Thursday, October 4, 2012

4 Actions To Take While Looking For Your Job

Okay. You have graduated but you don’t have a job yet. Welcome to the 55% of graduates who are in the still hunt for their first job post tassel turning. Does this mean that the remaining 45% have found a job? Heck no! They are working part time, have gone to grad school, enlisted in the military or have holed up in their parents basement playing  Grand Theft Auto V. Feel alone? Don’t. Feel unprepared? Well, you don’t need to. While you are looking for a job, there are many things you can do with your time to prepare yourself for the first job you want to land.  This is critical as many future interviewers will ask you “so, what would have you been doing with your time since you graduated?”  Going to Burning Man, competing in Beer Pong tournaments and building yurts in New Mexico probably won’t impress many would be hiring managers…unless they have lived in a yurt.

You can take several approaches but this is what I would recommend that you focus on:

Skill Development

If your interest is in sales….take a course in sales skills. Marketing…learn as much as you can about social media marketing. Biology? Who knows but there are business classes specific to bio-med. Take an extension course. WHAT? You mean…go back to school? YES. Get a professional certificate in the field you want to pursue. Gaining knowledge through course work taught by working professionals verses professors will be extremely enlightening. There is a professional society or certification program for darn near every profession. Search on the internet for a professional certification program in the field you are interested in. Odds are with a little bit of money and additional time invested, you will be more qualified than the other candidates who are applying for the same job.


There is no shortage of a need for enthusiastic volunteers. Find a non-profit in your area, contact the Director and ask to meet with them about where you can contribute. In exchange, ask them to be a reference for you. Business organizations like Junior Achievement are always looking for people. If teaching is your goal, find out if you can volunteer 20 hours a week at a local school. Find an organization that supports a cause you believe in and volunteer.

Communication Skills

Demonstrating superior verbal and written communication skills in business is essential. Sadly, college does not adequately prepare students to be effective communicators in a business environment. The ability to speak confidently, concisely and with relevance will distinguish you from other candidates. So, do you tremble at the thought of speaking in front of a group? Contact a Toastmasters group in your area. They provide a supportive professional environment where you can stand up and learn how to speak publicly. Dale Carnegie has been training business professionals for over 50 years in the craft of gaining confidence through communication. You think this is too old school? Get over it. Odds are your bosses's, bosses's, boss took the same course and will be impressed that you did too. The point is you won’t learn how to speak confidently in a business environment Skype-ing with your cousin in Cleveland who graduated 2 years ago and is working in shipping and receiving. There are many professional organizations who can assist you in improving your communications skills. Find one. Join. Improve.

Build your network

You have a LinkedIn profile, right? If not, click on a browser, go to and develop a profile. If you are not on LinkedIn, you are already invisible to the business world. If you are on LinkedIn start to expand your network by doing the following:

1)      Join your college alumni LinkedIn Group.
2)      Find groups that are associated with the fields you are interested in pursuing for a career and join them.
3)      Invite others to connect on LinkedIn. Classmates, professors, former employers, friends. Work as fast as you can to build up a network of 200 1st level contacts, then 300, 400 and more.

The value of your professional network is more than invaluable. It will be your lifeline at some point in your career. Lay the foundation now.

Where you a member of a club, sorority or fraternity? Did you play a sport, participate on the debate team or sing in the choir? Search for former members of the club, team or singing group who have graduated and are working in a field you are interested in. Your common association will get you in the door. Ask them for input. Ask them what was the path they took that resulted in their current position. I will bet you a latte that more that 60% of the people you reach out to will respond and be willing to help. Give it a try.

Finding a job IS a full time job. It requires tenacity, patience and a strategy. It also demands that you spend your time wisely so you have meaningful evidence to show how you spent your time while you were spending your time looking for a job.

Keep at it. Don’t lose hope. Move forward. Great things will happen.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bet On Vets: My Challenge To You

How was your Labor Day?  Did you BBQ with friends and family? Chill out at the beach? Pound out a round of golf at your local club? For most of us, this Labor Day is spent doing anything but labor.  Heck, most of  us don't even want to think about our jobs on this holiday. We are content to take a nap, garden and get off the grid all together. 

There is however an important part of our jobless population that would love to be forgetting about the job they wish they had and those are veterans who have completed their military service but have yet to find employment. On this day, many unemployed veterans are sending out resumes and applying for jobs on or other job sites. Sure, they are spending time with family and friends but many wish that today was simply a day off from a job that was theirs.

So, my question and challenge to employers is this: Do you have a deliberate hiring strategy that focuses on hiring veterans? Sure, you might be open to hire a veteran if they apply but my point is different that merely being open. I am suggesting that you develop an intentional hiring strategy, approved by the executive staff and shared with the board that will accomplish the following objective: At least 10% of your workforce will consist of veterans you hire over the next 2 years and then at least 15% in the years to follow.

Why hire veterans? They are motivated, committed and disciplined. They bring an array of skills to your company that many other candidates don't. Veterans don't want to be given a hand out. They want an opportunity to compete for the positions you are seeking to fill. Military service prepares veterans for all kinds of jobs in the private sector and you should be considering veterans for every appropriate position they could be qualified for.

As you go back to work this week and begin to look at Calendar Q4/FY2013 hiring plans I challenge you to make hiring veterans a key performance indicator (KPI) for your HR and talent acquisitions teams. If you do, future Labor Days will have even more significance than simply a day off.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What Marissa Mayer And I Have In Common...

...and it is kind of well, embarrassing. Perhaps you have seen this recent article It is piece that claims that Marissa Mayer hired a new CMO at Yahoo while her current CMO (now ex-CMO) was on vacation. Yikes! Now, I don't know if this is exactly how it all went down but if the account is even partially accurate...not good!

Oh yeah. So, what exactly do I have in common with Marissa? I made the same bone headed move at one point in my career. Yes, i started to recruit for someone's replacement while they were still in the job and of course they found out about it. If that wasn't so bad, the fact that this person was actually a friend made it even worse. 

"How could I do that?" you ask? Simple. Lack of experience, lack of courage and poor judgement. Whatever reasons Mayer had for handling her situation the way she did really doesn't matter. It was handled poorly. So was mine. By the way, Marissa Mayer and I are not the only ones to make this mistake. It happens all too frequently in Silly-Valley. That doesn't make it right. 

What is the lesson to be learned? Leaders need to lead with courage, clarity and conviction. When making a transition with someone you inherited in your new job it is ALWAYS better to be straight up and clear with your intentions. There is no need to nuance these situations. If you are an incoming CEO, VP of Sales or Sales Manager and you are going to make personnel changes, handle the matters with integrity and directness. Make the changes quickly and don't mislead anyone by saying "hey, you are a member of my team...I don't anticipate making any personnel moves until after I get the lay of the land".  People can sense the B.S. from mile away. For your sake (and reputation) as well as for the good of the other person, tell them the truth and get it done quickly.

I am sure you are wondering if I am still friends with the person I treated so poorly. The answer is yes. He was gracious enough to look past my mistake and I count him as one of my closest friends. And guess what? Karma can be cruel as the very same thing happened to me a few years later. I was in a senior executive role and the CEO began a search to replace ME while I still held the job. Nice! Payback can be a beeoch!

The moral of the story is handle these situations like the leader you are or want to be. That way you can stay on the good side of the Karma Gods.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Time To Hire Gen - Y!

They’ll make up 33 percent of the workforce by 2014. In fact, they comprise nearly one-third of all Americans living today (as estimated by the Harvard Business Review). They’re Generation Y: the offspring of Baby Boomers and the new crop of employees clamoring to the top.

I’ve said before that the job market has changed in favor of applicants.  If you don’t believe it, try to quickly hire a Ruby on Rails developer in San Francisco. It won’t happen fast or inexpensively. As the economy slowly recovers, the hiring in technology companies has quickened. They’ll be competing for the best new talent, which means if you want a stake in this promising workforce, start paying attention to what the Gen – Y talent pool has to offer.

First, we need to alter our perceptions of today’s talent. Once you do, you will begin to see the positive characteristics of Gen-Y.

1)  They’re redefining what makes a great place to work: Foosball tables…. oh so yesterday!  They are looking for an opportunity to make an impact.

2)  They are choosy, despite a tough job market. Strange? Not really. It’s up to you to be an employer of choice. Top talent out of top schools are highly recruited.  That’s an easy one. The talent that will give you the best return on your hiring dollar may not be from a top school. They are driven, focused and have a competitive edge.

3)  Certain attitudes, behaviors, and skills set them apart from Gen-X and make them highly valuable employees. What do I mean? Two words. Social media. They live it, know it and breathe it.  It is in the enterprise and these workers can exploit it to business’ advantage. They are self-confident, socially connected, and digitally savvy.

4)  They have a strong work ethic, but well-defined needs: “We’ll come in at 7 and stay until  8, but let us hit the gym at 11 if we want to.”

Alright, for those of you over 40…stop rolling your eyes. It took me a while to embrace what this prized population has to offer. I am now fully on board and I suggest that you jump on this train before your winded self gets left behind.

There are many good reasons to hire Generation Y.  I will address all of these, and more, in later posts.  There’s no doubt that investing in this unique group will pay off. 

Hire them. They will work hard and make a positive impact on your business.

Friday, June 29, 2012

You Made Your Number! 4 Immediate Tactics For Next Quarter

For just about every company, private or public, the "end of quarter Friday" is either a reason to celebrate or a grave cause for concern. The CEO, CFO and VP of Sales have been exerting consistent pressure on darn near every functional area save for engineering in order to meet or exceed the number. At the end of the day...and literally, at the end of THIS day your sales organization will have either hit the number or missed the number. There are no Shades Of Grey (50 or otherwise) when it comes down to sales performance. You and your team made it...or you didn't. It is a cruel reality that the sales executive lives in. By the way, when you run your business on you most likely knew this past Monday or even before that the number was in hand or not. If you run your sales organization with a Sales Enablement solution from The Savo Group,  you would have dramatically increased your probability of success. Check them

Today, I have advice for sales executives and managers that MADE their number. First of all, congratulations! No matter how great your CEO thinks the product is and that it could sell itself, making the number in this market is tough. Pat yourself and your team on the back for a job well done. Now, exhale. Now, inhale. Good. It is time to focus on the next quarter which starts on Monday. Here are 4 tactics you can deploy in order to set the tone for next quarter's success:

1) Scour The Pipeline: Make sure you have an acutely accurate understanding of what transactions are real and can close within the first 20 days of next quarter. There are bound to be deals that pushed. Get on top of why each deal didn't close and assess the integrity of each. Start the quarter knowing exactly where you stand. 

2) Build On Success: You have momentum going for you. Don't let that momentum fade even though it is 4th of July week and a number of sales people are taking all or part of the week off. You can't afford to have the team mentally checkout one week of the quarter. I know, you will hear lot's of reasons that this next week will be slow. Don't buy into it. Those who do will regret it in about 10 weeks. Set the tone and make sure that everyone knows the number the organization MUST hit this quarter and what their individual quota numbers are. Schedule a conference call first thing Monday or at the latest Tuesday to get everyone on the same page.

3) Reward The Performers: There are a number of reasons why you hit your number. There are many people who contributed to making that happen. First, recognize each account executive or sales representative who met or exceeded plan. Do this in the next all hands meeting or on the upcoming conference call. A little positive reinforcement can go a long way. Sure, they will earn a nice commission check but kudos extended is very powerful.  Be sure to give thanks to the often unsung contributors in Sales Operations, Finance and Operations. These people work very hard in support of the sales team and deserve to be praised.

4) Fine Tune Your Plan: Be ready for the predictably classic line from your CFO as you walk by his office at the end of the day..."well, you got lucky and hit your number, what are you going to do for me next quarter?" Now....exhale. Now....inhale. Keep walking and remember that he (usually) just can't help himself. Ignore him for sure but do have your plan set when you walk in the door Monday.  This plan should include deal review, organizational assessment and changes required, key customer focus and risk analysis. If there is any bad news that needs to be dealt with, get out ahead of it. Don't wait to act. Expect everyone on your team to get their plans in place within two days of the new quarter. 

Again, congratulations on hitting the number. If for some reason you didn't my next post will be for you. Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame. Rest and recover over the weekend. On Monday, the climb up the mountain starts all over again.

Mike Vanneman
TVG Executive Search.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

5 Steps To Interview Success

You have done everything right so far. Great resume, strong phone interview, made it past the internal recruiter and now you are scheduled for your first in-person interview with the hiring manager. It is at this point that the well prepared candidate can differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack. That's what you want to do, right? Blow away the competition for this job! You are going to sit down in front of your soon to be new boss and wow them with your wit, personality and expertise. You are going to get this job! Confident? Ready? Not completely? Well, follow these five steps and you will be:

1) Research the industry and company: Everything you need to learn about your next employer is on the world wide web. Amazing! Look into the industry the company serves, how they are positioned, what market share they hold. Become familiar with the company's  services and products so you can refer to them in the flow of the interview. Be ready to present their product or service if asked. Smart candidates walk in to the interview knowing how to sell or market what they will be selling or marketing for the company they want to join. Type up several pithy and insightful questions that are relevant to the industry, company or role to ask during the interview. 

2) Image is everything: Present yourself in the most professional manner possible. When you aren't sure what to wear to the interview, think conservative dress. Leave the jeans, sandals, short skirt and lounge wear for the weekends. (Believe me... at TVG Executive Search...just when we thought we had seen it all...). Be well groomed and rested. Don't go out on a bender the night before. When you greet the hiring manager for the first time, step forward confidently, look them square in the eye and shake their hand firmly without fracturing their index finger. Positive first impressions create lasting impressions. Make the introduction count!

3) Don't get too personal: Establishing a solid rapport is essential. Elaborating on you recent vacation or bragging about your kids (or parrot) isn't a way to accomplish this. Certainly, you would have researched the hiring manager's background on LinkedIn and identified a few commonalities. If so, reference them discretely and indirectly in the conversation. Don't try to lay on the secret hand shake if you just happen fraternity brothers. You goal isn't to become BFFs in the interview. Your job is to get the job. Eight five percent or more of the conversation should be devoted to the opportunity. Fifteen percent or less should be about your personal life. If they ask you about your interests and hobbies, provide an answer without great detail. You will have plenty of time to get acquainted AFTER they hire you.

4) Ask for the job: These days, there is no such thing as an "informational interview".  If you are there interviewing, the assumption is that you want this job! If not, what the heck are you there for and why are you wasting their time! Therefore, as the interview is coming to a close, take the lead and say "based on everything we have discussed, I feel I am extremely qualified for this role and know I will be an outstanding contributor to the company's success. I very interested in joining your team. What are the next steps in the process?" They can answer any number of ways. The point is to ACT as though you are the "IT" and assume they will want you. Confidence is attractive. Ambivalence is not.

5) Follow up: Within 24 hours but not within the first hour, send the hiring manager an email thanking them for the opportunity to meet and recapping 3-5 reasons why you are the right person for the job. Call them within 48 hours to inquire about the next steps. If you don't hear back within a day after your call, call them again. I see nothing wrong with demonstrating a keen desire and consistent follow up until you get the answer that, a) you are moving forward in the process or, b) for some reason they went in a different direction. Either way, invite the hiring manager to connect on LinkedIn. You never know how that introduction could be of benefit in the future.

Act on these 5 points and you will stand out from the other candidates who didn't have the good fortune of reading my blog!

Mike Vanneman
Founder - TVG Executive Search

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Learning From Jeremy Lin

You have to be living on Mars if you haven't heard about Jeremy Lin, a rising NBA star playing for the New York Knicks. Waived by two previous NBA teams, this Harvard educated point guard was playing for an NBA D-League team in some podunk city when he was called up to the Knicks due to a raft of injuries to their staring players.

I don't know about you but Jeremy's success has struck a cord in me as well as in a zillion other people on the planet. It has become a personal story, a story we can be inspired by and a phenomenon we can learn from.

So, what can you learn from Jeremy Lin? You don't have to improve your outside shot, lower your turnover ratio or even go to the gym. What you need to do is think about how you will respond to new challenges, impact your organization and adapt to change. Let's see how Jeremy responded to the opportunity to play under the ultimate sports microscope in New York City.

Seize the moment: Jeremy wasted no time in making an impact for his new team. As soon as Jeremy hit the hardwood at Madison Square Garden, he began to post numbers few players have ever put up. He joined an exclusive club of 15 players since 1985 that have posted at least 20 points, seven assists and a steal for six games in a row. This club includes Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Chris Paul ... and now it's newest member Jeremy Lin.

Think about when you started a new sales job or took the reigns of a sales organization. How quickly did you make an impact? In today's environment you had better hit the bricks running. This means quickly building a pipeline, landing a large deal or making necessary organizational shifts. Move fast, take advantage of the opportunity, make an impact. You don't have a long run way so you had better blast off!

Improve others around you: After the Knicks beat the Los Angeles Lakers and Lin scored 38 points, the Knicks locker room was giddy with excitement. Jeremy's consistent performance has changed the team chemistry and how the other players react on and off the court. The Knicks are revitalized, focused and loose.

There are daily opportunities to impact your team's chemistry and the performance of your peers. Are you lifting up your group through leading by example? Are you demonstrating focused consistency in your sales strategy and activities? A former CEO of mine Al Sisto often said that "sales is an event driven process". It's the ability to string together a series of meaningful events that bring value to the potential customer which ultimately results in a sale. It is executing the fundamentals. There is no short cut. Jeremy's success is largely due to his ability to pass first, shoot second, find the open player and not be selfish with the ball. Your success is directly linked to the activities you consistently execute in the sales process and helping others in your organization do the same. When everyone executes the same plan at a high level, quotas are exceeded and customers win.

Embrace change: Lin entered the NBA on July 21, 2010 by signing with the Golden State Warriors. The Bay Area was thrilled almost as much as Jeremy was. Raised in Palo Alto, CA Jeremy attended Palo Alto High School where he led them to and won the State Basketball Title his senior year. With no scholarship offers, Jeremy attended Harvard University and elevated the Crimson to national basketball prominence. He won in high school, he won in college and entered the NBA expecting to win. Then, change happened. The Warriors waived him. The Houston Rockets picked him up and quickly cut him. The Knicks signed him on the cheap and promptly sent him to their D-League team. With each new transition Jeremy practiced hard, kept focused on his goal and overcame discouragement. Then another change occurred. He got the call up to the Big Show and took full advantage of it.

Change is a constant in all of our lives. Organizational shifts occur all around us, like it or not. Your ability to embrace the change, even when it temporarily may not be to your advantage, could lead to professional growth and new opportunities. Fighting change and resisting the inevitable will only lead to frustration and may not work to your benefit. Of course, there are some decisions that should be challenged or issues that require push back. I will leave it to you to decide when you should fight for a different outcome. Maybe the change is too much to take and you decide to leave the team. That happens. However, most of the time we are faced with changes in role, strategy or personnel and need adjust. If so, see the change as an opportunity and find a way to make it work for you and your company.

If you haven't already jumped on the Jeremy Lin bandwagon, hop on board! You will not only watch some great basketball and be a part of something special but might just learn some valuable life lessons watching the kid from Harvard.