I was visiting with a client recently, and it struck me that with all of the hype around the various new technologies, it is amazingly easy to lose sight of the importance of old fashioned networking.  Truth be told, the most important part of your job search hasn’t changed in my lifetime.  Who your friends are was the key in 1947 and 1957 and 1967 and 1987 …  and it is still true today.  I understand that many of us get frustrated by this, but it is what it is.  Complaining about it is like complaining about how our calendar works.  Pretty simple to do and a total waste of time.  On the other hand….  If we embrace it…. 

The key to all of our relationships is not new and it is not a surprise.  Your Grandma told you this and your momma told you this and so did your Kindergarten teacher.  Pay it Forward AND ask for help. 

“Paying it forward” is simply helping our friends when they need it, then “asking for help” is giving them the chance to do the same. 

The hard part is getting their imaginations involved.

I’m going to assume that you have been a good friend over time,  you have helped them when you could and even gone out of the way a couple times, so they really are predisposed to help.  Now what?  You sat down with them, they’ve given you the update, you gave them the update.   They ask for a resume and you dutifully send them one….  Then nothing happens.  What didn’t happen?

You failed to capture their imagination.

Capturing someone’s imagination is done with specifics that work as generics.  For example, if you live in Seattle, then you know that the Fremont Neighborhood has a very specific vibe.  It has offices for Google and Adobe, Brooks Sports and Tableau Software.  I also has a huge sculpture Troll under one of it’s bridges, a rescued 20 foot tall sculpture of Lenin and is on a an inner city lake.  When you tell someone that you are interested in working in that neighborhood, it creates a visual image.  It tells me a great deal about you and what you are looking for.  Downtown Seattle is dramatically different.  Instead of jeans and fleece, we see suits and skirts, so again, it’s a visual image of what you think of as a successful environment. 

Knowing what interests you in companies can do the same thing.  Brooks and Tableau seem to be very similar culturally, so saying one might generate questions about the other.  Boeing will trigger several other companies based on culture.  There are also very specific mechanical things going on that can help your friends visualize how to help.

All of these specifics make it much easier for you to visualize similar companies.  When you identify your sweet spot,  you will be able to identify similar companies fairly easily.  Dunn & Bradstreet (for example) at least lets you put all of this stuff in as search qualifiers.  It also stimulates your audience. 

So who do you want to work for?  Say the name; tell your friends; it will make it much easier for your friends to help.


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NFJS Turns Five

Notes From the Job Search (NFJS) reaches five years old!!  Wow. 

My first blog was on Blogger and the very first post was March 10th, 2009.  I actually started putting things together in January that year, getting a business license, and looking for a place to host meetings, etc.  By the time things were in place, it was March. 

NFJS started as a way to support my own job search, I didn’t actually commit to it as a career until that December.  It was a fascinating year; my first group (North Seattle) was completely planned, I found the location advertised it, set the agenda etc.  The second group was largely an accident.  Two people who were participating in the North Seattle Group live in West Seattle and had gone to what they expected to be a similar meeting there and that didn’t seem to have much direction.  They asked that  I join them and help develop some stability for it.  It had fallen victim to a problem that a lot of us have:  “If you build it they will come.” syndrome.  The woman who started it is enormously charismatic, and talented, but thought it would drive itself.  Which as anyone who has been in a meeting that didn’t have a plan knows, doesn’t work.  So it very quickly devolved into a session where people whined about how “unfair” life is….  About a month later, the West Seattle group was off and running.

Immediately, it was clear that the support we developed for each other was a huge value, having peers that we respect and going through the same craziness normalized it.  Along with being someone who starts things, I need structure.  I’m not open to what happened in West Seattle.  I need to know why we are sitting down together.  One of the results is that every meeting, every session has an objective.  It is just a lot more effective.

I had been helping people on an informal basis with career planning and job search since the 1970s, so when I started this I had a decent idea of what worked and what didn’t.  With more than 10 years of management experience under my belt as well, delivering successful projects was also part of my skill set, so from the beginning, NFJS fit. 

I also have to thank a lot of people.  People who have made amazing contributions as thinkers, as people and as participants.  My brother Mike was just a huge part of this, keeping me honest and facilitating my humility.  :)  Michael Casey for so many things, not the least of which is stories that drive home value.  Colonel Bob Jackson (Ret) for his input and support.  Shari Fox for her invaluable sharing of a recruiter’s perspective.  There are so many others… 

As much as I did know coming into this and as much as I thought I knew, it has been a continuous learning process.  The internet and particularly Linkedin are game changers.  How do they fit in an effective job search?  What about blogs?  TwitterFacebook?  Most importantly how does someone effectively “Network” and what the heck does that mean? 

Margaret Nichols shared a tool we call a “Networking Brief” early in 2012 and it has become a baseline tool for folks participating. 

It goes on and on….  So thank you to the readers, the participants, the contributors.

Steve Paul

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Career Horizons and Networking

Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2014

Congratulations to Matt Youngquist who has now been in business as Career Horizons for 10 years!!  Matt is terrific at pretty much every aspect of Career Coaching.  His web page has a bunch of resources that you can access, his classes are very helpful as well.  If you have not signed up for his Newsletter for heaven’s sake do so.  Matt is one of the genuinely class people I know, in this or any other business.  He loves to write and does so very well, he takes terrific notes and has a network that is amazing.  The result is that his list of opportunities in the Newsletter is substantial and many of them are not listed anywhere else.  So, Sign UP:)

An additional list in his Newsletter is recent blog posts he finds interesting.  This month has about a dozen and one of those captured my attention.  30 Brilliant Networking Conversation Starters (The Daily Muse Blog)

At some level, we all know and we have certainly been told more times than we can count, that “networking” is the answer when it comes to all things job search.  Unfortunately, it’s way easier said than done.  Frequently, it is fear that gets in the way and the first fear is simply knowing how to start.  This post gives very clear simple suggestions.  You can literally write them on your hand when you go somewhere and might be meeting new people.  Most importantly, they work.

When we think of networking it helps to think in more intellectual terms; as in, “this is something I need to learn”.  When you (we) approach anything as a “learning” process, rather than some deep emotional process, it allows us to bring a lot of tools to the table that work.  Emotions are normally more complicated, so for things where we have emotional reactions, such as putting ourselves out there and meeting new people, switching to the learning side of our brain tends to be more effective.

To start with we break down the task to component parts.

  • Who do we want to meet?
  • How do we identify where we can find face time with them?
  • How can we start a conversation?
  • What do we want out of these conversations?
  • What questions are effective at focusing the conversation in that direction?
  • How much should we talk, vs listen?
  • What is an appropriate follow up process?

As you get into this, each of these bullets can be further broken down.  All of them sidestep personal emotional baggage, and all of them put you in a position to grow.  The most important learning is simply that you are capable.

For example, “How can we start a conversation?”  The answer to this is not a vague set of “principles” or some outline, it’s a set of questions you can memorize.  Read the link I included.  It has 30 specific questions you can use.  Try them out, which ones work for you? Which ones lead to interesting conversations?  Which ones allow you to get into the flow?  Maybe you go somewhere and use one of these questions and it comes out really stilted and phony.  That’s OK.  You are learning.  Next time will be easier and better.  Maybe you have tried it more than once and it hasn’t even started to work….  That’s OK as well.  In this case, try the next one down the list.  This is simply something you are learning, when something doesn’t work, then it is just like doing a math problem and coming up with the wrong answer.  How do you fix that?  You check your work, modify your process a little and try again.  We keep at it until we get it right.  It is all about learning.

Posted in Best Practices, Career Horizons, links, Networking, Persistence, resources | Leave a comment


Let me start by saying that I don’t know everything about Twitter.  I think I understand it for the most part, but I use it in a very limited way.  I’ve had an account for four or five years and I’ve only tweeted 38 times for heaven’s sake.  What I love about it isn’t that I can say something to a brood audience, heck that I can say something to any audience at all! 

What I love is that I can find out what other people are saying.  Not only can I find out what they’re saying, but I can get incredibly specific about what I listen to.

Let me start at what I think of as the beginning.

Twitter is ubiquitous!  It is on every OS and platform.  You can log on from any smart phone or any tablet or any internet connected computer; via any browser.  It has gotten to the point where people on TV shows are including Twitter stuff in their speech.  For example: My family and I always watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thanksgiving Day.  It starts at nine and is just a nice tradition for us.  This year Al Roker was interviewing various people in the parade and on route, etc.  Same as every other year that NBC has hosted.  What changed is that this year, Roker kept throwing the word “#WhatImThankfulFor” (pronounced, “hashtag What I’m Thankful for”) in when asking questions.  What the heck is that?  It’s a Twitter topic that the Today Show folks were pushing.  You can still follow it on Twitter, it’s out there and it has a very large number of posts attached.

Twitter bills itself as a “mini-blogging site”.  To understand that you need to understand what a “Blog” is, so according to Wikipedia it’s a web page that hosts discussions of various topics.  My own definition is that a blog is a web site where one or more people hold forth, usually on a specific topic.  You are reading this so you know at least one blog.  The challenge I have with using Twitter in this context is conceptualizing a way to create useful posts that are less than 140 characters.  I’m also in a situation that allows me to not need an additional outlet, so using Twitter as a part of my marketing simply isn’t going to happen. 

The easy connection from there would be to write Twitter off as irrelevant to me and my clients, but that would also miss at least half of the value that it can provide. 

These “mini-blogs” allow us to have distinct and unusual insights into people and companies activity and thinking.  They have become something new, a way to understand others, and that understanding can transform your job search. 

Technically, Twitter has more than a dozen search operators.  What is a “search operator”, it’s simply something that modifies your search.  We all know the “Boolean” operators, “AND”, “OR” & “NOT”.  Twitter supports these.  It adds a bunch more, of those two stand out:  “@” and “#”.  The # is called a “hashtag” and is used to signify a topic.  The example above is a topic that was promoted by NBC and the Today Show.  In truth, everyone gets to weigh in.  The result is thousands of posts.

The “@” points to what I call an “entity”.  Usually that’s a person, but it can be anything; companies have them, governments, non-profits etc.  For the job seeker, these are your magic carpet.  The reason is that entities double as topics.  Amazon, for example, can be searched for three ways:  Simply as a word, then as a topic and finally as an entity.  Using the word will get you the largest number of results, then comes the # and finally the @.  In the case of Amazon, it’s a fire hose with any of the three, but the @ has distinct advantages.  To start with you can follow a specific company.  If you are interested in something smaller than an Amazon, it works better.  Amazon is a great place to start though.  When you look at @amazon, you can choose to “follow” them.  That means you’ll get all of their twitter posts. 

If you focused on doing research the rest of the Twitter Search Operators come in to play.  For example, if you want to know about what is going on at HQ, then your search becomes “@amazon near:98101” their zip code.  When I ran this at 11:50 Monday Morning December 9th 2013, a guy I never met had posted that he worked there and he was hiring.  When you see a post like that, you now have a real lead with a real person.  You can ask him a direct question via Twitter.  You can ask him to connect with you privately, you can ask for his email….  You can now engage directly. 

If you want to know about company culture, add a “J” or a “L”.  You will get results back intended as positive or negative.  It won’t take long and you can find out almost anything about a corporate entity. 

With a smaller target, you don’t need anything like the creativity to filter out the useless from the useful.  Following a company will often give you first crack at opportunities they are working to fill.  F5 Networks is one of the best local companies, so I have followed them for a while now.  In one of my fits of Twitter activity, I saw them post an opportunity for a new lead tester.  Well at that time I had an active client who was looking and qualified.  I passed this on to her and she was able to get an application in before they had the job posted on their web site.  She actually got that job.

Key to your success with this tool is playing with it.  Just like every tool that has a unique “search” function, the more you look, the more you play with the parameters, the more you will like your results.esult is thousands of posts.

 example above is a topic that was promoted by NBC and the Today Show.  In truth, Everyone

Posted in job search, key words, search engines, Twitter | Leave a comment

Google’s Hummingbird

It turns out that Google updated it’s search algorithm sometime in late August or early September.  They announced it September 24th.  Should you care?

The answer is a definitive “Maybe”.  A client of mine is the one who noticed the change and she noticed the announcement, rather than the change, so from a practical point of view, the change is at least positive.

Every sales job (including job search) has four steps:

  1. What are you selling?
  2. Who will you sell it to?
  3. How will you gain access?
  4. How will you close the sale?

This isn’t news, what is important is accepting that as a job seeker, you own all of them. Part of what makes the online application process so seductive is that it takes care of steps 1, 2, and 3.  All you have to do is 4: Close the sale.  The problem with that is that over half the jobs come some other way.  As we embrace the rest of the process, we need to start working the other three steps, which brings us back to Google and Hummingbird.

Hummingbird is intended to make searches more conversational or holistic.  Key Words became critical in the late 90’s as search sites got better at isolating specific words inside the text of internet content.  For a brief period, it was actually possible to do “word packing”—I’m sure you have heard of it and it was suggested long after it became a disqualifier, it was the practice of using an “invisible” font to simply repeat the key words you cared about until you always came up first on a particular search.  In truth, that stopped working 15 or so years ago, but you get the idea.  By using specific words that you wanted people to find you for, you came up sooner than most of your competition.  Actually, that is still true.  The change is that Google in particular now cares a great deal more about context.  In other words, claiming “communication” as a skill won’t be as useful as demonstrating that you “Communicated new direction for IT dept resulting in team of 17 refocusing efforts on new goals and delivering required outcomes”

Where this leaves job seekers is with even more requirement for understanding and articulating what they’re selling and who they are selling it to.  Google is one of the tools necessary for an effective job search.  If you do a great job setting up a web presence, it is a marketing tool of extraordinary power; doing a poor or mediocre job will simply mean you are lost in the mass that is the normal outcome of a Google Search.

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Linkedin Part Next

This has been a strange year for Linkedin.  At least as far as I can tell.  I’ve had my profile up since 2004 and 2013 has had more changes to the interface than the eight prior years combined.

I won’t bore you with the details here, there are others that do a much better job than I will, suffice it to say that it’s been unsettling.

Along with that it is weaving itself into careers with skill, luck and focus.  Almost all of the changes are designed to optimize the profiles for recruiters and recruiters are responding.  Let’s be honest, this isn’t a surprise.  Linkedin’s primary customer has been recruiters from the beginning.  Those of us who set up profiles are the product and recruiters are the buyers.  I know that sounds cold and there are parts of me that react to it fairly strongly.  The reason for laying it out this way is to help us evaluate what we do with this tool and help us optimize our presence.  Heck, the biggest reason were on Linkedin is so a recruiter will find us.

Step one in this is identifying specific types of recruiters that we think can put us together with a job we can thrive in.  Let’s face it, none of us want to appeal to everyone.  The more you know about who should be finding you, the better job you’ll do.

In my case Im currently a Career Coach and before that I was in IT for 25 years.  For the last five years, I want people looking for a Career Coach, so my profile is optimized for that.  In truth, that optimization is an ongoing process, so I can certainly make it better, but I set up three criteria that I wanted to hit and once I hit those, I stopped changing my profile. 

  • Criteria One:     I need to show up on the first page when I search for “Career Coach”.  When I was in IT, the search argument was “Director, IT”.
  • Criteria Two:     My stories need to be dynamic and real.  These are actual events that I was part of and events that succeeded.  They must also support what I’m looking for.
  • Criteria Three:  My profile needs to give people an accurate picture of how I work, how I create success.

These criteria seem reasonable and straight forward, but they can be very difficult.  Your picture of how you work, how you create success is a primary subject of Notes From the Job Search and most of the more than 300 posts here relate in some way, so I’ll let you explore that separately.  

Start by choosing an interesting job title.  Have you applied for a job recently?  Then simply take the job title you applied for.  Open Linkedin and click on the button (just right of center on the top line) titled, “Advanced Search”.  Advanced Search is very powerful, it lets you limit all kinds of issues.  Where do you want to work?  In my case I’m not interested in commuting, so my search has my Zip Code, then an additional constraint of less than 15 miles.  Do you want to work for a specific industry?  It’s on one of those menus, so choose it;  Etc.  Once you’ve selected/added your constraints, execute your search.  Where did you show up?  Who did show up?  Look at the profiles in front of you and figure out why they are ahead of you.  Some of it will be similar to what you’ve done and some different.  All of it will be expressed differently than you did, so what can you learn about presentation from them?  Are they even looking for the same job you are?  Are you using more than one word?  Do you need to put the word in quotes?  Do they have phrases that resonate?

The point now is that you can modify what you have and rerun your test.  Identify the elements you want to associate with and that you have in your tools set.  There is more to showing up on the first page than using the right key words, but those words and phrases are the start point, so make sure you are talking the language of the person looking for you. 

Part of why Linkedin has been embraced by so many is that it gives you a chance to evaluate the effectiveness of you profile, then manipulate it so that you get the results you want. 

 By the way, before you modify your profile, turn off notifications.  Play to your hearts content, then when you have what you want, back out the last change, turn notifications back on and reinstall the change.  This way you avoid spamming your friends while you work on your profile, at the same time you do notify them of your new profile.

Posted in branding., Linkedin, reference, research | Leave a comment

First, I’ve posted this link before, but it is just a great resource, so I’m posting again.  How to Quantify your Resume.  This is just so important and so hard to do.  Well, that’s not quite true.  What’s hard is understanding what we do in quantitative terms.  Things like, How much?  How many?  How often?  At any rate, this is a terrific article that will give you chapter and verse.  The way to read it is to skim the first time through.  It’s designed for recruiters and they need to cover the entire gamut of professions, so includes stuff that does not relate to you.  Then go back and read the parts that are relevant, and read them very carefully.  Use this stuff!


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What is, is

Well, of course….  What could be more obvious than that and why the heck is someone blogging about it?  It turns out that a lot of us aren’t all that good at embracing it.   We want things to be different than they are, so we pretend.   Actresses pretend they aren’t getting older, conservative politicians pretend that governments can avoid being involved in economics, most of us pretend that we don’t need to pay taxes, your boss pretends all kinds of things. 

When we are unemployed, we pretend things related to why and who’s fault and, and, and….  Unfortunately, it’s just a terrible idea.  If a Cobol programmer pretends they are up to date with technology, then (surprise, surprise) they will never understand why there are so few opportunities, and they will be surprised that no one returns their phone calls and they will be surprised that if they find something they do qualify for, it pays 10 or 20% less than they were making when they were laid off. 

What is, is.

One client of mine is looking for a job in “clean tech”.  He’s 60 years old, spent the last 25 years selling fancy air-conditioners to businesses and has no certifications.  The amazing part is that he has actually gotten several interviews. 

Another client is a videographer who is committed to working as a “full time equivalent” employee doing only video.  He’s been looking for five years and has not had an interview.

The first guy is looking for an imaginary job in an imaginary industry.  He is a terrific salesman, and a terrific project manager, and has in fact done an amazing amount for the environment, but…  it’s still and imaginary job in an imaginary industry.

The second guy has done a lot of volunteer video, but has yet to do this professionally.  He has a degree in videography, but he is now 40 years old and his only paid work experience is in restaurants. 

What is, is.

Both of these examples understand what they are up against, and the first one modified his goal, allowing him to get a job,  one where he is underpaid, but where he will thrive.  The second guy has set up as good a process as is possible given the circumstances, but he still hasn’t had even one actual job interview.

What is, is.

The first guy understood that and modified his goals.  The result is he went to work.  The second guy hasn’t accepted the situation and as a result, he isn’t working.

A third client couldn’t understand why he kept getting let go.  Sometimes he was fired, sometimes laid off, but he could not keep a job.  He is very bright, he is sober, he is quite charismatic.  He actually made huge changes in the companies where he worked, literally saving these organizations millions of dollars, and he could not keep a job! 

He started by saying, openly and honestly, “This is what happened.”  When he focused on his real successes, the picture started to clear up.  The most important piece was understanding how he normally created success.  It turns out he is an amazingly gifted Process Analyst, but had never had the title.  One of the jobs he’d had is especially useful in understanding what happened.  He was hired as a Data Entry Clerk.  What he did was redesign and get implemented the system he was part of.   In this case it continues to save that employer $15 million per year, but he was laid off.  Why?  Because he did not do his job. 

As he developed this understanding, he re-framed his work history, emphasizing his Process Analysis accomplishments and de-emphasizing his job titles.  It did take most of a year, but he has been working for more than two at his current job, he has been promoted twice in those two years and his boss has told him that a third is in the works.  He is (of course) working as a Process Analyst.

He started by saying, “What is, is.”

We all struggle to some degree with this concept.  I can easily come up with an amazing number of examples from any year of my life, and this is normal.  You can come up with examples as often as I can.  The reality is that the more you personally commit to this simple concept, the more opportunities you will have and the more prepared you will be when they appear.

Posted in Best Practices, branding., examples, fear, job search, Persistence, reference, stereotypes, strengths, strengths attitude | Leave a comment

Boeing Hiring

Our man at Boeing came by and updated us recently with where they’re going with their recruiting process.

One of the promises made a year ago was that Boeing would be supporting “.doc” format files, wellll…. Turns out that didn’t happen and likely won’t. Boeing is ferociously security conscious and .doc format has holes that they can’t patch, so we are still stuck with .txt.

From a practical point of view, that means that when you apply at Boeing, make sure you submit a resume that is text (as opposed to Word or anything else) format. The way to do this is to start with your resume in all it’s beauty, save it as .txt. Close your word processing program, on a PC, open Notepad, on a Mac, open Textedit. From this program, open your text format resume and make it readable. Once you’ve done that use this version of your resume when applying to Boeing, or any other company that requires a text formatted resume.

There are other posts on this blog that point out how little the “pretty” quotient of your resume counts these days. That is true, but…. Your resume still needs to be readable. Yes, a machine will evaluate your resume first, but sooner or later, a person will look at it, if you are going to be successful.

Another piece that Dana reported a year ago was that “functional” resumes had a very significant advantage over “historical”. This year, that has what amounts to a friendly amendment. The preference goes to “hybrid” resumes. A hybrid resume looks like a functional resume with a chronology stuck on at the end.

What is happening out of our site at Boeing is that their search tools are getting a lot smarter. So instead of isolated “key word” searches, the evaluations are able to include phrases and what I think of as “smart phrases”. This is where a search like “IT Director” would also pick up a title like “Director of IT” and weigh it as equivalent.

Again moving to the point of view of the job seeker, make sure you include the key words you want to be found for as titles and accomplishments as well as competencies.


Posted in Persistence, reference, resumes, tools | Leave a comment

Career building Book List

I guess there are three subject areas:  Strengths, career success and job search.  That said the boundaries between them are lousy.  :)

For Strengths, you already have Strengthsfinder 2.0 and that is the starting point, now let’s add Now Discover your Strengths, First Break all the Rules and Strengths Based Leadership.  There are two web pages/organizations to follow up with here:  Gallup Strengths Center and the Marcus Buckingham Co.  Buckingham spent 20 years with Gallup and was their original writer designee, so the early work has his name all over it.  Currently most of what gets written has Tom Rath’s name attached.  Buckingham seems a better writer to me, but Gallup continues to drive the research and build on that, so it’s a bit of a toss up which one provides better info.

For Career Success, look at The One Thing, One Minute Manager, and Tipping Point.  I don’t think any of these will provide you with some new amazing insight, but they will remind you of the basics.

For Job Search, find a copy of Go Hire Yourself an Employer.  This book came out in 1973 the first time and the last print was 1987.  What makes it unusual is it’s emphasis on owning your own career, rather than allowing someone else to make the choices so critical to your life.  The classic in this category is of course, What Color is Your Parachute, and it remains relevant.  They have significant emphasis on practical specific actions that will help with job search and these sections change each year.  The consequence is that you always want to start with a recent copy.

That’s my list.

Posted in Best Practices, Marcus Buckingham, proactive job search, professional development, reference, resources, Richard Bolles, strengths, strengths attitude | Leave a comment