How to turn one or two books into a $100 Macy’s gift card

I’m pleased to announce the impending publication of my new book Success! As Employee or Entrepreneur.  Purchase a copy before February 1 and be entered to win a $100 gift card.  I’m offering a 30% pre-publication discount on Success! and my previous book, A Hooker’s Guide to Getting a Job.  Buy both and get a 40% discount.  Click here for details!   And check out the Library page on my relaunched website.  You’ll find hundreds of free articles, video and audio files on all aspects of a job search.  Good luck!

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No One Ever Throws Away a Book

When you own a business you are blessed, on a daily basis, by salespeople trying to sell you every conceivable good and services.   High on the list are promotional items: pens, pads of paper, magnets, calendars.  In other words, junk.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good junk.  And if you have a booth at a trade show, it’s the only way to attract people to your table – unless, of course, you have hired an attractive woman!  Sad, but true…

In any event, I guarantee you that no one has ever gotten a client because of a pen!  True, the client may have found the pen and so had no difficulty locating the phone number.  But placing a call, or sending an e-mail, is an opening, not a close.  You want the close!

The best way to get the close is to give a prospect something that screams, “I AM AN EXPERT!” and what screams the loudest in a book.

Of course, today, thanks to marvelous technology, anyone can self-publish.  But “self-publishing” is just a fancy term for printing.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Historically many people have been highly successful self-publishing.  But it’s rare and the truth is, when you self-publish a book you are really just printing a very large brochure.  Again, nothing wrong with that.  It’s not immoral, unethical or deceitful.  But since no one approved the book, it’s also not a source of credibility.

There’s a way around that, other than the traditional publishing route which can literally take years – and you can forget about earning any money from royalties!

To learn how, join me and marketing consultant Gil Effron, from The Growth Team, for our joint presentation, How to Write a Book, Publish a Book, and Make it the Focal Point of Your Marketing Activities.  Part of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce’s MarketingWeekNYC,TM the workshop will take place Tuesday, July 16, from 10:00 to 11:00 AM at Grace Corporate Park, 255 West 36th Street, 8th Floor, New York, NY.  Pre-registration is required:  http://www.hsstaffing.com/Career_Counseling.html.  Limited space.  Register early!

Ask the Career Counseling Expert: How Do I Change Careers?

I’m a 36 year-old attorney with twelve years’ experience, including the last six with my own law firm. I HATE PRACTICING LAW!!!!! I want a new career but have no clue what to do: I have no real interests or passions, but desperately want a steady paycheck again. However, potential legal employers balk at hiring me because they can’t imagine why I’d want to return to firm life; and non-law employers think I’m crazy for wanting out of law. I’m at my wits’ end. Help!

If it makes you feel any better, there is nothing new or unique about your situation.  When I received your question I had to laugh; I thought it was from a couple of friends who are also attorneys and hate it!  You are not alone.

What does it mean, “I HATE PRACTICING LAW!?”  If you hate it, why are you looking to work at a law firm?  You are sending mixed messages.  My guess is that you hate having to deal with crazy clients, from whom you have a hard time getting paid, which means no steady income stream, and you are not a big fan of the administrative side of running a business.  Actually dealing with the challenges of legal situations must still appeal to you because you are willing to work at a firm.

My first suggestion is, if you want to work at a firm, when you meet with the partners, focus on the positive aspects of your practice and not running an office.  Obviously, make certain that there is no negativity in your voice when you have the meeting.  Focus on what you can bring to the firm, including your clients and, most importantly, your reputation.

But let’s look at the more complicated situation.  You really do hate practicing law and want out.  This means changing careers – sort of…

First, you can apply for administrative/managerial positions and point out that, as a licensed attorney, you can save the company money by, in addition to your managerial duties, acting as an in-house counsel.  That is the added value you would bring to a new employer.

Second, the key to career change is networking.  You have to find people who, after they get to know you, will be willing to recommend you to persons they know who are looking to hire.

Third, seek “shadowing” opportunities.  When you decide on what new profession you want, meet with people who currently are in that profession.  When you have established a relationship with them, ask them if you can follow them around for a day, shadow them, to see what it is they actually do.  Explain that you want to have a realistic appreciation for the job before you pursue it.

And finally, fourth, volunteer.  Don’t ignore non-profits.  Find one with a mission about which you care and do what you can to help them.  (I doubt that you have “no real interests or passions.”  My guess is that your frustration is masking them.)  Serve on at least one committee where your talents will be exploited.  It’s almost a certainty that the other members of that committee will be in a position to help you with your career change.

As with everything else, it comes down to networking.  Put differently, it’s still true today – it’s not what you know that counts, but who you know!

Thanks for writing.

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If you have any questions you would like answered, send them to me at bh@hsstaffing.com.   Anonymity is guaranteed.

Ask the Career Counseling Expert: How Do I Tell an Employer I was Fired?

I was fired from my last job.  I was the account rep for a major client.  The client invited me to his home for dinner.  I’m 35.  He introduced me to his daughter, who at the time had just turned 18.  We started a relationship.  I’m not married; she’s of age.  When her father found out, he demanded that I be terminated or he’d close his account.  So my boss fired me.  The funny thing is, her mother did not mind!  Employers, HR staff, recruiters, all ask me why I left my last job.  When I say I was fired, that pretty much ends my candidacy.  What should I do?

Here’s a little secret:  The person who is interviewing you may have been fired from a job, or may have a friend who was fired.  It happens.  The problem, unless you did something unbelievably objectionable, isn’t what you did but how you deal with it.

To answer your question, this is what I would advise you to say.  It is based on a three-point strategy: tell the truth, assume responsibility, and explain what you learned from the situation.  So, next time you are asked, try this:

First, I’m not married.  My largest client invited me to his home.  I met his daughter.  We started going out.  He did not know.  When he found out, he demanded that I be fired.  I was fired.

            Her father was upset because of the difference in our ages.  And he felt that my behavior was unprofessional.  To tell the truth, my heart got the better of my head.  He was right and I deserved to be fired.  That’s what makes me a better employee.  Because of this, my moral compass has been recalibrated and is permanently pointing due North.

And then, shut up.  Less is more and you can talk yourself into a corner.  If they ask how old she was, tell the truth and point out that she was of age.  Then, and only then, should you mention that her mother was fine with the relationship.  You don’t want to do it sooner because you don’t want it to sound like your dismissal was unjustified.  It’s a judgment call.

Thanks for writing.

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This article originally appeared on the National Association of Sales Professionals website.  If you have any questions you would like answered, send them to me at bh@hsstaffing.com.   Anonymity is guaranteed.

Let’s Look at the Affordable Care Act

I keep on getting questions about Obamacare.  Is it as bad as people say?  Is it hype? What does it mean?   Well, here’s what I think it means (thanks, in part, to Inc. magazine):

If you have less than 50 employees or 50 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employees, the law should not impact you.  However, from the perspective of hiring, if a business has 49 employees, odds are they will not make that extra hire.

However, if they have less than 25 FTEs, and their average salary is below $50,000, they might qualify for a two-year tax credit to enable the to buy health insurance. The good news is that they will then become a more desirable employer. Of course, the question is, What will happen after the two years?  Moreover, the government already gives tax credits to employers who hire veterans.  But the process is so cumbersome that most employers don’t even bother.  Will it be the same under Obamacare?  Time will tell.

If a company has 50 or more employees or FTEs and they offer insurance, the question is whether or not they pay at least 60 percent of their employees’ health costs.  If so, the next question is, Do any of the employees pay more than 9.5% of their W2 income on health insurance?  If so, the employer has to pay a penalty of up to $2,000, not counting the first 30 employees. So for number 31 to 49, the penalty is in force.

If the employer is not paying at least 60%, they may qualify for a tax credit, but the above mentioned concern is still valid.

The good news is that if they cover 60%, and no one pays more than 9.5%, then they are in compliance with the law and have no worries about penalties.

By the way, Full Time Equivalency means at least 30 hours or more a week, not 40.

And one more thing: If an employee is under 26, they can be covered by their parents’ insurance. So let’s say a company only hires 18 to 25 year olds. They will save a ton of money, which may be the only way they can operate.  But, are they opening themselves up to an age discrimination suit?

So is the Affordable Care Act affordable?  Only time will tell.

Aptitude Tests

A few months ago, a young man who loved sales came to me for career counseling.  He was angry.  And when I say “angry” I mean “fit to kill” angry.

Sometimes, in order to break the ice, I offer to play a quick game with my new clients.  In his case, it was a mistake.

The “game” is an aptitude test that takes all of 3 seconds to complete.  I learned about it on AOL.  It’s called the Dewey Color System Test.  Pick one color from each of two rows and voilà: you will immediately know your ideal career choice.

Naturally, I preface the offer to “administer” the “test” with an explanation that it’s only for fun and to break the ice.  I explain that (and this is not scientific) about 70% of people who I have given the “test” to accept the results, 20% say they are spot-on, 5% disagree and 5% say they are absolute rubbish.

This “test,” when given, is given at the start of a two-hour session.  When the session ends, we have either forgotten about it, remember it and laugh because it’s silly, or laugh because we agree with it.

But let’s get back to my angry client.  He had only been working for three-four months.  His boss had told him that he was required to take an aptitude test.  According to his boss, the results were far from positive and they were considering letting him go.   He had the passion, but apparently not the aptitude, for sales.

I do not like criticizing tests, or anything else for that matter, without first trying them myself.  So I have taken two aptitude tests.  I gave totally honest answers.  The results were diametrically opposed to each other!  Thus my conclusion that aptitude tests are silly.

Here’s the best (or worst) example:

As I wrote in a White Paper on effective hiring, a couple of years ago an acquaintance tried to get me to use what I believe is called the DICE aptitude test to evaluate candidates for my executive recruiting clients.   I explained to him that I have always gotten positive results from just having an honest conversation with candidates.  But I said that I would give it a try, on myself, on the condition that all of the results were sent directly to me.  He agreed.  Here’s what’s written in the explanatory cover letter that came with my results:

This report analyzes behavioral style; that is, a person’s manner of doing things.  Is the report 100% true?  Yes, no and maybe.  We are only measuring behavior.  We only report statements from areas of behavior in which tendencies are shown.  To improve accuracy, feel free to make notes or edit the report regarding any statement from the report that may or may not apply, but only after checking with friends or colleagues to see if they agree. (Emphasis added.)

As I said, aptitude tests are silly.  When I read the above paragraph to my client, he began to calm down.  I then told him about a seasoned sales professional who I had interviewed on my radio show, Bruce Hurwitz Presents.  I had asked him about aptitude tests and he said, based on something like forty years’ experience, that a good supervisor can turn an introvert into a sales star and an extrovert into a disaster.  Anyone can learn sales if they have the passion and the interest.

So for persons new to the profession, if you are having problems, don’t look for a career counselor, look for a mentor.   Don’t be afraid to ask for help.   It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s the sign of a good professional.

Getting Your Resume Read

Guess how much time I am going to spend reading your resume.  Take your time.  Seriously.   Don’t rush.  Take your time.  Think about it.

Want to know the answer?  Just about the amount of time you have spent reading this article.  Not the amount of time you will spend reading this article.  The amount of time you spent reading the first paragraph and the first two sentences of this paragraph.  In other words, you have about five seconds to grab my attention and convince me you are worth my time.

How do I, and every other recruiter and HR professional, read a resume?

First, we look at your location.  If it’s a local search and you are not within commuting distance, that’s the end of you.  If you don’t include your city and state of residence, we know you don’t know how to write a professional resume and, same result, you are filed (and sometimes forgotten).

Second, I look to see if you have an “Objective” and a “Professional Summary.”  If you do, I reject you because you are insulting my intelligence and wasting my time.  (I do have colleagues who disagree with me on this point.  They are wrong.  I am right!)

You see, your objective should be to get the job for which you are applying.  If the “Objective” states that you want the exact position you are applying for, I’ll assume you prepare a different resume for every job and so the “Objective” has no validity.  And if it is “valid,” why include it?  After all, you’re applying for the job!

As for the “Professional Summary,” they are almost always self-praise.  I don’t care what you think about yourself, the only thing that interests me is that you have the qualifications to do the job I’m looking to fill.

Case in point, many “Professional Summaries” begin with the words “Award-winning…”  Funny thing is, they don’t always mention in the body of the resume anything about the award!  If the award is legitimate, it would be included in a separate section, “Awards and Honors.”  If it’s not legitimate, why mention it?

For the record, I’m an award winning executive recruiter and career counselor.  Impressed?  The award was in bowling and was for perfect attendance!  See what I mean?

So I spent one second to determine where you live.  Let’s say you’re local and you have not wasted my time with an “Objective” or “Professional Summary.”  I then start doing some math.  I want to see how long you have worked for each of your employers.  If you group them all together, I know you are hiding something and I will reject you.  If you can’t keep a job for more than a few months, or even just a year or two, you’re a jumper and I can’t submit you to my clients.  But if you have good tenure with most of your employers (everyone is entitled to make a mistake!), I’ll check your qualifications.  Do you meet the minimum requirements.  If you do, then I’ll read the resume.  But I’ll know if it’s worth reading in five second.  Unless…

Here’s how to beat the five second rule:

After your contact information, if you want to, have a title: SALES PROFESSIONAL.   It won’t hurt you.  It may not help much, but it won’t hurt you.  Whether you have a title or not, begin with a “Selected Accomplishments” section.  List, in bullet points, the five reasons why you should be hired.  No superlatives.  No self-praise.  Just the facts.  For example:

–  Annually secured minimum of $2 million in increased revenue over the past five years.

–  Increased sales every year for five years by a minimum of 40% resulting in total new revenue of $12 million.

You get the idea.  You don’t say you’re great, you show it!

And that will get your resume read.  It won’t make up for your being located in the wrong place, or not being able to keep a job, but it might help if you don’t meet minimum qualifications.