Cut and paste catastrophes – revisited.

By Neil Patrick

This feels like a topic which is going to run and run. But I couldn’t let today’s latest job description/cut and paste catastrophe that reached my desk pass without comment. It's time for yet more car-crash HR...

We want one of these and we want it cheap.

This latest example is so mind-boggling that I cannot even begin to add my usual line by line commentary. In fact I really don’t need to – anyone who's had a job in business can see that this job description has been written by madmen (or women).

It’s a job for a digital marketing manager allegedly. In reality, it’s a job for a whole department of specialists.

To perform this role effectively, you’ll need to have solid evidence of accomplishments in:

Coding, digital and traditional marketing, media planning and execution, search engine optimisation, market analysis, sales strategy development, marketing planning, data warehousing and analysis, software evaluation, PR, research and testing, creative skills, content writing and proof reading, outsourcing management, oh yes and hands on experience of the legal, property and conveyancing industries.

How anyone at the proposed salary level in this massively under-resourced jobs sector is expected to have acquired all or even the majority of these requirements is quite beyond me.

Whilst doing this, you’ll be held accountable for high quality and high volume results i.e. generating a lot of sales leads, all the while maintaining a cool head (despite your complete mental and physical exhaustion).

Obviously the people responsible for this job posting think such skills are so abundant in the marketplace that there will be an eager queue of qualified candidates, because the salary for this job is…wait for it… £25k-£30k a year – around $32k - $39k.

This is the natural outcome of what some have called the hunt for the purple squirrel. The self-defeating hiring strategy where a job is so massively, intensely and minutely specified that no-one could possibly come close to meeting the requirement – at any salary level.

How could any self-respecting HR or hiring manager sign off this job description? It almost appears as if someone has laid off a whole department and come up with the brilliant idea of replacing everyone with just one polymath (presumably supplied with large quantities of amphetamines) to do everyone’s work.

I really hope no-one I know is ‘lucky’ enough to get hired for this job. Perhaps some of my recruiting and HR friends who read this blog would care to provide your reactions in the comments section below – even if only to confirm I haven’t lost the plot?

Anyway for your delight and entertainment here’s the posting in full:

Digital Marketing Manager

Permanent, full time.

The Role:

To support the Sales and Marketing Director in the delivery of Company marketing strategies; with the main focus on managing online presence and supporting the long-term successful promotion and deployment of marketing initiatives of the businesses.


Plan and execute all web, SEO/SEM, marketing database, email, social media and display advert campaigns.

To manage PPC strategy constantly - reviewing performance and return on investment.

To oversee the online reputation management of all companies as required.

Design, build and maintain social media presence.

Measure and report on the performance of all digital marketing campaigns, and assess against goals (ROI and KPIs).

Identify trends and insights, and optimise spend and performance.

Brainstorm new and creative growth strategies.

Plan, execute, and measure experiments and conversion tests.

Collaborate with internal teams to create landing pages and optimise user experience.

Utilise strong analytical ability to evaluate end-to-end customer experience across multiple channels and customer touch points.

Instrument conversion points and optimise user funnels.

Evaluate emerging technologies. Provide thought leadership and perspective for adoption where appropriate.

Arranging the effective distribution of marketing materials.

Maintaining and updating customer databases.

Create, develop and deploy effective marketing plans and strategies.

Monitoring competitor activity.

Managing the production and distribution of marketing materials, including leaflets, posters, flyers, newsletters and e-newsletters.

Writing and proofreading press releases and copy.

Liaising with designers and printers.

Supporting the Sales and Marketing Director wherever needed.

Work closely with PR agencies to build strong relationships with the press and managing all aspects of PR for the business.

Education/Skills/attributes required:


Proven working experience in digital and traditional marketing.

Experience leading and managing SEO/SEM, marketing database, email, social media, websites, news feeds and display advertising campaigns.

The ability to produce high quality, high volume results.

Highly creative with experience in identifying target audiences and devising campaigns that engage, inform and motivate.

Experience in optimising landing pages and user funnels.

Experience with A/B and multivariate experiments.

Solid knowledge of website analytic tools (e.g., Google Analytics, NetInsight, Omniture, WebTrends).

Working knowledge of ad serving tools (e.g., DART, Atlas).

Experience in setting up and optimising Google Adwords campaigns.

Working knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript development and constraints.

Strong analytical skills and data-driven thinking.

Up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices in online marketing and measurement.

Experience in managing the production of marketing materials, including leaflets, posters, flyers, newsletters and e-newsletters.


Experience of the Property/Conveyancing Industry.

Relevant marketing qualification (CIM etc).

Experience handling high volume digital campaigns in the legal sector.

Personal Qualities

Managing Yourself;

Self-motivated and willing to take the lead and be personally accountable.

Copes effectively in demanding circumstances showing confidence in own ability and judgment.

Able to manage priorities and time effectively adopting a flexible approach to work, willing and able to delegate as appropriate.

Demonstrates persistence and commitment to completing tasks and objectives.

Pays attention to detail and quality of work.

Demonstrates a commitment to improving working practices and supports company plans and policies.

Working with People;

Ability to build and maintain excellent working relationships with others.

Confident, logical and articulate in oral and written communication, including giving formal presentations to groups.

Ability to project a dynamic and positive image of themselves and our organisation to those outside the business.

Uses effective skills to present a case clearly and succinctly to achieve a positive outcome.

Operates effectively as part of a team, encouraging others to contribute ideas and seek improvements.

Willing to offer help to all colleagues to ensure company success.

Managing Commercially;

Understands the commercial environment and has a clear vision of where the business needs to be, developing creative and innovative marketing plans to achieve commercial success.

Shows strong focus on satisfying Introducer and Client needs, taking positive action to ensure needs are met.

Understands the importance of business targets and how they impact on their responsibilities.

Makes sound commercial judgments based on issues key to the success of the business.

Knows when to seek guidance or further input from others before taking action.

Salary is £25,000 - £30,000 per annum

My suggestion is that this job description can be streamlined to a much more truthful and effective description:

"Company with poor understanding of marketing operations seeks broadly skilled and energetic marketer with good digital skills. You should be ambitious and resilient and know how to generate a lot of sales leads via online media. Should thrive in a chaotic environment. Salary highly negotiable and will be generous to reflect the scarcity and high value of these skills".

But then HR would never sign this off would they?

The trouble with tech is wealth destruction

By Neil Patrick

I love tech. But I hate what it is doing to jobs and wealth creation. Any voice of concern on this subject risks being shouted down as Luddite. But being branded a Luddite is not the worst thing that can happen; a whole society sleepwalking over a cliff is a far greater worry.

Robert Ludd: NOT my role model

There's a great deal of corporate and government spin about the impact of technology on jobs. If I didn’t default to the notion that cock-ups, not conspiracies, are man’s most common failing, I’d be signing up for the Loony Tunes’ New World Order Conspiracy news feeds.

At first, it was argued that technology would just enable higher quality and less costly goods. Then, when the first layoffs due to automation started happening, it was argued that only tedious and repetitive jobs would be displaced. As disruptive business models, artificial intelligence and robotics become increasingly advanced, both these defences have crumbled.

Then the really big changes started. Whole industries began to be disrupted by new tech-enabled business models. Travel agents are being disrupted by Trip Advisor and Airbnb. Cab drivers by Uber. Retailing by Amazon. Banking by PayPal. And worse, every successful disruptive business replaces a job heavy industry sector with a jobs-lite one.

The last remaining argument for tolerance of the jobs carnage created by the tech tsunami is that the Wikipedia version of history tells us technological progress is inevitable, and has only ever resulted in greater wealth and a better society. But this assertion doesn’t bear much scrutiny if you have even a basic knowledge of economic history.

The latest piece of expert group think I stumbled upon comes from none other than Deloitte. They published a paper in December 2014 entitled, ‘Technology and people: The great job-creating machine’ by Ian Stewart, Debapratim De and Alex Cole - all economists working at Deloitte; experts by most people’s definition.

An interesting footnote is that whilst the document is branded as Deloitte’s, it contains a disclaimer that the report is merely the personal views of its authors…do Deloitte’s legal team sense these views could be a bit controversial? Why would Deloitte wish to distance themselves in this way?

Anyway, the document makes the same old arguments that there is no historical situation which has shown that technology has done anything other than create more jobs and greater wealth. And by inference, anyone who argues that this time it’s different is a Luddite.

History can be an unreliable teacher. Is it really a good idea to place our faith in an argument, just because something has never happened before? That this ship is so vast and splendid it is unsinkable?

And just as a little reminder, the first industrial revolution in Britain didn’t actually create more jobs. It merely absorbed the millions of unemployed agricultural workers put out of work by Jethro Tull’s seed drill and other agricultural innovations.

When I looked at the evidence based on UK data presented by Deloitte, they helpfully show us how whilst some jobs are disappearing fast, others are growing rapidly. But looking at this data I also spotted a massively frightening detail. Here’s the table in question:

Notice anything about the nature of the jobs gained versus the ones lost?

It’s this. Almost all the new jobs are low pay and/or mostly in the public sector.

And most of the shrinking occupations are in the private sector.

By far the largest growth sector for jobs between 1992 and 2014 was nursing auxiliaries and assistants. The reason is simple and we all know that the aging population is driving this. Over this period, more than 270,000 new jobs materialised in this field. The second biggest growth sector added almost 420,000 extra jobs. Too bad then that these jobs were for educational assistants i.e. people who earn even less than teachers.

Low pay is bad enough, but public sector jobs pose an even bigger economic problem. They are paid for not by sales to domestic and overseas customers, but from taxes collected into the treasury. Public sector jobs support our society but are simply terrible as engines of economic growth. And growth is the one thing that economies worldwide are desperate to find these days.

Public sector jobs do not create economic growth and sustainable household wealth, they merely spend government (and our) money. Money taken from us and businesses in tax (unless you are Google or Amazon). It is then spent for us by the government on the things they decide we want and need. Sure some of this government spending trickles through to the private sector, but  there's a dreadfully expensive and inefficient pile of government bureaucracy acting as the middleman in this business model.

What is worse is that public sector jobs don’t make the nation richer. They are not exported. They are horribly complex to manage and operate not because the people are dumb, but because all large organisations struggle with efficiency. And more of them add to an already swollen and debt-burdened state which must borrow endlessly to sustain its spending.

You may well disagree with me. You may well trust that the experts in our governments and corporations have our best interests at heart. That the frequent cases of greed and exploitation by ruthless capitalist businesses are a more than adequate reason to reject my argument.

So in the interests of presenting a balanced view, here’s a quotation from the Deloitte report:

Change is the prerequisite for improving welfare. Until the eighteenth century the organisation of work was largely fixed and the material condition of the masses was miserable. It was the wrenching change of the industrial revolution, the application of steam power to production, urbanisation and the rise of manufacturing that brought improvements in material conditions and life expectancy for working people. Technology has transformed productivity and living standards, and, in the process, created new employment in new sectors. Machines will continue to reduce prices, democratising what was once the preserve of the affluent and furnishing the income for increased spending in new and existing areas.

Machines will take on more repetitive and laborious tasks, but seem no closer to eliminating the need for human labour than at any time in the last 150 years. It is not hard to think of pressing, unmet needs even in the rich world: the care of the elderly and the frail, lifetime education and retraining, health care, physical and mental well-being. The stock of work in the economy is not fixed; the last 200 years demonstrates that when a machine replaces a human, the result, paradoxically, is faster growth and, in time, rising employment. The work of the future is likely to be varied and have a bigger share of social interaction and empathy, thought, creativity and skill. We cannot forecast the jobs of the future, but we believe that jobs will continue to be created, enhanced and destroyed much as they have in the last 150 years.

The trouble with this opinion is that the first technological revolution merely transferred labour from the agricultural and subsistence existence of the rural poor, to the impoverished drudgery of urban manufacturing centres. The owners of capital flourished and became wealthy. Cities expanded and became wealthy. Central and local government expanded and became wealthy. Workers did not. Urban slums and squalor replaced rural shacks and poverty.

So the first industrial revolution, didn’t actually create more jobs or better standards of living for workers. However, the second industrial revolution did. This was when mass communication in the form of TV, radio and the telephone enabled the rise of truly global businesses. These businesses coupled mass production economies of scale with vast global markets.

They needed huge numbers of middle managers to support and supervise their activities. And these are today the vast global corporations that are slowly but surely being disrupted to death by thousands of niche start-ups and new business models. In the US and Europe in particular, this is why the middle class is becoming an endangered species.

The key difference between this historical perspective and the reality of today is that the monetary basis on which society is built is different. And the biggest and most critical difference is debt. The debt of businesses. The debt of citizens and governments.

A debt burdened society can only survive when it has a stable and growing income. Stable to ensure debt repayments cans always be met. And growing to help lessen the total burden of debt as a proportion of income. Just like when we take out a mortgage to buy a house, we are gambling that our future income will be stable and reliable enough to meet the repayments for the next 25 years.

But today’s incomes are less stable and secure than ever before. A cotton mill worker might have endured terrible working conditions and low pay, but at least their work was relatively secure and they were not crippled with debt. Today, the combination of housing undersupply (not helped by the debt burden of house builders) and prices inflated by overseas speculators keeps young people out of home ownership. Student loans mean young people are hobbled by debt before they even land a job.

This financial dimension is inextricably linked to the nature of the threat of technology. And it’s something that cannot be unknown to anyone with even a basic grasp of financial and economic matters. Let alone someone working at Deloitte.

Which begs the question, ‘Why might the experts want to persuade us otherwise?’

That’s a question I am not going to attempt to answer. You can call me a Luddite if you wish. That I can live with. But I really have no wish to be classed a conspiracy theorist. For now at least.

The 12 elephants of the jobs apocalypse

From time to time, I am delighted to share the thoughts of others and their views on the future of work. Today I have a new contribution from my friend David Hunt. David's provided me with this widely and independently evidenced commentary on the real nature of recruitment in the US today as experienced by job seekers. 

Something is stirring in the jobs jungle... 

By David Hunt, PE

Photo: Khao Yai News Facebook page

Let’s cut to the chase.

On one hand, companies claim they can’t find skilled people for the positions they have open; they claim there’s a shortage.  Yet I see the same positions open for month after quarter – and in multiple instances still open after a year… an observation seconded by both job seekers and recruiters I know.  

Clearly something is preventing the “pulling of the hiring trigger.”  But the opportunity costs of unfilled positions are the ability to pursue new initiatives, develop new products and services, and handle new and existing customers.  Let us not forget the stress toll on employees working 60+ hours a week for months on end. 

On the other hand, we have – across America – untold millions… record numbers!... un-or-underemployed.  We have a labor force participation rate near record lows.  Networking groups, like local-to-Boston groups Acton Networkers and WIND, are overflowing with skilled, competent, accomplished, and educated people who are perfectly capable of stepping into new roles successfully.  As are, doubtless, such groups across the country. 

Clearly there is an enormous mismatch, a dissonance in the perception of reality between people seeking to fill jobs, and people wanting jobs.  Each side has their own points, but – to cite a Vorlon proverb – “Understanding is a three-edged sword; there’s your side, their side, and the truth.”

We need to talk, the two sides, candidly but without rancor, to burn away the irrelevancies until we are left with a pure product, the Truth.  Only then, when both sides are in agreement about the real nature of the problem, can solutions then be proposed and tried.  But the first step is to admit there is a problem.  And since employers indisputably have the power, let’s talk about them.

Multiple Elephants in the Recruiting Room

Elephant the First: Hiring managers do not believe they need to compromise on what they want from candidates.  Per a DeVry University survey (bolding added):

*Sixty-seven percent of hiring managers don’t feel like they have to settle for a candidate without the perfect qualifications for the job

As one hiring manager told me, “I want what I want, and will wait to get what I want.”  This desire for the fantasy date leads to a huge list of requirements, often impossible requirements, which feeds into:

Elephant the Second: ATS portals reject up to 75% of qualified candidates; e.g., from Applicant tracking systems – the hidden peril for job applicants (bolding in original):

Some sources quote that as many as 75% of applicants are eliminated by ATS systems, as soon as they submit their resume, despite being qualified for the job!

Paraphrasing Suzanne Lucas, “The Evil HR Lady”, when the impossible is set as the filtering criteria, it shouldn’t surprise that only the impossible – i.e., nothing – comes through.  Reinforcing this is another data point, specifically an interview with Wharton School Professor Peter Cappelli whose research focuses on employment (bolding added):

*One employer told me that 25,000 people had applied for a reasonably standard engineering job in their company and that the hiring systems indicated that none met the requirements.

And a recruiter I know told me that, as a test, a company put together what they considered to be a perfect resume.  Yup.  Didn’t get through the ATS.  As Careerealism’s J.T. O’Donnell observed, ATS portals are where applications go to die.

Elephant the Third: My own experience with trying to network into companies indicates that more and more companies are blocking the networking that hitherto has been one of the best ways of making contacts with decision makers.  For example:

*I … made contact with the hiring manager on LinkedIn. Despite having made contact through a mutual connection and (theoretically) a trusted source, they said they could not communicate directly with me, and that HR would have to pass my resume to them before they could do anything. (Nor could they request my resume even knowing I was in the system.)

Another company I know has, per multiple people I know working there, outright forbidden any networking contacts with hiring managers.  Even current employees can only bid for new positions through the ATS.

Elephant the Fourth: Terrified of making a (cue dramatic music) BAD HIRE, companies have signed up to conduct personality testing to determine fit to some idealized personality profile, despite many potential downsides, e.g., The Problem with Using Personality Tests for Hiring and The Lazlo Emergency Commission Report.  And it’s become a responsibility dodge:

When there's a test to fall back on, managers inevitably step back from responsibility and surrender to the test, instead of asking the tougher questions. Like "the claw" in Toy Story, the test "decides who will stay and who will go."

A personality test will never encourage your managers to have the kinds of flexible thinking you need, because the test makes the ultimate decision. No test will save you from the hard work of developing an intelligent hiring process. It takes effort to distinguish the drivers for performance in a job, and real thought to understand who will fit into your culture.

Elephant the Fifth: There is no pushback on the ability of hiring managers to play Goldilocks to wait forever, and no difficult conversations had with those hiring managers by their superiors about their Quest for the Purple Squirrel.  For example, blogger Aline Kaplan had a critical observation in her blogpost Hiring the Perfect Candidate: The Problem with Finding Goldilocks:

Had I ever taken this long to fill a position … my managerial competence would have come into question. I would have had to provide a very good reason why I could not find one decent candidate among the horde of technology marketing people let go by numerous companies when the Great Recession hit—and beyond.

Hidden in this lack of correction to such levels of indecision is an implicit message from upper management that indecision is tolerated.  That tacit approval of indecision in hiring will leak to other topics also needing decisions.

Elephant the Sixth: Despite the fact that the economy has sucked canal water since 2008, with – as mentioned above – untold millions (by some estimates over 100 million) not counted in the American labor force any more, there is still a perceptual bias against those who are unemployed, especially those who have been out for longer than six months.  Thus, I observe a lack of empathy or “EQ” for such people based on no allowances made for the current economic reality.

Elephant the Seventh: Something like 80% of companies search for candidates on social media and the internet, with no guidelines or standards.  Thus, any post – whether on LinkedIn, Facebook, twitter, or anything found with a google search – can potentially be viewed as disqualifying.  Now, companies are also scouring posts by people with whom you are connected, and searching for your image to see if you are in others’ pictures.  Yet on the flip side, having no social media presence is also seen as disqualifying, thus creating a social media presence is a Catch-22.

Elephant the Eighth: The only shortage is of people willing to take pennies on the dollar (and in parallel, a dearth of training dollars to fill in small gaps).  They keep looking for, quoting J.T. O’Donnell, “Bi-lingual brain surgeons for $10 an hour”.  Ask The Headhunter Nick Corcodilos wrote  – read the whole link, it’s really eye-opening:

"The McQuaig Institute (a developer of talent assessment tools) recently polled over 600 HR professionals. The #1 reason they lose job candidates — reported by 48% of U.S. companies — is because the offers they make are too low.

HR knows where the talent shortage comes from: Lousy job offers."

Elephant the Ninth: A standard complaint by job seekers is the treatment they receive.  This is not the carping of “angry job seekers” but observations by multiple “big names” in hiring and recruiting.  Job seekers talk and share stories, leading to companies getting bad reputations.  (And in parallel, sweatshop 12-plus-hour-days companies gain bad reps.)

Elephant the Tenth: Ageism and the parallel fear of hiring someone who is a threat to the hiring manager’s position.  There are a lot of very experienced, accomplished, and savvy people looking for work.  Given the youth-philia of industry these days, I opine that many younger managers are not just concerned about having to manage someone older than they are, but are worried that those seasoned people might become their replacements, or even superiors.

Elephant the Eleventh: Companies have invested untold millions in ATS software, personality testing, etc.  Nobody wants to report upward that the software they’ve pushed, the policies they recommended, may in fact be creating the very shortage they decry.  Yet… sooner or later, as the inability to fill positions noticeably affects the bottom line, company leaders will turn their eye to the situation.  CYA maneuvering only works for so long, and doesn’t generally end well for those who hid bad news.

Elephant the Dozenth: Interviewers have certain expectations of behaviors and personality types. In Fuzzy Limits, I outlined this situation related by a recruiter:

They described a person they were attempting to place at a company. Their client rejected the candidate, citing that the person came across as "too aggressive". Upon being told that feedback, the candidate altered their presentation to be more low-key… and was rejected at their next interview as "not dynamic enough".

One person's confident is another's arrogant; humble vs. uncertain, low-key vs. disinterested, enthusiastic vs. desperate, delegator vs. slacker? And so on.

For example, I tend to think before I speak. After one interview I got the feedback that they thought my "engaging brain before putting mouth into gear" made me look slow and indecisive. Had I known that, I would have adjusted. But since interviewers don't come with meters above their heads so we can get instant feedback on how our presentation is perceived by a total stranger, applicants are forced to gamble.

All these elephants lead to one inescapable conclusion – echoing a comment you will hear in almost any networking group meeting and often online in comments on LinkedIn essays: “The hiring process is broken”.

Destroying the Message

Across the board, corporate decision makers ignore the chorus of such observations, and even excoriate and label as “uppity” those who point out these elephants.  I suspect this tendency is an application of The Emperor’s New Clothes.  It’s one thing when a “job search / recruitment expert” points things out.  It’s another when a hoi polloi plebe points these things out – because then the elephants might actually have to be addressed as they’re visible to all. 

But problems don’t get better because they’re ignored.

So What Will We Talk About?

In 2002 my retired Harvard Business School professor father passed away suddenly at age 93.  Needless to say my mother was shattered.  Eventually she climbed out of her hole and resumed life, though not unchanged.  We talked daily; I also was going through multiple and simultaneous life crises.

My mother was the first woman to get – by a few months – a Doctorate of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School.  Incredibly intelligent, highly insightful, and scarily intuitive, she would grill me wanting to know what was going on in the life of her only child in the hopes of guiding me to constructive actions.  I would sometimes be forthcoming but, more often, attempt to evade the conversation through various tactics.  She would have none of it, and would scornfully deride my evasions of serious issues with “So, we’ll just talk about the weather.”

So What Are We?

Let me be absolutely, completely, blunt in asking this – because people interested in solving problems ask penetrating questions and brush aside evasions just like my mother did…

Are we a nation of problem-solvers, rolling up our sleeves and willing to discuss the elephants in the HR lounge candidly?  People are suffering from lack of work, and companies are losing from all the opportunity costs of unfilled openings.

Or… are we a nation of shirkers, avoiding talking about these difficult issues because they make us uncomfortable, are brought up by the “wrong people”, or might necessitate that companies admit “The Shortage” might be because of the decisions and policies and programs they themselves have made and enacted?


Sigh.  Yeah, I thought so.

It’s been a surprisingly cool spring and summer here, very possibly because the sun’s gone quiet.  How are things where you are?

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:; he blogs at and tweets at @davidhuntpe.

© 2016, David Hunt, PE

The secret to HR success on social media

By Neil Patrick

I spend far too much time highlighting and criticizing the poor treatment of people by businesses and organisations. So for a change I am delighted today to present proof of how actually caring about people delivers the sort of profile and positive attitudes that most marketing and HR teams would kill for.

It's nothing fancy. It's not done by a big and clever marketing company. SYLKA Carpets, in Chelmsford is a 3 year old company making carpets for hotels and large houses.

Right now on LinkedIn, Sylka Carpets are getting HUGE profile simply because they cared enough to give a guy called Frank a job:

This post on Linkedin has received over 16,000 likes and over 1,000 comments every one of which (okay I haven't checked every one, but I'm confident this is so) is praising SYLKA Carpets for doing something decent to help someone out when they lost their job.

You simply cannot buy or make this sort of social media success. Not unless you are willing to behave in a decent way towards people. And next time I am talking to someone about HR and social media, this example of truly best practice will serve me well I think.

Thank you SYLKA Carpets. And good luck Frank!

Half a million hits on my blog. So what?

By Neil Patrick

Today this blog reached half a million hits. Oops. How did that happen?

I'm sure you care not a bit about this. That's okay. This news is of no consequence to anyone else. Or is it? This post isn't about self-congratulation. It's about how blogs have the power to change our lives.

I remember distinctly about three years ago reading an announcement on the blog of one of my inspirations, the wonderful Stacy Donovan Zapar, that her own blog had just reached half a million hits.

This was a revelation to me. At the time and still as far as I know, Stacy is the most connected woman in the world on LinkedIn. Stacy’s blog about recruitment is in a similar field to mine. Jobs are not the most interesting topic to most people, yet Stacy had achieved something incredible I thought. My blog was new and had about 30,000 hits at that time. Stacy I am sure didn’t intend this, but she unwittingly planted the seed in my mind that this was a goal I would set myself too.

It seemed at that time to me to be an impossibly unrealistic aspiration. And quite probably a completely meaningless one. It wouldn’t make me richer, smarter, or more secure. So why bother at all?

The answer to this question is that no, I am not richer. Or smarter. Or more secure. Except in one critical way. I am much more connected with many more wonderful people all over the planet. People who care about the same things I do. People I like and who hopefully like me. And we help each other out on the basis of simple goodwill.

Academics have a term for this. They call it social capital. My bank manager might say ‘so what?’. Well here’s the answer: As the world shifts from a competitive economy to a collaborative one (for more on this, read my post about it here), connectivity, reach and goodwill are the essential ingredients for influence. And influence has value.

Influence and connections have transformed my world. Just last week I enjoyed a Skype chat with one of my newest connections. A man who has been dubbed ‘Britain’s best boss’. A man who has been CEO of some of the biggest and most valuable companies in the UK. And he made me almost choke on my coffee when he told me he reads this blog. I had no idea, because apart from subscribers whose email addresses contain their name (a minority) and some wonderful people who share my stuff on social media, I have absolutely no clue who reads my online ramblings.

The fact is that this blog has put me in touch with a huge number of brilliant people all over the planet. People who send me things. People who talk to me. People who inspire me. People who will invite me to events as a speaker or participant. And many of these people have become friends. And endorsers. And collaborators. And yes, even clients.

So to coin a phrase from my favourite movie of all time, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, what has this blog ever done for me?...Nothing!...apart from change my world.

So to everyone that has shared, commented, agreed, disagreed, challenged, contributed or just read this blog, please accept my unreserved thanks and appreciation. You have made my online existence worthwhile. You have changed my world for the better. And I hope that in a small way, I have changed yours too.

The heresy of telling new entrepreneurs they are wrong

By Neil Patrick

I know a lot of people who are starting businesses these days. It’s partly because of what I do and partly because my networking means I inevitably meet a lot of them. And I enjoy it. I get genuinely excited hearing about people’s plans and ideas and I love helping them improve and refine them.

But there’s something which troubles me. It’s the idea that anyone can become an entrepreneur and anyone can make a fortune this way. Both these notions are wrong. Not wrong because people shouldn’t aspire, but wrong in terms of what people’s goals and expectations are.

The media focus on business success stories and the absolute armies of people selling stuff to ‘help’ businesses succeed, support and encourage these aspirations. Which is fine, except if a business is doomed to fail. Which sadly is the majority. Long before this happens, any wise and caring counselor would say to them, ‘No. You’re wrong. This will NOT work. Stop wasting your time, money and energy on this RIGHT NOW.”

But we live in a society where such counsel is chastised as negativity. As lack of belief. As discouragement. For people who need and deserve encouragement. Even governments and government agencies attempt in their own bureaucratic ways to support entrepreneurs.

And because setting up and growing a business is truly hard work, most successful entrepreneurs tell us that the unwavering belief of someone else meant everything when they were so worn down and frustrated that they just wanted to quit. That belief and support kept them going. And they went on to achieve great success in the end.

People lap this up. It’s become a business start-up archetype. A rags to riches fairy tale that is deeply seductive. Just keep going. Never quit. And eventually you will succeed. It’s a simple and powerful idea that permeates so much of what we are told about entrepreneurship.

Yes commitment, passion, belief and sheer hard work are all essential for successful entrepreneurs. But no amount of these things will make up for a business idea that is so full of holes and flaws that if it were a ship, it would sink in the harbour.

Most people that new entrepreneurs meet want to sell them something. Even if that something is dressed up as ‘help’. This vested interest means no-one is likely to tell them that their business plan sucks. That it has some terrible flaw that will kill it dead. On the contrary, they express entirely fake enthusiasm, either because they cannot see the problems, or if they can, they are sure as hell are not going to mention it for fear of losing a bit of earning potential before the whole thing collapses.

So why would anyone want to become an entrepreneur? Part of the answer these days lies in the difficulty of finding and retaining a relatively secure and well paid job. People lose their jobs and think, “do I really want to go back to anything like that again?” Often the answer is “No”. So that leads inevitably to the idea of self-employment. Which in turn leads people to start up companies.

But start-up businesses have a truly dreadful record of success. Depending on who you listen to, around 80% fail in their first three years. They fail for all sorts of reasons, but one is that people might be very experienced at what they do, but have absolutely no-experience of setting up a business, let alone growing one.

Another is that what they aspire to be and what they actually are, are so far removed from reality that they chase the wrong dream. They lack the self-awareness to determine where their true talents really lie. It’s much better (and more profitable) to be a great version of you, than a second rate impersonation of someone else.

But the greatest failing is our fantasy notion of what success looks like. Business success isn’t about fabulous riches, business empires or fame. Success is about figuring out a way that your work rewards you in a way that enables you to live the life you want on your terms. And the best way I know to do that is not to become a slave to some idealized fantasy of what an entrepreneur is but just to earn our living independently by being the absolute best version of ourselves that we possibly can.

And by making sure your advice comes from someone who knows and cares enough to tell you when you've got it wrong.

Jim Clifton, former CEO of Gallup and author of 'The Coming Jobs War' has one of the most insightful (and least viewed videos) on YouTube about the problems with entrepreneurship in the US today, and its consequences for jobs and society. Clearly there is no correlation between brilliant insight and social media popularity!

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