You probably know Aisha Tyler. She does nearly everything: Standup comedy. Played Ross’s girlfriend on “Friends” for a season. Currently on daytime TV as a host of “The Talk” and voices Lana Kane on the hilarious adult cartoon show “Archer”. Wrote and directed a short film. She is a contributor to Glamour and Entertainment Weekly and just finished her second book. She is also a hardcore gamer geek which endears her to an entirely different demographic. She voiced a character in Halo Reach and is a regular participant/presenter at geekfests Comicon and E3.
Aisha developed and hosts the #7 podcast on iTunes (with over 4 million listeners), Girl on Guy. Girl on Guy is an often hilarious 1:1 conversation with some of the most interesting guys in the entertainment industry (with a few women guests thrown in for good measure), hosted by a guy’s girl. I’m a religious listener because Aisha is extremely articulate, well-spoken, whip-smart, and the dialogue is almost always provocative. Aisha often walks her guest through their back story–how did they get where they are today?
As I listened to a recent episode, I realized that there at some constant themes that emerge from these dialogues:
These insights are directly applicable to managing your career.
We are a culture that, by and large, does not welcome self-promoters.
Many of us are good at what we do in work. But we’re not good at telling others how and why we’re good at what we do. We’re taught not to brag to others about our accomplishments or achievements. Which, in a way, is exactly what we must do at every step of the job search process–and especially in interviews.
Hence, most people are uncomfortable with having to ‘sell’ themselves. Lacking practice, far too many job seekers come across in interviews as stiff, uncomfortable, anxious, nervous–not who they are in a normal conversational exchange.
As a recruiter, I interview a lot of candidates. I quickly assess whether a candidate is being their genuine self with me or not. It’s not the only factor that matters to me; I’m assessing whether they have the right mix of skills, experience, education, and knowledge as well as whether there are any potential red flags regarding compensation expectations, etc. But as I am evaluating the 5-7 people I’ve phone screened for a position–all of whom are similarly qualified–I will often give the edge to someone that I know is going to present themselves well to a hiring manager.
An interview loop assesses if you can do the job and whether you will work well with the team/manager. Hiring managers and their teams want to know if you’ll add value and not be high maintenance. If a candidate comes across as overly nervous, talks too much (or too little), or is a self-important, arrogant ass (I’ve seen all three recently) they’ll likely be given a no hire–even if that’s not who they are most of the time. (Remind me to tell you the story of the guy who once said, “Unlike women, I understand numbers” to an SVP in Finance during an interview…)
Do you know how you come across in an interview? You need to. Here’s how:
More than anything, though–remember this: An interview is a conversation. It’s a two-way dialogue where both parties should be looking for information from the other. You need to assess whether this is the right job, type of manager, company/team culture, etc for you just as much as they are assessing you. Always have that thought top of mind in every interview situation; it should be empowering to you. The more you can strike a balance between being professional but genuine, the more the interviewer is likely to think positively of you.
My awesome sourcer/senior recruiter, Kristen Fife, sent me an interesting blog post about Morgan Missen’s recent tweet. For those who are unaware, Morgan Missen is considered one of the most influential recruiters in Silicon Valley. She has worked in recruiting at Google and built the teams at Twitter and foursquare. Expert guest on Bloomberg TV, CrunchBase, TechCrunch, and others.
On Wednesday, she posted this to Twitter:
Saying you have twenty years of experience on your résumé only means you’re forty; and, much like being forty, it’s nothing to brag about.
— Morgan Missen (@mm) January 23, 2013
Silicon Valley has been the subject of recent stories about ageism, where one worker stated:
“I don’t think I would have been able to get this CEO job if I hadn’t shaved my head,” says Adams, who has founded eight venture-backed companies. . .Adams has supplemented his makeover by trading in his button-down shirts for T-shirts, making sure he owns the latest gadgets, and getting an eyelid lift.
In 2010, TechCrunch reported that UC Berkeley professors analyzed BLS data for the semiconductor industry and found that after 50, the mean salary of engineers was lower—by 17% for those with bachelors degrees, and by 14% for those with masters degrees and PhDs—than the salary of those younger than 50. Ouch.
I’ve never recruited in Silicon Valley. I have been exposed to multiple startups in Seattle, and the dev culture is often very young. It makes sense in certain practical ways: In a market where the average tech salary is now $92,290 a startup may not have the dollars to hire a lot of experienced mid-career devs. You want people who are hungry to learn, are excited to build something new (and hopefully profit from its success down the road), and who will trade personal life for a job that requires working 12+ hours a day 6-7 days a week to build, test, and launch that groundbreaking new mobile app. (Speaking as someone who lives with a dev, I know those kind of hours aren’t uncommon. It’s likely a lot harder to juggle that schedule with parent-teacher conferences, neighborhood watch meetings, house remodels and the like.) But it’s a problem if a mid-20’s CEO only wants to hire people who look like they do and they don’t have anyone counseling them as to why that’s not only a bad idea from a business perspective, but it’s also illegal.
As a recruiter who hires for software dev/test/PM positions, age isn’t a factor for me. As long as they have the right skills/experience, there aren’t any red flags in the interview process, and their comp expectations are in alignment with what we can pay it matters not if they are 25 or 55. I’ve not run into overt ageism while working with any of my tech hiring teams. If anything they often start out wanting someone more senior/specialized than, after I qualify them, we agree they likely need.
I’m curious to know whether people reading this have experienced overt ageism in the tech community–either inside Silicon Valley or in places like Seattle.
In my last post, I discussed the 3+ Million ‘hopelessly unemployed’ people in the United States. This category is defined as people who would like to find a job, but haven’t actively searched for a job in a year or more. In short, they’ve given up hope.
There are a lot of reasons for this, and most are not easy or simple. I don’t claim to have a fix for this problem, but I do know what it is to be unemployed for a few months and how discouraging it can be.
There’s a management theory called Situational Leadership. It has 4 stages that a new employee (or existing employee taking on a new project/role) will likely pass through:
I think the SitLead categories are very transferable to the stages of job search.
Stage 1: Many job seekers new to the market find some jobs online that are possible fits and apply. They send a few emails to people in their network and receive back positive messages (“Wow, sucks to hear you’re looking, you were better than that place, sure I’ll keep my ears open for you…”) that bolster their confidence and spirits. They pass their resume to a couple of people who tell them that they will pass it along ‘to the right people’. It seems like there is a lot of positive movement without a ton of heavy lifting; spirits are good. Then…
Stage 2 hits. Those resumes you forwarded to friends don’t produce a result. The only thing you hear from the jobs to which you submitted resumes via an online application site are emails entitled “Thank you for your interest in. . .”. Those friends you emailed a few weeks ago must have all been deaf, as their ears don’t seem to be hearing anything that’s resulted in a job lead. Weeks pass without much positive response.
It’s easy to get stuck in Stage 2. The rejection can be a big blow to self-worth. “I am pretty good at what I do–so why aren’t I even getting an interview? I thought I had a better network…why isn’t it helping me find my next job?” Also, it seems like the options most available–searching online, contacting a few former colleagues–just aren’t working. It’s hard to get past that–trust me, I’ve been there. But it’s critical to push through, because otherwise it’s an infinite loop of less investment, even less return, and greater disillusionment. So you soldier on to…
Stage 3: Frustrated and discouraged, but realistic, you recommit and redouble your efforts.
Did you do all of that? Congratulations. You’re a Stage 4 job seeker. You are connecting with people and talking about future opportunities that aren’t posted yet. People in your professional community know what an asset you are–and what you could be to their company. Board members of that non-profit–which happen to be CxO’s of companies in your area for their day jobs–are getting a taste of your capability. More than that–your self-worth no longer hinges upon an email reply that begins with something other than, “Thank you for your interest in. . .”.
I recently took a trip to Spain. Two days before departure, I got a nasty head cold–which meant flying 11.5 hours sick. I arrived, had one great day–and then got the stomach flu. (I know–I sound like a ton of fun to travel with, right?) The upshot of this is my sleep schedule was totaly screwed up and remained that way for weeks after I arrived home. I was waking up at 3-4am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Nothing I tried–exercise; no exercise; melatonin; reading with low light; watching C-SPAN–helped me sleep more/better.
One night, when sitting in the living room at 4:30am, both exhausted and wide awake, I had that fleeting thought–“What if this is the new norm? What if I never sleep more than 4 hours a night?” Fortunately, that didn’t turn out to be reality (as is often true); a week later and I’m back to sleeping 6-7 hours a night.
I think we’ve all had these moments when something in our lives suddenly changes in an unexpected or negative way. We injure our back/knee/etc and hobble around for a week or two. We deal with insomnia. We have a sudden allergy attack that doesn’t seem to stop for a week or two.
Or–we lose our job. And/or are have difficulty finding the next one. If someone stays in this category long enough, they are considered a discouraged worker by the DOL, and there’s a lot of them. What’s worse is a new category being deemed the hopelessly unemployed–people who want a job but haven’t searched for one in at least a year. And there’s over 3 million people in that category.
We, as a nation, have to do better.
There are promising signs in certain sectors: There is some evidence that manufacturing jobs are starting to return to the US from near/offshore. Housing starts hit their highest number in December 2012 since their peak in 2008.
But it doesn’t explain why 3.25 Million people have become so hopelessly discouraged that they don’t even look for work–and haven’t for over a year.
What is the right solution, hivemind?