Posts Tagged 'ian levine'

How to rethink the job search process

If highly successful marketing and sales people are mapping their selling process to their prospects buying process, shouldn’t job seekers map their search process to a company’s hiring process?

Obviously a buyer’s journey will be different for different types of purchases.  That said, it is possible to broadly categorize buyers activities that will lead to purchase.  Look at the graphic below.  Most purchases follow this pathway.  For maximum effectiveness,  marketing and sales  professionals try to re-engineer their efforts to match the buyer’s journey.

buyers journey





Do the same principles apply to getting hired?  Can a job seeker, leverage their efforts for greater success by mapping the Hirer’s Journey?

When corporate management considers the need for a new position, there is a clear decision process framework.

There is:

  • recognition of a need,
  • a discussion on how to solve for the need,
  • a commitment to an approach,
  • a justification and then
  • the release of an actual job requisition (usually to a public website)

As a job candidate, most people wait for the process to reach the last stage or “the job to be listed”.  The challenge here is the competition for the job just multiplied exponentially.  By the time a job is listed on a public website like LinkedIn or Career Builder, the hiring company will most likely receive between 500 and 5000 applications.

Clearly the process will vary slightly for a small nimble organization versus a Fortune 1000 firm, but the job seekers dilemma remains the same.

So how does a job seeker improve their likelihood of success?  More conversations!  However, they must be conversations that matter!

These conversations can be and should be, with a wide variety of people.  They should focus on the business problems that folks are facing.  The conversations should be relevant to both parties, but specific on three levels for maximum impact.   Be sure to talk and listen about 1) their industry, 2) their companies issues and 3) the persons specific role.  The conversation must be relevant to the person you are networking with and not just about you and your need for a job.

You should discuss the potential impact of a better future state. The conversations should include a specific example as to how the job seeker may have solved a related challenge earlier in their career.  The example does not need to be exact, but it does need to be easily understood, easy to relate to and relevant.   If a job seeker can plant conversation seeds like this across a wide swath of business contacts, they will uncover hidden job opportunities.  By inserting themselves into the equivalent of the DISCOVERY & CONSIDERATION phase of the buyer journey, the possibilities of landing a great career opportunity increase exponentially.

Avoid the resume bake off and insert yourself earlier in the hiring process.



Is your career more like LIFE or Candy Land?

The game of LIFE is billed as “see where your choices take you.” Your choices are time lined to retirement.  Retirement is the prize?

Along your journey, you make choices about college, jobs, marriage, financial planning and family. All milestones, but unlike LIFE, you will most likely have over 6 jobs in your career.

Candy Land on the other hand, is simply a race with really no meaningful choices.  That said, there are many career lessons buried in the Candy Land experience!








Have you recently paused to consider the direction of your career?

  • Where have you been, where you are now and where you are going?
  • How many jobs will you have in your career?  
  • Will you ever reach the position of your dreams?



Believe it or not, a game of Candy Land can be won in as few as 4 turns.  The odds of winning the game in 4 turns, is approximately 1 in 25,000.  It’s about the same odds of you landing a great career opportunity without a plan or by watching job boards.  A good Career Branding strategy must start with a goal in mind. It’s impossible to have a successful plan if you have not clearly defined success!

Success in Candy Land is pretty well defined.  However, as human beings we always complicate the simple.   Candy Land defines success as the first one to the Candy Kastle.  The rules are clear that you can advance past the end purple square to win.  Despite the clear instructions, many people, play that you must land exactly on the last purple square to win.  This change makes the game almost 40% longer and thus, more difficult to win.

  • Are you looking for a prolonged job search in a challenging economy?  Are you too laser focused on landing the perfect job?  Increase your odds by accepting victory for its merit and do not always look to land exactly on the purple square.


  • Shortcuts?  We all want to find them.  In Candy Land, there are short cuts; however, it is critical to acknowledge there are more ways to get stuck than short cuts in the game.  The same applies to your career choices.  How do you identify your Molasses Swamp, Lollipop Woods and Gooey Gumdrops?  Do you find yourself saying: “I can’t move now because…” Avoid constantly looking for the short cuts and seize the moment, when the moment is there. Constantly stuck in Gooey Gumdrops is no way to go through life.


  • Through social networking groups you have a unique chance to learn, teach and connect. Are you active in a single LinkedIn Group? The road signs on the Candy Land game board are Gingerbread Plum Trees, Peppermint Forest, Gumdrop Mountains, and Peanut Brittle House.   What are your road signs?


  • Keep networking at all times.  Do not limit your networking to your current industry or area of expertise. Build a broad network. The world changes fast and you never know where you will be 5, 10 or 15 years from now. Printed on the Candy Land board are Lord Licorice, Licorice Castle, Gloppy, the Ice Cream Sea, King Kandy, and Candy Castle.  None of these appear in the play of the game. They represent networking with people that you cannot fathom how they can help your career today.  Focused networking is important, but a truly myopic view to networking is not a prudent choice.


Career Brander sincerely hopes you all find your Candy Kastle in 2013.

LinkedIn is growing up

The only constant is change.

LinkedIn is growing up.  With age come wisdom, but also a yearning for youthful energy and a simpler time.

LinkedIn is closing in on a run rate of a billion dollar business with over 200 million members.   In 2012, they overhauled the way a Profile page looks, introduced endorsements and put to bed: lawyer ratings, legal updates, my travel, portfolio display and the ability to link your Word Press blog to your homepage.  What does all this mean to your Career Branding?


Honestly, not much from a feature-function point of view.

The most notable of these changes was the introduction of endorsements.  This is a simple ‘like’ button to show   your belief that a connection possess a certain skill.  It’s an interesting engagement play by LinkedIn, and like any data it’s interesting, but requires one to further segment and analyze the data to get at what really is happening. Here are a few observations:

  • Which skill becomes dominant in your profile, is an interesting marker for how you are perceived by your peers.
  • Anyone with more than 10 skills listed really needs to rethink their branding.
  • If you have more connections, your probability of more endorsements goes up.  If these endorsements prove to carry social or career status, this flies in the face of building quality connections over a quantity of connections.
  • People are endorsing people, for skills that they are not in a true position to judge.  How is this of value?
  • Many folks are marketing  for endorsements through direct solicitations via email.  Does this change the value?
  • It’s really interesting when connections add skills to your profile and endorse you for something you choose not to list.
  • I have observed business leaders who I put in the highest 10 percent in terms of skill with few endorsements and weaker skilled business folks with literally hundreds of endorsements.  How will a recruiter value this?
  • If someone takes the time to write a recommendation, isn’t that worth 10x hitting a plus sign next to someone’s name when you log into LinkedIn?
  • I like how “endorsements” provides you an excuse to lightly ‘reach out’ to former colleagues you may have lost touch with.

LinkedIn continues to build momentum as a business person’s critical online identity.  LinkedIn is where recruiters mine.  Ten times as many recruiters pay LinkedIn for advanced access to their system than did so 3 years ago.  It serves as both a recruiting platform and a database of leads.  The leads are there for recruiters and job seekers alike. Think about this:  Nearly 14,000 recruiters pay $8000 per year for the ability to mine your profile data in a more intelligent manner!  New companies are signing up for this service at a pace of over 500 per quarter.

There is no doubt networking is still king in job search, and that LinkedIn is becoming the ultimate platform to rule the kingdom.

Challenger Sale meets Challenger Interview

My luck is so bad that if I bought a cemetery, people would stop dying.

– Rodney Dangerfield


Finding your next job is not about luck.  It will require you to get out of your comfort zone and embrace selling techniques. Competition is stiff,   hiring processes are changing, unemployment remains high.   What can a job seeker do to increase their chances of success?


What if you could understand and apply the basic principles of the most successful sales people in the world?

Matthew Dixon, Brent Adamson, and their colleagues at Corporate Executive Board interviewed over 6000 top performing salespeople at a who’s who of leading corporations. They studied their techniques and remarkably found a common theme in their approach.  They then aggregated these findings into a book called The Challenger Sale.  The highly acclaimed book suggests that when it comes to selling complex, large-scale business-to-business solutions, there is a simple 1, 2, 3 steps that lead to superior results. It can be summed up simply as teach, tailor and take control. The best salespeople execute this without their prospect feeling like they just experienced a sales call.  The prospect felt, like the salesperson showed expertise and shared as well as educated the prospect.  The dialogue did not feel canned, but rather customized to the prospects business situation. The meeting probably also did not follow the prescriptive path the prospect originally felt it should, would or could.


Can this work in job interviewing?  Absolutely!


What if you entered your next interview with the following blueprint and executed it in a seemingly crisp, yet casual exchange?

1)      Teach – You begin by offering some macro trend data having to do with your prospect companies industry or something unique to the hiring department. As an example, if interviewing for a job in Human resources, you could share a statistic about HR outsourcing and/or some of the latest software automation trends.

2)      Tailor – Now tie the conversation back to explicit needs of the company or hiring manager.  You can do this by studying CEO statements in press releases, listening to recruiters describe the job goals or great discovery questions.  However, you should do pre-work.  You want this research completed prior to the interview.  This will allow you to customize your dialogue to be truly relevant to the hiring manager.

3)      Take Control – This may be the hardest part to execute. However, if you are properly prepared with meaningful insights that allow you to teach and tailor, taking control will happen naturally.

Imagine if you can begin the interview by taking out an article (preferably from a prominent media source) you recently read and tying it back to the job description, CEO’s strategy statement and the business challenge as outlined by the recruiter. With this simple technique, you have taught, tailored and taken control.  You are no longer competing against other interviewees trying to find a unique and powerful way to answer:

  • Tell me something unique about yourself?
  • Why are you leaving your job?
  • Why do you want this position?
  • What was your greatest business achievement?
  • What is your greatest weakness?

Let’s be honest, these questions are all listed on the Internet and there are actually websites providing great answers to these questions for folks to repurpose.

So how can a job candidate increase their chances of getting hired?  Differentiate yourself.  Do it the same way leading salespeople are beating their quota goals.  Teach, Tailor and Take Control.


The author, Ian Levine, is a leading speaker and blogger on advanced sales strategies and career branding.

How are folks finding good jobs?


The best way to gauge what is working in job search/career advancement is to talk to:

1)      Hiring managers or senior recruiters that are hiring and

2)      Folks who, recently, successfully landed or transitioned into a desirable job.

Based on recent conversations with numerous folks in both categories, Career Brander shares the following observations:

  • Referrals remain the number one way folks land mid or senior level jobs.  Additionally, for the best jobs, there is a strong correlation that  the transitioning candidate had a previous direct work relationship with someone affiliated to the hiring company. (Make sure you keep your relationships fresh, no matter how old your contact with ex co-workers may be. Do not wait until you need a favor!)
  • Recruiters are still playing a very active role in hiring mid or senior level roles. However, the trend at larger companies is to rely on internal recruiters as opposed to external. (Have you mined LinkedIn for the internal recruiters at your target companies?)
  • LinkedIn is becoming the central mining database for candidates. (Have you optimized your LinkedIn profile?  Have you affiliated with the right groups?)
  • Specialized niche research is growing. The Internet, but primarily Google, is becoming a more central research platform for recruiters and hiring managers. Online identity is gaining in importance. Candidates need to take control and manage their online identity.  In a strange way, you are what Google says you are. Secondarily, be sure to be active and visible in key trade organizations for your specialized skill set.
  • Job Boards continue to lose market share in terms of being the avenue to secure a mid or high level job.  That said, they remain quite efficient for core supporting or entry level job opportunities.
  • Lastly, for the recent college graduates, it is more important than ever to get into Intern programs and start building your networks as well as developing a base understanding of the corporate world.  This will lead to a successful accelerated job search.

Hope these tips help you in your career branding and career advancement.

That’s a know, know!


Tactics can win a battle, but strategy wins the war.  As you consider your career branding or job search efforts, it is important to separate the two.  Career Branding should be strategic while job search is often more tactical.

Too often people in business (and job search) get very anxious for results.  The reasoning is simple. There is always short term pressure for results.  So how do you avoid this pitfall and stay focused on a strategy?

Let’s look at two opposite perspectives.  Actions to lose, contrasted with actions to win.

1)     Some of the actions that will help you lose “the war” (and job search tactics to avoid):

  • Proceeding without a plan (rewriting your resume every day  or week should be avoided.)
  • Not having clear goals (Waiting to see what’s out there for you will lead to failure.)
  • Following the herd and easy path (Focus on job boards and waiting for the perfect job listing is a fools game.)
  • Submitting resumes online (Almost always required, it will almost never get you an interview or job.)
  • Positioning as a generalist (The workplace is looking for specialists, not generalists.)

2)      So conversely what actions help you win?

 Try a know, know strategy

Know what you want.   Know how you plan to go get it.

At what level you enter the paradigm is up to you.

If you are working on a high level personal branding goal, define your stated goal and work backward?

What do you want your brand to resonate:   world class expert, thought leader, a results oriented manager or a quality technology salesperson?

Once you’ve defined this, you can begin assessing and executing against your know-know strategy.

  •      Know your marketplace (industry)
  •       Know the positioning of others with in the marketplace (competing company strategies)
  •       Know the issues facing companies or hiring managers (pains, current and future)
  •       Know how you can bring insight and a better future state (your view, your value proposition and your differentiated state)
  •       Know how you can best articulate and reinforce your knowledge and points (your messaging)
  •       Know your daily, weekly and monthly plan to execute everything above.

In summary:

Know what you want.  Know how you plan to get it.

Or expect the undesired no-no.

 No personal brand and, potentially, no job.

Kindergarten Lessons applied to Career Branding


All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten was published in the late 1980’s by Robert Fulghum.  It is an amazing reminder of how much everyone complicates life, goals, and rules to live by. (If you haven’t read it, get the book.)

We are deep in the age of information overload and people must find a way to clear away the clutter and simplify their lives for success.  As we think of career branding, I think Fulghum’s learning’s serve as great reminders as to how to conduct ourselves.

Below I have highlighted 11 kindergarten learning’s that really are applicable to personal branding, job search, and online identity management:

Share Everything: Sharing is central to social collaboration and may be the greatest value of the Internet.  Done properly it helps you establish your personal brand, build relationships and trust. (Personal branding + Relationships capital = Career branding)

Don’t take things that aren’t yours: In business, we equate this to original ideas. Too often business people consciously, unconsciously or coincidentally put forward thoughts, observations or strategies that are not their original work.  Give credit, where credit is due.  Think about blogging, things can get muddy with close to 500 million blogs currently active on the Internet.  Charles Caleb Colton said “Imitation is the sincerest form of flaterry” That said, as you build your brand online, be sure to credit others where appropriate.

Play fair: Integrity, honesty and strong moral values remain central skills to being successful in any corporate culture. (and life)

Never forget the first word we learned was not ‘Mom’, but ‘Look’:  Keep your eyes open at all times. Observe changes in your marketplace, your role, your companies operational efficiency and even your own skill set.  These observations and how you react to them are critical to successful career pathing.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you and/or take a nap every afternoon: The pace of technology, the pace of life and the pace of business have created new stresses unimaginable 20 years ago.  Never forget to give yourself a ‘decompression moment’ in every day.

Hold hands in traffic: Is there a better analogy for someone unemployed?  Remember the friend, neighbor or former colleague out of work in the current jobs recession desperately needs help navigating the traffic. Everyone else is buzzing by them on their commute.  Take time to hold hands! An important piece of career branding is helping others even when they may not be able to help you.

Flush: An obvious kindergarten teaching, I have also heard it used often in coaching kids sports. Bad things and mistakes do happen. Setbacks will occur.  Flush them and move on.

Don’t hit people: Alienating co-workers with different points of view will not help your career. Always be respectful and keep negative energy internal as much as possible. Career Branding is a multi decade process and by not ‘hitting people’ you will keep more doors open as you move through your career. Also remember, “Say you’re sorry if you hurt somebody”. 

Live a balanced life: Fulghum suggests; learn, draw, paint, think, sing, dance and play every day.

A career coaching line I have used for decades is: “When things feel overwhelming at work, remember: Health, Family, Fun and Work.  In that order.”

The recession, The Internet, The pace of change are complicating factors in everyone’s careers.  Step back and simplify your career branding strategy.

Remember what you learned in Kindergarten. Then apply it.


After writing this article, and researching a title, I discovered Heather Huhman wrote a brief article linking job search to kindergarten lessons in January 2012. Similar concept with different observations, Check it out here

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