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Guides

How to Become a Bounty Hunter



Shellee Smith is a former NBC News correspondent who is now a communication expert with extensive background in management consulting, broadcast journalism and executive search. She is married to a retired federal agent.

AFTER THE FED

Physical Appearance and Presentation Important in Today’s Job Hunt

After spending the bulk of my career in the highly competitive world of television news, a place where the color of your lipstick can be as important as the facts of a story, I thought I had seen the last of superficial hiring managers.

You know the type.

Managers who judge professionals by how they look, rather than their performance. Surely the suit you wear to interview with a B2B manufacturing company can’t be as critical as what you wear for a network broadcast with seven million people watching.

Wrong! I can’t tell you the number of times I heard the word “frumpy” used to describe both male and female candidates applying for a senior level position or the number of professionals that have been ruled out of a job search because they did not show well.

Executive presence is a critical component to any candidate’s success.

But what is executive presence? And how do you get it? The term is often used as a catchall phrase to describe leadership, presentation skills, your ability to effectively interact with executives, and yes your appearance.

“Appearance is important,” says Mark Palmer, the V.P. of Communications for Sysco, a leading food service marketer and distributor in North America. “It’s an issue, so take care of it. Are you well groomed? Are your shoes shined? Do you look sharp? I’ve seen suits that would be great for a nightclub, but not a Fortune 100 company.”

You know executive presence when you see it. It’s the person in a meeting or a social gathering who exudes the right level of confidence, the clarity of thought and the ability to express those ideas in a meaningful, yet concise way. It’s that “wow factor” that makes leaders stand out and others listen.

“Confidence is about being able to make your point without having to go on and on about it,” says Palmer. ‘If you are confident and know your stuff, you can present it in a way that people understand without using a $5 word and paragraphs. It’s about story telling, relating the topic to the person you are talking to.”

Self-confidence is just one ingredient in the mixed bag of qualities that make up executive presence. Here are some additional qualities that will help you communicate with confidence in the C-suite.

Candor: The appearance of honesty. The skill to tell it like it is, yet be judicious in what you say.

Clarity: The ability to tell your story in a clear, compelling and concise way.

Listening: Listening is a leadership skill. It includes being accessible and conveying genuine interest in others and the challenges they face.

Passion: Speak with energy and purpose. Exhibit commitment, motivation and drive for what you do.

Poise: The look of sophistication, conveying a background of education and experience. A polished personal style isn’t just about the clothes you wear; it’s about how you feel in those clothes. Your business attire should make you feel confident and powerful every day.

Sincerity: The conviction of believing in what you say.

Thoughtfulness: Think first and then talk. Have the confidence to pause. Don’t share your internal debate with others.

And here are some final thoughts. Stand up straight and make steady eye contact. When you stand tall, you tell the world you are confident in who you are, what you are doing and where you are headed. If these pointers seem like a lot to digest, remember, executive presence can be learned, improved upon and mastered. Most of us are not born with it.

Shellee Smith is a communications expert with an extensive background in management consulting, broadcast journalism and executive search. She is married to a retired federal agent. Shellee can be reached at Shellee.Smith@ticklethewire.com.


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A Job Recruiter Is Not Your Best Friend: Dos and Don’ts

Recently while interviewing a candidate for a senior-level communications position at a Fortune 500 company, I was reminded of the golden rule when interviewing with recruiters. DO NOT bare your soul to a recruiter and expect he/she to be your best friend. When I asked the candidate how his subordinates would describe him, he replied, “I think they would probably say I’m a dick.” He was trying to be funny and if we were friends sharing war stories over a beer, it might have been. But that off-the-cuff remark cost him the job.

Don’t make the same mistake. Think of your interview with a recruiter as a dress rehearsal for the big show. It is your chance to perfect your 30 second elevator speech and convince us that you are the best candidate for the job.

Our role is to assess your qualifications and cultural fit as a candidate for searches we are conducting on behalf of our clients. We work for our clients, not the candidates. Everything you say and do impacts our decision to move you forward or not in the process.

Here are some “Do’s and Don’ts of Headhunter Etiquette” developed by The Repovich-Reynolds Group to ensure you do not commit any gaffes with the executive search community:

DO

DON’T

Treat the recruiter like you would the client.

Bare your soul and expect the recruiter to be your best friend

Be punctual and courteous

Manipulate your background and experience to fit the opportunity

Give the recruiter your accurate compensation information

Be arrogant or pretentious. There is a fine line between self confidence and arrogance.

Have an appropriate sense of humor.

Expect the interview to translate into a job offer. The search process is highly competitive.

Your homework

Ramble on when interviewing

Stay in touch with a recruiter by email or phone.

Demean or badmouth your prior employers

Dress professionally

Give yourself all the credit. You are part of a team, acknowledge others.

Present yourself in an honest, forthright manner. Speak with confidence.

Assume business casual is appropriate for an interview. I’ve seen good candidates eliminated because of how they dressed.

Be specific about your contributions to an organization.

Forget your table manners

Present a clear and concise resume that emphasizes your accomplishments

Bombard recruiters with materials on your accomplishments unless they ask for it.

Turn your cell phone off during interviews

Circumvent the recruiter and call the potential employer yourself.

Send a thank you note following an interview. Email is acceptable.

Take rejection personally. Use it as a learning moment to make your next best career move.



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Job Strategies in 2009 in Challenging Times

The economic outlook for 2009 looks grim. Pick up any newspaper, watch the evening news or scan the Web and the stories are the same….more layoffs, store closings, and mortgage woes. According to the Federal Reserve, the U.S. economy will get worse this year and unemployment is expected to rise into 2010. So how do you jumpstart your career when everything around you is turning south? Here’s a game plan:
1. Figure out who is hiring. One place to start your search is with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. www.bls.gov. Despite the economic downturn, these industries are still adding jobs:
–Education
–Professional and business services
–Information
–Leisure and hospitality
–Health care
–Mining/Oil and gas extraction
–Government

2. What do you like to do? Take stock of your interests and determine what you are really good at. Do a SWOT analysis of yourself so you can begin to map out a strategy. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. If after 25 years in law enforcement, you are stumped when it comes to identifying a new career path, check out the self-assessment quizzes at www.careerpath.com.

3. Volunteer. You can’t spend all your available time looking for a job. My boss recommends dividing your days into thirds. Devote a third of your time to the job search, another third networking and maintaining your contacts, and the rest of the time volunteering for an organization or cause you are passionate about. Volunteering will help keep your attitude up and will expand your network of contacts. It will also improve your story when you are asked during a job interview, “What have you been doing since you left the government?”

4. Tailor your resume to the job. Position descriptions posted on company websites or job boards are a window into what organizations are really looking for in an employee. Read those postings carefully and edit your resume to reflect the matching skills. Microsoft gets thousands of resumes a day. One way to pare down the stack is to toss the resumes that don’t match the job description. Make a recruiter’s job easier by shaping the content of your resume to the roles you are applying for.

5. Be flexible. In a downturn market with more people looking for work, job seekers do not have as much leverage with companies. Keep your mind open to new industries, new locations, and a different title. If you are changing careers, you may have to take a step back in pay or perks to move forward. Keep your eye on the big picture and BE FLEXIBLE.



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Strong Writing And Good Grammar Can Make The Difference In Job Hunt

This week I’m sharing some thoughts from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) International Conference held in Detroit. I was very impressed with the keynote address given by automotive legend Bob Lutz, currently the Vice Chairman of Global Product Development for General Motors. Lutz returned to GM in 2001 to instill some passion back into the company after a period of producing what Lutz calls “bland cars”. This guy gets the value of communications. He is 67-years old and writes a blog called “GM’s Fastlane Blog”. Check it out. (http://fastlane.gmblogs.com) He told an audience of communications professionals that he sees the corporate blog as an opportunity to have a real dialogue with customers and to put GM’s message out to the public “unfiltered”. He likes the immediacy of the blog and the fact that it gives him an opportunity to skewer the media when they get it wrong.
Speaking of media, Lutz says communications professionals should view the media as an opportunity, not an obstacle. As a former reporter, I love hearing that. Lutz believes building relationships with key media is important, and you do that by listening carefully, avoiding condescension, and just being straight with them. Reporters are trained to view public relation professionals with skepticism. And they’ve had plenty of experiences to support the idea that a corporate press release is just spin.
Lutz paused during his speech to address a concern felt by many in the business community, including myself. “Allow me to take a minute to get on my soapbox and say that the general state of writing in the professional world is deplorable. And e-mail and text messaging aren’t helping any,” said Lutz. How many times have you seen the phrase, “sneak peek”, spelled “p-e-A-k”? Is that a clandestine mountain? Or seen the word ‘attain’ when it should be ‘OB-tain’? Lutz added, “Those who can express themselves precisely and effectively have a huge advantage over those who can’t. Period. And if you can go one step further and make it precise, effective and interesting, you really have something. Success inevitably follows.”
I couldn’t agree more. My firm, The Repovich Reynolds Group specializes in finding exceptional talent for corporations worldwide, in the core functions of communications, marketing, investor relations and finance. There’s my marketing plug. Unfortunately, Lutz’ criticism of the marketplace is accurate and ubiquitous. I see too many communications professionals with poor writing skills. Recently, I was hired to find a Director of Communications for a Fortune 1000 company. The lead candidate completed two rounds of interviews with executives, psychological testing, and a face-to-face meeting with the CEO. The company was ready to make an offer, pending the outcome of a writing test. The candidate failed. Careless writing errors cost the candidate the job. In this world of instant communications, where everyone has a megaphone; strong writing, accurate spelling and grammar still matter and can make the difference in your next job opportunity.


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Sometimes Untraditional, Counter-Intuitive Career Goals Are Best

This week I was in Detroit for the Public Relations Society of America 2008 International Conference where there was a lot of talk about social networking, blogging and the changing landscape of communications in America. So I thought I’d share with you some of the career advice offered by the speakers. Penelope Trunk, a career columnist for the Boston Globe, and author of “Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success” offered these tips for navigating today’s workplace. Warning: some of her untraditional, counter-intuitive ideas that may shock you.

1. Money doesn’t equal happiness. We all know that, just look at the divorce rate in Hollywood, but a decent pay check sure makes it a whole lot easier to pay the bills and get a good night’s sleep.

2. Focus on optimism. “Anybody can switch their optimism around by changing daily things that they do,” she said. That’s a better route than saying, “My life sucks, so I need a new job.” She continued: “The key thing about increasing your happiness is your sex life. It has nothing to do with your job. As long as your job is OK, then you should focus on your sex life.”

3. Mentoring is the new currency. Keep your learning curve steep. One way to do that is find a mentor. Everyone needs one no matter where they are in their career. Even those of you who are about to embark on a Second Act need the guidance of someone who has made the transition before.

4. Job Hop. No, it’s not a misprint and I don’t agree. Trunk advocates changing jobs as soon as your learning curve flattens. She says young people get that and are not afraid to make the leap. She cited statistics that workers ages 18-30 last in a job an average of 18 months. “This means they’re building their skill set really fast. They’re more engaged. They’re building their networking faster.” That may sound good to an audience of 25 year olds, but the fact of the matter is many companies still frown on job hopping. I am working with a client right now that wants to set a limit for the number of job changes they will accept from prospective candidates.

5. Breaks are good. “The people who have no breaks in their resume are the people who don’t take any time to think about what they are doing,” Trunk said. “So everybody should cultivate some breaks in their career. It makes you look more thoughtful.” I think that depends on how long the break last. As a recruiter, I need to explain a gap in a resume. My advice: find some consulting work while you are contemplating your next career move.

6. Think about writing a blog. Blogs are a tool for career stability. They allow you to take control of your personal brand. People who are willing to put out their ideas are engaging. Blogs are also a hunting ground for thought leaders in various professions.

7. Office politics are nice. They are an inescapable part of work life. Putting your head down and doing your work is a good way to ensure that you don’t connect with anyone, Trunk said. “People who do office politics best are the people who sit back and look around to see who needs help…and what their own skill set is to help them.” I like this idea. We all have to play the game. If you think that just doing good work will result in a promotion, guess again. Connect with the stakeholders in your organization, find out what matters to them and figure out how you can contribute to their end goal.

8. Everyone is in PR. “You can’t associate yourself with your corporate brand all the time. You have to associate yourself with what you stand for, what you believe in, and how you generate ideas. You have to define your brand for people, so they know how to connect with you.”



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After The Fed

It’s been called “Washington’s Brain Drain”, the mass exodus of federal employees heading for retirement. According to the Office of Personnel Management, more than 300,000 federal workers will leave government service in the next five years. Some will retire to the beaches of Florida, others will tee up on the golf courses of North Carolina, but many of you will look for another job. Are you ready for you r “Second Act”?
When Jana Monroe retired as the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Phoenix Office, she jumped at an offer to work for one of the Big Four accounting firms.
“I had been in the law enforcement cocoon for 32 years. I wanted to see if my skill set transferred,” Monroe said.
The salary was good, but the corporate culture was not right for Monroe. “When KPMG didn’t turn out to be a good fit, then I started doing my homework. I learned that I don’t want to work remotely or from home. For me, I needed the energy and the synergy of working with people.”
So before you begin celebrating your KMA day (agents close to retirement will understand the acronym) or making a list of all the things you’ll have time to enjoy, start planning now for the next chapter of your career. Let’s start with the basics. Ask yourself some important questions. How much do I want to work? And how much do I need to work? Do you want a new career or a part-time job to supplement your pension? The answers may be very different, but will help you formulate an action plan for the future. If you want to launch a new career, here are some tips to ensure a successful Second Act. I’ll address these points in greater detail in subsequent career columns.
Revamp your resume to attract the attention of executives in the private sector. You may have had an exemplary career as a federal agent, but Corporate America wants to know what you can do for them. Focus on leadership skills, management experience and tangible results, not how many search warrants you conducted or the number of bad guys you arrested. Find ways to quantify your successes with statistics that employers understand. Example: Led a team of 10 law enforcement professionals and managed budgets in excess of $23 million. By linking your accomplishments to statistics, you illustrate your “added value” to the organization. Make sure your resume and cover letter are written in “C-suite” language. You can gain the respect of CEOs, CFOs or human resource professionals by speaking their language, a language that includes words like sales, revenue and profitability.
Work your network. Effective networking may be the single most important skill needed to position you for a new career. Reach out to family, friends, and neighbors, contacts you’ve made over the years, and let them know you are looking for opportunities after retirement. Despite all the job boards, social networks, and recruiters out there, there is nothing that can beat a contact that understands your value and will lobby on your behalf when it comes time to hire new talent. Talk to people who are already working in the jobs that appeal to you. Scheduling a relaxed, informal interview will give you a sense of what the work entails and what opportunities might exist. We all know the best jobs are often not advertised. They are filled through referrals, personal relationships, or a particular skill matching a corporate need. Companies are more comfortable hiring employees who have a network and are recommended by someone they trust. A former colleague recommended Jana Monroe for her current job as Director of Security and Emergency Preparedness at Edison International. This time, she did her homework and it looks like a perfect fit.
Match your skill set, knowledge and experience with the needs of your target job. Don’t define yourself by prior job titles, but by the skills that made you a success in those positions.
Carve out time each day to look for a new job. You’ve heard the phrase, “job hunting is a full-time job.” It’s true and you better devote the time to identify employment prospects, network with contacts and revamp your resume or retirement will sneak up on you before you know it. It is easy to become consumed by the demands of the job, so make your job search a priority.
Join professional and industry trade associations. Attend their conferences, offer to be a speaker or moderate a session. That kind of proactive outreach will help increase your visibility and put you in contact with key business leaders in your targeted profession. The people you meet during the cocktail hour may be more beneficial to your career than the actual content of the conference.
Get published. Many federal employees do some kind of writing on the job, whether it’s reports, evaluations, or an article for a trade publication. Writing helps build your brand as an “industry expert” and is one way to illustrate your ability to communicate.
Build relationships with recruiters. Headhunters can be excellent sources of information for leads on job openings or companies you wish to target.



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