CFA INSTITUTE EVENT: Diversity & Inclusion: Strategies for Success

Jared Redick is delighted to again join the CFA Institute in its ongoing commitment to the career success of its CFA charterholders.

Hosted by the CFA Society of San Francisco and sponsored by the CFA Institute Women in Investment Management Initiative, the "Diversity & Inclusion 2018: Strategies for Success" conference is scheduled for September 20-12, 2018 at The Westin St. Francisco on Union Square, San Francisco, CA, USA.

A former search consultant for two nationally retained search firms, Jared Redick first presented on résumé writing to CFA Society of San Francisco members in 2008, and soon after, at the CFA Society of Minnesota 2010 Professional & Career Development Conference. His ensuing work with the CFA Institute and regional / state chapters expanded into LinkedIn profile development alongside his work as one of the early LinkedIn ProFinder providers. In the summery of 2012, Jared presented two global webinars to CFA charterholders, including "Advanced Writing Strategies for Your LinkedIn Profile."

Visit the Institute's Career Development Sessions page to register for the event, and for information about Jared's upcoming "Reverse-Engineering Your Long-Term Career Goals" talk.

Presentation highlights:

  • Planning ahead for new jobs, promotions, and board appointments
  • Writing a game-changing résumé, LinkedIn profile, and executive bio
  • Cautiously tell your career story to your public and private audiences
  • Message your value without hyperbole or understatement

MORE ABOUT JARED REDICK

Jared’s career development ideas have appeared in articles and reprints presented by the American Bar Association, CFA Institute, Legal Career Journal; BusinessInsider.com; Dynamic Search Solutions, UK; Forbes Coaches Council; Mental Floss; National Association of Women Lawyers; The Times of India; and RD.com.

Recent conferences, symposia, corporate trainings, and webinars include Beyond Academia, CFA Institute, University of California, Moss Adams, LLP, National Resume Writers’ Association, and The Harvard Club of Washington, D.C.

In 2009, he published Jared Redick's Job Description Analysis, an insightful career discovery exercise that helps people evaluate and set realistic next steps using their own collection of ordinary job descriptions. His use of the tool with the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) inspired tutorials by the Modern Languages Association (MLA).

Connect with Jared at linkedin.com/in/jaredredick.

Ways to Handle the Gap Between Completing Your Education and Starting Your New Job

Photo by  Denys Argyriou  on  Unsplash

A university career counselor emailed me some time back with a question for one of her Ph.D. candidates.

For anyone who might be facing the lull between finishing their education and beginning a new job, here's an edited version of our email exchange. Names and several details have been edited.

The Inquiry:

Hi Jared,

I hope you've been well since the training. Can you help me advise a student in an unusual situation? He graduated in June and is starting a government job in D.C. that he’s very excited about. He's awaiting final clearance. His Ph.D. is in [Study Area] and he also has an MA in [Degree Focus]. He is also fluent in [Language]. He needs something temporary and probably part-time to help make it through financially until he’s called to D.C.

He’s getting a bit stressed. Afraid he’s going to have to work at Starbucks. I suggested looking for [omitted] work or contract-style consulting but he’s been unable to find anything along those lines. In other words, he needs something that will be worthwhile to do but short-term/part-time.

Many thanks,

Jane

My Reply:

Hi Jane,

You've already given him sound advice. The fact that nothing is materializing isn't surprising, though. Here's a run-down of what immediately comes to mind based on what I've observed over the years. I'll leave international travel off the table since it sounds like he needs to work.

He needs a survival job.

He should find a job with that in mind. He's working toward—and shouldn't lose sight of—an end goal that is already in hand. That said, he's not the first to have that lag between hire and approval when it comes to a government role, so he just needs to find something that flexible that will pay the bills between now and then. And that's not necessarily easy to do unless he takes a step back a bit from his internal expectations. 

He needs something he can easily leave when D.C. calls.

Actors and performers face this challenge all the time—how to pay the bills while being able to respond immediately to an audition or a role.

The solution can be temping. Yep, temping. As unglamorous as temping sounds, it's there for a reason. Yes, he may have to cloak himself with a bit of humility, but while he's there, perhaps he can look at it as research for some future area of interest. There may come a time when he references his "time as a temp" for a publication or article or some other "real world impact" piece.

Maybe he could approach it like the guy who ate McDonald's hamburgers for 31 days, or the writer who goes undercover as a homeless person for a year. You get my drift. If he can think of the experience as something larger, which might be interesting to "report on" later, it may make the time less frustrating. 

He'll probably never want to highlight it, but it will stand in the gap between now and D.C. Who knows, it might inform his government work, now or later, depending on where he ultimately focuses. 

The best way to approach temping is to submit materials to at least three agencies. One will never use him, one might use him occasionally, and the third will likely use him regularly. It may be that the companies (who are hiring through the temp agency) might need a bilingual [job title], which could turn into a part-time gig or maybe a long-term relationship that bears fruit twenty years from now. He won't know until he goes that route.

He doesn't have to include it on his resume. 

As for the resume, it isn't essential to include anything he does between now and D.C., except perhaps in the short-term resumes that he'll use with the temp agencies. For this reason, he shouldn't add any of that "work experience" to LinkedIn. 

Temping can be akin to contracting, but the work will likely fall outside of his areas of interest. On the resume—in the unlikely event he ever has to include this gap period—he can still frame it as "contracting" and isolate the parts of the assignments that relate to the bigger picture of his career. Less is more in that case. In that case, he can truncate the time period under the temp agency's name, treating it as a single job with multiple assignments.

He will likely still need to include those temp jobs when filling out a formal application, which he may have to do as a government employee. In that case, it won't likely ding him because many have some sort of gap between college and career. (Travel, gap year, etc.)

His should be financially prudent

The alternative would be taking a loan to live (I've heard the long-term effects and it's generally a less-than-ideal approach), borrowing from friends or family (possible in some instances, also not a great idea), or couch surfing with friends (but that still doesn't pay the bills).

He might look into deferring student loans, or at the very least income-adjusted repayment plans until he gets on his feet in D.C. Check with the loan provider, however, because interest can mount up quickly, so he should make an educated decision rather than simply putting loans into deferment without understanding the ramifications. 

He should look at his expenses and cut every non-essential purchase. He might have already done this, but even a cup of coffee a day can range $90 to $120 per month, which would be $450-$600 between now and January.

He needs to be his own advocate.

Sometimes that means facing reality, knuckling down, knowing that something better is just around the corner. As a recent student, this is probably not unfamiliar territory for him. Just knuckle down a little longer.

He should celebrate the achievement of this new role.

And while waiting, he may want to find and commiserate with others who have endured the gap between graduation and the start of a new job. How did they do it? What are their stories? 

He should be purposeful, not entertaining thoughts of stagnation.

This is temporary and he'll look back on this one day and laugh/be grateful/who really knows. Bottom line, it will be a blip in his overall career. He should avoid being defensive of anyone asks about what he's doing. Make light of it in some sort of fun way and move on.

Hope that helps!

Jared

That Old Saw: What Defines a Leader?

Leadership Is.jpg

Occasionally, I stray from this blog and post something on my LinkedIn profile. Usually when a topic is evergreen and I think it might be helpful for years to come.

One of those recent topics was about what a leader is, and I suppose by the nature of that reveal, what a leader isn't.

Many of my clients are clear that they are leaders. Their job titles, in fact, begin with a "C," and they have a great deal of vision and responsibility. Plain and simple.

For other clients, however, they're still feeling it out, or they're laying their leadership groundwork, or they're sensitive about calling themselves a leader. Still others say they're a leader, but have little to prove it.

My LinkedIn post, "Who or What is a Leader?" offers a simple method for determining whether you're a leader, or still a leader in the making. 

Can You Introduce Me to Your Recruiter Friends?

From time to time, clients ask if I would consider introducing them to my friends who are still recruiting. 

It's a logical question because we've usually just spent a solid 1-4 months aiming for an upcoming job search, whether imminent or a year from now—which may involve recruiters.

There's nothing I'd rather do than make those connections, but I've never made one that I can remember. Even when I was still in retained executive search and moonlighting as a résumé writer, I never crossed the two audiences.

Here's why.

My connections are in the retained executive search world, which means they are looking externally for ideal candidates. They generally don't announce positions, and if they do, it's usually after an exhaustive search has already been conducted and come up empty. They also don't list the client name. Retained executive search firms are hired to find people through their own sophisticated research and outbound headhunting efforts.

Retained executive search:

Retained executive search consultants are looking for people who are happy in their current positions, and for whom something new might be of interest. In fact, those happy potential candidates are often so happy where they are, that they're not expecting the call, and the art of recruiting becomes essential in engaging them in the first place. As the retained search recruiter, you have to demonstrate the match because your candidate is likely not looking to move.

Retained executive search represents a fairly narrow band of recruiters, and frankly they're in a unique world. Their databases often contain their own research, that research is often generated anew for each search, and the engagements are exclusive with a premium client company for a very senior, well-pedigreed, and sometimes hard-to-find candidate.

Imagine filling the shoes of someone like Richard Branson, Janet Yellen, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Sergey Brin, Angela Ahrendts, Larry Page, Bill Gates, or Anna Wintour when they decide to move.

Who's going to replace them? 

Those searches are complex, take a long time to complete, are often part of a known succession plan, and frequently require a highly specific blend of education, experience, and skills. You can imagine why it's unlikely that simple job postings would suffice in identifying the right candidate. 

You can also move the lesson to lesser-known, but equally important leadership roles across the Fortune 500, and you see my point. 

From there, it's helpful to know that by definition, an inbound résumé—no matter where it comes from and no matter how senior or experienced the person—represents someone who is potentially unhappy, and thus, not an ideal candidate.

Why? Because it's an overt expression of someone wanting a change, which means there could be a pain point somewhere and you (the search firm) don't know if that pain is coming from the company or the candidate, and in any event, you can't risk placing the wrong person. 

The inbound résumé might not even be entered in the database. (This is changing slightly in recent years. Stay tuned.)

From every angle, an inbound executive résumé can have diminishing returns with the retained search firm colleagues I know.

Contingency recruiting:

But there's another side to the recruiting world called contingency recruiting. (Wikipedia has a great page on distinctions you'll want to know about.)

Contingency recruiting is a bit more knock-about by nature. It's faster. It's usually not exclusive, meaning that a company needing to find an employee can hire multiple contingency recruiters or firms to conduct a search. The firm that presents the right candidate gets the fee.

Real estate agent comes to mind as a good example of how this works. They don't get paid unless they sell the house, so they're trying to beat every other agent in making a match.

This means that contingency recruiters may be more willing to have a peek at your unsolicited résumé. Even if they simply add you to their database, at least you're there.

How to distinguish retained executive search from contingency recruiting firms:

Retained search will often use the phrase "retained search" in their communications. Visit the firm's website. If it says "retained search," or some variation of the word "retained" and you'll know.

Contingency firms, however, won't generally mention the distinction, which may indicate that they're contingency, which means that they may be more open to receiving your inbound résumé.

I highly recommend subscribing to Nick Corcodilos' "Ask The Headhunter" newsletter. His straightforward style and insights about working with recruiters is superb, not only in his e-newsletter, but also in his book: "How to Work With Headhunters." (I don't know Nick, I'm just a fan.) Some time back, ExecuNet interviewed Nick and published this timeline advice: "Whose Side of the Table is the Recruiter On?"

As with everything, there are exceptions to the rule, and norms are ever-changing.

Take LinkedIn, for instance.

LinkedIn has become an ideal way to get on the radar of both retained and contingency search firms.

Build your LinkedIn summary (heck, the entire profile) around the keywords and phrases that a recruiter might input to find you, and you'll have a much better chance of being found passively. Present material as if you're happy where you are—in fact, use your profile to truly do business—and recruiters of all stripes should be able to translate and still view you as a possible target of acquisition. (They usually need only a handful of questions answered to decide if they should keep talking, so be flexible and kind, and avoid feeling like you're being used or not respected. They have a job to do, and there's little chance that you'll know or could even surmise the details of the spec or the motivations of the company, so don't try.)

Side note: some recruiters will be abrupt, some recruiters will ask why you haven't "placed your accomplishments" on your LinkedIn profile. Those folks don't understand that LinkedIn profiles might give away trade secrets, so don't try reasoning with them. Trust your decision not to place competitive information online and let them move on.

Never before has such a virtuous cycle existed: you put yourself there, you have a stronger chance that the right people will find you. If you look like a possible fit, they may reach out. Now, or in ten years. I've had more than one "purple squirrel" client who was found via LinkedIn, precisely because of the odd blend of education, experience, and skills they possessed. (And those stories were all told within the framework of their current jobs, so we didn't tip off their boards, bosses, employees, partners, etc.)

LinkedIn is among the best ways right now to be found passively by a recruiter. There are also a host of other important, career-related uses. These two concepts along represent the reason I've shifted from LinkedIn-phobic to cautious LinkedIn champion. 

Retained executive search firms:

For our purposes here, it's helpful to know that most of the big search firms, and many of the smaller ones, have a Twitter presence.

Here are a few you might start with:

Twitter

I can't believe I'm writing this, since I was so Twitter-phobic for so long, but there are entire Twitter accounts dedicated to specific industries, their standards, and best practices, niche pockets of intelligence, and areas where you can get or give targeted advice. I follow several through my own Twitter account, @TheResumeStudio, and I'm amazed at how many opportunities (and how much good intelligence) flow through my Twitter feed.

Research and find your own opportunities, and develop careful strategies to reach your long-term goals. It takes some elbow grease. You'll also gain tremendous insights simply because you paid attention.

The Uncommonly Candid Career Story of Andrew M. Cuomo's "Counsel to the Governor"

Posted moments ago, my friend and colleague Shauna C. Bryce, Esq., interviews her longtime friend, Alphonso David, Esq.—chief counsel and principal legal adviser to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo—and tells his astonishing story.

Part of BryceLegal.com's How I Got My Legal Dream Job Series, "How to Become One of the Most Powerful Lawyers in New York State Government," reflects Shauna's unparalleled access and gives the world insights into the decisions behind one lawyer's rise to influence. It's an uncommonly candid story of quiet struggle and ultimate triumph.

If you love reading non-fiction, there are moments here that will take your breath away. Here's an excerpt:

Your Star-shaped Peg Isn't Meant to Fit in that Square-shaped Hole

As infants, we learn that star-shaped pegs fit only in the star-shaped holes.

So why do we backslide as adults and start thinking our star-shaped pegs should suddenly fit into square holes?

The analogy illustrates a challenge faced by many successful people.

I work with stealth job seekers. People who are ostensibly happy in their jobs, but open to change. Yet even sitting solidly in their leadership positions, they say things like:

  • A recruiter called and didn't like X about my background. 
  • My friend told me my résumé was missing Y.

To which I say, "You might be missing the point. Your background and future career interests don't have to fit a recruiter's spec just because s/he called you."

In fact, thinking back to the thousands of people I called as a recruiter, odds were exceptionally low that the background of my prospect would be a fit. I had a long list of possibilities, but it was my job to find the right person. Only a handful on my list of 300-500 names would even make the first cut. 

Even purple squirrels become purple squirrels when the right, oddly-precise opportunity comes along. 

A needle in a haystack has more guarantee of being found! Recruiting didn't earn the headhunter nickname for nothing.

And as for what's missing on your résumé, how on earth can your friend know which parts of your background matter with respect to where you want to go in your career? YOU might not even know the answer to that question, so how can even the dearest, most trusted friend advise you about what should and should not appear on your résumé?

Here are some simple ways to start thinking about a shift in your career:

  • Be honest about where you'd be willing to go in your career. 
  • Create a realistic list of things you require to make a move. While you're at, include your deal breakers. 
  • Get real about what's feasible, and if you find technical gaps between your experience to date and where you want to go, decide if it makes sense (time-wise, economically) to fill those gaps.
  • Stop twisting yourself into a pretzel to meet the spec of every recruiter who comes along. Be grateful they came along in the first place, have a short and pleasant chat, and sit tight for the right opportunity when it surfaces.

Be your own personknow and be your brand. You'll attract the right opportunities. Opportunities that value the pieces of you and the skills that light you up. Opportunities that make you happy. 

The more I do this work, the more I realize how many people grow in terms of skill, expertise, and seniority, but never move beyond the "Pick me! Pick me!" mentality that we all adopt as we leave college and head into the real world. If you're 15-25 years into your career, you're being sought and paid for how your leadership will impact a company, not the other way around. 

Pithy blog posts and rant-filled articlesthis one included, perhapsdo not, alone, represent the Holy Grail for your future, so stop trying to fit your star-shaped peg into square-shaped holes. Instead, start the hard work, decision-making, and preparationhell, do a Job Description Analysisnecessary to architecting the right next step in your own career.   

Garbage In, Garbage Out: Two Keystrokes that will Transform Your "Advanced Search" Results on LinkedIn

Yesterday, I hung up the phone with a client—a well-known, recent retiree from one of the world's largest investment banking institutions—and immediately drafted this blog post.

The experience was like many others before, and served as the perfect example of how a few keystrokes can transform search results when using LinkedIn's "Advanced Search" feature.

I'm guessing a lot of LinkedIn users don't even know Advanced Search exists, let alone how to use it effectively. Hence this post.

So, my client is in the trenches at the moment—developing the strategy and story needed to position himself for a public board director role.

One seemingly simple, but not-so-straightforward, task is to settle not only on the job title he'll use in a new consulting practice, but also to decide on the professional headline he'll use on LinkedIn.

Professional Headline on LinkedIn: The field immediately following your name on your LinkedIn profile—just below or to the right of your profile photo.

Also: One of LinkedIn's most important fields with respect to being passively found (based on my own LinkedIn user experience).

Do this: Infuse the keywords you believe others will use to find someone like you when querying LinkedIn's Advanced Search function. (As well as Google Search and other public search engines.)

After all, formerly timeless job titles like "Principal" and "Consultant" don't necessarily help tremendously (at least as keywords) when an executive search recruiter is looking for the right public board director and their first step is to type job titles and other defining content into a search bar.

Enter "Principal" into LinkedIn's Advanced Search tool, and you'll get everything from "high school principal," to "principal, eminent domain," to master cupcake baker who uses agave nectar as a principal ingredient.

Remember, this whole thing came up because my client's assignment was to research LinkedIn to identify how he might position himself going forward—not only in his new practice as an advisor, but also as a passive(ly findable) board candidate.

Unfortunately, he hadn't had much luck navigating LinkedIn's Advanced Search function.

Sharing screens, so he could follow along, I entered, "board director [industry]." (Board director wasn't in quotes, by the way. They're included here for clarity.)

What we ended up with was a list of people who are on the employee side of his industry, or who presently hold nonprofit board leadership roles at professional associations within the same industry.

The results weren't helpful for his purposes, so instead, I entered, "board director [industry] -association" (again, not in quotes).

Notice that we included a minus symbol before the word "association."

For good measure, I selected "Harvard Business School" to refine the search. 

Suddenly, our LinkedIn Advanced Search results were transformed, and we were seeing people closer to his peer set.

While our original intention was to see how others in similar circumstances had, and are, presently using LinkedIn, the minor refinements unlocked the value of the search results. The experience underscored the "garbage in, garbage out" adage, and made me think, again, about the many millions of users who complain, but don't look beneath LinkedIn's surface.

By the way, this is a bright guy, recognized for his intellect, intuition, and industry intelligence. His opinion can make or break markets. At least if investor behaviors have any influence on markets. He's a top-performer who has reached what many would consider to be the pinnacle of a professional career in the United States—maybe the world. And if he had an aha moment (after all, who sits around thinking about LinkedIn all day long), what does it say about the average LinkedIn user?

If you haven't discovered the wonders of the minus symbol when querying LinkedIn search, or the benefits of incrementally refining search parameters using other query features, take a moment to tinker and see if LinkedIn doesn't finally become the business tool you can't live without.

The Google Search Every Prospective Public Board Director Should Conduct

Searching for tips on how to write a public board director résumé?

I've worked with quite a few board directors exploring the possibility of a second board role—or senior executives looking for their first appointment—and there's a dearth of online job descriptions for public board directors on sites like Indeed.com and Monster.com.

Perhaps because board director searches are so often conducted by search firms.

Well, if you're angling for a board role and you've been searching for a life raft, you might start rejoicing knowing that one search term holds an almost magical key to unlocking many of your questions:

"governance committee charter"

Yep. Right there for all of us to google and find is the holy grail of board job descriptions we all wanted to find.

Here's the Google search result as of 8/5/16, but perform it on your own to find the latest lineup.

While you're at it, Spencer Stuart published an insightful blog post in May 2016, "How to Get on a Board." It's a realistic, expectation-setting peek at the steps needed to become a public board director.

Read These Entertaining Tech Company Reports with a Heavy Dose of Skepticism

Screenshot from Fast Company's article, "Where Google, Apples, and Amazon Employees Want to Work Next."

Screenshot from Fast Company's article, "Where Google, Apples, and Amazon Employees Want to Work Next."

I love articles like Fast Company's "Where Google, Apple, and Amazon Employees Want to Work Next." 

They're hard not to click on. I seriously can't resist Fast Company and INC.com's headlines. Someone poach those headline writers, they're the best!

But while the article referenced above is quite interesting, there are a few reasons to read it with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The reports and surveys cited are blended ... perhaps advantageously

Paragraph one references a Fast Company report, paragraph two references a PayScale survey, and paragraph three references a Dice survey of 1,600 technology professionals in the U.S.

I love the collective insight, but when you think about the sources, they're kind of apples and oranges, so you can't look at the findings as a single harmonious conclusion. 

The numbers might be deceiving

Statista.com says that "Apple reached more than 80,000 employees as of 2013."

So do those "1,600 technology professionals in the U.S." offer an authoritative enough sampling to represent all or even many technology professionals? Even within just one of the companies cited, the numbers polled represent a fraction of actual employees.

Each with his and her own very real employee experience and story.

The respondents' pain points might be magnified

Since those surveyed are apparently on job seeking / posting platforms (Dice, Anthology/formerly Poachable, which was a great name, but I can see why it was abandoned), the odds are probably high that those cited are somehow dissatisfied with their careers. You know, because they're poking around to see what's next in their career, not because they're entirely satisfied. 

This isn't a bad thing. Seriously. Poke around! It's just a lens through which we need to examine the article's broader assumptions.

There are insights to glean

My naysayer ideas aside—and remember, I'm a fan of these publications—there are kernels along the way that I recognize. In my work with stealth job seekers (inbound and outbound) at Google, Apple, and Amazon, I offer the following anecdotal and collective observations from my own practice. 

  1. Program management roles can indeed be akin to mini-CEO roles. Pushing a product (much less multiple products) from inception to ship is big work. But to move into a CEO role from a program manager role ... you probably need to (a) have a well-known name or (b) launch your own start-up and proclaim yourself the CEO. In other words, you need to either have an advocate in your corner (i.e., people saying you can do the job) or you will likely have to take the risk of assuming a new skill. What is that skill? P&L management. It has to be somewhere in the mix of a career to move into a CEO role. None of the program managers with whom I have worked at Google, Apple, and Amazon have P&L experience. Massive budgets? Yes. P&L? No. Much to their chagrin. (Even very senior clients from Oracle and IBM haven't had P&L ownership, much less exposure.) If you're looking to move into the C-suite, you need to reverse engineer how you're going to fill in the P&L blank within your current job, so start looking now for exposure. Otherwise, you need to found and build a start-up of your own, which inherently involves P&L. A move like that is all about the risk involved. Where you find the rare person who went from product manager to CEO, you'll probably find a person who took the risk and succeeded. 
  2. People at Google, Apple, and Amazon—and most other large companies—have preferences about the kinds of companies and cultures for which they will leave. Some want to spring from one public company to another, while others want to quietly leave one of the "not traditional, but no longer terrifically disruptive" tech giants like Google, Apple, and Amazon to blaze into a well-funded startup. Trouble is, they don't always get what they want because the right corporate culture doesn't suddenly open just because they are ready to move on. It's for this and many other reasons that stealth job seekers—or passive job finders like those Anthology serves—need to plan and wait. Get your ducks in a row and be ready to compete when the right opportunity and culture comes along.   

Oh, and following up on another of the article's tenets: Amazon's recent headlines seem to be uncomfortable for most, if not all of the corporate employees still on the inside.  

I can do that job! Why won't they hire me?

A well-pedigreed client recently returned for a résumé and LinkedIn update. She's a lot of fun and exploring a new direction in her career. 

Big Job Small Job.jpg

Part of our conversation turned toward a set of fictionalized addenda that I use to inspire new ideas and draw focus.

Her response to the examples (edited for clarity):

"Looking at the scope of work performed [in these stories], I find it sort of crazy that the work is all the same. It's just the size of the budgets handled that make something seem more executive in function. The exact same talent is getting poured into different sized initiatives."

She's right, of course, that at least similar talent is poured into difference sized initiatives. But that, perhaps, is exactly the rub, and it's a reality check conversation I frequently have with clients.

Here was my response:

"It's interesting right? I know from [retained executive] search that a key differentiator between "exact same talent" and their tasks is the size and type of the institution (public, private, NPO, government, regulated, etc.) and then the scope of professional oversight (team size and geography, budget size and complexity, requirements, etc.). 

I've come to learn that [a big part is] the amount of risk and [how the ideal candidate's] expertise mitigates that risk. It's a big reason why recruiters usually stick to a sure thing when recruiting a high profile role, and why it's important for someone who's a ways into their career—but not at a level they'd like to be—to have an advocate on the inside. In other words, someone who's willing to stick their neck out and vouch for them."

Size matters.

Indeed, the management of a $20M regional budget is very different than managing a $350M global P&L. Managing a 12-member local team is very different from managing a 200-person team on four continents. 

Contacts matter.

Another differentiator I neglected to mention in my note to my client is the contacts that a very senior, high profile person brings to a new role. A very senior person from a very large company who is sought by one of the Big 4 accounting firms is going to need a major book of business. So while the activities s/he performs may be "exactly the same" as someone at a small to mid-sized company, the Big 4 firm is going to prioritize the contacts that come with someone from a very large company. 

I should note that this isn't a positive or a negative on its own. It's simply a career planning tool. Awareness is a critical step to making the right, realistic plans.  

Networks matter.

It's for these reasons that so many people in the career development world harp on the power of networking. (See my recent post, "Networking: Essential or Overrated?") And not only networking, but networking authentically. You know ... making and keeping friends in business.

It's too late to start networking when you suddenly need a job. 

Planning matters.

Also, when suddenly looking for a job, many people think they are going to be every recruiter's dream candidate. And why not? Recruiters find ideal candidates, right? I'm suddenly available, so of course they're going to pine over me! Who else would they turn to? 

Unfortunately, too many otherwise brilliant minds default to this line of thinking, and it really couldn't be farther from the truth. Legitimate recruiters are, in fact, all different (retained versus contingency) except in one way: recruiters are hired by companies to find ideal candidates. They are looking externally for a specific blend of skills, and it doesn't matter how perfect you might be, it's all about the blend of that perfection (experience and skills) compared to what is being sought.

At this level, they're not looking to take a chance on what is possible. They're looking for proven leadership.   

Nothing of note happens overnight. 

Whether it's fine wines, cheeses, or executives. It's all careful cultivation and months to years of nurturing. 

As such, my quick takeaways for executives interested in cultivating a long-term career strategy are:

  1. Learn what you're dealing with. What are the pros and cons in terms of where you are (who you are, what you offer) and where you want to go. I happen to have a "Job Description Analysis" tool for that. Just last night a client emailed me, saying this: "This was a very meaningful exercise. It gave me more clarity into how I see my career progressing.")
  2. Develop and cultivate your network authentically so when the time comes, your "ask" isn't only genuine, but also heard and cared about. 
  3. Take a long view and develop your LinkedIn profile so you're not only using it for business, but also visible when a search firm is retained to look for someone just like you. 

For more, check out my LinkedIn Post article 6 Career Positioning Metrics Every Management Professional Should Cite.

Why Job Boards Aren't the End All-Be All for Job Seekers

Except for the purpose of research (yes, I wrote a toolkit about that purpose), I've disdained and largely decried online job boards for years. But somehow, until last night, stumbling across Nick Corcodilos' 2013 CMO.com article "Fired! Job Boards Get Their Walking Papers," I hadn't really pieced together that online job boards are basically glorified job ads in the back pages of newspapers.

I'll admit that the last time I replied to a newspaper job ad was as a 17-year-old applying for a bank teller job in 1987.

Job ads in the back of the newspaper died in the late 90s, giving way to the promise of online job ads. Monster was among the first and biggest, but even as a recruiter in New York more than a decade ago, we eschewed the monster. We used niche job boards, and we had pretty good results.

Later, as a retained search recruiter in San Francisco, we didn't even advertise jobs. Our role was to research, identify, and convince the right people that the jobs we were recruiting were right for them.

In fact, we basically ignored inbound résumés because the résumé submitted by a person actively looking for work might mean there was something wrong. And retained search doesn't play with fire. Retained search plays with certainty. So it was far better to pursue than to be pursued. 

If you're thinking about uploading your résumé to a job board, don't. For oh-so-many reasons. If you're relying entirely on job boards, don't. If you want to know why, read Nick Corcodilos' insightful and convincing article. It's as good today as it was when it was uploaded in 2013.

How Important is P&L Management for Up-and-coming CEOs?

Imagine you've had a storied leadership career to date. You're hovering around the 18-22 year mark ... right at that point when a retained executive search firm approaches you about a great next step: successor CEO for a company where the founding CEO is participating in a search to replace him.

The stakes are high and you're interested.

After being vetted by the search firm, your first official meeting (don't call it an interview!) is dinner with the founding CEO. Skip to the front of the line! 

Before you order the first appetizer, he ask you this: "So how large of a P&L have you managed?"

You freeze. 

You've managed 400 people globally. You've managed budgets totaling 50 million dollars. You've mentored 12 high performers into senior leadership roles. You've driven several billions of dollars in annual revenue for crying out loud!

But you have to confess: "Well, I've never officially managed a P&L."

The founding CEO doesn't beat around the bush: "Well why the hell did they send you to me?!" 

Dinner is over early.

This is a compilation of two people in my experience; both of whom had careers that many might consider exceptional. They both continue doing impressive work in tech. They're game changers in their fields.

But the P&L hiccup held lessons for both. Three lessons, in fact. One, P&L management matters. Two, not all search firms are built equally (the firm should have done better). Three, the CEO in question might have been short-sighted by not exploring a bit further.

The important lessons are still there for all to see.

Note that both came from flat organizations and neither had previously realized the importance of P&L management experience, nor been handed P&L authority. Both were walked to the door when they should have been walking through it. Both are now looking for ways to get their hands around P&L management ASAP so the issue doesn't flare up again.

BlueSteps.com underscores the importance P&L management experience holds for senior executives.

BlueSteps.com underscores the importance P&L management experience holds for senior executives.

As an aside, I recently began researching how many CEOs in the Fortune 500 founded their own companies or firms in the early parts of their careers, and the percentage is becoming convincing. Guess what starting your own company or firm involves? P&L management.

BlueSteps.com's "5 Characteristics a Senior Executive Must Possess to Assume P&L Responsibility" 2010 article still resonates today. Important read for management professionals with an eye on the C-suite or senior executives with a gap or two to fill before reaching CEO.

Clear Writing is Hard Work

One of my favorite Facebook and Twitter memes is the Einstein photo with the quote overlay: "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

Alas, skeptics.stackexchange.com is only one site questioning the quote's veracity, offering this lively crowd-sourced discussion about the claim. 

Attributable or not to Einstein, the truth within the quote is worth embracing. 

As a young New Yorker in 2000/2001, I thought I was a pretty great writer. Turns out, I wasn't. Thankfully, the partner I worked for was not only a hard-ass, but apparently had the patience of Job, because she endured the several months it took me to relearn how to write for business.

Equally patient—ometime during those same years—was my dear friend Marquel. She spent one memorable hours-long session with me on the Barnes & Noble Lincoln Square floor surrounded by piles of business writing books. She also listened to my belly-aching about the struggle! Major points for Marquel.

Of the six books I bought that night, Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia O'Conner proved the most helpful. And the funniest. I could probably stand to read it again, come to think of it.

So that's the back story to the joy I felt upon reading Victoria Clayton's superb October 26, 2015 article in The Atlantic: The Needless Complexity of Academic Writing. 

I've been working with a lot of PhDs-to-be lately, and am happy to report that they write clearly, by and large. Their curiosity and intellect is obviously deep, but they also have a fresh sensibility about and interest in communicating with the world outside of academia. I haven't read their dissertations—most still in progress—but their résumés and cover letters are clear and straightforward.

If you struggle with hyperbole, sentence structure, overwriting, lack of clarity, and beyond, you'll find all of the links in this blog post to be helpful resources. And take it from the guy who once relearned how to write who now makes his living writing: it can be done. You just have to realize the problem, and then set your mind to it.

How a Plate of Nachos Turned Into Jared Redick's Job Description Analysis

It's here! After blood, sweat, and tears, Jared Redick's Job Description Analysis is downloadable to the public! 

It's here! After blood, sweat, and tears, Jared Redick's Job Description Analysis is downloadable to the public! 

So, alright. I talk a lot on my blog about what other people and organizations are saying about career development.

I've watched a lot of colleagues and thought leaders publish important career development and awareness tools.

But today, it's my turn. I'm over-the-moon excited to share my first and only published resource to date: Jared Redick's Job Description Analysis.

The Job Description Analysis was born out of frustration, honestly. In 2009, a client gave me a spate of job descriptions for which he felt qualified, but they didn't hold a cogent through-line when I considered the entirety of his career. In fact, feelings rarely tell the whole story, nor lead to coherent decisions.

What did I do? I printed his materials and took them to a now-defunct neighborhood Mexican joint, of course! 

Which is where Jared Redick's Job Description Analysis was born. Over a plate of nachos, basically, and with a heaping sense of overwhelm.

Since then, the Job Description Analysis (called "the JDA" by many) has become a deceptively simple self-awareness tool for people with whom I work—baked into my one-on-work with clients.

Whether it's the head of mobile devices at a Silicon Valley consumer tech darling, one of the senior lever pullers at one of the nation's stock exchanges, or a scientist at one of the world's renowned medical device makers, the result is the same: "OMG! I had no idea!"

It's really a tool for everyone.

Basically, you look at your career through the proverbial windshield instead of the rear-view mirror to figure out whether the direction you intend to go is a suitable next step. Or maybe a few steps away. Some find that they've personally undersold themselves, while others find that they've over-shot their abilities. Or that there are a few technical gaps between where they are and where they want to go.

Either way, the scales are removed from their eyes and they learn a great deal about next steps in their careers. And/or they learn about the questions they need to ask to move forward. 

Jared Redick's Job Description Analysis is available, happily, to everyone as of October 29, 2015. The first 40 buyers can purchase the tool at $13.95 versus $24.95. I hope you'll find it helpful, and that you'll share your findings with me. I might want to publish them to this blog because we're all looking to move forward, and if I could tell your story, it might help someone else.

Let me know! 

If You're Looking to Brand Yourself or Your Business

Somewhere between 2009 and 2010, I was working with a team to develop a now defunct version of my website. 

In thinking about what I wanted to highlight on my new website, I realized that I wanted to reach people who cared about what *I* cared about. People who got it. People who were interested in uncovering the value they brought to the world.

Part of that work involved branding; a concept that has been increasingly appropriated by individuals who, instead of companies -- and perhaps rightly -- consider their personas as full-fledged, sale-able brands in the digital world. (Paris Hilton anyone? Kim Kardashian? But I digress.)

As part of that branding exploration -- for myself and on behalf of my clients -- I stumbled upon Simon Sinek's TedX Talk, "How great leaders inspire action," which fundamentally changed the development of my then website. Not surprisingly, Sinek's insights have made their way into the development of my new website (yet released), as I continue to tighten my brand in an effort to work with clients who are "just the right fit."

Why am I blathering on about this? 

If you're considering the development of your own brand, or merely thinking about how to become a better leader, I urge you to invest the 18 minutes and 4 seconds it takes to learn the science behind Simon Sinek's quintessential TedX Talk. 

There's a reason he ranks highly on Ted.com's most popular talks of all time. 

Are You a Multipotentialite? TedX Challenges Us Again

A colleague and dear friend emailed Emilie Wapnick's recent TedX Talk to me yesterday.

At age 65, my friend is an executive résumé writer and career coach with a more-than-interesting professional history.

Indeed, she began her résumé writing practice after at age 50 after stumbling into contingency recruiting three years earlier. 

Prior to that she earned a PhD and an MBA in unrelated fields, ostensibly for the joy of it, and before that, she grew up studying the organ! We bonded over J.S. Bach, love him or hate him, as I studied the piano for many years myself.

Like so many who spend their 75 to 90ish years on the this planet smearing together the humanities and the sciences, this TedX talk resonated with my dear friend. 

It's worth the 15 minutes you'll spend watching it and challenging yourself. 

Are you a multipotentialite? If so, what the hell are you doing about it? If not, are you giving room to those who are?

CTOs, CIOs, and CMOs - This One's for You

A European client who's frequently at the cutting edge of technology and marketing yesterday forwarded HBR's The Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist article by Scott Brinker (CTO at Ion Interactive) and Laura McLellan (research vice president at Gartner). 

It's a must read for my senior technology and marketing clients (CTOs, CIOs, CMOs, etc.), as we've all seen the same blur between the disciplines in recent years. Just think about the tightly woven job descriptions for so many program or product managers. So why wouldn't be think about the top roles integrating just as tightly? 

Important read for my clients.  

The MBA: Overrated?

A July 2015 BusinessInsider.com article recycled through my Twitter feed last week, and I almost didn't catch it, but I'm glad I did. 

I work with MBAs all the time. Newly minted. Mid-career. Senior MBAs. They're all smart people, and pretty great to boot. But probably half struggle in the same ways the rest of us struggle, asking, "What's my value in the world?" and "What do I want to do next?" (It's not lost on me that this is partly because of the nature of my work. I will naturally meet people who are questioning.)

A big part of discovering an answer to those questions, though, involves stepping out from behind the numbers and being human, which is why "6 career moves that are worth more than an MBA" by BusinessInsider.com struck a chord with me. Really interesting, and seemingly random insights (all six of them) are all tied into a single article that actually makes a lot of sense. The "become a master storyteller" resonated with me, as you might imagine.

Above is a sneak peek. Click the photo to read the entire article.  

 

Giving Up On Writing a Friend's LinkedIn Recommendation? Try These Ideas First!

Let's face it. Writing a LinkedIn recommendation—even a really good one—isn't going to win you any literary awards. In fact, your beautifully crafted copy will these days be cemented to the absolute bottom of your subject's LinkedIn profile. No fame for you today.

So why try to write a great LinkedIn recommendation? Why not just dash off a few lines of well-trodden, risk-free copy used by so many others? Examples (stifle your yawns):

  • John is a proven leader who is passionate about his work."
  • Jane is a go-getter who gets things done."

Yeah. Basically, this kind of copy tells us zilch about John and Jane. 

Sure, a recommendation like the above bullets and their ilk will technically add one more recommendation to your subject's recommendation pile. LinkedIn likes high recommendation counts, according to a Bay Area LinkedIn pilot of which I'm a part right now.

In spite of the profile basement location of today's LinkedIn recommendation, I still think it's worth writing copy that feels more like a human being and less like a beaten up job description.

So, What to Do

Theoretically, writing a LinkedIn recommendation should be a simple enough task. More privilege than chore.

Unfortunately, many—myself included—struggle with uncertainty and utter blankness when finally sitting down to write one.

In this post, I try to unravel a few of my own approaches so the next Sunday morning you're sitting at your laptop wondering what the heck to say publicly about your nearest and dearest, you'll have a few ideas to jump start the effort. 

Start With Who They Are

Several of the (wonderful, amazing, worthy) people I've recommended show up in the below screenshot. Notice how each starts with a teaser, hopefully prompting the reader to click for more. But I like to think there's actually a bit more behind each opening line.

Have a gander....

What do you notice? Each leads with what the subject brings to the world, professionally.

I'll explain the trickiest as an example.

Victoria Ahlén and I went to school together. I’ve admired her work from afar, but since we've never officially worked together, I can’t speak directly about her work today.

However, I remember Victoria from school as a smart woman with deep core values. She cares intensely about things that matter to her. She's also a person of immense integrity. Born and raised in Gothenburg, Sweden, Victoria's international perspective helped me see beyond my own backyard all those years ago.

So it took time to develop a strategy for Victoria’s LinkedIn recommendation, but I finally led with “even before she was a branding guru,” which gets who she is out the gate fast. By framing it this way, I acknowledged her now, in a way that lets me speak authentically about Victoria as I knew her.

While closer chronologically to my life today than Victoria, you’ll notice the same approach when I wrote recommendations for my colleagues / friends, Shauna Bryce of Bryce Legal and Jennifer Quinton of Quinton Design Studio. In each example, the reader knows who the subject is without having to click for more.

And perhaps that approach breathes a bit of life into the reader experience. After all, professional writing doesn't mean stale writing.

Be Honest

There are two ideas under the honesty category.

First, be honest when asked to write a recommendation: 

  • If a friend or colleague asks you for a recommendation—and it’s easy to say yes—by all means, do it. If you’re less than eager, or uncomfortable, say it! Evaluate why and take a bit of care in explaining why you might not be the right person to make a recommendation. It can be especially tricky if the person has written a recommendation for you. But in this case, it doesn’t have to be quid pro quo. It must be genuine.
  • If you’re at all concerned, be resolute. Say no thank you now, nicely, before you write a recommendation out of obligation and proceed to live with something the world can read for the rest of time. Being honest with yourself and your contact—no matter how awkward—is always better in the long run.

Second, be honest when writing a recommendation:

  • Choose something you know for certain about your subject. Don’t invent anything and don't be vague. Don’t misrepresent anything because you’ll have to live with it.
  • Write something interesting and meaningful from your unique perspective as a friend or colleague. Be appropriate and make it interesting. It’s a recommendation after all, not an obituary. Nor is it a vapid job description. Put some joy into it!

Be Strategic

Go ahead and talk about strategy with your subject before you get started. It makes everyone’s job easier.

If there’s something your subject would like you to focus on, you’re in a unique position to write something s/he alone can’t say without sounding braggadocios or goofy.

For instance, a client recently said he stays calm amidst chaos and that he always sees the big picture. These are important things for me to know as an executive résumé writer. They’re important traits for most professional positions, in fact. Certainly executive roles. But they’re overused in résumé writing and can lose their impact. They begin feeling like filler unless backed up in some way.

But a third-party perspective can change everything. As a peer, former boss, employee, or board member, you can speak about calm-in-a-storm, big picture viewpoint and other over-arching strengths in a way that your subject can’t. Especially if you tie in a strong example or two.

Let’s say your friend wants to stress the international part of his or her career. Consider starting with something like, “John is no stranger to the international arena.” Get it out there. “John is a citizen of the world” is a great opener when it’s true, genuine, and written from a third party.

Say your friend wants to emphasize her start-up experience. How about, “Susan’s start-up growth strategies are unmatched,” and build from there.

Build a great recommendation from a strong strategy. Have fun with it!

Be Specific (And Genuine)

So many businesses and product lines enjoy success because they serve a niche audience. By definition, niching means that some people will be drawn in and others will walk away. That’s called being real about what you bring to the table. Borrow the niching concept when writing about your subject. Be specific. Your colleague or friend doesn’t have to be all things to all people, and your recommendation doesn’t have to be either.

You’re not obligated to write “Everything I ever knew about Jack.” Focus on one or two things you know about Jack and get it out there. Keep it short. A terse, genuine, lively, well-written recommendation stands a better chance of being read. A big, fat block of unfocused copy will be overlooked.

In all things, brevity.

Which is a great signal to wrap this article. What do you think about writing recommendations? Do you squirm a little? Do you excel? Have you struggled through them, but discovered a principle that might help others? Please, do share!

●●●●●

San Francisco-based corporate copywriter, executive résumé writer, and career transition coach, Jared Redick, works with senior leaders at Fortune 50 companies and beyond. He draws on early experience in retained executive search and nearly two decades of résumé writing to help stealth job seekers re-imagine the marketable intersection between their background, interests, audience expectations, and career goals.

Jared's strategic “purpose, content, design” approach to writing helps companies and executives understand their value, develop their unique professional brand, and position themselves online and on paper.

Reach him at info@theresumestudio.com or 415-397-6640. Follow @TheResumeStudio.

Google, A Vexing & Thrilling Conundrum

I've had a number of clients interview and/or get hired at Google over the years. Not to mention several senior Googlers planning their careful and stealth departure.

Still, working at Google is rightfully coveted, and Business Insider's recent Here's what it's REALLY like to work at Google, the 'world's most attractive' employer article offers a glimpse into the life of a Googler.

Or Noogler?

Sure, it's different for senior folks, but the article offers an intriguing insider depiction and worthwhile read for anyone interviewing at Google, especially if they haven't already received Google's requisite pre-interview prep email.