by HRNasty, HR gone rogue http://www.hrnasty.com HR Exec opens the kimono and exposes the no bullshit insight on job interviews and climbing the corporate ladder Sat, 19 Apr 2014 13:15:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9
Director Level, what it takes to make it to this level http://www.hrnasty.com/director-level/ http://www.hrnasty.com/director-level/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 04:05:51 +0000 http://www.hrnasty.com/?p=5616 Share this on LinkedIn Tweet This! Share this on Facebook Share this on Reddit Email this via Gmail Share this on Google+ Get Shareaholic The Director Level title I recently received the following email from a reader who was looking for advice on what steps they could take get to Director level / VP level. I […]

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Director Level

What direction is your career heading?

The Director Level title

I recently received the following email from a reader who was looking for advice on what steps they could take get to Director level / VP level. I thought this was a great question and worth sharing.

Mr. Nasty,

I have been in the workforce for about 8 years working for a couple of different companies. I have been working for a fairly large company with a good brand and am thinking about leaving for greener pastures.  My goal is to become a Director level or VP level within the next 3-5 years, and ultimately a VP. I am not seeing it happen at this company. I feel like working at a Start Up will give me a lot more opportunity to grow with a company and expand my skill set in a compressed amount of time. What advice do you have for me as I begin my job search?

Great question and thanks for writing in!

I share my feelings around start-ups here. Based on personal experience, I would not be where I am without my corporate experience, but I received 10X more opportunity when working in a growing start-up. 

Instead answering the question “What steps can I take”? I thought it might be helpful to talk about what I look for when hiring or considering a candidate for a Director level promotion. Getting to Director level and getting to VP are two different roles. This will differ from company to company, but in my opinion Directors are thinking strategically but are more tactical than strategic. VP’s are more strategic than tactical and not very worried about the tactical day to day stuff. When I think of a VP, I think of someone who is managing an entire discipline for longer term goals. When I think of a Director, I think of an individual who manages 1 or maybe 2 subsets within a discipline.

For small to medium sized companies, lets say we have a VP of Sales. The VP of Sales has the following direct reports: Director of Outside Sales, Director of Inbound Sales, and Director of Sales Operations. Any one of these directors could be an individual contributor OR, they could be leading a team.  

This is my personal opinion, but Directors and VP’s, have the ability (or show the potential) to do the following:

  • Communicate effectively two levels above their current title. If you are a VP, you can effectively communicate with SVP’s and C-level exec’s. This doesn’t mean small talk in the elevator or over beers.  The ability to deliver confidence that you can, and will make a difference to the bottom line is paramount.  VP’s can effectively pitch strategic initiatives and convince senior peers to buy into new programs and ideas. Everyone has ideas, but Directors and VP’s can move ideas from proposal to funding, and through successful execution.
  • VP’s have breath and depth of experience.  If you are in marketing, you don’t just have experience in brand marketing, you have experience in brand, social, PR, and content marketing.  You won’t be an expert in all of the marketing categories, but you will be able to make a solid business decision when presented the facts. No company should expect you to be an expert in all of the sub-disciplines because you will be surrounding yourself with colleagues who DO have specific depth. The thought is that at this level VP’s will be managing a larger group and that group is going to be diversified in its talent and responsibility. When you are manager or a director, you are generally responsible for a number of direct reports who are all working with the same sub-discipline that you do. When you are responsible for 15- 20 people as a VP, that group will be composed of different sub-disciplines and the leader of this group needs to understand and have experience with these different skill sets.
  • A VP has experience managing multiple sub-disciplines to specific company goals. Depending on the size of the company, a Director is usually on the tactical side of the department implementing the Vice President’s strategy for the entire department.  A VP will think of the other departments as the entire company works towards the goal. 
  • At the Director level we should be able to represent our company to the outside with similarly titled customers and vendors?  A VP will usually work with VP peers outside of the company. This means knowing the company’s business, presenting yourself in a way that is representative of your peers, and being able to entertain and host these customers.
  • A VP will have earned the respect of not just their team but across the enterprise. VP’s will inspire not just their individual team but inspire across the enterprise. VP’s will have credibility across the enterprise. Think about the all company meeting where all of the heads of the departments got up on stage and gave their quarterly updates.  If you are a Sales VP, you have the respect of not just Sales and Marketing but of the technology and operational departments as well. You probably don’t write code, but you understand technology and leverage all the tools for your company. If you are the VP of Technology, you understand the trials and tribulations of the sales and marketing departments and these departments have confidence in you to build the product.

If I were to give advice to someone wanting to take their career to the director level of leadership, I would recommend a few things:

  • Meet with other VP’s on a regular basis.  AKA, find mentors or advisors that are at least a level Sr. to the Director level.
  • Update your manager about your long-term goals.  If you do not let them know where you want to go, they won’t be able to help you get there.
  • Act, communicate, and dress for the position you are gunning for. If you want to be at the Director level, you will need to look, act, and sound like a Director.  If others don’t see you working at the Director level, it won’t happen.  Not on an occasional basis, but day in and day out.  Consistency is the name of the game.
  • #PMA Positive Mental Attitude.  VP’s over come any and all problems; they don’t add fuel to the fire.

Hopefully this provides you some insight into how I think about both roles.

See you at the after party,

HRNasty

nasty:  an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. E.G.  “He has a nasty fork ball”.

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PS.  I wouldn’t be doing you right if I didn’t say the following:

This is a hard observation and I don’t know all the facts.  If you don’t see yourself getting to Director at this company, it will be tough to land a similar title at a similar sized company. Directors overcome obstacles no matter how complicated. Regardless of the company politics one thing that VP’s have figured out is how to maneuver within ANY environment, not just their own. Working in a larger company is just a matter of scale. VP’s are hired to work with counterparts from other company’s including customers, partners, vendors, etc.  They are paid to not only solve problems but keep the company out of them. Examine how you are working within your current company. There are no excuses for Director of VP. Low performing employees, politics, and tough executive teams will not be an excuse for a Director. If you are NOT making progress, we should re evaluate what we are doing at the current company.

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Entry level job, why landing this job right after school is so important http://www.hrnasty.com/entry-level-job/ http://www.hrnasty.com/entry-level-job/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 05:02:29 +0000 http://www.hrnasty.com/?p=5552 Share this on LinkedIn Tweet This! Share this on Facebook Share this on Reddit Email this via Gmail Share this on Google+ Get Shareaholic Why entry level jobs are so important: The topic of the entry level job has come up with a number of friends graduating from college (seems I know a number of […]

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entry level job search

She didn’t take time off after graduation!

Why entry level jobs are so important:

The topic of the entry level job has come up with a number of friends graduating from college (seems I know a number of folks that want to take time off after graduation). These recent grads want to take a year off to travel, “find themselves” or “start a business”. The thought is that with the job market so tough, these graduates might as well do something other than look for employment. I always cringe when I hear this. Someone paid for that college education and it must be rough to not worry about getting an ROI on that 4-year investment. 

Entry-level jobs are thought to be some of the hardest positions to break into.  I disagree. I think that entry level jobs are the easiest to land because the employer knows they are looking for someone with no experience. What employers want when filling an entry level job is the right attitude. Think about it.  What kind of experience is the employer looking for when they know the candidate just graduated? This may sound harsh, but I think that many candidates just don’t how to go about their entry level job search.     

Hiring companies are taking a chance on recent graduates with no experience when hiring for an entry level job. Usually the only data points available to make a hiring decision is the grade point average and how the attitude that is present in the interview. Prior behavior is the best indicator of future behavior and grades are an indication of prior behavior.  With no real world experience right out of school, the decision to hire for these entry level jobs will come back to grades, the school those grades were earned and the in person interviews.  

Here is the main reason I don’t like to hear about college grads putting off their job search.  The first few years out of school are the formative years of your career, as well as the time where you will build a strong foundation for you future salary. Landing that entry level job as soon as possible after graduation (or before) is important because this position will set you up for the rest of your career. Land a job unrelated to your chosen field or with a lower than average salary, and your consequent positions and salaries will be impacted.  Put that job off one year, and you start the career chapter of your life behind the competition. 

Think of your entry level salary right out of school like you would the early contributions you make to your 401K.  These early contributions will compound over time and can make an exponential difference later in life. Start late on your 401K by 10 years, or even 5 years and you feel it towards the end of your career. 

A job looking for 1 or 2 years of experience may be willing to pay $45K a year, but if you were making $15.00 or $17.00 dollars an hour (approximately $30K – $35K a year) at your previous job, don’t expect to get bumped up to $45K. Expect to start at $30K or $35K and work your way up to the going rate.  

With this example in mind, I feel it is in the best interest of a recent graduate to do everything they can to try and land a job with a career path that leverages the chosen degree. If nothing else, establish a path for salary trajectory. A college degree and 1-3 years of corporate experience will provide you extra spring to your career launching pad, including: 

Solid work experience can be leveraged into your next position or promotion.  Those who put the career off are only playing catch up with their peers. More importantly, you will have learned a lot about yourself and how corporate life operates.  These are maturing years, and I (almost) consider them to be DOG years.  In these early years, 1 year is equal to 7 years of future career experience.  You will have the opportunity (I am not saying you will or that it is a guarantee) to mature more in the first 5 – 7 years of your career than you will later in your career.  You may go from Director to VP later in your career, but I would argue that the level of your corporate maturity will remain relatively flat at that point in your career.  

Don’t put off the entry level job 

If you decide to take a break, travel or start your own business for a few years right after school, this time off can be hard to overcome financially. Having a resume at 25 years old where the most important accomplishment is your college education will put you behind others that are searching for entry-level positions at the age of 21 or 22.  You are competing with candidates for the entry level job that will have limited or no real world job experience and when given the choice of someone right out of school or someone who took a break with not much to show, my bet is on the recent graduate. 

Those first few years are critical to employers because they are under the assumption that a number of corporate values won’t need a lot of training. With 2 years of experience, you may need training on the specific responsibilities of the job.  You will NOT need training, or will need much less training on: 

  • How to manage your inbox
  • Email ettiquette
  • How to go through a 90-day, 6-month and 1-year review. 
  • How to dress and behave in a 9-5 job.
  • What SMART Goals, OKR’s or MBO’s are.  You may not understand all three, but you get the idea.
  • Etc.    

Think of your early relationships with a significant other when you were back in high school.  I am confident this is more pronounced for women because guys mature later.  Lets say Betty Sue is hanging out with Joey and this is Joey’s first relationship.  Betty Sue needs to train up Joey and explain to him how to be a good boyfriend.  Although there are advantages to being “the first” if you are into that sort of thing, there can be a lot of head aches as well when dating someone that has never been in a relationship.  Joey learns a lot hanging out with Betty Sue and when the two break up, the next girl that Joes meets reaps all benefits of Betty Sue’s training.  Joey hasn’t learned everything about relationships, but he is a lot better off than before Betty Sue.  

And the guy that is hanging out with Betty Sue next will reap all of her relationship frustrations.  He is the one that needs to deal with all of Betty Sue’s baggage because Joey didn’t know WTF he was doing.  Please, no jokes about HR being the place where bitter Betty Sue’s (or Joey’s) go to work.  

There are advantages to being with someone that has been in a few relationships, and one of them is that they have been “trained up”. 

This is why you will see a lot of job descriptions looking for 1 to 2 years of experience.  With one of two years of real world experience, there is a lot less drama and training involved. 

We can all argue that a 25-year-old candidate is more mature than someone that is 21 or 22 but at the end of the day it won’t matter.  Employers are looking for an entry-level candidate that they fully expect to train up these new hires.  We are not looking for particular skills at this point, we are looking for a “go getter / ambitious” attitude and this will be determined via the resume.  A one or two year gap won’t be the reflection of a “go getter.”  

If you are working after graduation for a few years, it will be assumed that you have more “corporate maturity” than someone who wasn’t working that entry level job for a few years. 

So, don’t give up on your career before you conduct a methodical job search.  Entry level jobs are some of the easiest to land. 

See you at the after party, 

HRNasty 

nasty:  an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. E.G.  “He has a nasty fork ball”. 

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to the free updates, or “like” us on Facebook.  Thank you! 

by HRNasty

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College class schedule, the topic you need to study to land a job offer http://www.hrnasty.com/college-class-schedule/ http://www.hrnasty.com/college-class-schedule/#comments Thu, 27 Mar 2014 03:17:10 +0000 http://www.hrnasty.com/?p=5493 Share this on LinkedIn Tweet This! Share this on Facebook Share this on Reddit Email this via Gmail Share this on Google+ Get Shareaholic The most important topic in your college class schedule What is the most important skill to focus on with your college class schedule? Per the promise I made in the last […]

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college class schedule

The college class needed too land a job won’t be in the curriculum

The most important topic in your college class schedule

What is the most important skill to focus on with your college class schedule? Per the promise I made in the last post, this week I reveal what I believe to THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILL NEEDED TO LAND A JOB.  Everyday, I meet with graduates who are applying for entry-level positions with their newly minted diplomas.  Unfortunately, 99% of them are missing the most important piece needed to solving the job offer puzzle.

The last two posts were centered on the skills and topics which should be included in the college class schedule during a 4-year education.  Two weeks ago, the topic was public speaking and why I think this is so important to landing a job and a successful career. Last week’s post pointed out why, English, Accounting and advanced skills in Microsoft Excel will help you stand out in the interview process and then after you are hired. I am not saying to go earn a degree in English.  I am saying that advanced skills in these areas are rare.  They are needed in every aspect of the job and will absolutely make a candidate stand out in today’s economy. 

If you are an effective public speaker, strong writer, and have a better than average understanding of Accounting and Excel; I am confident these skills will put you in the “must call” pile of resumes. Remember, if you are an electrical engineering major, everyone applying for the entry-level engineer position will have an EE degree.  If you have a general business degree, everyone applying for entry-level positions will have a Bachelors or an MBA. What will separate you from the rest of the pack are strengths with the above 4 tools. They separate you because so few candidates are familiar with them and they can be leveraged in any position.  

Effective public speaking and writing is needed to help you land a job and then communicate your ideas once hired.  With Excel, even if you don’t understand the business, you can be put to work on a task that can make a difference in the first week at a new job, and you don’t need to fully understand the business.  When it comes to Excel, it is very easy to prove advanced proficiency during the interview. I would be proactive in making the skill known. I list accounting because every company is working towards a bottom line and most employees don’t understand what that bottom line is.  Most managers assume their employees do not understand financials at even a basic level. Consequently, employees who understand financials are looked at as much more mature than their peers.      

These 4 skills are areas you can improve through your college career.  By the time you graduate, you can make an immediate and significant impact during the job interview and immediately after you are hired. These skills will help you stand out so that when it comes time for your 90-day review, you can not only check the appropriate boxes, but will have had a shot at adding value to projects your peers wouldn’t even be qualified for. 

As promised, this week I reveal THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILL FOR LANDING A JOB.  

What skill do I see most candidates missing?  What do most college class schedules lack during the a $40 – $100K, 4-year education?  Most college graduates have the credentials and degrees needed to land a job.  What most college graduates are missing the specific skills needed to interview their way to a job offer. 

This is a generalization, but I firmly believe that a lot more candidates would be receiving job offers if they knew how to go about the networking, resume, interviewing, and the salary negotiation process.  I don’t believe that this is a skill that graduates are including in their college class schedules. Because of this, my next business will be HRNasty’s job interview boot camp complete with CD’s and interactive videos.  But wait, if you act in the next 10 minutes I will throw in the top interview questions and answers!

Interviewing skills are not just needed so we can land a position, but so we can walk away with a stronger offer.  Knowing how to interview will also make us better interviewers.  Being a more accomplished interviewer will help you build a stronger team. 

Most of the recent graduates I meet fall into two categories. 

Category 1:

Received no exposure to any instruction or mentorship when it comes to finding a job.  Parents and college career counselors may have offered some advice, but the guidance is usually outdated.  I say this because of the old school questions and tactics I see candidates using in todays job hunt. Times have changed and this was proved when so many laid off baby boomers were not able to land jobs in 2007.  

Category 2:

This group is only one step ahead of group 1, but essentially in the same sinking boat.  This group of recent graduates has been through a single, one or 2-hour interview training session, conducted in a large group setting. One or 2 hours isn’t enough time to learn this dynamic skill. We spend 15 to 20 hours a week studying topics in our field of study for 2 years. We spend $50K to $100K or more over 4 years to qualify for a position. Why do candidates spend only 1 or 2 hours learning how to land the job we worked so hard to qualify for? It is tough to learn any skill in an hour, let alone THE single skill that will make the 4-year college investment pay off. Job landing skills are taken for granted at the university level. 

Category 3:

The third category is one I run into very infrequently, but I know it exits. Colleges with solid business programs will have a business club or business association. These clubs offer interview prep sessions and will not listed in the class directory. These informal groups will have an organized program, which will help students with their resumes and interview skills. The sessions are not just 1-2 hours, but are in the 20 – 30 hour range with multiple mock interviews. These candidates usually perform very well during an interview.  If landing a job was the goal of going to school then these candidates received what they needed out of their college experience. These sessions weren’t required to graduate mind you, these sessions were extra-curricular and outside the college class schedule. 

Remember, it isn’t the person most qualified for the job that receives the offer, but the person that is the most prepared for the interview.  

I remember hearing the story of fighter pilot training and I think the analogy is the relatable.  During the World War, it was recognized that if a fighter pilot made it through 7 dogfights, their chance of surviving the subsequent dogfights increased exponentially.  This number seemed to be the magic number where pilots learned enough to be successful and return home. Many pilots failed on their first mission and didn’t return. As pilots approached their 7th dogfight, they gained enough experience to be successful. With this in mind, the Air Force put together a training program that would provide the pilots with the proficiency level of a pilot that had 7 dogfights before sending them off to combat.

I try to use the same theory when I work with recent graduates by getting them to a level of comfort where they can be successful. A single mock interview won’t do it.  This is why I don’t care for the 2-hour seminar that covers networking, resume writing, interviewing and salary negotiation. Getting a candidate comfortable with the equivalent of 7 mock interviews does a lot. With 7 real life interviews, you get the experience, but you do NOT get any feedback on your performance. With multiple mock interviews, you get the most important piece of the puzzle, feedback on your answers and your body language.  We crash and burn in the mock interview, not in the actual dogfight.

If you are in school, my recommendation is to skip the 2-hour interview prep show.  My advice is to beg, borrow or steal your way to the interview prep series of classes put on by the School of Business or MBA program.  If you have already graduated, read and take notes on blogs like this one and Google “top 40 interview questions for “your position here”.  A degree isn’t enough anymore so don’t take the suggested college class schedule for granted.

See you at the after party,

HRNasty

nasty:  an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. E.G.  “He has a nasty fork ball”.

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College experience, focus on these topics to land a job offer http://www.hrnasty.com/college-experience/ http://www.hrnasty.com/college-experience/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 03:55:33 +0000 http://www.hrnasty.com/?p=5472 Share this on LinkedIn Tweet This! Share this on Facebook Share this on Reddit Email this via Gmail Share this on Google+ Get Shareaholic Required topics for the college experience   Last week, we posted on the topic of how gaining specific skills during the college experience can impact a corporate career. There are a […]

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college experience

You have a degree, but do you have the skills to land a job?

Required topics for the college experience  

Last week, we posted on the topic of how gaining specific skills during the college experience can impact a corporate career. There are a lot of pros and cons to the college experience.  The cost of an education these days is astronomical and I often wonder how parents and young people manage.  In my position, I see a lot of young people struggle to land a job after college that will leverage their hard earned and expensive degree.

Last weeks post provided business reasons why I believe that effective public speaking is so important to the corporate career. Not only does the ability to speak in front of others help you with your job interview (think panel interviews and stressful presentations) but it will also put your career on a completely different trajectory. Effective public speaking will separate you from the group that doesn’t like to speak publicly OR doesn’t want to speak publicly. If you have a reputation as being an effective public speaker, opportunity will come. 

This week, I am going to write about 4 more topics that I think are critical to a career in the new economy. 

English

A few years ago, I posted a blog for candidates who are veterans to help these candidates over come military stereotypes while trying to enter the job market.  My father-in-law was a Colonel in the US Army so I asked him to proof read the post before I shared it publicly. My intent was to receive counsel on the content. My goal was to make sure that I wasn’t offending anyone in the military or misrepresenting this demographic.  Well, I hit the content, but the redlined document I received back reminded me of my grade school days. Corrections in red marker were everywhere. It didn’t help that I had forgotten that my father in law taught English at WestPoint and served with General Colin Powell. I realized then and there where the terms “mark up” and “redline” in Microsoft Word originated. I am sure that he was wondering who was the illiterate monkey his daughter married as he was grading the paper. I remember saying out loud and in disbelief:

“WTF is a Dangling Participle!” 

There is a reason that English is more important than ever and it isn’t to learn about the dangling participle.  20 years ago, we didn’t have email, text, voice to text or the various forms of instant messenger / chat. I would estimate that 80% of my communication is via email and most of my “thought leadership” is provided in some form via written communication. Many of us “chat” with co- workers that sit right next to us.    

Make no mistake, I am not recommending an English major if you want a job in corporate America.  30 years ago, an English major could land just about any entry-level job.  In the year 2014, colleges should ask students to sign an English Major Waiver. This document would acknowledge the fact that the student understands the repercussions of approaching corporate America with an English major in hand. This is similar to the way I look for our employees to sign a waiver acknowledging that we serve alcohol in the workplace . Both waivers have their place and their reasoning, but it is probably going to get ugly and you are probably “going to see some shit go down”, so proceed at your own risk and think about your tolerance for the consequences.

With so much communication done over email, it isn’t just updates and general correspondence anymore.  Ideas are only as good as the message delivered. You can have a great idea, but if you aren’t able to articulate yourself, you might as well be mute. Effective writers can type their message once and be done with it. Others need multiple drafts and yet others, should have their fingers removed.  Polished writing has it place in corporate America and poor grammar will give you unwanted visibility. 

Accounting

Both for-profit and non-profit companies need to hit a bottom line and answer to a Board of Directors.  If we don’t know where we are financially, what’s the point of the business.  After the crash of 1999 and 2008 we should ALL know how to read a financial statement.  We should all have some sense of which direction the companies that write our paychecks are going.  This is a stretch, but if we understood basic accounting principles we might not have so much credit card debt and mortgages we couldn’t afford. 

There is nothing more impressive than an employee that is deep in their discipline AND understands the business. Individual contributors understand their discipline. Sr. managers and execs have mastered their discipline and understand the business. They are able to see the big picture and will only be given a budget if they know how to manage one.

Microsoft Excel  

All candidates understand Microsoft Office, PowerPoint, and Word.  When I ask about Excel, the usual response is “Yes, I know Excel”.  When I follow up with “What can you do in Excel?” the usual response is “Lists, sorting and basic functions, yes I know Excel”.  

If I could go back in time and buy a bunch of Google stock I would.  Since I can’t, I will think about the next best thing. If I could go back to school and do it all over, I would focus on Excel or some database skill-set.  The cost of electronic storage has changed the game around how much we care about data.  Recent innovations in the field of Big Data have raised the bar on how companies and managers view analytics. I don’t expect a recent graduate to understand Tableau or MySQL, but pivot tables, joins, sorts and advanced equations will put a recent graduate on the map.

This is my Achilles heel and I continue to take classes to improve this skill set. Had I paid more attention in class, I might have saved myself a lot of heartache.  

Next week, I reveal what I believe to be the MOST important class to take in college to land a job. 

See you at the after party,

HRNasty

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Public Speaking, what you should really study in college http://www.hrnasty.com/public-speaking/ http://www.hrnasty.com/public-speaking/#comments Thu, 13 Mar 2014 02:44:56 +0000 http://www.hrnasty.com/?p=5448 Share this on LinkedIn Tweet This! Share this on Facebook Share this on Reddit Email this via Gmail Share this on Google+ Get Shareaholic Public Speaking is so important Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting on the topic of college and how the college experience can affect professional careers. A few […]

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Public Speaking

Are you ready to take your career to the next level?

Public Speaking is so important

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting on the topic of college and how the college experience can affect professional careers. A few posts that are ready to go include:

  • How the college reputation can effect the job hunt
  • My thoughts on delaying entry to the job market after graduation.
  • The cost of education and potential alternatives to a 4 year formal education

As high school students prepare to graduate, I am running into more and more parents that are visiting colleges with their 3rd and 4th year high school hellions (self proclaimed child prodigies) and I find this entire topic fascinating.

  • From an HR perspective, I know all to well how the education section at the bottom of a resume can impact a career. The college that is chosen will be making a permanent place on the resume for the rest of the student’s life.
  • My parents didn’t visit any potential schools with me so I missed out on this parent / child experience.
  • There are a number of things I wish I did study, pay attention to, or avoid in college that I wish someone gave me the heads up on.

I don’t have any children and so I write these posts fully acknowledging that I do not worry about funding a young persons college education (let alone 2 or 3). I don’t worry about the spawn of HRNasty getting into the “right school”, college debt, or little HRNasty junior returning to the nest after graduation, unemployed. Lets face it, anyone that has read this blog for any length of time knows one thing: I would probably have some unreasonable standards as a parent. Smart Goals would be applied to the academic career. Networking, public speaking and team sports would be the only acceptable afterschool activities and by God, they would know how to handle an interview!

The reason these skills make such a difference is because landing your first job out of school will exponentially make a difference in the rest of our careers. Like a 401K, the earlier you start, the better the long term compounded gains you will realize when you cash out. This is also true with your career.

  • The company you land your first job with will influence the next few jobs you apply for.
  • Your first starting salary right out of school will set the tone for compensation moving forward. Just landing a job isn’t the goal. We want to land a job and negotiate a solid salary.
  • How you present your ideas and communicate will influence how management treats you, what bucket they put you in and their expectations. This directly correlates to what opportunity you will be given.

Now that I am in the working world, there are a few classes where I wish I paid more attention. Like most students, I had no idea why I was required to take many of the classes needed to graduate. We all know the typical algebra question:

If train A is travelling SW at 70 miles an hour and train B is travelling NW at 44 miles an hour, how far apart will they be in 854 minutes?

I have been working for a number of years now, and fortunately, I have not yet been asked to solve the infamous “2 trains” problem. That being said, there are a number of classes where I wish I had paid more attention.

If I had children, I would insist they pay special attention to a few topics beyond their chosen field of study. These topics are based on a career where I have seen recent graduates receive offer letters, rejection letters, promotions, and pink slips and I am confident more knowledge in the following topics would have made a big difference.

This week and next week I will share my thoughts on classes I would insist the spawn of HRNasty pay attention to (If I had to put a couple of crumb snatchers through college). Although trying to figure out how far apart 2 trains will be after 854 minutes may not be that applicable, I believe that strengths and weaknesses in the following courses will make or break a career. This week I share thoughts on why I think public speaking is so important and a skill I wished I developed during all 4 years of my college career. Next week, I will share 3 more. I firmly believe these 4 skills will make or break a career in the new economy and technology age.

Public Speaking

Public Speaking is one of the top listed fears for most of us, ranking up there with the  fear of spiders and heights. Because this is a fear, without realizing it, we avoid public speaking, public speaking classes, and public speaking opportunities. In reality, we should be doing the exact opposite. We should be signing up for classes, joining Toast Masters and volunteering for public speaking as often as we can. EVERYONE will be involved in public speaking at some point in his or her career. If you are not involved in public speaking than you can assume that your career has a lot of room for growth and that your manager is making a conscious decision to honor your fears. Even if you are working in a role that is traditionally not customer facing, being a spokesperson inside the company will help your career. Effective public speakers are desirable to ALL hiring managers. Whether it is public speaking for potential customers or internal presentations within the company, strong public speakers are a strength I know all hiring managers which they had more of within their teams.

I meet a lot of candidates that are nervous in an interview. I can see they are nervous and they know they are nervous. I get this. Candidate can be so nervous, they literally let me know, “I am really nervous” (heads up: don’t say this in an interview). Public Speaking skills will lesson this fear and WILL make a difference in how you present yourself. This transfers to how you will do in a job interview, salary negotiation, presenting your ideas to management and your career for the rest of your life.

As candidates, we assume that a resume is the first step to landing a job. When I have helped candidates with their resume, landing the interview didn’t mean doo doo if they didn’t know how to communicate, handle the interview questions or the negotiation process. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. I feel very fortunate that I never had a fear with public speaking. I was started on a musical instrument at the age of 3 ½ years old and went to school on a music scholarship so getting up in front of the public wasn’t ever a fear for me. I just didn’t know any better. When I landed in corporate America, I became qualified to facilitate the company’s proprietary public speaking classes. This was a class where participants learned how to EFFECTIVELY speak in public. This class helped me more with my career than any other class and I can easily say that participants also said it was the class that made the biggest difference for them. I completely believe it helped me get to where I am today. I strongly recommend debate, presentation skills, public speaking, speech or ToastMasters.

Next week, 3 more critical skills to concentrate on during your college career.

See you at the after party,

HRNasty

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. E.G. “He has a nasty fork ball”.

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Executive networks, how professionals leverage their way to a new position http://www.hrnasty.com/executive-network/ http://www.hrnasty.com/executive-network/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 04:17:30 +0000 http://www.hrnasty.com/?p=5437 Share this on LinkedIn Tweet This! Share this on Facebook Share this on Reddit Email this via Gmail Share this on Google+ Get Shareaholic The executive network experience Last week I posted a typical experience when I am asked to meet with a recent graduate.  This week, I want to compare and contrast that experience with […]

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executive network

“When opportunity knocks on this guys door and he isn’t home, opportunity waits.” For the rest of us, be interesting with your executive network my friends.

The executive network experience

Last week I posted a typical experience when I am asked to meet with a recent graduate.  This week, I want to compare and contrast that experience with what happens within the executive network.  I want to shed insight on how experienced professionals network.   

When I meet an executive, I may or may not have a position open.  95% of the time I do not have an open position, but this doesn’t matter.  Good executives are always networking.  They are not just using the executive network for themselves and their careers, executives are also networking on behalf of the companies they work for. 

Meeting new people in your industry is ALWAYS a good thing.  You receive the opportunity to learn about new ideas, new technologies, and yes, new job openings.  All managers want confidence that their team is networking.     

How it usually happens:

I receive an email introduction from a friend or acquaintance. The introduction could be from someone I have met briefly years ago, or my mentor who I listen to unconditionally.  You never know where the next candidate will come from and it doesn’t cost me anything to listen.  Helping others is ALWAYS a good thing. The email introduction provides background on why I should meet and it is set up with more of an attitude that this is “two people meeting over coffee” vs. this is a candidate for your open position or “you should hire this person”.  Even if we have an open exec position, the meeting is positioned as:

Sally is interested in learning more about your company

vs.

Sally is interested in your VP position

There is a difference in the two above pitches and at this level a couple of differentiators are taking place. Sally isn’t just looking for any job, she is looking for the right fit.  She isn’t going to try and squeeze herself into any job because she is confident in her skill set.  She knows what she wants, she knows where she will be successful, and more importantly, she knows the type of environment where she will not successful. There isn’t any pressure on me.  I don’t have to think about “declining” someone if they haven’t applied. 

Sally will do a number of things with her executive network that a recent grad will not.

  • Sets up a meeting a few days in advance.  They aren’t giving any indication of being last minute or desperate.   
  • Respond quickly to email, phone and texts.  I won’t have to wait more than 12 hours for a response and in most cases; I won’t wait more than 2-3 hours. 
  • The meeting place will be convenient for me.
  • The exec will arrive early, and appropriately dressed, AKA business casual. 
  • We will both have done a Google search on each other, we will have reviewed each other’s LinkedIn profile. 
  • A resume may or may not be forwarded before the meeting.  No one will pull out a resume in the face to face and the last thing anyone will do is walk me through the resume bullet by bullet. 
  • Out of a 45 minute meeting, it wouldn’t be unusual for at least 10 minutes of chit chat before getting down to ‘business’.  We are both professionals so we will BRIEFLY describe our prior backgrounds at a very high level. We don’t need much more than this, as we have already done our homework.  The exec asking for the meeting will take a bit more time than me, but we both realize this will only be a 45 minute meeting and we can always schedule a follow up.   
  • I will be asked some specific questions about the company but a lot of the questions will be confirmations of what was researched.  Throughout the conversation, it will be reinforced that the exec did their homework.
    • “I read about this new development, can you tell me more?
    • “I read bios of the management team, can you tell me more?”
    • “Your careers page presented a fun company culture.  Can you describe the culture of the company?”
    • “What do you like about the company?”
  • The conversation will evolve with a lot of back and forth.  It will be obvious between both of us if there is a potential fit.
  • Somewhere in this conversation, the exec will ask me if they can help me with anything.  Who can they refer to me so they can help me fill a position?  What company can they introduce me to?  This isn’t just a one way street.  This is mutual respect and loyalty.
  • The exec will usually close me by asking to meet with someone else from the company / exec team.
  • I will receive a timely thank you email / text.
  • Over time, I will receive follow up emails where articles and news updates are shared.  Just enough to let me know that I am still being thought of.  In a single word, “effort”. 

Last week, I boiled my experience with a recent graduate to 3 very sad bullets.  I list them here for convenience.    

  • Young person shows up in jeans and casual dress.  No hint of business casual dress or the even the ability to suit up. “I am looking for a job”.
  • “Here is my resume”.  We share a single copy for the rest of the meeting.  (I guess they wanted to save a tree.)
  • “What should I do?”

Hopefully the difference is apparent.  None of the above happen within the executive network.  All of the above bullets make me think twice about how I will be represented if I refer the recent graduate to someone in my executive network.   

The executive has demonstrated effort.  The recent graduate barely showed up.  The executive is taking control of their destiny.  The recent graduate is looking for a softball and this is the Major leagues. 

Like anything that will get you ahead, networking takes practice and building a network takes time.  Networks were not built over night.  Unlike most new skills, by the time we have graduated from school, we have had practice that is relative so the switch shouldn’t be tough.

I am usually the shy and quiet one in a room or a meeting. One thing that has helped me is the realization that once two parties find something in common with each other, it is easier to form a relationship.  The trick is to keep asking questions until we discover we have something in common with the other party.  This is why everyone wants to be with the “most interesting person in the world”.  AKA, the Dos Equis man. He has done so many different and interesting things, he can find something in common with everyone.  Men want to be him and woman want to be with him.  Next time you are nervous about meeting someone new, just make sure you offer to try and help out rather than use your connection to “step-up”.  You may or may not be able to help, but you’ll never know until you ask.

How do you network?  Leave your suggestions for others in the comments, and be interesting my friends.  See you at the after party.

HRNasty 

nasty:  an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. E.G.  “He has a nasty fork ball”.

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