• How to persuade your MBA boss to buy you more monitors

    21st century work is thinking work.  Actually, to be more precise, it is typing and talking work.  20th century work was metal-bending, lathe-operating, furnace-stoking and plastics-extruding work, but 21st century work is typing and talking work.

    So, properly understood, the job of your CEO and managers is to help you type and talk better and better and better.

    There are a variety of ways to accomplish this: with formal training, with an informal environment that makes you more creative, by feeding and beverage-ing you so you’re never distracted by those needs, and so on.  But I can’t think of a bigger bang for the buck than buying you as many monitors as you can possibly use.

    When I shared pictures of our office space this week with the four-and-a-half million people that get my weekly newsletter, I got a lot of comments: on the open space, on the smiling people, on how young everybody looked, but especially on the number of monitors on each persons’ desk.

    At TheLadders, we started off with one, then two, and now three monitors as our standard setup for many of our staff.  (You’ll notice that some people have their monitors “turned up” into portrait mode – that makes it easier for them to work on resumes, which are portrait mode documents.  It is important to match the tool to the task.)

    And now, for some of our folks, we have the type of crazy setups that you’ll see on Wall Street trading floors.  I mentioned it in a comment of Fred Wilson’s blog and he’d said he liked to see it, so here it is:

    TheLadders Work Station

    It’s actually 8 desk monitors, a laptop and an iPad all wired together for one of our database people.

    I am incredibly passionate about the tools that we provide to our people to help them type and talk better — I may even be too passionate. In order to help people find their personal productivity peak, I once bought one copy of every style of mouse on Amazon, including some very strange ones like this Kensington Expert Mouse Optical USB Trackball for everybody to test out and figure out which one they liked best.  Like most social engineering experiments, it failed and people tended to stick with the basics.

    But for monitors, two or three are such a quantum leap better than one, that I can’t believe any corporation doing the math would come to the conclusion that one monitor is optimal for human productivity and happiness.

    In addition to being very conducive to a productive and happy office environment in the 21st century, a lot of monitors for each person makes sense financially.  In explaining this to your MBA boss, the important thing is to focus on “how much more productive would I have to be in order for the additional cost of more monitors to be break-even?”

    My personal experience, and I think the personal experience of many of the people at TheLadders, would be that two or three monitors easily makes you 10, 20 or 30% more productive — you can have multiple screens open, you don’t need to keep information in your head as you switch between programs, you can view the entire problem at once, etc.  [Actually, I am going to ask TheLadders’ employees to comment here with their viewpoint on how much more productive multiple screens makes them.]

    For the sake of argument, let’s look at somebody making $50,000 per year in salary and bonus — for people making more, the case is obviously stronger and stronger. “Fully loaded” considering rent, utilities, etc., overhead might be 20% of base cost, so let’s call it $60,000 all in.

    We’ve standardized on this HP 20-Inch Diagonal LCD Monitor, which now goes for $99 on Amazon.  I actually just found this out last night when I asked our Operations person to fill me in on the current economics, and I was flabbergasted.  When we originally started doing this, each additional monitor was $250 or more.  I’m stunned that it is now that cheap.

    So as our operations guy says: “Buy 3 and string them together with a $100 quad-head graphics card as TLC does, and you have a total 60” monitor for $397 when a single 32” costs $1,200.”

    Because you need to have at least one monitor anyway, the incremental cost for the two additional monitors and the card is $298.  As this setup will be good for three years, your “per year” cost is $99.33.  How much more productive would you need to be in order for this to make sense economically?

    The answer for your MBA boss is: in order for it to make sense economically for me to have a three monitor setup, it would have to make me 0.17% more productive per year.

    It’s a pretty easy argument to make, and win.  I will personally swear up and down that it makes me at least 10% more productive (and if I had to honestly guess, I think I’d say high teens).

    Oh, and one more thing — it’s not all upside with the multiple monitors at work.  Your home setup, with just one monitor, will never feel right again. : )

    OK, let me know how the conversation goes with your boss in the comments section!

    UPDATE 1: gbattle in the comments point to this 2003 Microsoft Research showing a 9 to 50% improvement in productivity with multiple monitors.  That means your boss is wasting at least $5,000 per year by not buying you multiple monitors!

  • The Chicken Itch

    Untitled Image 1

    You’ve awoken from a dream. It all seemed so real – the joy, the success, the elation of accomplishment.  They’d strewn your name in ribbons across the sky, carved multi-colored tattoos in your image, renamed August in your honor, soothed infants by cooing your name.

    It all seemed so real. So very, very real.

    You saw a different future: the future as it might be, the future that only you can create. A future that hides in the holds of your head, shines like the bright sun reflected on glass, peeks from behind your pupils.  It is the future-dream that encompasses everything you ever wanted to do, everything that is inside of you, and everything that you will ever be.

    And it was beautiful.

    You also dreamed of fear: fear like a serpent, clinging around your spine, twisting at the desiccated emptiness inside of you; the blood gurgling in your ears, every pulse a footfall closer to your finish; a fear that doesn’t so much make it impossible to open or close your eyes, as it sucks them shut from the inside.

    Everything you ever had – and the only thing you’ve ever truly known is you – and you’ve wasted it all.  Spent it on a spam hallucination of grandeur; lost it to the false joker god of ambition; pissed it away on the purchase of a totem of pride.

    You were tiny, alone, and afraid.

    And you loved it.

    You know now that the dream requires the fear; that the victory is compiled from the defeat; that the redemption in fact comes from the failure.

    You know that the dream is beautiful and you want it more than anything that has ever been born or bred or believed inside of you.

    Your goal is to achieve that dream.

    If you are an entrepreneur; if you see futures; if creation is your calling…

    Your goal is to achieve that dream.

    You won’t be alone.

    Your enemies will be there — they are time, money, competitors and apathy.

    Your friend is you.

    The fight is lopsided, unfair, cruel, but you keep thinking back to that beautiful dream……

    To dream, you’ll need to understand what you must do.  Yes, of course, you must do “everything”, but I would make a distinction between the Tasks and the Tack — the actions required for success on the one hand, and the destination of your dream on the other.  They seem similar in the roasting forge of Start-Up Land, but separating the two and understanding their differences is important to your success.

    The Tasks are all the little bits of the business that are required for its development, but for which you lack the proper staff, time, money or capabilities.

    Your Tack is your direction.  Based on your understanding and comprehension of the marketplace, where will you go?

    Tasks are comprised of the basics — marketing, operations, sales, technology, maintenance, design, customer service.

    You will only have you at the beginning to handle all of these things. (Over time, your business will grow to be dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of employees, and you’ll marvel at how such small functions blossom into full-time staffs — International tax compliance auditor?  Real estate lease manager?)

    But, at the beginning, there’s only you.  And you’ll be utterly inept, incompetent, insecure, and incapable of doing any of these things.  You may think that your prior work experience has prepared you, but it hasn’t.  Unless you’ve dreamed before, anything you’ve ever done as an employee, a student, a partner, a consultant, a leader, a soldier, is not like this at all.

    And that’s because there’s nobody there to tell you.  Nobody to tell you how to do it, whether you should do it, if doing it is important.  And even when you know you should do it, there’s nobody there to tell you in what order, to what degree, and with what intensity.

    Because of this, dreamers improvise.  When it comes to Tasks, you can, should and must fake it.  You don’t have the cash, clout, credibility, or consultants to help you.  Zeal must see you through.

    You’ll need to design your own site (worked for Google!), write your own copy, craft your own marketing, do your own sales calls, answer your own phones.  Because it is just you at the beginning, it is up to you to do all of the Tasks on your own.

    Now… when you have some success, you’ll get to hire people who can alleviate your company of your incompetence.  In one area anyway.  And now that that function is temporarily better-staffed, you’ll need to go be incompetent in another spot.  Not because you’re useless, but precisely because your usefulness is in the place that the company doesn’t have resources yet, the place where a dreamer can be as valuable as an expert because the dream hasn’t been invented yet.

    Tasks are required, incremental to your success, and learned.

    Tack, by contrast, is your direction; the vision that you have for your start-up.

    It must not be faked, it can not be outsourced, and it must be earned.

    Given that there are 6 million businesses in the United States successful enough to have employees, you can not simply show up on the scene and hope to make stuff up.  You need to have a reason to exist, a reason why you’re doing something those other 6 million businesses can’t. In the case of Tack, desire isn’t enough, there needs to be a compelling, well thought-out  purpose to your dream.

    So Tack is the answer to the question “what is your unfair advantage?”

    For a small retailer, it might be “there’s not been this level of selection and service before.”

    For a franchisee, it might be “there’s never been a Pinkberry on this corner.”

    For a services firm, it might be “we apply our expertise to the burgeoning industry of _____”

    And for your internet start-up, your answer is most likely going to be “our customers don’t realize they have this problem yet, and we will surprise them with what our solution can do.”

    So Tack is your unfair advantage, it’s your vig, your vision.  Entrepreneurship is not about taking risks, it’s about understanding them better than anyone else and only choosing the most rewarding ones — it’s risk arbitrage.

    Your Tack is your dream, and it can only come from inside of you. And just like your dreams at night, your dreams during the daytime come from who you have made yourself to be.  The hours and the days and the years on the hard bench, stuck in the middle seat, slouched over yet another dinner delivered to your desk while you’re listening, listening, listening to customers and suppliers and the marketplace.

    To dream, you need to know the marketplace like you know a lover, a spouse, a child, compelled by a deep hunger to know its ways; learning its expressions and knowing when they’re saying one thing but meaning another.  Watching it while it sleeps, understanding that when the market rustles, you’ll know in your heart of hearts that it wants more.

    And you probably have something else inside of you, too.

    In my East Asian trading days, I learned a saying that: “In Japan, everybody wants to be the tail of the dragon; in Taiwan, everybody wants to be the head of the chicken.”  It’s one of the few cross-cultural comparisons I’ve ever heard quoted by both sides approvingly, with an air of obvious superiority.

    So there’s something inside of you that wants to be the head of the chicken. You’d probably like to make it a big huge chicken. (Did you know that chickens are actually dinosaurs that made it through the extinction? Find your niche, baby!)

    That’s good, poultry ambition is good.  You’re going to need it.

    As for me, I, too, had the chicken itch.

    I’d joined HotJobs.com in April 2000 and helped sell the company to Yahoo! in February 2002 for $436 mm. And Yahoo!, being three thousand employees at the time, was too large a dragon for me.

    So I tried, and failed, at ventures… nothing ventures with nothing gained from them.

    I tried to raise money to buy Dice.com, I consulted and tried to raise money for an hourly job board start-up (damn clever idea — apply by phone!), I tried to find a way, an angle, into any of the internet, or recruitment, or internet recruitment businesses that I found fascinating, compelling, haunting.

    Now I didn’t set out to go two years without a paycheck, to find myself cashing my last unemployment check, to be feeding myself by day-trading options (month-trading, really, but that’s another post), to have ice cubes of fear scratching through my veins as I set out for my b-school’s fifth reunion unemployed, unpaid, undone.

    I didn’t set out to… but there I was.

    And I guess the advice I’d have for dreamers is that regardless of your situation, if you intend to dream, there is one thing you must invest in.


    (Or Venti Lattes, or green tea, or whatever your social drink just so happens to be.)

    I was fortunate enough to have met three of the best dreamers I’ve met in my life at HotJobs, and talking about dreaming with them over Guinness was the heady stuff that keeps you believing that it is not a setting sun, it’s just rising someplace else in the world right now, and your turn is coming.

    And, eventually, after a series of bad ideas, after a progression of failures, after watching the marketplace while it slept and guessing, guessing at what it meant, I hit upon a good idea.  Perhaps a great one.  Perhaps something that could help the customers who didn’t know they needed it yet. Maybe something that could change the world.

    I was alive, incandescent, glowing.

    And I was incompetent at everything I needed to be successful.

    But I wasn’t going to be stopped.

    I bought FrontPage from Microsoft, Dreamweaver for Dummies, and a slice of a shared sever in Jersey; anything, anything, so I could try to get “it” live: a site, a demo… hell, even brochureware would’ve been a good start.

    But it was useless and impossible. FrontPage wouldn’t make any pages, front or back, Dreamweaver…. didn’t, and a slice of Jersey isn’t enough to build a business on unless you’re a reality TV show.  I grew frustrated. This stuff wasn’t designed to help entrepreneurs like me get off the ground, it was window dressing, it was candy, it was fluff.

    So I went out and I talked to a bunch of developers.

    I told them about the dream, I told them about the future, I told them about the celebrations and songs and victories and beauty that were just over the hill.  I told them everything — truthfully, urgently, desperately.

    But they didn’t understand the dream.

    They thought about it a few days and came back to tell me it would take three months and $30,000 to build a prototype.

    And I didn’t want to wait, and I didn’t want to pay, and I didn’t know how the dream was going to be helped by a “prototype” (which, I suspected, when loosely translated from the technical jargon meant “hey, it worked during the meeting!”)

    But the dream had burned itself to the inside of my eyeballs.

    So I went to the Barnes & Noble in Union Square, Manhattan and bought the books that would teach me to dream in code.  I bought the whole collection: MySQL Cookbook, PHP Functions, MySQL and PHP for Dummies, and what turned out to be my core curriculum and my saving grace: “MySQL and PHP for Web Development” (you can’t hear it right now, but every time I read those words angels in heaven sing to me.)

    Now let me tell you what those days and nights were like.

    With a beach chair I’d bought at JazzFest, I’d prop the book on one knee and the keyboard on the other in my East Village apartment.  There was no night, there was no day.  I’d fall asleep reading in Tompkins Square Park, gulp down functions over soba at Sobaya, wander 3 a.m. streets to clear my head and go back for more.

    Need to figure out how to build an email system?  That’s Chapter 29!

    Code not doing what you need it to do?  Google the text of the error message!

    Unsure if the public site works? Call the cousins!

    Three weeks of fever, fever, fever, and I’d taught myself to code, wrought my dream from bits, and pushed the button to make the site live.

    Now when you take a look at the site I built in those three weeks of August 2003, you will find it easy to believe that I did it all by myself.

    But the important thing was that it was live! and once something is live it can get better.

    And living is the second most important thing for your dream, your Tack, your vision.

    Living can only occur when all of the Tasks — those discrete bits of work that need to be done so that you start-up can, well, start — are brought into being in the early days with nothing but your spirit and zeal and energy and Yankee ingenuity and Zen intensity and passion and desire. Nothing will conquer the Tasks like you on fire.

    But the most important thing for your Tack is that it be True.

    That it will mean something to the customers, that it will create the future you dreamed of, that it will make the days brighter, cars faster, TVs bigger, friendships better, abs tighter, and games more addictive than those damn Angry Birds and ‘Villes.

    That it will change the world.

    If your dream is a good one, if you’ve done the night-watching of your marketplace, if you’ve listened correctly, if you have destiny, if you’ve earned your place at the customer’s table, then the heaven-singing angels and the check-signing angels will be your boon companions.

    And you will find your way through.

    If… your dream is a good one.

  • The Helpdesk Corollary

    The “Helpdesk Corollary” to Murphy’s Law: “If only one user is still having trouble with the upgrade, that user will be the CEO.”

  • Photos of us

    You know you can always call or email your Job Search Advisor anytime here at TheLadders, but you probably haven’t seen the place you’re calling.

    That’s why each year, I take you on a “behind the scenes” tour of TheLadders headquarters in New York City — to give you a peek at the people and the places so you have a better idea of who’s on your side in your job search…. let’s get going!

    “Is that the door buzzing?”

    Our building in the famous SoHo district of Manhattan.

    The front door of TheLadders building leads you to…

    …our lobby and…

    …the hundreds of people working at TheLadders!

    Three monitors? Yep, they help us help you… faster!

    Our style of developing technology — “Agile” — requires lots of collaboration…

    …and discussions about how to do it even better.

    Our open environment promotes teamwork…

    …so sometimes you have to bring cookies to share.

    A Lichtenstein print promotes deep thought…

    …while helping subscribers like you is our highest ambition.

    It takes one…


    ..three floors to hold our 401 employees!

    Who are they and what do they do? Well…

    We have the brains behind our marketing…

    …and sales efforts.

    And we have dozens in our sales group, helping companies get their recruiters and HR departments signed up on TheLadders…

    …because we’ve doubled the number of recruiters on TheLadders already this year, we need LOTS of sales people…

    ….and the marketing folks to help them. ..

    …we have a few genius Ph.D.s…

    …and of course people taking your calls.

    We are all rooting for you…

    … and we will celebrate when you land your new gig!

    Hope you enjoyed that behind the scenes look, folks.

    Next week, I’ll be asking you for a favor! Stay tuned…

  • How can I tell if I am failing at my entrepreneurial venture or start-up?

    There’s an old joke about how to make a small fortune in angel investing: start with a large fortune and invest it in angel rounds.

    I guess you could say the same thing about how to fail at an entrepreneurial venture: start a new company and then do everything that could be reasonably expected of you.  And that’s how you fail.

    The world is not set up to make your venture successful, and in fact almost everything conspires against you and your new company.

    Because there is no natural constituency for the entrepreneurial venture, there is no way, reasonably, you can expect yours to survive. Customers aren’t clamoring for new vendors, employees aren’t looking to make half as much for their hard-earned skills at a firm that has a 50% chance of dying every day, and investors aren’t interested in taking risks or putting money into pipe dreams.

    The conceit that a new venture has a shot of winning at all, under any circumstances, was unknown throughout history, is still laughable across the globe, and remains rare even here in the United States.

    And that’s why it takes a special person to succeed.  Notice I said “special”.  Not charming, philanthropic, beloved, clever, popular, persuasive, capable or handsome.


    You know, I’ve attended several dozen “entrepreneur breakfasts” here in New York City hosted by various internet luminaries or fellow entrepreneurs over the past eight years since I started TheLadders.  Entrepreneurs can make good use of the dose of inspiration that comes from sharing, in the camaraderie of the breakfast table, the stories of challenges overcome, obstacles conquered, and victories won.

    And while it’s never easy to tell which businesses and which people will win big this time around, it’s pretty easy to tell who is going to fail.

    It’s the polite, patient, purposeful people.

    Being an internet entrepreneur requires a certain antic disposition, a degree of self-immolation, and a dorkish obsessiveness with seeing the digital bits line up in a row.  Not just an enjoyment, not just a desire, but a gut-level craving, an existential need, to see the machine come to life.  That burn that flares so intensely in the dark of the night that it awakes you: to  stare at the ceiling, to wonder expansively, to turn every part of the creation over and over and over in your head as the clock flicks the minutes into the small hours.

    Many, perhaps all, who come to entrepreneurship want the fame or the fortune or the fellowship, but it is only the ones who need it badly enough that will suffer through.

    I remember sitting next to one very, very nice woman at one of these entrepreneurial breakfasts in 2007.  She had a great idea and a clever execution for an advice site — something like Daily Lit for the self-improvement set.

    I asked what the URL was; she said the site wasn’t live yet.

    I asked when it was going live; she said, with some pride in the accomplishment, that they’d already spent 18 months on the design, copy, coding and business model, and were lining up famous names to endorse the site when it went live, which they were preparing for next year at about this time.

    She asked me if I had any advice for success.

    I said yes.

    “Put down your fork.

    Get up from your chair.

    Walk out this door.

    Go to your office and call all of your team together. Lock the door and let everybody know you are not opening it or leaving the office until your site is live and accepting customers.”

    I suppose another characteristic of entrepreneurs is our directness : )

    Well, of course, she objected: that’s not practical, it’s not considerate, we still have planning to do before we’re ready for launch, and it is essential that we be perfectly positioned because you only get one shot to go live with a consumer brand.

    And you know what?

    She was absolutely right.

    But so was I.

    You see, being an entrepreneur is unreasonable.  It is arrogant.  It is unusual.

    You are asserting that, despite the presence of 7 billion other people on the planet, and a US economy that produces $14 trillion in goods and services each year, and over 100 mm white collar workers in our country, that you, little old you, have come up with an idea, a business, a company that none of those other wonderful human beings have thought to invent yet.

    I mean, c’mon, there’s no denying that it’s arrogant to say that you are right and everybody else was wrong to not see the wonderful opportunity that your company is pursuing.  That they were fools to just leave the dollar bills waiting there for you to pick them up.

    And part of that unreasonableness is realizing that you are in a fight for your company’s life every day.  Every day that you are not “live” is a day you’ve lost the opportunity to make an impression.  Every day that you’re not bringing in cash is a day that you’ve lost the chance to expand your payroll.  Every day that you’re not pleasing customers is a day that somebody, somewhere else, will.  Perhaps they’re not doing it as well as you know you eventually will, but the plain truth is that they are pleasing them today and you’re not.

    So here’s my 3-step checklist to figure out if you’re failing as an internet entrepreneur:

    1. Is the site live yet?

    Yes: you’re likely failing, but at least you’ve got a chance of getting some feedback from real, live users, which may, if you’re smart and perceptive, decrease your chance of failure a little bit.

    No: you’re failing.

    2. Do you have free customers yet?

    Yes: well, now you have a shot to establish relationships. And if you listen carefully and not pridefully, you just may have a tiny chance of hearing them correctly and improving your customer experience from awful to plausibly bearable.

    No: you’re failing.

    3. Do you have paying customers yet?

    Yes: congratulations! You have reduced your chances of failing from 100% to 99%.  There are many more chances to fail along the way, but you have graduated to some of the more interesting ones.  Good show!

    No: you’re failing.

    If, when you wake up in the morning, the answer to any of the above questions is “no”, then you’re failing. Not failing tomorrow, or next month, or next year, but failing right now, today.  As you read this…. Now.

    And what you need to do, what you must do, is to spend your entire day focused on changing the answers to yes.  Desperately, immediately, fully.

    The very nice polite woman who had purposefully set out to make an enormous splash with her internet company did indeed get it live the next year, and her patience paid enormous dividends… to her competitors from vertically-focused advice sites.  She struggled along for a couple years and then failed.

    You will too, if you’re still reading this, and not locking the door to the office…

  • How do you feel about going to work today?

    ** From my weekly newsletter to TheLadders.com subscribers **

    We’ve got over 400 people working here at TheLadders to make your job search faster, easier, less stressful, and more effective. Fortunately for you and for me, my colleagues are geniuses, and inventing new stuff all the time.

    This past week they launched “Profiler”. It’s a single multiple-choice question you’ll see when you log in. You don’t have to answer it, but when you do, we’ll show you how many other people on TheLadders answered it the same way. The Q&A looks like this:

    After each answer… we’ll ask you another question!

    It might be a question like any of these:

    - How do you feel about going to work today?

    - Would you relocate to another state for a 10% increase in pay?

    - How’s your boss doing?

    - How soon are you looking to get a new job?

    - If you were offered a better job in another industry, would you take it?

    - When you go into work in the morning, what are you most grateful for?

    … and more and more and more.

    Each time you answer one, you’ll be helping recruiters understand you, and the opportunity you’re looking for, even better. Each bit of information adds to a fuller, more complete picture of you.

    We’ll be writing more questions over the coming weeks to get to know you even better. Keep answering for better results!

    And if you think of a good question that we’re not asking, hit Reply and let us know. We are all ears…

    OK, Readers, have a great week in the job search. I’ll be rooting for you…

    Warmest regards,

  • How the newspaper business shrank 92% in a decade


    One of the most remarkable things for me as an entrepreneur over the past eight years since starting TheLadders has been watching the reaction of the entrenched incumbents to our business model.

    The chart below shows the U.S. newspaper industry’s Help Wanted Classified Ad revenue from 2000 to 2010.

    For the younger folks, help-wanted ads used to be how you got a job prior to the rise of the internet.  It was kind of like a Craigslist printed on newspaper and delivered to people’s doors each day.  (In case you think I’m being facetious with the explanation, in my “CEO Welcome” of new employees at TheLadders I always ask how many people have ever looked for a job in the newspaper – over the past eight years the number of hands going up has dropped from 75% of the two dozen people in the room, to usually only 1 or 2 each time.)

    So it may be no surprise that new industries and new technologies and new business models defeat old industries and old technologies and old business models.  But the surprising lesson for me over the past decade hasn’t been that the big guys, the incumbents, the old order, can’t beat you.

    The big surprise has been that they don’t want to.

    With all of their cash and resources, the newspapers sensed back in the ‘90s that the internet was going to change their business.  They correctly foresaw that it would change their news gathering, their reporting, their advertising, and even their local classified ads.

    In October 1995, the six most important newspapers in the country joined together to launch CareerPath.com in order to provide “electronic access… to the help-wanted advertisements printed in the six newspapers.”  CareerPath was an early entrant and was one of the predecessor companies to CareerBuilder.

    So how did the newspapers lose the industry? How did the chart above occur? With far more resources than any start-up, with century-old brand names, and with the foresight to predict what was happening to their business, how did the newspapers give away a $10 billion revenue stream? Why didn’t change their business model, their organizational structure and their people in order to capitalize on the coming Internet revolution?

    The answer is that they didn’t want to.

    The truth is contained in this kernel from the 1995 article: “Among other concerns, analysts say newspapers’ electronic advertising could eventually compete against the papers’ own print advertising.”

    And competing with your own business is uncomfortable.  It means the executives, organization and processes associated with the old way have to be let go, pushed out of the way, and cut out of the picture.  And a whole new group of people, who aren’t current employees, have to be recruited, trained, and given positions of power in your company.

    In my decade in this industry, I’ve seen it time and time again: newspaper executives knew what had to be done to compete successfully in the future but were afraid to upset the people responsible for the past.  It was a lack of courage, not a lack of clarity.

    As Ronald Reagan said, “There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers.”  The newspapers knew the simple path to success, but took the easy path to failure.

  • Pick up the phone already!

    ** From my weekly newsletter to TheLadders.com subscribers **

    Why haven’t they called you back?

    The interview went well — you’re pretty sure you nailed that question about how you could contribute to the team’s new mobile initiative — and you really hit it off with the HR person. You’ve got a background in exactly the area they’re looking for and you know you’re perfectly qualified for the role.

    So why haven’t they called you back? After all, it’s already been two whole days! Don’t they realize that you’d be perfect and you’re just itching to go?

    To paraphrase John Wayne, “Now hold on just a minute there, pilgrim.” (Or maybe that’s Robin Williams impersonating John Wayne, I’m getting my childhood TV mixed up…)

    I know you are very, very excited and very eager to find your next role. After all, you deserve it!

    But you need to be aware of the company’s timing as much as your own. Of course, because more than one person is involved in the decision, there will be a hiring process. Feedback needs to be collected, budgets need to be consulted, and meetings must be held.

    All of which takes time.

    So expecting that you’ll be getting feedback or another interview request the very next day after your visit is just a bit unrealistic. As a matter of fact, expecting and assuming that they’ll be following up at all is probably unrealistic these days. You’ll need to be proactive and do the following-up yourself after a reasonable amount of time has passed.

    What’s a reasonable timeframe? It’s long enough so that it doesn’t seem you’re breathing down their necks, and it’s soon enough so that they don’t think you’ve forgotten.

    My advice is to wait a week between call-backs.

    Just put it in your calendar — after you’ve had a call, an interview, an e-mail — just jot a note to yourself to follow up seven days later. And forget about it until then — fretting doesn’t make it better.

    What should your follow-up calls (better) or e-mails (OK) read like?

    “Hi, Mrs. Lee, I had such a wonderful time speaking with you last week and I think I could contribute a lot to Acme. So I’m just following up on our conversations and would love to hear back from you. You can reach me at this phone or that e-mail address.”


    “Hello, Tom. When we met three weeks ago I mentioned how Ink, Inc. would be a great opportunity to apply my software development management skills in an industry I’m familiar with. So I would very much appreciate the chance to connect and hear what you’re thinking about my candidacy. You can reach me at this phone number.”

    In each conversation, you’re trying to remind them of the three Es: you exist, you’re excited, and you’re expecting to hear back from them.

    You exist. Now, of course, you haven’t forgotten this since you last spoke with Mrs. Lee or Tom Pruitt, but you know what?, they might have forgotten about you. And it’s not because you’re insignificant or not qualified or not wanted. It’s just with hiring on the upswing, and HR departments and recruiters still under-staffed from the recession, they don’t have time to follow up with all of the people they’ve spoken with. So a gentle reminder that “Hey, I’m here” can remind them of how much they liked you.

    You’re excited. Sometimes the candidate with the consistent and persistent enthusiasm can get the nod just for showing sustained interest. Make sure you communicate why you’re interested in the role and why you’d be great.

    You’re expecting. Don’t ask them to call back “only” if they’re interested or “only” if there’s an update. You burned up a good few minutes of your time doing the favor of reaching out to them, so ask them to give the favor back in return. Go ahead and politely suggest the return call — it will give you a chance to get them back on the phone, sell yourself some more, and find out what the scoop is on their side.

    Also, it’s worth mentioning for good order that there are also three Es you want to avoid. You don’t want to tell them that you’re enraged that you haven’t got the job yet, over eager because you’ve got nothing else going on, or an egomaniac who thinks they should feel lucky that you’re considering them. Nobody wants to hire an angry, desperate jerk.

    Keep calling back each week, politely and persistently.

    If you’ve got the patience of Job and the stamina of Lou Gehrig, then keep at this for 8-10 weeks. But for most folks, I suggest limiting it to 5. If they haven’t called you back after five weeks, then you probably aren’t going to be hearing from them after 10, and your time is best spent elsewhere. (But don’t give up after three, which is what too many people do — I’ve seen too much luck created on those fourth and fifth calls for you to skip them!)

    I hope that takes some of the anxiety and mystery out of the follow-up call, Readers…

    So have a great week, folks! I’m making a note right now to follow up with you next week!

  • For your favorite recruiter or HR person

    ** From my weekly newsletter to TheLadders.com subscribers **

    Do you know a recruiter or HR person who could benefit from TheLadders?

    Well, here’s your chance to get them something fast, effective, easy and free.

    Send your friend, colleague, contact, or recruiter this link:


    And they’ll be able to post jobs free (1 at a time), and create their own hiring network of professionals that make over $100,000 per year.

    We launched Passport on January 6th and we’ve already had over 5,000 recruiters sign up.

    So when you forward this email to their attention, you’ll be doing them a big favor!

    Have a great week!

  • Safire, also a refreshing spirit…

    With the demise of On Language this weekend, I’m reminded that during high school, I’d decided that I was eventually going to write “On Language” when I retired.  (And, presumably, so had Safire.)

    While that looks unlikely now, it does give me a convenient excuse to re-post my favorite correction ever from the Times:

    An interview transcript in The Times Magazine last Sunday about Bernard Shaw, the CNN anchor, misspelled the brand name of the gin in a martini he savored the day after the election. It is Bombay Sapphire, named for the gemstone. (Safire, also a refreshing spirit, was the author of the column five pages later.)

    To the memory of Safire, we raise a glass…