Why "The Unemployed Need Not Apply" Need Not Apply to You


Abby Kohut is rather special. Packing up home and commencing a nationwide tour in an RV in 2009, she has embarked on a one woman crusade to teach better job hunting skills to one million people across the US!

Abby Kohut
Her books "Absolutely Abby's 101 Job Search Secrets" and "Absolutely Abby's Top 12 Interview Questions Exposed" reveal the secrets about the job search process that other recruiters won't tell you.

She was a highly successful recruitment director for many years and knows exactly how and why employers hire the people they do. But more than that, she has seen how social media and the internet has revolutionised the skills people need to find jobs in this tough job market. Despite the recession, jobs are still out there, but we need a whole new skill set to find them and get hired.

I completely share Abby’s opinion that the old ways of finding jobs just don’t work anymore. And if the last time you had to find a job was more than two or three years ago, the methods you used then won’t work now.

Like it or not, social media has transformed the processes used by recruiters and hiring organisations and this means we need a whole new set of skills and strategies to get hired.

Abby has presented to over 200 groups and was recently interviewed on Fox News Live, ABC's Good Morning Connecticut, WKTU-FM, WOR-AM, WDVR-FM, and the Joe Franklin show on Bloomberg Radio. Abby was selected as one of the top 100 influential people online according to Fast Company Magazine and was named as one of "The Monster 11 for 2011: Career Experts Who Can Help Your Job Search".

Here’s a recent radio interview in which Abby shares some valuable tips and advice on how you can make best use of social media to help your job search.

I hooked up with Abby several weeks back now and we agreed that since our beliefs were so aligned we should collaborate in our shared mission to help job seekers.

And today, this is my first guest post from Abby. Abby’s post contains some wise words about how we can (and absolutely should) confront the widespread practice of recruiters of excluding job applicants who are currently unemployed. It’s more than simply unfair, it’s a counterproductive practice by employers and damaging to their organisations' reputations in my view.

Moreover, if you are a hiring organisation and you only hire people who are currently employed, I hope this post makes you reconsider if it really makes sense to deliberately exclude candidates just because they happen to be currently unemployed?

Here’s Abby:

By Abby Kohut

Anyone who is currently searching for a job has probably read at least one article about a company who is unwilling to hire "the unemployed." Even more interesting is the article that I recently came across about the backlash from critics against job boards like Monster saying that ads of this kind should be banned from being posted.

As much as it would seem that encouraging job boards to remove these ads might seem like a solution, the better solution is to educate these companies from the top down on why "unemployed" candidates must be evaluated in the same pool as employed candidates. After all, even if all the job boards ban these ads, these companies can still make their own poor decisions during the hiring process.

First, let’s review some of the common reasons why people become unemployed in the first place, shall we?

Stay at home parents or caregivers returning to work – these are typically people who have made a conscious effort to be unemployed. Anyone who has ever fallen into this category realizes that their apparent "unemployment" gap was potentially more challenging than any previous job.

Those who were laid off – these are people whose departments were completely eliminated, whose companies were acquired or simply whose companies were poorly funded. Their lay off had nothing to with their performance and they come equipped with references to prove that. Some of these people were fortunate enough to receive a severance package and decided to enjoy life for a while and live off their severance. Life is precious and sometimes it’s hard to really enjoy it while you are tethered to a demanding job. Can you really blame them?

The terminated – these people are the ones who were let go for poor performance or for personality conflicts and have the most difficult time finding work. Even the unemployed in this group deserve to have an opportunity to contribute, especially if the termination was due to a poor fit between an individual and the job or corporate culture, or clashing management styles.

You – if you currently have a job, imagine for a moment that tomorrow you are informed that your job has been eliminated. Aren’t you a good performer today? A viable member of the work force who deserves to find another opportunity to contribute to society? Does that fact change tomorrow when you get your pick slip?

It is absurd to simply eliminate "unemployed" candidates without understanding why they are unemployed. Unemployment is simply a state that people pass through from one job to another. It is a natural part of life as is "unmarriage." When people get divorced, they don't simply get remarried the next day. They are "unmarried" until they are remarried. Similarly, people who are unemployed are simply between opportunities. For example, how can we as a country possibly expect people at the VP level to find a job within a week, especially if their company’s closing came as a complete shock to them? Most people "forget" to keep networking once they are happily employed so when their company closes, they truly are starting from scratch. Besides, how many VP jobs in their specific industry are out there, not to mention vacant?

Job Seekers In-Transition: If you come across a job ad for a company who is disqualifying the "unemployed", and you actually still want to work for them, here’s what you can do... First, don’t be discouraged - most things that show up in ads and seem like "requirements" have wiggle room for exceptions. In fact, you’ve experienced this many times before. How many times have you seen a requirement on the job posting that you do not have? Has that ever stopped you? OF COURSE NOT!!! Your job is to find the hiring manager or the Department VP or the CEO and to settle the score on why you are the best person for the job. Consider this strategy:

Dear President of RudeRUs, Inc.

I recently discovered an ad for your open "WorkAlot" position on Monster and wanted to introduce myself to you as an ideal candidate. For the past 10 years I was a "WorkAlot" in a similar company who received outstanding performance reviews from all of my supervisors. I have attached a list of references on the following page which I invite you to call. They will tell you that I was a top performer who received recognition year after year for saving the company billions of dollars. My position was eliminated when my employer was acquired. Our doors closed about a year ago today.

You may wonder why I am writing to you instead of applying to your HR department. It's simply because the ad posted by your hiring manager or HR department states that the "unemployed need not apply". Based on my research about your company and your successful career history, it seems like the decision to include this hiring stereotype in your company’s ad could not have been yours, so I wanted to be sure that you could personally make the decision on whether my background would be suitable for your company.

I look forward to having the opportunity to learn more about the position and to eventually joining your company as a "WorkAlot."

Sincerely yours,

John DoesntTakeNoForAnAnswer Doe

For much more about Abby and her amazing work, please visit her website here:


How to use LinkedIn to power up your job search – and it’s not the way you think

By Neil Patrick

I have read a great deal recently about why some people think Linkedin is a bad place to find your next job.

And I think there’s some truth in these criticisms. Why do I say this?

  • Jobs on LinkedIn are advertised because it’s a really low cost way for recruiters and hiring companies to reach a lot of people. Advertising on LinkedIn starts at $2 a click. So getting your job in front of 500 targeted candidates costs from $1000. That’s cheap in advertising terms.
  • This is good news for recruiters but bad news for candidates. For candidates, the old problem of being a small fish in a big pond hasn’t gone away. In June 2013, LinkedIn reported it had 259 million registered users worldwide… 
  • LinkedIn’s revenues depend heavily on recruitment advertising. In 2012 this was $84.9m. I don’t yet have the 2013 figures, but growth forecasts are in the 25% - 45% range. The point is that LinkedIn will for sure be focussing hard on further growth in this sector and we’ll see more initiatives in this area of activity by LinkedIn. 
  • Many jobs I have seen advertised on LinkedIn have a list of required qualities and experience that are so great, you’d need to have at least 50 years of experience to get close to what is being asked for. And typically the salary range is rarely shown… 

So, just like jobs boards and all online recruitment, you are forced to play a numbers game, and the odds are stacked against you right from the start.

LinkedIn is facing some business challenges

In essence, LinkedIn is a highly attractive medium for recruiters, but overcomes few of the hurdles faced by jobseekers. Result - more and more jobs are being posted on LinkedIn. And growth of the LinkedIn user base means competition for jobs advertised there must grow too. This isn’t good news if you are job hunting.

But there’re some headwinds for LinkedIn as a business too. Many analysts on Wall Street believe that we are witnessing the development of a social media bubble, citing for example the near doubling of Twitter’s equity value on the first day following its IPO.

Linkedin has a key weakness too in its user base. It isn’t getting much use by the real captains of industry. In fact there’s an argument that the more senior you are, the less you will use Linkedin. Like all social media, Linkedin also faces a challenge to grow its revenues. As it progressively introduces more and more initiatives that help achieve this, the positive user experience is difficult to maintain.

But it’s still really valuable for job hunting

Having said all of that, I still think LinkedIn is a key tool for job hunting and this goes back to two things which were part of its founding principles:

  1. The fostering of networking between professionals across the globe. 
  2. It’s ability to facilitate the sharing of information between people who would probably never meet in the real world. 

Baby Boomers need to understand a whole new world

Baby boomers grew up and built their careers in a time where there was no social media. The whole world operated on hierarchical structures – from heads of state to voters, from media owners to readers, from archbishops to congregations.

And of course in the business world from CEOs to workers and consumers.

Power and influence was exercised generally in a top down fashion with just the occasional acquiescence to taking up ideas and wishes from the bottom up.

The world of digital media has demolished this model. Social media scales laterally. Influence spreads from peer to peer. It fosters collaboration.

It’s a genuine social revolution. Just look at how the Arab Spring gained momentum – people in repressive dictatorships found that they could spread their influence to their peers rapidly and almost for free. And critically they could do this with absolutely no approval from their hierarchical superiors.

This characteristic of the social web is difficult to come to terms with for a generation that has grown up in a hierarchical world. I think many baby boomers like the communication tools of the social web. They see it as convenient and cheap, but they haven’t really grasped that its biggest change isn’t a technological one, it’s a societal one.

For Gen Y who have grown up with social media and digital technologies, this isn’t a change at all. For them, it’s always been this way. And for Gen X, it’s a change that they’ve been part of during most of their adult lives.

So baby boomers have a double disadvantage, the most obvious is of course that they are not as savvy with the technology as younger generations. But this can be overcome with a bit of application and persistence. The bigger problem in my view is that it requires a whole different world view. The shift from a hierarchical frame of reference to a lateral and peer to peer one requires a 90 degree rotation of your perspective.

Understand the power of networks and you’re halfway there

So to get back to the title of this post, the power of Linkedin for job search isn’t that it’s a new medium for finding job adverts. As I outlined at the start, this is really an illusion anyway and it helps recruiters and hiring organisations much more than it helps applicants.

No the real power of Linkedin is how it allows us to build powerful personal networks.

Network theorists identified the power of networks as early as the 1970s. Mark Granovetter and his paper “The Strength of Weak Ties,” and Albert-Laszlo Barabasi were pioneers in the understanding of network theory. Long before Linkedin was even set up, they identified why social networks have such tremendous reach and power.

Granovetter showed that people were more likely to get jobs from friends of friends, rather than immediate friends. The logic is that we know the same people our friends know and therefore if they know about a career opportunity, we probably already know about it, too. But your friend’s friends are more likely to know people you don’t know who know about career opportunities you haven’t heard about.

Let’s say you have ten close friends. That’s not much of a network, but if we also assume that each of your ten friends also has ten friends, your accessible network is now 100 people. If each of those ‘second degree’ friends also knows ten people, your reach is now 1,000…

But critically LinkedIn can multiply this reach many times over. If you have say 600 LinkedIn connections and these people all know a little about who you are and what you do, suddenly your reach is at least 6,000 people and probably much more.

The open sharing of information about ourselves, peer endorsement and shared community of online networks builds a sense of camaraderie and trust between members. Because LinkedIn focuses on people, it not only expands the scope of your search, it creates a network with trust created between members. Someone who is referred by someone you know (or someone who knows someone you know) is much more likely to be a helpful and valuable connection. This creates a connection that is psychologically more conducive to positive interaction.

Why it pays to be a ‘weak’ link

Most of us are or can easily become members of several different networks. The people who connect the unconnected are called “weak links.” This isn’t the same thing as “The Weakest Link” on TV. The weak link in network theory is where you start to get really powerful information flows because weak links connect previously unconnected people. LinkedIn has an extraordinary ability to enable you to be your own weak link, connecting you to people and potential career opportunities beyond your immediate network.

Looked at in this way, it’s an extraordinarily effective resource for career change, industry information, and employment opportunities.

So the real power of Linkedin for your job search isn’t the job ads it carries. It’s its extraordinary ability to empower you to build your network faster and more easily than ever before. Across countries. Across continents.

Once we start to think about our personal networks as being lateral not hierarchical and scaling them laterally, suddenly the way we think about and carry out our career development activities is transformed.

It’s a genuinely new age…thankfully without the need to buy crystals.

Why contractors are the future and the downsides of hiring a mercenary workforce

By David Hunt, PE

A friend of mine from when I worked at Ford Motor Company in Sandusky, Ohio and I talk about once a week. He, I, and a few others from the circle of friends I developed there stay in touch. A while ago, he and I simultaneously had an epiphany while chatting: this was the last place where we developed real friendships at work.

Do I stay in touch with a few people from subsequent employers? Yes, but they are few and far between, and – with one notable exception of a vendor representative – they are nowhere as close as these friendships.

I am reminded of my own youth, where my parents would often host dinner parties whose attendees were – almost exclusively – colleagues from my father’s or mother’s place of employment. People who attended celebrations were mostly people whom my parents or I had come to know through their workplaces. Their children were my friends. Looking back, I’d have to opine that the overwhelming majority of persons in my parents’ social circle were people from work.

In the last couple of decades, the workplace has become increasingly mercenary and the average tenure in a company has been shrinking (the average now, IIRC, is three years). In a recent article by Gary Swart on LinkedIn, The Future of Work and the follow-up piece The Future of Work Part II: 10 Tips For Professionals, he addresses the increased churn rate of the workplace today. Citing the fact that most people are now shifting jobs every few years, he claims this is driven by employees wanting to be freer and more mobile, among other reasons. Another essay, Half Of Us May Soon Be Freelancers: 6 Compelling Reasons Why, discusses the benefits of this trend, as does Why Everybody’s Going Freelance.

I would argue that this is reversing cause and effect. Since the 1980’s, companies have become freer and freer to downsize, fire, and otherwise shuffle people around. Driven in part by increased globalization, but also the spate of MBAs pursuing an extra fraction-of-a-percent profit margin, the idea of the old employment contract has been undermined, with employers – not employees – being the driving force. The disposable nature of people these days is forcing people to take a contractor’s mentality. More than a few networking contacts of mine foresaw this and became contractors ahead of the curve!

While I might be projecting here, my understanding of the ultimate end state of this trend is of a company with a skeletal core of people, reaching out to freelancers and contractors to form teams that swirl around a project or two like piranhas swarming a piece of juicy prey, then dispersing to the next location (i.e., company) where more prey is available.

The benefits, I do agree, are obvious. Lower head count, less benefits to fund, having specialists on board when a company needs them and not when they are not needed. But there is a price to such ephemeral groups…

Back at Ford Motor Company, one of the first projects I worked on was the launch of the 1996 Ford/Taurus headlight assembly line. Of the several projects I did on this line, one was looking at the allowable leak rate specification which was forcing the rejection of a substantial number of headlights. Where did this specification come from? Nobody at the plant knew. It was what it was, handed down from the hazy mists of long ago.

I quizzed our design group. The same story: nobody knew. Finally I found a grizzled veteran of the lighting design group. The leak rate specification was from sealed beam headlights from decades ago, passed down from lighting generation to lighting generation.

But our lights weren’t sealed anymore. Instead, they incorporated a filtered vent to allow the light to breathe – a totally different design philosophy. Given this insight we designed a series of experiments and widened the allowable leak rate substantially, reducing reject and scrap rates substantially without compromising field performance. If I had not had this insight of the origin of the specification, arguing for the testing I did would have been much more difficult. More importantly, without this insight and the subsequent testing, a step-change improvement in first-time-through and reduced scrap would not have been achieved.

Another project, while in climate control, involved cost-reducing a heat shield. Again, I had to dig and dig and dig to find out why the heat shield was there (beyond the obvious, first-order answer of protecting the plastic case underneath). And again, it was only a chance conversation with a longtime veteran in the design group that I found out why the heat shield was used: this heavy formed-fiberglass piece served solely as a carrier for the aluminum foil to reflect away the engine heat.

Armed with the actual function of the piece, I developed and successfully tested a concept that – had I not been laid off with almost 2,000 other people – I would have pushed through with the potential to save an estimated $750K per year.

What did these two things have in common? The value and knowledge of how things were developed, as contained in the memories of people who had longevity at the company – the company’s “tribal knowledge”.

More recently at Cabot Corporation, we had a retiree come in and work a couple of days a week. He had extensive and invaluable experience in the WHY of our systems. Often understanding why things are the way they are – something only truly available by having access to someone whose long-duration tenure gives them that knowledge – is critical before one starts making changes in more than a trial-and-error mode.

Sell-swords have their uses; many are indeed experts in their area of expertise and can be useful when a company is faced with a specific and extremely thorny problem. But a company consisting mostly of as-needed mercenaries is continually doing two things:
  • Employing people who, while working, are worrying about where they’re going next when this gig ends – and having to spend time and mental energy searching for it instead of spending that mental energy on the project (or on other “trivial” things like their families). 
  • Scrambling to find pieces of that “tribal knowledge” – the knowledge that vanished when the company dispersed their full-time staff slavering at the cost savings – and having to duplicate effort and rediscover all that information time and again. 
There is, possibly, a better term for this than sell-swords: pirates. Pirate crews swarmed to the leader who promised the most booty. Ultimately loyal only to themselves, they would often disperse the moment things got difficult; if they didn’t it was more from fear or inability to leave than any loyalty or inspiration.

When faced with official navies, usually pirates came out on the worse end. Why? Because formal militaries were organized, learned from experience, and had people who were dedicated and loyal to something more than the promise of, arrrr, treasure.

As companies descend into free-wheeling teams of self-focused, short-timer buccaneers, signing on for quick booty, what will they do when they face organized companies with long-term, loyal, committed employees inspired by something greater than their next paycheck or a fat bonus?

© 2013, David Hunt, PE

David Hunt is a Mechanical Design Engineer in southern New Hampshire looking for his "next opportunity" that allows him to design new products and shepherd them to stable production. His LinkedIn profile is: www.linkedin.com/in/davidhuntmecheng/; he blogs at davidhuntpe.wordpress.com and tweets at @davidhuntpe.

How to use Twitter in your jobsearch

By Neil Patrick and Axel Koster

You may think that Twitter isn’t the most obvious way to find a job. After all how can a message of 140 characters really carry meaningful influence or effect on your job search?

But I disagree. You’ve just got to know how to do it right. So today I hooked up again with my good friend Axel Kőster at the Manhattan Group to share some insights on this topic which we hope are helpful.

1. Twitter is a superb networking tool if you approach it as such.

The most valuable resource any jobseeker can have is a large and powerful network of people that are potentially helpful to them. In this post I described how Linkedin is ‘high stakes’ social media. What I mean by this is that if you try to connect with a high profile person directly on Linkedin, there’s a chance, even a probability that unless they already know you, they’ll decline or ignore your invitation to connect.

On the other hand, Twitter is 'low stakes' media and hence an easy way of connecting. If you show interest and support for a high profile person, they will notice you if you do it consistently over several days or weeks and will probably follow you back. From that point it’s an easy step to escalate your connection onto LinkedIn.

You’ll find that many recruiters are on Twitter too and to help you, I have set up lists of them organised by continent here. Just select the ones that are interest to you and you can follow them and see all their tweets about the jobs they are recruiting for.

2. Don’t use Twitter to ask for a job, use Twitter to show what you know

Our second tip is to keep your Tweets focussed on a career topic which is close to your area of interest and expertise. Describe this in your Twitter profile. To be brutally frank, no-one cares that you love your wife or have three wonderful kids or enjoy travelling. If that’s what you want to tweet about, that’s absolutely fine, just don’t expect Twitter to help you in your job search.

On the other hand, if your Twitter profile tells people that you are a professional fitness trainer, or compliance specialist, or electrical engineer, now you are talking the right sort of language to connect with others who for whatever reason share your interest or expertise.

So use your Twitter profile to describe what you do professionally and you have made the first step in turning it into a professional networking tool.

By the way, I don’t think this is the place to brag about yourself. Plenty of folk do, but personally, I believe we should use our twitter profiles to say what we do and make ourselves appear approachable, not conceited. Who loves a show off after all? Much better to talk about all your accomplishments on LinkedIn.

3. How to Tweet

Sharing the tweets of others who you admire in your industry is a great way to build your network and influence. But don’t just do that alone. Create and share insights and opinions of your own. Ask questions. Engage with the people that show interest in what you tweet, even if it’s just a friendly acknowledgement.

If you are using it to help you find a job, never use Twitter as a way to let off steam about something that’s really made you cross. Equally, don’t allow others to draw you into Twitter arguments. Twitter is thankfully fairly troll-free when you are using it professionally, but if someone does turn hater on you, take the argument offline or simply walk away and ignore them. You gain nothing by having a fight in public!

So, be friendly, be helpful and you’ll steadily build influence for the right reasons.

4. Leverage Twitter

You can and should connect your Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile. If you have a blog, connect that too. Here’s the thing; encouraging people on twitter to connect with you on LinkedIn sends a powerful message to LinkedIn. LinkedIn sees that you have a steadily expanding network of great contacts. This in turn is interpreted by LinkedIn that you are a more influential person and your ranking in LinkedIn search rises accordingly. So you get found on LinkedIn by more recruiters.

Adopt the mantra of paying it forward. Help people out whenever you can. You may not see a benefit from this straight away, but it’s surprising how building a base of goodwill within your following pays you back over time. It’s a leap of faith, I know, but it really does work. You’ll just have to trust me on this one!

Recruiters look at Twitter when they are checking you out. And if they see pointless babble about TV shows or whatever, it won’t help you. It may not especially hurt you either, but it’s a missed opportunity to show that you are an engaged and influential thought leader in your profession.

Finally, don’t interpret this as meaning you gotta be all serious all the time. This is social media after all, so don’t get all heavy. Try to show a bit of your personality and let that shine through.

5. Learn from your peers

None of us can ever know everything but if we are connected with the thought leaders in our industry, we can discover great new insights, opinions and ideas. So Twitter can be a great learning resource if you adopt the right strategy about who you follow.

But you can go further than this. Follow the businesses on Twitter that you are interested in and you’ll get some valuable insights into what they are doing and possibly even some of the problems they are facing. And if you discover a problem that you can help them solve, even if they are not recruiting, how valuable is that knowledge as a basis for a speculative approach to explain to them why they should be talking to you?

6. And finally, use tools to help you.

Twitter is frankly a bit of a bear to use professionally unless you make use of tools to help you. But the great thing is that there are lots of them, most of them are free and have really simple and intuitive interfaces. You just connect them to your Twitter account and off you go!

Last but not least, here’s Axel’s advice on using Twitter to help your job search, plus his thoughts about a couple of really useful tools, Hootsuite and TweetReach:

How winning The Apprentice can wreck your career

By Neil Patrick

Sometimes I like to watch a few episodes of The Apprentice. On the one hand it ruthlessly exposes the contestants' weaknesses and on the other, how people can be coerced into doing and saying the most unbelievable things just to win. Of course, that’s all part of what makes it such compelling viewing.

We all know it’s constructed and edited to ensure the over-eager and often delusional contestants usually come out looking rather foolish  – if they are lucky – and downright idiotic if they are not.

It’s great entertainment that has probably done more than any other programme in history to make business an attractive career choice for the young. But of course it isn't really just about business. It's also about how the young and aspirational can be manipulated to behave in entertaining ways under the pretext of a competition to prove who's the best business person. In that sense, it's pure genius.

They are dazzled so easily with the the promise of a becoming a business superstar if they can make it through and get hired. They will resort to the most astonishing behaviors in their desperation to win at any cost. They display so much bravado and naivete so frequently that I think it's quite possibly the best anti-ageism commercial out there.

But possibly the hidden value of The Apprentice is in what it reveals about people and life. These insights are perhaps much more instructive than some of the 'tasks' themselves.

All that glitters...Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

So I was interested to discover what had happened in the real life of the winner of the 2010 series, Stella English.

Stella was born and grew up in Thamesmead, a deprived area of South East London. She left school with no qualifications, but at the time of entering The Apprentice had become Head of Business Management on the trading floor of a Japanese investment bank.

Due to her consistent performance throughout the series and solid determination, she made it to the final of the show. She showed excellent leadership and organizational skills, and Lord Alan Sugar took the decision to hire her.

At the time, she commented she was looking forward to the future and was extremely happy. After winning, English worked at Sugar's computer company Viglen. But she quit the job within a year, in May 2011, saying that she was just a "glorified PA". She moved to go and work for another Sugar business, YouView.

Just five months later, in October 2011, she resigned from YouView claiming she had had almost no contact with Sugar in her role. In March 2013 English sued Sugar for constructive dismissal.

On 12 April 2013 it was announced that she had lost her case, with the tribunal judge John Warren saying that, "Ms English, instead of appreciating a job with enormous scope for advancement, had been more interested in a glamorous role, and travelling in private jets".

Having successfully defended himself against the constructive dismissal case, Sugar then sued English to recover some of the £35,000 of costs he’d incurred in mounting his defence.

At the court case, English revealed that her attempted business ventures - including a fashion label and events company - had fallen flat, resulting in her now having to survive on state benefits. Sugar did not win this subsequent case, and English said that she was keen to put the saga behind her.

"I haven’t slept for about six weeks… and trying to cope with the fact that I’m now an unemployed single mother. It’s a nightmare, it’s a living nightmare.”

“All I care about at the moment is my kids," she said. "I’ve got two small children there now. Dad is not at home, Mummy is crying they don’t know why. I think it’s just gone too far to get back together with my husband. I suppose at the time I needed the support but I’ve found myself completely alone”.

"The only way is up, that’s the good news, I don’t think it can get much worse. Well please God I hope it doesn’t.”

This is the often brutal reality of real business life versus the manipulated and stage-managed version of it we see presented on The Apprentice.

I’m not going to attempt to work out whether Sugar or English was at fault. I don’t know and I don’t have access to any of the facts. But there are several things that I think are instructive in this whole episode:

Don’t become dazzled by glorious prizes

Time and time again, people are seduced into thinking that a chance to win some glittering prize has to be worth going for. Not always. The odds are usually stacked against you and the costs of losing or even winning can be huge. How many good jobs have contestants on The Apprentice resigned from just to have a shot at winning the show? How much money have they spent on their wardrobes just so they look really polished in front of the cameras – four figures for sure, possibly five. Good investment? For most absolutely not. Risk and reward assessment seems to be a skill commonly absent from candidates for The Apprentice. 

Getting the job isn’t the end, it’s the beginning

I don’t know this, but I suspect that after winning the show, English found herself unable to progress things and make them happen at Viglen. It’s a tech company and she didn’t have a background in tech. She would feel out of her depth and was quite possibly even resented by her colleagues. All speculation granted, but the point is this. If you’re set up as a star and you cannot live up to your reputation, some people are going try and shoot you down. 

Never resort to the law to resolve differences if your opponent is richer than you.

I think that trying to sue Sugar was not the smartest thing English could have done. I know that the law should protect us all equally. But it doesn’t. The richer you are and the better lawyers you can afford, the better your results will be within the legal system. It shouldn’t be like this, but it is and we have to act accordingly. 

Your fame is always vulnerable if you are not in full control.

Fame is powerful and always ready to bite you, especially if you do something dumb that brings you crashing down. But even if you don’t make a monumental error, it can still bite you as Stella English discovered.

I wonder if Stella ever wishes she had her old job back?

I think I can guess the answer.

What do you think?

10 Tips to access the hidden job market

By Marcia LaReau 

It can be very disconcerting for a jobseeker when the media reports that 80% of the available jobs are not posted online. This has become one reason that many people tout and believe that the only way to get a job is to network. Adding to this approach is the idea that applying online is like sending one’s résumé into the proverbial “black hole”. None of these statements are true.

Networking is not the only way to get a job, and it is not difficult to get through the online systems with an understanding of how they work. There is no way to determine or even estimate how many positions are posted through online job boards. It should also be added that regardless of the approach, a solid résumé, solid skills, and a professional presentation, both on paper and in person, is still critical to finding employment.

Be Able To Be Found

Today, recruiters are the hub for the hidden job market. Independent recruiters and recruiting firms receive a majority of the job openings that are not posted on the standard job boards. Truly, they are the center of activity for these opportunities so it becomes important to understand their processes as they fill those positions.

Every firm has its own specific process, however, most recruiters follow similar methodologies. The task of the jobseeker is to build relationships with recruiters and clearly and succinctly educate them with regard to the jobseeker’s attributes, core competencies, skills, and experience.

10 Tips & Suggestions:

  • LinkedIn is THE critical business networking component for jobseekers. Recruiters use LinkedIn to find candidates. Review the article Creating an Online Image, especially Step 6: LinkedIn. 

  • If your résumé profile differs from your LinkedIn profile, this raises a red flag for a recruiter. 

  • Being active on LinkedIn Groups demonstrates that a candidate is keeping current in their industry. 

  • You can use Twitter to find recruiters in your field and territory. (See my Twitter lists to help you find these – Ed) 

  • When contacted by a firm, listen carefully to the recruiter’s understanding of your profile and what kind of position would be a good match for you. 

  • When a recruiter indicates a concern, they are giving you valuable information. Your response should be to give them the information they need to better present you to their client and respond the any concerns that their client may have. 

  • It is important to every recruiting agency and every recruiter that the candidate they present to their client should make the firm look good and build loyalty with their client. 

  • Following an interview, if a recuriter presses you for every detail, be aware that they may use the information you give them to help another candidate. 

  • Once you land employment, reconnect with your recruiter every six months, keeping in mind that in the current employment market, you will likely change jobs every 4 to 5 years.

Called a Creative Thinker, Career Futurist, and a person of unusual solution, Marcia LaReau founded Forward Motion, LLC in 2007. Since that time, she has become a recognized leader in the employment industry, and Forward Motion has spread across the United States and abroad to help jobseekers find jobs that fit.

Website: http://forwardmotioncareers.com/
Blog: http://forwardmotioncareers.com/category/blog/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/ForwardMotionUS

How social media is helping employers clamp down on ‘sickies’

By Neil Patrick

Absenteeism costs organisations a great deal. In Australia, it is estimated to be $3,000 per employee, equivalent to $28 billion a year.

And it occurs for all sorts of reasons. Some are almost legitimate, such as family emergencies. Others less so like hangovers.

I’m not going to condone it, but I think like a lot of HR issues, it needs to be tackled with smarter solutions rather than simply more bureaucratic and punitive ones.

The reasons people falsify sickness to take paid leave are of course numerous. But we shouldn't stereotype all young people as lazy, drunken wasters, just as we shouldn’t assume all older people are automatically weak and unhealthy.

If you’d like to see statistics about who is most and least absent from work, data from these Canadian Government statistics in 2011 showed that women aged 55-64 had the highest incidence of absenteeism at 11.2% and men aged 20-24 had the lowest at 6.4%.

And employers have a part to play too; they shouldn't just treat it as a 'crime' which has to be detected and punished. They should look hard at how the organisation accommodates the fact that their staff are people not machines. However inconvenient it may be when you are trying to run a business, the reality is that people have complicated lives which are full of unexpected and unplanned twists and turns.

The problem in my opinion isn’t lazy people usually (although there will always be some). It’s much more diverse and multi-faceted. Basically, life has a way of never quite going to plan.

Sometimes a domestic or family emergency happens, which is certainly not grounds for calling in sick. But it may be difficult to try and negotiate a day’s unplanned leave and easier just to feign sickness. It may not be us that is involved, but rather someone who depends on us and really needs us to do something for them right now. It’s hard to say no to a friend in need and many people just opt for the simplest and least negotiable choice which is to call in sick.

If employers treated absenteeism as something they can accommodate with better policies and more flexible systems, I think they’d have fewer sickies and a happier workforce.

It just takes a little imagination and some creative thinking. Like what you ask?

If you watch this short news report, you’ll see how one boss adopted a creative solution to keeping tabs on an employee who’d been caught taking a 'sickie’.

He ‘friended’ him on Facebook!

Smart move.

How to negotiate a 25% pay rise

By Neil Patrick

These days if you want to get a pay rise, you've got to learn how to play hardball.

It may be tempting to think that in these times of recession and cutbacks, getting a pay rise is almost impossible.

Well there’s a new trend happening which I thought I’d tell you about in case you've not heard the news…

It’s called the counter-offer. And right now plenty of people are securing pay-rises of an average of 25% when they hand in their notice and their current employers are immediately offering them a pay rise to try and keep them.

Why is this happening?

Employers know how much it costs them to recruit a replacement. Moreover you've got experience of the organisation, and inevitably after they have secured a replacement for you, that new person is going to take time to get up to speed.

And if your contract means you have only got to give one month’s notice, or even three, it’s going to be a tall order for the hard pressed HR team to find and hire your replacement in that time frame. Your employer knows that this means lost productivity in the organisation and hence lower performance. That costs them directly and indirectly and so they’re willing to pay to keep you, instead of incurring the costs of replacing you.

How do I pull it off?

Of course, if you’re going to adopt this strategy, it’s a pretty risky tactic to threaten to resign when you don’t have another job offer with higher pay. If you don’t have this offer, your employer might just call your bluff and you’ll be left high and dry.

So you’ll need to have a better offer from another employer first. But if you've got a solid set of skills, this isn't necessarily so hard. Remember, employers like to hire people from the ranks of the employed, not the unemployed, so if you currently have a job, you’re in a strong position to go looking for and get other offers.

It’s not unusual to be asked for written evidence of a counter offer. If you've got one, don’t be pressured into showing this. You are under no obligation to do so, and it’s a legitimate tactic to say that you will only do this when you have written evidence of a counter offer.

Should I accept a verbal counter offer?

Absolutely not. There are reports of verbal counter offers which are given in this situation which never actually materialise. An unscrupulous employer knows that if you accept a verbal counter offer and stay, your alternative offer will almost certainly have closed by the time you realise they have duped you.

Are there downsides and how do I counter them?

Yes there are potentially. In some cases, the counter offer may come with strings attached. For example you may have your targets increased and this could be to unrealistically high levels. If this is the case you’ll need to think hard about whether it’s realistic for you to achieve these revised levels of performance.

Some employers will interpret your tactics as revealing a lack of loyalty and commitment. Therefore you have to approach this with tact and no trace of bitterness. The best approach is to be pleasant, clear and honest about it. Don’t be tempted to go on about all the things you hate about your job or employer. This adds nothing constructive to the discussion. The more matter of fact you are about things, the more likely your employer will be willing to negotiate.

It’s a good idea too to demonstrate this by stating (regardless of whether this is true or not) that you were approached by a recruiter about the job, not that you went looking for it. This shows that you've not been actively disloyal - rather that you are just such hot property that everyone wants to get their hands on you!

It’s not just about the money

It’s a good idea to make other non-monetary demands at the same time. This might seem counter-intuitive, but here’s why. Let’s say you feel that you have been under-developed by your employer. It’s fair to point this out and ask what they will do in the next 12 months to help you develop your skills further. This sends an important message; instead of being seen as yet more cost, your employer is more likely to interpret this as evidence that you take your career and personal development seriously. And if you point out that your new offer includes more personal development opportunities, they’ll feel the need to be competitive in this area too.

Do I recommend this to everyone?

No I don’t. It’s a tactic that works for some and is happening more and more in today’s marketplace. But you should think hard before you adopt it. If you think your employer is going to renege on the deal or blacklist you, and you don’t really like your job that much, it’s probably safe to say, you don’t really want a counter-offer anyway.

On the other hand, keeping your networking alive and an eye out for potential openings is absolutely a good idea. Employer loyalty is thing of the past, so you shouldn't have too many conscience pangs about looking after number one.

What can we learn from celebrities about playing the fame game?

By Neil Patrick

Yesterday’s post looked at how society has changed from the old economic top down system of class to a more diverse model and how the question of growing wealth inequality keeps rearing its ugly head.

And I presented a slightly tongue in cheek model of my own. At the top of this new socio-economic pecking order I placed what I called the ‘media magnets’. Celebrities as most would call them.

I’m not going to discuss whether or not Tom Cruise, Kim Kardashian, Tiger Woods or Paris Hilton are actually worth the vast sums that they are paid. It’s an academic argument which divides opinion and helps us not one bit even if we could all agree on an answer…which of course we never will.

What are the lessons that the rest of us can take from these people?

Forget the headlines about them earning a squillion dollars for some movie or selling their wedding pictures for $100,000. What I’m interested in isn't their headline-grabbing antics, but the more useful lessons that we can take from their strategies.

So if you want a piece about how you can earn a $10m pay cheque next year, please look elsewhere.

Fame I think comes with a heavy price attached anyway.

Who in their right mind would want to be photographed by stalking press photographers every time they go shopping or take a vacation? Who would want to have their personal family matters shared with the world through the mass media? Not me for sure.

So whilst being famous might seem superficially attractive from a purely financial point of view, being famous also carries a ton of baggage that personally I’d rather not have.

So what’s to discuss? Well, let’s look at a few aspects of the fame game that are worth paying attention to.
A lot of famous people can only do one thing

But they do it really, really well. If you are in the world's top 10 of just about anything you can imagine, you’ll be famous. Whether it’s putting a golf ball into a hole, or being the most annoying character on a reality TV show, being the number one at it has a value ticket attached. So lesson number one is that whatever you do, however specialist or even worthless it is, being the most renowned person in that field is the place you should be aiming to be.

Credit: Kevin Ballard

Becoming famous is about who you know more than what you know

Celebrities mix with other celebrities and the people that surround them, whether they are agents, media people, politicians. They are heavy socialisers. And because they socialise with other influential people, their personal networks have great value to them. Networking has a sort of randomness about it whoever you are, but the more you do it, the more likely you are to make a connection with someone which might just be your next big opportunity. 

Celebrities operate like brands

This aspect is finally starting to enter the mainstream consciousness, as people begin to see the value of strong personal brands. Just because you are never going to have a perfume line or fashion label named after you, doesn't mean that you shouldn't think of yourself as brand. This involves established branding techniques such as maintaining a consistent presentation, having a clear benefit based proposition and understanding which environments are suitable for your brand and which are not. And having a strong and positive online presence - in the right places for you to be seen.  It might for example not be such a good idea for a tax accountant to invest in building a Facebook page. A good LinkedIn strategy however is quite another proposition. 

Celebrities understand that to make a lot of money, you don’t just sell your time for money

Celebrities are masters of leveraging their value. They understand that they are not just selling their time - like everyone else they have far too little of it anyway…especially when every function they attend probably involves a whole day’s worth of preparation and grooming etc. I don’t think too many people at the Oscars actually turn up after a really busy day at their desk! Celebrities think not just, what will I get paid for doing this…they think, what is the potential long-term value to my brand of doing this? 

They cultivate the media

This is another key lever celebrities work expertly. And the more media attention they get…the more they attract. It feeds on itself. Now you and I may not want or need to be on the front cover of OK magazine, but the value of media coverage is still immense. What’s essential to understand is that the rise of the internet means that suddenly the media has become more democratised that it’s ever been before. We can all create and own our own little piece of internet real estate. Do not underestimate the value of this. Treat everything you do publicly online as if you were in front of the world's press… and one day you might just be. 

They diversify

As a celebrity builds greater and greater profile and network contacts, they have more and more opportunities to lend small parts of themselves to others who can commercially benefit from the association. 

This can even extend beyond death…just look at Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Steve McQueen – all of whom are still pulling in revenues long after they left the mortal world. Though the rest of us may not have such a powerful and enduring personal brand as iconic personalities like these, we can still think like them about what we do with our careers. So for example, every positive association with other organisations or individuals you can forge has value. Conceptually there is no difference between Beyonce's name appearing on bottles of perfume and you or I having our name associated with a piece of research, or being cited as a source of expert opinion by a blogger, or posting a valuable piece of insight on a LinkedIn Group discussion.

So despite the fact that they may be overpaid, annoying or even completely pointless, celebrities have another value to the rest of the world that they don’t even realise or care about – they show the rest of us a different and valuable way of thinking about ourselves and how we can develop and benefit from our own personal little piece of fame.

And better still, you and I can do it without ever having to worry about the paparazzi chasing us round the car park next time we go to the supermarket.

Has the economic crisis changed the class structure?

By Neil Patrick

Which class do you think you belong to? The traditional 20th century view was you were either upper class, middle class or working class. The NRS social grade system defined five classes, largely based on based on income and occupation, which went like this:

A Upper middle class: Higher managerial, administrative or professional

B Middle class: Intermediate managerial, administrative or professional

C1 Lower middle class: Supervisory or clerical and junior managerial, administrative or professional

C2 Skilled working class: Skilled manual workers

D Working class: Semi and unskilled manual workers

E Non working: Casual or lowest grade workers, pensioners, and others who depend on the welfare state for their income, this also includes students.

More recently, Mike Savage from the London School of Economics and Fiona Devine from the University of Manchester carried out The Great British Class Survey. Their results identified a new model of class with seven classes ranging from the ‘Elite’ at the top to a 'Precariat' at the bottom, reported the BBC here.

They devised a new way of measuring class, which doesn't define class just by the job that you do, but by the different kinds of economic, cultural and social resources or 'capitals' that you have.

They asked people about their income, the value of their home and savings, which together they call 'economic capital', their cultural interests and activities, known as 'cultural capital' and the number and status of people they know, which is called 'social capital'.

160,000 people completed the survey.

The full class survey was based on a theory developed by Pierre Bourdieu in 1984. This looked at a person's cultural and social life as well as their economic standing.

So what are these new seven classes?

Elite: This is the most privileged class who have high levels of all three capitals. Their high amount of economic capital sets them apart from everyone else.

Established Middle Class: Members of this class have high levels of all three capitals although not as high as the Elite. They are a gregarious and culturally engaged class.

Technical Middle Class: This is a new, small class with high economic capital but seem less culturally engaged. They have relatively few social contacts and so are less socially engaged.

New Affluent Workers: This class has medium levels of economic capital and higher levels of cultural and social capital. They are a young and active group.

Emergent Service Workers: This new class has low economic capital but has high levels of 'emerging' cultural capital and high social capital. This group are young and often found in urban areas.

Traditional Working Class: This class scores low on all forms of the three capitals although they are not the poorest group. The average age of this class is older than the others.

Precariat: This is the most deprived class of all with low levels of economic, cultural and social capital. The everyday lives of members of this class are precarious.

I think from a scientific and social research perspective, these findings make sense. But the findings concern me for several reasons.

First, the elite is quantified as 6%. And the ‘precariat’ is apparently 15%. So for every person who is enjoying a life of luxury and comfort, there are 2.5 people who aren’t really ‘living’ at all. Can we really consider that our society is a success with numbers like that?

Wealth inequality in Britain is continuing to grow at a frightening rate. A study entitled "Divided we Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising” by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported its conclusions on the causes, consequences and policy implications for the ongoing intensification of the extremes of wealth and poverty across its 22 member nations.

Income inequality in OECD countries is at its highest level for the past half century. The average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10% across the OECD, up from seven times 25 years ago.

Since 2008 and the start of the recession, in the United States, inequality has increased further from already high levels. Other traditionally more egalitarian countries, such as Germany, Denmark and Sweden, have also seen the gap between rich and poor expand from 5 to 1 in the 1980s, to 6 to 1 today.

It’s my contention that the argument that having a wealthy elite inspires others to work harder and greater aspiration falls apart when we have a prolonged period of recession and job opportunities become scarcer. This leads to discontent and social exclusion, especially amongst the young.

But to return to the point about social class, I percieve a different structure of the working age population based on the day to day lives of people we see around us every day:

1. The media magnet. Whether you are a TV personality, a music or sports star, a politician, even a high profile professional, you are in the public eye. Fame whether deserved or not is the principal asset of this class. Perhaps when we hear kids say, ‘When I grow up, I want to be famous’, maybe isn’t such a dumb thing after all? Fame is an asset that delivers long term value often even in situations where a person’s real work dries up for whatever reason. There’s always, ‘I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here’ to turn a few weeks minor discomfort into a major stipend and restore your flagging profile…

2. The new working class. These are the people that do all the real work, what’s left of it that is. Whether they are a surgeon or a shelf stacker, a consultant or a call centre worker, their lives are so crammed with work that they continually feel stressed, exhausted and trapped. Their assets are dwindling thanks to stagnant or falling pay, spiralling costs of living and depleted pension funds. Their only hope is to cling to the job ladder until they retire at 85, or whatever age the austerity measures dictate.

3. The educated under-employed. These are the people who have fallen out of the new working class and been unable to find enough work to maintain the life they used to take for granted. Many are professionals who simply cannot find a way back onto the ladder they fell off usually through no fault of their own. They include a sub-class I call the ‘self-unemployed’ – people that are trying to earn money through their own enterprises, but are really struggling to get anywhere and make any significant amounts of money. Many are pinning their hopes on an economic miracle that creates well-paid professional jobs in the economy, instead of yet more low-skill jobs working for global corporations for pin money.

4. The under-educated and unemployed. These are the biggest victims of all. Vilified by the media thanks to the desperate and/or selfish behaviour of a minority that exploit the welfare benefits system, they have the worst possible outlook. Even if a jobs miracle happens, they will be the very last to benefit as the economy soaks up those with higher skills and qualifications first. For more and more of them, increasing amounts of criminality to scratch an existence and regular anaesthetic through drugs and alcohol, provides a temporary stupor of comfort.

To my mind, this is the real structure of society in the West today. Apart from the media magnets, everyone else is suffering if not financially, then at least in terms of their quality of life. It’s the outcome of failed leadership and an economic model that doesn’t work anymore.

We need new visions, better ideas, more competent leaders and we need them fast.

See the original BBC article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/0/21970879

How to recover from job loss when you're over 50

By Neil Patrick

Almost everything the baby boomers learned about how to get a job when we were younger is now redundant.

There’s a secret army of people who have fallen off the radar for government help with unemployment. It’s the over 50’s. If you are a specialist skilled worker over 50, the support available is really scant.

For older workers who lose their jobs, the statistics are truly horrific. Though the unemployment rate for people over 55 is just 5.1%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to the overall rate of 7.3%, when older workers lose their jobs they are out of work for a long time, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute.

In August 2013, 47% of job seekers over 55 had been looking for 27 weeks or more. According to the Institute, on average, unemployed people over 55 have been jobless for nearly a year: 50 weeks, versus 34 weeks for those under 55.

Until now, Western governments have never had to address the problem of highly educated professional people being unemployed. In the past it was always semi-skilled and unskilled workers who would find themselves without work, if an employer or industry sector went through hard times.

And so government support agencies were set up to provide help for workers of this type. They developed simple programmes to support people like this. Help with writing their resumes. Advice on how to seek out potential employers. Help with interview tips.

These sorts of programmes were reasonably effective too because unskilled and semi-skilled labour is highly transferable – for example if you are a truck driver, you can work for a mining company, or a grocery delivery business or a healthcare provider.

So the unemployed of previous recessions were manageable by and large.

Fast forward to today. The economic crisis hasn’t just affected semi-skilled and unskilled workers, it has hit hard into the skilled professional classes too. This is a whole different problem. And because compared to the young unemployed, the 'grey' unemployed are less numerous and less likely to cause trouble, they remain a low priority for government help.

Let’s say you used to be a mortgage credit risk analyst. You probably had more job opportunities between the late 1990’s and the 2008 crash than you’d ever have thought possible. Mortgage lending was through the roof as banks and borrowers got drunk on the crazy credit boom merry-go-round. And the job market reflected this situation.

Then we had the financial collapse of 2008. Almost overnight, the lending stopped. And even now, more than five years later, banks are still lending nowhere near the amounts they were before the crash. No-one wants to hire a credit risk analyst.

An old colleague of mine was a seriously clever mathematical guy, who had spent 20 years of his career becoming an expert in the development of credit risk scorecards. In 2008, he lost his job with many others in the lending industry. And he’s been unemployed ever since.

Government help is virtually non-existent for the highly skilled professional who’s become unemployed, especially if they are over 50.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. You’re smart and you have a good mind. So use it!

Yes the job that you used to have may be gone forever. Your industry may be in meltdown. You may feel that you’ll never get back the career you once had.

These things may all be true. But it’s not the end, if you take on board some simple alternative truths.

The first fact to take on board is that almost everything we learned about how to get a job when we were younger is now redundant. We have to completely recalibrate how we think about our jobs and our futures.

And you can do it. Here’s the good news:

1. Do not define yourself by what you used to do

Instead think of all the skills and competencies you acquired in your decades of work. Think broadly about these. You might for example be a really great at organisation, leading teams, researching, writing reports, complicated mathematical evaluations. Forget the application of these skills and isolate them as part of your personal asset value.

Being really clear about this personal asset value is the foundation of your next career step.

2. Create your strategy before you start the search

Do not rush into sending your resume off and asking people if they know about a job opening. Instead, in the weeks and first few months after losing your job, you should start the re-evaluation process. Think of it as an opportunity rather than a problem. You suddenly have the chance to become who you always wanted to be, instead of the person your old job defined you as.

By all means have discussions within your network about what they are doing, but remember you are looking for a problem you can help solve, not necessarily a job someone wants to fill.

3. Get focussed and forensic in your search

Don’t hunker down behind your computer. Do not spend hours hunting jobs boards for possible job vacancies. Do not mass mail or email your resume to every opening you think looks like a possibility. You only need one job. Instead of the splatter gun approach, sit down do your homework and focus on your targets like a sniper.

If you combine this forensic approach with extensive networking and intelligence gathering, you’ll uncover pathways into what is called the hidden jobs market. These are the jobs that are never advertised. And some estimates suggest that this is now as high as 80% of all skilled hirings.

4. Tap into the real intel

Get out and network with all your old contacts. Read the local business press to see what problems businesses are having that you might be able to help them solve. This is where you’ll discover real opportunities.

5. Get your networking amplifiers working for you

This where to invest your time online. Sharpen up your LinkedIn profile. Increase your connections – not because they will necessarily have a job for you, but because as LinkedIn sees you are more active on the site, it will improve your search ranking. So when a recruiter does a search for your skill set in your location, you’ll be higher on the returns and they’ll find you.

6. Use social media to help

As I’ve written about here, and in many other posts on this blog, there are a ton of ways you can use social media to help you with your job search. Again the secret is to be smart and to have a strategy.

Having a blog is really powerful too. And if you do this, you’ll destroy at a single stroke the idea that many employers have that older workers are just not up to speed with today’s technologies. See my post about this here

And finally remember this. The economy isn't going to improve dramatically anytime soon. There’s not going to be a sudden surge of new jobs coming over the horizon. The number of people going after each job is only going to increase. And we cannot rely on the government to help us.

The way you will win isn't by getting lucky. It’s because you will make sure you are a better hunter and a perceived as a better candidate than the competition. Fortunately that’s not too hard, if you hunt smarter not harder.

How recruiters decide if your resume gets onto the 'yes' pile

By Liz Hardman

What happens when more than 300 people apply for one junior position at a company? And how do recruiters select a shortlist?

I recently had to recruit for my organisation - here I explain how I shortlisted candidates - more specifically the process I used to remove applications from the shortlist.

We recently placed an advertisement for a junior position at Northstar. We expected to get a few applicants but we didn't anticipate receiving quite the number we did - more than 300.

More startling than the sheer volume, however, was how few of the candidates actually made the cut; only 10% were shortlisted. So, what was wrong with the other 90%? And how can you make sure employers put your application through?

If an advert asks for a cover letter with your application, include one

60% of the applications we received did not include a covering letter, even though we asked for one.

Use this letter to sell yourself and explain why you want the role, why you're suited to it and, most importantly, what you can bring to the company. Don't go into how working for the company can help you achieve your goals and increase your skillset: companies aren't in business solely for the purpose of staff development. At this initial stage, show them you've got something they want.

Specific experience may be the key thing they are after, but if you don't have all the desired experience requested, don't despair - think laterally. Maybe you have transferable skills from a previous job, hobbies or interests which have helped you to develop skills the employer is after? For instance, you might not have developed leadership skills in a part-time job, but volunteering with a local Brownie or Scout pack might have taught you the same thing. The person we actually employed for this role had minimal desired skills. But they had other skills, which were of major benefit to us, as well as having the right enthusiasm and work ethos, which made them a great fit.

Don't directly copy cover email templates

If you really want a role, then write something specific to the role you're applying for. It's really obvious when candidates are applying for everything and anything. The text on your email or cover letter should demonstrate that you have specific skills and experience for this role/company which are worth the recipient opening the attachments. A generic email that reads, "Please find attached my CV and cover letter for you to see if my skills are a match for your company/position advertised" will not prompt the reader to continue. Tailoring your application takes more time, but will increase the possibility of you being called in for an interview. But keep it concise though - don't go overboard with the email text.

Use the correct salutation and check your spelling and grammar

If this isn't right, many recruiters will switch off immediately: it screams of a lack of English skills and attention to detail.

Don't start emails with "Hi", "Hello", "Dear All", or similar. You're not sending it to your friends. Instead, if the job advert gives a contact name, address it to them. If not, use the fail-safe "Dear Sir/Madam".

In our case, the job advert only gave my surname, so I knew that any applicants who wrote "Dear Liz" had taken the time to look for my name on our website - and this really showed initiative.

One of the requisite skills we said that applicants needed to possess was good spelling and grammar, but a number of applications did not meet this requirement. All email systems have spell checkers, so use them. Then read through what you have written again to check for typos, missing words and other errors. Finally, you could ask someone else to give you their opinion to check it's clear and makes sense.

Demonstrate you are interested in the organisation

As well as looking at the employers' website, take your research a bit further. Check whether they have they been in the news, or what their company focus is at the moment. Have a read of their blog (if they have one) to get to know what some of the employees are doing and so you have some great conversational collateral. Demonstrate that you are aware of how the role you are applying for fits into the organisation and in a wider context - what's new in the industry that the company is operating in?

Make your application stand out

Whether it's in the way you format your CV, the tone you use or the inclusion of a piece of work which is relevant to your application, do something to distinguish yourself. If your CV is a run-of-the-mill word document, that is how you'll be perceived. For example, the applications that stood out to us were those that looked as though they had been created by a graphic designer - they used subtle shading, changes in font sizing and orientation, and a modern font. They hadn't included anything garish, but it showed skill at using software by someone with an eye for how to format a document for maximum impact, both of which are really important in our industry.

If you choose to get someone else to do design your CV, however, say that you did this because you are still developing your skills in that area and do make sure you write the text yourself. When we interviewed candidates who had submitted one of the CVs that stood out the most for us in terms of design and content, it became immediately clear that the person sitting in front of us was not the same person that had written their CV and application letter. The result was a very short interview and no invite for a second interview.

Liz Hardman is a research director at Northstar Research Partners.

This post originally appeared here:

Exodus on Wall Street

By Neil Patrick

Whilst some would have us believe it, not everyone working in the financial sector is a villain. To condemn a whole group for the misdemeanors of a few is naive and simplistic. The people who work in the financial centers around the world are a very diverse group. They include lawyers, analysts, compliance managers, IT specialists, HR and training people, accountants.

They compete to get and keep their jobs just like everyone else. They face demanding challenges at work just like everyone else. In fact the challenges they face are much more stressful than many. When large sums of money are directly involved, it’s a certainty that you will be under a lot of pressure to perform. Consequently, a good number of them are actually completely burned out by the time they are in their mid-thirties.

And much of the money that they earn is spent in businesses where they live, like food, services, retail, residential and cars. The money earned in financial businesses plays a big part in providing work for others - and is a big contribution to the city’s tax revenues.

Today, like many others, these people are seeing their jobs and prospects significantly downscaled. The savage cuts in headcounts in the wake of the 2008 collapse have left financial centers with their expensive offices much emptier than they were six years ago. And the remaining staff with a lot more work to do.

Take Wall Street for example. The Big Apple’s fabled financial district is steadily becoming more of a tourist hub than a financial hub. New York’s share of jobs in the securities industry dipped below 20 percent earlier this year to an all-time low, according to government statistics.

Moreover, jobs lost after the financial crisis are being replaced in the city at less than half the rate of the rest of the country. Two decades ago, New York was home to 30% of all such jobs.

The securities industry has recovered just 54% of the jobs lost nationwide after the 2008 financial crisis, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But Wall Street has recouped only 23%. The workforce has been hollowed out - 167,000 employed at securities firms, down from 191,000 in 2008.

“The numbers say there are a lot of Wall Street jobs that don’t need to be in New York,” Barbara Byrne Denham, an economist who tracks the local business scene, told Crain’s New York Business. “That has all sorts of implications for the city’s tax revenues.”

Facing regulatory changes and with the advent of new trading technologies, the banks that long ago transferred lower-level personnel out of New York have started moving up the corporate ladder to put higher-paid people - such as investment bankers, analysts and financial advisers - in places like Tampa, Jacksonville and Salt Lake City.

So no-one is immune to the fallout from the collapse including the people who were closest to it. Perhaps it’s not altogether unlike what the military call ‘friendly fire’?

Some parts of this post were taken from an original article here:

What the life of Nelson Mandela tells us about measuring human potential

The passing of Nelson Mandela has already prompted millions of words in tribute to his accomplishments. It has also led to all sorts of petty squabbles on internet forums, about everything from racism, to the legitimacy of the ANC’s terrorist activities to his personal life.

I have no intention of starting any debates here about any of these things. I feel it's much more constructive to talk about what his life can teach the rest of us.

The world has lost one of its most charismatic and inspirational figureheads. Nelson Mandela was a great man. He was also an imperfect man, born into a very imperfect world.

It's a simple fact of life that none of us are perfect. And our pasts are a cocktail of successes and failures. But in the eyes of those whose professional business it is to make judgement about others, imperfections, deviations and failures are often used in the calculation of our future value and potential.

Despite being frequently attributed to Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, it was originally the Cherokee tribe of Native Americans, who said, 'Don't judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes'.

Nelson Mandela spent a total of 27 years in prison. He emerged without a trace of bitterness towards his captors. In later life he always looked for the best in people, even defending political opponents to his allies, who sometimes thought him too trusting of others.

Mandela was a devout believer in democracy and would abide by majority decisions even when deeply disagreeing with them. He held a conviction that inclusivity, accountability and freedom of speech were the fundamentals of democracy, and was driven by a belief in natural and human rights.

His achievements and personal qualities have elevated him to the level of a saint in the eyes of many. But he was characteristically modest about his accomplishments, saying  "I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances."

In 1895, at the age of sixteen, Albert Einstein sat the entrance examinations for the Swiss Federal Polytechnic in Zurich (later the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule ETH). He failed to reach the required standard in the general part of the examination.

Another legend, Walt Disney was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1920 when his biggest client went bust. However, after few years, Walt launched a new company and created Mickey Mouse in 1928, which brought him financial freedom.

If we take anyone’s past record and assign it any importance as an indicator of the future, we are failing to understand that what people do is the outcome of a complex and unique blend of time, place, circumstance, personality, learning, aspirations, beliefs and options.

It’s a common notion that ‘past actions are the best indicator of future performance’. It may well be that people's basic characters do not change much. But character interacts with all the other situational factors to produce differing outcomes. In other words, put the same person in a different environment and a different outcome is more or less guaranteed.

So here’s the point. If we are to try and judge others, we’d better have a really good understanding of every aspect of their life history. If we don’t, our judgements cannot be reliable.

Just consider the common practices involved in recruiting people. The application pile is quickly reduced by rapid scanning to a small pile of 'best fits'. Average time spent - about 10 seconds per resume.

These remaining resumes are then examined forensically to try and find grounds to diminish an applicant’s suitability. Answers to interview questions are scrutinised to try and see if they reveal shortcomings. Ridiculous surrogates are used to try and assess an individual’s character, like their handshake or details of their hair and clothing.

How would Nelson Mandela stack up against these sorts of measurements?

“Mr Mandela, we've been looking at your application for the post of President of South Africa. Have you had any previous experience of being a national leader?”

“Could you tell me about a situation in which you had to overcome opposition to your ideas and how you went about it?”

“We operate a strict policy that all heads of state should have a clean police record. Have you ever been in trouble with the police or convicted of any offence?”

The future performance of an individual will be determined as much or more by the circumstances and experiences they have in the future as it will be by what has gone before.

The past is not a reliable predictor of the future.

And if organisations want to attract and keep the best people, they've got to try much harder to provide the conditions that allow their people to flourish. Create the right culture and environment and everyone performs better than they have ever done before.

The HR agenda should worry less about pseudo-scientific psychological evaluation and much more about how the daily work experience and environment equips and encourages people to be the best they can be.

Unless you are lucky enough to hire someone like Nelson Mandela who is so special, that punishment motivates them to do their greatest work. But you won't, because people like Nelson Mandela won't pass your screening process.