My Friday Post: Mulligan – Getting a Second Chance

Like most execs I spent very little time worrying about my network. Who really has the time especially when you put in 12 hour days. And those in my network worked in the same industry as myself. Well that was a mistake on both counts. When the financial crisis occurred my network crumbled like a house of cards. So I had to rebuild my network from the ground up.

I learned from my failure. I wanted my network to be broad and general. No more will I just have people in one particular industry. One-way I am rebuilding my network is by golfing. I am at the driving range 2 to 3 times per week and play a round at least once per week.

Golfing is about more than golf. It is a chance to get to know someone outside of an office setting. There is a certain comfort level to be said on a golf course, which you do not find elsewhere. I am not a good golfer. But so what? Most people that do play are not good either. That is what makes it fun. You are playing a round with someone which can last anywhere from 2 to 5 hours. That is a lot time to talk about business, family, socialize, and network with strangers.

This week alone I played with an owner of a construction company that gave me three names of people to network with. All because I played a round of golf with him for the first time and he like our conversation. Can you ask for any better way of networking? No elevator pitches, no formal interviews. Just two guys bulls##ting on a nice day shanking balls around a course and having fun doing it.

For those of you not playing golf and that want to broaden your network, take a few lessons with a pro and get out there. Those of you out-of-work, get out from behind your computer and go and enjoy some fresh air. Who knows, you might meet your next boss on the links. The worst that could happen is your Rolodex will be full with names. And in a world where networking is king, there is nothing wrong with that. Right?

Qualify Your Professional Network

There was a recent discussion on LinkedIn regarding tight versus broad networks (LinkedIn Strategies – Tight vs Broad Network). Is it more effective in a  job search to build a network of close connections or instead, build a network with a broad reach, but weak connections?

This is an interesting discussion. Recently I have been trying to qualify my network. I have been building my network for a little over a year now. At first, I thought it should be a numbers game. How many people can I connect with? I immediately saw diminishing returns.

To put things in perspective, I currently have:

  • 277 contacts on LinkedIn.
  • 180 following/156 followers on Twitter.
  • 20 people actively following my blog daily and commenting
  • 150 non-family contacts in my contact database

Of all the above contacts I consider maybe 10 contacts can help me find a new position or are people that remain in touch with me. What does this mean? Have I failed in networking? Should I have a tighter network or a better network? These are questions I ask myself everyday.

Here is what I do know.

  • Maintaining a network takes time and effort on your part.
  • If you are seeing no responses from your network then you should not put the effort in networking with that person. I know this seems harsh. But lets face facts, if you email and call someone and they do not respond then it is clear they are not interested in maintaining a link with you.
  • Move on and find others that will return your emails and telephone calls. Even if they do not have a position, they are just checking in with you to maintain a link.
  • Maintain a network that brings value to you.

I have started to be more discriminating in whom I add to LinkedIn and follow on Twitter. I want to have contacts that I can help and that can help me both in the short and long-term. It is not a numbers game anymore for me. It is about quality relationships with people.

What do you think about maintaining a network? What are your thoughts on how to maintain a network?

Only Apply If You Are Employed?

There was an interesting article in the WSJ, Only the Employed Need Apply, by Dana Mattioli. In this article Dana writes that some companies are bypassing unemployed workers and trying to hire only employed workers. “If they’re employed in today’s economy, they have to be first string” says Ryan Ross, a partner with Kaye/Bassman International Corp., an executive recruiting firm in Dallas

These are unusual times. The unemployment rate is at 9.4% and ticking up every month. Firms are still cutting staff. It is unfair for firms to think that just because a person is unemployed, they are not as good as those who are employed. The fact of the matter is there are good and bad people who are unemployed. In today’s economy there are probably a higher percentage of good out-of-work people who got laid off. I know several people (me being one) who got laid off through no fault of our own. These people were former traders, salespeople, recruiters, COOs, and IT executives who were good in their jobs. Their departments or divisions were eliminated. Being unemployed does not make them or me bad people. It just makes us available to take on new challenges and bring our experience and expertise to a company that understands our value.

Turning a Corner? A CIO’s Job Search

For those of you that read my blog regularly know that I have been out of work since September. I have been looking but there have been very few opportunities since the October financial meltdown. In fact, it has been dead. I liken it to being in sailboat with no wind-aimlessly drifting in a void.

That is until this week. There have been at least a dozen job postings for senior level IT people in the New York area. What has happened in the last few weeks? Is the economy turning a corner? Are firms beginning to hire? Who knows?

I got two interesting phone calls this week. One was from a recruiter, “Hello. I have a client that is looking to expand IT operations into the northeast. What do they need to accomplish this task?” Now you must be chuckling to yourself. Is this recruiter serious? Before I could even begin to answer this question, I had to ask for more details. Any good executive would. Of course, the recruiter could not provide much in the way of any useful details. In fact, I gave her a list of questions to ask her client. I said before you begin calling executives you should have a clearer understanding of what exactly the client is trying to accomplish. The talent pool in the NYC arena is large but you have to know what to ask. If not you would embarrass yourself and your client.

The second phone call was from a HR person. We all know HR people are more clueless than anyone on the face of the planet. So any HR person that calls me I am always weary. This was no exception. “We have a small IT shop and we had to let some people go, which caused service levels to deteriorate and now business is suffering and we need to bring service levels back up to acceptable standards. Where should we focus our efforts?”

I asked both the recruiter and HR person that if their client/company wants help to answer these questions and help guide them I am more than willing to come in even on a consultant basis to help. Of course I got the “We are just in an exploration phase and not ready to bring people in at this time” answer.

Am I disappointed? No. I am actually happy to see that the job market is starting to have a pulse. Even though it seems to be a very slight pulse it is a pulse none-the-less. Things are not totally dead and maybe things will continue to improve for everyone. So I am still keeping my fingers crossed….

Résumés – Are You Lost?

Wikipedia DefinitionA résumé is a document that contains a summary or listing of relevant job experience and education. The résumé or CV is typically the first item that a potential employer encounters regarding the job seeker and is typically used to screen applicants, often followed by an interview, when seeking employment.

A Curriculum Vitae (loosely translated as course of life) provides an overview of a person’s life and qualifications. It differs from a résumé in that it is appropriate for academic or medical careers and is far more comprehensive. A CV elaborates on education to a greater degree than a résumé. A résumé is tailor-made according to the post applied for. It is job-oriented and goal specific. One of the key characteristics of a proper résumé is conciseness. 

(Definitions pulled from Wikipedia)

Those of you that read my blog know that I have been out of work since September 2008. During this time I have met with or consulted with a variety of professionals: large scale recruiters, boutique recruiters, career coaches, life coaches, outplacement counselors, professional résumé writers, human resource professionals, etc. It is interesting to hear each professional’s take on what the resume format should be.

Here is a short list items that have been said to me – in no particular order:

  1. Keep your resume to 1 page
  2. Keep your resume to 2 pages
  3. Senior executives should summarize on their resume
  4. Use details to convey your accomplishments
  5. Use bullets points
  6. Don’t use bullet points
  7. Use dates sparingly
  8. Use dates where you can
  9. Have a summary statement that is eye catching
  10. Don’t use a summary statement it is out dated
  11. Use tag words to pop up on searches
  12. Don’t use too many buzz words
  13. Quantify and qualify your work experience and its impact to business
  14. Use hard numbers
  15. Don’t use specific numbers
  16. Use more business jargon
  17. Your experiences should be painted in broad strokes
  18. Be creative
  19. Take chances
  20. Resumes should convey “Shock and Awe” (This is my favorite)

See what I mean? It is confusing. I have revamped (totally overhauled) my resume several times based on the advice I was given. Honestly, while I have been around for sometime and have years of experience under my belt there are only so many ways to say something.

With millions of Americans out of work and the only thing to represent you is an 8-1/2 x 11 piece of papyrus, what should the resume format and message be? If the professionals cannot come to a consensus, how is the average Joe/Jane suppose to know?

Is the resume out-dated in these times?

Networking 101 – Tips To Work A Room

So I have been attending various networking events around the tri-state area-events that specifically cater to senior IT executives.

I was a little apprehensive to attend functions like this because I really did not see the value for myself. Can a room full of other out-of-work IT executives provide any good leads? We are all looking for the same type of job. If anything, this is my competition. Why would anyone help the competition? But I digress….

People would come up to me and recite their resume – their elevator pitch. I have to be honest, I am not good with names and I am definitely not good remembering the intricacies of your last job. I am, however, good at remembering trivial details about a person. I think most people are good at that.

Here are a couple of points to consider when you are planning to attend a networking event:

  1. What are you trying to get out of the event? Is it knowledge transfer, critique of you resume, making contacts? Go in with a game plan.
  2. Don’t regurgitate your résumé to people. Honestly, the people I remembered the most were the ones that just talked about themselves, not the ones that spoke about managing a global ERP implementation. It makes it easier to remember you in a room full of other people that have also done ERP implementations. Know your audience.
  3. Be yourself. Not your last job.
  4. Be happy. You are in a room with other people out-of-work. It makes no sense to cry about your situation. Everyone is going through similar or worst ordeals in this economy.
  5. Carry some business cards. Go to Kinkos (or FedEx Office – whatever they are calling themselves these days) and make 100 business cards for $30 and put your information on it and hand them out to people as you talk to them. A business card still goes a long way. Have fun with it be a little creative. And do not forget to add your LinkedIn profile address and blog.

I would like to hear stories from you about the networking events you attend and any tips you may have.

Happy networking…

Today Was Not A Good Day – But It Is Friday

I am not sure if this is good or bad. But I do feel a bit disappointed today.

I got three phone calls from three different recruiters for three different positions.

The first was for a director of infrastructure. The position came to me through an IT organization I belong to. I was a little suspect of the recruiter but decided to send my resume in. To my surprise I got a phone call immediately there after. He wanted me to “tweak” my resume, send back to him and follow up. I did and the next day I followed up. I called and emailed but no response. I was able to get him on the phone. He did not remember me or the position. I spent a few minutes explaining everything again. He said he will send my resume in a follow up with me in a fee days. It has been a few days, I called and left messages and email but no response.

I got another call from a recruiter that I had linked with this week. He said he got a position that was right for me and sent me the job description. It was great. Everything I was looking for: good location, good salary, good description that fit my background. The recruiter will follow up with me the next day. I was a little weary based on my previous experience but I wanted to not come across desperate. So I waited and to my surprise I got a phone call the next day. The message was short but I felt something was wrong. So I called back. The firm wants a “hands on” person–very hands on; Cisco engineer, windows admin, dba, dmz, CIO experience — literally a jack of all trades. The job description and my research on the firm hinted that this was a large firm. Not a good idea to have one guy doing everything. I told the recruiter that I was hands on but with the sophistication of enterprise architecture, my skill set is not at that level anymore. I am more management with an understanding of how things work in an enterprise environment. The recruiter apologized for not having all the facts about the position. He will keep me in mind for other positions.

Last, I got another call for a VP of technology. The recruiter called me and asked how me how many people did I support in my last or any position. I told him the amount and said this position required someone who had supported 500+ users. It would have been easy for me to lie but my professionalism took over. Yet another position which I was not right for. I don’t understand if you support 50 or 5000 people it is the not quantity but the quality of the support you provide.

So I did not get an interview this week but I was called 3 times from recruiters. Are things picking up? If so great, I can wait for the right position to come along.