Friday, July 28, 2006

Don't slam the door on networking

Yesterday brought two discussions of successful people actively avoiding opportunities to network.

Steve Rubel wrote—some say complained—about the behind-the-scenes email among bloggers, which others defend as just networking. I've found my blogs and email to be an effective combination for meeting interesting people, and I'm happy to receive messages from people who think I'm interesting, too.

IQ Interactive recruiter Ragan Jones wrote about the rude response she's been getting from Google employees when she tries to network with them. Folks, networking is not just for the unemployed or unsuccessful, and being rude to recruiters (who know other recruiters) is short-sighted and, well, rude. Life is so much more pleasant when you're nice to people.

You plant your seeds before you need to eat. If you're happy in your job, that's the best time to build your network. If you're successful and help someone else on their way up, they'll remember your help (they may even become clients). Don't turn down those contacts just because you don't need them now. When you need the connections, they'll be harder to make.

Even if you never need another job, and if you never need new contacts in your business (yeah, right), life is better with more connections to people. You never know where a new contact will lead.

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Basic design for your online presence

Whether you're using a blog or a web site to increase your visibility, you should avoid the ugly web site problem. Your web presence should be part of your personal marketing plan, and bad design isn't what you want to be know for. You can have a web site that looks reasonable even if you don't know anything about design. Just get good advice from someone who knows, and learn from the example of good sites.

If you want an instructor to lead you through the basics, try BusinessWeek's free online course , Graphic Design for Non-Designers (via David Armano). The course runs through August 16, so don't wait.

I like to have a book when I'm learning a new topic, especially when it's computer-related. Robin Williams has the franchise in accessible books for non-designers, from The Mac is Not a Typewriter to The Non-Designer's Design Book and The Non-Designer's Web Book. If you're still using two hyphens when the situation calls for an em dash (have you noticed that Microsoft Word changes that automatically now?), find one of Robin's books for a quick skills upgrade. Her friendly approach to design topics is perfect for non-designers who want to get it right.

If you really don't have time or the inclination to learn this stuff, you can always spend some money and get professional help. Send me a note, and I'll refer you to some people I know.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Use their snooping to build your brand

Do you use some of the fun or convenient new services on the Web? You may be adding to what recruiters learn about you when you do. That can be a scary proposition, I suppose, but it also offers a subtle opportunity to enhance your brand online.

The ethics of online background research are still uncertain, and some recruiters and hiring managers are looking in unusual places to find out about candidates. The latest place is a candidate's Amazon wish list (via Penelope Trunk). People also leave an identifiable trail on del.icio.us, Furl, Digg, Technorati, Flickr, YouTube, and many others. For those keeping score, these are some of the most popular new sites on the web. To get their full value, you need to become a member, and some of what you do there is visible to the public. These sites all have the potential to be used and abused by potential (or current!) employers.

I think searching these sites as part of the hiring process crosses the ethical line, but it is way to find out what people are interested in. Jason Zimdars, whose wish list came up in an interview, described it in positive terms:
Many times in interviews, the interviewer would comment on a blog post I had written or a book on my Amazon wish list. These were great ice-breakers and really helped me to connect with potential employers on a more personal level. Well-executed online information can be a great asset in your job search as companies can learn more about you than simply by reading your resume.

These background checks provide an opportunity to thejobseeker. Knowing that potential employers may look at your online breadcrumbs, you can make a point of doing things that will help your case. Pay attention to what is visible to the public, and use some of these services to support the image you want to project. If your personal brand is honest and consistent with who you really are, this shouldn't present a problem. And if you must do something that could be a problem in the future, don't do it in a public place.

In managing your online reputation, you have a few choices: you can avoid these services altogether, you can hide your identity on these services, or you can use them in a way that enhances—or at least doesn't hurt—your career. Avoiding them deprives you of some really fun and useful services. Hiding your identity (by using different user names on each service) might work, but secrets have a way of being found out. I recommend using the sites that interest you, keeping in mind that a potential employer may take an interest in what you've done. A few well-placed breadcrumbs may even help you some day.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Is your day this predictable?

Sure, I like Dilbert, but all I really needed to know I learned from chickens.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Protect yourself from employment scams

A side effect of being visible to recruiters is being visible to scammers. The FBI recently released some tips on protecting yourself from online employment fraud (via Secrets of the Job Hunt, Information Week):
You respond to an online job ad. You’re contacted via e-mail for a fake interview. Then, you’re asked for bank account information in order to “direct deposit” your paychecks. Guess what? It’s all a ruse…and the crooks drain your account.

The FBI release has more examples and some tips to protect yourself. Fraud happens, and if your résumé is on a job board, you'll probably get one of these fake opportunities sooner or later. Here are some easy ways to protect yourself.
  1. Minimize the personal information on your online résumé. Email, cell phone, city and state should be all the contact information recruiters need. You can share the rest once you know who you're dealing with.
  2. Don't give a potential employer your bank account or credit card information, a scan of your driver’s license or other ID, or a detailed physical description of yourself.
  3. Don't include your social security number or birthdate on your résumé.
  4. When you're contacted about a job, perform a search on identifiable keywords (company names, Internet domains, abbreviations, people) from the message. Some common frauds are easy to identify with a simple Google search.
  5. The FTC has information on fraudulent business opportunities. Check it out before your respond to that "work from home" ad.

When you're contacted by a recruiter, do a little research before submitting personal information. "I found your résumé on Monster" may be opportunity knocking, or it could be someone who wants to steal from you. A few minutes' delay won't diminish your chance at legitimate opportunities, but it may keep you from making a big mistake.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Links as proof of qualification?

Here's a new twist on employers using the Internet to identify candidates from Techdirt:
Someone recently told me that they were trying to recruit for a job opening, and he planned to find candidates not by advertising the job itself, but by putting together a list of bloggers who had a certain four or five blogs listed in their blogroll (Techdirt was one, apparently)—allowing him to pre-qualify candidates who might fit the job he was trying to fill without calling for resumes. So, even when you're not officially looking for jobs, your online presence can be important.

This search technique only works for finding bloggers, since blogrolls are found on blogs (although you could create a similar list on your personal web site). For this approach to find you, you'll need to be active online, writing about the things you do and linking to the right sources. It's a more advanced, and probably more specialized, game than posting a résumé with the right keywords and headlines.

Finding the right answer when you Google yourself is the first step. Being found by people who are searching for you by description—not by name—takes things to the next level. Do it right, and your online presence will lead people in search of your kind of expertise directly to you.

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Get your free online education

I'm a strong believer in lifelong learning, both for career development and on general principle. In addition to the actual skills or knowledge you gain in a course, it makes for a good story of how you're investing in yourself—even if you're currently employed (if you don't invest in yourself, why would your employer?). It can also be a partial answer to the "what have you been doing lately" interview question.

The problem for the jobseeker is the high cost of corporate training, which can easily exceed $1,000 for a 5-day class. For the budget-constrained, here are some sources of free online education.

In addition to online sources, remember your local community college, university extension and other adult education options. Some of these are explicitly intended to help jobseekers in the employment market.

One source that's not free—but I've been a fan for years—is The Teaching Company, which sells lecture series in audio and video formats. Only a few of their courses are business-related, but all of them contribute to keeping life, and the learner, interesting.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Blogs for jobseekers

I try not to do too much generic job-search advice here. My focus is on using Internet tools and techniques to advance your career or job search. Besides, I've found a healthy assortment of blogs that already do a good job of delivering job-search advice. Here's a partial list:

Now, here's the technology reminder. You don't want to try to follow a long list of sources by going to the web page every day. These folks don't post every day, and you'll waste too much time sorting out the new stuff. This is the most basic use of RSS, so get your feed reader going and add these blogs to your subscriptions.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Recommended by the recruiter

It's not just you. Recruiters have noticed that the system isn't working. Ben Gotkin summarizes the problem in recruiting technology is not flat (yet) (via Deb Dib):
The first generation of recruiting technology (job boards and applicant tracking systems) created an environment that has frustrated job seekers and recruiters alike. Job boards and applicant tracking systems have not done a good job in connecting the right people with the right jobs, and have not been effective tools to reach passive job seekers.

Ben suggests five tools that he has used successfully as a recruiter: Jobster, ZoomInfo, LinkedIn, Simply Hired and Indeed. Read his post for a quick idea of how each is useful. The key here is that Ben's recommending these tools as a recruiter, not as a job search coach. If you want to be found, be where they're looking.

Why you have to talk about money

You don't have to like the money question, but you have to answer it (via Anthony J.).

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Jobseeker resources for the Triangle (NC)

Paul deBettignies launched Online Career Hub earlier this year. The site features local job search and career resources for a handful of major cities (beginning with Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC).

When you start at the top, it takes a while before you get to North Carolina's Triangle region on the list of big cities (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary... It's a funny-shaped triangle these days). I had a similar page that had started as an email listing some useful sites, and after a little editing, it became a list of jobseeker resources in the Triangle.

As with most lists, this one's not complete. I welcome any suggestions.

8 reasons recruiters don't call

A bunch of blogging recruiters are trading blogs this week. Writing on Jim Durbin's StlRecruiting blog today, Jim Stroud lists eight reasons recruiters never call you:
  1. Too many responses and not enough time.
  2. Many resumes received are not even in the ballpark of what is being advertised.
  3. [Your message may have been caught in a spam filter.]
  4. The position advertised is a proactive measure by the company to solicit resumes in advance of budget approval for additional headcount.
  5. The hiring manager wants to hire a friend, but must follow company protocol which includes publicizing the opening.
  6. The hiring manager wants to promote someone internally, but wants to “window shop” before committing to the hire.
  7. The hiring manager is on a never-ending quest for the non-existent “perfect candidate.”
  8. You were submitted to the company by a searchfirm.

It's not just a list; he includes tips for jobseekers for each item.

Notice that none of the items says "it's personal." In fact, some of them are entirely out of your control, and some listings don't even represent real openings. Recruiters can be your ally if you know how to work with them.