who fight fair who get the jobs. Let me invoke John Steinbeck who said "If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck."

Employers work very hard at obscuring the fact that you aren't in a fair fight. They post jobs that are already filled. They make candidates interview for the job 4, 5, 10 times as if this is a meritocratic process.

What they don't tell you is that a better-connected candidate - employment gaps, age spots and all - can skip the line at any time and win the job over younger, more qualified candidates.

Instead of spending 8 hours a day filling out online applications, uploading resumes to strangers and taking online tests only to end up at the end of the week with no callbacks and no interviews, do what I told you to do in yesterday's post: get out the legal  pad, make the list I told you how to make and start contacting people you already know. One of them knows your next boss and will lead you past the   long line where people who think job search is fair are waiting obediently in line and introduce you to the boss. This is how 90% of professional jobs are really filled. 

If you still don't understand my point that I want you to stop playing the low percentage game and start playing the high percentage game, let me ask you how you choose a plumber if you don't already know one or how you choose a CPA if you don't already know one. Chances are, you are paralyzed with indecision until a colleague or friend or vendor or customer recommends a CPA or a plumber. The same thing is true of hiring. Hiring managers can comb through stacks of great resumes and interview dozens of highly qualified people and still fail to make a hiring decision then one day someone's professional co-signer cuts the line and ushers his friend into the hiring manager's heart and mind.

That is the correct order, by the way - first heart and then mind. Even though we humans have these big brains the way we make important decisions is really embarrassing. We "decide" with our hearts and then we "alibi" or "rationalize" with our big brains.

There is no heart in filling out online applications. There is no emotional element in the filling out of online applications and the taking of online tests. These bottlenecks exist to perpetuate the myth that hiring is dispassionate and fair and meritocratic but the reality is that when your old pal from Excess Capacity Corp. hand delivers your resume to his friend over at Meritocracy Corp. that hiring manager feels the cockles of his heart strangely warmed and the job  is now yours to lose even if you never applied for it.

Everybody else waits in line for the call that will never come.

Oh, the guy who hires you has a big brain and, if anybody asks, he will use that big brain to rationalize his decision to hire you.

Your gray hair won't matter.

Your employment gaps won't matter.

HR won't matter.

Stop playing the low percentage game of spending all your time sending resumes to strangers. Don't be a stranger. Find the connection between you and your next boss.

Re-read my previous 2 posts and then do what I said. This is how 90% of professional jobs are really filled. 

But if you still want to play the low percentage game and you just can't let the subject of ageism go  see my 2 May 2010 post called "Institutional Ageism" :: http://higginbothamatlarge.blogspot.com/2010/05/institutional-ageism.html

After you've read it, abandon your time-wasting, low-percentage game of sending resumes to strangers and start networking your way to a new job. Someone you already know knows your next boss.

Higginbotham At Large no longer accepts or publishes reader comments. You may send questions, comments and hate mail to JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com.

01 March, 2011

How To Get A "Co-Signer" For Your Job Search

Yesterday I told you why all these worries about how to hide your age, how to explain employment gaps or how to explain why you're currently unemployed or underemployed will melt away if you have a "professional co-signer".  I told you that a job seeker with a great resume is no match for a candidate with the right relationship. I told you that employers receive resumes from great candidates and still don't hire because they're waiting for a professional co-signer. I told you that if you have a professional co-signer you can skip the low percentage game of sending resumes and sitting for interviews leapfrogging over  terrific candidates who answered ads, sent resumes and sweated through through interviews.  I told you that, chances are, you're no more than two degrees from your next job; somebody you already know knows somebody who will give you your next job. In other words, somebody you already know is probably the professional co-signer you need.

Today I'll tell you how to get the edge that leapfrogs you over and past better-qualified candidates who lacked a professional co-signer.

And I'll tell you something else that may surprise you: the person who becomes your professional co-signer and helps you get your next job is probably not a close friend or relative. No, the person who co-signs for you is likely to be someone you don't actually know all that well. It may even be someone you aren't sure will help you. Why? It's simple math. If you're like most people you only have a handful of close friends or relatives who are rubbing elbows with employers but you might know hundreds of people casually so the person who ends up helping you get your next job is likely to be someone you don't really know all that well.

I want you to get a legal pad (you're going to be surprised at how much paper you'll need for this exercise) and write down one of your past jobs as the heading. Now, write down the names of every boss you had at that job, every co-worker you can remember at that job, every vendor you can remember at that job, every client or customer you can remember at that job and write down the names of anybody you can ever remember meeting when you worked there. If you knew the guy who owned the bakery across the street, write him down. My guess is you've already filled up a page.

Do this for each job you've held.

Now, write down the name of a professional association you belong to or a board you serve on or a charity you volunteer for. Write down the names of everybody you've met through each of these orgs.

Draw a little map of your immediate neighborhood. Would the couple next door like you you to lose your house and stink up the housing values on your block? Probably not - and if you're a good neighbor, your neighbors would rather take their chances with you than with some new neighbor who may play his music too loud so write down the names of the couple next door and the couple across the street and the couple at the mouth of the cul de sac who throw the block Christmas party every year. Where do these people work? What do they do? Who do they know?

By now, you have dozens of pages and hundreds of names.

Somebody on this list is going to say your name to your next boss.

But you have to help them remember to say your name.

Using every means at your disposal - Linkedin, Google, Facebook, even the old-fashioned phone book - start looking these people up and telling them you're looking for a job.

Only your pride will stand in the way of doing this. Don't be ashamed. Don't be embarrassed. You're not alone.

Even if you formed a consulting company with no clients and your Linkedin profile says you're the President at "XYZ & Associates" or "The ABC Group" make the call and tell the truth.

"Hey, Sarah, I hope you remember me, we worked together at Excess Capacity until we were laid off. I was the manager of the _______ department and since then I've done _________ and I'm looking for a job doing _______."

If your pride makes the first call hard, it'll get easier. After you've made a few of these calls and heard your old customers' and co-workers' stories you'll realize that a lot of good people are underemployed or unemployed just like you.

And when you make these calls, don't assume that the people you're talking to know what you did or what you'd like to do. Job titles sometimes don't help much. Start thinking about how to explain "Business Analyst" to someone who doesn't know what a "Business Analyst" is. Start thinking of how to describe the stuff you did since you last saw Sarah at Excess Capacity 10 years ago. Sometimes the reason old Sarah hasn't already dropped your name to a potential employer is because Sarah really doesn't understand what you do. We don't just work in boxes and cubicles, we work in "black boxes" where only a handful of people really know what we do. Start talking to the people on your list about what you did when you knew them, what you've done since and what you hope to do in your next job. be as specific as you can.

I got my first management job without submitting a resume because two guys were having a beer together at a hotel 200 miles away and one guy mentioned my name to the other guy. The guy who hired me had already received resumes from far better candidates than me but when his beer companion mentioned my name, the job was mine to lose.

I never interviewed for the job. I never submitted a resume but I got the job.

What a consultant once told me about the secret of success in the consulting business is just as true of job search: "Get people to say your name. Getting people to say your name is the Holy Grail."

A guy once gave me $26k in consulting business just because a guy I'd never met said my name.

Don't settle for "leads". Getting a lead for a job is almost no help at all unless the person giving you the lead also "co-signs" for you. Here are some of the ways one of those hundreds of people on your list can co-sign for you:

1. The co-signer hand delivers your resume to a hiring manager. I once got a job because a very good friend hand delivered my resume to the person doing the hiring.

2. The co-signer arranges a meeting between you and the hiring manager. This meeting could take the form of a Starbucks before work, a weekend cookout, a business lunch, a jog after work or any other means of making the introduction.

3. The co-signer sends the hiring manager an email introduction. This is not as good as a personal, face-to-face introduction but it's a thousand times better than a mere lead.

4. The co-signer makes a phone call to a hiring manager for you. This is better than an email but not as good as a face-to-face.

5. The co-signer sends your Linkedin profile to a hiring manager. The co-signer should replace the generic message with a personal message.

Remember what I said yesterday: there are hiring managers out there right now who are sitting on stacks of resumes from great candidates who haven't been offered the job because they don't have professional co-signers.

The candidate with a great resume is no match for the candidate with a relationship.

I told you how to make a list of your relationships. Somebody on that list knows your next boss. Ask him to co-sign.

People who have recently changed geographies (like Steve in Hampton Roads) or industries are at a disadvantage relationship-wise because all their potential co-signers might live in another state or work in another industry but you're still most likely to get your next job because you have a relationship the other candidates didn't have so start networking like crazy.

Somebody you already know knows your next boss. Start working that list and I wouldn't be surprised if you have a new job in 24 hours.

Higginbotham At Large welcomes comments as long as those comments are not anonymous or pseudonymous. Readers and "lurkers" may remain anonymous but there will be no anonymous or pseudonymous comments at Higginbotham At Large. No Ring of Gyges for you.