Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Round Two, Done

I took a couple of phone interviews for round two of the consulting job yesterday. I think I passed but you never really know. The first guy would be my boss's boss. He's in CA and I'd call him the guy who distributes the vision and is responsible for building the business of this services arm of a very large corporation. He was an interesting interview, going kind of Microsoft on me a couple of times. For example, without the use of your computer, how would you estimate the number of gas stations in the US? I came up with a couple of different approaches which were basically valid. He said his answer was to count the number of stations in his town of 10,000 and then use that to multiply up to the number for the population of the US. He was more interested in the the thought process than the answer. He also asked a couple of behavioral interview questions as in, tell me about a time you successfully dealt with a difficult business partner. Tell me about an unsuccessful time. Having used this method a bunch in my interviewing, I don't find it hard to come up with examples.

The second guy was the first guy's guy. By that I mean, they've worked at a number of places together. He was fairly easy to talk with and I think we established a good rapport. I got him to describe a consulting horror story - he's based in CA and ended up on an assignment in NYC for 6 months. He was given internal people to work with who weren't performing very well and vendors to the project that didn't see him as useful. He described a process where he began to micro manage the employees (no other choice, really) and began reporting to the project sponsor the shortcomings of the vendors. I guess by the end, he had gained the trust of the sponsor and now has a very good referenceable account.

So, a couple days off for Thanksgiving. I do have a phone interview this morning with an insurance company up the road in ME. I don't think I can make the $$ work out while commuting to the office (tolls, miles, time). But you don't get to hear about the job until you tell them you willing to work for the $$ they put on the table, so I told them I was interested and now I've got an interview.

I give thanks for those of you who support me. I give thanks to my family and friends. I give thanks for my good health and generally good spirits even in these trying times. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I'm From Harvard

Yesterday I had a chance to attend a leadership class at Harvard Business School. My son is in the MBA program there and students are encouraged to invite guests. I attended a Leadership course. First, the setting. HBS is on the banks of the Charles, across the river from Cambridge. The buildings are all beautiful and the inside of the classroom was a semi-circle with several rising rows of tables. There are about 90 students in each section and the sections take classes at the same time. And there are 10 sections per year, so HBS graduates around 900 MBA's per year. The classroom was all done in tasteful dark wood with many nice features, such as the ability for each seat to vote, a self-focusing overhead projector, built in video projector, hooked up to the teacher's PC (we used that to see a film from the schools web site). It's very nice and I guess for $90k/year it should be (includes estimates for room and board along with the $44K tuition).

At the beginning of class, guests are introduced and they are given a standing ovation. I must say, as the only guest that day, it was a bit overwhelming to have 90 of our country's best and brightest clapping for me. I haven't had an ovation directed at me since drama club in high school.

The class was doing a case study on Xerox and Anne Mulcahy. All classes are case studies, whether it's leadership or finance or operations. In the late 1990's, early 2000's, Xerox was going under. They had massive debt and their stock price had cratered. There was an ongoing investigation by the SEC on how their income had been stated in Mexico and the investigation was spreading to the US. Mulcahy was an unlikely choice for CEO, having had no financial background. Nevertheless, she was appointed in 2001 and proceeded to engineer a turnaround.

The professor (first year teaching at Harvard, background with McKinsey group) lead the class in discussion, trying to elicit different points of view. Since class participation is 50% of the grade in Leadership, almost everyone had their hand up at every opportunity throughout the hour and 1/2 that the class lasted. It was interesting to listen to (guests are not allowed to participate). Since Leadership is kind of a touchy-feely course, there wasn't really any right or wrong facts, just people's opinion. Because I had researched the situation before class (I did not get to read the case), I felt like the class did a pretty good job of covering the points. I did notice a couple of areas where some of the class members were weak (i.e. in their knowledge of how Chapter 11 bankruptcy works - I have some knowledge because I went through it with a former employer), and I think they missed a few key points, but they are quite smart. Many of them have some business experience, but none of them appeared to be over 30. Lots of women, lots of foreign students (Europe, Asia, India). It felt good to be in a classroom again - it's been a long time. Of course, there was no pressure on me to learn or pay attention because I wasn't being graded.

After class, I went to lunch in Harvard Square with my son while we discussed the class and other topics. We finished with a cup of "Clover" coffee from Starbucks and I was on my way back home to return to the job hunt. It was a nice diversion.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On the road?

I've been keeping myself occupied with a combination of work around the home and some job related activities. The work around the home is more physically demanding than hitting the computer and phones to reach out to opportunities. I think sometimes I use the physical work as an excuse not to make that uncomfortable marketing (networking) call I know I should make. It's still hard for me to contact people to tell them about my situation and to ask them for help or advice. I'd better get over this soon as the market is looking more and more barren.

A few recent things:
  • A couple of reach outs to people I used to work with on behalf of folks I've met at my outplacement group. One of them finally returned my call.
  • Research on the education requirements for the PMP exam.
  • A few on-line applications.
  • A conversation about a job for which I wasn't really qualified. And I'm not sad about that since the job was in Springfield MA and I haven't considered relocation, yet.
  • A second phone screen for my "perfect" local job
  • A phone interview (tomorrow) for a consulting job that would have me travel 50 percent of the time.

It's that last item that has me thinking. I have had jobs where I've done some travel, but it was mostly to the home office. At one point, I was actually living away from home each week. This went on for about 9 months and it was at a time when my kids were young. It put enough stress on me and my family that I found myself another home office assignment with less travel. But things are different now. Jobs are scarce. My kids are grown and on their own. My wife has a career. I'm mostly worried about my dog. He's gotten used to having me around.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

You, Inc.

I went to a meeting at outplacement yesterday and listened to a speaker give another perspective on the job search. He started by comparing today's world of work with what it had been like in years past. His basic premise is that you should act like a consultant in your job, whether you are an employee or not. This is solid advice for someone like me who tends to become complacent after a year or two in a job. Acting like a consultant means:

  • Having a customer focus (the customer being the company you are at as well as the external customer).
  • Always looking for the next assignment
  • Always trying to demonstrate value
  • Being a problem solver

To set up your consulting firm (You, Inc.), he suggested 6 steps which are roughly similar to the 10 step process that the outplacement firm has taught us:

  • Define your products and services. What are your strengths, and knowledge? Define your Brand (i.e. Tiffany's, MacDonalds). To do this, make a list of 10 to 15 words that define you.
  • Prepare good written material to present "You, Inc." to the customer. Things like a resume, cover letters, value proposition, business card.
  • Develop your marketing plan. Choose your target industries, companies, and positions.
  • Advertise - contact search firms, use the Internet, network.
  • Make sales calls - find out what "pain" the company is experiencing and how you might be the solution to the pain. This is also accomplished using networking.
  • Make the sale - find the job, negotiate your position and price

Good advice. I've accomplished a bunch of these steps already. It's time to incorporate and to do a better job of selling.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Well, it had to happen. And I remember this from my last job search 7 years ago. Eventually, despite the urging of the career counselors to work up to 45 hours a week on your job search, you reach a point where there's just not that much going on. After you hit the job boards, send out some resumes, do some research, send some emails, you run out of productive activities. Especially if you are somewhat introverted like me and don't enjoy making cold calls. It's tough to work a full day without wasting some amount of time.

I have found myself spending too much time reading the on-line news, organizing things on my hard drive, researching new phone options and doing things that generally don't contribute to a job search. It makes me feel guilty, but it burns the day.

With construction completing on our bedroom and new bathroom, it's time to paint and stain so we can then get the carpet installed and move back in. Starting today, I'll be staining and painting for approximately 1/2 of each day, probably in the afternoons. At least I'll feel productive about something.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

OK, maybe I was wrong

For a few weeks I've been saying, "I can't wait for the election to be over so we can get back to the beer and mattress ads on TV". I mean, how many more times do you want to hear Jean Shaheen say, "I'll stand with George Bush"? I ended up with a gag reflex every time that Sununu ad played. I thought it would be great to get back to normal - news stories about something other than the campaigns, beer ads and so forth.

This morning on Good Morning America - a special report on what dog the Obama children should pick. Ooof. Although, I still won't stand with George Bush.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Week gone by

Wow, a whole week without a post. I guess that kind of reflects the gentle pace that the job search has taken. There aren't a lot of new discoveries or "oh my, I should do this" moments. I have a resume, I'm tracking my statistics, I'm applying for jobs, I'm following up. I think the one main thing I need to do more of is networking with people who may know people who may know people. It's a good thing I'm tracking what I've done otherwise I would begin to believe last week was some kind of a waste.

I applied for about 10 jobs. I had conversations with about 5 recruiters (both inside recruiters and independent ones). I attended a job search work team meeting at my outplacement service. I attended an @ss-kicking session with an outplacement counselor (called by me; I needed to get my @ss kicked to do more networking). I set up an activity tracking spreadsheet as recommended by the outplacement people. I have a lot of ideas on companies to reach this week.

Even still, I took some time off on Monday to do outside painting and yard work and took some time off Friday to start the busy weekend early. So, it wasn't my best week of job hunting ever, but this one will be!