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100 posts. Where do we go from here? Your input needed

Happy Monday, blogosphere!

This is the 100th post since I started this blog in January.

A few stats:

  • 100 posts
  • 9,150 views
  • 1,210 followers across a few different networks
  • Best ever single day: 87 views
  • 272 tags
  • 22 categories

Where do new readers come from? In descending stack rank order:

  • Google search
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Tumblr (the blog reposts there)
  • Bing
  • Yahoo Search
  • Google Mobile

This is the point where I ask you, blog readers, where we should go next.

  • Start/stop/continue: What should we start talking about that we haven’t? What has been covered enough? What should we continue talking about?
  • What would make this blog work better for you?
  • How can this be more useful to you in your job search?
  • How can this blog provide better information about advancing your career?

This only goes forward with YOUR input! So start lighting up the comments…and thanks for reading.

TGIF and…Fall.

Happiest of Fridays to everyone.

I’d say happy Fall. But I’m still sulking over the fact that, indeed, there is no more Summer to be had.

I was in full denial of the end of Summer–and the fact that it was 89 degrees less than two weeks ago was a great enabler. However, in the past week, it’s definitely felt like Fall. Mornings are foggy, afternoons (sometimes) breaking into blue sky (which, given what we have coming in the next few months, we appreciate). We’ve finally gotten rain–a fair bit of it.

I’m not a fan of Fall. Spring, it’s polar opposite, is my favorite season. Fall represents nature’s somnolence; everything goes into hibernation–including the sunlight. The beautiful garden dies off for another year, leaving behind little more than dead leaves and comatose plants. Contrast that with Spring, which is a beautiful reawakening. Nature comes out of its long, cold slumber in a spectacular way.

Also, our days get shorter–a lot shorter. Seattle is the Northernmost major US city in the contiguous 48 states, and hence we get the biggest swings in daylight hours. At the Winter solstice, we had 8h 25m 23s from sunrise to sunset–so let’s say about 8 hours total. Contrast that to what we get at the Summer solstice: 15h 59m 21s. Does it make more sense now as to why we drink so much coffee here? We need it to get through the dark ages of Winter every year.

We’re far enough North that we can occasionally see the Northern Lights. This photo was taken at Skunk Bay Lighthouse, right around the corner from my father’s place near Point No Point:

I’ve seen the Northern Lights a couple of times while visiting out there (far less light pollution = much better viewing conditions). Seeing it should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Fortunately, in just a few short weeks we’ll be headed to a place where Summer will just be starting…and I’ll be ready for it.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Recruiters don’t always shrug off a breakup.

At one point in my career, I was working on a high-criticality recruiting initiative. One position for this team in particular was pivotal. The opportunity was compelling; however the location was a bit challenging for some.

I had sourced a candidate for the position who the team thought was very strong. Everyone was very excited to have this person join the team. We negotiated–hard–to get them. After a couple weeks’ negotiation, the candidate made the choice to pursue a different opportunity.

You might think that a professional recruiter isn’t bothered when a candidate turns them down. Recruiting is a numbers game, after all, and when you’re in a highly competitive market for talent it is a given you will get declines. While the latter is true, allow me to disabuse you of the former.

A good recruiter assesses a candidate’s engagement level and evaluates the likelihood they will accept an offer. There are times when our instincts tell us ‘this candidate isn’t into us’, and in some cases we can raise a candidate’s level of engagement through qualifying and overcoming concerns/anxieties, having key leaders provide information to the candidate about the future vision for the product, etc. Then there are times when something outside our control impacts a decision to accept (family, spouse’s employment).

Having a great candidate decline a critical position is a huge bummer, especially for what we call ‘purple squirrels’–candidates that have such a unique skillset that finding another, similar person will involve a long search.

If you ever find yourself needing to decline a position, consider reading my earlier post on how to gracefully turn down a job offer before making that call or sending that email. And know that if the recruiter sounds disappointed, it’s likely quite genuine.

Professional Certifications: How valuable are they in your career?

In 2009, I studied for and passed the Senior Professional in Human Resources certification. This is a widely recognized professional HR certification for mid-career HR and recruiting professionals.

I don’t have this pin. I’d never wear it if I did.

In the prior year I had moved out of recruiting into a talent program manager role. I was overseeing the entire employment lifecycle for 28 program associates, from recruiting/hiring/onboarding to performance management, salary planning, progressive discipline and employment law issues, etc. Suddenly I was well outside my scope of expertise in a number of core HR functions.

The SPHR certification afforded me an opportunity to quickly learn about these other key HR areas. I also realized that there was likely some market value to the certification itself.

But how much value is there?  Being certified in certain IT technologies can potentially add 8-13% to your base pay. And a PayScale study released this June shows that HR certifications can add significant amounts to base pay (up to $20,000) as well as accelerating career advancement. There’s good news for people pursuing their CPA or CFA, too: recent studies show that professionals holding these certifications saw an average base salary increase of 22%.

Does this mean I think everyone should run out and get a professional certification? Absolutely not. It greatly depends on your industry and whether it is certification-centric; and whether the certification will offer you strong value density in terms of the learning you achieve in addition to the brand recognition that comes with those additional letters after your name.

Many of the study programs–and the certification exams themselves–aren’t cheap, so you’ll have to weigh the cost against the potential ROI. How many job postings do you find that list the certification(s) you are considering as a required or preferred qualification? Search on LinkedIn–how many people list that certification? Are they in jobs you want? Talk with people in your field–ideally people who are in positions to which you aspire–who have achieved the certification. How has it benefited them? Do they recommend the program through which they achieved their certification?

Don’t be afraid to make quick pivots. Sometimes they can have tasty endings.

This weekend, we visited Vancouver BC with some friends. It’s an amazing city, and we had a fantastic time exploring it. The Bloedel Conservatory in particular is well worth a stop if you ever go.

As we approached Burlington, WA en route home, the freeway ahead came to a full stop. We realized with dismay that this was the weekend that the Mount Vernon bridge which collapsed in May was receiving its permanent replacement span, and that I-5 traffic was being detoured onto a side road. This resulted in a 9+ mile backup. Ugh.

Just before we hit the tail end of the freeway parking lot there was a freeway exit. I suggested we take it and figure out a detour from there. Once we got up the offramp, I realized that this road led to Edison, WA.

edison

Edison is a little village in the Skagit Valley inhabited by artisans. The surrounding area has a distillery, a couple of exceptional cheesemakers, and some amazing farm producers. Edison itself is home to an exceptional bakery, The Breadfarm, as well as Slough Food.

breadfarm

Photo credit: Rick Becker

20 minutes later, we found ourselves on the lovely back patio at Slough Food, thinking this was the best detour ever.

slough

We continued our trip on a road that paralleled the (still stopped) highway to the West, winding through the beautiful Skagit Valley, figuring out our route as we went. We rejoined the freeway South of Mount Vernon into free moving traffic.

How does this little travelogue connect with our careers (or career search)? There are times where we are suddenly faced with an unexpected obstacle or challenge that looks to deter us from our intended goal. But we always have a choice as to how we react–and how we change course. Sometimes we have to do so quickly and figure things out as we go. This is often the way things go in recruiting; you have a phenomenal candidate who a team really likes–and the position suddenly gets put on hold. Pivot? Find another team internally who might be willing to make an opportunistic hire.

How about in your career search? Let me give you an example: I was RIF’ed when the F100 financial services company for which I worked was sold. I was amazingly bummed to lose an amazing job where I was still learning, one of the best managers I’d ever had, and working with a world-class team. How did I pivot? I hit the books to obtain my SPHR certification, volunteered with a professional organization to maintain my network, did a bit of consulting to keep my skills fresh, and started exploring other industries. This led to me working in healthcare, then my current position in the software industry. Did I know how things would play out exactly? No. But I put aside the emotions, formed an initial plan, and developed it as I went.

This kind of decision making and flexibility are essential to a successful career search. (And sometimes, to finding a very tasty and relaxing alternative to sitting in a massive traffic jam as well.)

September 2013
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