Archive for the ‘Career Transition’ Category

Job Search Primer

December 10, 2010

Are you new to Job Searching in Pittsburgh? Are you looking to recharge your job search effort? Then this post may help.

In the columns on the right,  this Careers in Motion site contains a fairly complete primer to help you get started in job search or to help you get momentum going again after the holidays or other lull. For example this site contains the following:

1. Job Search Essentials Checklist: a successful job search starts with a plan and this checklist is intended to get you thinking about the components of a job search plan. If you are just starting job search then you just need to do the things outlined on this list. They are a “go do”. Don’t tell yourself they don’t apply to you or debate the worthiness of each item – just do it. If you have been in job search for a while then take a look at this list and ask yourself “where can I do better? and then do it. Your job search should be a full-time job of at least 30 hours a week and when you are not interviewing or networking you should be honing your job search essentials skills and tools.

2. Pittsburgh Area Networking Groups: This is a list of links to numerous Pittsburgh area networking groups, some are online groups and some are face-to-face groups. Networking is the key to a successful job search. You have to get out there and meet people – not because you think they have a specific job for you but because they could be the next step in the process of finding a job. Networking is like a puzzle, every meeting is a piece of a puzzle in your job search and eventually it will all come together but you need to collect the pieces which means ‘meeting people’

3. Pittsburgh Area Job Boards: You don’t want to rely on job boards exclusively but they can be a source of real opportunities and they can be an indicator of what companies and what industries are hiring in the area. They can also be opportunities for finding new networking contacts through the recruiters and others that you contact. Prioritize these sites and see which ones are the most useful to you.

4. Pittsburgh Area Recruiters: Most of the local recruiter sites include job postings so finding out which of those are most useful to you is a good use of your time. Recruiters too, can be a great networking resource for many. It doesn’t hurt to reach out to them and/or get your resume in their database. They are busy and have to be selective with their time but you should try to meet with as many as you can.

5. Other Job Search Resources: These are some more general sites that are helpful to job seekers. Links to various search engines, links to contact card sites, research sites etc.  These links can be found at the bottom of the ‘networking and job boards’ page.

The tools and links on this site are a great primer. They are all pieces of the process that you absolutely need. At a minimum they should save you some google time but they should also include some links and ideas that you might not otherwise find or utilize.

Take advantage of these resources and incorporate them into your job search.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a note at

Good Luck!



Blindsided by LinkedIN

May 20, 2010

There I was… happily engaged in a great position that fit exactly what I wanted and needed in my career at the time.  I was working with a great team of people that were passionate and excited about what they were doing and I felt I was part of something that made a difference.  Plus I was part of the Pittsburgh market which was a dream come true for this Pittsburgh boy.  Granted, I didn’t expect to play out the rest of my career as General Manager at LHH of Pittsburgh but I was content and looking forward to the opportunities of the new year and I certainly wasn’t looking for a new job.

However, somewhere in New York City, a job started a journey to come looking for me.  A private equity firm that was in the process of buying a firm needed a new CEO to take over the company and help to drive the company into its future.  Their CEO-candidate search vehicle of choice?  A top-shelf executive recruiter?  Nope.  The recruiting offices of the finest business schools in the country?  Nope.  Friends/Family members/Old Cronies they knew? Nope, nope… and nope.

They chose LinkedIN.

The partners thought they might move into into other search tools if needed but why not start with LinkedIN. So they began networking on LinkedIN. They used a variety of keyword searches based on competitor names, titles, geographic locations, and specific terms of the industry and pretty quickly generated a list of about a dozen or so names. Some of this list they thought might be actual candidates; others on the list they thought might be one or two networking contacts away from actual candidates. The next step was to send out emails… or rather INMails… introducing themselves and their intent. I received one of those emails and responded (no offense to LHH but I couldn’t help but be curious).

The partners commented that they most appreciated three things about my profile (1) its detail because it helped them get a better sense for my background versus others they reviewed, (2) my recommendations because they knew they were probably the same folks that they would get in a traditional ‘reference list’ so why not read what they had to say, and (3) they found it interesting that there were more than a few intersections between their original list of 12 target contacts and my recommendation contacts. From there it became a fairly traditional interview process, mostly by phone with several different contacts and one face-to-face meeting. In fairly short order, there was an offer, a negotiation, an acceptance, a transition and a start date.  It all started with LinkedIN.

The point of this story?  Well, there are several… (1) LinkedIN works, (2) LinkedIN is used to source positions at all levels, (3) LinkedIN is a great tool to have work passively to advance your career, and (4) to encourage you that your efforts with LinkedIN will not be in vain, and they will pay a dividend.  You may not be expecting it when they do but they will pay a dividend.  As I’ve stated in previous blogs and in the various “LinkedIN Presentations” I gave around town, LinkedIN is a “Career Tool”, not a “Job Search Tool”.  Networking helps your career no matter what stage of your career you are in.  In fact, LinkedIN is already (again) an integral part of my sales efforts at the new company. You just plain need to have a complete LinkedIN profile.  If you need some pointers on what constitutes a ‘complete LinkedIN profile’ check out the links below.  If there was ever a ‘Just do it’ for you in terms of career management, utilizing LinkedIN as far as you can take it, would certainly be one.

By the way, make no mistake, while you can take the boy out of Pittsburgh, you can’t take Pittsburgh out of the boy… Go Steelers!

Some Helpful LinkedIN Links:

LinkedIN Best Practices for Business

Improving Your LinkedIN Profile

LinkedIN Blog

Don’t Just Ping Away!

January 29, 2010

There was a scene in the movie The Hunt for Red October where a naval officer is talking to Jack Ryan regarding the Soviet fleet’s search for the renegade submarine. The exchange went something like this:

Davenport:   They’re pinging away with their active sonar like they’re looking for something, but nobody’s listening.

Jack Ryan:    What do you mean?

Davenport:   Well, they’re moving at almost forty knots. At that speed, they could run right over my daughter’s stereo and not hear it.


I think many in job search today could be in a similar situation. You are ‘pinging away’ but moving so fast that you are forgetting to focus on the details and make the most of every opportunity.  A successful job search is a process that depends on doing every step to the best of your ability. Some areas where you might want to slow down and check your execution might be:

Do you have a Written Plan?  Good things usually don’t happen by accident. You need to have a plan of action in your job search where you identify target industries, target companies, networking goals, salary research, etc.

Training:  Are you studying and learning about improving your job search skills and strategies? Are you moving your job search skills and knowledge from “Poor to Good to Great!”. If you are not, just know the competition is.

Are you Really Networking? A LinkedIN connection is not networking. You have to have a personal connection by phone or face-to-face to be networking. PLUS – if you don’t have a networking strategy and specific goals for each networking meeting then you are trailing your competition on that front as well.

Adequate Follow-Up:   If you feel you had a definite chemistry in the interview, what are you doing to follow-up after the thank you note? Even interviews that end in a rejection letter – are you following up to get feedback or additional networking contacts?

Are you Researching?  You are competing against candidates that can quote annual reports and press releases and offer valid strategic feedback on customer markets, marketing literature and positioning strategies.

Are you Making it Personal?  How are you making them remember YOU? I recently received an email from a job seeker telling me that an interviewer was so pleased with a handwritten note that he showed it around the office and called it “Old World Professionalism”. I’m liking that guy’s chance to make the next round.

Are you a Polished Interviewer?  Practice, Practice, Practice. If you can’t google ‘interview questions’ or pick up a book on interviewing and not be surprised by a question that you haven’t prepared for and rehearsed to perfection, you are lagging the top notch competition.

Your LOOK:  First Impressions matter. Your hair, your clothes, your glasses all tell your story before you open your mouth so make sure that story isn’t “Clueless” or “Out of Date”. Also, networking can happen ANYWHERE… in the store, at the ball park, at the ChuckECheese with your kids… when you are in job search – you should always dress professionally.

The difference between sucess and failure in anything is found in the details. Job search is no different. In this environment, you do need to step up the “quantity” aspects of your job search but you have to keep an eye on the “quality” aspects as well. You need to find that balance.  Your competition is.

Career Transition for Senior Executives: Different and Not

November 2, 2009

Regardless of a person’s level in an organization, their skill set or their years of experience, there are certain core best practices associated with finding ‘their next opportunity’ that are universal. The basic formula for career transition is virtually the same for a CEO or a middle manager. Everyone at any level needs a list of differentiating SOAR stories (aka PAR/STAR statements). Every job seeker needs a written personal marketing plan, a core resume with industry-specific versions, and a LinkedIN profile.

Everyone will be competing against job seekers that are well polished in terms of their ‘electronic image’ and their interviewing skills and they need to keep pace. The C-Suite executive and the middle manager both need accountability partners and ‘elevator speeches’. Detail items such as appearance, contact cards, thank you cards, and company research are as important for those seeking COO positions as those seeking their first job out of college. An executive job seeker can’t escape these ‘core truths’ and they have to execute them at their highest level or risk “missing the mark” as they shoot for their next career opportunity.

There are differences though.

C-Level and senior executives in career transition do have different needs that have to be addressed. Some of the differences include:

Succession Planning: C-level executives often have a much more visible and planful exit strategy that includes succession planning and successor development;

Executive Coaching: Coaching is no longer just the pervue of senior executives but they do have a higher standard and they need a career coach that keeps up with them;

Executive Assessments: As a senior executive approaches the next phase of their career, it is often helpful to re-examine their personal skills and interest inventories and review them with an expert;

Global Resource Capabilities: Opportunities for c-level and senior executives are a global proposition and they need access and introduction to resources throughout the United States and around the world;

Peer Group Accountability: It is valuable to meet weekly with other senior executives in job search to share successes, failures and contacts that relate directly to their own efforts;

Specialized Resume and Profile Reviews: Senior Level candidates must handle their resumes and LinkedIN profiles differently. There is frankly, a higher standard for senior level executives that must be met in order to be competitive;

Executive Resource Networking: Senior executives need connections at a high level such as executive management, board-level, private equity, and venture capital contacts;

Next Step Options Planning: C-Level executives have different priorities and motives for their career search. To find fulfillment in their next role they often have to explore many options such as continuing on the Executive Track? Exploring Entrepreneurial Ventures? Developing a Multi-Faceted Portfolio Career that includes several profit and non-profit roles? or Pursing an ‘Active’ Retirement?

Research and Resource Support: The reality is that sometimes C-Level executives are used to a support team and research at a much higher level so they need access to the same caliber of resource during their career search.

Assimilation Coaching: Senior executives can also benefit the most from assimilation coaching as they take on their new role

Annual Career Consultations: C-level and senior executives can have a high degree of change as their career evolves so access to some kind of lifetime career consultation can be a valuable benefit

While the process may be essentially the same, the depth of each of step of the process can be significantly different for c-suite and senior executive job seekers and the most competitive organizations are recognizing this as they search for outplacement solutions for their senior executive benefits package.

10 Common Job Search Errors

October 2, 2009

Here are ten (10) common job search errors to avoid, courtesy of PAPEN ( and The Point Park College Office of Career Development (

(1) Lack of a Specific Goal: Many job seekers have a goal that is far too general. The more specific your goal is, the easier it will be to find;
(2) Poorly Done Résumé: Your resume must be short, focused, impeccably typed, and easy to read. It must also be relevant to the position for which you are applying;
(3) Not Doing Company Research: Knowing which companies to approach is half the battle. Employers expect you to know what you want and they expect you to know the basics about their company;
(4) Not Targeting and Courting the Best Prospects. List your best 10-30 companies, and pursue them;
(5) Inadequate Networking: Not using all avenues and/or contacts available to you. Do not rely only on the ads and on the advice of a few friends. Some additional avenues might be: trade and professional organizations, civil service offices, libraries, temporary firms, search firms, local employment offices, college career and/or placement offices, former teachers and employers, and relatives, neighbors and acquaintances;
(6) Poorly Done or “Generic” Cover Letters: Write simple, concise, honest business letters stating your interests. Try to address them to a specific person; take the extra time to find a name by research or by calling the company;
(7) Lack of Assertive Follow-Up: Don’t assume that no response is a negative response. Several phone calls or letters displaying your interest may be necessary both before and after the first interview. Never give up. Never. Never. Never;
(8) Lack of Enthusiasm and Interest: The nervous job-hunter often forgets to display enthusiasm in letters and in the interview;
(9) Lack of Self-Confidence: Self-confidence during an interview is one of the most important traits sought after by hiring companies;
(10) Trying to Appear as What the Company Wants: Be honest, and be yourself.

Just food for thought.

Networking in Pittsburgh

September 7, 2009

Job Seekers looking to network have a lot of options as Pittsburgh becomes a more networking rich environment. Traditional networking organizations such as alumni groups are growing stronger as are specialized networking and trade organizations such as Green Drinks, Entrepreneurial Thursdays, FENG, The Pittsburgh Technology Council and the HR Leadership Forum. (Note: links to all of these groups can be found on the Informational Links page of this blog).

Demand still exceeds supply, however, and several local area churches and faith-based groups are stepping up to establish job skill training and networking groups that are open to the public. Those Pittsburgh Support Groups include:

Careers in Motion (Frazer Twp., PA): This group meets on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays at 9:00am in the Riverside Community Church location inside the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills mall (Entrance #5). Each meeting focuses on a different job search skill. This week, for example, the topic will be “Using LinkedIN in Your Career Search”. For more information please contact: Larry Forbes ( or David Kennard (

Seekers Job Networking (Mt. Lebanon, PA): The Seekers group is a free group for anyone looking for a job. The group provides support, job leads, job searching tips, and great connections. They meet the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month at 7:00 pm in the McDonald Room at Mt. Lebanon United Presbyterian Church. The address is 255 Washington Road, on the corner of Washington Road (Rt.19) and Scott Road. The facilitators of the group include Scott Wilshire (, Paul Harrington (, and Allyson McDermott (

Priority Two (Wexford, PA): Established in 1982, Priority Two is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping those in career transition through a series of formal workshops and classes. Programs include a 10-week “Career Marketing Workshop”. Priority Two meets primarily at North Way Christian Community Church (724-935-0252), 12121 Perry Highway, Wexford, PA on Monday’s from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm. For more information, visit the website at

I encourage you to reach out to any of the organizations listed above and as you find great networking resources in Pittsburgh, please let me know about them!

Improving Your LinkedIN Profile

August 8, 2009

One of our services at LHH of Pittsburgh is Career Management Coaching and currently we have a number of clients going through some kind of career transition or outplacement. As we all should know by now, the key to a sucessful job search is networking and one of the 21st century networking tools is LinkedIN. As we tell our clients, networking is essential, on-line networking is not, so if you have a better process, use it – if not, start using LinkedIn!

Recently, I reviewed a number of our client’s LinkedIN profiles and while most have the “LinkedIn 101” studies completed, I was asked to provide feedback on some of the higher level nuances and opportunities that LinkedIn represents. The following are about a dozen areas that I found to have the most opportunity for improvement:

a. Change the LinkedIn URL: Many people do not take advantage of this simple LinkedIn feature to change their standard URL into a more personalized URL. The first reason to do this is because you can but the second reason is because it does help drive your search engine results. Another reason is because a personalized LinkedIn URL looks better on contact cards and email signatures.

b. Industry Reference: If you haven’t given much thought to the industry reference you use in your header information you may want to do so; this is as much an opportunity to brand yourself going forward as it is to summarize your career looking back. I wondered with many of the profiles if that was really the industry the client wanted to reflect. For example, a person may have chosen ‘Glass and Ceramics’ because that was their former employer’s business but something like “International Affairs” or “Logistics and Supply Chain” would better serve their profile. I read once that city and industry are two of the most common LinkedIn searches which is probably obvious but it underscores that the one industry you choose in your header is fairly important.

c. Summary and Specialties: Most of the profiles had at least decent summaries but all of them probably could go back and review them again with the ‘eyes of a future employer’. In some cases I thought they were a little thin, in more than a few there wasn’t a summary at all and the use of the ‘Specialties” feature wasn’t too strong. Specialties is an opportunity to list some key words that you want to make yourself searchable on within LinkedIn. Think of this list as the 5-10 key words that summarize your ‘professional self”. I think specialties are best when structured as a nice bullet point list for anyone reading your profile and it also serves as a clean list of key words for the internal search engine.

d. Abbreviations: As a general rule, I don’t like abbreviations on resumes and LinkedIn profiles. For example, I think someone who includes “Exec VP” as their title is risking the perception that they are more casual than someone who spells out “Executive Vice-President”. No job seeker wants to create the perception that they have a ‘casual’ style. I think the same is true for company names and industry terminology. If its important enough to include, its important enough to spell out completely.

e. Pictures: My opinion is that all job seekers should include an uncluttered, simple, professional, picture in their profile. It brings a human element to an otherwise data and internet driven media. Its a feature of LinkedIn and I think those that don’t include a picture (or if the picture is in some way too cute) risk creating a negative perception such as “perhaps this person is too introverted or secretive to work at our company”.

f. Connections: A surprisingly small percentage of our clients had more than 100 connections; I think a job seeker should work to get to at least 100 connections based on past or current contacts and connections and then start building from there with new ones. Even those with fairly restrictive filter disciplines should strive to get to 100 connections!

g. LHH-Related Connections: It was interesting to me how few of our clients had ‘LinkedIn’ yet with many of the other clients. It served to remind me that many networkers seem to overlook some of the more obvious networking sources before moving on to other sources. Don’t overlook any organizations or groups that your participate in including career search groups, community groups, sporting groups, etc. It can be surprising to find out who even your closest friends know professionally.

h. Recommendations: For the most part this was a fairly underutilized feature by our clients. Only a small percentage had more than 2 or 3 recommendations. I thought they all could benefit from some additional recommendations; I often suggest that people “think 360” because I believe the best profiles show recommendations from a mix of supervisors, co-workers, subordinates, customers, and vendors.

i. Public Profile: If you haven’t given any thought as to what part of your LinkedIn profile is visible as your ‘public profile’ you might want to do so. For example, I think it’s a bit much to show all your position detail and recommendations on the public profile. That’s my opinion but regardless – if you haven’t given some thought to that aspect of your profile it’s probably worthwhile.

j. Complete Contact Info: I think LinkedIn profiles should include basic ‘business card’ contact information on the profile… mailing address, phone number, fax, email. First of all your email address is only visible to your connections which LinkedIn does partly for confidentiality but also because it drives people to use LinkedIn for connecting and not going ‘outside the system’ with a phone number or direct email. Despite LinkedIn strategies, you want your profile (including your public profile) to have the same info you would have on a contact card or resume. You can add this contact info in either Contact Information or Personal Information.

k. Account Settings: If you haven’t gone into “Account and Settings” and seen what your profile is set to do, it’s probably worth going through there and making sure it reflects what you want to do. For example, I thought it was a bit much for my connections to get an update every time I changed my profile or made a connection – I thought that could get the word ‘annoying’ attached to me. Another person might like that feature because it keeps your networking efforts in front of your connections. Granted that’s a personal preference but its worth looking at it. Another feature in there is email addresses – you can attached multiple email addresses to your LinkedIn account which can be helpful if someone only knows you through your personal email for example.

l. Attachments: Only a handful of our clients had used the attachment application to include a resume on their profile. For Job Seekers using LinkedIN, I think attaching a resume is worth doing.

m. Resume Alignment: If you haven’t done so, you should compare your LinkedIn profile to your resume and make sure they are consistent. Company names, titles and service dates align; name and contact information should align, education information should align. I just think this is a good practice to do at least once. It may not matter but if someone is serious about you – they are going to likely look at both your resume and your profile at one time or another and differences could pop out… you want these differences to be differentiators such as “expanded information” not differences born from basic alignment errors.

Hopefully, those are some slightly higher level ideas to help make your LinkedIn profile a more effective tool to support your job search. The best piece of LinkedIn advice I’ve heard yet is that you have to remember that tools like LinkedIn are a ‘means to an end’ not the end itself. Too many people stop at capturing a new contact in their connection list. It’s not a networking connection until you’ve reached out to the person and at least spoken to them to ‘catch up’ or introduce yourself if they are new to you. Human-to-human contact is still the only networking, we just have alot of new tools to help us get there.