Posts You Might Have Missed

If you have not done so already, please sign up for my new newsletter, HSS Employment Insights.

There you will be able to read articles on:

Body Language: The Beauty of Being Underestimated

Woke at Work

Retaliation vs Revenge

Physics and the Job Search Paradox

Ghosting Recruiters

Cybersecurity for Job Seekers

Really Stupid Advice for Job Seekers!

Reference Checking 101

How Much is “Too Much” When it Comes to Social Media Postings?

The Proper Use of SWAG: Never Give Anything Away for Free

REALLY Understanding the Unemployment Rate

First Day on the Job at Home

“What Should I Study in College?”

First Day on the Job

What is Your SQ – Stupidity Quotient?

Creating a Job Search/Career Plan

The Resume Conundrum: One or Many?

How to Be the Best Candidate

How NOT to be a Consultant at a Job Interview

The Evil Secret of the Cover Letter

It’s All About Customer Service

Sign up today! There is a new post every Sunday morning (Eastern Time)!

JOB ALERT: Marketing Director, Brooklyn, $120K

Marketing Director – Brooklyn, New York

My client, a dynamic corporation which, for the past eight years has been providing clients with services to consolidate their financial statements across multiple platforms, is looking to further expand their national client base.  Currently servicing companies with revenues of up to eight figures, the company seeks a dynamic self-starter with a minimum of two years’ B2B marketing experience preferably in the accounting or financial products sector.  The Director will be responsible for Demand Generation and Lead Nurturing.

The Director will build the Marketing Department with the goal of eventually hiring and supervising staff.  This is a full-time position, requiring the person to work out of the company’s Brooklyn office.  This is not a remote position.

In addition to the above, the ideal candidate will be entrepreneurial and independent, have a broad understanding of all phases and channels of marketing in the B2B marketing space, and understand the positioning of B2B financial products.  Moreover, they will have experience working with outsourced vendors, strong prioritization skills, and strong written communication and interpersonal skills.

The compensation package includes a base salary range of between $80,000 and $120,000, depending on qualifications, along with medical insurance.  All employees receive National and Jewish Holidays in addition to 10 vacation days.

NOTE: To be considered for this position you must be authorized to work in the United States, live within a reasonable commuting distance of Brooklyn, and have experience with on-line marketing and B2B marketing.

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 2 business days.  No phone calls please.

Be the Bearer of Bad News

I have been a recruiter since 2003. I always, repeat ALWAYS, call candidates to let them know their status. For sake of argument, let’s say I submit five candidates for every position. Except in a couple of cases, where the client decided to hire two candidates because they could not choose between the “final finalists,” for every search I have done I have had to deliver bad news to at least four people. Clearly, I have made hundreds of “Sorry, but they have decided not to continue with your candidacy” calls. Maybe even a thousand. I don’t know. But I do know that in all this time I have only been yelled at once by a rejected candidate.

The impetus for this article was a call I just had with a candidate who my client rejected. It lasted five minutes. The man did not stop thanking me. He was grateful for the call. He told me that I was the only recruiter who called him back. (That is something I hear often and have experienced myself which, among other reasons, is why I do not like recruiters!)

So why do I make these calls? It is the polite thing to do. I know what it’s like to be on the other side of the phone. It’s the right thing to do. But it is also something that my first boss taught me.

As a student I had a job at the School for Overseas Students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I worked in Admissions. We were being computerized. The boss gave me responsibility for filling out the IBM data cards. (Remember Number 2 pencils?) It was a lot of work and I finished with a little time to spare.

I went home, proud of myself…until I woke up at 2 AM in a cold sweat realizing that I had made a huge error and would have to redo all the work. I had enough cards; I didn’t have enough time.

I got to the School at 7 AM when the gate to the building was opened. I immediately went to my office, turned on the lights, confirmed that I had, in fact, messed up big time, and got to work.

Around 8:00 the boss arrived. He saw the lights were on and came to the office. He asked what I was doing here so early (the guard had told him I had arrived at 7:00). Shaking, I stood up, apologized, said I realized at 2:00 that I had made a mistake, I knew that the work had to be submitted the next morning. I told him I would skip my classes and get everything done that day.

He told me that I would NOT skip my classes and that I would get the work done as soon as possible. I reminded him of the deadline. He told me that that was his problem, not mine, and to get the job done as quickly as possible, but not to miss my classes. He told me, “I have your back.”

The next day, after attending all of my classes, I completed the work and went to his office and told him. Then I waited to be fired.

He asked me what I was waiting for. I told him. He said, “I never fire anyone who delivers bad news. You made a mistake. You told me. You had a plan to correct it. I never fire anyone for making a mistake. I only fire people who make excuses and who do not take responsibility for their actions.”

Best boss ever! And that is why, in all my jobs, I always make sure that when there is bad news to deliver, I deliver it. That also eliminates the problem of someone else, who may not exactly like me (Yes, there are people like that!) delivering the news inaccurately and with a spin against me and in their favor.

In that regard, I remember once discovering that something had gone terribly wrong. The details don’t matter. A colleague, a rival, found out about it and went running to the boss, salivating at the thought of my imminent dismissal. He, and the boss, came to my office. The boss asked me what had happened and why I had not told him about it. I said, “It was an easy fix. I took care of it. There is no problem and nothing to bother you about.” My rival was gone by the end of the week…

So the moral of the story is: Don’t be afraid to be the bearer of bad news. You’d be surprised how many people appreciate it. You might even get a promotion or keep a client because they appreciate your honesty and problem solving abilities.

THE IMPORTANCE OF STORYTELLING WHEN PROMOTING YOUR BUSINESS

(The following is a presentation I gave to the Pro-G Networking Group on November 20, 2020.)

           Two people who did not like each other were Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw. Shaw had a play opening in London and as a backhanded compliment he sent the Prime Minister 2 tickets with the following note: “I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend…if you have one.”

           A battle of wits with Churchill was never a good idea. His response: “Cannot possibly attend first night; will attend second, if there is one.”

           Churchill’s retort was insightful in that the ruling of an audience is final and, sometimes cruel. Shows close opening night. Movies play to empty theaters. Comedians stare at a sea of blank faces. And it is never the audience’s fault. It is always the fault of the performer. 

           When you meet with a prospect, you are the performer, and they are the audience. It is your job to catch them, hold them and reel them in. If they fall of the hook, it’s on you.

           I am certain that you have all, at one time or another, looked at someone, frustrated, pointed to your head and said, “THINK!” You did not say “STORE!” And that’s the whole story behind storytelling.

           Our brains were never created as data storage devices. They are only supposed to hold vital information: such as how to do what we need to do to stay alive, and to recognize that a rattle snake is not a puppy. Our brains are for survival and the analysis of data, nothing else.

           That is why, almost literally since man started to walk, we have created external storage devices on or in which to store information so that it is not forgotten. That is why there are cave drawings and thumb drives. 

           For present purposes, it’s the cave drawings that are most important. They told stories. See saber-toothed tiger. Take club in hand. Hit tiger over head. We learn from stories. That is what we are wired to do. It’s in our DNA.

           I became interested in this subject when a plurality of career counseling clients came to me with the same question: “How do I respond when they ask in an interview, ‘Tell us about yourself’?”

           My immediate response is always the same, “It is not a question; it’s an opportunity to tell them something about you that is not on the resume, something about you as a person.” I’ll get back to that in a few minutes.

           There is absolutely no difference between someone looking to get a job offer and someone interested in getting a new client or customer. It’s the same thing. They have to like you. For them to like you, they have to listen to you. What you say has to be relevant for them. So you have to listen to them and know what they want. As I said, not rocket science.

           I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you how to find out what they want. But once you know, the brain surgery, so to speak, comes into play.

           In order for a story to be effective, it has to be heard. In order for a story to be heard, it has to be interesting. In order for it to be interesting it has to hold the prospect’s attention. And for that to happen you need two hormones and one neurochemical.

           The first hormone is cortisol. Our brains produce cortisol when we are stressed. That’s why we stay focused on the rattle snake and don’t move. Nothing distracts us.  We are panicking. And that is what you want your prospect to do, but in the positive sense. You want the same intensity – they have a problem, you have the solution. If there is no cortisol, there will be no interest. You have to have their undivided attention.

           The story you tell them has to show knowledge. It has to show understanding. You can solve their problem and that’s all they care about. You’re a good rattle snake. You have their undivided attention.

           But the story also has to show empathy. This is where the second hormone comes into play: oxytocin. Stories have characters. The prospect has to relate to the characters in your story.  When you have an emotional response to a story, you have oxytocin. 

           You grab your prospect with cortisol. You keep them in your embrace with oxytocin. Which brings us to our neurochemical: dopamine.

           Dopamine is what makes us feel good. Dopamine (along with norepinephrine) is what is called “love.” You want your prospect to “love” you. If the story you tell ends well, dopamine will give the positive feeling that will result in the prospect wanting to do business with you. And, of course, your story will always end well because you are the solution provider.

           The important thing to remember is that it is dopamine that determines our behavior.

Let me give you three examples:

           The first is the one I use with career counseling clients. Again, their question for me is, “How do I respond when the interviewer asks me to tell them about myself?”  This is what I say:

           It’s an opportunity, not a question. Tell them something about yourself that will differentiate you from your competition, that is personal to you, yet professional. In my case I always say the following:

           I’m going to tell you about the best day I ever had on a job. At the time, I was a fundraiser, marketer, community relations and media relations professional. So the first surprise is my story has nothing to do with the job I had or would be applying for. The second surprise is the ending.

           When I was working at a Jewish Community Center, we wanted to have a community fair for Hanukah. Not a fundraiser, just a fun time. If we made a few bucks – great. If we didn’t – no problem.

           The first year I was volunteered to dress us as Barnie the Purple Dinosaur. He was very popular at the time. We were certain the little children would be thrilled. We were wrong. I was a good 7 feet tall and so fat I had to enter and leave rooms on an angle. They were used to Barnie on the television and the dolls they had at home. They were scared of me.

           It was a good idea; just the wrong character.

           The following year, I was Big Bird. Big Bird is supposed to be big. It’s in his name. Long story short, from the moment I arrived at the gym where we were having the fair, to the moment I left, four hours later, one little girl never left my side.

           At the end of the fair, I asked her father to pick her up so I could give her a hug. (If I had bent over, the head would have fallen off, which would not have been a good thing.) She gave me an intense, passionate hug. It had nothing to do with me; she loved Big Bird. (And I am certain, her brain was full of dopamine. – That’s for your benefit; I have never said that in an interview!)

           Her father pried her off of me. I waved good-bye. She said, “Bye-bye Big Bird.” I waved to everyone else and left.

           I went back to my office, got out of the costume and went into the lobby. I saw the little girl’s mother. I went up to her and said, “No one has ever hugged me the way your daughter did.” She looked at me like I was the biggest pervert on the planet. I assumed everyone knew who I was.

           So, I introduced myself.  I said, “I’m Bruce. I’m the assistant director of the Federation. I was Big Bird.” Her expression totally changed. Then she got misty eyed. She said, “Bruce, my daughter has autistic tendencies. When she said, ‘Bye-bye, Big Bird,’ to you, that was the first time she ever spoke to anyone outside the immediate family or her teacher.”

           And that was my best day on the job.

When I tell that story, I have three-quarters of the women and half of the men in tears. They never forget it and years later people still come over to me and comment on it. It is referred to as “The Big Bird Story.”

           Naturally, I had no idea that the little girl was autistic and had no intention of getting her to speak to me. But the second story was intentional.

           I needed a new computer. I went to Best Buy. The first thing the salesman said was that he does not work on commission. Then he asked me, politely, how he could help me. I told him I had a feeling that my current computer was going to die so I wanted it to become my spare and buy a new one. He then asked me what I did for a living. He immediately said that I basically needed a computer for document creation. I agreed but then I added that I also have a podcast, so the camera, microphone and storage capacity were important to me.

           He then said document creation was not a big deal; all computers are the same. But the podcast was different. He then showed me three computers, explaining the pluses and minuses of each. He ended with a moderately priced computer that has a very good camera and a very good microphone. He said there was no need to waste money on a top-of-the line computer and it wasn’t worthwhile “going cheap.” 

           Then he shared a story with me about how appreciative another podcaster was for the computer he was recommending. That convinced me, along with the service package and the deal on Office 365. I bought it. Happy story. Happy ending. Easy sale.

           Third story: Does not start well.

           The greatest threat all of us face today as business owners is a cyberattack. Small businesses are targeted because they are easy targets. The “It won’t happen to me” mentality is wrong. It can and it does.

           One former client told me the story of how he received a panic call (Remember cortisol?) from a solopreneur who was the victim of a ransomware attack. He did not know what to do. Long story short, he had to pay to get his data back. And then he hired my client to make sure it would never happen to him again by installing the necessary software and protocols such as – don’t click on links from unknown sources! That is the story he tells his prospects who then become his clients.

           These are stories people remember. And that is what makes a story good. You want your stories to be remembered because that will result in a prospect, not just becoming a client, but also becoming an unpaid salesperson. They will repeat your story to friends and strangers who are talking about the situation they had to deal with before they decided to work with you. And that is the ultimate result of a good story.

           So, to summarize, a good story is one that relates to the individual’s needs, has characters with which they can empathize, and solves their problem. 

           Thank you. 

SOURCE: https://meetmaestro.com/insights/how-your-brain-responds-to-great-storytelling/

The Biggest Mistake Job Seekers Make

I once had a boss who called me into his office. He wasn’t upset; he was jealous. One of our competitors had a full page article in the local paper. He asked, “Why aren’t we getting that type of coverage?”

I smiled. I picked up the paper. I walked around his desk. I opened it and said, “Because we are getting this type of coverage…here…and here…and here…and here!”

While our competitor got one page, we had four photos, with stories (captions), on four different pages. In fact, we were averaging 12 media citations a month in the local press, not including television coverage.

The next day, the chairman of the Board was visiting. He called me into the president’s office. The president had just showed him the previous day’s paper. He asked me, “How do you do this?”

Well, the chairman and I got along very well. I said, “In addition to my many positive qualities…” (He interrupted to invoke the Deity.) “…charm, chiseled features, rugged good looks, superior intellect, superlative education, modesty and humility…” (I paused while they discussed the termination of my services…) “I know my audience.”

I then continued in a more serious vein…

“Our competitor wants to please his Board members and wants to attract clients. So he no doubt badgers his contacts at the paper and finally gets them to send a reporter to write a story and take a photo. Who knows if the story is accurate? On the other hand, while I also want to please our Board members and attract clients, my primary audience, the person I care most about, are the editors of the various papers. If I give them what they need, “fillers,” they’ll publish my photos with the captions. I know the stories (captions) are accurate and that people are actually more likely to read captions than long articles. So I focus on the editors. I give them what they want. And we get what we want.”

And, no, I was not fired!

So what is the mistake that job seekers make? They focus on the wrong person. It’s human nature but it’s still a mistake. In other words, instead of focusing on the editors, they focus on the chairman of the Board and clients. They should be focused on the employer not themselves.

First, candidates apply for jobs they want, not jobs for which they are wanted. There’s a huge difference. You see your dream job. You know you can do it. You really, really, really want it! And you apply. And you don’t even get an automated response for their computer system rejecting you. Why? Because they don’t want you. And if you had read the qualifications listed on the job description, through the employer’s eyes and not yours, you would have known you were not going to be considered because they don’t want you. And if they don’t want you, you are wasting your time.

Now, that said, there is nothing wrong with introducing yourself to an employer. Maybe that are thinking about hiring someone for a position that is not yet advertised. And maybe you get lucky. So by all means, send your resume to employers who are hiring, just don’t apply for jobs for which you are unqualified. HR people don’t like that. Some even ask the questions, “Can’t this person read?” “Don’t they know what ‘Required’ means?”

So Rule Number One is, Only apply for jobs for which you are qualified. You will save a lot of frustration.

Now, to continue with our all too real hypothetical scenario, a candidate finds a job for which they are qualified. Now that have to open their tool box. Just as a carpenter, plumber, or electrician needs the right tool for the right job, so does the job seeker.

The first tool in the job seeker’s tool box is the cover letter. The beauty of the cover letter is that, sadly, today, no one knows how to write. So if you write a well-written cover letter, that is short, sweet and to the point, you have already differentiated yourself from your competition in the best possible way.

Now your cover letter needs to answer two questions: What do you want and why should they (the employer) want you? So you clearly state the job for which you are applying and then, in the second paragraph, in one or two sentences, you tell the employer what you have done for your current or previous employer that shows that you can not only fulfill the responsibilities of the job but exceed them. In other words, you don’t tell them why you want the job, you tell them why they should want you. That’s Rule Number Two.

Then you go back to your tool box and remove the other tool you have: Your resume. Rule Number Three is that the resume has to be focused on the employer and not on the candidate. No employer cares what you think about yourself. So a “Personal Statement” or “Personal Philosophy” is simply silly and a waste of valuable real estate. And having an “Objective” is just plain stupid. Your objective should be to get the job for which you are applying. If it is something else, you should not be applying for the job.

So how do you focus your resume on the employer and not on yourself. It’s really quite simple:

Begin with a section titled “Selected Accomplishments.” These are bullet points that, like the second paragraph of the cover letter, tell the employer why they should hire you. It makes you a “safe” hire because they know, or at least they figure, if you did this for others you can do it for them. But it also makes them think: Do we want him/her working for the competition or us?

Also, a good interviewer asks, “Tell me about a failure you had?” It’s a great question. So answer it on the resume. Following “Selected Accomplishments” have a second titled, “Selected Failure.” That’s “failure” singular not plural. Again, as a bullet point, briefly state what the failure was. Then write, in bold What I learned: And then, no surprise, tell them what you learned. This shows that you are self-aware and learn from your failures. Everyone has failed at something. The only time you should be ashamed is if you repeat your failures.

And then there is a third section, “What I want to learn.” This will tell the employer something about you as a professional. It reinforces the fact that you are self-aware and indicates where you want to go with your career. So, for example, if you are in IT, you might include getting certifications. If you are a fundraiser you might want to mention learning planned giving. If you are a teacher, you could mention educational administration. Now with COVID the question will come up, if you have been unemployed for the past three-four months, how have you been spending your time? What have you been doing to achieve these educational goals? If you have not been doing anything to improve professionally, well you have made a very big mistake. I strongly advice that you start correcting it NOW.

So when looking for a job, and applying for a job, keep focused on the employer. Before they will meet your needs, you have to meet theirs. That’s life. That is how the game is played.

Oh, and it’s the same for the interviews. As far as I am concerned, the questions you ask are far more important than the answers you give. But this article is long enough and that’s a topic for another day.

“Tell Us About Yourself”

It is the one constant. It is the one question all career counseling clients ask me. “How do I respond when they ask, ‘Tell me about yourself’?”

Well, my first response is always the same. “It’s not a question, it’s an opportunity. So the real question you should be asking is, ‘What’s the best way to take advantage of the opportunity?”

The mistake most people make is to summarize their resume. The interviewer(s) has/have already seen your resume. They know what’s in it. They like it or they would not be interviewing you. So this is the chance to tell them something about yourself that is not on your resume. Within a professional context, it’s an opportunity to tell them about the person they will be hiring and not just the professional. It’s a chance to focus on what is truly meaningful for you. It is a way to tell them about your character. Here are three examples:

I’ll begin with the story I like to tell about myself. I’ve written about it before so my regular readers know it. For those of you who do not, I’ll keep it short:

Let me tell you about my best day on the job. I was volunteered to dress up for a fair as a cartoon character. My colleagues chose Big Bird. When I entered the gym where the fair was taking place, one little girl came over and grabbed my leg. For four hours she did not leave my side. She was either holding my leg or my hand. At the end of the fair I had her father pick her up so I could give her a hug. She must have been no more than seven-years-old. After the (mutual) hug, I took a few steps back to get a good luck at her. I waved to her. She said, “Bye-bye Big Bird” to me, I waved to everyone else, and went back to my office to get out of the costume.

When I left my office I was covered in perspiration, had a towel around my neck and was drinking from a bottle of water. I saw the girl’s mother. I had thought everyone knew who I was. (Never make assumptions!) I went over to her and said, “No one has ever hugged me the way your daughter hugged me.” She looked at me like I was the biggest pervert on the planet.

I then began anew. I introduced myself and said, “I was Big Bird.” Her expression totally changed and she got all misty-eyed. She said, “Bruce, my daughter has autistic tendencies. When she said ‘Bye-bye Big Bird’ to you, that was the first time she ever spoke to anyone outside the immediate family or her teacher.”

That was my best day on the job.

Now when I would tell the story properly, it took a good five minutes. I usually had at least three-quarters of the women and half of the men in tears and I always got the job offer!

Next story:

I once had a veteran come to me. He was in this mid-twenties. He had served one tour of duty in the Infantry. The mission of my company is to promote the hiring of veterans, so I am use to the modesty of veterans. I’ve even had a Silver Star recipient not want to tell me about his honors! (Of course, as soon as he did, and we made them front and center on his resume, his phone started ringing!) So when we got to the “Tell me about yourself” portion of our consultation he was adamant that he had done nothing of any significance during his service.

I wasn’t buying it for a minute. I believed him when he said he simply followed orders, attacked what needed to be attacked, defended what needed to be defended, and did what soldiers do. Well, I happen to know that the thing soldiers do most of their time is wait or guard duty. Being a soldier can be very boring. So I asked him what he had guarded.

Of course, he said, “Nothing important.” But I pushed him and finally he said, “Construction sites.” Turned out, he guarded a site, in Afghanistan, where they were building a school. Not just any school, but a school for girls. Not just any girls, but girls who had never been in a school before.

So I asked him, “Did you see the girls enter the school?” “Yes.” “Were they smiling?” “Yes.” “Did they come back the next day?” “Yes.” “Were they still smiling?” “Yes.” “So you protected girls going to school for the first time in their lives?” “Yes.”

My story has become known as the “Big Bird Story” and I had told him about it. So I said, “That’s your Big Bird Story.”

At his next interview he said,

Let me tell you about my best day in the Army. I was guarding a construction site. They were building a school for girls. Once it was built, we protected the students. I can’t begin to tell you what it meant to me to see the smiling faces of little girls going to school for the first time in their lives.

He got the job.

Third story:

Like the Big Bird story, the next and final example was unintentional. I was being nice to that little girl. I was doing what Big Bird would have done! I was not trying to get an autistic girl to speak to me. It just happened. I would never take credit for an unintentional act. And, in the next example, I did not intend for anything more to happen than for my client to get the job offer.

This client, as they say, “was a woman of a certain age.” She came to me specifically for interviewing assistance. She had a job interview, the next day (!), and wanted to practice. She sent me the job description and her resume, and we got started.

Now let me tell you a little secret. No one but the interviewers know the questions they are going to ask candidates. So-called “experts,” like myself, guess. We don’t know. But it is safe to assume they will review the job description. If they don’t they’re idiots! It is also safe to assume they will offer the “Tell us about yourself” opportunity. And when we got to it, the fun began.

She was applying for a job as an assistant director of purchasing. She was totally qualified. I asked her, because it was not on her resume (which, I hasten to add, it would have been if I had prepared it!), what were here special accomplishments? Of course, she said she had none. She just did like everyone else. She got three bids for all purchases above (I think) $500 and would make a decision or recommendation based on price and quality.

Truth was, she really had done nothing special. She was good at her job and that was it. But That was not good enough.

Then I noticed her left hand. She was wearing a wedding ring, but no engagement ring. I asked her why. She told me she never received one. “We got engaged when we signed our pre-nup. I didn’t want or need jewelry.”

First thing I did was ask her if she was Jewish and had a sister. She laughed. And then I said, “If this is true, here’s your Big Bird Story.”

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I don’t bring my personal life into the workplace but in this case, it’s relevant.

A lot of people have a split personality. They act one way at home and another at work. I don’t. As you may have noticed, I don’t have an engagement ring. What you don’t know is I have a prenuptial agreement. I know it’s technically not a bribe, but morally it is. I don’t accept bribes. And I don’t enter into agreements without knowing exactly what is expected of me and what I can expect from the other person. It’s the same in business. I get everything in writing and I never accept gifts from vendors. I look for the best price and highest quality for my company, not the best restaurant coupons or event tickets for myself.

I told her, “Once you say that, shut up!”

And she did. Now, I had also warned her to include a caveat, “I am not criticizing others, this is just my way,” if there were any women in the room with engagement rings. In this case there were no women at all. That was both a curse and a blessing.

The curse was that the woman she really had to meet was the director of purchasing. She would be working for her and she had called in sick. There was no time to reschedule the appointment so the owner of the company decided to sit in on the meeting. That was the blessing. This was what was unintentional with my advice:

The owner told her that she had to meet with the director but he was extremely impressed and looked forward to welcoming her to “the family.” This was after she had given the above response. As far as he was concerned, he had heard enough and the interview was over.

What happened next was totally unexpected.

The owner realized that the director of purchasing had a very nice engagement ring, along with her wedding ring. She did a good job. He had no complaints. But now he had suspicions. So he took it on himself to spend the day on the phone talking to vendors, none of which had changed since the director started working their five years earlier (thus his suspicions). It turned out that everyone of them had give the director a gift. Some gave gifts for the holidays and a few actually gave them when contracts were signed. And, apparently, these were not simple trinkets, mugs or t-shirts with corporate logos. We are talking dinners-for-two at fancy restaurants and great seats to sporting events. The director had never said a word about them and, of course, had never shared with her colleagues. (Whether they were “gifts” or “bribes,” you can decide for yourself!)

That evening, the owner picked up the phone and called my client. He offered her the directorship, not the assistant position and, as she was unemployed, asked her to start the next morning. He told her what had happened. She accepted the offer. He fired the director.

There are a lot of good reasons to sign pre-nups and some bad reasons not to, but this is one I never saw coming!

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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.

Two New Sections for Your Resume

In graduate school, one of my professors explained the difference between plagiarism and research. “Plagiarism,” he told us, “was when you steal from one author. Research is when you steal from more than one!” (It was his attempt at humor, but the point was well taken!)

Not wanting to be accused of plagiarism (which I can’t even spell without Bill Gates), I got the idea for this article reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s excellent book, The Black Swan, available wherever fine books are sold, etc., etc., etc.

I never make guarantees. If you come to me for career counseling, I can’t guarantee that my advice will get you a job. I can only guarantee that I will keep my promises. But, in this case, I absolutely am almost certain (that’s for the lawyers) that I can pretty much (again, the lawyers) guarantee that if you add the following two sections to your resume, it will be read, noticed and may even get you an interview.

As my readers know, I believe that the first section of a resume, literally front and center, should be “Selected Accomplishments” – bullet points highlighting what you have done for other employers. The idea is to make prospective employers, the recipients of your resume, comfortable, at a minimum, to bring you in for an interview. The logic is, they will think, “If she did it for them, she can do it for us,” or “We better bring him in or our competitors will!”

But what if, following “Selected Accomplishments,” you had a new section? A novel section? An unprecedented section? I have been a recruiter for 17 years and this is something I have never seen.

What if you had a section, “Selected Failures?” It would have two or three bullet points of your failures – we have all had them – and, most importantly, highlight what you learned from them. “Tell me about your failures,” in one form or another, is a common interview request. So why not make it a common section on a resume?

So you begin your resume with your accomplishments, continue with your failures, and now comes the second new section. Admit to your ignorance. As with anything else, knowing you have a problem is the first step in solving it. Admitting ignorance is the first step to knowledge. We all know that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. So here’s the second new section, to follow “Selected Failures:”

“What I Want to Learn.” If you are applying for an entry level IT job, let’s say a Help Desk position, maybe you would list, again as bullet points, Cybersecurity. Perhaps a foreign language. Perhaps learning to play a musical instrument. What does it matter? The important thing is that you want to show the prospective employer that you want to better yourself. What’s not to like about that? And, as with “Failures,” I have never seen this on a resume so it is sure to grab someone’s attention.

So after showing the employer the good you have brought to others and that you admit to and learn from your mistakes, tell them how you want to improve yourself. If a resume like that does not resonate with an employer, my guess is that that is not an employer for whom you want to work.

Good luck, and as this post is being published May 25, have a Meaningful Memorial Day.

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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

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.