• What’s a Twitter for?

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

    Twitter has been in the news this month for raising money at a $3.7 billion valuation — a number that clearly shows its backers think Twitter has a bright and important future ahead of it.

    One year ago, during this sleepy week between Christmas and New Years, I told you that I was signing up for Twitter and would see how much of a help it could be in the job search.

    If you check out my Twitter profile, you’ll see I’ve tweeted 1,380 times this year, attracted over 10,000 followers, and have had a great time learning about this new tool.

    In relation to your job search and how you can use Twitter, here’s what I’ve found:

    * Job listings and recruiters actively looking for somebody like you are relatively rare on Twitter. So it’s not going to be the place where you score a hot lead on a new job. (For that, you’ll need to use our “Follow Recruiter” feature on TheLadders.)

    * Thought leaders from a wide variety of industries and fields are common. And they’re active in sharing little bits of information and insights on Twitter. Following the prominent people in your field is a really fantastic way to keep abreast of industry developments and information.

    * It’s very easy to get the attention of important people on Twitter — if you have something to say. I’ve seen my Twitter friends pick up on new people and new voices very quickly — provided that their insights are interesting or noteworthy. For those who find “networking” at cocktail parties daunting, Twitter can prove to be a fantastic way to get your name out there and make interesting connections without leaving home.

    * While I’ve helped out on a dozen or so customer service matters over the past year, in general, it’s much faster to go direct! E-mailing “help@theladders” or calling us is the quickest way to get the help you need.

    So, overall, I would say that Twitter is an interesting tool for people looking to raise their exposure or stay on top of their industry. As a job tool, it’s part of the slow, dedicated work of building your personal brand, not a quick fix to get your search jump started.

    OK, Readers, just a few days left to get rested up for the new year! From what we’re hearing from our corporate customers, it is going to be a big one!

  • I think a recruiter is reaching out to you

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

    We’ve added a great new feature to TheLadders.com web site this week. We’ve heard from you that you’d like to hear more from recruiters and, with this new feature, connecting with recruiters becomes a whole lot easier. Now, each time a recruiter finds your resume on TheLadders and wants to reach out they’ll send you a Connection Request. This Connection Request comes to you in your email. The email will be addressed from TheLadders so make sure to keep an eye out for it.

    Once you open the email you will be able to quickly see which recruiter contacted you and whether or not they had a specific job in mind for you. From there you’ll be able to respond directly to that recruiter simply by clicking the Reply button in the message itself. Clicking Reply will take you to TheLadders.com and your Inbox.

    You’ll have the choice of telling the recruiter whether you are interested in hearing from them or if you’d prefer not to connect at this time. If you tell the recruiter you’re interested you’ll also be able to tell them the best way to contact you — phone or email. If you’re not interested, we’ll ask you to tell the recruiter why you don’t think this is the right time to connect. By providing this feedback to recruiters they will be able to understand your needs better and contact you with more appropriate jobs in the future.

    And going forward, your Inbox is now always available on the homepage of TheLadders.com. It will contain any Connection Requests recruiters send you as well as invitations from recruiters to follow them. In addition, communications from your resume critiquer and writer will also be available in your Inbox. In other words, all communications from TheLadders.com regarding your job search will now be found on your homepage. A counter on the Home tab always tells you how many messages are awaiting your review.

    It’s important to note that when recruiters are reaching out to candidates like you for their open positions, they’re often looking to fill the role very quickly. Make sure you’re checking your email and TheLadders.com Inbox on a regular basis so that you don’t miss these important communications. As always, your Job Search Advisor is ready to assist if you have any questions or concerns. You’ll find their name and contact information immediately under their photo on the homepage.

    Our team here at TheLadders has been working hard all through this fall to get these new features available to you for the new year. Please join me in thanking Jeff Gothelf, Sherry Li, Adrian Jank, Greg Jones, Jeegar Maru, Gustavo Medina, Susanne Abdelrahman and Dustin Lucien for their excellent work on making it easier to connect you with the recruiters looking to hire professionals like you!

  • How I hire

    I sat down recently with Adam Bryant of The New York Times, who writes the “Corner Office” feature, to discuss management and hiring. I thought I’d share a bit of the article below, and you can see the entire interview at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/12/business/12corner.html (registration required).

    Q. What was your approach when you started TheLadders seven years ago?

    A. It became a matter of figuring out how to build a team and share with them what inspired me to start the company. There’s a quote from the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that really spoke to me. It says, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

    So the management style that I have is first, share your passion. Explain to people why it’s an exciting idea and how they can be involved in it. In an entrepreneurial business, the most important thing, the thing that creates the most excitement and value and interest in the business, is the big picture — where are we going. You can destroy little bits of it by all these little errors that you make. But if you fix all of them and you don’t have the big picture, then you’re never going to get there. Really engaging people in that big picture is way more important, I think, to success.

    So I’ve learned to do the big-picture stuff, and I can be really great at the analytics — sitting down and running the numbers. What I’ve had to learn over time is the middle part about, O.K., how do you build a team? How do you assign a team to do something? How do you give them enough rope to be successful, and when do you take it back? The middle part has been trial and error for me.

    Q. Talk more about that.

    A. At 30 employees, you can kind of still be an entrepreneur and see everybody and bark out orders. Beyond that you really can’t, so you have to decide, “Hey, is this what I want to do?” There are many serial entrepreneurs and they go on to the next thing and that’s great. For me, this is something I want to be involved with for my life. And if I’m going to be the manager, I ought to learn more about managing.

    Q. How did you learn to do it?

    A. Getting a coach is the best thing that you can do. I’ve done four years with two different coaches, and it is just fantastic. There’s what you say and there’s what people hear, and the gap between those two is sometimes enormous. What really matters is what people hear, not what you say.

    Being a manager also isn’t about trying to become perfect. You’re not going to stop making errors. But it’s about having a mature appreciation for the fact that you’re a flawed human being. Probably everyone around you is a flawed human being. What are your flaws and how are you going to manage around them? What are your strengths? How are you going to optimize those?

    I also learned a good trick, which is to ask somebody, “How are you doing?” They’ll usually say, “Good.” And I’ll say, “No, no, really. How are you doing?” And they’ll answer, “Good.” But then I’ll say, “Tell me what would you say if you weren’t doing good? How would you express that to me?” And then they tell you things. It’s partly little tactics, but the more important part is making it clear that you want to hear what they have to say.

    Q. How do you hire?

    A. We use the “topgrading” system by Geoff Smart. It says that the “How are you doing?” interview has about a 50 percent chance of success. That kind of interview is just a social call, right? You’re not actually seeking to find out anything about somebody’s performance. All you’re talking about is vague generalities.

    In this method, the structure is more, “What have you done in the past relative to what this job needs?” So if I’m hiring a direct report, we’ll have four people plus one person from H.R. in the interview committee. We’ll sit down first and say, there are 51 different areas that could be important that we’re looking for in somebody — a good coach, analyst, public speaker, all these different areas that could be important. We have to pick six, and it’s really interesting to have these discussions with your colleagues. In some cases it turns out that everybody’s got a different six, and that’s a problem.

    Once you decide on the six characteristics that are most important for the particular job you’re trying to fill, then there’s a series of questions for each one, always focused on past performance. It’s no guarantee of future performance, but it’s the best predictor.

    Q. What’s an effective question that you use in most interviews?

    A. What’s the best and worst career advice you’ve been given in your career? That gets to the underlying point about what people think is important. The best career advice part gets to what they think is important; worst career advice kind of tells you whether the person is trying to snow you. I want to know if you’re trying to snow me under the stress of the interview and trying to tell me things that you know aren’t true — that you don’t make bad decisions, that you haven’t gotten any bad career advice, that type of stuff.

    The point is that the interview is uncomfortable, but so are budget review meetings and so are a lot of meetings in day-to-day life. We’re not a bunch of perfect people who work together. We’re all people with flaws. I want to know if you’re somebody who feels comfortable enough to talk about dumb things that you’ve done or dumb advice that you’ve taken. Phrasing it in the form of, “Hey, what’s the worst advice you got?” at least gives you a half-step of distance from it. It tells you something about the character of the person.

    Q. What’s the best question people should ask in an interview?

    A. When they ask you, “Hey, do you have any more questions?” ask them, “How do I help you get a gold star in your review next year?” The person who’s interviewing you had to go through a lot of effort to get this opening, particularly in this economy. Be empathetic and realize that they are hoping that this position is going to make their life better. Ask them how you can be a part of that.

    OK, Readers, I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I enjoyed having the conversation with Adam Bryant — he’s been doing these “Corner Office” interviews for years, and has a book coming out this spring with lessons learned from all the big honchos he’s spoken with — I’ll make sure to send along the link when it’s published.

    Oh! And one last thing. If you’re looking for a great holiday gift for one of the professionals in your life who needs to change jobs next year, may I be so bold as to suggest my book “You’re Better Than Your Job Search”? My co-author Matthew Rothenberg and I have stuffed it like a stocking hung by the chimney with care: There’s interview advice, resume tips, and job search guidance that make it a great treat for someone who is transitioning in the New Year! You can pick up your copy here and have it in somebody’s hot little hands this week…

    Good luck with your search this week!

  • Don’t ignore the December recruiter

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

    We hear the same complaint every year:

    “I can’t get candidates on the phone. I can’t get candidates in for interviews. I can’t even get a response.”

    We hear it from Fortune 1000 recruiters, HR departments, executive search firms and agencies. We even hear it from our own recruiters at TheLadders!

    And I suppose it’s a very good explanation that, of course, at the end of the year, with all the holiday parties, end-of-the-year budgeting exercises, and vacation planning going on, professionals can find themselves with too much to do and not enough time on their hands to be responsive to the companies looking to hire them.

    But my advice is…

    Don’t let this happen to you.

    Candidates, i.e., your competition, get very distracted during the holidays with all the family and friends and festivities to enjoy.

    Turn this to your advantage.

    Rather than allowing your holiday schedule to get in the way of your search, double down and make an extra effort to be proactive this December.

    You see, for every candidate who misses a phone call, an interview, a job opportunity, there’s a frustrated recruiter on the other side. And if you can be that golden ticket — the responsive candidate who makes life easier for the recruiter or HR department — you’ll be that much more likely to land a gig before the end of the year.

    Companies’ needs for professionals don’t slow down during the holidays. Recruiting budgets don’t shrink in December — if anything, there’s actually a push to get headcount in before the annual budget expires. And HR people and recruiters are still coming to work full-time every day and need to keep performing for their clients and hiring managers.

    Make their lives easy and they’ll make your job search come to an end more quickly. Return their call the same day. Work hard to juggle your schedule to make it convenient for them to interview you. Follow up with your thank you notes the same day.

    If your competition is half as responsive, and you’re doubly as active as normal, you’ll be four times more likely to get the interview, get the offer, get the job!

    I know it’s a challenge during the holiday season, but the best gift you can give yourself and your family is a new position that sees you happy, productive, and content in the New Year.

    Good luck with your search this December, Readers! I’ll be doubling my rooting for you!

  • I took your advice!

    ** From my weekly newsletter to TheLadders.com subscribers **
    Readers, we work awfully hard to get you the advice you need in your job search. We interview hundreds of recruiters, speak with thousands of job-seekers, and underwrite research at a half-dozen universities each year in order to provide you with the best tips, tricks, and insights for your search. I share those insights with you weekly in this Monday newsletter, you can find them on our site here, or you can buy our book “You’re Better Than Your Job Search,” which collects them all in one place for easy reference. Whatever the form, we want to see you successful in your job hunt.

    That’s why we were very gratified at the tremendous response to my newsletter last week: “Twenty Questions to ask in an interview.” Some of you put those pointers into practice right away, with great results! So I thought I’d turn the microphone over to you this week; while we received several hundred replies, I’ll share just a dozen of them with you…

    Marc,

    In an interview yesterday, I asked questions 6 and 13. The answers were enlightening! Just wanted to say thank you.
    -John

    Congratulations, John!

    Marc,

    How did you know I have an interview TODAY? You gave me 6 great, on-point questions I hadn’t thought of. Thanks,

    Steve

    You’re quite welcome, Steve!

    Hey Marc,

    I want to thank you for the emails that you have been generating during my job search. It’s been a tough journey, and this week all the effort and preparation came to fruition. I accepted a job offer and am very grateful and excited about the opportunity. I’ve used your “bonus” question on several interviews and I believe it had a part in me getting the offer I did. Thanks again, and please continue your motivational crusade for those still out there looking. Take care!

    Sam

    Well, Sam, that’s exactly what we like to hear! Using the “bonus” question is a great way to stand apart from all those non-TheLadders candidates!

    Marc,

    I want to thank you for your sage advice in getting me to my new position with an established American auto maker. I found myself at the beginning of 2010 in a most unfamiliar role as a statistic in the ranks of the unemployed. Fortunately, I did find employment in my field of expertise in just a little over 4 months. Although the position did not require that I relocate my family, I was not yet satisfied with the whole job situation as I did sacrifice salary for the security of benefits. I then received the call that gave me an opportunity to utilize many of your techniques in an interview that was 30 years in the making. Thanks to you, and those with whom I have been able to acquire immeasurable advice, I was able to ‘knock the ball out of the park.’

    I received a call the very next day from the HR department requesting further information of me and that my interview, (there were 6 managers in the room), was said to have went exceedingly well.

    I originally sent my resume to this company in February of this year, I started my new job last week. Thank you for your support, even though you have no clue who I am, you did make it possible for my career to continue as I had dreamed.

    Thank you Marc, and keep up the good work, there are many of us who appreciate exactly what it is that you are doing.

    Sincerely,

    John

    Well, John, it is wonderful to hear that our techniques worked for you and helped you hit it out of the park. It’s feedback like this “from the field” that helps us direct our research in ever more productive ways each year. And it’s very gratifying!

    Hi Marc,

    This is great food for thought especially on a day when I have to prep for an afternoon interview! Thank you very much for your timely message!

    Regards,

    S.

    Good luck on that interview, S.!

    Marc – Your “Twenty Questions” (11-15-10) came in real handy with my Monday morning interview. Glad I caught them before I went out the door today!

    T.

    That is awesome, T.!

    Marc,

    Thanks again for all your help this morning in helping me prepare for my interview with [Fortune 500 company]. It went well and we are now scheduling a time for me to come in and take a test. I will keep you posted on the outcome and thanks again for all your help and support.

    D.

    D.! That is so good to hear! Good luck with the rest of your interviews!

    Good Morning Marc,

    As typical for the Ladders, your timing is perfect!

    I am headed to a face to face interview at 2 pm this afternoon, following a successful phone interview with my future boss 2 weeks ago. I will be interviewing with 9 (yes 9) [VPs and Directors].

    I am always very good about bringing questions along, and in fact that was a high point during my phone interview.

    These are beautiful however and into my file they are going and up to Los Angeles with me.

    Wish me luck…

    David

    OK, David, I’ll be rooting for you!

    Hi Marc,

    I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your emails/newsletters.. this was another good one. Yours is one of the few newsletters that I subscribe to that I regularly open. Nice job and thank you!

    Jo

    Thanks for the kind words, Jo!

    Hi Mark,

    Great newsletter, as usual. You chose a very serendipitous topic as I was just updating my list of questions for my upcoming job hunt. You did my work for me and handed it to me on a platter. Thanks!

    Of course every situation is different so my questions will be adapted to the situation. This is a great start, though. Nice work.

    Best regards,

    Dan

    I think Dan’s experience is a relevant one to discuss. If you’ve not been looking for a job for a while, you have to create a list of questions that you want to ask in an interview. But the problem is… you’ve been asking questions in an interview for a while! So you might not know where to start. Our goal here at TheLadders is to save you the time and effort involved in the job search by doing the preparation work and the grunt work for you. Glad we could help, Dan!

    Hi Marc,

    There is so much stuff floating around by self proclaimed experts and advice (opinion) from endless web sites.

    Just to let you know, I think you’re uniquely high quality and add lots of tangible value. Keep it up, many are grateful!

    Warm regards,

    Steve

    It’s great to hear that you find them useful, Steve.

    Hello Marc,

    Extremely helpful!!!! (As most of your emails have been.)

    I’m entering a mtg today trying to decide between two opptys. The answers to my applicable and selected questions will really help me differentiate and make a decision.

    Best regards,

    Gary

    Gary — I love subscribers who love exclamation points as much as I do!!! Good luck on your big decision…

    OK, Readers, good luck with the search this week!

  • Twenty Questions

    As I’ve met with TheLadders subscribers across the country, I’ve heard that the interview questions in this newsletter from February were very useful to you in preparing for interviews, and what you should ask in those interviews.

    And of course, unless your job is to ask questions, it’s no surprise that cooking up good ideas for what to ask might not come completely naturally or easily to you.

    So I thought it would be even more useful to collect my best questions together and update them for you. Here are “Twenty Questions” that you can ask in an interview…

    1. What’s the biggest change your group has gone through in the last year? How has the recession impacted your group?
    2. One year from now, if I get the job, what will earn me a “gold star”? What are the key accomplishments you’d like to see in this role over the next year?
    3. What’s your (or my future boss’) leadership style?
    4. About which competitor are you most worried?
    5. How do your sales / marketing / finance / technology / operations work here?
    6. What type of people are successful here? What type of people are not?
    7. What’s one thing that’s key to your success that somebody from outside the company wouldn’t know about?
    8. How did you get your start in this industry? Why do you stay?
    9. What are your best and worst working relationships with other groups in the company?
    10. What keeps you up at night? What’s your biggest worry?
    11. What’s the timeline for making a decision? When should I get back in touch with you?
    12. Why is this position open? Who was previously in this role / why did you decide to create it?
    13. What is your reward system? Is it a star system / team-oriented / equity-based / bonus-based / “attaboy!”-based? Why is that your reward system? What is the hoped-for purpose of it, and what actually happens when you put it into practice? What are the positives and negatives of your reward system, and if you could change any one thing, what would it be?
    14. What information is shared with the employees (revenues, costs, operating metrics)? Is this an open-book shop, or do you play it closer to the vest? How is information shared? How do I get access to the information I need to be successful in this job?
    15. If we have a very successful 2011, what would that look like? What will have happened over the next 12 months? How does this position help achieve that?
    16. How does the company / my future boss do performance reviews? How do I make the most of the performance review process to ensure that I’m doing the best I can for the company?
    17. What is the rhythm to the work here? Is there a time of year that it’s all hands on deck and we’re pulling all-nighters, or is it pretty consistent throughout the year? How about during the week, is it pretty evenly spread throughout the week, or are there crunch days?
    18. What type of industry / functional / skills-based experience and background are you looking for in the person who will fill this position? What would the “perfect” candidate look like? How do you assess my experience in comparison? What gaps do you see?
    19. In my career, I’ve primarily enjoyed working with big / small / growing / independent / private / public / family-run companies. If that’s the case, how successful will I be at your firm?
    20. What types of attributes are common to the people who are considered heroes at your company? What types of attributes are common to the promising people you hired but who then flamed out and failed or left? As I’m considering whether or not I’d be successful here, how should I think about the experiences of the heroes and the flame-outs?

      And always remember our favorite “bonus” question: “What can I do to help you (my future boss) get a gold star in the next year?”

      OK, so maybe that’s 45 questions grouped into twenty buckets – I’m all about the extra service!

      Now, what you’re not going to do is go into an interview and read off every one of these questions one after another from a print-out of this newsletter. That would feel unnatural.

      No, instead, find five or six of the questions that really speak to you, that hit at the parts of your next job that you’re most concerned about, and jot those down on a notepad to take with you to the interview. Practice asking them naturally so that you feel comfortable with each of them. And then sit back and really listen to the answers – it’s the best chance you’ll get to find out what a position holds in store for you…

      OK, Readers, I hoped I’ve armed you with sufficient queries for the week.

      Good luck and let me know how it goes!

    1. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

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

      Yesterday was the New York City Marathon here in TheLadders’ hometown. For anybody who has watched the marathon, you know it is an inspiring glimpse into amazing achievement by ordinary people. Some 45,000 runners make their way through the streets of the five boroughs to the accompanying cheers of strangers.

      Here’s a fairly typical scene from Mile 17 of the crowd yelling, clapping, and cheering on the wave of runners:

      NYC Marathon

      And, you know, there’s a lot of similarity between the real marathon and the marathon that is your job search. They’re both long, exhausting, require you to pace yourself, and ultimately end in your triumph.

      If we could somehow put your friends, family, and colleagues along the race course of your job hunt, they’d be rooting for you just as loudly as the people in the video.

      You see, everybody wants you to succeed. That can be easy to forget when you’re dealing with the pressures and juggling the time commitments that come along with looking for a new position, but you need to remember: everybody wants you to succeed, everybody is rooting for you.

      Your success in your job search isn’t just good for you. It’s good for your family, because you’ll be happier and more productive. It’s good for friends, because we all like to be a part of a community that is successful, growing, and achieving new things. And it’s good for your former colleagues because they like you and want you to continue flourishing in your career (it also means you’re getting to be a more and more valuable contact!)

      Everybody wants you to win because it makes them feel good for you, and it makes them feel good about themselves.

      You might not have thought about it in that way in a while, so I’d like you to make an effort to discover the rooting, cheering fans on your side in the next few weeks.

      Here’s what you’ll do. Ask your friends, family and contacts these two questions:

      “What would you hope for me to get out of this job search?”

      and

      “What do you think would make me happiest as the outcome of this search?”

      With these two questions, you’ll discover, again, how much people care about your success, and how much they want you to win. It’s a very good way for you to remind yourself of all the clapping, cheering supporters you have on your side.

      Good luck in your job search this week, Readers.

    2. Seeking VP, Anything

      ** From my weekly newsletter to TheLadders.com subscribers **
      As I travel around the country speaking with job-seekers like you, I’ll ask:

      “So what are you looking for?”

      And all too often I’ll hear back:

      “Oh, I’m looking for anything.”

      Which is a problem.

      Because in today’s economy, no employer is looking for a “VP, Anything.” They’re looking for an experienced professional who can solve specific problems.

      Whether you’re speaking with me, a former colleague, or a new connection, you need to have a brief, pithy assertion of who you are and what you’re qualified to do. As a matter of fact, you need to be able to describe what you’re looking to do in 30 seconds or less.

      That’s what’s called an “elevator pitch” — a concise statement of your background and abilities and what you’re looking for that can be shared in the time it takes an elevator to go to the top floor.

      So it’s not “I’m a saleswoman” and it’s not “I’m in logistics” and it’s not “I’m a finance guy”.

      No, in the 21st century you need to be more precise and more concrete. You need to describe what you’ve done and what you’re looking to do… specifically.

      So you’ll need to share your ambitions more directly. It’s not “I’m a saleswoman” but rather “I’m a sales management professional looking to lead a 100+ person sales organization, and am particularly interested in opportunities leading sales teams going through the transactional-to-relationship-selling transition.”

      It’s not “I’m in logistics” but rather “I’m a logistics team leader who specializes in driving efficiency improvements in established groups, bringing down the cost of production year after year.”

      And it’s not “I’m a finance guy” but rather “I’m a finance guy who enjoys rationalizing finance teams in multi-unit businesses and creating metrics and operating procedures that partner with the business to drive understanding of the underlying levers of growth.”

      You need to be specific and concise in your description of your ambitions, so that your network contacts, your future boss, or I can understand how and where you’ll add value and improve the business.

      So please, avoid the easy temptation to say that you’re looking for anything, and be specific in your job search.

      It’s the best way to let people know how to help you, and to let companies know how you’ll help them. (For more advice on creating your elevator pitch, see my newsletter from August on the topic.)

      We’ve got six weeks left in job-hunting season before the year-end holidays, Readers. Let’s make the most of it!

    3. The Intelligent Job-seeker

      ** From my weekly newsletter to TheLadders.com subscribers **
      In “The Intelligent Entrepreneur“, a new book out from author Bill Murphy, Jr., Bill distills 10 rules of successful entrepreneurship from the stories of several Harvard Business School graduates from the Class of 1998, including yours truly.

      As I read through the stories, and looked at Bill’s rules, it struck me that there are similarities between the successful entrepreneur and the successful job-seeker. You’re both trying to create something new — a new company or a new position for yourself. You’re both faced with the emotional challenges that go with any new endeavor. There are plenty of setbacks along the way in starting a company and getting a job. And success is dependent on sticking to it and seeing it through.

      So with that in mind, I thought I’d share five of Bill’s 10 rules with you and show how they apply to your job search.

      #2 Find a problem, then solve it.

      It’s not enough in the 21st century to simply describe yourself to future employers as “I’m a finance guy” or “I’m a saleswoman.” Particularly in this difficult economic environment, you need to let your future boss know what kind of problem you can solve for him or her. So be specific about what you bring to the table: “I’m a finance professional who specializes in Sarbanes-Oxley and really enjoys working with internationally headquartered companies to meet American regulatory requirements” or “I’m a sales professional who loves working with biotech start-ups as they go from pre-revenue to $10 mm in sales.”

      Find a problem, and then let your future boss know how you will solve it.

      #4 You can’t do it alone.

      The job search can be a lonely endeavor and you can’t possibly make it alone. You’ll need the support of your family and friends, and being honest with them about the trials and tribulations you’re experiencing is an important part of your emotional well-being during the search. You’ll also need to rely on your colleagues and contacts, and have them on the lookout for you during your job search. (See my advice last week on this topic: “Ask for a reference, not a job.”)

      Enlisting the aid of the people you know for support, advice, and connections is the way to your next great job.

      #5 You must do it alone.

      But as much as you’ll need to rely on family, friends and colleagues, it is ultimately going to depend on you. You’ll need to make the calls, you’ll need to do the follow-up, and you’ll need to be prepared for the interviews. When it’s 10:17 a.m. on Tuesday morning and you’re staring at the phone thinking about making that follow-up call, it’s up to you, and you alone, to pick up the phone and dial the digits. Nobody else can do it for you.

      Understanding that you’ll need to make the commitment, set aside the appropriate amount of time, and then fight through our natural tendency to procrastination, is key to your success.

      #8 Learn to sell.

      Take your annual earnings and multiply by five. That’s the value of the product you are selling — the next five years of your labor. It’s the most important sales job you’re going to have, and you need to learn how to sell. You need to qualify the buyer — make sure they need an expensive product like you — and then explain to them the benefits they’ll get by purchasing — how you’ll help solve the problems they’re facing in their business.

      Too often we can allow ourselves to slip into focusing on what I need out of the job hunt. You have to remember that it’s not about you, it’s about what your future employer needs. And you need to sell them on how you fulfill those needs better than any other candidate.

      #9 Persist, persevere, prevail.

      The job hunt is filled with twists and turns — moments of hope and days of despair. That’s normal. Even the most successful, polished, high-priced executives and professionals that we work with here at TheLadders have those weeks when the phone is not ringing, emails go unanswered, and the creeping doubts seem to loom larger.

      It’s all part of the job-seeking process, and in order to be successful, you’ll need to overcome those difficulties. It is only persistence and perseverance that will see you through the bad days and the tough interviews. Anybody who has started a company, and everybody who goes through the job search, experience tough times. Stick to it, know that you are valuable, and you will make it through to success!

      To learn the other five rules of successful entrepreneurship, I’d recommend you go pick up “The Intelligent Entrepreneur” today.

      Have a great week in the job search, Readers!

    4. Two Terrific Tips To Try

      As we travelled across the country on our national book tour these past few weeks, two bits of advice that we’ve shared with you over the years stood out as being the most useful for professionals looking to make their job search:

      - Ask for a reference, not a job
      - In the interview, ask your future boss, “How do I help you get a gold star at the end of the year?”

      In the Q&A and in our conversations with you individually after our talk, we heard time and again that these two tips were the most differentiated, and successful, for professionals in their job searches. So let’s re-visit them this Monday morning…

      Ask for a reference, not a job

      We all know how painful networking can be. When I asked attendees at our book signings “who enjoys networking?” typically only about 15% of hands went up. And that’s because networking can be awkward, intimidating, and anxiety-provoking.

      So my advice is: don’t do that. Don’t do networking that makes you and the person you are speaking with feel uncomfortable.

      Let’s look at the difference between bad and good networking.

      Here’s how we typically approach the “networking call”, when we’ve phoned an old friend:

      “Hi Cindy, it’s Bob, your old college buddy. Yeah, how are things going? That’s great. Say, Cindy, I’m going to be looking for a new position in the next couple months here and I was wondering — do you know of any jobs out there for me, or are there any jobs at your company for somebody like me?”

      Now what does this type of networking do to Cindy? It puts her on the spot and it makes her feel uncomfortable.

      She’s not an expert in the job search, and it’s unlikely that she knows where there are jobs out there for somebody like you. So now she is in the awkward position of having to tell you “no”.

      And our friends and colleagues hate being put in the position where they have to tell us “no”. They actually do want to help, so when you ask for their help in a way that prevents them from being any help, it makes both of you feel bad.

      Now let’s look at a better way to network:

      “Hi Cindy, it’s Bob, your old college buddy. Yeah, how are things going? That’s great. Say, Cindy, I’m going to be looking for a new position in the next couple months here and I was wondering — when it gets to the appropriate time in my job search, would it be possible for me to use you as a reference?”

      Well, how difficult is it for Cindy to say “yes” to this? It’s actually quite easy.

      And with that, you’ve actually created a positive feeling. You’ve told Cindy that you value her opinion enough to consider using her as a reference.

      And now that Cindy has had a positive interaction with you, she is much more likely to keep her ears perked up for news or information that might help you in your job search. Remember, you only to need to find one job to be fully employed so if you have dozens, or hundreds, of your contacts with their eyes and ears open for you, you’re more likely to find that position sooner rather than later.

      When I was shaking hands and signing books across the country, I heard from dozens of you that this advice has really worked, in real life, in making their job search more successful and their networking more comfortable. So please use it in good health!

      And the second bit of advice that really resonated with our audiences nationwide was:

      In the interview, ask your future boss “how do I help you get a gold star at the end of the year?”

      So often in interviews, we are focused on what the opportunity means to “me” — what will I get out of the job, what will I be doing, and how do I match up to the position?

      But you have to remember that your future boss is also thinking what this role means for “me” — what will this person do for me and my team, how will this person help us achieve our goals, how will this person make me more successful?

      If you think about it, how difficult was it for your future boss to get this position approved? Well, in these tough economic times, it was probably very difficult. To justify additional headcount in a still crummy economy, your future boss probably had to jump through hoops and hoops with Finance and HR to get permission to hire somebody new.

      So when you show an empathy for, and interest in, their situation and their success, you’ll be like a breath of fresh air.

      By asking how you can help your future boss get a gold star, you’re changing how you are viewed from being just another mouth to feed, to being somebody whose goals and motivations are aligned with theirs. You’re setting yourself apart as somebody who will balance their own needs with the needs of others. And you’re showing that you’re committed to making your boss successful.

      And that is just exactly the type of person who gets hired in our present economic environment.

      So thanks again folks for all the support on the road, and I really do hope you’ll put these two great bits of advice to work in making your job hunt more successful this week!

      A reader wrote in this afternoon with this comment:

      “First of all, let me say that both tips are excellent! I actually just tried the second one during a phone interview with an internal audit director and it really caught him off guard in the best sense possible. After taking a few seconds to gather his thoughts, he actually came out and said that it’s the first time in his career someone brought a question to the interview that went in the direction of what can a person do for the department rather than what can the department do for them. So, thanks a lot for the tip.”