Highly Motivated Individual, Team Player, Seeks Job
By Colleen Sheehy Orme
Finding a job in the somewhat recession-proof metropolitan area can still be tough. Fortunately, in this mecca of educated, enterprising and motivated professionals exciting opportunities do exist. It may just mandate approaching the job hunt with a fresh perspective and some expert advice.
The individuals interviewed here all share a deep passion for the workplace and those who inhabit it. Though each speaks to different aspects of the career search every piece of wisdom dispensed will enrich individual job hunters regardless of age or industry.
It seems the hard/soft copy resume is still as important as ever. That video resumes though seemingly new and interesting are not as common. Job boards have expanded exposure, but usage varies from profession to profession. Social media has in fact changed the recruiting landscape especially LinkedIn. However, there is still no replacement for physical interviews and job referral’s based on solid relationships. It is nonetheless, an industry that is fortunately still based on the most valuable of resources—people.
Georgetown University’s Professor of Management Brooks Holtom studies human capital issues and studies “how firms attract, develop and retain top talent.” Well known and respected as a consultant to both federal and commercial organizations, Holtom enlightens with thoughts of the economy and guiding his students.
“I tell my students the market is not your mama. The market is cold and unforgiving,” says Holtom. “I think one thing we can take from the current economic climate is that nothing is guaranteed. If people are having difficulty finding a job it is not personal.”
Holtom explains several factors contributing to the availability of jobs. One is that many baby boomers have postponed retirement. Secondly, the economy is causing many employers to hold back in hiring. Though the current job climate challenges are real, Holtom empowers his students and others by taking the emotion out of the job process.
“I have no illusions that it doesn’t feel personal. We all hate rejection. You simply have to remember that it is not personal,” says Holtom. “What I know from labor markets is that you do what you can to increase your odds. So things like getting a degree, going to the best school that you can, making more contacts, independently none of those activities guarantee a job, but collectively they increase your odds.”
It can simply be a numbers game. The more contacts that are made and interviews that are conducted the probability of gaining employment obviously increases.
“There is no formula,” says Holtom. “If you are looking at the numbers over time it will work out, particularly if you are learning along the way about how to identify the match between employer needs and your skills.”
Professor Holtom also advises that when graduating from college it is imperative to look at the industry majored in expansively rather than singularly. If an individual went through a program in finance then Wall Street is not the only avenue. There are multiple avenues to apply that degree including working for the Treasury or the SEC, etc. Of course, this valuable perspective applies to employees of any age as well.
Professor Holtom also explains the value of LinkedIn. “LinkedIn is a powerful technology. The reason it’s superior to other electronic outlets is it’s based on trust; it is trust inherent.”
Advice for the overqualified or career changer
Steve Langerud of Steve Langerud & Associates is a workplace consultant and director of professional opportunities at Indiana’s DePauw University. He travels the country dispensing his expertise to businesses, individuals or alumni.
Langerud has a strong client base in the Metro-D.C. region (USDA, HUD, ABA). He coaches job hunters through a variety of career obstacles including individuals who feel, or are told, they are overqualified.
“Feeling overqualified is more in the mind of the candidate than the employer,” says Langerud. “What I find is that they say they feel overqualified. They are looking within the context of the work they have already done.”
What does this mean exactly? It means that often people possess a deep topical knowledge of the industry they are in. However, they also possess a skill set which can transfer over to a new industry.
“One of the tricks when working with overqualified people is teaching them to look skill-oriented rather than content-oriented. They see themselves aligned with the content of their field,” says Langerud. “It is not; however, necessarily what they are getting paid to do. There’s a deeper set of skills that they use every day, but it’s not directly connected to the content.”
Langerud believes that once a person realizes that they are much broader than the restraints of a specific industry they see themselves differently. They can then harness their specific skill set to move seamlessly towards a new industry.
“It’s a really hard thing for candidates to get over. They own that content and the more knowledgable they are the more comfortable they are. You can learn more content. You can get more comfortable with that, but the skills are much harder to learn later in life.”
Langerud also invests many of his coaching hours to those who crave a career change.
“In this economy with the way things look no one is afraid of change, but they are afraid of the unknown,” says Langerud. “I don’t have the tool. I don’t have the map to make the change. As soon as you fill it in they aren’t afraid and they [are] no longer mobilized.”
Langerud feels that it is imperative to understand the difference between change and transition. A transition is the spiritual or emotional feeling that prompts someone to want to make a change. It is whatever factor makes them feel they are done with a particular job. The problem is that often people ignore the transition and jump right to the change when it is crucial to prepare for the change so that it will be a positive one.
“The economy has forced many to make the change and they haven’t had time to prepare for the transition,” says Langerud. “They haven’t had time to unpack from that experience and prepare for the next transition. If you don’t prepare you could become a ‘serial changer.’”
The transition is completed by acknowledging that you are done and ready for something new. Then discovering and articulating what new or better looks like.
The ultimate goal is to bring these thoughts together in a single, coherent statement.
By organizing this statement there is now a great description of the job candidate, but a title has yet to be put on it. Now, one can research all the individuals who get paid to do this. It also brings Langerud’s previous statement full circle; that it is skill-based not topically-based. A plan for the future career change can be made.
“I think the people who are the least confident are those thinking about switching careers,” says Langerud. “When they speak to people face-to-face who have successfully done what they want to do it suddenly becomes real. Tell me how to get there and lay out the map. What drives everyone crazy is the unknown. The goal is to stop, fill the void in with real information, evaluate and then make the decision.”
Overqualified or career changer: Langerud’s four steps
1. What are the skills you want to use at this job?
2. What are the topics, issues or content that you would really love to spend all day thinking and talking about?
3. Who are the people you want around you? Who are the colleagues in the room with you? Who do you serve and who is going to be the end user of your work?
4. What setting or environment will you be happy doing this work in? i.e., I want to work in Northern Virginia, from home; I want to wear a suit, no suit; I want to work on one project at a time, multiple projects, etc.
Companies to help you get started if you’re interested in…
Entry-Level Sales Work
In a time where degrees do not always guarantee what they once did, co-founder of People Ventures Lee Bell strategizes opportunities and provides a plan for candidates to succeed.
People Ventures (pvijobs.com) specialize in entry-level sales positions within large technology companies; however, Bell’s words ring true despite the profession. Bell offers long-term advice and not just a short-term hire. He counsels his candidates that it is not where one wants to be today, but where they want to be in five years.
“I talk to candidates about seeing themselves through the hiring manager’s eyes. I am big on trying to bring out three things in candidates: competitiveness, communication and coachability. You can’t just give a textbook interview and say all the right things. If you do not tell short stories to quantify who you are then you are not telling the story of your life. I always tell candidates people hire people they like and they have to know you to like you.”
“Everyone is looking for that sexy job out of college. You are not going to find your dream job as your first job unless you are completely lucky,” says Bell. “Instead you need to look at it like steps in your career. If you do all the right things the goal is that once experience is there that your manager is trying to promote you from within while at the same time recruiters are calling.”
Creative, Marketing or web-based Work
If your area of interest is creative, marketing or web-based, then contact Profile’s (careerprofiles.com) Henry Addo. Addo advises that the resume is extremely important. In today’s market it is imperative to be able to write, communicate and express ideas well.
Addo makes an interesting observation to support his candidate criteria: “There may have been a time before when your manager would have been between you and anyone else you would deal with,” says Addo. “Before if you were, say, a developer, you could just code and someone else would worry about what it means to the business. You can’t do that anymore because social media has brought the user to the forefront. The user and the user experience are vital in having a successful product.”
Phil Leon, managing principal of The Leon Group, Inc. recruits in the field of eDiscovery.
The transition from the pure practice of law into eDiscovery will require a keen interest of the industry, explains Paul Leon of The Leon Group, along with hands-on experience, knowledge building and a dedication to the craft. There are an array of career choices for the right-minded talent who quests new options, including: technical, project management, sales, management and consulting.
What is it?
“eDiscovery is a term used to identify Electronic Discovery. Essentially, it is the data that is extracted for the legal needs specific to litigations, investigations, arbitrations and mergers/acquisitions,” says Leon. “This fast -pace world requires bright and progressive thinkers.”
Senior-level sales or technical work
For management-level and senior-level sales or technical positions in the information technology field, McLean-based MRC group (mrcgroup.net) is awaiting your call.
Founder, Mike Norton renders this advice, “Candidates for senior-level positions should research the backgrounds of the individuals with which they will interview. You may be able to find people with whom you work that you know in common, which gives you that built in back-door reference with a hiring manager.”
Why is this important? An individual can have a great resume and can interview extremely well, but at this executive level that is not enough. “Almost all hiring managers who are looking to hire a senior-level position in their organization are going to want to know someone in the marketplace who has worked with this individual. To validate that, this is an outstanding person to hire.” One of the advantages of using a recruiter is that they serve as additional reinforcement that a candidate is not only qualified, but a good fit for a particular company.
Norton also points out that it is particularly important in bad economic times to highlight your successes and experience directly related to the requirements of the position for which you are applying.
A word of caution
“We have had numerous situations where a candidate has applied to a company directly or through a job board website. Once this is done we are no longer able to represent them. Often times the resume sits in a large pile. The candidate never gets the opportunity even though we know they would be a great fit because we have a strong understanding of the company’s requirements. We see it so many times you can’t imagine.”
Contract work can not only benefit those wishing for flexible job opportunities, but also those currently in-between jobs.
Verigent is a Rockville-based staffing company that provides personnel in support of Telecom & IT projects on a temporary or full-time basis. Mike Schiano, director of the Mid-Atlantic region at Verigent says, “Whether a candidate is looking to enter the workforce for the first time or return to the workforce working with a temporary staffing company is a great entry point. It allows the candidate to stay active in the workforce while seeking full-time employment. It may also lead to full-time employment.”
Schiano also advises candidates to not get discouraged when utilizing job boards, such as Monster or Careerbuilder. Even if a prospective employee does not receive a response they are now registered with that employer in their internal database. If an opportunity that matches their background arises they may be contacted in the future.
Verigent has been working in this market since 2003. “We understand the market and the candidate pool,” says Schiano. We have a very rigorous interview process to vet out the candidates to ensure they have the right skill set for our customers.”
What can make you even more Marketable in the Metro-d.c. area is a clearance opening doors in the federal sector and with government contractors. Verigent works in both the federal and commercial sectors providing both cleared and non-cleared
Vocus a cloud-based marketing and PR software firm, is headquartered in Beltsville, Maryland with offices in Herndon. Crazy as it sounds, they really enjoy working.
Cal Schilling, vice president of human resources explains, “We actually have a very unique recruiting department here. Most of our recruiters are looking at new and innovative ways to chase talent in the market.”
Why? Well, this may make one want to work for Vocus even more. “In the DC market you still have sought after talent so you have to constantly look at new ways to reach out to them,” says Schilling. Vocus appreciates human capital and they are growing and growing aggressively.
How does Vocus secure talent?
They conduct open houses, utilize LinkedIn and other social media, have campus programs and conduct virtual open houses.
Virtual open houses “We can talk to and chat with up to 100 candidates in a day in the virtual open house. It’s just a great opportunity to interview the candidate,” says Schilling. “We get strong results working with some of the virtual open houses. A lot of the candidates are already identified as more of a match to the candidate pool. The other advantage is really being able to shorten the process of the introduction. We like those non-traditional ways of getting in front of the candidate.”