Archive for May, 2007

In May, Beth Mitchell was fired.

“HR called me down to the office, and my boss was there. She had to break the news to me and she was given very specific guidelines about what she could or couldn’t say. They gave me an hour to pack and I wasn’t allowed to say goodbye to anyone,” she says.

Mitchell had been with the company, a large scientific organization in Washington, D.C., for seven years and was three years from retirement. She never saw it coming.

The company’s explanation for terminating Mitchell: It was eliminating her position. But the firing left her in a state of shock.

Mitchell, still shaken by the experience, is on her way to recovering. She credits exercise and time with friends as her best coping tools.

Step back

“The first 24 hours after being laid-off are critical,” says Bernadette Kenny, executive vice president of global career services firm Lee Hecht Harrison. “What you say or do immediately after being terminated can follow you throughout the job hunt and even affect your references. You have to keep your cool,” she says. “Take a week off. Don’t panic. Step back. Review your resume and your personal and professional profile.”

The emotional fallout from being fired can run the gamut from self-pity to sadness to anger to frustration and back again. “Give yourself some time to feel sorry for yourself, afraid, angry, defiant. All these emotions are entirely understandable after being fired,” says business coach Joyce K. Reynolds.

“The first week I was adamant about walking every morning, and I set goals for myself of things I wanted to get done,” Mitchell says.

She also took a short vacation with her husband and friends. “I just needed to be away,” Mitchell says.

A fresh start

Once you’ve had time to collect yourself, you can begin a new job search.

First, take a hard look at your skills and accomplishments. Determine what industries and companies are a good fit for you, and how you’ll target your skills accordingly.

“The most important — and most difficult — part of this process is opening yourself up to feedback and exploration,” says Jacki Keagy of Personnel Decisions International, a management and human resources consulting firm. “You need to truly feel that you have something valuable to offer. Because, let’s face it, if you don’t believe you’re a viable candidate, you certainly won’t convince anyone else.”

If you were fired because your work wasn’t up to par, determine what you need to change and how you can improve.

One of the toughest questions you’ll face is, “Why are you no longer at Company XYZ?” The issue will almost certainly come up, so be prepared.

Frame your response positively, Keagy says. “For example, ‘It was mutually agreed that it was time for me to move on’ or ‘I wanted my career to move in a different direction’ or, in the case of new management, ‘A new president came in and wanted to build her own team.'”

Legally speaking

You may have the right to severance or monetary rewards if you have been wrongfully terminated. Contact an employment attorney as soon as possible, says Pat Branco, president and founder of Management & Training Solutions.

Unfair termination includes being fired when it relates to age, gender, race or religion. Acceptable termination includes layoffs of large groups due to mergers, being fired after one or more warnings about poor job performance and department closings.

Being fired is one of the most traumatic events you can go through. But by understanding and working through your emotions, taking care of yourself and setting your sights on new career goals, you will get through it.


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A very sad day in the land of Career Secret Sauce — the Apprentice is no more. But rather than slip away in a whimper, The Donald announces a new venture that will be bigger and better than ever!

You can actually use this strategy for yourself as a way to buy time after and unexpected termination. Start working on a new venture of your own. It can be a charity, research project, or hot dog stand. The point is, give your resume some fresh grist and give yourself something current to talk about when you start interviewing again.

Far better than looking like someone who was canned and is just out groveling for a new job.


Donald Trump to NBC: “You can’t fire me, I quit”

Fri May 18, 2007 8:19PM EDT

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Donald Trump, whose low-rated reality show “The Apprentice” was left off the new prime-time schedule unveiled this week by NBC, says the network can’t fire him — he quits.

The real estate mogul issued a statement on Friday saying he has informed the U.S. television network he is “moving on from ‘The Apprentice’ to a major new TV venture,” though he declined to elaborate.

There was no immediate comment from NBC.

But his announcement appeared to end any lingering doubt that “The Apprentice,” which turned the self-styled tycoon into a television star and popularized the catch phrase, “You’re fired,” would be banished from NBC’s airwaves next season.

The corporate-themed reality show, which aired in dozens of countries around the world, featured young, aggressive entrepreneurs in a weekly game of elimination as they competed for a real-life job in Trump’s business empire.

“The Apprentice” debuted as a hit in 2004, averaging nearly 21 million viewers and ranking as the top-rated new U.S. TV show its first season. But the series dropped steadily in the ratings in successive years, losing nearly two-thirds of its original audience by the time it wrapped up its sixth installment last month.

The show’s future was cast into further doubt on Monday when the network announced a 2007-08 programming lineup that made no mention of Trump. But NBC executives refused then to absolutely rule out a reprieve once rival networks ABC, CBS and Fox had laid out their schedules for next season.

The statement from Trump’s organization seemed to spell a definitive end to the series.

“It looks like viewers will have to wait to see what Mr. Trump plans for the future,” the statement said. “But if Mr. Trump’s past TV success is any indication of the future, then one can anticipate that millions of ‘Apprentice’ fans will be migrating to his new venture.”

Trump and NBC still remain in the beauty pageant business together. The two announced in March a renewed deal to keep annual broadcasts of the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, which Trump co-owns, on the General Electric Co.-controlled network through 2010.

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Last month I wrote about the starting salary game. Getting a fair salary is about more than just “the money.” If you start too low, it will take years to catch up and you’ll feel cheated the whole time. If you start too high, you put yourself at risk by being “overpaid.”

Here is a great piece on negotiating your salary for your first job.



Getting What (You Think) You’re Worth
Tara Weiss, 05.09.07, 11:00 AM ET

What a relief! The grueling task of finding a job is over. You received an offer, and the company presented you with your starting salary and benefits package.

But wait. Before you hastily agree to the terms and sign on the dotted line, do some homework to find out if you’re being offered a competitive salary. If not–or even if you need a few thousand dollars more to cover the rent–negotiate. It’s something recent grads are reluctant to do since they’re often grateful just to be hired. After all, it’s not as if they have a wealth of on the job experience. It’s great to be appreciative and enthusiastic, but don’t forget: not only can you negotiate the salary of your first job, you should.

Here’s one reason why: “It’s no different than how we play poker,” says Michael Ball, founder of Career Freshman, a California-based company that teaches employers how to manage recent graduates. Employers are not coming in with their full hand. They’re always coming in a few thousand below what they have to cap out at. There’s always more wiggle room.”

In Pictures: Negotiating Your First Salary

Chris Fusco, vice president of compensation at Salary.com, says negotiating often results in “about 10% improvement on the initial offer.” He recommends saying something like “Based on my understanding of the job, the company’s needs, and the skills and experience I bring, I feel I’m worth $5,000 more than what you’re offering me.”

Fusco advises students to make employers aware of the work and internship experience they’ve had in the past, recommendations from professors and former employers, and details of extracurricular activities, to show the strong potential they have for success at the company.

If the thought of negotiating for a few thousand dollars more makes you queasy, consider this: Annual raises are usually a percentage of your salary. “That incremental negotiation you do at the front end continues to pay you back when it’s time for a percentage raise,” says Ball. It goes on from there, especially if you’re at the company for several years.

That’s particularly true for women. Among employees who work full time and are one year out of college, females are making only 80% of what their male counterparts earn, according to a new study by the American Association of University Women.

Granted, there are variables at play, such as the jobs women chose, education received and whether they work at a for-profit company versus a nonprofit or governmental organization. But when Catherine Hill, director of research at the association and co-author of the report “Behind the Pay Gap,” accounted for those variables statistically, there was still a 5% difference between men and women that’s not explained. Women’s lack of negotiating skills likely has something to do with it, she says.

Both genders should keep in mind that negotiating might have another benefit. “How a prospective employee negotiates is a good indicator of how that person will perform on the job,” says Fusco. “It’s an indicator of whether they’ll be able to influence others to take action and if they can lobby to get resources.”

Whatever you do, don’t tell the recruiter how much you hope to make. It’s a lose-lose situation. If you ask for too much, you can price yourself out of the job, but if you ask for too little, you’re hurting yourself financially. If asked, the right thing to say is, “I’m very excited about working for this company, and I think I have a lot to bring. I’m sure we can work together to agree on salary that suits both of us.”

Never go into raise negotiations without knowing what other people in your profession are making. The first place to check is your university’s career center. Career counselors can tell you if the company’s salary history is consistent with its offer.

From there, ask if the recruiter can put you in touch with last year’s grads who received offers from that company and their competitors. If you’re planning to negotiate, ask the contact how he or she negotiated and if it was successful. That person can also offer tips on how to ask for more money since he or she knows the company’s culture after being there for a year.

Then, see what recent grads with similar jobs in your geographic area are making by visiting sites like salary.com and vault.com. These sites post all sorts of information from employees about what it’s like to work for their organization.

Many companies hire entry-level employees into structured programs that give them an opportunity to rotate throughout the company. Salaries for those positions aren’t usually flexible. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for discussion, says Victoria Tracy, director of staffing at Tyco International. She recommends being completely honest. For instance, if you need help with moving costs, she suggests telling the recruiter to see if that money can be put in the form of a signing bonus.

Another way to get around a structured salary is to ask if your manager can review your performance and salary at six months instead of at the year mark, she says. “We want candidates who work for us to feel good as soon as they walk in the door,” says Tracy. “We also want them to be reasonable. If they’re willing to work with us, we’re willing to listen to their concerns.”

Keep in mind that some offers are too good to refuse even if the money isn’t there. That’s true for programs that will teach you unique skills or employers that have exemplary records when it comes to professional development and work/life balance. Some jobs and employers are so prestigious that having it on your résumé will help you get other, more lucrative offers.

“Too often people see their career as nothing but a paycheck,” says John Leech, director of recruitment for FedEx. “It really is so much more.”

Tyco’s Tracy offers one final piece of advice: No matter what, never, ever have your parents call up to do the negotiating for you.

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Here’s some additional “food for thought” before you assume a new job is a solution to your current (perhaps temporary) job problems.



It comes down to mind, brand, and focus, says author Shelley Canter. But she has some advice on how to break down the barriers

by Marshall Goldsmith

Rachelle (Shelley) Canter is a career expert with more than 20 years of experience. She has coached many leaders and professionals through successful career moves in virtually every industry, function, and geography. Shelley has just published a career guide, Make the Right Career Move. We recently talked about her new book. Edited excerpts of our conversation follow:

Why did you write Make the Right Career Move?

Each of us will likely make several major career changes in the course of our careers, yet no one teaches the essential skills needed to make them. Even many highly successful executives feel trapped in jobs they don’t enjoy, without the time or tools to make a change. There are tons of books out there, but I never found one written for executives and professionals who have little time but need to make a big impact in a competitive marketplace. I couldn’t find that book, so I wrote it.

That sounds like a good reason. What are the primary obstacles to finding a dream job?

There are three: your mind, your brand, and your focus. The first place people get stuck is in their heads—they believe their career possibilities are limited and never even try to identify, much less land, their dream job. While there is a reasonability check on dreams—for example, I’m not getting a job as a Cirque du Soleil performer, no matter how hard I try—if my clients had listened to all the naysayers, they wouldn’t have had a fraction of the career satisfaction and success they achieved. We all have more career possibilities than we realize.

How do you go beyond the blocks?

The best way is to submit them to empirical scrutiny. For example, when you say there are no opportunities for marketing analysts without MBAs, is this factually true (no) or just a reflection of your own discouragement? Once you’ve differentiated your emotional reactions or interpretations from objective fact, the next thing is to do a reasonability check: Would an employer hire me for my target job, based on my previous accomplishments and experience? Or is there an intervening job that will strengthen my candidacy? Dream, but dream realistically. For example, a lawyer client of mine wanted to leave her corporate law firm practice for the more personally fulfilling work of being a law-school professor. Everyone told her that this was impossible, especially at mid-career. Had she simply approached law schools and applied for teaching jobs, it probably wouldn’t have been possible. But through a combination of writing a résumé that showcased her oral and written presentation skills (particularly in the courtroom) and tutoring experience, taking a teaching class, and volunteering to teach in a couple of programs, she was able to line up an adjunct teaching position at a local law school within a few months, and eventually compete successfully for a permanent teaching position. Her path from unrealized to fulfilled dreams is one that others can follow.

What else stands in people’s way?

Too many people, especially people well-established in their careers, mistakenly view a job search as an opportunity to announce their availability when it’s really about marketing themselves. A successful job search is a marketing challenge. And if you don’t have a brand, you have nothing to market.

Can you define “brand” in the context of job search?

Whether you’re starting out a career or have been in it for years, no one is the same chief marketing officer, nurse, litigator, or stock analyst you are. Your brand is a factual statement of your unique and valuable way of doing things. One way to define your brand is through the specific set of accomplishments in your résumé. Your goal is to present the strongest brand you can. Perhaps you’re a COO who’s a productivity booster—the person who takes mature or declining companies and finds new ways to streamline operations and motivate employees. By presenting specific instances in which you improved productivity, your résumé showcases your brand through measurable results and makes your résumé stand apart from a generic COO resume. Whatever your career stage or career level, this branding strategy can help you stand out from the competition. If you’re in an entry-level, customer-service position and you’re the go-to person for handling unreasonable customers and fulfilling unreasonable, last-minute demands, showcase that with accomplishments that show different kinds of customer-service results. Branding is an effective strategy for anyone, and the sooner you master it, the more help it can provide throughout your career. Employers are rarely looking for generic employees. Branding ensures that you don’t inadvertently create a generic résumé.

Tell me what else people do wrong.

Many clients have made their own efforts to find work they love but they focused on the wrong things or did the right things the wrong way and ended up stuck in place. They mistakenly concluded that they weren’t marketable and gave up. The problem wasn’t with them, it was with their focus. Despite the temptation of the Internet with its lure of a great new job only a click away, the fact is that 70% to 80% of jobs come through contacts, particularly for more senior people. There’s a huge opportunity cost in emphasizing the Internet for your job search, because, while it takes little time to apply for a particular job, it’s time that could be more profitably spent with your network. Search consultants provide an alternative, but their clients generally direct them to identify candidates who have done the same job elsewhere, a problem if you’re looking to make a change.

So how do we focus on our network?

By making it a priority to do outreach to a broad array of your contacts, whether or not they’re in your target profession or location. While your network is likely to be the source of your dream job, it’s the hardest job-search strategy to pursue. Many people are so busy with their jobs that they’ve let their networks languish. Even people with active networks are reluctant to ask others for assistance. You can overcome this reluctance by remembering that you have something valuable to offer as a candidate, and also by looking actively for ways to reciprocate. That’s how you can turn networking into an enjoyable and valuable part of your search.

Can you give me an example?

I recently had a client, a very intelligent, talented executive whose company had no room for him higher up the pyramid. He was frustrated and had been looking on his own for months, getting close to some interesting jobs but never getting the job. His company hired me to work with him, and a mere few weeks into our collaboration, he landed a dream job with a famous Silicon Valley company. From the outset, his future boss tried to sell him on the [unadvertised] job. Why? According to the boss, the combination of a terrific résumé and a personal endorsement—from a not-very-close colleague—were enough to grab their attention, and then my client closed the deal by his personal presentation through the interview process. By making a career move to a different kind of company and role, in a highly sought-after company, he demonstrated how overcoming the three obstacles of mind, brand, and focus can lead to a great new job. Watching others turn seeming impossibility into possibility and dream jobs—I’ve got the best job in the world! 

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