Why Networking Is So Important As We Get Older

12/02/2015 03.07 EST

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They may have more experience, but job seekers over 50 are unemployed 5 to 8 weeks longer than 30 to 49 year olds.  That’s according to a study by Professor Connie Wanberg at the University of Minnesota.  We may immediately think the reason is age discrimination.  Although that may be a factor, it is also true that this group is more selective in maintaining personal and professional networks.  Researchers found that older people on average have smaller social networks than younger people.  I am sure that news is not surprising and it implies we become more discerning about who we associate with as we get older.  On the other hand, the connections we have are critical as we launch a job search. Therein lies the dilemma.   No matter what your age, what can you do to expand your network and boost your chances of landing that job?   Actively seek out new projects to learn something new. It stretches your thinking and enhances your knowledge and experience base, but also introduces you to new people and expands your network. Reach out to former co-workers and college friends. LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media tools make it easy.  Rekindle those friendships now rather than waiting until you need to ask for a favor. Join a professional association. By attending events, you will gain more knowledge and perspective about your profession.  If you actively participate, you will also grow your network and be seen as a leader in...

Hong Kong Meeting

10/22/2015 02.46 EST

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I’ve just returned home from a global IIC Partners meeting which was held in Hong Kong this year.  We had three days of meetings with our partner firms from around the world, and spent a lot of time talking about talent, leadership, executive search and executive assessment.  There were 35 firms participating in the conference from around the world:  18 from Europe, the Middle East and Africa; 6 from Asia Pacific and 11 from the Americas.   I’m always struck by both the similarities and differences in our work across the globe, and I learn a great deal from our discussions of best practices, industry trends and new developments in our field.   Here are some observations and takeaways gleaned from the three-day meeting:   The Rise of Digital. One of the presentations focused on the explosion of digital tools that impact the executive search industry. Although our firm uses every one of the ten tools discussed, over 40% of the firms report that they don’t use social media resources at all.  That was a shocker to me. The world of retained executive search is diversifying. Many firms spoke about their executive assessment practices and the development of market mapping tools.  This is particularly true of firms in Europe, where retained executive search seems to be a bit less prevalent. While every firm is obsessed with how to provide the highest quality services in the shortest amount of time, there is a growing sentiment that excellent work...

One Space or Two?

10/01/2015 11.55 EST

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I recently read an article whose subject was how to tell if someone online is over 50. Two of the telltale signs listed include having an AOL email address and putting two spaces at the end of a sentence. Some others include using “thou” in place of “you” or inviting your colleagues for lunch at the automat, although those seem to be coming back! (Eatsa)   The implication of the article is that it’s in your best interest to eliminate these old-timey habits in order to mask your age, particularly when searching for a job. Now, it has been ingrained in all of our heads that age bias exists in the employment market. Many of us believe that, given the explicit choice, a company will hire a younger employee for any number of reasons: cheaper, easier to train, less likely to leave for a better opportunity, etc. While I’m not going to argue that age bias doesn’t exist, I do think its prevalence is overstated in today’s hiring environment.   My rationale relates to the undeniable shift in the way companies and individuals view employment over the past 20 years or so. It has become more and more about the work rather than the social contract that employment has historically entailed. What matters more is that the relationship between the company and the employee is mutually beneficial and works to achieve a common goal. When that mutual benefit dissipates, so does the relationship (as it should). These...

Perfecting the Customer Experience: Four Qualities of Successful Customer Service

09/03/2015 11.25 EST

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How many times have you become frustrated with a customer service operation? I would be surprised if everyone hasn’t had a similar, less than positive, experience. This recent encounter of mine may sound familiar: I called a company’s customer service department and I was placed on hold for 20 minutes. Eventually, my call was disconnected. Then, I reconnected with the customer service department and the representative on the line couldn’t help directly. As a result, I was passed off to several of their colleagues, with each person asking me the same questions. Once reaching a customer service professional who could help, I had a great deal of difficulty understanding them. Either their phone system was poor and muffled, or I was connected with their outsourced colleagues in the Philippines or India. In the end, I still did not have a resolution to my problem.   As a result, when you do reach a customer service department that is exemplary, it really stands out. What does above-average customer service entail? Here’s what your experience should look like:   Consistent: One person should be able to handle and answer the questions and problems of a customer. Avoid passing the person around to your colleagues as much as possible. If you need to enhance your knowledge to solve the issue, find out the answer quickly and remain the consistent contact with the customer.   Results-oriented: Be tenacious and find the solution to the problem. Call the customer back to ensure...

Why the Small Things Matter

07/30/2015 11.03 EST

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Our firm has just completed the process of filling two new positions with recent college graduates.  It took us a few months, and, at the end of the day, we were very happy with the outcome.  Along the way, we were surprised by a few things and frustrated by others.  I thought it would be worthwhile to share some of our observations in the spirit of helping all of those new job seekers still out there pounding the street.   We don’t do a lot of off-campus hiring, so the first step we took was to list the positions with the career centers of some local colleges and universities. To our surprise, we got little or no response. I know everyone complains about the quality of the assistance they get from their career centers, but this response made me wonder if students are even paying attention to the listings of open jobs available to them.   We were surprised by how people composed cover letters responding to the posting (one started with, “Hey Jennifer”) and even how they spoke on the phone. Small things – like answering the phone for a scheduled telephone appointment by saying, “Hello Jennifer, this is Pete,” impressed us much more than the person who just picked up and said, “Hello.”   Some people applied for specific jobs despite not having the required background or experience. That may not be a non-starter if their resume included a cover letter acknowledging the lack of...

I really can’t wait to see social recruiting at its best. Until then…?

07/01/2015 03.11 EST

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I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the current crop of social recruiting experts out there are simply full of it.  In a vacuum, this statement is going to delight one of my partners, who routinely rejects any application of ”science” to the “art” of retained search (yes, we know you had to walk ten miles barefoot to school every day, Grampa John).  However, I believe that social recruiting, and the creative use of current and future applied technologies, will have a huge impact on talent acquisition and the way we engage with the individuals we want to join our companies.  But here’s the thing:  I just don’t think the people leading the charge at the moment are very good at it.   I’ve reviewed the published lists of social recruiting gurus and the bios of speakers at talent acquisition and human resources conferences.  From these sources, it would appear that the two most significant qualifications required to be anointed a guru are: “I tweet a lot!” and “I have a ridiculously large number of LinkedIn connections!”  This, my friends, is a very low bar.  However, the demand for social media expertise is high, and if you tweet more than your clients then, to them anyway, you are an expert.   I equate the current state of the burgeoning social recruiting consulting industry to the state of retained search in a booming economy.  Just about anyone can throw out a shingle and make a quick buck...

Parents’ Guide to Helping Their Child Find a Job

05/27/2015 10.42 EST

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Salveson Stetson Group hosts an annual College Seminar for our clients to support their family members who will be graduating from college.  At this seminar, we focus on providing advice to students on how to effectively look for a job.  In addition, we spend time with parents and discuss how they can best support their children.   It has been a very successful and well attended event each year.  As you can imagine, many parents have greatly encouraged their children to attend with the hopes that our advice will land their child that elusive first job.   We have to navigate through a sensitive path with parents at the College Seminar.  First and foremost, they are our clients.  We want to help them, but also ease their anxieties about their children.  Some are frustrated, as they don’t believe their child has been active enough in the job market.  Others are concerned that their child seems aimless with little direction regarding what they intend to do with their life.  Some parents are ready to have their children “off the payroll” and actively participating in the world of work and want to ensure they are able to find the best job for themselves.  Bottom line – we see it all.   One interesting aspect of the College Seminar program is allowing parents to vent their concerns, hopes and dreams for their child, along with their frustrations.  Naturally, it becomes a supportive environment where parents learn from one another.  Here...

Emerging Issues in Executive Search

04/29/2015 03.16 EST

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Last week I attended the annual Global Conference of the AESC – The Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants – in New York City.  This is the sole organization that represents the $11 billion global executive search industry.  The mission of the AESC is to serve as the voice of excellence for executive search and leadership consultants worldwide.  This year’s conference was attended by about 200 search professionals from 23 countries, and it was organized around three themes – innovation, inclusion and intuition.   I have attended this conference for many years and served on the Americas Council of the AESC, so I have a rather good sense of where our industry has been and where it is going.  Here are some observations about things that have changed – and some that have stayed the same – over those many years.   When I first began to attend this conference in the late 1990s, there were only a handful of participants from outside of the US, and a handful of women attendees as well. It was truly the land of old, white men.  This year, about 40 percent of the participants were women.  The average age was far younger, and I spent time with people from Brazil, Ireland, Dubai, South Africa, Venezuela, Canada and Belgium. In my 20 years in the executive search industry, the word “innovation” has rarely passed my lips when discussing our profession. Last week’s meeting didn’t change that.  The basic foundation of...

I Feel the Need for Speed (and Accuracy)

03/26/2015 12.05 EST

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  When we pitch a search to a potential new client, one of the first questions we’re asked is how long we think the process may take.  Companies want to know how long it will take their search partner to identify and present a slate of candidates.  For the record, on average it takes SSG somewhere between four and six weeks to bring a highly qualified group of executives to any individual engagement.  Sometimes, we see either explicit or tacit anxiety from the company regarding the length of time it takes to generate candidates.  If I feel this anxiety roiling in the background, I often take out this chart:   These data are drawn from thousands of searches conducted by SSG over the past 19 years.  And, I am pretty sure that most other retained executive search firms could pull charts together that look similar – if not identical – to the one above.  So, as a hiring manager, human resources or talent acquisition professional, if you are asking your search firm how they can shave a few days off the time it takes to deliver a slate of candidates, you are asking the wrong question.  Alternatively, what you should be asking is: “Why does it take us so damn long to hire an executive?”   While there are a thousand little variations, thematically there are only a few large factors that influence the pace of the hiring process:   We really don’t have a hiring process....

Time for Resolutions – I really mean it this time!

01/28/2015 03.21 EST

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As we enter into the New Year, resolutions have been made, modified and broken.  How many times have we pledged to exercise more, eat healthier and be kinder to others and then turn around and break those commitments?  The answer is – most of the time!   As 2015 gets under way, these are the handful of pledges I have made, but also plan to really keep:   Live a healthier life: People who know me will most likely say I already live by this rule.  I generally have a healthy approach to eating and exercise.  However, I believe I can improve on it by being more intentional as well as realistic.  One goal is to eat more organic fruits and vegetables every single day.  I know this is doable!  Also with my new gadget, the FitBit, combined with my competitive tendencies – I plan to meet my goal of 10,000 steps 90% of the time.  This wonderful gadget silently cheers me on to get moving, and I listen to it.  I’m even starting to have “walking meetings” with my colleagues – a great way to get two things done at the same time!   Use technology differently: I have not been on the iPad bandwagon, but plan to be.  I now have one and intend to use it in meetings, including for sales presentations.  The iPad will also allow me to access information more effectively when I’m traveling.  It will also help in alleviating eye strain...