Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thinking About Personal Branding

Since posting about personal branding the other day, I've been mulling the subject over. It's easy to see why people are writing about it - there's something seductive about taking communications strategies conceived for big organizations and applying them to our own, individual needs.

If I wanted to be cynical, I'd say this is just another example of marketing-culture creep: We should all be thinking of ways to spin ourselves into the best possible light. But I tend to be more retro than cynical, so I think personal branding isn't about spin so much as it's about communication, in this case having a clear view on what kind of person you are and how you want to be perceived.

Notice that I included "what kind of person you are" in that sentence. If we're going to talk about personal branding then we've to get comfortable with the notion we're the product, and that we want to convey the depth of our product's quality to the people we meet. Or, to remove the product-speak, we want others to perceive us as qualified, talented, decent - the kind of people it's good to do business with, or hire, or promote.

This means there's got to be substance in your product. We're not selling breakfast cereal, after all. If you want to develop your career, you've got to think about doing good work - and pursuing the kind of work you want to do - before you begin planning your communications or job-search strategies. We all know people who think about positioning themselves first and backing up that positioning later. These are the people who convey the impression they've got expertise they don't, in fact, possess. In my experience, they tend to talk fast and brusquely brush back anyone who questions them. Some of them flame out - at some point their technical ignorance, or their inability to get actual work done, catches up with them.

My point: Thinking about personal branding is all to the good. But be sure to build your brand on a record of solid work.

Should You Blog?

Visibility and Web-savvy are useful when job-hunting. So, should you merge those goals by starting your own financial Web site or blog? In most situations, experts say no.

Read the full story.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Facing the Tough Stuff

What do Steven Jobs, Howard Stern and Terrell Owens have in common? They've all been fired. While at the time it seems devastating, most people rebound after termination and move on to new opportunities. One thing is certain: To get your next job you'll need to answer questions about why you left your last one.

Read the full story.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Site for Women

Damsels in Success is a networking site for women that emphasizes sharing experiences and advice. It covers a lot of topics, many of which you'd expect to see - such as the glass ceiling - but many of which you wouldn't - like happiness and men vs. women. Why wouldn't I expect to see such things? Because often, those are the topics that business-oriented sites gloss over. The site's highly designed but easy to navigate, and goes out of its way to break through the Web's anonymity by showing you a fair amount of detail on those who are participating.

Damsels in Success

Communications is Worth Something

In New York and New Jersey, compliance demands and Wall Street's merger and acquisition work is driving the need for accountants, Myra Thomas tells us. But the real demand is for those who can communicate:

Especially where big deals and M&A work are involved, CPAs need to be very sharp and must come across as highly polished when offering recommendations to clients. Great presentation skills and a smooth delivery can go a long way. "Companies are looking for accountants who are excellent communicators and can effectively convey technical concepts to diverse audiences, including individuals who may not have a financial background," says Dawn Fay, regional vice president in New York City for Robert Half International.

Also, computer savvy is driving the field more than ever. New York area accountants need to be especially savvy on this end, as they deal with some of the largest, more complex, and global firms in the world. "Information technology skills, especially proficiency with products such as Microsoft Excel and Access and enterprise resource planning systems, are highly valued," says Fay.

See Myra's story here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Speaking of Strategy...

On his blog Cube Rules, Scot Herrick notes that talk about Personal Branding - which "says, in essence, that each of us have a personal brand that is being associated with ourselves whether we like it or not and we should work on developing our own brand" - is only as good as the execution that follows it:
You see, to really create a personal brand, you can’t just stand around thinking about it, plotting it out on your piece of paper, and coming up with the five things to do to create the brand.

You actually have to go do them. And that’s where we fail.

Scot calls Personal Branding one of the "great themes out in the blogosphere right now," and though I wouldn't go that far, I will say I've been hearing more and more about it. That quibble aside, his point is well-taken, and applies directly to your efforts at career management. Bosses - present and prospective - like nice presentation, sure, but the quality of your work is important too. You want to develop a personal brand that emphasizes your thoroughness, your technical and business knowledge, your savvy and your attention to detail.

Personal Branding is About Doing [Cube Rules]

On Camera?

Are video resumes a fad? Blogger Ryan Healy thinks so, and gives three reasons:
  • Looking good on camera is a learned skill
  • Written communication is a more important
  • Most jobs never require you to be on camera
All good points. To me, the clincher is still that most U.S. business worry they're setting themselves up for discrimination actions if they actually see the candidate while doing their early screening. At least one commentator replies that Healy should "let recruiting attempt to evolve," but I don't think much evolution's going to go on here until the EEOC gets involved

Video resumes are a short-term fad [Employee Evolution]

Common-Sense Networking

Ruth Gatling's approach to networking belies the notion that more is better. After opening a business in New Jersey, she found she could attend at least one networking event every business day until she reached the point of overload. Rather than try to keep it up, she became more strategic in her approach, going to fewer events to get to know people more personally. So, her guide posts became:

Familiarity: ...(S)eeing the same faces time and time again is the best way to get to know people. Few people do business based on a single encounter. We want to take the time to become familiar with each other. What’s the best way to do this? Keep going back. I may not go to a lot of events, but the ones I go to, I go to religiously…

Participation: really reap the benefits of networking I get involved. Any organization is essentially a business and running a business requires manpower. My top two networking organizations are BNI (Business Network International) and NJAWBO (New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners). Contributing my time and expertise to the operational aspects of these two organizations has helped me to develop strong ties with other participants. These ties have turned into excellent business opportunities…

Commonality: We all tend to seek out like-minded people. Whether it’s political viewpoints or food preferences, we find comfort in the shared experience. Some of my comfort zones: Women business owners, small business owners, moms, yoga fanatics...

Yoga fanatics and business? Well, yes and no. No, Gatling's not in the yoga business. But, yes, having something in common eases conversation and leads to any number of connections closer to her field (which is administrative services). "Unless I’m at a business networking function I rarely enter into a conversation with business at the forefront of my thoughts. But it’s always in the back of my mind," she writes.

This is a common-sense approach that can apply to most any kind of business, and at most any level. So much of what you read about networking exhorts you to go out and connect (I've done a fair amount of exhorting, myself), but Gatling focuses on making sure your efforts are well-spent.

Her article appears in the National Networker, a site that bills itself as "both a newsletter as well as website portal for all Networking activity throughout the United States." Full disclosure: It was founded by someone I met in a networking group but have come to regard as a friend, and whom I've found to be a thoughtful business coach, Adam Kovitz. If you're interested in networking, I do recommend signing up for its e-mail newsletter. Sometimes, it can be a bit overly rosy about the joys of networking, but for those who need ideas and encouragement, it's a good read.

One Business Woman’s Experience in the World of Networking [National Networker]

Friday, August 24, 2007

More on Media

Here's what Vintage Foster e-mailed me when I asked why an accounting firm like Armanino McKenna would create a unit devoted to media and communications. As I wrote yesterday, Foster is teaming up with Armanino after years spent as a business publisher.

The world of cost-per-thousand and traditonal approaches to marketing has changed. The models are different, the formulas are different.

Combine that with the fact that traditional public relations has been more art than science and you have a marketplace in need of a real help. What we see is as an opportunity to mix legitimate communications know-how with the analytical skill set that has made Armanino McKenna the powerhouse.

Fair enough, but it's still got me thinking. Armanino is known as an innovative firm, and in a state with as much media going on as California, this could the kind of move that puts its full range of services in front of a host of new prospective clients. And, to a certain degree, consulting is consulting, whether you're developing media strategies or business strategies.

I'm leery of communications strategies that are developed purely by numbers, which is the first thing that comes to mind when you say "an accounting firm is getting into media consulting." After all, media-by-spreadsheet is the kind of approach that has made broadcast television everything it is today. But I don't think that's what's going on here. By many accounts Foster has done well running newspapers in tough markets, and a combination of heavy trend analysis guided by a communications hand could probably come up with interesting strategies. We'll see.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Armanino McKenna Delves into Communications

California accounting firm Armanino McKenna has brought on a publishing industry veteran to form a communications and media consulting firm.

The publisher, Vintage Foster, was publisher and chief executive of the East Bay Business Times from 1999 through 2003, and of the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal from December 2003 until now. The new firm, Armanino McKenna Foster, will operate as a division of Armanino McKenna. In addition to offering branding, marketing, advertising and other communications services, it will provide non-media services such as recruitment and workforce diversity consulting. Managing Partner Andy Armanino said the new unit allows the firm to "marry" its business expertise with "innovative and effective communications support."

This is fascinating to me, and I've reached out to Armanino McKenna to ask what made them think to move into communications consulting. It brings the notion of "strategic consulting" among accounting firms to a new level.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

About Professional Associations...

We got a letter:

My boss wants me to join his professional association. It's a big financial and time commitment, and I'm not sure I see the benefit. Am I missing something?"

Well, yes, you are.

Read why.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cover Letters: Not Extinct, Just Evolved

The paperless world of electronic job boards means you don't need a cover letter any more, right? Well, actually, no.

So you can just send your cover letter as an attachment with your resume?

Again, no.

But you can send the same cover letter for every posting you answer?

No, no, no. And once more for good measure: No.

While the medium has changed, the message is still the same: Cover letters - even electronic ones - have to be carefully constructed, well-written, error-free, customized to the criteria of each job, and addressed to a specific person. Avoid fancy typefaces, crazy ink colors, exuberant punctuation and emoticons. Sound well-educated (but not pompous), professional (but not uptight) and enthusiastic (but not chatty).

No one said this would be easy.

Read the full story.

Monday, August 20, 2007

For All to See

MSNBC is running a story about whether employers should check out the online profiles of prospective hires on sites like Facebook or MySpace. Nothing new there. The article ploughs the old ground about whether what's posted is somehow "private," and whether the snapshots of you being stupid after chugging 17 bottles of beer in 35 minutes - or whatever - should be held against you. In the comments, a lot of users argue that what you do in your personal time is no one's business but your own, and that the right to privacy encompasses the snapshots you posted your very own self on a public site.

Maybe it's not about privacy, though. Maybe it's about judgment. I mean, we can argue about what's private and what's not all we want, but at the end of the day if you post a picture for everyone to see, people are going to make judgments, whether we like it or not.

Job candidates getting tripped up by Facebook [MSNBC]

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Work or Not?

There's an interesting discussion going on over at The Wall Street Journal's "The Juggle" blog, based on a post examining whether one should keep juggling career and family - and shouldering all of the accompanying stress and general misery - or just give it up, stay home with the kids, and have a more focused life. From my scan of the comments, most of those joining in seem to be in the "I'd-stay-at-home-if-I-could-afford-to" camp. As one woman, an attorney wrote:

If someone paid me to stay home full-time, I’d do it in a heartbeat. While I enjoy my work and take pride in what I do, I am much more proud of the wonderful child we are raising. But for me, that choice is simply not there.
And there's this telling slip:

I think about this everyday from the money I wake up because the very first question my daughter asks everyday is if I have to go to work today.
What's also interesting is how many people are concerned about re-entering the workforce after they take time off to raise a child. Despite all the talk by firms about wanting to get these people back, there's still a lot of fear out there.

Tempted to Quit and Stay at Home [WSJ]

Calif. Program Targets Industry CPAs

An increasing number of CPAs have been filling leadership roles in California's non-accounting firms. Yet traditionally, most programming from the state's leading accounting organization has targeted CPAs at public accounting firms. Now, the California Society of Certified Public Accountants thinks it's fixed that.

The full story's here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

About Long Job Searches

I was talking today to a partner in a small but busy CPA firm about this post, and about the trouble some people seem to have with landing new jobs. I posed the question: Why, in this market, when so many firms are having so much trouble finding qualified people to fill accounting roles, is anyone having difficulty finding work? He zeroed in on a few possibilities:

  • All the talk of high demand is causing people to expect unrealistic compensation packages. Especially at smaller firms, "pay comes out of the owner's or partner's pocket."

  • Older candidates often wait for "the ideal" opportunity, passing up the chance to take other positions they may regard as being either beneath them or simply not a perfect fit.

  • Some candidates wait too long. My friend wonders about some resumes he sees, where the candidate has been without a job for several years. Surely, he thinks, something must have been offered up during all that time. If not, what's it say about the candidate?

  • Finally, some people are just bad employees. A huge red flag is the number of jobs someone has held over a period of time. Does your resume list three positions in four years? Probably, anyone reading it is asking themselves what your problem is.
There comes a point, my friend seems to think, that you should take a job - even one that doesn't meet your idea of what your position should be - so that you can demonstrate you're still in the game and determined to work.

One other hint: If you're worried about pricing yourself out of the market and you're asked about your salary expectations, answer "whatever the position is budgeted for."

Recruiters Hunt in Association Directories

Joining a professional association for accounting or financial professionals may have an added benefit beyond networking and keeping up-to-date on industry trends: Recruiters are increasingly combing their membership lists of potential job candidates.

Read the story here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

So About Gen Y...

From the Australian Web site

THE jury is in on Generation Y and the verdict isn't good. Employers say Gen-Ys are short on skills, demanding, impatient and far from loyal, according to a survey.

The deep ambivalence of SME They don't define it, but I believe they mean "small-medium enterprise.) employers towards Gen-Ys - those born between 1977 and 1992 and now aged 15 to 30 - is revealed in the latest SME Opinion Leaders poll, a survey of 315 SME owners across the country conducted by SmartCompany in conjunction with Roy Morgan Research and Dun & Bradstreet.

Poor spelling and grammar and a failure to understand what constitutes appropriate corporate behaviour are the biggest bugbears, with almost 70 per cent of surveyed employers reporting dissatisfaction with their Gen-Y employees’ performance in those areas.

The communication skills of Gen-Y staff disappointed 48 per cent of SME owners.

But, it seems, Gen-Ys either don’t know or don’t care about their employers’ distinct lack of enthusiasm for what they have to offer. Almost 90 per cent of employers surveyed agree Gen-Ys are more demanding than other workers when it comes to advancing their careers, and 79 per cent say Gen-Ys are more likely to ask for a pay rise.

Getting behind Gen Y seems to be a fashion among deep thinkers and business media lately. I've heard senior recruiters talk about how important it is to adjust their approach to a workforce that demands more balance, more flexibility and more rewards more quickly. What seems to be a given, though, is that this generation will perform to the same standards as their predecessors - old people, like me at 47, who are apparently stuck in our ways and spend a fair amount of time worrying about the quality of our product.

The poll found that Gen Y'ers bring a lot of technical knowledge to their work, often bolstering the efforts of their Baby Boomer bosses. And the article goes on to suggest the way to get the most of these hires, and develop them into valuable employees, is to communicate with them - in their own language and through their own channels. Posting a message on the bulletin board - bad. Texting the message - good.

So I'm kind of split on all this. On the one hand, I think the business world could use some cultural change. I like balance, I like diversity and it seems the changing demographics of the work force are far more effective at pressing these issues than are fifty years worth of legislation. On the other hand, every time I hear of a job candidate showing up for an interview with a parent, or a parent talk about how they're going to call their child's boss because of a workplace issue - and I have heard these things - I wonder at what point Gen Y will stand on its own.

The point about communication is a great one, and ultimately the answer lies there. It's important that a firm communicate in ways its staff will pay attention to, and it's important for Gen Y hires to communicate effectively with their employers. Among Boomers, instant messaging and texting aren't always the first things that come to mind when they want to talk with someone. Someone from Gen Y who extends themselves to write a detailed e-mail, pick up the phone, or (gasp) talk to someone in person could end up with a whole range of new friends.

Why bosses hate Gen-Y []

Eye on the Horizon

Just as CPAs have caught up with the changes wrought by Sarbanes-Oxley, a whole new set of dynamics is coming down the pike. Tomorrow's auditors and accountants will need a skill-set both broader and deeper than today's professionals. Four skill clusters stand out in particular: technology, verbal and written communication, international experience, and the ability to apply international reporting standards.

Here's the scoop.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sure, It's Quiet Now...

Here’s an article you want to show your boss before tax season. It seems that European companies pay a lot more attention to workplace stress than American firms do. (Of course, European workers tend to get more vacation time than we do, also, so this shouldn't come as a surprise.) Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline - UK-based, I should note - has created a program to handle stress among company teams that focuses on the actual source of stress, not just the symptoms of it. The result, according to The Wall Street Journal, has been significant reductions of work-related mental illness and mental-health-related absences, and a related savings of about $1.4 million during the years between 2003 and 2006.

Companies Aim to Combat Job-Related Stress [WSJ]

Friday, August 10, 2007

Intelligence Gathering

When you think about it, interviews are kind of a sham.

Okay, so maybe that's a bit dramatic, but it's true: When you go to an interview everyone - you, the HR folks, the hiring managers - are on their best behavior. (Unless you're talking with one of those managers who likes to test people by arguing or somehow intimidating. I hear about these people from time to time, though I've never actually run into one.) Dale Dauten of Hartford Business puts it this way:

Let’s face it, most interviews are really outer-views. You see the person’s person, and not much else. That’s not his or her real personality, of course, much less real attitudes about work. Oh, I know some of you are thinking, “But, Dale, I have a sense for people — I can spot BS a mile away.” That won’t help. If job candidates tell you that they get along with everyone and put in more hours than anyone else, odds are, they are telling the truth ... as they see it.
Dauten's approaches things from the employer's point of view, but his point's a good one, and you can easily flip it around. Often times, whether they mean to or not, employers are trying to sell their firms as a top-notch professional outfit. Even if they're trying to weed out most candidates, they're still trying to impress them.

Dauten goes on:

Studying how great bosses avoid bad hires led me to this little principle of hiring: See the work. If you can see the work, you might be better off not even seeing the person; it will only confuse you. And if you can’t see the work, at least talk to someone who has.

This is another great point, and it's another one that's somewhat flippable. An employer should really get to know your work product. You should really get to know the employer's methodologies, culture and general approach to business. Unfortunately, it's harder for you to get at the truth than it is for the employer. Sure, you can talk to people who currently work at the firm, but unless you have a relationship with them outside the office, you'll probably only get some version of the truth - as opposed to the whole truth - from them. Calling a potential employer's clients is kind of pushy unless, again, you have your own relationship with some of them. And, you can always ask around to see what kind of word is on the street about the firm, but how good that information is again depends on who you know and how well-connected they are.

So, what to do? The answer this isn't one of those short-term tactical things. It's long-term relationship-building. Whether you concentrate your work on an industry sector or a specific metropolitan area, getting to know people within your community increases the opportunities for you to have those relationships with a potential employer's staff, clients and others. I hate to sound like a broken record, but it's another reason to be out there networking.

Interviews Offer Only Small Views [Hartford Business]

AICPA To H.S. Students: Look Over Here!

As the pressure for talent continues, the AICPA is looking for ways to encourage high school students to pursue the education they need to become accountants - and to remember who their friends were along the way.

The AICPA's Web site, "Start Here. Go Places," targets high school students in an effort to build awareness and change perceptions about the profession. The site includes videos, games - including one where virtual CPAs turn around a struggling music label and others where they track down financial wrongdoers - a discussion of needed skills and even a personality test, all in a way-cool package that looks everything like a youth-oriented site, and little like an accounting site. (That's a good thing.)

"There are a lot of jobs, but not a lot of people to fill them," the site notes in its College and Scholarships section. "It doesn’t take an accountant to figure out that translates into higher salaries and greater job security for accountants."

Start Here. Go Places

Thursday, August 09, 2007

CalCPA Chair's Focus

Three months into her one-year term, the chairman of the California Society for Certified Public Accountants has two major goals: Encouraging more firms to promote women into partnership roles, and providing more resources for accountants in senior positions throughout the state. Teresa Mason sees both initiatives as part of a larger effort to increase membership in CalCPA, the state's leading trade organization for accountants, and to create more diversity in the leadership ranks of accounting firms.

Read the Full Story.

Ace the Interview at Age 50+

Rejecting a candidate because of their age is illegal, right? Ask anyone over the age of 50 and they will probably tell you that, despite what the law says, there have been times where they felt discriminated against because of their age.

On paper, recent years have been a boon for older workers. Since 2000, more than 1 million workers age 55 and older have won new jobs, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data conducted by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. The study notes that older workers are the largest and fastest growing group, which tends to exacerbate the employment competition among them.

The road to success starts by first getting the chance to interview and then winning over the interviewers, some of whom may be younger than you, and not open to older candidates. Since knowledge is power, it's important to understand the perceptions you'll have to deal with.

Read the full story.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

You Mean Bad Bosses Exist?

When I was in the corporate world, I was amazed by how badly some people treated their staffs. There was one junior manager who referred to her reports as "kids," as in, "Hey, kids, let's start our status meeting," and the department head who never heard a question she couldn't scream the answer to (and the answer screamed on Monday was usually different than the answer screamed on Tuesday).

That was years ago, sure. And today you keep reading about how management is becoming more enlightened by the day. But now along comes a survey saying 64.2 percent of respondents said "that either nothing at all or something positive happened to the bad leader", a result the study's authors called "rather remarkable - remarkably disturbing."

Disturbing? Sure. Remarkable? I don't know. Sometimes the worst managers seem to have their eyes fixed surely on their own bosses: They're playing purely up, and they understand it's all about presentation. When I think about bad managers I've endured, they've all had wonderful self-promotional skills. Over the years, some flamed out at the limits of their actual business performance became apparent. However, others are still moving up and terrorizing departments - or, if not actually terrorizing anyone, they're certainly making some lives miserable.

So, what do you do if you're working for one of these louts? The obvious answer is find another job, but you still have to make your way through the days until you get one. So, in the meantime, I've found the answer is a simple "Do good work." Whatever they're like on the surface, loutish bosses still have departments to run or clients to appease, and often appreciate someone who keeps their head down and does their job.

It's not a perfect answer, which leads me to point number two: Keep yourself at an emotional distance. Here, I'm being something of a hypocrite because I have trouble with this one, as I suspect many people do. Still, if you can keep yourself from taking someone else's bad behavior personally, you'll go a long way toward keeping things like insomnia, headaches and upset stomachs out of your life. And use their behavior to reinforce your determination to get out of this abuser's sights and into a work environment that's more in line with the way you think an office should be.

Bad bosses get promoted, not punished? [Reuters]

N.J. Sees Need for Forensic Accountants

A New Jersey community college is responding to the demand for forensic accountants, and an executive recruiter observes the specific job needs in the area around Parsippany. Across the river in New York, the state's CPA society holds its annual leadership conference.

Read the full story.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Different Gen, Different Rules

Penelope Trunk thinks the Women of Generation Y (I've always wanted to create a buzzword, but "WOGY" just doesn't have the right ring to it) can take a different approach to workplace behavior than, say, Baby Boomers. They are:

  • Date coworkers.
  • Show some flesh - but just enough.
  • Expect harassment, and stay cool.
  • If you have to go to business school, go early.
  • Tone down your work ethic.

In explaining her rationale Trunk argues, essentially, that these points represent a pragmatic approach to working life in the 21st Century. And, in truth, the labels above don't do justice to her reasoning - you really have to read the whole article for that. But I think it comes down to this: Over the last several decades women have fundamentally changed the nature of the office. Following the rules of engagement once followed by women now in their 40s or 50s simply won't serve a generation that's more empowered and more focused on balance. She floats a new approaches for WOG… oops … today's women that represent a U-turn on the road of conventional wisdom.

The article's kicked off quite a row among readers. Comments range from "Amen! That's what life is now and will be. Deal with it folks," to "What is wrong with this woman? And for God's sake why is she still employed here?" to my personal favorite, "The comments of this one really suck."

Interestingly, a large number of comments panning the article seem to come from men. Since so many are anonymous, I base that on my observation that few women use the kind of language I'm seeing there. (Since this is a family blog, I won't repeat it. But read some of the comments and you'll get it.)

One commentator summed the whole thing up best, I think:

Penelope's advice seems fairly cynical, but, based on my 25 years in the workplace, it's pretty accurate. The primary thrust of her advice is to put your interests ahead of your company's interests. This sounds about right to me, because, at the end of the day, your company is going to put its interests ahead of yours.

The New Girls' Guide to Workplace Success [Yahoo! Finance]

Last Week's Poll

Last week our poll asked what audit deficiencies tend to reflect. Your answers broke down like this:

  • Lack of partner's involvement: 16.9%
  • Sloppy record-keeping by the company: 25.9%
  • Inexperienced auditors: 19.3%
  • All of the above: 21.1%
  • None of the above: 16.9%

Got thoughts? Post a comment. Or, vote in our latest poll ("Have you ever taken on a loser project as a career move?") on JobsintheMoney.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Winning Strategies for Loser Projects

It's unavoidable: Projects appear that no one wants to tackle. Some of them are bound to end up in your lap, and when they do you might as well take them on cheerfully. If nothing else, your attitude may get you noticed.

Particularly if it's early in your career or if you're new to a firm, you shouldn't "balk at taking on dues-paying tasks," says Lise Flores-Reed, an organizational psychologist at Arizona-based WorldatWork, an association for human resources professionals. "You can act like you're serving time or act like you're developing skills. That's the individual's choice to make."

Read the full story.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I'd Like You to Meet...

Whenever I read a story about networking, I'm nagged by this feeling its too removed from the day-to-day. Even with some our own recent articles on the topic, I wonder if we've broken the concept down into so many components, their context has gotten blurred.

What made me decide to write this was Jon Jacobs' story about the importance of introducing colleagues to each other as part of your networking efforts. (The story's here.) In it, Jon makes a good point: When you're networking, it's not supposed to be about you. It's about helping others connect, and building your reputation as a collegial sort who's inclined to help others out with information and contacts. In most articles I see, this point gets lost.

Networking's concept is simple: You get your butt out of your chair and go meet people. Tools like LinkedIn, or Facebook, or MySpace are all about finding the people you'd like to meet. How do you identify them? I don't know - that's up to you. Some want to meet folks they can do business with, others want to meet experts in a particular area (say, state and local tax, or maybe even New Jersey state and local tax), and still others want to meet anyone who's doing any kind of business in Rockland County, N.Y. Probably, you want to meet folks with some combination of characteristics. It all depends on your job, your goals, and how you do business.

Whomever you're trying to meet, remember that networking is a long-term proposition. You don't ask someone to hire you with your first breath after shaking their hand. In fact, you should meet people with the idea you're not going to ask them for anything more than an hour of time to have coffee with you. From then on, every conversation you have with them will build your credibility a little bit more. When you do need something - an introduction to someone else, some inside dirt on how a potential employer or client works - asking for it will seem natural.

Remember, though, that other people have different time frames. Someone you know might need that introduction from you before you need it from them. Jon's article tells you how to make sure you're using your network effectively, so you can be thought of as a go-to solution.

In Networking, Making Introductions Pay Off [JITM]

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Don't Forget

Be sure to see yesterday's post about the accountant who can't seem to find a job. He wrote:

Is it possible for someone with an MBA (Accounting) to be looking for employment three years after graduation? I live in Georgia and have applied for hundreds of jobs, joined various networking meetings and passed my resume around, and all I am getting is tons and tons of rejection. It is now affecting my life so much that I feel that I am about to go into depression. Why is it so hard to get a job these days. Is there any way one can go about looking for a job besides those that I mentioned above?
I've posted some questions for him, but it'd be nice to get thoughts of others, too. So post your comments.

Help an Accountant

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho....

If you're on the management track, appearances matter - and not just in how you dress or present yourself physically. Speaking to BusinessWeek, Sharon Livingston, a consultant who's studied the dynamics of people in the office, uses the unfortunately analogy of the Seven Dwarfs in explaining how your seat at the table can be perceived by others.

Those sitting opposite the person leading the meeting tend to be Grumpy or Doc, or a combination of the two, says Livingston. Grumpy is openly argumentative and may be hard to control. Doc is the person who faces off against the leader to show off his or her intelligence.

The person who sits on the leader's right is Happy--a yes-man. In her Web-based questionnaire that quickly determines one's dwarf personality, 59% of the 20,000 people who have taken the test fall in the Happy category. "We've been trained in American society to be helpful and support the leader," says Livingston.

BW goes on to offer some hints on how you might use such dynamics to your advantage if you're running a meeting. Or, it says squishily, you can just ignore the whole issue. But check it out and read the comments, which offer some insights of their own.

You Are Where You Sit [BusinessWeek]

Getting a Raise

I don't know anybody who likes asking for a raise. Even if they know they deserve it, going into your boss feels like stepping onto thin ice whenever the subject is money. Some people - too many, probably - avoid the whole issue by waiting until their performance review to have the discussion. By then, as Sixto Ortiz, Jr., points out, it's usually too late.

The truth is, convincing your boss to give you a raise is long process, which begins long before you open the discussion. The foundation of your arguments is your performance - you have to show your firm you're well worth the extra investment you're asking them to make.

Penelope Trunk, author of Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success, says the preparation process should start six months in advance. Trunk recommends sitting down with your boss and deciding on a list of large goals that your boss agrees will exceed your current job description if you meet them. The key is to demonstrate that you're doing more than you're getting paid for, she says.

Of course, reaching the end zone depends on your ability to get these significant goals accomplished in a relatively short period of time. The trick is selecting challenging but achievable objectives. If you're too ambitious in your goals, you'll only be frustrated and look worse for the wear.

Some ideas on how to prepare yourself - and show yourself off - are in the article.

How to Ask for a Raise [JITM]