Monthly Archives: July 2013

Comfortable Looking? Or Looking Despite Discomfort?

Survey Shows Younger Workers Most Comfortable Job Hunting While Employed

Survey Shows Younger Workers Most Comfortable Job Hunting While Employed

Recent articles in the Silicon Valley Business Journal, Charlotte Business Journal, and Pittsburgh Business Times draw some interesting, albeit suspect, conclusions about an Accountemps study of job search habits of employees over 18.

The Accountemps study press release supports the adage “the best time to look for a job is when you already have one.” And here’s the good news: nearly 3/4’s of office employees feel “very comfortable” or “somewhat comfortable” heeding this advice.  The remaining quarter are “somewhat uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” looking for new employment before leaving their current firm.  That doesn’t mean they don’t do it; it just means they are anxious about doing it.  The authors, as well as the business journal reporters, seem to have missed this last point.

The Silicon Valley reporter drew the conclusion that the study “found stark disparities in new job search tactics among workers of different age groups.” Several of the articles were critical of younger workers, aka millennials, because of their higher level of comfort with “looking for a new job while on the clock for their current employer.”   

Unless you get paid overtime for receiving those evening and late night emails on your smart-phone, you are always “on the clock.” So this understanding of the study suffers at its inception from misconstruing the questions answered. However, I think the difference in age groups stems as much from perception by the responders to the questions and the responders stage of their career, as much as any difference in “job hopping” sentiment.

Millennials blur the lines of work and personal time, or rather they don’t try so hard to keep them separate. When you ask a millennial when he/she is at work, they are much more likely to reply “all the time.” They are more likely to see “the place” they work to be irrelevant to any designation of being “at work.” They are “at work” emailing on public transportation; they are “at work” when they answer a call at dinner; they are “at work” when they prepare a presentation from a beach house. Because they work from so many “personal” locations, they naturally conduct more personal business from more traditional “work” locations.

The other bias in this survey is the definition of “job search activities.” For this study job search activities encompass only those activities that can be conducted at a traditional office location, and activities focused on those early in their careers.

The reason people over 50 don’t spend time at work “searching online job applications” is that it’s a waste of their time. By the time you get 30 years into your career, networking is far and away the most productive way to job search – every outplacement consultant will tell you this. But networking with professional colleagues at trade association events, off-site professional continuing education seminars, at coffee shops, or even golfing, aren’t listed – this is the way people with 30 years experience find jobs: networking with colleagues they know to people they don’t.

People who are in an earlier stage of their career can benefit to a much, much higher degree from responding to online job ads or, as they get just a few years of experience, working with professional recruiters.  Obviously any data would show a younger bias toward these activities.  The press release mentioned no efforts to compensate for this inherent bias.

My conclusion is that these articles, like far too many I read on job searching, promote stereotypes which in addition to the inherent problems with any generalization, also inaccurately criticize the behavior of entire groups of employees.

Blue-on-White-Opt-for-Change.png“The job is what you do when you are told what to do. The job is showing up at the factory, following instructions, meeting spec, and being managed. Someone can always do your job a little better or faster or cheaper than you can. The job might be difficult, it might require skill, but it’s a job.

Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people.  I call the process of doing your art ‘the work.’  It’s possible to have a job and do the work, too. In fact, that’s how you become a linchpin.  The job is not the work.”   ― Seth GodinLinchpin: Are You Indispensable?

Ask Good Questions During the Interview

At some point in the interview, usually near the end, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions.  The best questions are those that trigger an opportunity for you to tell a personal SOAR story.  Some people call these STAR stories.

What is a SOAR Story? Start with the 10 accomplishments in your career of which you are most proud. Those are the Results – the R in STAR or SOAR. Draw five columns on a sheet of paper. In the right-most column labelled R, list your Results. Leave the left-most column blank for now, but in the second from the left labelled S for Situation, briefly describe what the situation was before you began working on it. The next column to the right can be labelled T for Task that you had to complete or O for the Obstacle you had to overcome. The next column is labelled A for the Action you took.

After you’ve filled out that part of the table for 10 results you are most proud of, you want to commit your SOAR or STAR stories to memory. You want to be able to quickly relate any question an interviewer might ask to one of the stories and tell it. Practice with a friend. Once you’ve got your stories down, so you can trigger them from memory easily, you need to work on that left-most column. This column is for questions you will ask the interviewer when they inevitably ask if you have any questions. You want to ask a question that will trigger the interviewer to start talking about the subject matter of one of your SOAR stories. When that happens, listen for a while, until you hear the opening to chime in with something like “we had a situation similar to that when …” and tell your SOAR story.


“All is flux, nothing stays still”
― Plato

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.


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

Nuts and Bolts of Face-to-Face Job Search Networking: The Introduction

It is important to lower the defensiveness that a weak or new connection may have when you first network with them at a coffee shop or similar situation. They know you want a job; they know they don’t have one to give, and that makes them feel awkward before you even meet.  It’s important to get off on the right foot.

Once you’ve identified each other (another reason to have your photo on your LinkedIn profile), quickly introduce your situation.  You want to accomplish five (5) things as quickly as possible:

  1. You want to thank them for agreeing to meet with you.
  2. You want to acknowledge the person who connected you.  
  3. You want to relate your situation positively.  
  4. You want tell them you’re not looking for job yet.
  5. You want to tell them what you do want, information – which they do have, which will help you in understanding the market for your skills.

Consider combining these in a fluid, rehearsed statement, such as the one below:

“Thanks for agreeing to meet with me.  I know you’re busy so I’ll try to be as brief as I possible.  [John] may have mentioned to you that I was recently let go from [former employer] as part of a reorganization and downsizing. I’m not actually looking for a job yet.  I was given a good severance package, but I’m not set for life or anything.  With that said, I’m comfortable enough for the near term, and want to make a good, long term decision for my next position.  I spoke to a career counselor who suggested that I re-acquaint myself with the market for my skills before starting my job search in earnest.  So that’s what I’m doing – and I hope you can help me with – just getting a better understanding of the current market for [my profession in my geographic area], essentially what potential employers are out there – who’s doing well, and who’s not – what’s up and coming that you’ve heard about.  My career adviser called it a personal marketing plan, and that’s what I’m in the early stages of developing.  It’s actually pretty interesting.”

Of course they want to help, or they wouldn’t be there. You’ve just relieved their defensiveness by telling them how they can help.  The last line about it being interesting is important because it engages people’s curiosity.  They will want to learn about what you’ve learned because we all have been, or could see ourselves being, where you are.


“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
― Andy WarholThe Philosophy of Andy Warhol