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Archive for June, 2013

I could have high-fived everyone in sight as I walked away from a career that lasted 16 years in a stable, global financial institution.  After being promoted five times, to five different areas in the company, my senior management position was abolished as my key responsibilities were centralized to the company’s global head office.  Getting the separation package affirmed my own conviction in the previous two years it was time to forge a new career path.

The nearly twelve months it took me to accept a job offer for permanent, full-time work, proved to be an enriching journey, filled with new experiences.  Most importantly, the experiences changed some of my commonly-held beliefs that have been ingrained in the minds of many mid-career and senior executives.

  • Pay attention.  Be prepared to change direction. 

When you’ve done all you can do and what is right, and stuff happens, it’s usually a good sign!  You’re being led in a better (read: different) direction, and it’s all good.

During my job search, I did all the right things.  I built a data base of all my skills and experiences, from which I customized my CV for specific job opportunities.  I optimized my social media presence by expanding my LinkedIn connections, networking on-line and off-line, writing blogs, tweeting.  I actively engaged in volunteer work, explored opportunities in my home town and out of town, etc, etc, etc….  but after seven months, the doors closed on several very good leads, in each case for reasons beyond my control.   The appointment of a new vice-president who needed to rethink the structure of the department, unforeseen budget cuts, corporate policies that gave preference to the internal candidate – these were some of the show stoppers.

When I realized that I had exhausted opportunities in the companies I targeted, I made the decision to change my direction and explore new possibilities.  Free-lance consulting and a change of industry were two, new options I decided to explore.  When I began to invest most of my efforts in these options, I was amazed at how quickly consulting opportunities began to materialize and as did invitations to job interviews in companies I had not previously considered.

  •  “Titles are inevitable, and they’re even respected, but they’re merely a credential”

In the words of Mike Lipkin, “Hierarchy is so boomer. The new reality is about heterarchy – where leaders and followers are interchangeable depending on circumstances.”

Job seekers who like myself have climbed the corporate ladder over many years in one company, tend to be overly concerned with titles, organizational structures and status.   While I agree that we should look for challenging work that fits our experience and expertise, the truth is, the corporate ladder is an obsolete metaphor.  In most progressive organizations, dotted lines and flat organizational structures give way to the optimal use of talent in collaborative team environments.  This is where there are many open doors providing new and enriching opportunities for people wanting to do meaningful work.

  • Go where you’re celebrated, not tolerated.

Like most job seekers, I faced a several disappointing rejections.  What I have come to realize, is that when faced with unemployment over an extended period of time, there was the temptation to talk myself into situations that were not the right fit, even though I had the qualifications and experience for the job.  I had to remind myself a few times, that in order to flourish, I need to be in an environment conducive to my personal growth and enrichment.  Finding the right fit required the clear definition and uncompromising commitment to my values and life objectives.

  • Networking is not just for job-seekers.

The best career outlook in any organization can be randomly and suddenly taken away through restructurings, mergers, acquisitions and divestures that are regular features of the corporate landscape.  No one in the workforce can take job security for granted.

My biggest take-away from my job search is that it’s up to each person to continuously develop skills in marketing themselves and building networks – gainfully employed or not.  The world of work has changed and will continue to change.  Self-motivation and the ability to recognize opportunity in changing circumstances are essential.  Building a strong network of professional, community and social contacts is the key to getting a job, managing your career and making a career transition when the job is no longer there.

See the big picture.  Focus on what’s important.  www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

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Can you tell me about yourself?   Prospective employees come prepared to answer this inevitable question in the job interview. They know that recruiters and hiring managers very often use the response as a key element in their final selection criteria. Job-seekers are advised by career counsellors how to and how not to respond. “Don’t give a chronological account of your life or career. Do tie relevant aspects of your professional experience to the job description.”

Good advice? Maybe.

In today’s ever-changing business environment no one can bet that the job description at the time of hiring will be the same twelve months later. All of this begs the question: to what extent should the interviewee’s ability to explain how his or her professional experience is aligned to the job description be considered as a deciding factor in the hiring process?

The context of constant change
Changes in the economy, the impact of new technologies, market demand and the availability of talent, are some of the factors that require organizations to make frequent and important adjustments to their business strategies. These adjustments give rise to the need for employees to expand their knowledge and for companies to seek talent with specialized skills. McKinsey reports that over the past three decades, advances in technology have impacted companies. An important trend has been the disaggregation of roles into more specialized functions. For example, social and digital media have caused new and more specialized marketing roles to emerge in companies that previously only hired generalist, corporate marketers.
Adaptability, resilience and loyalty
In the context of constant change, hiring managers and recruiters can no longer rely primarily on the alignment of past professional experience with the current job description in the selection process. Constant change requires employees to be adaptable, resilient and loyal: adaptable – willing to embrace new knowledge and skill requirements; resilient to successfully work through the inevitable disruptions and stresses of change; and loyal, so that the company benefits from their experience over an extended period of time.

Rather than relying heavily on the best match between past professional experience and the current job description, hiring managers should aim to find out the value of skills and differentiating attributes that potential employees bring to the organization that are relevant now and in the future. The most likely way to find out is to ask the question: What is your personal brand?

Having a personal brand is important
A brand definition outlines a promise of value that is different from other providers who are perceptively similar. The term personal brand was first defined in Fast Company magazine (August 1997), in an article written by Tom Peters. In his words, “You’re hired, you report to work you join a team. Along the way, if you’re really smart, you figure out what it takes to create a distinctive role for yourself – you create a message and a strategy to promote the brand called You.” But long before landing the job, anyone who wants to thrive and prosper in their prospective place of work will define their personal brand. This brand differentiates potential employees from other candidates, positions the potential employee as an expert and establishes credibility and value to the potential employer.

The personal brand provides answers to key questions
Potential employers should expect that at a minimum, candidates for professional and leadership positions should be able to articulate their personal brand. The best responses to the question: what is your personal brand? include:

  • Succinct explanations of the specialized skills and differentiating attributes a person brings to the organization;
  • How personal values support the corporation’s values; and
  • The factors that drive commitment to the mission of the organization.

Recruiters and hiring managers should also be able to gather answers to other key interview questions: what can you do for this company that someone else can’t? and why should we hire you? In fact, so much more information can be gleaned from the potential employee’s definition of his/her personal brand with probing questions. By asking for specific examples that demonstrate the personal brand in action, recruiters can gain some insight into the interviewee’s resilience and ability to navigate change.

Bringing all this information together will help both potential employees and hiring managers determine whether or not there is a good fit for the role and the company over time. Recruiters and potential employees will agree that information on qualifications, competencies and shared values ought to be the key elements in the hiring decision. A well-defined personal brand can initiate the discussion of these points during the job interview and provide valuable information required to make the final decision to hire employees who support the immediate and longer-term business needs.
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Camille N. Isaacs-Morell is a marketing professional whose personal brand is expressed in the statement “See the big picture. Focus on what’s important.” She passionately believes that all departments play a role in the delivery of marketing strategies and that employee engagement and the alignment of personal and corporate values are essential to make work a gratifying and satisfying experience. Read more at www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

This blog was published  on 11 June 2013 at Your Workplace.

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