Friday, February 27, 2009

On-line Personality Assessments to Help Career Planning & Positioning

Here are several links to what I think are the most useful on-line personality assessments.

The goal is to give you more information about yourself and enable you to better match your personality and tendencies to a work situation/culture/people so you are happiest, most productive and effective. It is important to adapt the findings to aid your job search. An interpretive report will help, and you can get even more value by discussing the findings with a career coach or certified assessment provider.

1) The DISC Profile gives you a look at how you respond to your environment especially geared toward work. The basic on-line assessment currently costs $25.95, which I think is all you need. More in-depth reports are available that bring the cost to $59.95. Click to see a sample report so you can make a more informed decision.

2) The grandmother of assessments, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), can be taken on line. It involves a bit more work on your part, and a substantially greater financial outlay of $150. The cost is not only for taking the assessment but for going over it with a trained interpreter. That review will be helpful for you to gain more understanding of how/why MBTI can be useful in your work and life. You also get some booklets sent to you along with a tailored report. For another $15, you can get a personalized career report.

3) A free assessment based somewhat on MBTI is the Keirsey Temperaments . It is a "70 question personality instrument that helps individuals discover their personality type." You will get a free report after taking the assessment on-line.

4) Other free and pretty accurate assessments are at; which has more thoughtful questions, in my humble opinion;; and, 41Questions. Three of the four pegged me as ENFJ and the last said I was ENFP. I usually test at ENFP through Myers-Briggs but my last one was several years ago. Thus these assessments may be telling me that I've changed somewhat over time.

If you use these free assessments, make sure you go to this Wikipedia article to get some interpretive information. Getting the MBTI itself would provide you with a baseline, as well as more interpretive information.

Your Cover Letter Markets You

A cover letter is your chance to present yourself as a terrific match with the employer's needs as laid out in the job posting and description of responsibilities and qualifications. You need to convince them that you have the goods to be able to do this job superlatively. The cover letter makes the case for why you are the right person for the job – or at least gives the reader compelling reasons to interview you and learn more.

• It is your opportunity to anticipate any objections and respond to them.
• It is your chance to demonstrate your writing and communication skills, as well as any persuasive and strategic positioning abilities you have gained through the years.

As with every piece of good writing, it will require several drafts and revisions for you to come up with a cover letter that captures your essence, marries your abilities to the needs of the job, and yet does not go on and on. A page or at most a page and a half are sufficient to make your case. We want the employer to be interested enough to read your resume and call you for an interview.

There are some key factors to make the cover letter compelling to the employer and increase your chances of getting an interview.

Your resume is focused on your past while the job posting is focused on the future.
Prospective employers are focused on their own needs, and how you are able to meet those needs - they don't need or want to know a whole lot about where you are now. The job of the cover letter is demonstrating that you understand and can meet the employer's needs.

I recommend using past experience and accomplishments to illustrate how you have and therefore can do the job THEY have.

• Why do you want to do this job or work?
• How does it flow out of your past experiences?
• How does what you have done in the past prepare you to meet their needs?

Infuse into your letter your enthusiasm for this position as a logical next step in your career, as well as the perfect fusion of their needs and your abilities.

63-70% of jobs are filled by networking and referrals of business colleagues.

Most jobs go to people who are somehow familiar to the person doing the hiring. A personal referral makes the employer more comfortable meeting someone; it's less of a risk when you get a referral from someone you trust. Even with an introduction, it behooves you to stand out as someone relatively familiar with and to the person doing the hiring. Become a familiar face!

Go through the employer's website and become more familiar with what they do. Pick out a couple of their services and see if you want to target them in your cover letter, using key phrases or words. Here's one example from a consulting firm that specializes in real estate-related services.

They say in Facilities Management: "how to operate facilities with maximum efficiency, safety and employee comfort—and dramatically reduce costs in the process." Use phrases like "maximum efficiency" and "employee comfort" as well as "dramatically reduce costs" somewhere in your cover letter - perhaps referring to your previous accomplishments or responsibilities.

In Project and Development Services, they say: "Their collaborative approach is managed by a dedicated project manager who serves as your single point of contact and accountability. Of course, being the best means more than driving projects to on-time, on-budget completion. Our real estate project managers can quickly scale up or down to address your company’s changing needs and the asset types in your portfolio. Whatever the scope, we’ll work with you to set measurable goals and then achieve them—together." Lift some language from this, such as "collaborative approach" and "driving projects" or "on-time, on-budget completion."

Using language directly from the employer's website subliminally conveys that you already understand the place and will fit in. You literally "speak their language."

Employers want to be wanted, very wanted

Employers today can afford to be picky and the more I read, the more I see postings imply or say directly that they want "true believers" in their business goals and mission. They will be looking for evidence of this, and many people will state their belief explicitly. To not address probably will put you out of the running. Even if you are not completely passionate about the mission, act as if you are. We are never 100% anything, so unless you have a visceral disgust for the business purpose or mission, you are allowed to apply if you generally support the cause.

If you have the background to demonstrate your synchronicity with their work, do so. Make an effort to point out your thematic resonance with their mission, pointing out how everything you've done in the past has led you to this position. That is compelling reasoning, shows you put real some thought into the cover letter, demonstrates that you want the job enough to work for it, and may in fact have the passion they want.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Go Ahead: Apply for that Job!

I hear some people saying they don't want to apply for a specific job because they don't think they really want to work at the specific workplace. Maybe they've heard negative things about it from former employees, or they think it's too big or too small, or for some other reason.

Yet they identified the job as something of interest. There was an element in the title or job description or both that attracted them.

Now, if someone says they don't want to apply for a job because the pay is much too low or it turns out that they don't have at least 50% of the required qualifications, or it's in a city to which they will not move - then by all means, don't apply. That wastes your time and the employers'.

However, if there is no concrete reason not to apply, then I urge people to go ahead and apply.

Applying for a job is beginning your end of the conversation. It is not a commitment to accepting a job. It is simply the start of a possible longer communication and maybe relationship. Your application is your expression of interest in what the employer has to offer, and indicates your willingness to engage with them.

It is helpful to think about the reasons you ARE interested and focus on those. If you get an interview, you will have an opportunity to gather more information about the job and employer. Prepare for the interview by creating your own "must have list" of what you must have in order to do your best work. Most people "must have" a certain role and perform specific kinds of activities, work in a specific kind of culture and physical environment, get a definite compensation. I have written several earlier posts on the Must Have List and how to use it.

Having your own sense of how and where you do your best work - meaning where you are happiest - allows the interview to be two-sided. You are checking out the employer just as they are checking you out.

You won't have that opportunity if you never apply. So go for it! Make your application the strongest it can be by following recommendations on preparing a fantastic marketing-style cover letter and resume.

The worst that can happen is you don't get called for an interview. In that case, the job wasn't for you anyway.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Looking for work while you are working

Here are some great tips from Miriam Salpeter at the Newark Examiner to "help the busy employee who leads a double life as a job seeker":

Do NOT - I repeat - DO NOT conduct your job search while AT work.

Spend some of your “down” time prepping for a job hunt.

Invest in yourself [and having] materials [that] represent the best you have to offer.

Network! Open your eyes - networking opportunities are all around.

Keep connected and engaged in your current job, no matter how difficult it is.

Gather information...about [prospective employer's] timing.

Above all, recognize that the positive steps you take now to manage your own career will pay off in the long run. Don’t wait. Don’t let stress or fear get the best of you. Take the wheel and turn the key.

Click on the title to go to the entire article for fuller explanation of what each tip involves.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Anger and Job Search

Today, I got a question that many other people have asked me in one form or another: "How can I be in this job and not be angry?"

The person asking the question has been in her job for four years, dissatisfied for a couple of years, and actively seeking a new position for the last year. We started talking almost a year ago and gradually she's realized how very unrewarding her job is and how unsuited she is to work in the organization's culture. She started by seeing how dysfunctional the place is, and it's become more and more obvious that the dysfunction is either increasing or that she is becoming less and less able to tolerate this dysfunctional environment.

Here's a snippet of her e-mail:

It is hard for me to come in here and not be angry. [My boss] has become one of "them." [This place] has gotten MORE hierarchical not less - what pisses me off is all the talk about being a "flat" organization and we are all about equity and access.... blah, blah, blah. We spent a whole year wotking on values and it is BS and all for show. I suppose that some if is is pride and I should just let it go. Grrrrrr.

Here's part of what I said to her:

Great venting! That's one of the ways to cope with anger. That and reading stuff about powerlessness over others, accepting life on life's terms, seeing reality as it is without condoning it, and getting a belief in your own power to find/create the kind of work place you want. It is possible.

And it's also possible to make work right-sized, in the sense that it occupies less and less primacy in your heart and head - it's not the place where you get fulfillment and live out your life mission. You get to explore other avenues for doing that - as you did when you did the volunteer work.

I think that moving has really discombobulated your sense of purpose, usefulness, belonging, stability. I learned that it takes about 3 years to adjust more or less completely to a new community, and you are there not even a year. Just putting things into perspective can help.

I think one of the challenges for you is realizing the depth to which [the organization] is dysfunctional. You thought it might improve, and now you realize it's even worse. The values work makes the place even more of a lie, because it puts the dysfunction in even higher relief. The disappointment is bigger now, as is the sense of betrayal by [your boss]. Accepting such unpalatable facts is quite a difficult process and is ultimately liberating, once you're through the anger and pain.

I don't know that the anger is a bad thing. Acting on it inappropriately isn't desirable because we want to protect you, keep you safe. Feeling the anger is good, actually empowering, because it's an anger of recognition, of having the scales fall from your eyes and the reality becoming clear. This anger is like a fire that clears the brush and reveals the true panorama.

And here's some of her response:

Thanks for this - some really good thoughts and advice. It is good to vent because it helps me to clarify and get feedback on what I see. That I am not being a whiner, nor am I nuts or unreasonable. I have a handle on it and am not acting up in any way here.

There's a difference between having the anger and being in the anger. One can be angry and not let the anger define or rule you. I've found it vital to accept, validate and express my anger. It takes away its power over me, makes it simply a normal part of the process of separating from one's current existence and moving into a new one. Pain motivates us to leave an untenable situation. I think anger is the fuel that keeps us moving, that works against "settling" and complacency - as long as we accept our anger as part of this process of separation. No one likes change, even if we want it. Change is so difficult and comes in such unexpected ways. It takes us by surprise and often spurs anger because it hurts or causes unsought for awareness or is happening too soon or not on our terms. Whatever the reason for the anger, it is a sign that we are experiencing change, that we are dissatisfied with the way things are, and that we want and, yes, need something new, better, more pleasurable.

I don't know why my friend is still at this dysfunctional place. I do know that the more she accepts her anger as a sign of her recognizing that she DESERVES to work someplace more suitable for her talents, temperament and personality, the more quickly she will find that new place. Anger may be the sign that our present is no longer suitable for who we are now and for who we are meant to become. So embrace it, love it, and welcome its message of hope that you are on the path to better things. Transform the anger into acceptance of life as it really is, and you will have something to work with, a foundation from which to take your next right step.

Friday, February 20, 2009

11 Ways to Approach Job Search

Click on the title to get to an article with some great short things to do and remember during your job search from the Five O'Clock Club (a national career coaching and outplacement organization.

Targeting Potential Employers

You can be proactive in your job search by looking for places you want to work, seeing if they have any jobs open, and then networking your way into an interview. This article on addresses non-profits specifically because those are Idealist's target market. All the tips apply to a for-profit job search, as well.

You also can lay the groundwork for being considered if a job does open up, by targeting your desired employers and becoming known to them. One colleague found work after deciding the kind of work she wanted to do, identifying companies that engaged in similar work, and networking her way into informational interviews. The companies had no open jobs at the time, so she essentially invested in the future by establishing relationships first. After several informational interviews, the top people at one company were so impressed by her thinking, skills and approach that they actually created a job for her.

My colleague got her foot in the door in a new industry by networking. First, however, she found places she wanted to work within that new industry by doing her research.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Setting Salary Expectations

Right now, employers hold most of the cards in salary negotiations. Websites like and point out that now is the time to get top-notch talent for relative bargain prices.

"Relative" is the key word here. Because most employers know that people who accept pay well below their desired salary will end up resentful and will leave the moment the economy recovers. The cost of replacing that person probably far exceeds that of giving them the extra $10-40K more initially. Not all employers are smart, of course, so it behooves you to know YOUR "live with" salary level.

A salary you can live with is one that:

* meets your minimum financial needs
* allows you to feel self-respect
* frees you to engage in the work itself
* enables you to work someplace without a huge chip on your shoulder and an escape plan in your back pocket

I suggest to people that they tell potential employers that they have a salary range, from their "live with" or "must have" minimum to a "want to have" or "desired" salary. If the employer can't do the minimum, then it's not the right opportunity for you. Period. Move on. Don't waste any more of your time or the employer's.

If the employer can meet the minimum but not the top amount, I suggest saying "what's the best you can do?" There always is asking when there could be a salary review, as well as exploring other forms of compensation (e.g. equity stake, more vacation, deferred comp, bonuses, retirement matches, education allowance, commuter subsidy, full health insurance coverage for you and your family, a contract for at least a year with a promise of severance...).

People who do have jobs have some leverage even in this economy, because you will be taking a risk by switching jobs. The employer needs to meet you in negotiations. If they don't, you might hold it against them.

If it doesn't matter to you whether they grant any of your requests, then no worries. Understand, however, that this is indicative of their attitude toward employees and will carry through into the workplace. Everything in the interview process is a source of information about what your work experience will be like at that company.

Salary information

Here's a new job search site that provides information on salaries for specific jobs at specific employers:

I typed in "Director of Marketing" and the site returned 178 salary results (at 154 companies) around the US, and 26 in New York City. NYC salaries ranged from $305,000 to $40,000. The site also returned results for similar job titles, such as Director of Sales and Marketing, Business Dev. & Marketing Director, and Director Marketing Communications.

For Chief Operating Officer, there were 77 salaries (at 63 companies), and 5 in New York City (salaries ranging from $500,000 to $58,000).

There were prompts for "Popular Jobs" including Project Manager, Registered Nurse, Architect, Engineer - a fairly wide range of occupations.

From what I saw, all those jobs were at for-profit companies. While I found a few non-profit fundraising jobs, I would guess that the site has yet to build up a database for the non-profit sector.

This is one more good resource for finding out if your salary requirements and wishes are in line with what the industry is NOW paying.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Interview Tactics

Sometimes an interviewer asks you a question you didn't expect. There's no need to panic - you know the answer. All you need to do is give yourself some time to remember the answer and formulate the beginning of your answer. Here are some tactics that definitely work.

* Pause before answering if you are unsure of the answer

* Say "that's a great question"

* Repeat the question back to them "so you're wondering if I _____________" and wait for them to nod or say yes

* Use the question as the beginning of your answer. For example, if the person asks "tell me about a time you had to organize a project in a short time frame," you say "An example of when I organized a project that had a short time frame is..."

All of these buy you time, giving your brain a chance to quickly come up with an answer. Plus each of these tactics has some added benefit:

- Saying "great question" flatters them and people like that subliminally even if they think they are cynical about it.

- Repeating the question mirrors them back to themselves, makes them feel smart, AND makes them feel like you were really listening to them.

- Repeating the question or using it in your answer focuses YOU and your brain on the question and helps you come up with an appropriate answer.

If you're not sure you've adequately answered the question, STOP TALKING. Take a pause after you have answered the question - in two to five sentences max - to see if the interviewer has a followup question. I call it "the pause that refreshes."

I also suggest saying "I hope I've answered your question" or "Have I answered your question?" The interviewer will either say yes or no. If s/he says "no," they will then clarify what they wanted you to tell them.

Finally: Remember to breathe.

Think Like a Recruiter

A recruiter gives her advice on how to act as your own recruiter - because a real recruiter isn't going to work for an individual. Recruiters work for the company that pays them.

Is it good to make yourself known to a recruiter? It can't hurt to send a resume, to apply for something posted on their site, see if you can get a conversation on the phone or in person. However, it's important not to expect the recruiter to help you find the right position. The recruiter is focused on filling the job before them, finding the right candidates for the employer to choose from.

Better to apply for a job you really like and then be interviewed by the recruiter. If you are memorable yet not right for the specific job, the recruiter will keep you in the back of their mind and think of you for something else.

In the meantime, these four tips are valuable.

1) You must get out and network
2) Focus on helping others
3) Develop and communicate your "Brand" effectively
4) Research companies and opportunities to "position yourself to be lucky"

Visit for more detail on each one.

The Importance of Decency

On American Express's OPEN forum, Seth Godin and Tom Peters discuss decency and not cutting corners in business with Susan Sobbott (President of OPEN) in this video at

It goes along with my thinking that people are more likely to lead someone who has integrity, respects other people, respects themselves enough to live their values, and sets a powerful example of integrity.

Yes, people will follow someone they fear - for a while. Usually, that's because they need a job, need the money, need to stay comfortable in a place like their childhood, or play the game the same way using fear and intimidation to get ahead. Ultimately, that fear turns into contempt or the person realizes they can't and don't have to follow a bully. They choose to stop following.

Someone who leads with decency generally keeps followers because they CHOOSE to stay with this powerful example.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cover Letters that Work: Dissecting and Improving One

Because it can be difficult to figure out how to write a great cover letter, I decided to put a sample together to show you what I'm talking about in earlier posts on cover letters. The text in regular type is the draft I reviewed, and the ALL CAPS text are my comments. In brackets are the pieces of information specific to the employer to which you are applying. This is a winning format - meaning, you are more likely to win interviews with this cover letter format.


Human Resources
[Employer Name]
[Employer Address]

To Whom it May Concern,

It is with great enthusiasm that I am applying for the [Title of Position] at [Copmpany]. As an avid public radio listener, I have long been a fan of [Company].

As you will see from my resume, I have managed teams at two equally extraordinary institutions, [xyz] and [abc]. In these two positions, I have met or exceeded established goals. Some specific accomplishments include:

• designing and implementing fundraising strategies generating more than $1m
in revenue
• instituting systems to improve operational efficiency
• successfully engaging key stakeholders in joint ownership of processes
and solutions







Prior to working with non-profit institutions, I worked as a corporate human resources/training and organizational development professional. With 10 years of progressive experience, I have specialized in building new functions or increasing the efficiency and capability of my group. Areas of strength include:
• leading and managing staff
• executing projects with many detailed tasks
• communicating with all levels of an organization
• managing budgets and analyzing and presenting data
• cultivating relationships



I would be delighted to have the opportunity to discuss my credentials with you further. You can contact me at [telephone number] or at [email address].

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you very soon.


I will post a rewritten cover letter so you can see what difference it makes to use my suggested changes.

Friday, February 13, 2009

E-Job Search Tools

Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn - these are the newest mechanisms for job seekers and employers alike.

Twitter has #jobangels, where folks who have and need jobs can post and meet up.

Facebook also has JobAngels, and a growing number of baby boomer and Gen X users. I'm now reconnecting with a ton of high school classmates as well as college pals. While I'm not seeking a job, I can identify the people who might know of jobs, and definitely would be delighted to refer people to those in my network.

LinkedIn already has a reputation for connecting people around jobs. Now, it's expanding its capacity for employment matchmaking. First, it's more pointedly marketing its membership to recruiters who are using keywords to find potentially qualified candidates. Second, it has enhanced its job posting feature, showing jobs are exclusive to LinkedIn as well as jobs on other job e-sites.

Two very cool benefits: When you search by key word, jobs pop up first in the LinkedIn-exclusive tab, and the site identifies people in your network connected to those jobs (1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections). And when you click on a specific job, it suggests people in your network who might be good for that job. This feature's in beta testing now, and there definitely are glitches - a development officer was not identified as appropriate for a development job!

All of these sites have one thing in common: the more people you connect with, the more expansive your job possibilities and opportunities. Clearly, this business model works for the sites, also, for the more eyeballs on a site, the more appealing it is to advertisers. In this case, it appears to be a win/win/win situation for the sites, job seekers and employers.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lessons from Spain on Economic Rebooting

Spain's economic downturn began well before that in the US. One can see photos of huge housing developments outside Madrid lying virtually empty. Jobs and credit are scarce. Today unemployment is over 15%. As a result, entrepreneurship is again on the rise after declining post-Internet bubble and 9/11.

In the Universia-Knowledge@Wharton article "Innovation ‘Out of Necessity’: Entrepreneurship during a Downturn," Ignacio de la Vega, director of the IE Business School’s Center for Entrepreneurial Management and president of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), says "since there are fewer job opportunities today, many unemployed people will have to look for refuge in self-employment."

Obviously, there are obstacles to successful entrepreneurial activity - fear of failure, lack of financing, diminished demand for goods and services in this down-turning economy, and increased competition locally and globally. None are easy for the individual entrepreneur to deal with - de la Vega suggests a variety of government interventions to encourage banks to ease credit availability and lessen the tax burden on entrepreneurial activities.

In line with the turning to entrepreneurship out of necessity, Spain's "typical entrepreneur is maturing and aging." De la Vega suggests that this can be advantageous because more mature entrepreneurs have more knowledge of their sectors and industries. This will help entrepreneurs develop more competitive businesses, even in this very tough environment.

Regarding financing, [t]he entrepreneur contributes part of the funding from his own pocket, which means that there are fewer and fewer [external] sources of funding.

Roughly even numbers of men and women are entrepreneurs, with women starting businesses more often within the services sector. The start-up costs are lower in that sector, and it favors people who work at home. Additional opportunity exists for entrepreneurs in the renewable energy field; Spain is one of the world's leaders in wind and solar energy technology.

Lessons for the US?

* As jobs disappear, more entrepreneurs will emerge by necessity.
* Unemployment benefits can be a great life-line as one starts their business.
* Services require less start-up capital.
* Use technology as the platform for your business and to market yourself.

For those seeking a job, use your job search as a place to practice entrepreneurial skills. Identify your goal, figure out if you have what it takes to do the job right now, and come up with a plan to get the skills and market yourself effectively to employers. The internet abounds with great recommendations for how to do that - many of my posts address it, too.

Employer Concerns When Hiring

OK, it's tough out there for job seekers. Competition is high, employers are choosy, salaries aren't what they used to be. It's time to step up your game. Learn to market yourself!

The first rule of marketing is KNOW YOUR MARKET. Read about what employers care about, what they look for, who they want on their team, how they are making sure they find the right person - the FIRST time.

Here's some information about what employers are focused on TODAY:

...job descriptions are high-level overviews of basic skills a person needs to perform the role's functions. The document typically lists various tasks to be done and the prior experience that the company believes is necessary for successful execution. It also includes information such as the title and reporting structure.

Job descriptions are most commonly used for hiring and salary benchmarking. The tasks and experience data outlined in a job description is comprehensive enough to give a candidate an idea about whether they are qualified.

Source: Ellen Raim, Coraggio Group, November 28, 2008

Implication for job seeker: pay attention to the job description. Are you in fact qualified? If you don't know, look at my post about comparing your skills and experience to the posted responsibilities and requirements. Employers use key words now, so you won't make it past "go" if you don't have key qualifications included somewhere in your resume or cover letter (preferably resume or both).

More companies are administering more types of assessments, applying them to a larger universe of job categories and doing it online. In 2009, look for more simulation-based assessments as well as tests that use Flash and other interactive media.

Source: Assessment Providers Scoring Well

Implication for job seeker: learn about the kind of assessments employers are using. Become familiar with your own personality type, learning style, leadership style. There are many free assessment tools on the internet (I'll post some tomorrow).

The point is to get familiar with who you REALLY are, instead of trying to outwit an assessment given by an employer. Be who you are from the start and you will land the right job. Pretend to be someone else and you'll be miserable in your new job - or you'll be found out and fired.

Self-awareness is valuable, too, when you are in an interview. When that dread question "what are your weaknesses?" comes up, you can talk about areas that you are working to develop IN THE CONTEXT OF THE JOB. For example, for a job that requires accurate tracking and monitoring, say "I pay great attention to detail and as I've progressed in my career, I have learned how to fit those details into the big picture." The unstated implication is that your weakness was seeing the big picture, AND that you've overcome that over time and with experience.

Percentage of executives reporting top challenges to address in onboarding, 2009

57% Retention of new employees
53% Productivity of new employees
34% Company reputation/employer of choice
25% Improve customer experience via more effective employees

Source: Survey of 600 HR executives by Aberdeen Group

Implication for job seeker: Once you land a job (and you will!), your employer wants to keep you - AND see results. You'll keep the job if you produce results. They'll support you in doing your job. So ask for support if you need it.

It's better to really learn the ropes in your first 90 days than to try and figure things out by yourself. This is not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of intelligence. You are coming into a new environment; it's just smart to get the lay of the land, figure out the politics, learn the systems, become familiar with the policies, understand some history, and MOST IMPORTANT build relationships throughout the organization. Eventually, you'll make a mistake (everyone does), and those relationships will make the difference between whether people give you an opportunity to learn from it or hold it against you.

To ace your first 90 days, check out the book The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins (2003: Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston MA) ISBN 1-59139-110-5.

5 Tips for a Competitive Resume

From the 2/12/09 NAFE E-Newsletter, some really great tips to gain a competitive edge in today’s job market.:

(Provided by Geraldine Garner, a former associate dean in Northwestern University’s School of Engineering, and President of STCS, Inc.)

Have you sent out lots of resumes, with minimal results? Your resume might not be representing you effectively to potential employers. Here are five tips for doing that.

1. Quantify the impact of work whenever possible. Never exaggerate qualifications but do put them in context. If your project goal was to increase revenue, state how you achieved the goal. A potential statement might be: “Reconfigured product line to increase market share by over 15%.” Phrases such as “approximately,” “ranging from…,” and “estimated decrease/increase of x%” keep data honest, when exact numbers aren’t available.

2. Give examples of how skill sets have been utilized on the job. Don’t assume people “know” your skill set because of your job title. Show how you use a skill on the job. You might have project management certification but it’s important to describe how you use these skills. A potential statement might be: “Scoped, scheduled and budgeted 6 construction projects ranging in value from $500,000 to $10M. All completed on time and within budget.”

3. Remove words like “assist” and “help.” Replace them with descriptions of precisely how you assist or help. A potential statement might be: “Researched, recommended and implemented supply chain improvements for the Vice President of Manufacturing.”

4. Select nouns and verbs carefully but write concise and impactful statements. Today, employers search resume database for qualified candidates. Nouns and verbs need to be accurately aligned with job descriptions and your experience. Also, edit long sentences (more than 16 words) to short clear statements that convey as much information as possible. Make sure they’re still understandable to both professional colleagues and reviewers outside your profession.

5. When applying online, follow all directions. Many job applicants are disqualified because they e-mailed resumes directly, instead of submitting them online or they left off requested information, without explanation. Show that you can follow directions.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Non-Profit Job Market

In today's market, non-profits are flooded with resumes for every posted position. The Chronicle of Philanthropy held an on-line chat today entitled "Recruiting New Employees in a Flooded Market" addressing some of the issues facing both employers and job seekers. Click on this post's title to see the entire transcript. Highlights include:

Transition from For-Profit to Non-Profit

Someone switching mid-career from for-profit to non-profit was told "whom ever decides to hire you will be taking a leap of faith. Having someone make inroads for you so that you're being seen as a trusted, known entity will help. And it's a numbers game out there right now, so keep plugging away and best of luck on your search!"

Effective strategies for addressing this reality are:

1) preparing a resume and cover letter that specify and market your skills and abilities as applicable and transferable from one sector to another;

2) networking, networking, networking (see all my posts on that topic by searching this blog); and,

3) volunteering at any non-profit in whose work you believe, in any function that will a) help you learn a new skill; b) give you exposure and experience to how a non-profit organization actually operates; and/or c) provides opportunities to interact with donors, Board members, and people from other non-profit organizations.

The third strategy - volunteering - is critical, because most for-profit people are shocked when they arrive at a non-profit to discover that they lack access to certain resources and support. Non-profit leaders and HR people are more savvy today, since for-profit people have been looking for non-profit since the 1987 market crash. They know that a for-profit person who has volunteered at a non-profit has the best chance of succeeding in regular employment.

Volunteering is a great way to see if you actually want to work for a non-profit. I've had people decide that they'll take their chances in the for-profit marketplace because they simply need or want to make more money, and want some of the perks that often come with for-profit jobs (cafeterias, car service late at night, IT department, messenger service, plentiful supplies, etc.).

Finally, volunteering is a wonderful way to develop a new "natural network" of people who can keep you in mind when they hear of job openings, and who can serve as references.

Is Anyone Hiring?

Panelists say "yes" with the qualification that most "are looking to fill mission-critical positions that are vacant due to attrition."

There always will be positions open because someone moves away, retires, switches jobs, has a child, has a family leave, becomes disabled - all the usual things. Today (February 11, 2009) www.idealist.comhas about 4500 non-profit job postings - down from roughly 12-15,000 a year ago. So the market definitely is tighter. Reviewing the postings in NYC, roughly 1/3 are managerial or professional and the rest are entry-level or junior.

If you must get a job quickly, think about taking a pay cut or a temporary job. If you get your foot in the door, you will be in better position for an increase or full-time hire when the economy improves.

I anticipate the non-profit job market to continue being very tight for the next four to six months as non-profits adjust to the 20-40% shrinkage in foundation and corporate giving stemming from the drop in the stock market. Giving is pegged to year-end portfolio value, and so there is just less to give out this year. The reduced level of giving will extend for at least three years, as institutional giving rates are based on a three year average portfolio value.

However, in the fall, the major adjustment will be over and the non-profit job market will get back some of its elasticity. This means that people will stop being afraid to look for work, and there will be some moving around. There won't be a lot of NEW jobs created, but there will be a backlog of positions opening through attrition that must be filled.

General Good Advice

One of the panelists said this: The best predictor of the future is the past, so know your numbers, accomplishments and performance highlights extremely well. Ask yourself in each job that I've had, what have I done to MAKE MONEY, SAVE MONEY, or where have I implemented or changed a PROCESS THAT IMPACTED THE BOTTOM-LINE? Especially in these tough economic times, being able to show your value to an organization based on past performance is key.

Everyone preparing a resume can use this advice. People who want to stand out in a huge pile of resumes will focus on what RESULTS they have delivered, using numbers and percentages and impact statements. When hiring managers are deluged with resumes, the first ones to go in the "no" pile are those with generalities and descriptions of what someone did. The ones that will be reviewed are those that give concrete information about the applicant's past performance.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Words Matter in Resumes

In a crowded marketplace, you can stand out with an out-of-the-ordinary resume. The article from Pongo Blog (click on post title to get there) highlights five great words for resumes that are no yet overused. They are:

Spearheaded (instead of led or played a key role)
Created (instead of helped make or facilitated)
Initiated (instead of began or started)
Accelerated (instead of sped up)
Consolidated (instead of brought together, merged, combined, or united)

I love these words. Other non-run-of-the-mill words I like to use instead of managed, oversaw, led, developed, supervised, coordinated, assisted, conducted, and facilitated include:


Acceptable but not ideal words include:


Use these when you have so many accomplishments that you don't want to repeat a word.

Directional words are always useful when accompanied by numbers modified by $ or %:


I tend to like positive directional words instead of downward trending words - subliminally it conveys that you are a positive person, an addition to the team.

I even like adjectives and adverbs, such as "dramatically increased" and "substantially improved." Again, back this up with numbers, so they are not simply taking your word for it - because they WON'T! Resume reviewers have antennae for identifying a line of garbage, and most will toss resumes that contain generalizations without any backup figures or verifiable results.

Remember, the thesaurus function on Word is your friend, as is Instead of using an ordinary word, look for an extraordinary one that conveys your talent as vibrantly as you would in person.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Should I Apply? Make a job responsibility/experience comparison grid

A very easy, relatively low-tech way to figure out if you have the qualifications for a specific job is to compare your experience and skills with the responsibilities and requirements laid out in a job description. Here's how to form the grid itself:

In Word, go to the tab "Table" on the top.

Left click on it. A new little window will come up saying "insert" and "delete."

Click on "insert." Another little window comes up that says "Table" (and some other inaccessible things - ignore).

Click on "Table." A new screen comes up that allows you to specify how many columns (vertical) and rows (horizontal) you want.

Click on the bottom arrow of "columns" until you get to "2" and click on the top arrow of "rows" until you get to "6" or whatever number you think you'll need.

Then I cut and paste the distinct pieces of the responsibilities and requirements (put both sections in, as both contain vital information), one per left box.

If you run out of boxes, you can make more in two ways.

1) go to the bottom right box and hit "tab" and another row will appear.

2) right click on "table" and then click on "insert." You'll be prompted to add either rows above or below, or columns to the right or left. You want "rows below."

Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to add more than one at a time, with either method.

Once you have all the responsibilities and requirements in their grid boxes, start writing in the right column how you match those with your credentials and experience. BE SPECIFIC! Give numbers, measurable impact, kinds of people you worked with, type of projects. Include EVERYTHING you can think of.

This grid will help you decide whether it's worth it for you to apply. If you do, the grid then serves as a basis for creating a very targeted cover letter, that markets you effectively as having what it takes to meet the employer's needs.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Getting Unstuck

A few people this week have lamented about how stuck they feel and how they just don't know how to get unstuck. All are pretty conscious human beings, who understand the power of thought, the Law of Attraction, the use of affirmations. They use these and other tools, and are quite frustrated that they are not moving forward yet. I point out the progress I have seen to little avail. The progress is not manifesting externally or at least not fast enough. More important, they feel stuck. And so that is where they are: stuck.

One conversation today eventually revealed that the person is protecting something through her stuck-ness. While we talked, she wrote the question "what am I protecting?" at the same time as I told her I visualized a block of ice with something frozen inside, like that cave man in the Swiss Alps who was revealed when the glacier receded. The conversation was delicate. We were picking away at the surrounding defenses through observations and questions and emotions and answers, and together arrived at the same place: there is something old and precious literally stuck in the ice that is somewhere inside her subconscious or soul or energy field or somewhere like that.

This dear woman used her words and brains and talents and job search efforts almost as hay or straw to insulate the block of ice and prevent anyone from seeing it as well as protect it from melting. Today, she made huge, courageous progress by being willing to peek behind the straw and to take some of it away so I could see the ice. What's inside remains indistinct.

Yet, like the cave man revealed by the warmth of the sun, what's inside will gradually come to light. She didn't consciously know that this was there. Now that she does, there's an opening for her to do some work on freeing herself from the stuckness. Because, in reality, she is trapped inside that block of ice along with whatever it is she's protecting. I believe that as long as a part of us is inaccessible, it will be difficult to fully realize our goals and dreams.

Luckily, life reveals those challenges to us by presenting situations in which we feel trapped or stuck. It's sort of like having a giant magnet outside us very powerfully attracting whatever it is that is hidden deep inside. Until I pass over or by that magnet, I'm not aware that I have anything within that will stop me. I can demagnetize it by bringing it into the open, into the light, and either discarding it or transmuting it into something so fundamentally different that the attraction is gone. I am no longer stuck, I am free to move on.

My coaches (yes, I have two now) and my experience with getting unstuck all suggest that if you're stuck where you are now and see no way out, it may be time for work on emotions and on the subconscious level. Some tools I've used to help myself get unstuck are stream-of-consciousness writing, meditation, non-dominant hand writing, dream work, and change of scenery.

For my stuck friend, I suggested she write about the block of ice. Writing stream-of-consciousness - meaning whatever comes into your mind, you write down - consider these questions: What size is it, shape? What does it look like? What does she see inside it? Color, shape, size? What might it be? What might it be saying? Why is it inside the ice? How long has it been there? What's the ice doing for it? What's it afraid of? Doing stream-of-consciousness writing like this usually leads to surprising answers.

At very least, it leads to more information. Is there a question that you shy away from answering? That's the tender spot that probably needs more probing. Like in shiatsu, acupuncture and trigger point therapy, the tender spots are where the energy is stored. By applying pressure or a needle to that spot, the energy block is released and energy flow is restored, with better health the result.

So if there's a tender spot, start probing it gently through talking, writing, pondering. Eventually, the attention you pay will act as warmth to melt the surrounding ice and reveal the secret within. That could be deep sense of unworthiness instilled somewhere in childhood. Or fear of losing love if one is successful. Or an old insult or criticism after what felt like a success, but was ruined for you.

Whatever it is, my guess is that there are tears to be shed. Hot tears that further melt the ice and free your energy to flow freely, bringing heat and breath to areas of your life you never imagined needing feeding.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality (Plutarch)

Centuries ago, Plutarch said: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality. This ancient wisdom reaffirms how important is self-awareness and exploration. Growth starts within and then manifests outward.

A young woman I coach pro bono observed that her outer life is still the same even though her inner world is totally different. I assured her that outer changes will come. She will act when the time is right, because she is making ready internally.

When she expressed frustration that she's not taking action, I observed that she actually is taking a lot of action. Right now, her goal is to find her purpose, and she is taking action to discover it, via taking classes and coaching.

"Being in action" isn't necessarily or even primarily about the end result, it's about engaging in the process of discovery that leads to achieving the desired goal/end result. I've also found that the goal can change through my action and interaction with the universe in pursuit of self-knowledge and discovery. Again, my inward achievement is reflected in my outer reality, actions and choices.

So the moral of the story is that if you feel stuck, it is probably time to do some inner work. Shifting internally will result in external shifts.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Reductions in force at non-profits

Blue Avocado's most recent issue is The Layoff Issue. In it are articles about being laid off, doing lay-offs right, furloughs, and what to do when you lose your health insurance. All of these stories and the comments led me to remember my own experiences with layoffs - well, let's call it letting them go, because there never was any intention of rehiring them as implied by the term "layoff."

I had to lay people off twice when I was an Executive Director, and then was let go twice from ED jobs - sort of what goes around comes around, I guess. Both sides were very difficult.

The first time I laid people off, it was necessary to save the organization. I took over February 28 and the spend rate was such that the organization would have been out of business in September. The remaining staff gave me a fireman's toy kit complete with hatchet at our holiday party that year. I laughed as did they, because the organization survived and went on to thrive.

The second letting go was seven years later, after 9/11, when our income declined. I let go of 20% of our staff on one day - it was termed a "bloodbath." And it was - the cut was sudden, the people had to leave that day after clearing out desks and saying good-bye to co-workers. That was done on advice of counsel - something I regret to this day because our pro bono corporate law firm did not seek to protect people's feelings, just the organization from any liability. I see today that I was governed by fear, and treated people badly because of that fear. To this day, I wish I had been able to live my stated values of caring for people and intending never to lay people off again.

In fact, "reduction in force" (RIF) may not have been necessary. That situation was not as clear cut as that seven years earlier, and in retrospect, I wish I had decided on across-the-board pay cuts and possible furloughs instead of a RIF. It would have spread the pain around, although it is likely that it would have simply put off the inevitable.

I did have some courage and some compassion, and worked with a whole team of people to plan and implement the RIF. It was important for me to do it in person, to talk to the people who remained, and to provide severance pay and outplacement services. Those things were pretty meaningless in the face of job loss, however, and there was a lot of anger and sense of betrayal by those who lost their jobs. Many of them struggled afterward; I think some of the pain could have been avoided by measures short of RIF.

Ultimately, I got to experience the pain of being let go from a job. As an Executive Director, I was subject to what I think were changes in Board priorities and personality preferences. My experience led me to see how my choices in 2002 created an environment where the Board had tacit permission to behave quite callously in letting me go. I now know how devastating it was for those I let go, and understand viscerally how difficult it is to recover and ultimately to forgive.

Most of all, I learned an important lesson: non-profits are simply places where human beings work. And human beings do all sorts of terrible, wonderful, and mediocre things to each other, regardless of where we work. It's important not to have too high expectations that people will behave honorably and with compassion simply because they work with or are associated with a non-profit organization. Nonetheless, I hope people reading this wonderful set of articles will take heart from some of the stories and have courage to do what they feel is the right thing to do.