Friday, July 25, 2008

How to Get a Job

Unemployment is currently at a 4 year high in the US. As one of the 8.8 million Americans looking for jobs, I offer tried-and-true advice for job searching.

First, don’t get discouraged. People have been finding employment for 6,000 years. The key is to keep believing in yourself so that other people will feel that they have a reason to believe in you; other people like: your family, your friends, and your network of potential referrals, in addition to your future company. Also, remember that sometimes, the option is not to find another “job,” but to find a new source of generating income.

40% of positions are created. Decision makers meet you and want your skills because they are convinced that hiring you will help them make money.
90% of management positions come through networking. How do you create a network? Use the tools that are available. It is embarrassing, but let people around you know that you are looking for a new job. Use friends, family, church, and social connections, and also the internet.

Everybody uses this word and we keep saying that you should build one. What nobody tells you is that you should TARGET your networks. Making good friends with just ANYBODY has a much lower chance of revealing a quality connection. Instead, create a network that focuses on your industry or on the specific companies you want to work for: talk to people that know those companies or join groups specific to your industry.

All of that requires answering some fundamental questions that will focus your search:
-Are you employed? If not, what have you liked most about your past positions? If you are employed, why are you seeking a new position?
-What type and level of position are you seeking, and with what compensation?
-How are you valuable to a company that is trying to fill that position? And How can you make yourself more valuable in that position?
-What people do you know that could teach you more or help you get to this position?
-What are you willing to do to make this happen?

How Long Will it Take? The answer is "NOT FOREVER." I mean, nobody has ever searched for a job for forever. It really depends on how hard you work and how much time you are investing. Job seeking firms recommend 20 to 40 minutes a day. I would double that and then qualify it: You should spend 20 to 40 minutes two times a day, once in the early morning when you’re clearest and then again at lunch hour or at business close. So, 80 minutes spread across the day of focused time should be dedicated to your job search. But here is the qualifier:
“focused” time means you’re writing letters to an individual
or you’re on the phone making calls!
That is the business of “Getting a Job.”
The rest of your activities, such as researching companies and finding names and addresses to send your letters to, are done with your personal time. Think of it this way, if you had a job, you would spend 40 or more hours doing that job. But on the job, you still are expected to put in time at meetings, fill out forms, file paperwork, etc. The point is, perhaps only about ¼ of your work day is spent “adding to the bottom line.” The other 6 hours are preparing you to really shine when you get down to business. Proportion your job search in a similar way. --Shawn Butler

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Job Search: Lessons from Booksellers

What You Can Learn about Job Searching from the Publishing Industry

When you are job searching, it's easy to get caught up in the process and overlook the big picture. So, let’s look at the way YOU will look to your future empoyer by examining the old adage

“The bookstore browser averages less than eight seconds looking at the front cover and fifteen seconds reading the back cover. You must hook them immediately and keep them reading the back cover or they will put the book back on the shelf.” [1]

The 5th “P” of marketing is “Packaging.” How’s your Appearance? In our society where book covers are the #1 indicator of book sales, you cannot overlook the importance of your own packaging. A career change is the perfect reason to go out and spend some money on a nice haircut and updated professional clothes. Get a good night’s sleep. Use your free time to exercise and eat well. Just because you're Job Searching is no reason to LOOK unemployed! If you feel good about your appearance, then others will see that you have poise, confidence, and value.

“Book publishers spend more than $50 billion on product packaging design. $50 billion, not for the products or even for the wrappers, but $50 billion just for the design of the wrapper.”[1]

What is your wrapper? Or what is the first thing that an employer will see about you that will formulate his decision to Buy or Keep Browsing. A key part of your wrapper is your Resume. Update it with all new things. Don’t just add your most recent position; update your skills, recognitions, awards and accomplishments. Add any new groups you’ve joined. No new groups to add? Quick, go out and join a group. I mean, you’ve got some free time right now, huh? Then, add it to your resume. Also, breeze back over the years of experience you’ve had and do some re-write to touch up those tired histories through the lens of your greater life experience. Add or update your value statement and 2 key accomplishments right up at the top under your name and contact info, like the headline of a newspaper:
Extra! Extra!
Here’s why you should read about this guy.
Remember, this is your leave behind, so in most cases, may be the last thing a potential employer sees. Make sure it gets them excited about what you can do for them.

With your packaging covered, it’s time to get started. Create your list of contacts and your list of companies you’re interested in. These are organic lists, which means they WILL keep changing! Each contact has a network that they can lead you to, the goal is to get the names of decision makers, their titles and their business addresses. Then you’re going to write them a letter. Not an email. Write them a letter.

The letter should say:
I’m this guy, I know this person that you also know. I am interested in your company because … (“It is the top performer in the industry”, “It fits my values and interests,” stuff like that. Just communicate that you know the company.) You’d be interested to know that in my past, I have done these things and would like to help your company do these things. Please feel free to reach me by phone or email at your convenience. Or, I will call your office on this day.

Really, write that stuff? Yes. Employers get upwards of 125 emails a day. They read about 20%. They also return about 20% of phone calls. The question you are answering for them is this:

“How Determined are You to Get This Job?”
Ready for the key secret to this process? Make the Call! Writing the letter already set you apart from every other person that just hit “Apply” on Now, when you said you would call about 4 days after you send the letter, you MUST pick up the phone and make the call. Call early in the morning (Before 8:30 or 9:30). Call again at lunch time. Call again after work hours. This way you have a better chance of getting someone who is not the professional Gatekeeper. Or perhaps even getting the person you’re looking for! Be prepared to leave a professional message.

“Hi, I’m this guy. I sent you a letter regarding my interest in coming to work for your company. I think you would be excited to hear how I could help (company’s name).”

If you get the gatekeeper, you can simply say: “I’m calling for whoever.” And when they ask what it is regarding, you can say: “I am following up on a correspondence he and I had last week.” Or even, on a good day, “He’s expecting my call.” Sales people use this technique all the time. Warning: don’t make the Gatekeeper think you’re a salesperson!

So When Do I Use Email?
Emailing your resume is your closing tool. It is your leave behind. You did not include it in your first letter, therefore, it is important that after you have talked on the phone to the person and they have requested your resume, that you get their email address. Ask them if they would like you to include references, and then tell them that you will email it to them. And then of course, you follow through with that . --Shawn Butler

Friday, July 11, 2008

Balloons, Popcorn, and Snow Cones

A Little about Cost Markups: What do Balloons, Movie Theater Popcorn, Snow Cones and Starbucks Coffee have in common? They, along with Cotton Candy and Fountain Drinks are on the list of

the Consumer Products with the Highest Markups

But what is a “Markup?” and "What does this mean to us?" Markup, or Margin, is a marketing term for the price that a business puts on a product above what it costs to produce and deliver the good, usually determined as a percentage. In other words: the part that is straight profit.

Certainly there are more expensive items than coffee, cotton candy and popcorn --like porsches, condominiums and golf resorts-- so what makes these items special? What kind of a markup would cause such a big deal?

How about this: No matter what a company sells, their price is a combination of two numbers: the cost of making and transporting the good they are selling (COGS) and the margin of profit (Markup).

COGS + Markup = Price

COGS is a set cost determined by the various expenses, fixed—such as overhead and insurance, and variable—such as raw materials and employee wages, that go into producing the product. Companies can do very little to affect this aspect of price, or at least that’s how I see it from the marketing side of the fence. The second part of price, however, the markup, can be shifted easily—this has no basis other than the price your customer is willing to bear.

For most consumer products, the average markup ("Retail") is about 30%. For commodities --sugar, soap, pillowcases-- markup is closer to 10%. But for "Premium" products --retail items aimed at the very rich, or the very demading (this is where we talked about Porsches, but also includes watches, Italian shoes, and vodka)-- markups often approach 200% of Cost. And then "Ultra Premium" --products called by names like Mikimoto, Piaget, and Alfa Romeo-- enjoy 400 and 500% markups. People gladly paying $750,000 for a car that costs around $20,000 to produce. For more on this, here is a great link.

But these don't touch the 99.9% profit margins of the products mentioned above-- the less than 1/50 of a cent that it costs to produce the .5 grams of a latex balloon that is filled with a burst of helium valued at 1/80 of a penny and sold for $3.00 at fairs and circuses across the US. This equates to a 1000% markup above COGS. Similar equations can be run for cotton candy, snow cones, your super-value bucket at the movie theater and your double iced caramel machiatto.

Imagine paying a 1000% markup on your car or your next burrito. That would be a $20,000,000 Altima or an $850 dollar Carne Asada bowl.

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