Author: Kevin Dumcum

I am passionate about helping disadvantaged people - persons experiencing homelessness, families with financial struggles, persons with disabilities, immigrants to the US, ex-offenders re-entering society - by providing information, support and resource to create job search strategies and find gainful, sustainable employment. I believe in the value and capacity of every individual to provide for and contribute to themselves, their families, and to their communities. Some just need a helping hand. Christ follower. Career management and Social Media strategist. Runner, Writer, Comic Book reader.

Book Review: “Raving Fans” by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles

Like many of the other titles in Ken Blanchard’s The One-Minute Manager series, Raving Fans (co-written with Sheldon Bowles) is written as a business fable to illustrate some basic, common-sense methods.

The lesson in Raving Fans is how a manager can lead his division or company to deliver consistently exemplary customer service.

The fable involves Area Manager, who is charged by the company President to improve the company’s customer service reputation, a task which the two previous managers tried and failed (and, it is implied, were subsequently fired). As Area Manager contemplates his challenge, he is helped by a golf-obsessed Fairy Godmother named Charlie, who takes him on a journey to meet other business people who Charlie previously assisted. Along the way, Area Manager learns the three secrets of converting customers to not just satisfied, but Raving Fans.

As with many of The One-Minute Manager books, Blanchard’s and Bowles’ secrets are not so secret, but are often overlooked. Blanchard has a knack of identifying and articulating lessons that on reflection should be obvious, but if they were, everyone would be successful and there would be no need for his books. On that level, Raving Fans succeeds.

The book ultimately fails, however, because the (fictionalized) companies Blanchard and Bowles use as examples of exemplary customer service that are simply not financially feasible. For example, a grocery store offers personal shoppers and a computer system that allows for no checkout lines; a gas station has a team of attendants to service a car while charging the same as the self-serve station up the block. The assumption is that the stores provide such incredible customer service that customers buy enough, often enough, to allow for a reasonable profit. That, however, is not addressed in Blanchard’s and Bowles’ fable.

I can believe the truth of the Three Secrets. I wish, for the sake of the book, that Blanchard and Bowles had chosen more believable examples. As it is, Raving Fans would have been better delivered as a blog post.

Blanchard, Ken and Bowles, Sheldon. Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1993. Print.

"Raving Fans" by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles

“Raving Fans” by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles

Have you read this book? I would love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below, or connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

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Seven Job Search Tips for the Mature Worker

This blog, in a slightly different format, was originally posted on LocalWork.com

Of all the groups affected by the weak job market, perhaps none has experienced more difficulty than the Mature Worker, those age 50 or older. In many cases, Mature Workers have had long work histories with a single company, and find themselves conducting a job search for the first time in years. Many, after months of unsuccessfully submitting hundreds of applications, have given up, forced into early retirement because they cannot find employment.

This has lead to the belief of rampant age discrimination, that employers illegally overlook older job seekers.

I contend, however, the problem is not that Mature Workers are older, but that they ACT older, by conducting a job search in a way that, true or false, suggests they are out of touch with the needs of employers and their customers.

In short, many Mature Workers are conducting a 2015 job search with 2010 or earlier job search strategies, and it is not working.

Here are tips for job seekers of any age to update your job search:

CC image courtesy Matthew Kenwrick from Flickr

CC image courtesy Matthew Kenwrick from Flickr

1. Seek help

Job search strategies that worked before do not work today. Seek out advice with your County or City Workforce Connection. Use the career services at your university or local community college. Visit a non-profit career center, or consider consulting with a career coach. We are all here to help.

2. Create a new resume

Age-proof your resume by deleting the Objective Statement and the phrase, “References available upon request.” Include a highly focused Summary of Qualifications. Go back only about 10 years in your work history, and emphasize achievements.

3. Consider additional training

Perhaps you spent years in the same position with the same company. Or, your occupation is dying (good-bye, typewriter repair industry). Or, your computer skills are weak. Consider short-term vocational training. In some cases, with as little as a few hours, you can earn a certification that will make you more competitive in a new occupation. Check with your local Workforce Center.

4. Be found online

Google your name. What do you find? The only thing worse than a negative online presence is having no presence at all, which suggests to employers that you are out of touch with today’s market. Get on LinkedIn, and make sure your account is current. Start a blog. Leave comments (preferably relevant to your industry, positive, and constructive!).

5. Get offline

For every position posted on a job board, employers receive, on average, 250 applications. The chance of getting hired based on an application is less than 0.5%. Basically, you are playing the lottery. To be sure, you need to apply for positions online, and job boards can help identify opportunities, but to have the best chance of job search success, you should do most of your searching offline.

6. Meet more people

Hiring decision makers prefer to make decisions based on the recommendations and referrals of people they already know. Your strategy, then, is to know someone who can make a recommendation or referral for you. Make sure everyone you know, knows what you are looking for. And then, go meet more people. Go to job fairs and hiring events. Attend trade associations and conferences. Chat up the person ahead or behind you in line for coffee. The cliché is true: you never know where your next opportunity will turn up.

7. Don’t give up

Job search is discouraging, demoralizing, demeaning. You will have bad days, and you will face a lot of rejection. But you only need one Yes. If what you are doing isn’t working, then try something new. Keep at it, and one day, maybe not when or where or how you expected, you will find success.

Manage Your Social Media

This blog, in a slightly different format, was originally posted on LocalWork.com.

CC image courtesy Sean MacEntee via Flickr.com

CC image courtesy Sean MacEntee via Flickr.com

According to a 2013 CareerBuilder.com survey, 39% of employers screen a job applicant’s social media sites. Of those, another 43% found something on Facebook, Twitter, etc., to cause them to not hire a candidate. Both of these figures are increases from the year before, and it is expected that the numbers are even higher today.

We can debate whether it is right, ethical, or legal for employers to consider our social media posts, but the fact is, they are.

Job seekers must manage their social media.

First, stop digging a hole. If you have made disparaging comments about your job, boss, or colleagues, if you brag about playing hooky, or if you post about your binge drinking, drug use, or sexual conquests – stop! It turns out, our mothers, and Thumper, are right. If you have ever posted anything like these, delete them, now.

Second, set your privacy settings where they make sense. My LinkedIn and Twitter accounts are open (I want to be found), while my Facebook is restricted to Friends/Family. However, I am fully aware that all it takes is for one Facebook friend to “share” a post to their feed and all of a sudden, it is out there.

Third, assess the damage. Search for your name, including variants (James and Jim) on Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Then, set up a Google Alert for your own name.

Fourth, if there is anything potentially damaging to your online reputation, then bury it. Open new social media accounts; sign on to the message boards of your professional affiliations; start a blog. Post comments and content that support the brand reputation you want, and that set you up as a subject-matter expert for your position and career. Your goal is to have enough positive things about you online that the negatives are buried to the second or third page, or lower, on a search engine. The negative stuff might still be found, but hopefully there will be enough positives to minimize its impact.

Fifth, especially if you have a somewhat common name, create a card with your social media links that you can hand to potential employers, so that you are not mistaken for the similarly-named person who spends more time at Spring Break than in school. This assumes, of course, that you cleaned up your social media sites!

I would love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below, or connect with me on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

How to Answer, “Do You Have Any Questions For Me?”

At some point of the job interview, the interviewer will ask, “Do you have any questions for me?”

The wrong answer is, “No, I think you answered everything.”

The correct answer is, “Yes, I do have some questions.” And then, ask some questions.

There are two main reasons you want to ask questions.

Image courtesy Ole Ronberg via Flickr.com

Image courtesy Ole Ronberg via Flickr.com

First, remember, you are interviewing the company as much as the company is interviewing you. If and when they make an offer, you want to be in a position to make an informed decision about whether to accept.

Second, and critically, the interview is not over. The interviewer is trying to answer the unspoken question, “Do I like you?” Think about your friends, the people you like. Why do you like them? Probably because to some extent, your friends have indicated they take an interest in something that interests you. Companies are the same way. They are more likely to “like” you if you show an interest in them. The best way to show this is to ask them questions.

There are four types of questions you should be prepared to ask:

  • Questions about the job position itself. These questions will go a long ways towards helping you decide if you would want the position, if offered.

Who would you be working with? What is the reporting structure? How many customers, if any, would you be facing? What tools or procedures would you be expected to use? What specific skills and qualifications are required?

Use caution with these questions, though. Do not ask questions where you reasonably, with basic research, could find the answer yourself. Also, it is likely that many of these questions will be discussed during the interview itself. If these are the only questions you have, you may be caught short. Be prepared with some of the other types of questions as well.

  • Questions that show you have done your research. (You have done your research, right?)

Has there been a merger? A change in leadership? A new product launch? Has the competitor done something that will affect this company?

  • Questions that show you care about company and your performance.

How do you measure success? What are the 30/60/90 day goals for the position? What did the previous person in this position do well? How can I be most successful in this position? What keeps you up at night?

  • Questions about the process and next steps.

What is your role in the decision-making process? What are the next steps? Did I answer all of your questions?

Always ask for business cards from everyone you met.

NEVER ask about salary or benefits, insurance plans or vacation days.

A great question to ask at the end of the interview is, “Do you have any questions about my resume or the way I answered any of your questions in regards to me fulfilling the requirements of the job?” This could tell you that you knocked it out of the park, or it just may give you the opportunity to salvage an offer!

Part of your job interview prep should be to consider and write down a list of questions to take with you.

I would love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below, or connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

Master Application Workshop

I was invited to present a Master Application workshop at the Employment Encounter Job Fair on April 21, 2015.

The audience was youth/young adult job seekers, many of whom are graduating seniors with a disability. Many are seeking their first job.

This is the slide deck I created and presented (opens in SlideShare). In it, I shared:

  • The difference between a Resume and a Master Application
  • Why you need a Master Application / cheat sheet
  • The elements of a Master Application
  • Documents needed to satisfy the I-9 form
  • The difference between Fired, Laid Off, and Quit
  • How to complete an application if you have limited work experience
  • How to answer the Criminal Conviction question
  • Preparing your references

About 75 job seekers were in attendance.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

I want to hear from you. Connect with me on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below, and let me know what you think!

It’s Not About Me

This blog, in a slightly different format, was originally posted on LocalWork.com.

Until the Great Recession, I never had to look for work. When I was in college, I needed beer and pizza money so I answered an ad in the student newspaper. I was screened, hired, trained, and began working that same day. Within six months I received two promotions so I decided to stick with it after graduation. A few years and a few more promotions later I received a call from a headhunter offering a chance to do more of what I liked to do and less of what I didn’t like to do at twice the pay, so I took it. I continued my upward movement over the next few years until finally, in 2009, I was let go during a company merger. For the first time ever, I had to learn how to job-search.

My first and most important lesson:

It’s not about me.

It is about what companies need and the benefits I can bring to them.

Companies do not hire out of compassion. They may feel for you on a human level, they may wish they can do something to end your unemployment, but their business is not to create employment opportunities. Their business is to increase profit for the shareholders.

A company increases profit by one of two ways: by increasing sales, or by decreasing costs. Companies hire, then, based on their belief that you can help them, increase sales or decrease costs (or, ideally, both).

The average job seeker talks about their experiences and job responsibilities.

The successful job seeker demonstrates in their sales pitch/elevator speech, their resume and cover letter, and in the interview that they have experience in increasing sales and/or decreasing costs.Be as specific as possible. Use numbers. If you can put a dollar sign in front of the number, or a percent sign after, then so much the better.

  • You didn’t just create a marketing campaign. Instead, you created and managed a $1.7million marketing campaign that led to a 12% increase of sales year over year.
  • You weren’t just an administrative assistant. Instead, you increased efficiency by automating a reporting technique, resulting in 4 hours per week of saved time.
  • You weren’t just a cook. Instead, you prepared 400 meals per weeknight and 600 meals per weekend with a 50% decrease in dinners being returned.
  • You didn’t just work in a warehouse. Instead, you consistently exceeded packing and shipping goals and had zero returns for incorrect product.

If I was an employer, and you gave me one of those examples, you would have my attention. I would want to know more.

It is no question that job searching is tough. But you can be better than the average job seeker and give yourself the best opportunity for success, if you always remember:

It’s not about me.

I would love to hear what you think! Please leave a note below, or contact me via Twitter or LinkedIn.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

Book Review: “The Networking Survival Guide”

Diane Darling, Founder and CEO of Effective Networking, Inc., wrote The Networking Survival Guide for publication in 2003, before the advent of Twitter, LinkedIn, and social media as we know it.

Which is why I like and recommend The Networking Survival Guide, because it is old-school.

Darling teaches, and pre-supposes, that the purpose of networking is to develop, strengthen, and maintain real one-on-one relationships with real people; ideally face-to-face, but when that is not practical, then one-on-one by phone and/or email.

Darling teaches:

  • Have a plan (know what you want to accomplish when attending a networking event)
  • Work your plan (prepare, prepare, prepare – leave nothing to chance)
  • What to do, and what to avoid, at a networking event
  • The all-important follow-up to maintain your network
  • Where to network (networking events, job fairs, anywhere there is a second person!)
  • How to network when you don’t feel like networking

There is a brief discussion, which Darling ultimately dismisses, about using Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs; anyone remember the Palm Pilot?). Otherwise, everything in the book is face-to-face, handshakes (dry palms), business cards, and if necessary, telephone. Old School.

It’s not as if Darling doesn’t understand LinkedIn. There is a Second Edition, published in 2010, with 40+ additional pages. I haven’t read this edition, I suspect there is at least a chapter talking about social media.

Still, I suspect that Darling agrees with me: Social Media, including LinkedIn, is a tool to help you manage your network, and is not networking in and of itself.

The Networking Survival Guide: Get the Success You Want by Tapping into the People You Know

The Networking Survival Guide: Get the Success You Want by Tapping into the People You Know

Darling, Diane.The Networking Survival Guide: Get the Success You Want by Tapping into the People You Know. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003. Print.

Have you read this book? I would love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below, or connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.