A SHIFT IN THE MARKETPLACE

Posted on: January 10th, 2017 by
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There’s been a major shift in the marketplace over the past few years. This kind of shift happens every so often. This is one of those times.

Some may remember the 1967 classic movie The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman as Ben? At Ben’s graduation party, a guest asks him “What are you going to do now? 
 Ben: I was going to go upstairs for a minute. 
Guest: I meant with your future, your life. 
Ben: Well, that’s a little hard to say. Guest: I just want to say one word to you – just one word. ‘Plastics.’
There’s a great future in plastics.”

And so it was. But what is today’s “Plastics” from yesteryear?

Five to ten years ago the brick and mortar stores were marketing “Black Friday” as a shopping experience and dominant source of holiday sales. Who ever heard of “Cyber or Green Monday”. And yet today, much of the shopping experience is over the web. Sears, J.C. Penny and local bank braches are closing across the country because of on-line services.

The shift that has been going on over the past ten years has a technology impact on both our work and personal life. If you’re not wired into technology, professionally or personally, you’ll be left behind. There’s been a dramatic expansion of interconnectivity, where heretofore independent or isolated products or services are now connected. It can remotely turn on radios, heating/cooling systems, or larger applications like electrical grids, traffic lights, satellites, drones or submarines. All connected through the Internet.

The question is: Where do you fit into this new world, either as a user or producer? Here are just a few of the multitude of job opportunities that are hot right now:

  • Cyber Security – This is a problem and an opportunity for the next 10 years or more. Preventing hacks, auditing, finding and correcting unauthorized access is a very hot field that has a demand equation that can’t be satisfied.       Plus it’s in demand no matter which industry: Government, private sector, non-profits, and consultants
  • Big Data – This field looks at large quantities of data and distills it to usable information for the host organization. Again, most large organizations are seeking talented people with a skill and inquisitiveness to search for answers among reams of facts, numbers, records, documents and files.
  • Video, mobile, social networks and on-demand customer experiences – Even though this field includes vastly different industries and functions, the application is to connect all these facets to providing quick, low cost, efficient ways to provide value to the customer.
  • Logistics – How do you get products or services from point A to point B in the quickest way and for the least expense? This field includes warehousing, distribution, transportation and all of the intermediate steps, all interconnected by electronics and computer.

Ask yourself, given my field of expertise, how can I use the power of technology to advance my career, and where do I access the skills and experience needed?

For a FREE assessment of your resume, send to: wkaufmann44@gmail.com


2017: ADVANCE YOUR CAREER

Posted on: January 3rd, 2017 by
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Why should you develop a long-term strategy toward your ultimate career goal? Because short-term decisions can take you off course, from which you may never recover.

Think about it. If you leave your current job and make the wrong decision, it’ll take you a minimum of a year to figure out that you need a change again. When that change takes place and you get credibility in your new job, a full 3 years may have passed. Heaven forbid you make a second bad decision. You may never recover.

So, what are the strategy steps to advance your career? Target your ultimate career goal, develop benchmarks in 2 to 5 year increments, gain breadth and depth in your chosen field, and plan the expansion of your skill sets while finding and becoming a mentor. The six steps in more detail are:

  1. Define Your Ultimate Goal: What is it that you want to achieve long term? The head of your own company? Vice-President of Marketing for a fortune 500 company? Retire by the time you’re 50 years old? Each of these goals means a different strategy to get there. Develop strategy steps in 2 to 5 year increments, by looking at least 2 to 3 jobs forward.
  2. Continually Develop New Skills: This step has two parts: Upgrade new skill sets in your primary function and learn new skill sets that complement your next function. Both of these can be done by certifications, advanced degree or new applications in technology. Top executives expect everyone to grow their skills.
  1. Expand Your Horizon and Experiences: Join Rotary and an industry association, write articles for a trade journal, teach at a local college are all ways to keep up to date. Volunteer in a non-profit organization or join a community board of directors to learn senior level skills. You’ll be interfacing with your peers (and also with potential bosses).
  2. Learn To Communicate Effectively: Continually critique and upgrade your communications skills: Writing, speaking, observing, listening, and non-verbal language. Practice on your own and in front of those you trust to provide helpful suggestions. Ask for tips on how to improve.
  3. Look For Expanded Duties and Be Flexible To Change: Change is continual, both in opportunities and in ways to improve performance. Many revolve around improved effectiveness and efficiency. Technology can play a major role. Be a leader in suggesting change and managing the change process. You’ll be noticed.
  4. Find and Be A Mentor: Find a mentor to help “pull” you up the career ladder, while you mentor others who will “push” you up the success Continually look for a mentor who will take you under their tutelage, while you become a mentor to others. This is one of the key contributions that top management is looking for within their organization: Leaders who develop talent.

Careers are planned, designed and developed over time. It doesn’t happen by accident.

Want a FREE resume review? wkaufmann44@gmail.com


SOARING EAGLE OR FLAILING PIGEON?

Posted on: December 27th, 2016 by
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Remember in grammar school when you were put into reading groups called Robins, Bluebirds, or Cardinals? It didn’t fool anyone! All the students knew who were the better readers. The same is true with performance appraisals.

Performance appraisals are difficult, causing angst and issues between supervisor and subordinate no matter at what level and which function: CEO’s or a new employee in the mailroom. So what’s the problem, what’s going on in the marketplace, and what can be done to improve the process?

The problem? Many companies are getting rid of traditional performance reviews. Some jobs are difficult to measure, appraisals can be highly subjective, may be biased, and employees generally don’t feel they get enough feedback to help them perform at the highest level. Supervisors may not be trained to give meaningful performance reviews, plus appraisals are usually tied to pay. Annual appraisals are too long a time-line to be effective.

The marketplace? Major corporations around the country are changing their performance review away from a much-used point or numerical systems to something more objective. Younger employees are not comfortable with the way performance appraisals are done versus older employees who are used to the old methods. And when you’re searching for the brightest talent, companies should apply their best tools rather than their old tools.

What can be done? Here are some suggestions:

  • With your supervisor, mutually define objectives tied to the annual operating goals of the company, division, department or work group. Make it compatible and relevant.
  • Define the expectations for results between the supervisor and the employee before the start of the appraisal period
  • Change the numeric system to a descriptive system using adjectives: Outstanding, Good and Needs Improvement; or High Performance, Standard, and Below Standard Performance.
  • Identify the performance levels for each descriptive adjective before the start of the appraisal period. Describe what High Performance looks like; the same with Standard Performance and Below Standard Performance: Use metrics if possible, but objective statements if not.
  • Supervisors should provide direct and immediate feedback at the performance benchmark times, but at least every 3 months. Document the feedback. Waiting a year before receiving feedback on performance is unacceptable In this day of instant communications,
  • Supervisors must provide instructions to improve performance at the time of the performance rather than months after. The supervisor should receive specific feedback as to what the employee needs or requires for support. Document it all.
  • All workers are looking for a coach more than a critic, but especially younger ones,

Less than half of employees see the old systems as helpful to improve their performance; others view appraisal meetings as contentious and not helping to elevate the relationship with their boss. Employees look for support and helpful alternatives, but often will only hear negative criticism of their work.

In summary, performance appraisal systems should improve performance, not hinder it.

For a FREE assessment of your resume, send it to: wkaufmann44@gmail.com


VIRTUAL TRENDS IN THE MARKETPLACE

Posted on: December 21st, 2016 by
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Two very talented women, whom I have mentored in the past, are now mentoring me. One is a former MBA student who is now a Senior Management Consultant. The other is the Chief Learning Officer of a high tech company. They mentor me with insights about what’s going on in the marketplace and new trends.

Both comment to me about what talented people need to know. Here’s a recent comment: “I have hired most of my team through Skype interviews Bill. We even use Skype for business meetings with our virtual teams now. Virtual meetings are here to stay, and to know how to position yourself for best advantage over virtual media, is definitely a must-have skill.”

A number of my past articles have focused on interviewing with Skype. The question now is:

“What skills do you need when applying for a job that entails telecommuting, virtual meetings and cybernetic teams?” Here are some thoughts.

VERTUAL INTERVIEWS: For more details, see my archives about Skype interviews.

  1. Look at the red light (camera) which is the same as eye-to-eye contact
  2. Put post-notes on your screen. They can’t be seen but are like “cliff notes”
  3. Let your personality, style and positive attitude show through. It may make the difference
  4. Dress and act the same as if in an office interviewing your future boss. You probably are.

VIRTUAL MEETINGS: This item is about structure and sequence rather than content.

  1. Survey the participants to identify agenda items and distribute before the teleconference
  2. Define the outcome for each agenda item: Decision? Discussion? Recommend? Alternatives?
  3. Make sure everyone has all the information they need in order to take the action required
  4. Define the “to do” items for follow-up and the person responsible, after the virtual meeting
  5. Teams must self-determine their meeting times and content rather than a supervisor

VIRTUAL TEAMS: An overview about what it takes for a successful virtual team:

  1. Senior management must be able to support, endorse and operate a team-based organization
  2. Virtual teams must have a common goal that everyone agrees and commits to for its success
  3. Performance levels are dependent upon complementary and interdependent skills, clear goals and expectations, along with individual commitment to the group. Trust and collaborate.
  4. “Shout out” and celebrate positive results. Mutually share successes
  5. Strategies must be team-developed for executing action plans, tasks and time-lines
  6. Interpersonal relations must be finely honed, especially the “rules” for solving problems
  7. Leadership within the group usually rotates depending upon the issues and content at the time

These are skills, attitudes and relationships that many organizations expect from their employees. If you’re still operating under the “old set of rules” like autocratic management, non-participative work groups, or a “do as I say” mentality, you’re working for a dinosaur and part of a dying breed. Also, none of the skills above will work.

For a FREE assessment of your resume, send to: wkaufmann44@gmail.com


HOW TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS?

Posted on: December 13th, 2016 by
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Interviewing for a job would be so much easier if you knew the questions ahead of time. You could develop the best possible answer for each question.

But wait a minute. You should know most of the questions because they only have your resume from which to work. It stands to reason they will use that document to ask you what you did, how you did it and what were the results.  OK so far, but what about the questions that aren’t on our resume? Here are a few of them and a summary of how to prepare.

    • TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF. Match your experiences with the top 5 items on the position description. Provide a crisp but positive critique given the needs of the hiring manager.
    • WHAT ARE YOUR CAREER OBJECTIVES? Saying you want to expand your responsibilities to better support the needs of the company is always a good response. Everyone wins!
    • DO YOU WORK BEST AS AN INDIVIDUAL OR AS A TEAM MEMBER? Careful here! State that you work best as a part of a team where you can contribute as an individual. This may be your best response. Give credible examples as a member of a team and as a leader.
    • WHY SHOULD WE HIRE YOU OVER ALL THE OTHERS? Provide them with new ideas that may be helpful alternatives, and potential solutions. Don’t tell them you have all the answers.
    • DISCUSS YOUR PROFESSIONAL DISAPPOINTMENTS – Be ready with a story of unmet expectations that didn’t happen and how you handled it. The key is what you learned.
    • HOW DO YOU TYPICALLY DEAL WITH CRITICISM? – The interviewer is looking for your attitude toward pressure and how well you respond to it: Emphasize people over things.
    • HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH DISAGREEMENT WITH A SUPERVISOR– The interviewer is looking for your ability to lay out your case logically, while accepting the boss’s decision.
    • WHAT ELSE DO WE NEED TO KNOW? WHAT ARE WE MISSING? A real curveball question unless you’re prepared. Don’t be put off balance. Have a list of items ready. Cite activities that parallel the interests of the company, like community support activities.

As a general rule, the simplest answer is usually the best answer. Complexity can get you into a tangle of conflicting responses. You must do the necessary research to understand the key elements of the company for which you are interviewing. If not, you’ve already lost the interview to other candidates who have done their homework.

Your primary objective is to stand out as a candidate. These questions are poised to answer the ultimate question of why a company should hire you. If you’re prepared you’ll become the candidate of choice over those who are not ready.

Take control of your destiny. Let me help you succeed in the marketplace.

For a FREE review of your resume, send it to: wkaufmann44@gmail.com