Archive for July, 2010

On Networking

July 19th, 2010 2 comments

Early in my recruiting career I was baffled by networking.  I was told by everyone that I worked with that “networking” was how I was going to find the best candidates, and how I’d be able to gain access to new clients.  So I dutifully attended various “networking events”, and I generally met two types of people: (1) active job seekers, many of whom had already applied to a position in my agency, and (2) other recruiters

This was an inefficient way to meet both these types of people, and I decided I was doing something wrong. This post from a recent college grad struck a chord with me when I read it, as it captures that feeling better than I ever could.

I was laid off in 2008, and was able to find a contract position and then a full time position that year through people I had worked with.  Exactly what people would call “networking”.  What happened in those 8 years? I didn’t become less introverted, or work hard on being better at networking. I simply met and worked with a bunch of people. I therefore had a larger group of people I could ask for help.

Many thoughtful and well-written pieces of advice assume that everyone can and should become a networker extraordinaire. They conflate my situation in 2008 with networking, and would probably cite it as an example of success.  I think that’s confusing and unhelpful.

Here’s why.  Networking is something that you do to build a large contacts list.  It involves putting yourself in situations where you will meet new people, establish a connection, and maintain some kind of relationship/dialogue over time.

What I do during job searches isn’t networking. I think of who I know that might be able to help me find a job. And I ask them if they can help me find a job.  The people I focus on, and those that are most helpful, are individuals that have actually seen my work. They’re the most likely to give me a meaningful recommendation.

Being well networked (i.e. knowing lots of people) certainly helps this process.  But I would contend that having a large number of people in your network has limited value in a job search.  Most of them don’t know you well enough to do any more than send job postings they see to you. Which you can do yourself.

Categories: job search Tags:

Career Advice

July 14th, 2010 No comments

I’ve been mulling over this article from the NY Times since it was published last week. The punch line: an unemployed 24 year old turns down a job offer with no other options, rather than “waste early years in dead-end work.”

The reason I didn’t post anything right away is that I need a little time to get past my first reaction, which was to write Scott Nicholson off as a spoiled idiot. I mean, really? You’re just going to find a better job in the midst of the worst job market for 60 years?

After thinking about it, I’ve realized that Scott Nicholson is, in fact, a spoiled idiot.  But the interesting part of this story to me isn’t so much him (he’s never had a real job, how does he know a recession from a depression), it’s the lack of credible advice he’s getting.

Granted, his father didn’t agree with the decision.  But the fact that only now, after months of searching, Nicholson is “beginning to realize that refusal is going to have repercussions” shows what a disservice his family has done him.  When he turned down that job offer, his parents should have locked him out of the house until he went back and begged for the job until he got it.

Relatives and friends often give bad career advice because, as in Nicholson’s case, they may hesitate to deliver a hard message.  So here are the things I think are important to look for when seeking career advice:

  • Balance. Pessimists sometimes need reinforcement and encouragement, optimists sometimes need a dose of sober reality.  All Nicholson seems to be getting is reinforcement of his natural optimism.
  • Relatability. Someone that knows the current job market in an applicable field, and so can offer much more realistic advice. Nicholson’s parents have successful careers, but they built them in a completely different era, and admit they don’t know how to help him.
  • Practicality. Tips and advice on how to manage a search day to day. It’s great that Scott’s grandfather thinks he can go abroad to find work, but back in the real world an international job search is degrees of magnitude harder than a domestic one.

I don’t worry about the Scott Nicholson’s of the world, since they obviously have a strong safety net in their families.  It would be nice if I could be confident that people are getting good advice in this market, but I’m not so sure.

Categories: hiring, job search Tags:

Unemployment Insurance

July 13th, 2010 No comments

I promised myself I’d update more frequently once the World Cup was over (viva Espana, by the way).  So here goes.

As Daniel Indiviglio illustrates better than I ever could, extending unemployment benefits just plain makes sense.  It’s simple math: more unemployed workers competing for a constant number of jobs results in long term unemployment. 

However, Ezra Klein points out an interesting nuance that’s been lost in the politics of this debate.  Ben Nelson, A Democrat Senator that opposed extending benefits, argued that his state doesn’t need extended benefits.  He’s probably right, but he’s being disingenuous, because there are triggers built into extended benefits that solve this problem.  If your state doesn’t have unemployment above the national average, extended benefits don’t come into effect.

So unemployment insurance is, as it turns out, a pretty well-designed system.  And extending beyond 99 weeks is just plain the right thing to do.

UPDATE (7/14): Ezra Klein posts this pithy summary of how little the UI extension would cost.

The general: a cautionary tale

July 3rd, 2010 No comments

The World Cup has just completed the quarterfinals, so now I can come up for air. Don’t worry, this won’t be a soccer analogy post-it’s been done, blandly.  Wow guys, teamwork is great.

Anyway, in addition to being a soccer fanatic, I’m also a little bit of a politics junkie.  So when I haven’t been watching 6 hours of soccer a day (not a joke-the group stages are a big commitment), I’ve been reading about and thinking about the General Stanley McChrystal mess.

For those of you that don’t obsessively follow this kind of thing like I do, a brief summary: McChrystal “resigned” on June 23, after a Rolling Stone article detailed unflattering remarks from the general and his staff about the White House and State Department.

If you go beyond the vacuous mainstream press coverage and read the original article, a nuanced picture emerges. McChrystal is insubordinate and crass, but it’s because of his single-minded devotion to a new strategy. He’s a serial rebel, a guy that has reshaped every unit he’s been responsible for; he’s pushed the establishment farther than it’s comfortable, but not quite far enough to lose his job–until now.

And that’s what connected this back to hiring for me (this blog being about hiring, after all). So many times in my recruiting career I’ve been asked to find someone that can challenge the conventional wisdom, that can push an organization to change. Too often they leave, voluntarily or otherwise, after hitting wall after wall.  In the always special case of one of my former employers, the iconoclast encounters the icon directly, because they’re the same person.

When I am asked to find these magical employees that make everything better (MEMEB for short, TM pending), I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how much the organization can actually handle. This is what makes the job of a recruiter fascinating, frustrating, and complicated. To do the job well requires one not just to manage tactics, but also to be able to think philosophically about the change-readiness of the organization.

One last thought. Gen. McChrystal fits many of the stereotypes of a corporate savior: irreverent, innovative, driven. But it’s worth remembering that General David Petraeus, the man left standing in all of this is, in Rolling Stone’s words “kind of a dweeb, a teacher’s pet with a Ranger’s tab.”  The dweebs often seem to be around when the rebels have long since gone.