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When in Doubt, Opt for Change

There is not one right career philosophy.  Each of us needs to find an approach that fits us.  I want to share my approach – When in Doubt, Opt for Change –  not simply because I am familiar with it, but also because I think it may be misunderstood and therefore, under-represented.

Concisely, when people encounter a decision point, they have choices – usually two.  If one choice is clearly better than the other, we all choose the better choice.  When it’s not clear which choice is better, most of us gather as much information as possible before a decision needs to be made, until one choice is clearly the best.  In some cases, after gathering the information available, it’s still not clear which choice makes the best sense.  When faced with this ambiguity, most people simply choose the status quo, and stay with what they have.  At the start of my career I adopted a philosophy to push myself out of the status quo comfort zone, and when I was in doubt about which choice was best, opt for change rather than stagnation.

Opt for Change

Photo credit: Natalie Jayne Photography (used with permission)

Baseball provides a good metaphor for career management philosophy   Getting your first job is like getting to first base.  Some people, incorrectly assume if they keep their foot on first they will remain safe.  It’s simply not true, in baseball or a career.  Keeping your foot on first is likely to get you forced out, in baseball, and in your job.  The game keeps moving even if you don’t.  There are times you are going to get forced out no matter what you do; and there are times the guy behind you will hit a home run and you will be carried home safely without any further effort on your part.  But most of the time, being nimble, playing smart, and taking reasonable risks will advance your career more than abdicating influence over your career, and just waiting for someone else to do something for you.   It’s true that you can’t get picked off if you stand on first base, and it is equally true that you can’t steal second with your foot on first.  But the most important truth is that having a good lead, and moving as the ball is hit is the best way to advance to second, and in your career.  

Opt for Change is a blog about taking an active role in your career. It will provide many first hand experiences and observations, but not advice, just the benefit of my experience.  You’ll have to figure out what of it makes sense for you and your personality.

Blue on White Opt for Change

“We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers – but never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change you’re the one who has got to change.”
― Katharine HepburnMe: Stories of My Life

Job Search Focus

One Trick Pony

Like many people, I’m not a one-trick pony.  I have many talents, and I try to bring them all to bear on problems that I am asked to tackle on the job.  The ability to house multiple skills in single individuals is an efficiency for every organization.  Many a supervisor, including me, has expressed appreciation to an employee who takes on challenges outside their assigned or expected scope.

However, when employers hire, they seldom look for diversified skills in a single individual.  Hiring is generally a process of pigeon-holing candidates in one discreet role or another.   I have found this over and over in my career. I do a lot of things pretty well, but people want to hire one thing. When you job search you want to be focused on selling that one thing. Once you get the job, you can let yourself be many things again.

This doesn’t mean your entire job search needs to be focused on a single skill.  To the contrary I recommend pursuing multiple job-function prospects simultaneously, just not with the same potential employer.  Make sure the resumes, cover letters, and interviews focus on the job being offered, and not your entire skill set.  At the hiring stage, it’s not about showing off everything you can do (that comes after you’re on the job); it’s about showing them how well you can do the specific things they are seeking now.

Blue on White Opt for Change

My recruiter pet peeves: Job Ad Mis-location and “awesome culture”


DenverTwo things demonstrated in this ad that I find annoying are the tendency of recruiters to mis-locate positions for which they are seeking candidates.  This has the effect of attracting candidates to ‘waste’ time evaluating search results that don’t have any relevance to them.  This is the equivalent of spamming to me.  The other thing I see all the time is “awesome culture” or “great culture” and that really is a waste of characters.  I don’t know what that means to the recruiter, so I don’t know what it means to me.

How do you connect with someone when you don’t know how to help them initially?

Two thoughts: first, if you really have no idea how to be helpful, maybe you are trying to jump too far in a single leap. Think about stepping stones between you and the VP/senior exec. Help the people who can help you get closer; that will also help you understand what’s useful to know and what could help the individual you are trying to reach. This requires more patience, but decreases the possibility you will fall flat on your face. Dig your well before you’re thirsty.

Second, sometimes targeting an individual is the wrong goal. I think moving your network consciously in a general direction, but not with such laser focus, produces opportunities you can’t recognize at the outset. This is especially so if you don’t understand the area well enough to be initially helpful. Start low and broad – meet the assistants, meet the support staff, meet the individual contributors. Know the new industry from the bottom up – top down learning can be a recipe for disaster. You don’t know what you don’t know.

Free Job Search Workshop (Charlotte, NC) Dec 18, 2013

Wed Dec 18 6PM 10710 Sikes Place Suite 300, Charlotte

RSVP: JBuckley@ppmsllc.com

Please RSVP to jbuckley@ppmsllc.com if you can attend this Free Job Search Workshop.I will plan to cover items of particular interest to current college students and recent (since the beginning of the Great Recession grads).  This will include using social media, with particular emphasis on LinkedIn.  But, space permitting, all are welcome and all current job seekers should find something of value.

RSVP soon to get a seat.

I will be presenting on Wednesday evening December 18 from 6 to 8 pm at a meeting room donated by Power Plant Management Services, LLC at their Charlotte office:

10710 Sikes Place, Suite 300, Charlotte, NC 28277


10710 Sikes Place, Suite 300

Directions from I-485

Ageism or Agism?

I invite you to read this article: Agism is real, and here’s how to deal with it in a job interview.

from Career Mojo

I have to admit, I was disappointed in this author’s article, even beyond the multiple spellings. The first thing is that she reinforces the basic stereotype assumption that everyone born between certain years is essentially the same. I see too many HR people make this mistake, but it still surprises me. Would you start from the assumption that all people of a certain race are the same, and then you have to convince the interviewer that you’re somehow better than your race? It’s bizarre, but that’s what she recommends you do for your age.

If someone is not going to hire you because of your age, they aren’t worth wasting your time. There are plenty of people out there who will look right past your age, just like there are plenty who will look past your gender, your race, your religion, your sexual orientation, etc. I recommend spending your time trying to find those people rather than convince the ones who are not going to give you a fair chance. Those people are in the minority, not you.

If you use your age, your race, your gender, your religion as an excuse for not finding a job, you are giving those who discriminate more power than they actually command. I’m not saying that it is not out there – it is – but there are substantially more people who will look to find a talented employee at a bargain price.

If you’re not getting jobs, it is more likely that you are viewed as more expensive than other capable candidates, not that you are viewed as too old. If you say something like “I realize you have a wide choice of generations to fulfill this position” you will be viewed as strange, and perhaps someone who sees the world through age stereotypes, and so not a good fit.

What if you say something like: “I’m not one to do a lot of nuanced game playing – I tend to just get to the point. I’m not desperate for a job, but I am motivated to get back to work, and while I’m not willing to work for minimum wage, you can probably hire me for less than you think. That may mean I leave some money on the table initially, but I’m confident, once I’ve proven myself, it will be worth it. Every job order has a salary range; I’m a well-qualified candidate who won’t be offended if you offer me something in the bottom part of the range.”

If you are well-qualified, and they don’t take that, then you saved yourself a lot of heartache, because they were never going to hire you. If you’re not willing to say that, then your issue really is price, not age. I have no problem with trying to get the best price for yourself; just recognize if you are unemployed, that you are not negotiating from a position of strength. As such, you are unlikely to have the leverage to get the price you want. When you are unemployed you are a price-taker, not a price-setter.

People will say it is better to have a job when you are looking for a job. Having a job doesn’t really help you find a job, but it does help you negotiate your price.  To negotiate, you need to convince the other party that you are willing to walk away from the table; the best way to convince them is to have a viable alternative and make sure they are aware of it.  Every employed candidate has that alternative in hand – their current job.  If you’re unemployed, unless you have another job offer in hand, you have no leverage.  You can pretend to yourself and to the employer that you are uniquely qualified and so pretend you are a price-setter, but you are not.  If that’s what is happening to you, that’s not ageism.

3rd Base

When is it Too Early to Quit?

I read the article When is it Too Early to Quit?  While I get the desire to be persistent, and I know the importance of perseverance, those things need to be balanced against opportunity and new challenges, and life long learning.

Every decision to do something is a decision to quit something else.  If I choose to follow my dream, I need to quit wasting my time.  Some people may look askance and disparage me because I quit my job, but if my job was a waste of time, shouldn’t I have quit?  I think it is never too early to quit – you just need to quit the things you should quit.  That’s a judgment call, and the most important decisions are often the most difficult because it’s hard to tell whether what I am doing now is wasting my time more than another option that presents itself.  If it’s clear which is the bigger waste of time, the decision is easy.  It’s when it’s not clear that people find themselves in a quandary: should I stay or should I go?  The vast majority of people elect to stay with the status quo when facing this ambiguity.  But I say, move out of your comfort zone and try something new: Opt for Change.

Blue on White Opt for Change

The Importance of Your LinkedIn Headline

LinkedIn headlines provide the most powerful 120 characters of language on your LinkedIn profile, and unfortunately, it is often under-utilized.  “By default, LinkedIn populates your headline with your current job title and employer” — and unfortunately most people leave it in there.  What’s really bad is that if you update your experience, say with a new job, LinkedIn doesn’t always update your default headline.  So your headline can be an out of date mismatch with your profile’s experience. Especially if you are actively job-searching, but even if you are using LinkedIn for business leads, or passively keeping yourself apprised of the market, you should review your headline.  And your headline should be aligned with the goal you are seeking to achieve.  Review this article: “The Right Keywords for Your LinkedIn Profile Headline” for tips on how to use different headline types for different goals.


“How To Make Your LinkedIn Headline Stand Out” – Forbes.com


The first rule is that your headline should not simply repeat your job title and employer in your headline. That’s not only redundant, it sends the subliminal message that your are where you want to be, and aspire to nothing more. You want to convey that you do aspire to be something more – that you’re current role is just one rendition of what you can offer.

If you want your profile to attract attention when it shows up in a search result list, you should consider:

  1. Describing WHAT you are,
  2. Describing WHO it is you can help,
  3. Describing HOW you improve the organization, and
  4. Giving an EXAMPLE or CREDENTIAL.

You can search your connections on LinkedIn, reading what they have in their headlines.  There are also articles that provide particularly catchy examples that you may be able to tailor to your situation.  Be cautious not to be so creative that readers can be confused about what you are offering.



“The Best Time to Look for a Job is When One has a Job”

While I agree that sometimes the “best time to look for a job is when one has a job,” unemployed people actually have several advantages in the job search arena, and in-house recruiters appreciate these advantages much more than recruiters for hire. If you are working mostly with recruiters for hire, then you have probably heard this “best time to look for a job is when one has a job” adage frequently because one of the selling points that recruiters for hire have traditionally offered their clients is the ability to identify passive (ie employed) candidates. So for decades recruiters for hire have been telling their clients (employers) that currently employed candidates are “better” candidates.  Some recruiters for hire reinforce this concept by telling employers if someone is unemployed, there must be something wrong with them. This has created an unjustified bias against unemployed candidates.

When I recruit, here are the advantages I see for unemployed candidates. First, the unemployed come without a fee. Second, they are available for a phone screen on my schedule and my hiring manager’s schedule – this can save a week or more of scheduling time. Third, they are available on my schedule and the hiring manager’s schedule for initial interviews and follow-up interviews – this can literally save 2-3 weeks in the hiring process. Fourth, they are an easier sell, and they are much less likely to slow down the process with negotiation of salary, vacation, job titles, gym and country club memberships, relo, and car leases, which can save another week in the hiring process. Fifth, they don’t need to give notice, and they aren’t subject to counter-offers, which can save at least 2 weeks, and in some cases, prevents the restart of the whole process when you realize your offer was just leverage to get their current employer to give an additional week of vacation. Sixth, and this can be the most important, people who have been unemployed, appreciate the job, and have a better attitude.