Thursday, December 27, 2007

Renew for the New Year

Amid the chaos of the holiday season it can be hard to find time to sit and reflect on your accomplishments from the last 12 months, as well as enable yourself to recharge your batteries for the coming year. With all the energy one puts into year-end deadlines, holiday parties, shopping, travel, children out of school, in-laws, etc, by the time January roles around, the renewed energy needed to start the new year off on a high note, may not be there.

To help get you into a positive mindset as you navigate year end, here are a few simple exercises you can do to help recharge, renew, and refresh yourself for the coming work year.

1) Reflection

· Do an objective self evaluation of the year gone by
· Describe to yourself the lessons you’ve learned over the past year

2) Appreciation

· Think about all of your accomplishments over the last year
· Express appreciation for yourself and the people around you that have made your life better

3) Vision/Planning

· Clarify what is most important to you
· Indentify a vision for your goals in the coming year
· Establish a plan and the steps you’ll take to reach these goals
· Commit yourself to this plan

With all the turmoil that surrounds us in today’s world, in and outside of work; it can be difficult to maintain the perspective of our values, and stay on track with our long term goals. Hopefully these exercises will provide a little help. If you need further help, check out Alchemy’s career services.

--Steve Hernandez

Friday, December 21, 2007

Are you Successful . . . and Exhausted?

I’m working with a client who is extremely successful in her career. She came to see me because she is concerned about why she feels so tired at the end of her work day. Granted she puts in long hours working for an organization that is growing fast, but she is energetic, in her mid 30s, and sees no reason why she should feel so spent at the end of her day.

It turns out that her job, which on paper looks like a good fit for her skill set, is actually a mismatch in two fundamental ways. The first is a misalignment between her talents and the needs and demands of the job. And secondly, there is a disconnect between her values and those of the job and her organization. Her work, she said, feels boring and meaningless. It is thus no surprise that she goes home exhausted.

If this sounds at all familiar, what is one to do? First of all, you need to recognize that using your talents in your work is one of the keys to feeling energized and usually leads to a work day that is easy and natural. You can know what your talents are by exploring what came/comes easily and naturally for you, what tasks and activities energize you, and what things you tend to do and think about when no expectations are placed in front of you.

Values are key to your sense of satisfaction with work. To understand your values, you need to take a deep and thoughtful look at what is most important to you. If you are feeling a sense of emptiness, meaninglessness, or lack of purpose, chances are your values and work are out of synch. Take time to articulate your most important values, defining what they each mean to you, and then asking yourself how you want and need those to be a part of your career.

Knowing and acting on your talents and values are keys to feeling energized and satisfied in your work. Alcehmy’s career services can help you to figure these things out and then find ways to build them into your career. For more information, check our web site for a current schedule of programs or feel free to e-mail or call me with your questions and comments.

Mark Guterman

Friday, December 14, 2007

Seize opportunities for non traditional growth

I just read an article on the Yahoo Finance website called “More Than One Road to the C-Suite.” The article talks about how in the current employment market, one doesn’t necessary need to pursue a traditional career path, hold all the usual required step positions, to become a CEO. Traditionally, one would have needed the experience of being a VP, Sr. VP, then President, or COO, coupled with the necessary degrees and certifications, in order to fulfill the milestones of legitimacy for a CEO.

According to this article, these traditions have changed a bit. In today’s job market, it’s possible to get to the “C-level” through non-traditional means. Now, having a strong network, a unique, diverse breadth of experience, a charismatic presence, and strong communication skills, mixed with the right organization, and set of circumstances, one can find themselves in the “the corner office.”

After reading this article, I thought about how this theme applies even more significantly to careers below the C-level. At Alchemy our specialty for placement is the accounting and finance field. These career paths tend to be traditional in the way they view advancement. One usually needs to have obtained the appropriate education and certifications, and well as the required experience, before advancing to the next level, or moving into more strategic/analytical disciplines.

However, despite these traditions, over the last year, I’ve seen many candidates leapfrog positions, reach manager and director levels ahead of schedule, and move into more analytical/strategic roles more fluidly. I believe this is happening more frequently because of the Bay Area’s shortage of skilled candidates. Because there are fewer and fewer candidates available with the specific technical skills that growth oriented companies need, to stay competitive, hiring authorities have gotten more liberal. They’ve been paying more attention to a candidate’s potential for growth and development, versus basing their hiring decisions solely on direct experience and credentials. I believe companies that take this approach give themselves an advantage in the marketplace.

Right now candidates with a proven track record, who are hungry to move up or move into parallel disciplines, should seize these opportunities. Because, as the economy slows down, so will career growth opportunities, and companies will probably go right back to their traditional hiring methods. Learn more about Alchemy:

--Steve Hernandez

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Importance of Attitude, Intention, and Perspective in the Job Search

I’ve been working with several clients recently who are in the final rounds of interviewing, eagerly anticipating job offers. In each meeting, I’m constantly reminded about the importance of how each person approaches their interviews. This means that how one shows up for the interview may be as critical for success as the skills and experience one has. I’m specifically thinking about three intersecting components: Attitude, Intention, and Perspective.
Attitude is the belief that we will get the job offer despite any previous rejections or earlier disappointments. Think about it this way: You are one of two equally qualified candidates for the job. Your competition is pushing hard to sell their skills and qualifications, seemingly confident, but underneath not fully believing they will get the offer. You, on the other hand, believing you will get the offer, are relaxed and see the interview as a time and place to share your story in a positive and compelling manner. You convey an inner sense that the job will be yours. Who gets the job offer?
Intention is the ability to be in the moment and not being overly concerned about the future or getting bogged down in the past. It means that as we go through the interview process, we listen in order to learn and we use that real time learning to demonstrate our capabilities. We express appropriate enthusiasm, but do not get overly eager. We tell our accomplishment stories with justifiable pride, but do not feel the need to say any more than is necessary to make the point.
Perspective is seeing and appreciating the span of our career for what it is: the good, the not so good, and everything in between, and using that knowledge and understanding to present ourselves as the unique and gifted person we are. A past failure becomes a powerful learning experience. An impossible boss has shown us how to be a better manager and taught us skills in influencing without authority. A merger, followed by a layoff, has taught us how to be agile and resilient.
I believe it is important to pay attention to each of these throughout the job search process. As we become aware of these subtle aspects of what we bring to the table, we become more able to communicate with clarity and confidence, thus enhancing our ability to convince a potential employer that we indeed are the best candidate for the job. I will have more to say about these in future blog entries and we address these issues in our training and coaching. For more information about upcoming workshops or individual coaching, please click on the link . . .

--Mark Guterman

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Bay Area Job Market, how do you fit in?

One of the questions I am always asked by a job seeker during an interview is “tell me about the job market?” The discussion is then centered on the person’s skills and industry background and how the candidate matches with talent demand from Alchemy’s clients. Additional factors such as work location and compensation are also very important and are addressed. Since this is the most popular question I will update readers quarterly with a focus on what our firm specializes in, search for Finance & Accounting, Information Technology and Human Resource professionals. According to the California Employment Development Department these functional areas represent 35% of “high wage/high demand” jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Currently the market is very strong but with the holidays and year end coming there will be fewer new job starts from Mid December through Mid January. We see the market picking up from middle of January with a gradual increase in demand though June of 2008. An assessment will be made in the first quarter of 2008 to relay market information beyond June.

Alchemy Search Partners supports private sector businesses in all industries – primarily corporations that require technical people in accounting/finance, human resources and information technology. These companies are required to follow SEC guidelines, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, governmental guides for work force management. They also need people to develop/perform products and services that the company sells or provides to clientele.

At this time every publicly traded company is looking to hire in these areas. How does this happen? More established companies with lower percentage growth lose people as there employee’s career growth is only satisfied by moving to a new company. Newly created jobs exist in any growth businesses and newly formed venture backed company’s. According to PWC Money tree nearly 2.5 Billions dollars was invested in the third quarter in Bay Area start ups. This represents nearly 35% of all Venture funding in the country. A large percentage of the funding is spent on human capital. The number of job openings by company depends on the company’s growth and ability to retain existing employees.

What is in demand today? Technical skills and the ability to communicate and work with others. We see more demand for Accounting jobs to do or manage technical accounting work. Financial Planning and Analysis roles exist but are primarily at the senior staff level. Information Technology candidates with knowledge of the most update cutting edge technology are in great demand especially at the senior staff level, management roles have been in less demand. All industries are looking to hire – financial services, professional services, bio-technology, real estate and all high technology related industries.

What is different today then in the late 90’s is employers are not hiring for talent alone and in many cases looking for people to bring experiences that will help build policies and infrastructure. Relevant work history and the ability to prove technical ability are required. Most hiring managers want to look at three to five candidates before making a decision. Unless the company is growing exponentially the hiring managers and staff share the additional work load or hire consultants to fill the void until the ideal candidate is identified. The search process may take a great deal of time since identifying the ideal candidate may not result in a hire due to competition and counter offers. The process continues sometimes taking many months to complete. The jobs are there but hires are made when it makes sense at every level.

How do you fit in? How marketable are you? Factors such as career progress, industry background and technical ability are key. Certifications and strong educational backgrounds are always desired but in many cases both are not required. If interested in learning how you fit in the Bay Area job market my phone and email address are on the Alchemy Search website

References to information provided in this blog:

Venture funding in the Bay Area - and

Job creation numbers -

Bryon McDougall

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In today's evolving job market, does frequent job movement adversely impact your job search?

Based on my recent experiences, the short answer is yes! One of the biggest hindrances to a successful job search I’ve seen over my last 12 years as a recruiter has been excessive job movement on a resume. I sometimes hear people say (mostly job seekers) that the standard for job stability in the Bay Area has changed over the last few years: that “nowadays frequent job changes, and a resume that displays abundant job movement has become the norm for the Bay Area job market.”

To some extent I agree with the point that standards for job change have gotten more liberal. As a result of the boom in the late nineties, the volatile nature of Bay Area companies, the growth of consulting/contracting as a career path, and the new standards by which many younger professionals make career choices, exposure and learning based, versus stability based, the standards for job tenure have shortened. In the last few years, I have witnessed a paradigm shift in what is considered “excessive job movement.”

When I first started recruiting in the mid-nineties, having 5 to 10 years at the same job was the desired norm. Nowadays, staying in the same job that long may put candidates at a disadvantage. Their skills might be considered stagnant, not up to date. What most of my hiring authorities like to see these days is a track record of staying in the same job for three, maybe four years. Two years in a job is even considered acceptable. What I’ve also seen is even if there are a few short blips in one’s work history, of say 1 year or 6 months on a job, that could be overlooked, provided there’s a long term employment history that shows stability.

Thus, I have seen a change in the standards for acceptable job tenure. In the last ten years, I believe most employers have gone from expecting 5 to 10 years of job stability to accepting 2 to 4. To me, that’s a huge change, and it’s come as a result of hiring authorities adapting to the influences of Bay Area work culture.

However, I still see job seekers who have a track record of 6 months to 1 year in jobs in the span of a 2 to 5 year period, struggle! In cases like this, I hear hiring authorities from a variety of industries, including technology, asking the question, “why has this person moved around so much?” They express concerns about the candidate’s ability to perform, adapt, be patient, make good decisions, show commitment to an organization, “see the big picture.” Or, “perhaps an employee, who constantly needs to be stimulated with new projects, should consider consulting, or contracting.” All of these are issues I’ve frequently addressed when working with candidates who have excessive job movement on their resume.

The good news for those who have moved around a lot in their career is that Bay Area unemployment is still reasonably low, and we live in an extremely skills based economy. Therefore, if one has up-to-date skills in their field, a good network, and they are able to package their profile effectively, there is a good chance they can garner enough interest in their background to generate interview opportunities.

In January, Alchemy will be delivering a group career program that tackles this subject matter. The program is designed to help job seekers with excessive job movement better position themselves to get interviews, and make themselves more competitive to get job offers. For more information about this program and Alchemy’s career services, please click on the link.

--Steve Hernandez