Effective Planning

Thank you all for coming. Before I begin, I want to thank Dave for the invitation and Wells Fargo for hosting.   I would appreciate it if you would turn off your phones. Also, I have gotten this speech down to 27 minutes. I’m a PhD which stands for “piled higher and deeper,” so for me to stay within the allotted time, isn’t easy.  I would appreciate it if you would hold your questions and comments to the end. If you would like to know the sources I used for this presentation, it will be posted on LinkedIn and my blogs by the end of the day, tomorrow at the latest.

This is a talk on Effective Planning. A plan is a solution to a problem. If you don’t have a problem, you don’t need a plan. But it is not just any problem. It is a problem which will occur or will be solved in the future.

Problem and stress are opposite sides of the same coin. That said, you can’t have stress without having a problem, but you can have a problem without having stress. For example, as some of you know, I suffer from double vision. I am not stressed, as my ophthalmologist said, it’s a nuisance. It’s a problem without stress because there was a plan and a solution – 3 pairs of glasses!

Now “problem” may be too harsh a word. Occasionally, “situation” may be better. We all had plans today that we did not think about, to solve “problems” that were not really problems. To wake up on time, we set our alarms. To look professional, we chose what to wear. To have the strength to get here, we chose what to eat and how to prepare it. To arrive, we planned how to get here. And we did not spend even a second thinking about any of this because we have done it so often that it is second nature.

“Second nature” is an important phrase. Planning is in our nature. It is in our DNA. It’s in the DNA of all animals. It’s how an infant knows how to open their eyes and to suckle.   It’s how a pregnant animal knows how to give birth.

Everything we do is planned either by us or for us. Most plans, for those of us in this room, are automatic. We are adults. We know how to do many things without thinking about them. We are professionals. We know how to do our jobs. Something goes wrong, we know how to fix it. We do what has to be done. Those of you with employees, train them so that you don’t have to micromanage them. That’s why one of the most important rules of hiring is to hire people who are, or have the potential to be, smarter than you.  The other is to have a diversified workforce which makes for superior decision making.

Of course, sometimes there are special circumstances where you have to sit and actually devise a plan.  But there is a problem with plans and planning. As von Moltke famously said, and I am paraphrasing a bit, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy” (https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Helmuth_von_Moltke_the_Elder). The enemy could be the Germans at Normandy, your competitors, government regulators, and I’m sure none of you has had to face this situation, but clients and customers can be enemies. You have this perfect plan and they mess it up. Or it could be something as simple as a storm and the power going out which brings business to a grinding halt.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, in her biography of LBJ, put it differently: “In typical circumstances, of course, people who slip into fantasy are quickly set straight by the adverse criticism of those around them, which forces them to face the truth” (Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, eBook edition, Loc: 5880-5881).  In other words, your team can be the QUOTE UNQUOTE “enemy” because they give you a reality check and explain that what you want can’t be done.

Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable” (https://quoteinvestigator.com/2017/11/18/planning/). Ironically, many entrepreneurs never write a business plan. I once attended an Awards Breakfast, I think it was for Crain’s Entrepreneurs of the Year. There were half a dozen people being honored. Only one had written a business plan.

Earlier I said that planning deals with the future. I want to return to that thought.

We all know the quote, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” I wanted to share with you an example from business. But I wanted it to be a colossal failure. I was thinking about cybersecurity, which I will touch on in a few minutes. I could not find one. It’s not, for example, that Target or Equifax did not have their systems protected, it’s just that the bad guys were better than the good guys. That’s not the example I wanted. It won’t happen, but Y3K could be an example if they don’t learn from Y2K. I wanted an example where the participants had not learned the lessons of history. I could not find one.

And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it does not exist, because entrepreneurs, and that includes all of us in this room, are known for reading about the experiences of others who have been there and done that.

Learning from precedent is how we plan for the future.  When creating a business, some people want to be unicorns – companies with a billion-dollar valuation, but all want to avoid black swans – costly surprises with extremely unfortunate consequences. So, the majority of us initially write a business plan.

We write a business plan to focus on the business. We want to think things through. We want to make certain we have all our ducks in a row. We want to make certain that we can achieve our goals and avoid those black swans.  And then we get started, we put those plans in our desk drawer, and never look at them again because they immediately become irrelevant unless we need them for funding purposes and then, more often than not, they have to be rewritten.

Business plans are works of fiction. They are what we HOPE will happen, not what necessarily IS happening or is GOING TO happen.

We make plans for business and for our personal lives.

We have stress in our lives. Sometimes through our own fault, sometimes not. People say you should manage stress. There is an industry of people who help others MANAGE stress. That is something I have never understood.

Just as true leaders manage projects, not people, you should not manage stress. Meditation is a good example. Some people use meditation as a way to clear their heads to confront and solve their problems. I am not concerned with them. My focus is on those, like some of my clients who use meditation as a coping mechanism to manage their problems. For sake of argument, you go into a room, shut the door, sit on the floor and meditate. You relax. You are no longer stressed. You stand up. You are refreshed. You open the door. And the stress is still there because the problem is still there. You have solved nothing. You created a fiction instead of confronting reality.

That is why I don’t believe in stress MANAGEMENT. I believe in stress ELIMINATION.

What are some of the causes of stress?

First, there’s not enough time in the day. Years ago, I gained time by rejecting the notion of a work-life balance. There’s no such thing. There are the “have-to”s and the “want-to”s. The “have-to”s in your personal life are just as urgent and necessary as the “have-to”s in your professional life. I HAVE TO interview candidates for the positions I am looking to fill. I WANT TO read a book. I HAVE TO compose a speech for a speech writing client. I WANT TO go out for dinner.

Some “have-to”s and “want-to”s can be combined. You can have a meeting and eat a meal. You can do your laundry and read a book. But some can’t.

Some of you have to attend an important client meeting. Problem is, at the same time you want to be at your child’s recital. So you have to explain to your child the importance of the client meeting so that they will learn. And sometimes you have to tell your colleagues that they really don’t need you at the meeting, but your child really does need to see you at their event, so THEY have to learn. And if that means afterwards, you have to go back to the office, so be it. It’s a lesson for your child and an example for your colleagues.

Now the Number One cause of lost productivity in the workplace is when people bring their personal lives into the office, causing stress to the productive employees who want to work and not chit-chat and resent the chit-chatting. Work should be a sanctuary from home; home should be a sanctuary from work. There are always exceptions to the rule. Emergencies happen.

Twice I went to bosses and begged them to get my colleagues to stop bringing their personal lives to work. In both cases they said it was impossible, but if I could do it, I had their permission. One case was a woman who got engaged. The other was a wife complaining about a vacation her husband was planning.  I spoke out. The engagement and vacation were cancelled. But, more importantly, in both cases, about a week after I intervened, both bosses called me into their office and said that since I had done what I had done, productivity had risen. Don’t allow staff to bring their personal lives into the workplace. And don’t make it a regular occurrence that you force them to bring work home. Fair is fair.

By the way, for those of you who paid, I don’t want to know how much, for tickets to see Hamilton, I paid $15.98 for the book. One quote is germane to our discussion. Chernow writes (Alexander Hamilton, eBook edition, page 175), “Madison was a priggish bachelor and tight-lipped about his private affairs. No personal gossip ever smudged the severe rectitude of James Madison’s image.” If you don’t want to have people gossiping about you, don’t give them any information to gossip about. It’s not rocket science!

As I said earlier, when we plan, we plan for the future.  That is, perhaps, the most important function of a business owner, of a leader.  The future is mostly unknown, but not really. The problem is, most people don’t plan for those things causing stress, sometimes to themselves but mainly to the people they supposedly care about. A few examples of what they know they need but don’t plan for are: an exit strategy from their company meaning succession planning; retirement; death meaning buying life and long-term care insurance. And don’t forget, if you have partners, you need life insurance on them to protect the business.

There are other things that are known and can be foreseen. You don’t know when they are going to happen only that they WILL happen. Simple example, we all know we will become ill or injured so we have health insurance. Or, we know there will be new government regulations, so we join professional associations to learn what to do.

Here’s another example, this one is from the not-always “Happiest Place on Earth.”  I was at a conference at Disneyland, staying at a hotel outside of the park, when this very rude woman woke me up at around 3 AM. The woman was Mother Nature and she decided I should experience a 7 point something magnitude earthquake. No alarms were going off. People were just standing on the balcony of the adjacent hotel. So I went back to bed until an aftershock around 6 convinced me it was time to shower, get dressed and leave for the conference.

I turned on the TV. They were interviewing the director of Emergency Management for Disneyland. He said it was no big deal. They had a plan. He was holding it. The plan was in a binder that had to be a good 8 inches thick.  Conference participants who were staying at Disneyland proper, told me that they were escorted from their rooms and out of their hotel by 3:15 and back in their beds by 4. When I got to the conference center, at around 7, breakfast was already setup. They had a plan. They implemented it. No stress. No problem.

A key to effective planning is learning and that includes intelligence gathering. You have to understand all you can about a situation. This does not mean “industrial espionage” it means “intelligence gathering” and it can be as simple as buying your competitor’s product or sending someone to their store.  But it’s not always that simple:

And you can fail. There was a huge intelligence failure on D-Day. If the Allies, with all their resources, were not perfect, you shouldn’t expect to be either. You will make mistakes. You will have to make corrections. It’s part of planning. Planning has to be flexible.

And that’s why you need a good team. And this brings us to the current state of the workforce.

The first thing about the future is you know one of your employees is going to do or say something stupid. That’s easy to deal with. You have a personnel handbook, and everyone has to sign that they have read it and will abide by its terms. And then you stick to it like glue.

So let’s talk about hiring. What is the state of the workforce? We focus on the unemployment numbers. But you cannot look at the unemployment numbers in a vacuum. You also have to consider the size of the workforce. How many people have voluntarily stopped looking for work? How many have decided to resume their job search? That’s the number that is the real indication of the state of the workforce. Today we have low unemployment, many people who can’t find work and want to work, and many employers who can’t find qualified people, especially in tech. So the irony is, as the job market improves, and people find jobs, we have low unemployment. But then, the people who gave up looking, try again, and unemployment rises. And that’s a good thing.

According to Inc. Magazine (Winter 2019/2020, pp. 104-105), 2 out of every 5 workers plan to leave their jobs in the next year. What’s more, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in September of last year, there were 7 million job openings, and only 0.8 unemployed persons available to fill each job. (And, no, I don’t know what a zero point 8 person looks like!)

So who is out there looking for work?  Experienced older workers. They are not my concern. School graduates. They are my concern.

Let’s deal first with public school. For the lawyers in the audience, we can mention Brown v. the Board of Education (1954) where the Supreme Court ruled that segregation was UNconstitutional. And then there was the ever popular, I’m being sarcastic, Plessey v. Ferguson that 58 years earlier had ruled racial segregation, as in “separate but equal,” WAS constitutional.

And now, 66 years after Brown, here in New York City, we have arguably the most segregated public schools in the nation (https://observer.com/2018/06/new-york-city-public-school-segregation/). This is supposedly because of the demographics of neighborhoods, some of which have a population 90% of a single race (https://www.publicschoolreview.com/blog/new-yorks-schools-are-the-most-segregated-in-the-nation). But the bottom line is, fewer white children have a chance to interact with minority peers, and vice versa. Well, if they don’t learn how to get along in public school, perhaps they’ll learn in college.

Not so. While segregation in public schools is race-based, in colleges it is ideology-based (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/12/business/media/northwestern-university-newspaper.html). Conservatives are blocked from speaking. Late last year, when the student newspaper at Northwestern published the story of demonstrations surrounding a speaking engagement by Jeff Sessions, they printed photos of the demonstrations and called participants for comments. The students complained that their photos had been published without their consent and that they had been scared when the reporters called. The student-journalists were doing their job. That’s what journalists do. They call people to interview them and they publish photos of events. But what did the university do in response to the complaints? They issued an apology for the students having been scared and upset.

So college students don’t know how to interact with people who hold different ideas. Think of what that means for the workplace. When these students don’t get their way, they will do what they have been taught by example. They’ll protest. How? They’ll run to HR and file a complaint. They have learned to be adult whiners.

And, for the record, it’s not just conservatives who are being blocked. Comedians are being censored to such an extent that even Jerry Seinfeld is refusing to perform on college campuses. The students are so sensitive that anything can set them off and be taken out of context. It’s just not worth the aggravation or, if you prefer, it’s just not worth the stress (https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/red-alert-politics/comedians-arent-allowed-to-be-funny-on-college-campuses).

And we are not talking about isolated incidents. A recent survey by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, shows that almost two-thirds of conservative students, half of moderate students, and about a quarter of liberal students, are afraid to voice their opinions to other students AND to FACULTY (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/both-liberals-and-conservatives-tell-the-wrong-story-about-free-speech-on-college-campuses-2020-02-19). So, what’s going to happen when THEY enter the workforce? Will they share their opinions or sit quietly at the conference table? That will be a problem.

And that may be why some students are quitting college for technical schools. First, they won’t have to deal with any of this foolishness. Second, they get trained to actually do a job. Third, the schools make their money by performing, in other words, by the high percentage of graduates who find work before they graduate, so their career counseling departments have to be highly efficient. And fourth, less student debt.

But that’s not all. Permit me to return to the situation in our public schools.

In 2007 the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics reported that 1,770,000 students were homeschooled, meaning 3.4% of school-aged children. Here’s the situation: 68% of those children were white, 15% Hispanic, 8% black, 4% Asian or Pacific Islanders (https://hslda.org/content/docs/news/2013/201309030.asp). In 2019 the National Home Research Institute reported that 2.5 million students were home schooled and 32%, the same percentage, were non-white (https://www.nheri.org/research-facts-on-homeschooling/).

Now the Institute, with all due respect, represents a constituency. So, we have to take their report with healthy skepticism, even though they did confirm the 32% stat. They claim that their students do better than public school students and that they get plenty of peer-to-peer interaction in extracurricular activities.

For sake of argument, let’s say that is true. So, we have children learning at home and not in school. Add to that the gig economy, people working at home, or in cafes, and not at an office. The Federal Reserve estimates that 75 million people are in the gig economy (https://www.bradley.com/insights/publications/2019/10/the-more-things-change-the-more-they-remain-the-same-worker-classification-in-the-gig-economy). Additionally, FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics claims that 3.9 million employees, or 2.9% of the US workforce, telecommutes, working from home at least half the time (https://www.flexjobs.com/2017-State-of-Telecommuting-US). And this will only increase as the world becomes a 5G planet (https://www.inc.com/jason-aten/5g-will-change-way-you-work-from-anywhere.html?cid=search).

So, the trend seems to be away from working as a team, at least a team in close proximity, to working as individuals.

Now we all know he can’t build a shatter-proof window but Business Insider reports (December 26, 2019) that “Elon Musk says you still don’t need a college degree to work at Tesla.” He looks for “evidence of exceptional ability,” and “a track record of exceptional achievement.” He wants people who have a record of solving difficult problems.

Let me ask you this: Who would you rather hire, someone who, as a final college project, created a perfect ecommerce website or someone who, the day they graduated from high school, logged onto their computer, taught themselves to code, and built a perfect ecommerce website?

My approach to planning is rules-based. Rules are based on past experience. That’s just logical. So when a friend, job seeker or business owner calls and says they have a problem, I know what to do.  I have rules. I follow them. Stress eliminated. Problem solved. And this can be anything from hiring, finding a new job, dealing with a disruptive client, coping with a neighbor, getting engaged, to even getting revenge.

Personal relationships are what I call binary situations and they are easy to plan. Either the relationship will work or it won’t.

The ironic thing is, this is exactly the same in business with one exception. There is no lawyer who would not insist that their client sign a partnership agreement when going into business with someone. But there are lawyers who advise their clients against signing pre-nups, which, to me, makes no sense, and which, ironically, can be detrimental to future business plans.

Now in business we know that one thing is probably going to happen to everyone in this room, everyone in business, literally everywhere. (See Chris Moskovititis, Cybersecurity Program Development for Business [Hoboken, NJ: Wiley 2018], pages 1-3.) 

There’s a hacker attack every 39 seconds. A third of all consumers in the US have experienced a cyberattack costing between $500 and $5,000. It takes 2 minutes for an Internet of Things device to be attacked. The average ransomware attack costs a little over $1,000. And here’s what should really scare you: Three-quarters of all attacks come from the outside, but one-quarter involve insiders. Forty-three percent of cyberattacks target small businesses, and 60% of those are out of business within 6 months. Forty-eight percent of attacks are malicious, while 52% are caused by human error or a systems failure. We are talking trillions of dollars in damage.

So what do you do? If you’re a little guy like me, you have protocols in place. If you’re a big guy, you hire someone to provide cybersecurity.

In any event, as I said, to plan for the future you create rules based on past experience. You also have to have the tools to, frankly, be a threat, because you never know who you will be facing. One quote I really like is from Bob Woodward. He related the following: “I remember, a couple of years ago, having breakfast with one of the world leaders who is one of our best allies. I said, ‘What do you think of Obama?’ He said, ‘I really like him. He’s really smart. But no one’s afraid of him.’” (David Rubenstein, The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians [eBook edition, p. 316]). Another word for “afraid” is “respect.”

That is why I built a social media network that today stands at over 44,000. I have used it to help clients and I have used it to help myself.

Bottom line: Hope for the best, plan for the worst. Eliminate stress, don’t manage it. Learn all you can before you act. Make sure you know the facts. Learn from the past – both the mistakes and the successes of others. And, most importantly, establish and abide by rules.  Do so and your planning will be effective.

Thank you.

Job Alert: Property Manager – Brooklyn, NY

My client, a large management company which offers great training and room for growth, seeks to hire a Property Manager for a 350-unit government supervised Mitchell-Lama Development in Brooklyn, NY.

The Property Manager will be responsible for the overall management of the Development, including but not limited to:

  • Supervising maintenance, security and administrative staff to ensure everyone is following procedures and working efficiently;
  • Develop and monitor budget to minimize costs while ensuring proper services;
  • Ensure highest possible occupancy rate and collection of carrying charges;
  • Managing Accounts Receivable;
  • Administering landlord-tenant issues and Accounts Payable processing;
  • Oversee maintenance including preventive maintenance, restorations and grounds;
  • Handle capital projects including RFPs, securing bids and overseeing contractors;
  • Supervise and assist with coordination of bidding process for all purchases;
  • Communicate with governmental agencies and send contracts for review;
  • Prepare work schedules, assign work and oversee work results;
  • Hire, direct and mediate between staff including disciplinary actions;
  • Process liability claims and handle insurance matters;
  • Applicant screening and maintaining applicant waiting list;
  • Completing status reports;
  • Resolving resident complaints and issues; and
  • Attending meetings as needed (including night meetings).

Qualifications

  • High school diploma or equivalent;
  • Two to five years’ experience in property management;
  • Experience supervising employees;
  • Ability to communicate with owners/board of directors (written and oral);
  • Excellent time management and general organizational skills; and
  • Proficient with Microsoft Outlook, Excel and Word.

Compensation:  $60,000 Annual Salary; 401(k), Medical

To submit your candidacy, send a cover letter, along with your resume, to Bruce Hurwitz at bh@hsstaffing.com.   Qualified candidates will be contacted within 48 hours.  No phone calls please.

FRAUDULENT RECRUITING PRACTICES

           Let me begin by stating that when I say “fraudulent” I do not necessarily mean “illegal.” I am not an attorney. While the practices I am about to describe may be considered “deceptive,” and I believe they are unethical, I am not saying that anyone behaving in this regard should be the subject of criminal proceedings. Civil? Maybe.

           It seems to me, if a recruiter prepares a candidate for a job interview so well, that the candidate behaves in a way totally divorced from their real character and personality, and they are hired, the employer may have grounds for a civil suit because of the deception.

End of “law” lecture.

Everyone in business, whether they know it or not, whether they want to believe it or not, whether they like it or not, is in sales. What is “sales?” What is “selling?” For me, it’s the art of persuasion.

I don’t remember the book, but I remember reading a sales book where the author deals with the traditional sales job interview request by the interviewer to the candidate, “Sell me this pen.” The classic response is to ask the person why they need a pen and then, based on the response, to talk about the pen’s attributes and benefits. A more modern approach is to tell a story that will resonate with the prospective buyer by explaining how the pen helped someone, similar to them, in their same exact situation. But the author of the book had a novel approach: His suggestion was to take the pen, put it in your pocket and walk out of the room. If the interviewer wanted the pen back, he’d have to buy it!

After reading the book, I had a job interview for a fundraising position. Sure enough, the interviewer handed me his pen and said, “Sell me this pen!”

I smiled. I put it in my pocket. I got up. I left the room and sat in the Reception area. I had a huge smile on my face. The receptionist asked what I was smiling about. I told her, “You’ll see!”

A minute later the (angry) interviewer, let’s call him “Joe,” appeared. The conversation went something like this:

Joe: Give me my pen.

Bruce: What pen?

Joe: The pen I told you to sell to me and that you put in your pocket.

Bruce: You can’t ask someone to sell you something that they do not own. So, by implication, when you handed me the pen and told me to sell it to you, you were giving me ownership. The pen is mine.

(At this point a delivery guy arrived with lunch for the receptionist and one of her colleagues who were doing their best not to fall over laughing.)

Bruce: Excuse me. How much is their lunch?

(Let’s say, for say of argument he said $17.)

Bruce: I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll sell you the pen for $20 and you can give it to the delivery guy and he can keep the change.

Joe gave the twenty to the delivery guy, I gave him the pen, and he stormed out of the Reception area to the laughter of his colleagues.

Now understand. I’m not stupid. I knew after one minute that I would not work for the guy. I didn’t like anything about him. Not the mess in his office. Not his manners. And certainly not his lack of personality. When we met, he did not stand up, he barely looked me in the eyes, gave me a weak handshake, couldn’t find my résumé in the pile of papers on his desk and actually asked me what my name was. I was not going to work for him! So, seeing that I had nothing to lose, I figured I’d have some fun. And I did!

But, as I said, sales is the art of persuasion. And persuasion is nothing new. If I am not incorrect, Aristotle was the first to address the topic. He said there were three ways to persuade someone to do something: ethos – meaning ethics; pathos – meaning emotion; and logos – meaning logic.

The problem is you don’t know which to use. The good news is, it is easy to find out. Just, and more importantly listening, to your prospect. If, in the case of an employer, they are focused on their company’s mission, you know to use ethos. If they are talking about all the people they help, you know to use pathos. And if they are focused on why the position needs to be filled by someone who possesses all of the requirements listed in the job description, you know to use logos.

The idea for this talk came from a lead article in this month’s (Winter 2019/2010) Inc. magazine, by Cameron Albert-Deitch. It is titled “The Rise of the Fake Applicant: How misinformation is clogging the job market” (pp. 13-14).

That article begins with the story of a woman who lied on her résumé. She claimed to have worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Problem was, she applied to a company that actually worked with NOAA and the boss did not know her or of her. During her initial phone interview, he was in the room and asked to meet with her in-person. Realizing she was caught, she withdrew her candidacy and hung up.

Now people have been stretching the truth on their résumés probably since the first résumé was written. I’ll start with an example of someone you might have heard of, John F. Kennedy.  As Richard Reves, author of President Kennedy: Profile of Power (Simon & Schuster, 1993) told David Rubinstein in his 2019 book (Simon & Schuster), The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians (p. 243):

Kennedy’s résumé was faked. It said that he had studied under Harold Laski at the London School of Economics and therefore was an expert on Marxism. [Laski was a famous political theorist, socialist, and Labour Party leader.] The truth was he enrolled there but never went to England, never met Harold Laski.

 Now if I may dust off my Ph.D. in International Relations for a moment, his lie led to all sorts of troubles, including (in part) the Cuban Missile Crisis, because when he met Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna, and tried to debate him on Marxism, the Soviet Premier made a fool out of him and believed he was an amateur who he could beat at will. But that’s another story.

Let me give you a few personal examples of résumé lies that I could use. I never have. I never would. But if I did, I would not exactly be lying.

I am an award-winning athlete. Anyone who has seen my chiseled features and rugged good looks will not be surprised by that and would not give it a second thought. The sport was bowling, and the trophy was for perfect attendance. (I can’t prove it because I threw it away decades ago!) But, technically, that makes me an “award-winning athlete.”

I am the author of six books. My master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation (highly recommended for sufferers of insomnia) were published by leading academic publishers. That’s perfectly true. I also wrote four other books: one was a textbook for my students (Don’t waste your money; it’s dated.); one was a tongue-in-cheek look at the trials and tribulations of job seekers (a little dated but still pretty much relevant); the third is a serious look at conducting an effective job search (highly recommended by all people of good taste!); and the fourth is about some of my experiences living in/moving to Israel (which is not very popular in some quarters).

Now I wrote all six books, but only the first two were actually “published.” The final four were self-published. In essence, that means they were not “published” at all, just “printed.” This country has a long and proud history of self-publishing. Benjamin Franklin comes to mind. I believe The Federalist Papers were self-published. But when you self-publish you are not going through a peer-review process. All it means is that you wrote a bunch of words and paid someone to print out the pages and bind them in covers. That’s it. You had the money to make the books, not necessarily the brains to write on the topic.

But here is where things get tricky. The “tongue-in-cheek” book was a Number Four bestseller on Amazon. The book about conducting an effective job search was a Number One bestseller on Amazon. And the book on Israel was an international Best Seller on Amazon reaching Number One in the US and Canada and Number Five in the UK. All quite true. And all quite irrelevant since being a bestseller on Amazon is not like being a bestseller on The New York Times or Wall Street Journal lists. All it means is that for one hour, of one day, the book was in the top 100 in at least one category in which I chose to list them. Now in my case, I took it seriously and did not choose frivolous categories. I’m not so certain that everyone does that because they all want to claim to be an “Amazon bestselling author.” It looks good on the bio when they are introduced at a speaking event, and it looks good on the résumé. Unless, of course, people in the audience or the job interviewers, have seen my video where I reveal the deep, dark, ugly secret of how to do it, or at least how I did it. (I’m not sure, but if the author were to buy, let’s say 100 copies of their book, and they system were to allow the purchase, that would probably make it an instant Number One bestseller!)

Now some people “fudge” their accomplishments on their résumé. I’ll use myself as an example. I can honestly say that, when I was a fundraiser, I brought in the largest one-time annual gift that 150-year old charity had ever received, to the best of our knowledge. That’s true. But it was only $25,000. For us, that made me a “major gifts” fundraiser. I was a hero for a day. Fundraisers at large non-profits, reading this, are now falling on the floor laughing because 25 grand is NOT “major” for them, but fairly “minor.” In the four years or so I was at that charity, I increased donations almost four-fold. That’s true. But it went from around $200,000 to about $750,000. On my résumé, I included the numbers, not just the percentages. Whenever I receive a résumé that states financial goals were reached, but there are no hard figures, I have a pretty good idea that we are not talking about significant financial successes. And when I ask the applicant to include real numbers, I have almost always been proven correct.

In his article, Albert-Deitch reports that employers are seeing totally false résumés, with phony employers. That’s not surprising. (More on that later). Also, with all the information available about companies and their key employees, a good con artist, and that’s what they are, can tell an uninformed interviewer everything they want to know about a company and its leadership simply by spending some time on the company’s website and LinkedIn. They know everything about the company, and their chosen supervisor, but they never actually worked there.

That is something that in my 17 years as a recruiter I have never seen.  I have had people claim to have degrees, which I guess is technically true, from unaccredited “universities.” I have spotted many. I never attack the candidate or accuse them of lying, I simply asked, “Why did you attend an unaccredited university and list it under ‘Education’ on your résumé?” And they always respond the same way: Click – they end the call or leave the room.

But this all has to do with “fraudulent” practices by candidates, not recruiters. There are, recruiters who advise candidates to “fudge” their résumés. I won’t even try to guess how many times I have been told, “The recruiter told me to change it,” when I asked about a job title or even dates of employment.

The problem is getting worse because the economy is so good. It’s a tight job market and, especially in IT, and especially in cybersecurity, there is a shortage of qualified candidates. It has gotten so bad, based on Albert-Deitch’s article, that apparently candidates have their qualified friends handle the initial phone interview, get them the in-person interview, and then they show up for the actual interview hoping that the interviewer will not remember what they sounded like over the phone. But, again, that’s not the recruiter, that’s the candidate.

However, according to the article, recruiters prep candidates for interviews “or feed answers to inexperienced candidates in real time.” And some, unbeknownst to the candidate, redo their résumés so that they will pass the algorithms used by the employer’s (the recruiter’s client’s) Applicant Tracking System so they will be considered for the job.

The reason recruiters do these things is that they only get paid if their candidates are hired. They want to close the deal. So they help the candidates any way they can, ethics be damned.

In the Inc. article it was reported that there are numerous résumés on Indeed with the same formatting and identical wording, except for the candidates’ names, contact information and employer names. Apparently, this may include totally fictitious companies.

So, what can an employer do to catch the disreputable?

First, if you have never heard of a company listed on a résumé, see if it exists. Don’t just Google them to find a website. After all, anyone can set up a website. And even if you call the listed phone number, so what? If the person is willing to set up a phony website, why wouldn’t they get a “burner” phone and give it to a friend to play receptionist? Go to the state website, usually the office of the Secretary of State, and see if the company is actually registered in that state.

Second, ask for clarifications. If an applicant claims to be a “published author” and there is no list of publications on the résumé, ask for it. Are we talking books, articles, letters to the editor, or blog posts? If they claim to be a recognized expert, ask who recognizes them? If they say they have been quoted in the media, ask for the list. If they claim to have been on television, ask for the links. If they claim to be “award winning,” and there’s no “Awards” section on the résumé, ask about the award.  In other words, make them prove that their claims are valid.  And if you do that during the initial phone interview, you’ll probably save yourself a lot of time and aggravation.

Third, check references. I once had a candidate tell me that he had more references on his LinkedIn profile than anyone else. And that may have been true. There were a lot! So, I printed out the first page of references, handed it to him, and told him to get me the phone numbers of the first 10 and I would choose three to call. I promised I would tell him in advance so he could reach out to them. (Fair is fair.) I never heard from him again.

Fourth, contact HR at former places of employment to confirm that the person actually worked there, their title and pay range.

Fifth, conduct background checks. In the end, you might save money.  And this is not just in the case of persons who will have access to money. Everyone you hire will have access to your most important asset: data, yours and your clients’. Are they going to use or abuse it? Everyone should have to undergo a background check.

Fifth, if it is the type of job that requires hard-skills, using a certain software, coding, etc., bring the candidate in for a day, pay them, and give them actual work to do. Don’t give them access to your network but see if they can deliver on what they claim. They may actually and honestly believe, for example, that they are great with QuickBooks or Excel, but their definition of “great” and yours may be totally different.

Seventh, and most importantly, protect yourself from unscrupulous recruiters. (Pause for blatant self-promotion.) I give a six-month guarantee that if for any reason a placement does not work out, I will conduct a replacement search, for that position, for free. It is not in my self-interest to con a client for a quick pay day. That’s why I don’t prep candidates. I don’t tell them, “The last guy who went in for an interview did this, that or the other thing, which really bothered the owner, so don’t do it.” I need the candidates to be themselves because I do not like having to honor my guarantee. (And I have only had to do it maybe five times in the 10 years I have been in business for myself.) A six-month guarantee is reasonable for all concerned, albeit not for industries notorious for having high-turnover rates.

Most recruiters, I would like to believe, are honest. But, as employers, you have to be suspicious.  It’s called “due diligence.” It’s a good thing to practice!

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Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS

Trump’s Executive Order Declaring Jews a Nationality: A Simple Statement of Fact

Today, December 11, 2019, President Donald J. Trump declared in an executive order that I, and my fellow Jews, are a nation. Judaism is a nationality.

Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. Your declaration will hopefully go a long way to help fight anti-Semitism, especially on college campuses. But, truth be told, all you did was to officially state a truth.

Jews are not a religious group. There is no word in Hebrew, by which I mean in the Bible/Torah/Old Testament, for “religion.” The word never appears. There is talk about “the People of Israel.” There is talk about goy and goyim, meaning “nation” and “nations,” but no talk about “religion,” or “religious.” The concept is nonexistent. “Religion” is a foreign concept to Jews. It is not a bad thing. It’s just not our thing.

I have searched the hundreds of books on my bookshelves, and in my Kindle, and have failed to find the book I know I read about the history of the Jews of France. The story, as I understand it, was really rather simply. Napoleon’s ministers went to him and told him that the Jews were a foreign nation living within France. That was unacceptable and, in keeping with the Inquisition, they should all be deported.

Napoleon, unlike the liberal media of today (I had to get one in!), wanted to check his facts. So he called together the leaders of the Jewish community and asked them if they were a people or a religion. Knowing that they would be deported if they said they were a people, they said they were are religion and, since then, Jews have been recognized, wrongly, as a religious group.

Using this new thing called Google that was invented by two Jews, I did a search for information on Napoleon and the Jews being declared a religious group and not a nation. The results were confusing, to say the least. In any event, the point is moot.

Religion is a belief. Christians believe that Christ was the Son of God. Catholics believe that Mary as a virgin. Muslims believe that Mohammed rose to heaven on a horse. God bless all of them. Believe what you want. For all I care, don’t believe in God. The bottom line is, if you take a blood test to check your DNA, it won’t be able to tell you what you believe, only what you are. So, for example, a DNA test can show that your are Jewish, British and Irish, French and German, and more, but not Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, or any other religion. Why? Because DNA shows nationality/race not religion. Your beliefs are not in your blood, but your nationality is. That’s the proof that Jews are a nation not a religion.

Want more proof? Think this is politics and not science? Well, Darwin didn’t care about politics. In Chapter VII of The Decent of Man, he writes, “…whilst Europeans differ but little from Jews, who belong to the Semitic stock and speak quite another language…” and references “The uniform appearance in various parts of the world of gypsies and Jews, though the uniformity of the latter has been somewhat exaggerated…” Sounds to me like he is referring to Jews as a people not a religion.

Of course, anti-Semites have long said that Jews are a race, albeit an inferior one. It’s rather pathetic the power that some people give to bigots. Just because human trash say something that happens to be true, does not mean it should be denied. Why liberals, and to the best of my knowledge they are the ones who do it, give such creatures so much power, is beyond my powers of comprehension (admittedly limited to begin with!). It has reached such a level of absurdity that even the “OK” symbol is now banned because “white supremacists,” who are superior to no one and nothing, use it. (Disgracefully, this nonsense is promoted by liberal Jews!)

So Jews are a nation, a race, not a religion. Never have been. Our contribution to humanity may have been monotheism, but I, personally, am more proud of the fact that we gave the world the first law book, the aforementioned Bible, along with its scholarly interpretation, The Talmud. That was the important contribution of the Jewish PEOPLE to the world; the idea of the rule of law.

But thank you, Mr. President, for your executive order and for your noble attempt to fight anti-Semitism. Only thing is, you didn’t declare us a nation, God beat you to it by a few millennia!

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Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS

University or Trade School? What’s Better?

As my regular readers know, a couple of years ago I had the misfortune of working for a mercifully short time at a New York university focused on helping their IT students. What was most interesting was that, at the time, I don’t know the situation today (it really does not interest me), they were receiving tax payer dollars to run a special program where students would learn the hard- and soft-skills demanded by employers, and be put in touch with prospective employers to secure jobs.

Now, if you think about it, isn’t that what tuition is for? To learn the hard skills, to obtain the technical knowledge, to work in IT? To learn the soft skills, to learn the personality attributes to pass an interview and successfully interact with colleagues and clients. in other words, to succeed in the workplace?

Don’t get me wrong. I was once a fundraiser. If the government had offered me something like $700,000 to do something I was already supposed to be doing (and, in my case, would have been), I would have grabbed it, freed up my $700K and started a new program. That’s what I would have done.

One other thing. The program with which I was involved, offered educational classes and not just career counseling services. Students did not receive credit for those classes. In other words, they were not recognized by the Computer Sciences departments. Put differently, in essence, this accredited university had set up a non-accredited technical or trade school.

That reminded me of a job I had for a couple of years teaching at the Mechanics Institute of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen. My students included carpenters, plumbers, electricians and project managers. There was even a bricklayer! (I readily admitted that I did not know the job still existed.) It was one of the best jobs I ever had. The students were great and the school was unaccredited. Employers and the unions would send their employees/members to the Institute because of the quality of the instructors (myself excluded, of course!). Students would learn what they needed to progress on the job. The employers did not care about accreditation; they cared about skills. Can the person do the job or not? That was the only question that mattered. (And for their part, the students didn’t care because their graduation, so to speak, their certification, was recognized by their employers/union. That’s what mattered, not recognition by the State.)

And that brings me to something I have begun to see over the past few months while doing IT searches. A great many students seems to begin at a 4-year college and then drop out/transfer to a technical school. In one or two years they learn how to be a network engineer, a help desk technician, or what have you. Then they get a job, let’s say paying $60K. Two years later, their university graduate peer, gets a job paying $80K, but by then, the tech school graduate, is earning $80K and has two years of actual work experience. What’s more, they don’t have nearly the debt of the university grad, if they have any at all.

From the perspective of the client, what do they care if the person fixing their problem has a degree from a university or a technical/trade school, as long as they can fix the problem quickly and accurately?

And it’s not just IT. What about healthcare? Do you care if the person taking your x-ray graduated from college or from a tech school, as long as they x-ray the correct body part and the picture is clear? It’s the radiologist who you want to have the accreditation, not the “photographer.”

Here’s another example from health care. When you go to a lab to have your blood drawn (Why do they say “drawn?” I have never seen a single crayon in a lab only sharp needles!) do you ever ask about the phlebotomist’s education? I don’t. All I care about is that they find, hit the vein and it doesn’t hurt. (I’m not proud! I admit it. I don’t like needles!)

So there are plenty of jobs for which degrees and schools don’t matter. What matters is technical knowledge and the ability to interact with people professionally and respectfully.

My conclusion: If you are going for a technical degree, something for which you will have to use your hands, don’t waste you money on university or college. Also, unlike colleges which build their reputation on athletics sometimes to a greater degree than academics, and are plagued by politics, tech schools have only one selling point: How long it takes their grads to get work.

That said, there is something you will not get at a tech school that you will at college: a broader education. But today, that is not a problem.

You need to be a more complete person. You want to be interesting. You want to be able to speak intelligently, if not authoritatively, on a variety of topics. Well, there are perfectly good apps and websites for that. A few that come to mind are masterclass.comudemy.comonlinecouses.comcoursera.orghttps://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/free-online-course, and study.com, to name but a few. And I am certain there are more.

Remember, it is always an advantage if you understand what your clients do. That’s how you impress them and how your advance in your career.

There is nothing new here. In fact, what I am proposing is literally ancient. There was this fellow who had barely one-year of formal education. He basically taught himself to read and write. He read any book he could get his hands on, even if that meant walking for miles barefoot because his parents could not afford to buy him shoes. Eventually he read law books and was mentored by a lawyer. In those days, that’s all that was needed to practice law. And he did. He wasn’t great at it, but, with all his self-learning, he had learned a lot and became a very good story teller (thanks to his listening skills) and orator. He entered politics, lost an election for the House of Representatives, but then was elected President of the United States. Now you may not be an Abraham Lincoln, but, if you think about it, Lincoln wasn’t Lincoln until he did what he had to do – learn! – to become Abraham Lincoln.

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Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS

The New Networking

How many times have we said it? How many times have we heard it? The majority of jobs are not advertised. The only way to find out about them, and they are usually the best jobs, is by networking.

So where do job seekers go to network? Networking events that usually are populated by job seekers! That is the definition of wasting time.

Then they try chambers of commerce. Better, but as a former board member of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce I can tell you that the solopreneurs are the ones who attend networking events, not the business owners with employees. So it is a waste of time, albeit to a lesser extent, since members know employers.

Of course, in both cases they are worth while as occasions to practice pitching and get comfortable in your own skin. Never underestimate the importance of practice!

Then there are the good events to attend: meetings of professional associations, lectures, and business networking groups. The problem with the latter is that they want business owners sitting around the table, not job seekers.

Which brings me to two suggestions. I know they work because they have worked for my career counseling clients. Now while this is “New York City-based,” I am certain there are similar possibilities elsewhere.

The idea is to network where most people don’t network. This means you have to be extra polite. Don’t make it appear that you are looking for a job. Make it appear that you are looking for a friend. And once the person becomes a friend, maybe they will be able to help with your job search. So be subtle. Be polite. Be proper. Be classy.

The first suggestion is to utilize the website www.clubfreetime.com. There you will find all sorts of events, from speakers to concerts. One client attended a concert at Carnegie Hall. He met a couple in the lobby after the performance – which, by the way, cost him a registration fee, if I remember correctly, of $4.50! They did not have to know he was sitting the “cheap seats.” Who cares? What does it matters? What matters is that, by definition, the fact that they were at the same place at the same time, meant that they had a shared interest – in this case, chamber music. A friendship developed and the husband was able to help my client land a great job. (In addition to concerts, there are also lectures, readings, tours, workshops and more.) Worse case, since it is virtually free, what’s the worst that can happen? You’ll learn something new!

The second suggest is the app Groupmuse. There you will find small classical music performances: quartets, soloists, and the like. The performances are at people’s homes. You pay $10 per performer. Here’s the idea: The host must have a nice home. After all, we are talking Manhattan! And the host will probably invite some of their friends who are more than likely in a similar socioeconomic class. In other words, these people have money. And if they have money, their either have businesses or know people with businesses. So you go to listen to the music, be polite to the attendees (none of whom will probably be able to help you, although you never know), and to be very polite to the host. One of my clients simply asked if she could help clean up. The host declined but accepted her business card. She called her and coffee led to an introduction which led to a job.

Bottom line, if you network where everyone else networks, you will get lost in the crowd. If you network where no one else networks, you may find gold “in them there hills!”

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Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS

What Job Seekers Can Learn From Johnny Carson

This article is based on the e-book edition of Henry Bushkin’s biography, Johnny Carson, published in 2014 by First Mariner Books. Johnny Carson was the undisputed king of late night television, reigning over the airwaves for some 29 years. Mr. Bushkin was his attorney, financial adviser, and “fixer.”

Ed McMahon was Carson’s “sidekick” for the entire time he was hosting The Tonight Show. It was a rather an odd pairing: Carson had served in the Navy as a Lieutenant Junior Grade while McMahon was a Colonel in the Marines. So for the first lesson for job seekers, and everyone else for that matter, comes from McMahon: leave your ego at the door! A colonel can work for a lieutenant, and very successfully at that!

But Bushkin, and now I am getting to the book, has a great quote from Carson on this very issue. When he was asked to which movie star he would compare himself, Carson answered, “Lassie. We’re both lovable, and we both come when we’re called.” (Page 14)

The second lesson comes from a quote from McMahon about Carson: He “was comfortable in front of [a television audience of] twenty million but just as uncomfortable in a gathering of twenty.” (Page 13) I remember watching Carson and how, when interviewing actors, he would bring about the issue of shyness. Carson was a shy man. Yet he had to overcome his shyness to become a success. So the lesson is, no matter how much you hate networking, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you, you have to overcome your discomfort. Networking is the major way to get a job and public speaking is the only way to reach the pinnacle of your industry. So, literally, take a deep breath (oxygen is a proven cure for tension), and start introducing yourself to strangers. If Carson could do it, so can you!

The third lesson is this: Carson “knew audiences and was pleased when they liked his work. He knew ratings and took pride in what they proved about his appeal. He treasured the respect of his peers in the industry. Awards were all but irrelevant.” (Page 146)

I remember reading not too long ago that if you post something on social media a third of people will buy from you but half (of everyone seeing your post, not half of the third) will buy less. The fourth lesson from Carson: When talking about why he never shared his political views with his audience he said, “Why lose fifty percent of my audience?” (Page 154) Keep politics out of the workplace and especially out for a job interview!

It can be very frustrating looking for a job, having the phone never ring and never getting an offers when it does. The fifth lesson for job seekers is a remark Carson made: “If life were fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead.” (Page 183)

Finally, the sixth lesson is going to sound misogynistic and sexist. It is also going to explain the source of a popular commercial that has not aired in a while. But it is excellent advice. Always keep your personal and work life separate. This includes, with rare exception, during job interviews. As Bushkin explains, “Maybe the protocol was influenced by the old mobster tradition that is part of the DNA of Vegas, the one that dictates that family and work be strictly segregated, but it was made clear early, often, and explicitly that this was the custom on Las Vegas Boulevard: whatever you had to do, leave the wife out.” (Page. 185) For the record, he was talking about the rampant marital infidelity that went on among the star performers and, while they were given rooms in the hotels where they performed, wives never stayed the night!

Remember these six and you may just get that job offer!

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Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS

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