Category Archives: Career Planning

The Rise of the Zombie Connectors℠!

I like to think of myself as one of the early adopters of LinkedIn. I’ve been a Member since February 20, 2004. [If you were an earlier adopter, let me know. I’m always looking for people who remember when you had to connect with people you didn’t know, because there were so few people on LinkedIn, it was hard to find anyone you knew].

One of the great strengths of LinkedIn is that it has morphed repeatedly to new environments; it’s seldom been the best tool you might have imagined for the particular job you want done, but it’s been a pretty good utility tool for a lot of different jobs. I used it early on to meet innovative people, then as more folks joined, I started to use it to reconnect with people. I used it to job search, and I used it to hire employees. I remember all the squawking when profile photos were implemented – some people were sooo against that! But LinkedIn has survived by being adaptive and tolerant of many types of users. For me, it’s not the tool it once was, but it’s still a pretty good tool. For others, it’s not as good, but for many more, it’s just a different tool.

LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers)

We’ve always had users who find value in connecting with everyone they can. I’m not one who perceives that value. When your connections devolve into a list of people you don’t know, it just seems like a phone book to me, and I already have one of those that works better and covers more people – it’s called Google. In any case, LIONs usually announce themselves in their Headlines or even their Names, so you know when you’re getting an invitation from a LION. I usually click ignore.

Zombie Connectors℠

There are some people who reach out to connect with me using the standard ‘no message’ option which LinkedIn provides.  Years ago I noticed that when I reached out to these people, they almost never responded back.  I call these people who don’t respond: Zombie Connectors℠.

Zombie Connectors

For several years I have employed a standard practice of replying to those who invite me to connect, but whom I don’t know, with the question: ‘How may I be of assistance?’  It’s really amazing to me but the vast majority do not even respond.  I let them sit there for 6 months, when LinkedIn automatically withdraws their request.  At any given time I have over 100 Zombie Connectors℠ who have invited me to connect, but haven’t responded to my message back.

I can’t emphasize how poorly this reflects on them as individuals, or how it also reflects poorly on their employers.  You don’t want to be a Zombie Connector℠.  If you are going to invite someone to connect with you, you need to be responsible enough to be responsive.  Whether you are actively job searching, or just passively in the market, there is not only the possibility that someone will remember that you ignored them, there is probably a record of it in their LinkedIn messages.

“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.

Assess, Plan, Prepare, Implement … Re-Assess

Anytime you find your self in an “un”employed situation – whether completely unemployed, underemployed, unhappily employed, or uncomfortably employed – you should start by taking some time to truly assess your situation.  This assessment should include not only where you are in your career, but how you got there, and where you want to go.  StartUpofYouIf you need help on figuring out where you want to go, I would recommend  picking up a copy of The Start Up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha.  I find this book to be a significant improvement over What Color is Your Parachute.  There are assessment tools and career coaches that can also help you assess your situation.

Once you have a sense of where you are in your career, and where you want to head, I recommend putting together a plan to market yourself.  You want to start by thinking longer term than your next position.  A career coach told me to think about the job you want to have after the next one to get myself in a forward thinking frame of mind.

I recommend you prepare a draft one-page marketing plan and share it with people you meet for informational networking.  Too often people put off networking until they are in a desperate situation.  As Harvey McKay explained in his book, you need to Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty. Because the unemployed often feel pressure to quickly get a job, they can tend to push informational networking into simply asking for a job.  This can make the people you network with defensive.  There is a technique to Face-to-Face Job Search Networking using a one-page marketing plan that can relieve this pressure.

Once you’ve prepared your draft marketing plan, prepared your resume and cover letter templates, developed a tracking sheet system, ordered business cards, and organized a list of contacts with whom to network, you simply need to implement your job search plan.   LinkedIn is a great tool, especially for introverts, to aid in business professional networking, but it’s not the only tool.  In addition to other social media tools (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc) you should access other sources of contacts, such as your Outlook, gmail, or yahoo address books.

To recap:Assess Plan Prepare Implement wo borders

  1. —Assess Yourself and Your Situation
  2. —Plan Your Marketing Strategy
  3. —Prepare Your Documents, Tools, Techniques
  4. —Implement Your Search

 

Periodically in your job search process you should take some time to Re-Assess your progress;  determine what is working for you and what isn’t.  Don’t be afraid to change your plan, your documents, or your techniques.  Just be deliberate about the changes you make, and be objective about how the changes help or don’t help your search.

Blue-on-White-Opt-for-Change.png

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
― George Bernard Shaw

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