How a great career coach can rescue you

Today, even proven professionals with outstanding resumes can face major difficulties getting hired. And more and more people are finding the only way to overcome these obstacles is to get professional help. This is exactly what my friend Chad Blakeman did and I asked him to share his reflections about the experience for readers of this blog. This is an addendum to the three posts beginning here, which described how Chad came to be in this place initially and how he found a way out of what felt to him almost like a life threatening situation. If you are frustrated in your job search, I hope you find his experience and remarks helpful.

By Chad Blakeman

I have spent much time talking about the journey I undertook to get to evolve from my old world and start working in the new world. After having spent about 4 months in my new position, I have had time to look back on the journey and found that one significant part of my story was missing: the help I was given.

The coach I am so glad I found

Much of the credit for my transition must include a coach I found who was a fantastic partner for the journey. Her name is Marcia LaReau, a person who has made it her job to help people like myself undertake transformative journeys. She was part coach, part mentor, part shrink, part friend. She has a formulaic approach to her coaching which appealed to my sense of logic and order, and together, we came up with an orderly approach to the new job market.

Marcia LaReau, President of Forward Motion US

I found Marcia through networking with several individuals, one of which was a self professed career coach helping others to transition careers. To his credit, he actually made the introduction for me with Marcia. While he was not the right fit for me, Marcia was. After a consultation with Marcia I was convinced that there was substance here, a methodical plan, and learning, learning, learning.

How to decide who to work with

Before describing Marcia’s process, I want to pause a moment to mention that there are several outfits in the market who will claim that they have the ability to help place you in the market. They know how to market to persons such as myself, will flatter you, and tell you that you have terrific skills and that they know and can place you in a position that pays as well as if not better than the position you held before. And all of this can be done in a few months depending how hard you are willing to work. Often they suggest that they need to “vet” you with their team of highly qualified job placers, because they don’t take everyone, only the ones they are highly confident of success – I would be curious to see if they ever rejected anyone. It's all part of a process to make you feel like you are truly special, unique, highly qualified and highly sought in the “right” places.

Don’t waste time with such outfits. You will end up paying thousands of dollars, for a resume re-write that may or may not be needed, and an education of how to use LinkedIn to connect to lots of people who may or may not be hiring. And thereafter you will be left to your own devices. You can search the web on these outfits to find complaints – and there will be. There are many resume writing services, some better, some worse, and many webinars on how to use LinkedIn to find a job. These will not cost you thousands of dollars.

I suspect there are other people out in the market that are as good as Marcia, but they are rare. In dealing with thousands who are looking for jobs, transitioning, re-training, many who help such job searchers are doing so by numbers. There are many recruiters out there trying to find bodies to throw against the wall to see what sticks. So many positions to fill, so many more candidates out there to vet. It’s easy to see why the process has gotten the way it has, and why so many jobs are filled with mediocrity. Its about numbers, data, the right key words, etc. The human element has gone.

Why getting a job is so difficult today

Why is it so hard to find a new job these days, especially if it involves a career change? The market is far different than 10 years ago, which was far different to 20 years ago. In the professional world, when you wanted a new job, you simply spent time finding good recruiters in your chosen field. They had contacts, they knew how to sell you, and got you in the door. Now, this aspect has changed as companies now “in-house” recruiters as part of a cost savings initiative I suspect, but they have 100s to 1000s of applicants for jobs now. Sifting through literally 1000s of resumes is now being done by scanning software to look for key words in a resume for fit. This process de-humanizes candidates, and you are now quite literally a collection of key words as to your worth. Getting in the door is now phone screens to further filter down to the right set of candidates. Apparently there is very little human element left in the process – a process that I excel at, but it seems doesn’t matter anywhere near as much as it used to.

A process that tackles this change head on

Why is Marcia and her process different? Her approach is methodical, fact finding, crafting solutions to challenges, helping you develop your message, approach, resume and cover letter and even your “elevator speech”. It's all about how to package yourself to become a compelling solution to a hiring problem. Getting there is the hard part, and you have to always be selling.

First step with Marcia is an interview with her to tell her your story and if you are ready to work to get back to work. Your mind set is important. Things like entitlement to a job, or baggage from the last job, etc. are not going to help. You are starting a new class to learn and work, and at the end, you will find out more about yourself as a person that will carry into your new job.

After this, you take a assessment test to find out more about your macro skills, your personality, etc. There are several of these and all are helpful in a variety of ways. I liked this test, as having taken several before, provided me with insights that I knew I had, but never pulled them together in a comprehensive way. The test is very constructive, helping to focus on what your core strengths are and use these strengths to market you in a more effective way. In short, the learnings from this test developed my elevator speech to new potential employers. You learn to always be selling, and selling yourself.

Her next step is to take your existing resume and work it over. She will go over all the things you have done, what you want to do, and more importantly, what else you could do as an extension. Then using the skills learned from the test, she combines this into a new resume – not a dry assemblage of things done in the past, but a dynamic report of who you are today. I think of the resume approach thus: I am this type of person, these are the accomplishments I have achieved, with an inference that you can do more than just your accomplishments. It’s a different message. You are now becoming a person who can do many things, instead of a person who can only repeat tasks done in the past.

Next is how to get through the recruiter screening process. Recruiting in the US has shifted from an outsourced business model to more in house, with large firms hiring lots of recruiters, screening 100s if not 1000s of resumes. How can an in-house recruiter sift through effectively so many resumes in short order? They use technology to screen for the right words. The more the right words come through the screening, the higher the chances a live person will actually spend time looking at your resume.

Marcia has invested a significant amount of time studying the recruiter process, interviewing many recruiters and coming up with an approach that gets more attention and more “human looks”. This approach has been crafted into a more unique cover letter than I have ever seen, one geared to helping to differentiate you from others, that will lift your resume to the top of a very big pile.

She will work with you to teach you how to interpret job postings, key word searches and how to craft your resume to fit the posted description. This will be trial and error and learning. You will find that your resume will over time start to get noticed or not, and from this adjustments made. When prior to starting to work with Marcia, I could send resumes and never, ever hear from anyone. All of a sudden I was getting rejects within 24 hours! My first inclination was that I suffered a reject and that sucks. Here her coaching comes in. "Yeah, rejection never feels good…but you just got noticed and you passed a screen. You are learning how to get through the system." Continuing to apply her techniques will get you noticed and you will see results.

Throughout the process, one overriding characteristic came out of the process. The human element that I have and have used in the past has it would seem left the job search process. Marcia brings it back. She is the interpreter of the process, helps you learn from the process, becomes the person to listen to your frustrations and keeps you on track. It's amazing how much effort she puts in with her clients and how much clients really need this approach. While I did not intend to use this post to sell Marcia, I guess the end result is that I have been doing so. So much of what she does appeals to the person that I am, diligent, persistent, focused. Her style and mine meshed well.

For all of this that Marcia provided and still provides, thank you.

The Final Chapter?

Well, it worked. I found a new direction, had a couple of attractive offers, and more interest from others coming in. To be clear, it was not a flood, but it was options. All were good firms, all had pros and cons, all paid reasonably well. And it was a little scary. My final choice was with a newer firm, large, global, still entrepreneurial, yet had a lot of challenges not elsewhere found in more mature firms. While the new firm had talent, it was technical in nature and not altogether customer friendly. Here was an area where my human element could solve issues. The multiple challenges meant using my multiple skills to solve and overcome challenges, take leadership initiatives, overcome hurdles, meet timelines, etc. While I was hoping to learn new technical skills, I have found my old ones in such need that I have shifted my short term goals a bit in favor of what was needed.

Where will this lead? I don’t know, and I don’t have a longer term professional goal yet in mind with this firm. Entrepreneurial means doing what is needed at the time with a direction in mind for the long term. Things are changing so fast, that by the time I come up with a longer term professional plan for me, its scrapped and need to rethink it. So for now, I watch for bright spots, facilitate processes to smooth them, build relationships, increase efficiencies, step up and lead when voids exist, do the tactical work, provide the strategic assessment, solve problems, lead presentations, sell. And I am getting paid. Which for now is enough.

Ed: I'd like to say a big thank you to Chad for providing this highly detailed and personal insight for this blog. If you'd like to connect with Chad or Marcia, I have embedded links to their LinkedIn profiles above. To contact Marcia at Forward Motion US just click this link.

Intel to join global job destruction initiative

20 April 2016

By Neil Patrick

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Intel, the world’s largest computer chip maker is embarking on a swath of job cuts around the world, saying:

“Intel Corp. is planning to slash 12,000 jobs, 11% of its workforce, a consequence of the shrinking personal-computer market and the chip maker’s failure to take advantage of the industry’s transition to smartphones.

The restructuring announced along with first-quarter results on Tuesday is Intel’s largest yet in terms of the number of employees affected.”

The irony of the situation is obvious – one of the greatest creators and enablers of job destroying technologies in recent years is now having to face up to its own job loss tsunami. Champions of the job creation capabilities of the tech sector should be eating humble pie or at least turning maroon with embarrassment.

If the world’s tech giants are not going to create more jobs, who will? Intel isn’t a Facebook, an Uber, a TripAdvisor, i.e. one of the job-lite app-based giants of tech. It’s a manufacturer of the equipment that enables them and us.

We just got one step closer to a job free world.

Intel News issued a statement on 19 April confirming this:

“These changes will result in the reduction of up to 12,000 positions globally — approximately 11 percent of employees — by mid-2017 through site consolidations worldwide, a combination of voluntary and involuntary departures, and a re-evaluation of programs”

Meanwhile over on the Intel Twitter feed, despite this gloomy news, the Intel comms team were putting on a brave smiley face and were keen to tell us that they are in the world’s top six most ‘authentic’ brands and not at all a Micky Mouse company:

It’s not the end for Intel, but it does remind us how tech businesses are not immune to reality. All businesses have life cyles, some short, some long.

Intel’s troubles reflect a common challenge in the tech sector. Companies that lead one generation of computing often struggle in the next. For decades, IBM's large mainframe systems were the natural choice for the world’s biggest businesses. IBM’s business flourished across the board, yet IBM was forced to withdraw from PCs and low-price server systems as competitors sucked profits away from the business.

Intel’s troubles have been coming for a long time. After reaching a peak share price approaching $80 no doubt helped no end by the false flag of the Millennium bug (remember that?), the business share price has bounced around in the $15-$35 range ever since as investors have failed to see any significant grounds for major optimism:

What we are seeing with Intel is not the end but possibly the beginning of the end. And Intel’s own announcement reveals a dead giveaway:

"Chief Financial Officer, Stacy Smith, will transition to a new role leading sales, manufacturing and operations (my emphasis), once the company identifies a successor to Mr. Smith, a 28-year Intel veteran. The company has begun an executive search that will include internal and external candidates."

So a finance guy is being put in charge of sales, manufacturing operations.

I have nothing against finance people. In fact I like them. But they don’t know how to grow businesses. They just know how to reduce costs. When Finance is in charge of Sales and Operations, you know there will only be one outcome – short term profit gains and long term business contraction.

This is the classic life cycle of tech businesses: founded by technologists, then run by operations, followed by marketing, then sales, then finance, and finally by lawyers.

Intel appears to be just one step away from the end game…

Britain set to become world leader in unemployment technology

1 April 2016

By Neil Patrick

As technology continues to transform jobs, a new government initiative will virtually eliminate jobs in the Jobs Centre network across the UK.

The flagship programme called ‘Care4Jobs’ will massively reduce staffing in job centres and in some centres eliminate them completely. Touch screens which automatically connect jobseekers’ social media accounts with suitable employers are being used to help people find work faster than was ever possible before. Because employers and jobseekers are now both using social media every day, the scheme was described as being a “no-brainer” by Jeremy Twonkington-Smyth, Under Secretary of Work for State and Pensions. He said:

“Britain has a long and proud history of world-leading innovation in the delivery of public services. We are determined to ensure we remain committed to the vital services we provide for job-seekers and employers. Our pilot study carried out in Grimsby, a northern town I hope I never have to visit, showed that the automated social media connection of employers and job-seekers had an immediate impact on the time taken to locate suitable jobs. This has resulted in a rapid decline in the number of unemployment benefit claimants. Many have already found jobs in Starbucks, McDonalds, Asda and other leading high quality employers who have embraced the digital and social media world. Some claimants have simply vanished completely which is a mystery we have set up a sub-committee to look into. ”

The use of this new technology in Job Centres means that the costs and difficulties of maintaining staffing levels are significantly reduced.

“We inherited a massively bloated and unproductive department from the previous government and have been working hard to rectify this. We have always had problems with staff in job centres. Some take several days off each year claiming to be sick, others take far too long to get their work done.”

Not only does this innovation increase productivity in job centres, it is enabling unemployed people in the UK to become part of the new ‘global gig economy’:

“We want to future proof our services and the use of these televisual screen thingies connected to the world wide interweb, means UK job-seekers can find jobs all over the world. Unemployed people in Britain have amassed many skills much sought after overseas. More than 20 have already secured work in dynamic overseas economies like Brazil, Colombia and Romania.”

Thanks to this innovative new scheme, Barry
 Clunge, 41 from Stockport has already found
 a new job working part-time in sunny Madrid.

The programme to automate job centres has cost £3.4bn and Mr Twonkington-Smyth said this was an excellent investment:

“This technology will establish Britain as a world leader in unemployment. Because technology works so much better than people, we will see both a reduction in unemployment claims and faster hirings. Best of all, the costs the unemployed impose on hard working families will fall dramatically.”

When asked about the forecast 28,000 redundancies in job centres, he was upbeat:

“We sincerely regret that a number of valued colleagues in our job centres can no-longer be paid for their work. Some will choose our community service option, where they can still attend the job centre as usual and work on a voluntary basis. I know many care passionately about helping people find work, and this will enable them to continue with their valuable work and continue to find personal fulfilment.”

“Those who choose not to take up this attractive option thanks to their excellent skills will be much in demand by other employers. Their skills such as working with people with financial, mental, drug and alcohol problems will be much sought after by all sorts of employers from call centres to retail.”

The Think-tank on Work and Technology (TWAT) said, “Our studies have shown that this sort of work is carried out much faster and more reliably by IT systems than people. Our research found that over 70% of employers prefer to use technology to automatically select candidates rather than having people manually review applications. The savings for businesses will be considerable.”

The technology for the programme has been developed by tech entrepreneur, Josh Jones, founder and CEO of Govetech Systems, an innovative IT developer which Josh founded in 2014 with a young entrepreneur grant of £1.2m from the EU Innovation Fund.

He said: “We are delighted with the success of the Care4Jobs platforms. This sort of system has many applications and we are already working on a further system which will enable the armed services to largely avoid the need to deploy troops into conflict zones. Instead they will use a combination of gaming technology and social media to connect with and then invite adversaries to fight them online. It will save billions of government spending on defence and enable the reduction of already overstretched armed forces troops and support staff.”

Josh Jones, 28, dynamic young entrepreneur
and CEO of Govetech Systems

“Enquiries from oversea governments have been coming faster than we ever thought possible. We are already in discussions with government representatives from Greece, Russia and most exciting of all the United States. Excuse me, I have to take this Skype call from my stock-broker.”

The opposition spokesperson on Work and Jobs, Miranda Trellis MP said:

“This is a cruel and uncaring government that is cynically attempting to export unemployment. Thousands of families will be devastated by this move. We are liaising closely with the Union for Technology Workers’ Employment Rights and Policy Unit (UTWERPU) to organise a protest campaign to force the government to rethink this regressive strategy which will bring misery to people already deprived of opportunities. Sorry, I’m late for an equality and human rights committee meeting with JC. Can I go now?”