Thursday, December 16, 2010

If you get in the pool, good things may happen.

I use the term “getting in the pool” as a metaphor for entering into an environment that on the surface feels uncomfortable and unsatisfying. But, once one gets used to it, the experience may end up satisfying.
In a work context, that uncomfortable new environment could be represented by accepting a position that deviates from your preferred career path; it could mean considering temporary, contract, or consulting work; it could mean taking a salary less than you are accustomed; or it could mean doing work, you thought you’d never do again.
As a career professional, my role is to support forward movement, and to help people realize their goals. I don’t advocate anyone accepting unhappiness at work. However, in this job market, I believe it’s important to try and be part of the workforce whenever possible: get in the pool, and good things may happen. It beats waiting on the sideline.
I realize there are many folks on the sideline, who would love to be back in the workforce, but are having difficulty making that happen. If one has been out of work for over a year that in itself creates a major hurtle for employment. Thus, it’s important to consider finding a way back in, even if it’s not in an optimal situation.
This point goes back to the old saying that “it’s easier to find a job, when you have one.” One would think that given the high unemployment numbers in the US, unemployed job seekers would be given the benefit of the doubt. That is true for short periods of unemployment--six months or less. However, when one has been unemployed for a year or more, with very little to no work exposure during that timeframe, that job seeker is at an even greater disadvantage. Even in this job market, potential employers worry about why someone who has been out of work for a long time is not getting hired. Resumes with long periods of unemployment, cause potential employers to pause. If they are comparing two candidates with similar stills, they will usually feel more comfortable with the employed candidate, versus the one who isn’t.
In my years of recruiting I’ve seen first hand that activity leads to opportunity. It’s a given that a job seeker should be sending out resumes, networking, interviewing, and talking to people everyday. In the current job market, as many have found, that still may not be enough to land the right position. If job search activity is not doing the trick, perhaps getting back into the workforce in some other capacity could help. Even if a job is not ideal, there is value in leaving the house everyday to go to work. Meeting new people, making new contacts, learning new skills, learning new software, getting exposed to a new industry, or career function, all can potentially open new doors that you hadn’t even thought of. Your overall job search doesn’t need to stop, but now when you make new contacts, you can say you’ve been working. Working on a contract basis, part-time, volunteering, or even in a different type of position, is an easier sell to a potential employer, than saying, you’ve been looking for work for the last 18 months and haven’t found the right position.
There are of course drawbacks and pitfalls to accepting just any type of job, or working too long as a temporary worker or consultant. But, jumping into the workforce in some capacity may end up creating new opportunities that sitting on the sideline may not turn up.

If you get in the pool, good things may happen.

If you get in the pool, good things may happen.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Q3 Job Market Update

Another quarter has ended and it has been two years since the stock market crash of 2008. Since that time the job market has not really recovered. I have interviewed more than 200 candidates since the crash, and the most popular question is "is the market getting better?" This is a loaded question; it is better now then it was in Q4 of 2008 and all of 2009. The problem is, it is better than terrible but not a healthy job market.

This last quarter Alchemy has seen an increase in activities such as candidate interviews, new roles being created, etc. This is a good sign BUT we need to see companies hire people, not just interview them. We have been successful in matching people and companies but it takes a great effort on all parties to make things happen. The bottom line is, activity has increased but hiring hasn't. We believe hiring will increase soon, hopefully Q4 2010 but not at a level we consider healthy, but better than it has been in 2009 and so far this year.

A current trend (more so now than in the past) is commitment to the role or the candidate. Hiring managers need to express strong interest in the candidate from the beginning so the candidate stays focused on them and not move towards another role or continue to shop around for new opportunities in other companies. Additionally, if candidates have multiple interviews in multiple places it is more difficult to attract them and to get the candidates through the interview process. If you are a candidate you need to sell yourself to the hiring manager from the beginning and not come across as if you are unfocused or hard to get. Companies want people who are well qualified and are VERY focused on the role at hand "this is my ideal job" is what needs to be said and must be convincing. There are too many candidates interviewing for a single job, many candidates are equally qualified so you need to separate yourself by being more interested "committed" to the role and company then the your competitor.

Since I was late with this update I will update the blog in two months with a snap shot of Q4 and the upcoming Q1 2011. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or need some help.

Happy Hunting!

Bryon McDougall

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It’s That Time of the Year

As we get approach November, with days getting shorter, the weather changing, and the end of the year just around the corner, there is a temptation to slow down, throttle back, and even think about hibernating. With this kind of mind-set at play, people can lose valuable time, not to mention the momentum they’ve been developing in their search for a new job. I believe that it’s a serious mistake to dial down one’s activity during this time of year.

One of the reasons I feel this way is that, in contrast to the conventional wisdom, this is actually and excellent time to remain active. During the last couple months of the year, many people go low key, saying to anyone who’ll listen, “I’ll get busy again when the New Year starts.” By staying active, your odds naturally improve. This is also a great time to hone your current skills and develop new ones, putting you in a much better position to address the question “What have you been doing the past several months” with honesty and conviction.

Another reason to stay active is to keep any momentum you’ve developed working for you. It’s hard enough to make steady progress in this process and what a shame it would be have to start all over again in the New Year. Sticking to a disciplined approach is one of the keys to the process and I’ve seen time and again that those who stay in the game are those who ultimately get the best results.

Finally, as I’ve said before, there is no time like the present to do networking. This should, of course, be a consistent and year round activity, but many people let up during this time of year. I’d like to suggest that this is an excellent time to become even more active with your networking. If you were attending one professional meeting a month, try going to two, or even three. Not only are those contacts likely to pay off in the New Year, but with the possibility that people are in the “holiday spirit,” you may have an easier time making good connections during these meetings.

I recognize that this time of year, with busy schedules, family commitments, and the like, it can be a real challenge to keep active regarding work and career. It’s also very tempting to say to oneself, “It’s only a couple of months and I’ll hit it hard again in the New Year.” I hope you won’t do that and will stay active and focused during the next couple of months. You might find answers to key questions or make important connections that turn out to be critical in your search for new work.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Friday, August 27, 2010

Patience and Persistence Will Prevail

In spite of recent efforts to improve the employment picture, it’s looking more and more like a job market recovery is nowhere in sight. Whether unemployed or underemployed, future prospects look and feel bleak. There is an emergent sense of anxiety and desperation for these millions and the many more that support and depend on them.

Career coaches teach their clients how to network and leverage their resources, how to build and market their skills, and how to remain flexible with their goals and plans. These strategies, effective in a “normal” job market, seem less so in the “new normal,” where there as many as five people available for every job opening. No wonder there is a growing sense of frustration and despair.

So, what does this mean for someone who is looking for new employment? The simple answer is to become very skilled at the art and practice of transition, with particular emphasis on being patient and persistent. This is neither new nor particularly profound advice, except to say that it is truer now than at any time in the recent past.

Patience is the ability to keep things in perspective and recognizing that things will work out over time. Being patient teaches us to not get caught up in the non-rational aspects of the transition process and to understand that how we move forward has a great deal of impact on our ultimate success. Some things to help with patience:

Ø Remind yourself that the process unfolds one step, one action at a time.

Ø Don’t put pressure on yourself and others to move things along faster than is normal and natural.

Ø Recall that you have been through challenges before and remember the lessons from those past experiences.

Ø When you are feeling discouraged, give yourself permission to take time away from the process.

Persistence is the behavior that combines discipline with an appropriate sense of urgency. This includes being active and focused every day, reaching out to others even when feeling unsure of oneself, and to act as if our actions will yield positive results. Some things to help with persistence:

Ø When you think you have finished for the day, take one more step, make one more call, send out one more resume.

Ø Remember that staying connected is important to the process; take steps to develop a disciplined follow-up practice.

Ø Don’t take “no” as the end of the process; instead, see “no” as an opportunity to ask one more question or make one more request.

Ø When you get frustrated or stuck, step back, take a couple of deep breaths, have a good laugh, and begin again.

In conclusion, remember that patience and persistence go hand in hand, and both must be appropriately tended to for the process to give you what you want.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Q2 Job Market Update

Since my last entry in March we have not seen any changes to the job market. In March there was a sense that the market was getting better. In Q1 we did see more postings and client requests resulting in more interviews for potential hires.

Unfortunately many of these job openings/new hires have not really come to closure. Why is this happening?

Companies have many people to choose from and will see many candidates before deciding on who is best for them. The slow economic/sales growth allows this to happen because for the most part they are able to get by with the human capital already in place. Additionally most people who are on the market don't have many options so they are on the market longer, companies are not at risk of losing a candidate if they don't move quickly. Over time the ideal person is not identified or is lost in the process. Either the process starts over or the company decides to change the specifications thus creating a different job but not filling the orginial opening.

In other cases positions are created and filled but the process takes many weeks from the first interview to recieving an offer. The lack of turn over means more people are interviewing for the same role, a role that one person will recieve.

Unfortunately we don't see a change in the near term. One of two things need to happen - companies (most) need to see a clear increase in demand for products and or services before investing in human capital. OR - Capital markets need to support IPO's which will allow smaller businesses to invest in building their organizations. The Bay Area has many companies looking for the IPO window. Once the window opens and multiple companies go out we will see jobs opening up not only in the growth companies but the companies that support them and the companies that lose people to the new companies.

This summer may be as tough as last summer. If so you will need to work hard at finding your next job. Cross your fingers this is not the case. If we have a slow summer the demand should pick up in the fall and by then we hope to see companies and the capital markets take off.

Please feel free to reach me if you want to talk about your job search and how you can increase your chances of getting hired.

Happy hunting!

Bryon McDougall

Monday, May 3, 2010

Texts and Tweets and Profiles--Oh My!

From cover stories in Fortune to millions of everyday interactions and conversations, social media and their role in the job search and career transition process seems to be on everyone’s mind these days. Besides the obvious enabling aspects of these tools and their particular strengths and quirks, one persistent question comes up over and over: Do these build stronger relationships or are they more transactional, making us feel that we are building something meaningful that may ultimately be something far less than that.

There is no question that these new tools, when used well and as part of a disciplined approach to transition, are powerful and help the process to move along more smoothly and quickly. They do, however, have the quality of lulling us into thinking that these connections are as real and meaningful as those we have created through face to face meetings and interactions. The reality is that they do not.

We believe that meaningful connections take time to create, requiring a mindful and nurturing approach to building a longer-lasting relationship. Social media allow us to be and feel connected, but they are not designed for, nor do they encourage the building of real relationship. Instead, their use (and overuse) can create a dependency, a laziness, if you will, that actually can inhibit the building of strong relationships. Furthermore, in our experience, it is these deeper relationships that are key to finding and keeping meaningful work.

As many who are searching for meaningful work realize, social media have a powerful and growing place in how we drive the process. We encourage the adept and savvy use of these tools to support and even accelerate a well thought out job search or career change. However, if your plans do not also include a vigorous commitment to “traditional” networking, including regular face-to-face and voice-to-voice connections with old friends and colleagues and new contacts, all the tweets, texts, and well-written profiles will probably not get you where you want to go.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Networking Tips

Below is a recent e-mail about networking, followed by my response:

Question: Up until now, I have been very successful in my career. Now that I’m between jobs, I find myself shying away from doing what I understand is key to transition, that thing called networking. What can I do to get over this and how can I be more effective in my networking?

Answer: Networking is the way most professionals get re-employed and find meaningful work, and though most know this, many are still reluctant to practice “purposeful” networking. This means developing a disciplined process of connecting with others that is in line with your natural style that you can do with clarity, authenticity and enthusiasm. Here are a few tips:

Develop a brief and compelling elevator pitch that focuses on who you are, what you do, how do you do what you do, and what kind of help you need from the connection.

Follow your curiosity: What is it that you need to know or learn? What advice do you need? What information will help you move forward?

Practice reciprocity: Be in a position to offer your help, ideas, advice, even if this will be given later.

Start with the people you know and move out from there: Everyone who knows you will probably say yes to your request for help and is also likely to have their own interesting set of connections and relationships that you can tap into. Implied here is that you must ask everyone you meet for referrals to other connections.

Develop a disciplined approach: Make networking integral to your transition activities and be sure to continue purposeful networking for the rest of your work life.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Friday, April 2, 2010

Whining Your Way to a Meaningful Job Search

I recently facilitated a job search strategy session for a group of 15 mid and senior level professionals and managers. It began with a great deal of complaint about how bad the job market is and how it’s probably going to stay that way for the foreseeable future. After a fair amount of ranting, a couple of participants commented that the “whining” was counterproductive, as well as being annoying to listen to. Once that was acknowledged the whining shifted to a whole other level: Even when I get my next job, it will probably not be what I really want . . . it might pay less . . . it might not be a long commute . . . and so on.

Before long the whole group realized that the energy they were expending in whining was feeble and a-not-very-effective way to connect to what they hoped their next job or career would be like. So, we began to discuss how their whining was distracting them from their efforts to express their values, their desires, and what they really wanted. This lead to a discussion about how they needed to reframe their story from a lament (I hope I get something . . .) and a complaint (I’ll take anything at this point . . .) to a coherent and authentic statement of what is important (This is who I am . . . , what I can do . . ., what I want . . .) and then make necessary adjustments and compromises from there.

They began to see that experiencing the job market as a victim (and hence the continuous whining, as in, ”Why don’t they ever return my calls?”) was counterproductive and started to recognize that a more powerful stance was to see themselves as co-creators of their future. For some people in the room, this was a relatively easy shift—they saw that their previous way was ineffective and, being pragmatic, they could justify making a change; others were at a stage of readiness to hear a new message and were open to considering that there are other ways to conduct their job search. Nearly half the group, however, stayed stuck in their whining and being a victim, and even though many examples were offered to contradict their positions, many became louder and more adamant in their whining.

The bottom line is that each of us always has choice in the matter of how we look for work or change our careers. We can do it the way we always have done it, and “hope for the best,” whining all the way. Or we can step back and look for new options and possibilities, and choose a different path to achieving our goals. By the way, when the session ended, most were still whining as they left the room.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Q1 Job Market Update

Do you hear the job market is getting better? I read a Mercury news artical that CEO's plan to hire more than fire in 2010 ( That is a good sign! But it is all talk at this point, we like to see action. We need companies to pull the trigger on making hires rather than just say they are going to hire.

From last summer to December we were at a all time low in terms of job opportunities/search work. The market has picked up from that point, I tell people when you are at or near zero it only takes one or two things to creat significant growth. We have that going on right now in terms of jobs to talk about (search work is up >25% from December). We have seen an increase in our temporary work force as well. We hope this continues and companies start hiring the people they interview not just interview and find a way not to make a hire.

If you are wondering what industries to target I suggest looking at where the Venture Capital money is going. As I have mentioned in previous blogs The PWC Money Tree is a good resource ( The Bay Area leads the country in terms of raising capital for new companies. Last quarter more than 34% went to Bio-tech and Medical Device, more than 19% to Software,11% went to industrial/energy and nearly 9% went to media and entertainment. When doing search industry background is important to employers, if you have an opportunity to jump into one of these industries your market value increases. If you are not in one of these industries we can provide guidance on how to break into them.

Next quarter I hope to report a better employment market with hard evidence that we are moving in the right direction. If you have questions or like to talk about your employment search please call or send me an email.

Happy hunting!

Bryon McDougall