Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Is that Job Posting...Really a Job Posting?

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Many people devoted some of this weekend to updating their resume and look for a new job.

Back in prehistoric times, when resumés were printed on paper (Admit it my fellow dinosaurs.You remember), applying for jobs was a very different process. You'd check the local paper on Sunday, write targeted cover letters and address envelopes (maybe on that typewriter thingy?) carefully fold a copy of your resume, mail it out and hope for the best. And somehow it worked, and you got a call by Friday. But sometimes you didn't, despite the fact that you were perfect for the job.

In pre-Internet days, I remember seeing two piles of resumés on my boss's desk. In the first pile were resumés of people who were referred word of mouth by coworkers, friends, and/or other departments. In the second pile were resumés collected from newspaper job postings all still in their unopened envelopes. Those resumés would be "kept on file" until the next ad was posted six months later at which time they would be unceremoniously tossed - uh I mean -- carefully placed in the circular file.

The digital age makes this submission process sound archaic but also uncaring and unfair. Today you go to your favorite job posting or big corporation website, then search, click, attach file, and click again to send. And all the best qualified candidates will be considered for the position. (Uh, yeah. Sure they will.)

Most (let's say 90% for the sake of argument) of the online job postings are actually real job postings that intend to and will review your qualifications (OK, most just flag job titles and keywords, but that counts.) But what many job seekers don't realize is that some of those job postings that you see online are really not looking to fill an empty position.

The biggest offenders are the posts that take you on the endless submission journey making you re-input all the information that's on your resumé and LinkedIn profile. Many large companies are required for variety of reasons - mostly legal - to prove that they cast an unbiased net when looking for new employees. But unless you have been specifically requested by the HR manager to fill out that online application, you are sadly probably wasting your time.

This is not a blanket statement. Some of those ads are legit - sort of. But there are those companies that for all intent and purposes have disqualified you on page one. Many entertainment companies for example won't consider hiring you unless you've worked for the competition. They won't/can't say that of course. Then there are those for the data business who always look to increase their database so they'll gladly accept any info you are willing to provide.

Or have you ever come across one of those job postings that seems ideal but claims that the company is undisclosed? Blind ads are sometimes placed because an employee is about to to be terminated. But these ad are often headhunters and executive search firms looking for new candidates. Or in some rare cases, just another candidate looking for insider information on the competition. Finally, the ad could have been posted by companies that prey on the unemployed or desperate job seekers. They offered to rewrite your resumé, counsel you, or find you a job... for a price of course.

So how do you know if that job posting is really legit, or the position is vacant? Unfortunately you don't. But here are a few rules that I follow.
  1. Don't fill out any job application that requires you to re-input the information that is contained on your resume or your LinkedIn profile. If they are not willing to review either of these then it's not really worth your time investigating the position. Doing this can also work against you if you ever want to apply to a different job in the same company.
  2. Be wary of a company that asks for your social security number or references contact information before you speak with someone from it's HR department. That's not being paranoid. It's being sensible. If they want you, they'll wait for that info.
  3. Does the job description sound familiar? Very familiar? I see companies posting the same job description month after month. Either they are collecting resumes or the working conditions are so bad they can't keep an employee happy. In either case, abandon ship.
  4. How vague or specific are the job requirements? Does this job sound like something you could have done 10 years ago? Does it sound like a job your assistant could do now? Real job postings have real requirements. If you read it and think anybody in your field can do this, then don't apply.
The best jobs I have found have been through recommendation. There's nothing wrong or even unseemly about that; it's just smart business. But I've also gotten jobs through job postings in companies where I knew no one. Real job postings all have one thing in common: real people. If you receive an email or better yet a phone call from the hiring manager or HR personnel who has read your resumé, then you're on the right track.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Office Romances and the 3 Mistakes You'll Make

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Yes, I know she's "not like the others."

Yes I know he's cute, kind, smart, and smiles like he can read your mind.

But...

There's often no better way to find a compatible match than at the office as a recent study has shown. You get to see how they work, deal with stress, and interact with others. You've chosen the same career path so you have built-in commonalities. And they're sitting right across the cubicle from you so how's that for a short commute? It's how Barrack met Michelle. How Ashton met Mila. How I met the mother of my daughter. So I can't knock it.

But...

You need to think about this one. Really think. Because an office romance is a risk to your career. (Notice I said it is and not can be?) But like any great risk, in can bring great rewards so you just need to be smart about how you go about it.

Mistake 1: Working together and not "working together"

One of my first corporate jobs was for a large company that hired recent college graduates for their management trainee program. But they might as well have called it a dorm party in suits. Young well-dressed, well-educated professionals in the big city: it was nearly impossible to avoid office romances. And there were many of them. But only one guy I knew did it right.

"You know Mary in accounting?" my friend asked. "Well we've been dating for the past year." I was shocked. I never once saw them out together or even chatting casually at work. But that was their agreement. Pretend like they didn't know each other.

But they could do that because their daily work interaction was little to none. Still some companies have strict no fraternization rules that aim to prevent that for a few reasons. Married couples, siblings, and parent and child employees seem to get treated more liberally, particularly if they work in different departments

Mistake 2: Not separating your head from your heart.

Taking it to the extreme, I think those who work in bars, clubs, and restaurants have it the worst when dating a co-worker. In some establishments, their (unwritten) job description calls for both male or female employees to flirt with the patrons. Could you watch when patrons flirted back?

"I work in a professional office. I don't have to deal with such things." 

Oh is that so? Most might consider it harmless. There are bigger offenders than others. And it can get ugly and turn to sexual harassment or promotion nepotism, but flirting with co-workers happens in offices. Every. Day. Compliment a co-worker on that great suit will be taken quite differently on who you are and who you're saying it to. I've had some pretty bawdy things thrown my way.

I'm willing to bet that many wouldn't even consider what they do as flirting and just call it a friendly hug or banter among work mates. Your spouse or significant other might have a different take if they witnessed it. So would the boss. Be honest with yourself.

And if you're involved in an office romance, you will change the work dynamic. It will change how your boss interacts with you and your office mate. Your coworkers will deal with you differently. Granted it's not like bringing a date to the office party instead of your spouse, but watching you make loving looks across the room can be quite distracting.

Mistake 3: Not having an exit strategy.

Think of the promising first dates you had that fizzled quickly. One or both of you decided it wasn't right and just stopped calling and texting. No harm, no foul. Not so easy to do when you work together. You hear the the exit strategy term used by the military, but so should those involved in an office romance.

You have to consider what you will do ahead of time if the romance doesn't work out. And most don't. If you're lucky, you'll both be adult about it and be able to move on. If not, well...are you willing to be transfered, relocate, quit? Sound drastic? Then you've never been in the situation. A failed office romance can eat away at you when you're forced to see them every day. You need to discuss ahead of time what the plan is.

Truth be told, I made all three mistakes when I was younger but learned my lesson. Hmm. Maybe that's why today I choose to work at home alone?

Follow Frank Bocchino, a Los Angeles-based writer, designer, and digital marketer who helps organizations create qualified strategies that generate new business using the latest tools for lead generation, SEO, and social media.

Or contact Frank Bocchino for media opportunities.

Monday, January 5, 2015

LinkedIn or LinkedOut: Can a Split Profile Work Against You?

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If your career path has taken extreme detours, will an accurate and honest LinkedIn profile actually hurt your career instead of help it?

As much as people like those "3 Reasons Why.." and "The Top 10 Ways..." articles, this is not one of them. This is about only one topic. One message in fact that I received from an old friend the other day regarding LinkedIn. He reads my articles and posed what I thought was a rather interesting challenge:
"You seem to have this whole LinkedIn thing figured out," he said. "But I don't. In fact, I think being on LinkedIn is actually hurting my career -- not helping it. I'm actually planning on deleting my account. I'm going to call you tomorrow and want to see if you can convince me otherwise."
Challenge accepted.

I see articles every week on LinkedIn about improving or enhancing your profile, to generate leads, to increase your network, to get hired, to avoid getting fired, but they are all how-to articles. None of them dealt with the why. "Because everyone else is" just doesn't fly as a good reason. Nor is it the case. Not sure Steve Jobs had a LinkedIn account. Don't think Mark Zuckerberg or Marissa Mayer check their Who Viewed Your Profile page much. Nor does the town butcher belong to any groups or post jobs for sausage casing experts. So it's certainly not mandatory for everyone in business.

But for those of us in between the butcher and the billionaire - which is most of us - LinkedIn is a necessity. People join Facebook and other social networking sites for variety of different reasons. But those of us who have joined LinkedIn all have the same reason: to foster our careers and put food on the table. (Or lots of it. Or lobster. Or have it served. Or...)

But to my friend's point, an accurate LinkedIn profile with a detailed account might also be a liability if your career took a detour along the way. And whose hasn't? I started in marketing and PR, then became a journalist, then a creative director, then back into marketing and advertising all while leading a double life as a screenwriter. And that's not even a big jump as I've essentially always written for a living. But for others it can be. I know bartenders who started furniture stores, chemists who became lawyers, and lawyers who became bar-tending writers. The circle of (business) life I suppose.
"Won't that work against me?," my friend asked. "Why would a company in Field A want to hire me if I spent the past 10 years in Field B? I'll look unfocused, flighty or undependable."
Though career jumping was traditionally looked down upon, life in the new economy of wearing multiple hats now applauds if not actively seeks a diverse background. Having varied experience shows adaptability, an ability to learn quickly, and drive. It also allows you to provide a new prospective. That bartender learned how to deal with customers that made the furniture business blossom, that chemist brought nuances to the environmental law firm that no other one could, and that attorney can write crime novels that are just too true to believe.

Expect raised eyebrows from some but like having visible tattoos, there's not much you can do about it nor would you want to work there in the first place. So yes, "link in" not out and flaunt your diversity on LinkedIn. Talk about why that superfluous, seemingly unrelated experience you gained in one field makes you that much more valuable in your now chosen field.

Follow Frank Bocchino, a Los Angeles-based writer, designer, and digital marketer who helps organizations create qualified strategies that generate new business using the latest tools for lead generation, SEO, and social media.

Or contact Frank Bocchino for media opportunities.