Career Planning and the Holidays

Career Planning and the Holidays

career planningThe holiday season is a great time to do some critical career planning for the following year. You will likely have some time off to reflect back on the year that is ending and make plans for the new one.

Accomplishments

Reflect back over the previous year and identify key accomplishments in both your work and personal life.

Develop a set of ARM statements (Accomplishment Results Metrics) for each work accomplishment. Weave these statements into your LinkedIn profile and resume.

Accomplishments in your personal life are critical. These are often the activities that feed your soul and make you a well rounded individual. Do any of these activities belong in your LinkedIn profile? Non-profit board position? Volunteering for a prominent cause in your community?

Your career planning process should include both work and personal accomplishments.

New Skills and Certifications

What new skills have you acquired in the past year? Did you acquire a new certification or renew one?

Update your LinkedIn profile and resume to reflect these new skills and certifications.

As part of your career planning process, you will want to access the value of your new and current skills in your local market. Use LinkedIn advanced search using your skills as keywords to find others who have similar skills to see where they work. Has anything changed in your local market?

Similarly, do the same assessment as it relates to your certification. Does your certification still hold value in your local market?

It is critical in your career planning process to assess shifts in the market for the value of your skills and certifications annually!

Target List

An essential part of the career planning process is to review your target list of prospective employers twice a year. Have any new employers entered your local market? More and more companies are setting up satellite offices or allowing their employees to work virtually. Have there been any major upturns or downturns for companies on your target list? Do you need to remove any companies from your target list?

Establish a plan for the next six months to regularly work your target list developing key relationships at these target companies. You never know when you will need to make a career pivot!

Goals

Create goals for the next six months, this should include both work and personal goals. Make a calendar entry for early July of next year and document your goals there. If you are based in the United States, use the July 4th holiday for the date of the calendar entry.

Even if you are employed, you should always be developing a plan for where you want to work next.

Make career planning and career reflection a habit that will be performed like clockwork twice a year.

I wish all of my readers a happy holiday season and a very prosperous new year!

This post is part of a weekly series on the Personal Branding Blog.

You can read the original post on the Personal Branding Blog.

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Are Networking Events Obsolete?

Are Networking Events Obsolete?

networking eventsYou heard me right when I asked if networking events are obsolete.

I think networking events are highly inefficient. I took several years off in my career to teach high school math, and then I spent a year in the non-profit sector. During that year, I attended a lot of networking events, usually twice a week. I developed my style on how to meet people, start a conversation, and more specifically, how to find out what we have in common. I became good at it!

After each event, I would pull out my business cards and start scheduling time to meet people. Real networking occurs afterwards when you meet people one on one and develop a relationship.

Was that an effective method of networking? In general, NO!

I would meet a lot of people, but was I meeting the people I needed to meet? Most of the time, the answer was no.

It was a shotgun approach. A lot of the people I most needed to meet did not attend these events.

What is Replacing Networking Events?

In today’s world of social media, it is fairly easy for me to research a company and develop a list of individuals that I need to meet to accomplish my goals. Also in the case of managing my career, who might be able to hire me.

I can use LinkedIn Advanced Search to find companies that have staff in my city. Notice, I did not say they had an office or facility in my city. So many companies have remote employees, and they may not have an physical presence. You can locate companies using LinkedIn Advanced using the following steps:

  • Search in a radius of 50 miles from either your home zip code or where you want to work
  • Search either using a specific keyword or job title
  • Sift through the list of profiles that meet the search criteria to find current companies
  • Go to each company LinkedIn profile
  • Click on the See All link to see how you are connected
  • Enter your current city to filter the list

You now have a list of individuals who work for the target company who are also located in your city. What you will discover is that there may be a lot of employees of a business in your city that does not have an office or facility.

This can be tedious, but if you keep searching and sorting through profiles you will be amazed by what you find.

Are networking events obsolete? I do not think so.

I now attend networking events to maintain key relationships. I attend far fewer than before, and I am very strategic in the events I attend.

I attend a Metropolitan Breakfast Club every single Wednesday morning. I have a few key meetups I attend, typically once a month. All of these are to reinforce relationships, meet a a few key individuals, and get my social fix.

I now network strategically using social media and by meeting key individuals one on one. This is far more efficient!

This post is part of a weekly series on the Personal Branding Blog.

You can read the original post on the Personal Branding Blog.

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The Challenges and Strategies of Changing Industries

Changing Industries

changing industriesAre you planning on changing industries but find that you’re running into a lot of roadblocks? If so, you are not alone.

A couple of years ago, I had a client who was a PMP certified project manager. He had a lot of project management experience managing IT projects, but he wanted to transition to the healthcare industry.

I arranged for him to meet the COO of a rapidly-expanding healthcare provider. The COO told him that his credentials were impressive, but he had no healthcare experience. The COO said they really should not care that he had no healthcare experience, but that they would.

Skill Sets

Whether you are a project manager, product manager, business analyst, or any other position, you will likely have two sets of skills:

  • Business skills
  • Industry skills

Which are the most important? Your business skills!

Which will the hiring authorities care most about? Your industry skills!

This why changing industries is so difficult.

You might be thinking that this is not fair. You are right! You might being saying, “These folks are not any good at interviewing candidates! You would be correct!

A good project manager should be able to manage any project. A good business analyst should be able to work in any industry. There should be peace on earth and good will towards men! There should be no wars! Well, there I go again. I am using the S word—should.

Employers today are frequently looking for the purple cow candidate—or a candidate that likely does not exist. The want a candidate that has both business and industry skills. If they have to compromise, most will lean on industry skills.

Strategies for Changing Industries

Whether you like it or not, when changing industries, you will need to show that you have some some industry experience.

You will need to study and then demonstrate this expertise. How can you do this?

  • Create a blog and interview people in the target industry. I am going to profile someone who did exactly this on the Career Pivot blog in the coming weeks.
  • Comment on blog posts and social media where you will be seen by others in the target industry. This is a slow, tedious process, and it will take a while to be noticed.
  • Publish LinkedIn Publisher posts on topics related to the target industry. Write about relevant topics that you have researched thoroughly. Make sure you get someone in the target industry to review them before you publish.
  • Attend industry conferences and make sure to interact with individuals from your target companies. Get as much face time with individuals who can either hire you or influence a hiring manager.

The advantage of writing LinkedIn Publisher posts is they will be seen in your LinkedIn profile. When a recruiter or hiring manager finds your LinkedIn profile, they will see that you have published and, thus, have demonstrated your knowledge of the industry.

When changing industries, it is a lot easier to develop the industry skills than the business skills. Most companies will focus on industry skills. It is not right, but…

It all comes down to how do we know that you know your stuff!

You will need to demonstrate your expertise in the target industry.

Look for a case study of someone who change industries successfully!

This post is part of a weekly series on the Personal Branding Blog.

You can read the original post on the Personal Branding Blog.

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Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers

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You can also download my latest white paperThe Multi-Generational WorkplaceMaking Generational Diversity Work

Check out the BoomerJobTips Page for the latest curated content relating to baby boomers or join us on the BoomerJobTips LinkedIn Group

Pursuing Jobs Where You Are Not A Good Fit

Pursuing jobs where you are not a good fit

good fitMy client was approached about a job where she was not necessarily a good fit. She asked me if she should she pursue the position.

My response was yes! They approached her. Talk is cheap. Plus, it was good practice on multiple levels.

Resume

This is a good time to customize your resume using keywords that you harvest from the perspective employer’s website.

Tailor the resume by using ARM (Action, Results, Metrics) phrases that match each responsibility and requirement in the job description.

Preparing for the Interview

Look at each responsibility and required skill in the job description and develop an story in which you demonstrate that you meet the requirement. Make sure you document the key points in the story so that you can use it again in future interviews.

The goal is to develop a library of stories that you can use over and over again.

Build a set of questions that you will ask during the interview. This should include questions on management style, work environment, and teamwork. You want to see if this is a good fit for you!

The Interview

Career Pivot Sponsor for the Month of November 2014

Career Pivot Sponsor for the Month of November 2014

Plan on probing for pain points very early in the interview. Ask probing question like:

  • Why the position is open
  • What is the problem they want to solve with this hire
  • What are the metrics that are motivating to hire someone for this position

Answer every question with a story. You should say “Let me tell you about when…”

Make sure you ask all of the questions that you developed to determine whether this is a good fit for you.

Postmortem

After walking out of the interview, make some mental notes on what you thought and whether it was a good fit.

Did the interviewer know what they were doing?

Did this seem like a place you would like to work?

After the interview, review the following:

  • Did they review your resume with you?
  • Did they make any comments about your resume?
  • Were you successful in probing for pain points? If so, what were they, and document them for future reference.
  • Were you able to answer every question with a story? If not, develop new stories based on the questions they asked.

Where you a good fit for the job?

If not, why weren’t you a good fit for the job?

Were you a good fit for the company and their culture?

If you will get into the habit of taking all of these steps, you will able to determine what is a good fit for you. Even interviewing for a position that is not a good fit can be a great learning experience.

This post is part of a weekly series on the Personal Branding Blog.

You can read the original post on the Personal Branding Blog.

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Please check out this months sponsor III Financial

and their guest post

Why Save For Retirement If You Don’t Plan On Retiring

Like what you just read? Share it with your friends using the buttons below?

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When you subscribe to this blog you get full access to Career Pivot’s Whitepaper Library

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Check out my book which is available on Amazon.com!

Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers

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You can also download my latest white paperStrategic Networking – A Career Pivot White Paper

Check out the BoomerJobTips Page for the latest curated content relating to baby boomers or join us on the BoomerJobTips LinkedIn Group

Marc Miller Career Design Specialist

Perfect Fit for the Position? Expect to Lose!

Perfect Fit for the Position

perfect fitI have heard it over and over about how you are a perfect fit for the position.

I hate to tell you that, if you are really a perfect fit for the position, you will almost always lose!

WHAT???

Let’s start at the beginning of the hiring process with the creation of the job description.

Job Description

I am going out on a limb to say that most job descriptions are badly written. The hiring manager uses the Internet to find a similar position and then modifies it to fit the position they want. They will put every possible qualification in the job description. This turns into a Purple Cow Job Description that is almost impossible to find a perfect fit.

Your Resume

If you are smart, you will customize your resume so that it highlights accomplishments, results and metrics (ARM) for each responsibility in the job description.

When a recruiter looks at your resume, they quickly scan for these ARM statements and decide whether to call you. Typically, if you meet six out of the ten criteria, you will likely get a call for a screen interview.

If you meet ten out of ten, well, they may determine that you are overqualified!

You will likely get—at the very least—a phone interview.

The Interview

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Career Pivot Sponsor for the Month of November 2014

You prepare for the interview by researching the company and the hiring manager thoroughly. You probe for pain points during the interview and simply wow them with your expertise. You can do this job in your sleep!

You walk out of the interview thinking you just nailed it. You then wait for the call saying they will be making an offer.

You wait and wait and wait…

You say to yourself, “I am a perfect fit. I can do this job. Who would be better?”

The Problem

You are a perfect fit! That is the problem. There is nothing for you to learn. There is nothing for you to grow into.

The hiring manager is sitting in the interview saying to him or herself, wow this is one impressive candidate. Will they get bored in six or more months and then leave? Would I rather have a less qualified candidate who can grow into the role, possibly pay them less, and have them stick around for two or three years?

If you are a perfect fit, there is no room for growth! Why would you want to take a job that does not stretch your skills?

This is an area where a lot of baby boomers get into trouble. Maybe they want to scale back and take on fewer responsibilities. They are a perfect fit for the position, but will anyone believe them that they will not get bored in a few months?

NOPE!

If you really are a perfect fit for a position, you will almost always lose.

This post is part of a weekly series on the Personal Branding Blog.

You can read the original post on the Personal Branding Blog.

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Please check out this months sponsor III Financial

and their guest post

Why Save For Retirement If You Don’t Plan On Retiring

Like what you just read? Share it with your friends using the buttons below?

Subscribe

When you subscribe to this blog you get full access to Career Pivot’s Whitepaper Library

————————————————

Check out my book which is available on Amazon.com!

Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers

————————————————

You can also download my latest white paperStrategic Networking – A Career Pivot White Paper

Check out the BoomerJobTips Page for the latest curated content relating to baby boomers or join us on the BoomerJobTips LinkedIn Group

Marc Miller Career Design Specialist

Conferences and Your Career

Conferences and Your Career

ConferencesI recently had a client receive free passes to a coveted industry conference. She was not sure how to prepare to get most out of the day.

Business Cards

You should always have business cards. There are two different kinds; personal and business. Which do you take?

Depends on who is paying and our objectives for attending the conference. If the company is paying and you intend to stay at your current company for the time being, always give out your company business card. If you are quietly looking for something new, then give out your company business card. Only use the personal business card when you are not worried about anyone at your current employer finding out that your are looking or you are out of work.

Attendee Lists

Many smaller niche conferences will give you a list of attendees. You can also contact the organizer ahead of time and ask them if they would be willing to give you the names of attendees.

The plan should be to scour the attendee list for key people that work for companies on your target list.  A good goal is to plan to meet at least one person from each company on your target list. You want a list of individuals that you can on the look out for on the day of the conference.

Conference Agenda

Review the agenda and determine which conference speakers you would like to meet. Prepare several salient questions that you could ask the speaker that will demonstrate your knowledge of the topic. Be prepared to ask for A-I-R (Advice, Insights and Recommends).

Day of Event

Arrive early and plan your day. Pick the sessions you plan to attend with an eye for topics where key people that work for companies on your target list might be attending.

This is kind of like being a teenager again. When you wanted to meet a certain girl you would hang out where you thought she would be. Same thing here. Where will the people you want to meet be hanging out?

Make sure your name tag is easy to read and placed on the right shoulder. I like to attach it to my collar on the right side of my body.

If there is a speaker that is of particular importance to your career, arrive early for the session and sit in the front row. Do not sit in the back row!!

If possible, introduce yourself to the speaker before the session and give them a business card. Be careful to not interfere with their session preparations. When the session is complete, you can approach the speaker with the salient questions you previously prepared.

Take notes on business cards on where and when you met each person.

Lunch and Breaks

Career Pivot Sponsor for the Month of November 2014

Career Pivot Sponsor for the Month of November 2014

Do not eat lunch with people you know. Seek out tables where key people that work for companies on your target list might be sitting. At worse case, randomly pick a place to sit. You never know who might sit down next to you!

Post Conference

The day after the conference, sort through all of the business cards and select key individuals that you need to follow up with. If possible, send them a handwritten thank you note and insert your business card in the envelope. Yes, this is old school but when they receive it, they will open it and you business card is no longer just another card in the stack but it is right in front of them on their desk!

Send LinkedIn connection requests to everyone you met, and schedule follow up meetings with key individuals.

Conferences are a great way to make initial contact with key individuals who can help you with your career.

Real networking does not happen at conferences but the real networking comes afterwards in the follow up meetings.

This post is part of a weekly series on the Personal Branding Blog.

You can read the original post on the Personal Branding Blog.

————————————————

Please check out this months sponsor III Financial

and their guest post

Why Save For Retirement If You Don’t Plan On Retiring

Like what you just read? Share it with your friends using the buttons below?

Subscribe

When you subscribe to this blog you get full access to Career Pivot’s Whitepaper Library

————————————————

Check out my book which is available on Amazon.com!

Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers

————————————————

You can also download my latest white paperStrategic Networking – A Career Pivot White Paper

Check out the BoomerJobTips Page for the latest curated content relating to baby boomers or join us on the BoomerJobTips LinkedIn Group

Marc Miller Career Design Specialist

Anatomy of a Winning LinkedIn Publisher Post

Winning LinkedIn Publisher Post

LinkedIn PublisherLinkedIn launched LinkedIn Publisher earlier this year. Every LinkedIn user now has access to a publishing platform to establish their credibility.

I have used LinkedIn Publisher as a vehicle to republish successful blog posts to a much larger audience. Starting in the middle of June, the first post was published with mixed results. With the exception of one post, views did not exceed 1,700. The one exception was Target the Company and Quit Chasing the Job.

What was special about that post?

It was picked up by LinkedIn Pulse Channel Careers Next Level.

This post generated close to 14,000 views and drove a lot of traffic to the Career Pivot Website. It also generated hundreds of subscriptions to the blog…and much more.

Pretty Successful!

5 Things on Your Resume That Make You Sound Old

On Monday, October 13th at 8 AM CT, I copied the post What Does Your Resume Say About Your Age into LinkedIn Publisher and pushed the publish button. Within a 30 minutes, I received an e-mail from a LinkedIn Publisher editor asking me to change the title to 5 Things on Your Resume That Make You Sound Old. Once again, the post was picked up by LinkedIn Pulse Channel Careers Next Level.

Within an a couple of hours my website was being hammered with views. Around Noon CT the Career Pivot website went down.

As I write this post, the same LinkedIn Publisher post has been viewed over 500,000 times. That is over half a million views!

The after effects have been extraordinary:

  • 100+ Books Sold
  • 250+ Subscriptions to blog
  • 50+ Likes to FB Page
  • 100+ Twitter Follows
  • 2000+ Followers on LinkedIn
IIILogo

Career Pivot Sponsor for the Month of November 2014

What Happened and Why?

So, what was different?

This was a very successful post on the Career Pivot website in June. It had over 4,000 views in just over a few weeks. I knew it was good content. It is not what you think is good, but what your readers think is good!

  • It had a title that was controversial
  • The content was relevant but controversial

When I wrote the original post, I did not think either was controversial.

The five things I listed that make you sound old on your resume are:

  • aol.com
  • Home phone #
  • Home address
  • Defunct or obsolete skills
  • Two spaces after a period

It was the title and the two spaces after a period that got people riled up. I never knew people could get so excited about two spaces after a period!

What was key in being selected for the LinkedIn Pulse Channel?

What do you need to do to be eligible to be selected? I do not know.

This has been a topic on a number of LinkedIn groups and there is no consensus on how this works. Let’s talk about how you might figure this out.

Your Personal Brand and LinkedIn Publisher

Write on topics in which you want to viewed as a thought leader. Select a LinkedIn Pulse Channel that matches your interests. Look at posts in that channel that are not written by a LinkedIn Influencer! You want to find material that was written by an ordinary Joe or Jane like you and me. These posts were selected by the LinkedIn Pulse Editorial staff.

What is common among these posts? Is it the topic? Is it the title? Is it the writing style?

Once you have determined a winning style, how does that fit with your personal brand?

By doing this research, you increase the possibility that your posts will be picked up by the editorial staff of LinkedIn Pulse.

Start Writing

Craft titles the pique people’s interests. As much as I hate to admit it, titles starting with a number get views!

Make sure what you write has a bite to it. Edgy is good!

I encourage all of my clients to start publishing on LinkedIn Publisher. I encourage you to try this yourself.

Be prepared for some negative comments!

If I can produce a winning LinkedIn Publisher post, then you can to. If you were suddenly introduced to half a million people through your post, what would that do to your personal brand?

You might not become famous, but it would likely establish you as someone to follow.

Are you ready to write a winning LinkedIn Publisher Post!

This post is part of a weekly series on the Personal Branding Blog.

You can read the original post on the Personal Branding Blog.

Like what you just read? Share it with your friends using the buttons below?

Subscribe

When you subscribe to this blog you get full access to Career Pivot’s Whitepaper Library

————————————————

Check out my book which is available on Amazon.com!

Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers

————————————————

You can also download my latest white paperStrategic Networking – A Career Pivot White Paper

Check out the BoomerJobTips Page for the latest curated content relating to baby boomers or join us on the BoomerJobTips LinkedIn Group

Marc Miller Career Design Specialist

References from Beyond Your Reference List

References

referencesReferences are a key component in getting a job. Who can verify that you know your stuff?

Traditionally, references are supplied when an employer is getting ready to make an offer. Recently, I have had two clients who had very different experiences as it relates to references.

Asking for References after a Phone Interview

I have a client who is a very experienced technology professional. He had a phone interview with a technology hiring manager with a regional retail firm. The interview went very well! Afterwards, the recruiter asked for a list of references.

My client became a bit incensed that he was being asked for references so early in the process. He did not want his references to be bothered until he knew he wanted the job.

The recruiter told him that they would instead contact the people who recommended him on LinkedIn. What!

My client was still incensed, but relented and supplied a list of references.

He asked me if they could do that? My response was YES!

Do you have LinkedIn recommendations from people you would prefer prospective hiring managers to not contact? You do not have to display all of your recommendations. You can hide recommendations!

Behind the Scene References

Behind the scene references have occurred for a long time.

This starts with an employee referral. When someone passes your resume to the hiring manager, he or she becomes a reference.

I recently had a client who got a job because of a behind the scene reference. I wrote about “Susan” in my post, Moment of Clarity – Fending off a Layoff.

Susan’s marketing position was eliminated, so she was facing a layoff. She interviewed for a position in the Learning and Development function. Susan has extensive experience in Learning and Development, but she had been in the marketing function for an extended period of time. After the interview, the hiring manager talked to few people who Susan had worked with in the past. These people were Susan’s behind the scene references.

The hiring manager did not ask for a list of references. The hiring manager therefore, did not need to ask for permission.

Susan later found out one of those references was absolutely key in landing the position. If she had not done some detective work, she may have never known who had helped her land the position.

Usually, behind the scene references come from employees at your target company.

However, recently, I had a client get a positive reference from the neighbor of the hiring manager. The hiring manager’s neighbor was a colleague of my client at a company five years ago. How did the hiring know this? He did his homework on LinkedIn.

This is why it is critical that, when you leave a job, you never burn bridges. Make sure you leave on a positive note.

Have you receive references from beyond your reference list?

This post is part of a weekly series on the Personal Branding Blog.

You can read the original post on the Personal Branding Blog.

Like what you just read? Share it with your friends using the buttons below?

Subscribe

When you subscribe to this blog you get full access to Career Pivot’s Whitepaper Library

————————————————

Check out my book which is available on Amazon.com!

Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers

————————————————

You can also download my latest white paperThe Multi-Generational WorkplaceMaking Generational Diversity Work

Check out the BoomerJobTips Page for the latest curated content relating to baby boomers or join us on the BoomerJobTips LinkedIn Group

Marc Miller Career Design Specialist

Why Do You Want to Leave Your Current Position?

The dreaded question – Why do you want to leave your current position?

leaveThe one question most candidates dread is,  “Why do you want to leave your current position?”

You cannot say “My boss is a jerk,” or “The work environment is toxic.” If you do, the interviewer will likely think, “Next candidate please!”

When asked this question, you absolutely, positively avoid saying anything negative. There are two reasons to not go negative:

  1. It will give the impression that you may be part of the problem. There are two sides to every story. The interviewer knows they are only hearing one side.
  2. By getting negative in an interview, you cannot avoid degrading your own attitude. If you followed my instructions in my post 3 Steps to Walking Into Your Interview with Confidence, you will be feeling good about yourself. This is key!

Pivot the Answer to What You Want

When you are asked the Why do you want to leave your current position? question, you can respond in the following way:

My current job is fine (which may or may not be true), but what I am looking for is…and then state what you are looking for in your next position.

Next, ask a question about the possibilities of getting what you want. For example:

Can you tell me about the initiatives you have in the areas of…?

It is important that you, rather than the interviewer, redirect or pivot the conversation back in a direction that you want to take.

Be prepared for the interviewer to probe for more information, but absolutely do not go there. Resist the urge at all costs.

I have previously written about three client examples. Take a look at these now:

All three examples were derived from real situations. In all three situations, the interviewee had a planned response prepared for the dreaded question.

Being Prepared with Interview Questions

You should come into any interview with at least 10 questions that you would like to get answered. Print them out and keep them in front of you. Take notes and record the interviewer’s answers on the paper. By writing down the responses, it gives you time to think about where to take the conversation next!

Controlled pauses (that is my term) give you a chance to think about the flow of the conversation.  Another example of a controlled pause is to restate the question you were just asked.  Let me make sure I understand your question. You asked…

Remember it is YOUR DAMN INTERVIEW!

Be prepared for the most common questions and the dreaded question – why do you want to leave your current position?

This post is part of a weekly series on the Personal Branding Blog.

You can read the original post on the Personal Branding Blog.

Like what you just read? Share it with your friends using the buttons below?

Subscribe

When you subscribe to this blog you get full access to Career Pivot’s Whitepaper Library

————————————————

Check out my book which is available on Amazon.com!

Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers

————————————————

You can also download my latest white paperThe Multi-Generational WorkplaceMaking Generational Diversity Work

Check out the BoomerJobTips Page for the latest curated content relating to baby boomers or join us on the BoomerJobTips LinkedIn Group

Marc Miller Career Design Specialist

Are You a Generalist or Specialist

Generalist or Specialist

generalist or specialistHow you manage your career depends on whether you are a generalist or specialist.

When I started my career in the 1970s, large corporations valued generalists. In my 22 years of working for IBM, they let me take a variety of career paths. It also suited my personality, because I have a lot of varied interests. After a few years in a job, I would get bored and wanted to do something new.

IBM allowed me to work with a lot of leading-edge technologies that are still around today. Some of these included:

  • Word Processors – I worked with early word processors even before the IBM PC was released.
  • 3D printing – I was working with early 3D printers in 1989.
  • HTML and Internet Applications – I was designing Internet applications in the 1990s, long before it was common.
  • Advanced Router Design – When I left IBM in 2000, I developed curriculum to teach major equipment manufactures how to design next generation routers and switches.
  • High Definition Video – In 2007, after spending a couple years teaching high school math and working in the non-profit arena, I went to work for a HD video conferencing start up developing a training and certification program.

I am a generalist. I have enjoyed working with a lot of different technologies and methodologies. My challenge was that I got bored about every three years and wanted to move on to something different.

Specialists Rule

A fundamental shift started about twenty years ago. As technological change sped up, the need for specialists increased. Starting in the mid 1990s, I saw many move on to become specialists—and they were generously rewarded…for awhile. If you developed skills and became a specialist in an area that was in the early adoption phase, you could make a lot of money, again, for awhile. That was only true until others developed those same skills. The key was to identify correctly which skills would be desirable to have a year or two ahead of the demand.

This is easy to see in the world of technology, but does it apply elsewhere? YES!

In the world of Human Resources, you could be a generalist or a specialist in recruiting, compensation, benefit programs, diversity, HR IT, etc…

In the world of sales, you could be a generalist or a specialist in B2B or B2C, Internet sales, Channel sales, etc…

The challenge is that, if you are a specialist, your skills may not be valued in 5, 10 or 15 years. Let me give a few examples of skills that have become obsolete:

  • Experts in direct mail (snail mail) marketing – With the exception of credit card offers, what industries still market through direct mail?
  • Travel agents – When was the last time you talked to a travel agent? Fifteen years ago, this was still a valued skill.
  • Specialists in the complex process of laying out news print for your daily newspaper – When did you last pick up a paper newspaper?
  • Photo-Journalists – Why have photo-journalists when everyone has a camera?

These were all valued skills just a few years ago.

What if I am a Generalist?

Generalists are typically more valued in smaller organizations. Small organizations typically cannot afford to hire a lot of specialists. I have a client who is a marketing generalist. She like to write press releases, e-mail marketing, social media, direct mail, creation of collateral,….. You will be more valued in smaller organizations who need their employees to wear a lot of hats.

What if I am a Specialist?

Specialists need to stay on top of their areas of expertise and be willing to move when their expertise becomes a commodity  or obsolete. This requires vigilance and the willingness to move with industry trends. You must be aware of disruptive trends in your industry.

Examples of Disruption

Taxi and Limousine Services – Will Lyft, Uber, Sidecar or even Google’s Driverless car make these businesses obsolete?

Local Television News – When did you last watch the evening news? The local news programs are still around, but will they be in ten years?

Cable Television – Why have cable television service when there is Netflix, Hulu, etc?

Facebook Marketing – Will Facebook be relevant in 10 years? It did not exist 10 years ago and may not be relevant in another 10 years.

Give it some thought.

Are you a generalist or specialist?

Are you prepared for disruptive change that is coming?

This post is part of a weekly series on the Personal Branding Blog.

You can read the original post on the Personal Branding Blog.

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Marc Miller Career Design Specialist