Category Archives: Corporate Communications

Corporate Alumni Groups Offer More Than Memories

I am not a fan of reunions, listening to someone recount glory days from 20 years ago and asking, ‘Whatever happened to…” However, workers are taking a cue from the school reunion notebook and forming corporate alumni groups. Originally apprehensive, I have been pleasantly surprised at the results.

Forming a group makes sense. When you work 50-plus hours a week with folks, you form bonds.  Layoffs, transitions, and time have scattered my GE colleagues but we still love to get together for drinks and catch up. Then someone decided to make it a tad more organized and formed what eventually became known as the Signature Network on LinkedIn.

The Signature Network, named after the company GE acquired and transformed, includes pre-GE and post-GE employees. Vince Mazza is executive vice president of MH Equity, chairman of Brentwood Financial, and the unofficial organizer of the group.

While it started as a gathering for current or former employees, “the network is for anybody as long as there is no spam,” Vince explained. “We welcome anyone who is making a job transition , creating a business opportunity, offering a new product or new service, or just wants to be social. ”

“We like meeting new people and talking about new ideas. People have also found jobs through the contacts they made in the group,” Vince said.

Gatherings are held in major cities across America, from California and Texas to New York and Illinois. There are nearly 500 members on LinkedIn. Vince estimates 30 percent are former or current employees.

It took me a few years after my layoff to actually attend a Signature event. I had been a Signature intern, then a GE employee at the Signature business (renamed Partnership Marketing Group) for eight years. So why did it take me so long to join others for  a food, drinks and chat? I’ll be honest here.

  • Thought others would think I’m a loser. I’ve been through three layoffs and still looking for regular full-time work in corporate communications. I had no idea how common my dilemma was, though, until I talked to those in the same boat.
  • I was afraid no one would remember me. I worked behind-the-scenes on many communications projects, but I didn’t give myself enough credit.  Also, the smiles of folks who didn’t know me were just as warm. 

Corporate alumni groups are growing.  Some are organized and supported by the company itself. Deloitte’s alumni network includes its own website and passwords for former employees.  Others are formed by employees and range from the formal to coffee meet-and-greets. Anyhow it’s done, the connections you make and maintain can be beneficial even years down the line. 

How to Join:  look for The Signature Network in the Groups Directory on LinkedIn.

Take the job that’s offered? Or pursue the job that fits?

The bills are piling up and you have an offer. It might be flawed, requiring that you compromise on salary, benefits or advancement. Or you  just have the nagging feeling that it isn’t right for you. But beggars can’t be choosy—right?

In the nine months between her job loss and landing at a Fortune 100 Corporation, Jennifer* turned down two job offers in the hopes of finding the ‘right fit.’

After her layoff, “I made a decision, and it wasn’t an easy decision, to take only the job that was right for me,” she said.

Staying true to that decision was tough, especially as her funds dried up. However, “I learned that I had the strength of mind—strength of character–to get through this,” she said.

Jennifer mentioned the job offers to subsequent interviewers. She believed her honesty demonstrated integrity.

Her interviewers must have agreed with her. She now has a significant role in a company that is growing despite the economic downturn.

I used to think that turning down a job offer was more ego than sense. After talking to Jennifer, I see that allowing a company to invest time and money in me until I find something better could also be a matter of ego.

Both parties benefit only if everyone agrees the arrangement is temporary. Perhaps that reasoning is contributing to the growing reliance on contractors.

Jennifer’s Tips:

  • Don’t limit yourself to what ‘networking’ means or what it should look like.
  • Networking is hard because there is no immediate gratification.
  • Getting the word out is essential. Don’t overlook your friends, or assume you know who they know. “I mentioned my job search to my girlfriend and she said, ‘Oh, I know someone in human resources at that company.’ I had no idea.”
  • Talk to everyone you meet. The woman at the dry cleaners isn’t in your industry, “But she handles the suits of executives and might have a useful contact,” she said.

*Some details have been omitted for privacy.

13 Job Hunting Tips that Work

I rarely use the word ‘inspirational’ to describe someone, especially when discussing job hunting. However, I met someone at a networking event who had lost his job after many years in the same industry. No matter what his job search had been like that month, Dave still managed to buoy everyone else in the networking group with his positive convictions.

After Dave landed his next job, he returned to the networking group to encourage us and share some of his favorite job hunting tips. I keep the list by my computer and refer to it regularly. 

  1. Get in touch and stay in touch with yourself and your family—both mentally and spiritually. 
  2. Write your goals down. Post your target re-employment date.  You’re more likely to achieve your goals if you set them and keep them before you at all times.
  3. Establish a compelling value proposition. What do you offer that will help solve their problems?
  4. Spend 90 minutes per day maximum at the computer. The best results come from actually talking to people, which goes along with the next point:
  5. Network your fool head off.  Keep your name before people so that, when an opportunity does come up, you immediately come to mind.
  6. Apply for a job after you have an internal contact.
  7. Learn, learn, learn (library, Toastmasters, LinkedIn, Yahoo groups, Tweet, blogs)
  8. Be good to yourself.  But this isn’t permission to overindulge or throw a pity party.
  9. Join or form an accountability group.
  10. Resist a rut. Try one new career search technique every week.
  11. Volunteer
  12. Rest and recharge weekly.
  13. Finally, ask for the order. That’s sales talk for asking the interviewer, “When do I start?” It sounds pushy—so what?

Losing a job can be frightening because it’s a loss of control.  However, as Dave points out, “While you can’t control when you land, you can control how long you search, how you search, and where you search.”   I hope the staff that he manages now finds him as encouraging as I do.

Author helps job seekers embrace the potential of Twitter

Twitter is no longer a social media channel that would be “nice to understand” but a tool that serious job hunters must embrace.

Among the more than 20 million people who visit Twitter every month are hiring managers, human resources staffers and recruiters covering every industry, profession and geographic area, according to Marci Reynolds, CEO of J2B Marketing.

Reynolds has written How to Use Twitter for Your Job Search, a 15-page e-book packed with clear explanations, examples, and tips that even the most non-technical person can appreciate. She is confident that users of Facebook or LinkedIn will have no trouble getting up to speed on Twitter.

I have been tweeting in a small way, but the author packed a lot of key information into one easy-to-read manual. Topics include using Twitter to:

  • Increase your online visibility
  • Become Google friendly
  • Find real time job postings
  • Follow and connect with recruiters
  • Follow and connect with target companies

Reynolds points out that savvy “tweeters” could be alerted to jobs posted on Twitter before the competition sees the same posting elsewhere on the web. Posting jobs on Twitter is free (at the moment), while sites such as Monster, The Ladders and LinkedIn require a fee.

In my opinion, Twitter also might be a way to get the attention of recruiters and HR managers in a way that e-mail and snail mail fail to do. Its spontaneous nature encourages lively (yet concise) dialog. You can comment on a recruiter’s post, ask questions, and get your name “out there.”

How to Use Twitter for Your Job Search can be purchased for the ‘cheep’ price of $5 (sorry, couldn’t resist) and can be downloaded into your computer or Kindle. For more information about Reynolds and her business, go to www.j2bmarketing.com.  And, of course she is on Twitter, at twitter.com/marcireynolds12.

3 ways to know when you’re sleepwalking, not job hunting

I have read a lot about the first few months of unemployment: The initial shock, anger and panic, all the advice on resumes and cover letters, all the assistance with interviews and follow-ups.

Six months later, you have networked with hundreds of folks, read countless articles on self-improvement, and perhaps reconsidered your job goals a few dozen times or so. I think this is the trickiest time for job seekers. 

I haven’t had a regular full-time job since January 2009. In November I began to feel tired–we’re talking bone-numbing fatigue. Networking events and reading job hunter advice was giving less and less juice to my personal battery.  

I had a lot of practice so I wasn’t rusty. I felt more like a favorite book that had become dusty with neglect. Here are some of the signs:

  1. Letting appearance slide.  I thought less about my appearance than I used to.  I was content to throw something on instead of putting thought into how I looked to attend a networking shindig. I dived into the holiday cookies not caring if I fit into my suits in January.  My dyed hair looked dingy.  Money wasn’t the issue, since there are several beauty schools in my area offering stylish do’s and manicures for cheap.
  2. Not updating information regularly.  I was working as a freelance writer and now I’m teaching part-time. I didn’t add the information to my resume and CV until recently, though. Why? I didn’t think of it.  You don’t have to obsess over every detail, but checking what you posted once a month is a good idea.
  3. Being sloppy. I was rummaging through my closet when I noticed a stain on one of my favorite skirts I wear to interviews. I should have brought it to the cleaners right away. Instead, I put it in the closet and forgot about it. What if I hadn’t noticed the stain until I was in the car and on the way to my next interview?

For some people these are signs of depression. However, sometimes we’ve just done the job hunting “thing” for so long that we fall into ruts. We think, “I’ve done this so many times I can do this in my sleep.”  Then we sleepwalk through our job hunt.

Last week I updated my resumes, renewed my contacts with networking friends, cleaned my suits, and even dyed my hair (darker for winter) so I don’t look like Two-Tone Cher. If someone asks me to come to a job interview tomorrow, I’m ready. You should be, too.

12 Things HR Pros Want You to Know

A few months ago I attended a job networking event in Chicago.  As the night proceeded and alcohol was consumed, conversations turned from “what are you looking for?” to “&@# Human Resources!” I was amazed at the bitterness directed toward people who are mainly administrators.

Are HR professionals heartless puppetmasters intent on making our unemployed lives miserable?  I talked to several recruiters, and they offered a glimpse into their roles.  No names are mentioned to avoid alarming legal and public relations departments.

  1. I probably won’t read your cover letter. I know my company requires you to submit one, but I barely have time to give resumes the attention they deserve (see #2).  
  2. I might spend 15 – 60 seconds glancing at a resume. One ad on Monster for a low-level IT position generated a thousand responses in one day. If I don’t have software that can sift through the flood, then I could spend all day reviewing resumes and never see yours.
  3. I look for key words. The software used to scan applications is programmed to look for specific words. You must tailor your resume to the ad or the job description for the software to flag the application. You might have to tweak your resume for every application, but it’s worth it.
  4. If you want to change industries or move in a significantly different job direction, make that clear from the beginning—such as the objective at the top of the page. Keep in mind that you’re competing with people far more experienced than yourself. What are you doing to give yourself an edge?
  5. Percentages tell a better story than numbers.  If you managed a multi-million dollar budget before, companies with smaller budgets might think you’re out of their league. Using percentages, such as “I reduced costs by 40% and increased revenue by 10% year over year,” can come across as less intimidating.
  6. Have your mother read your resume, or anyone who isn’t afraid of hurting your feelings. If those who read your resume can’t tell you what kind of job you want, then you need to rewrite it.
  7. Spelling errors are a killer. Don’t rely on spell check, either. Go over every sentence.  If you’re sloppy trying to impress me, I hate to think of what you’ll miss on the job. Also, never give an incorrect job title. We’ll catch it when we conduct background checks.
  8. ‘Overqualified’ means you’re a hiring risk. I will look stupid to my bosses if you quit or get bored and mentally check out on the job after just a few months. Also, your age doesn’t put me off—it’s your experience and previous salary that go with your age. While you might not be able to overcome my concerns, it wouldn’t hurt to talk about your commitment or your willingness to work for a lower salary range.
  9. Some of the rules have changed. Gaps in employment used to raise a red flag. Today I won’t be surprised if you tell me you were laid off last year.  I also expect to hear that you used the time productively. Training, volunteer work and consulting are appropriate answers. Traveling and spending more time with family won’t impress me.
  10. I prefer resumes in chronological order rather than skills-based. I want to see if you moved to increasingly more responsible roles and how long you held each position. You don’t need to go back further than 10 – 15 years on your resume unless it’s really pertinent. Also, unless you’re a student or a new graduate, you don’t need to include the year you received your degree.
  11. I have less power than you believe. A number of factors determine who gets laid off and who gets hired. My job is to make sure my company follows federal, state and local laws as well as company policies. Other than that, I can make recommendations but management calls the shots.  
  12. If I interviewed you and someone else was selected, I can’t tell you why you didn’t get the job. Legal and privacy issues prevent me from discussing such details. If you ask me what you could have done differently, though, I might be willing to make some observations.

Finally, keep in mind that HR people read message boards. If you blast your former company or rip into your former supervisor online, you could be kissing a job opportunity good-bye.

Networking: How to be real in a virtual world

I’m changing how I talk to my new network contacts in the virtual world.

The challenge of using social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is to avoid sounding cold and unfriendly, says Personal Coach Gail Sussman Miller. Miller is the founder and chief obstacle buster of Inspired Choice.

Most of us are more comfortable with networking than we may realize, Miller said. “At a wedding, when you sit down next to a stranger, what is the first thing you ask? ‘Are you here for the bride or the groom?’ You automatically look for common ground. That’s networking,” she explains.

The difference between face-to-face networking and sending emails is that we can forget to add personal warmth to our emails, she said.  For example, the business networking site LinkedIn provides an automatic invite message that states I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

“When you meet new people, do you just shake their hands and say, ‘Join my network’? No. They’d laugh at you,” she said. “When using online networking sites, it’s important to personalize every message.”

What should you say to someone you might barely know? “The whole purpose of networking is being of service, being other-oriented, and being curious. Finding common ground should be a state of mind,” Miller explained.

The same is true with accepting invitations to join networks or discussion groups. If you just hit the ‘accept’ button, then you’ve missed another opportunity to communicate. Use your personal curiosity to look at their profiles, discover shared interests, and acknowledge them in your responses.

At the very least, you can use what Gail asks everyone she meets: “Is there something I can help you with?”

 

ABOUT MY SOURCE: Gail Sussman Miller is Chief Obstacle Buster at Inspired Choice.  Her firm teaches executives, women solopreneurs, and teams how to turn obstacles into opportunities by boosting their emotional intelligence. Reduce conflict and stress and get more collaboration, cooperation, and success. For more information, go to www.InspiredChoice.com for “How to Love Networking.” Or see her profile at www.linkedin.com/in/gailsussmanmiller.