December 2008


ChristmasI want to thank each and every one of you for supporting my blog and sending your well wishes. I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a blessed & prosperous New Year.

Take this time to reflect and give thanks for what you have. Resolve to be kinder to people and to step up your game for the new year. Leave the remnants of 2008 behind you and focus on all the greatness that 2009 will bring.

Now I’m off to put presents under the tree and have some milk & cookies. Merry Christmas!!

Adrienne Graham

sideimg_watch1Hi everyone.

A couple of friends forwarded a link to a story about a couple who has vowed to shop all Black for 2009. It’s called the Ebony Experiment- http://www.ebonyexperiment.com A friend sent it to me again yesterday and I responded to her that I didn’t think it was feasible- for me. She didn’t respond to my email. Hopefully she will. LOL

Now, I am a proponent of buying black, but I feel it is not feasible for “me”. I’ll tell you why. There are no (to my knowledge) black owned utilities, hospitals, cable or phone companies in Atlanta (or Georgia for that matter) that I know of. The nearest black owned bank (for me) is way downtown with no branches anywhere near me. I live in Alpharetta! Not much Black owned anything up here. There are no local black owned gas stations where I live. Now as far as doctors, dentists, even supermarkets, beauty supplies, mechanics, book stores, bakeries, restaurants, I don’t mind going out of my way. Sometimes I do. As far as business related needs, I can find almost anything/anybody I want to do business with online. I can join a black investment bank to manage my portfolio. But are there any black owned software companies that can provide me with an applicant tracking system for my business? What about a black equivalent of MS Office, Adobe, Macromedia? What about a black Google? Is there a black owned postal service? Is there a black airline I can use for my travel needs? What about a black owned blackberry-like service?

I’m not being funny. I’m trying to look at this from a logical standpoint. We can dramatically shift the way we live and do business by buying “mostly black”. But I don’t believe there is a way to live “totally black”. Do we quit our jobs and work for only black owned companies? Do we fire all our non-black clients and only work with black clients? I mean how does this work? My son has one semester to go in high school. Do I pull him out now and put him in a black school to finish out? Yes he can choose to go to a black college, but is there a black FAFSA to fill out financial aid forms, what about a black NCAA clearinghouse? I’ve seriously thought about all of this.

My point is I want to support black business. But when are we going to make strides in major arenas so that we have the option to buy black in every arena? We have a black president and for that I am proud and grateful. But will this push our people to seriously step into those arenas or cause us to feel we’ve arrived and our work is done?

I’d like to get everyone’s perspective on this. How do you think this experiment will work for the Andersons?

Til next time.

Adrienne Grahamsideimg_watch

new0r1http://www.nypost.com/seven/12112008/news/regionalnews/better_sign_of_times_143653.htm

As a recruiter, I have been face to face with innovative candidates trying their best to get their shot at an interview by doing something to wow me and get my attention. When I was contracting at CIBAVision years ago, a gentleman sent in a box of peanuts. Seriously, they were peanuts- the kind with the shells. They weren’t bagged or anything. Just a big box of loose peanuts. On top of the peanuts was a note that said “I’m nuts about CIBAVision”. Underneath the peanuts was a crisp resume. I had to laugh at that. I had gotten some weird things before, but never a box of peanuts. Two things came to mind. How did he know that I wasn’t allergic to peanuts and would find it offensive? I’m not and I didn’t. The other thing was if this man was willing to do something this outrageous without even considering the possible ramifications, how as a sales executive would he gel with clients?

Today as I browsed through the internet looking for interesting stories to read, I came across the story in the above link. Long story short, a gentleman who is a father of five lost his job a year ago. He was a casualty of the Wall Street fallout before it became a full fledged fall out. One day, he decided to make himself a sandwich board saying “MIT Grad for Hire” and wear it in the street, while passing out his resume. Some people might find this crude, some may find it interesting. But to me, it really is a sign of the times. I applaud this gentleman for going out of his way to stand out. I think it took a lot of guts for this man to do what he did. He ended up getting hired and that’s all that counts. People are going out of their way to be innovative and creative to find a job. Jobs are hard to come by these days and I can’t knock anyone who goes above and beyond to garner attention to get an interview. After all, don’t some recruiters (agency) pull out all the stops to get clients? It’s all about sales. Whether your on the hiring side or job seeking side, it’s all sales, and the best sales pitch (and expertise to back it up) wins the pot.

In the spirit of the times and innovation, I have put myself on eBay. No, I haven’t lost my mind. LOL Hey if the Governor of Illinois can “sell” a senate seat and Sarah Palin can “sell” a plane on eBay, why not me? It’s just an experiment I’d like to try to see if “innovation” is as accepted as people claim it is. I’ll keep you posted!

So what will you do to stand apart for the crowd? Are you ready to get down and dirty and bring out your true innovation?

Til next time,

Adrienne Grahamnew0r

ladieswithcomputersOK. I wouldn’t be a responsible recruiter, blogger, writer and networker if I didn’t tell you the truth. I have been and continue to be a huge advocate of social networking and using sites like Linked In to build your professional brand and network. But I think it’s getting a wee bit out of hand now. Let me explain.

Yes, the primary purpose of those sites is to get to know people and make lasting connections. However, I have read one too many articles and heard far too many “experts” tell people to get on and use it to find a job. “Don’t be afraid to seek out people in companies you want to work in and let them know you’re looking for a job or ask for an introduction to a hiring manager within the company”. Ordinarily I would agree with that, but with a caveat. Anyone who has read anything I’ve written knows that I tell people build relationships and get to know people. Yes, you should be bold and reach out to people you don’t know. But there is an etiquette to it. Make an effort to get to know the person and build some sort of relationship with them. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gotten an email asking to introduce someone to one of my contacts. I don’t have a problem making connections, but if I have never communicated with you or hadn’t heard from you since we initially connected, do not ask me to refer you. See, it’s a credibility issue with me. My name and reputation mean everything to me. Anyone I recommend is someone I know in some capacity. If I don’t know you from Eve, how can I introduce you to someone not knowing what you bring to the table?

Think about it. Would you refer someone you don’t know? If things went wrong, that could damage not only your reputation, but also your relationship. One time I passed along an introduction figuring I would help this person out because they needed a job. I didn’t know her, but she sent an email introducing herself to let me know she was on the market. I made the introduction and forgot to tell my contact I did not know her personally. The person went on to badger my contact. She called her repeatedly and sent email after email asking for an interview. My contact said she told her she didn’t have anything at the time but to watch the website. She also told her she’d be in touch if something came up. The woman would call her every time she saw a new opening on the company website. I was so embarrassed and had to work overtime to mend my damaged relationship. Well, I generally applaud initiative. But stalking is another issue altogether and I cannot condone that.

I think writers have been very irresponsible to tell readers to go ahead and reach out to people without giving them the proper etiquette lesson that goes along with that advice. I truly hope that you all do go out and network, you’re supposed to, otherwise how would you build your network. But please be responsible about it. Don’t go in there reaching out to folks you never met asking for introductions or worse, making your initial contact about getting a job. I am not heartless. But I am a realist. Get to know the people you reach out to. Ask to speak with them via phone and chat a little about yourself. Don’t go into interview mode or ask to send your resume. What you can do is talk about your expertise, and casually mention that you may be interested in hearing about the right opportunities. As them if they mind if you keep in touch with them periodically. Remain in touch by sending relevant articles, events and books. A follow up email every now and then is welcomed by most people. Sending an email every week, well, is stalking.

So “Go Ahead, Talk to Strangers”, but do it responsibly. Be courteous and respectful. If you manage your network with class, common sense and respect I promise that you will benefit from leads because you took the time to nurture the relationships. Remember, it’s give and take.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Are you prepared to swing into action should you suddenly lose your job? Well these days, that’s a reality many people face or worry about facing. Nobody is safe from the long hand of layoffs and pink slips. Until this economy picks back up (which I have faith it will) nobody is safe. The key is to not wait until the last minute or worse, hide your head in the sand obliviously with the hopes of never having to face a lay off. The first 30 days are the most critical because unlike with a planned exit, you don’t have time to get your house in order or your ducks in a row before the boom is lowered.

Apply for unemployment. This is the absolute first thing you need to do. You paid a lot of money into the system over the years and this is not welfare or charity. This is money that you are entitled to. Many people feel ashamed or embarrassed about applying, like it’s something shameful. Listen, you need to pay your bills, right? So why shouldn’t you get what you are entitled to? Remember, it’s only temporary and you are not the sum total of that check. Go straight to your state’s unemployment department (or department of labor or workforce center, or whatever it’s called in your state). File as soon as possible as it takes a couple of weeks to go into effect. You can have the checks mailed to you or direct deposited. In some states, you may be eligible for retroactive payments from the day you file. But check with your local office for policy. This isn’t “sit on your butt” money. You will have to provide proof that you are actively seeking employment.
Update your resume. A rule of thumb I give to my clients is to update at least annually. By reviewing the resume, it gives you a fresh insight into your skills and how far you’ve come. It also tells you where you need some improvement. Take this time to do a hard assessment of yourself. Identify areas where you’ve positively contributed and any major milestones you celebrated. Be careful not to have your resume read as a series of job descriptions, but rather a summary of accomplishments and contributions to each role. Recruiters like to look for results that occurred because of your actions. Make sure to highlight them as related to the type of jobs you seek.
Do your research. You have access to Google, Yahoo, Live.com and Ask.com. Put them to good use. See what’s going on in your industry that may have caused you to lose your job. Is it an industry issue? Is your company suffering from a setback or crisis which caused them to let people go? What are the analysts saying about the industry? What industries are strong and which companies could benefit from your skills and expertise? Who are the key players and what contacts do you already have to get a foot in the door? If you have none, how will you reach out to people who could get that foot in the door? All of this information is vital to preparing you to land your next job. It’s much better to be on the offensive than defensive.
Look at who you know. Everyone knows (or should know) that I am a firm believer in cultivating your network BEFORE you need them. If you’ve done this well, it should be effortless for you to reach out to them. Don’t be afraid to let them know you are back on the market. Ask if it is OK to send a copy of your resume. Don’t just send it without asking. It’s rude. Ask your contacts about any industry events or networking opportunities that might be helpful. Ask them if there are any opportunities at their company or if they can put you in touch with people who can assist them. If you have not communicated with them in years, I wouldn’t jump straight into the “I need a job” conversation. Nobody wants to do a favor for someone who doesn’t give them a second thought any other time. Networking is giving as much as taking. it’s a team sport. If you don’t make the effort to stay in touch in some way, then you risk not having a solid relationship with the people who could help you.
Get your finances in order. Now this goes in line with applying for unemployment. If you were a good girl and had your emergency fund already set up and funded, you should have a nice cushion. But you don’t want to tap into it if you don’t have to. That’s where unemployment comes in. You may still have to tap into it, but not as heavily. Do NOT tap into your 401K or borrow against your home if you can avoid it. Sit down and create your budget. Be realistic with yourself about your needs vs. wants. Cut as many luxuries as you can so that you have your basic living expenses. Cancel any unnecessary magazine and newspaper subscriptions, downgrade your cable, phone and cell services and get rid of memberships (ie. gym). Learn to do your own hair and nails (it won’t kill you). Immediately cease all shopping and eating out. If you didn’t have an emergency fund and can’t wait for unemployment, don’t be afraid to seek help. There are church based and community programs in some cities where you can request one time assistance with your rent/mortgage and some utilities. These programs are for people who really need it. If you really need it, go apply.
Go online and see who’s hiring. Now is the time to hit every job site you can think of. Google search for niche specific sites. Visit the websites of the companies and fill out their online applications or submit your profile & resume. Update your Linked In profile to reflect your true skills. Investigate who’s recruiting for certain companies and reach out to them. Introduce yourself via email and ask for a brief phone conversation. This will put a voice with the name. Do not just send your resume to every company, or every recruiter. Compose a personalized cover letter/email for each person you contact. And most importantly do not mass email or CC your email to a bunch of recruiters. You will not be taken seriously.
Hit the pavement old fashion style. Yep, that’s right. Get out those pumps and your best suit and get out there. A lot of companies will tell you to “apply online”. But I always say it’s best to submit your resume anyway. You may get lucky and run into someone who’s a decision maker. Don’t be afraid get out there. It’s better to get your face out there and known, than to remain an anonymous name on an email or profile.
Sit your family down and explain that changes need to be made. If you have kids, you need to get them involved. A lot of parents feel kids don’t need to know about the family finances. That couldn’t be further from the truth. My parents never discussed money with us and we grew up financially illiterate. I tell my son about our finances. Kids need to understand WHY they can no longer have the little miscellaneous luxuries they used to. If they’re old enough, they can get a part time job to help pitch in or at least take care of their own expenses (like lunch money, haircuts, etc). Today’s kids are innovative, creative and wired. You never know what money your kid could make on the internet. They could have an eBay business, web design, tutoring, or any number of things they can use their skills doing. Yes, kids need to be kids, but I believe in preparing kids for the future aka the real world. If they understand the flow of money in and out of your household, they’ll learn to appreciate what they have and might even be inclined to help contribute to the household.
Educate yourself. If you can afford to go back to school, great. But there is no law that says education has to come from a classroom. You can read books, magazines and journals from your industry or field of interest, fire up the internet and look for free tutorials and articles, attend industry events, take continuing education or certification courses, or simply reach out to people who are where you want to be and start a dialogue. If you decide that you can go to school (as in college or trade school) look into financial aid. If you truly want to advance or change careers, make the investment of your time and dedicate yourself to completing a program.
Take a part time or contract position if one is offered to you in the mean time. I tell people that nothing is forever, and this includes contract positions. Working part time or on contract is an option if you don’t want to file for unemployment. It keeps your skills fresh and income coming in while you’re looking for full time employment. It also gives you the advantage of meeting new people and building your network.
You are responsible for your own career and well being. When you’re fired or otherwise terminated, it’s never a happy time. But you can’t retreat and hide away from the world. You need to be proactive and take control of the situation. You may not feel in control without a job or steady paycheck, but trust me, if you take care of everything I outlined above, it will ease your mind. You’ll have a handle on what’s going on, coming in and going out. It will be a tough time, but if you take action immediately within the first 30 days of losing your job, you’ll be able to stay afloat and in control until your next job comes along.
Til next time.
Adrienne Graham

23053729I was doing my usual morning reading of digests from a forum I frequently read but hardly participate in.  It’s a recruiter’s forum.  For the most part, the messages I see are utter nonsense, but every once in a while, I come across some sage advice.  You see, in my opinion, the forum is over run by people who have too much time on their hands and think way too highly of themselves and look down on anyone who dares disagree with them.  But that’s neither here nor there.  Like I said, it’s my OPINION. Again, there are a few good people on there and every once and a while I get some good advice. 

This morning I had my fill of the rhetoric and decided to blog about it. The topic that caught my eye was Pet Peeves of Recruiters.  The usual was expressed (typos on resumes, lack of communication, unqualified candidates, etc, etc). But one particular poster really upset me.  He gave an instance of a VP level person applying for a customer service position and getting huffy when he was not considered.  He then went on to say that he couldn’t understand the man’s attitude and what recruiter in their right mind would hire or take serious a VP level person for such a position.  Ladies, I give you this to think about.  Longstanding companies on Wall Street have been obliterated and I have a feeling that before it’s said and done, there will be many more.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  There are a whole lot of people out there who are suddenly unemployed through no fault of their own and they need to feed their families. There are MBAs out there who couldn’t find a job BEFORE this crisis and many more who really can’t find a job now.  Not to mention, perhaps some people are looking to change careers and realize they have to start from ground zero. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am a Recruiter.  A damned good one too.  But I am also human and very cognizant of the world around me. There are a lot of folks out there who have no choice but to go for jobs they know they are overqualified for.  Does this give recruiters the right to mock them or dismiss them because they are deemed overqualified?  No.  But it happens a whole lot.  Now let’s look at the other end of this spectrum.  What about the recruiters or hiring managers who want people with all of this outstanding expertise but want to pay them way below what they are worth?  In a sense, isn’t that the same thing?  So why is it a crime when people make a conscious decision to go for something lower by their OWN choice, but not when a company decides to get over and try to get away with hiring them for less pay?  See where I’m going with this? They, recruiters, don’t get to arbitrarily decide to disrespect you or judge you based upon your circumstances.

Listen, with so many people on the market, you have got to brand yourself to stand out from the next person. You have to take charge of how you present yourself and how people perceive you.  You’ve got to exhibit the best you possible.  It has swung to a hirer’s market and it is ultra competitive. There are more people to choose from and companies can afford to leisurely watch the battle royal and pick from the remains of the survivors.  That gives them an inflated sense of worth and not to mention ego.

Do what you must to command respect. Don’t let anyone make you feel less than just because you are seeking “alternative” types of work. There is nothing wrong with it.  In my opinion, it shows you have strong work ethic and will do whatever it takes to make things work, even if it means taking a job that’s less than.  The next time a recruiter tries to brush you off, respectfully as why.  Have them explain to you why they think you won’t work. Don’t get an attitude, but a healthy discussion should assure them that you are indeed serious and that you have truly given this some thought. “Because I have to feed my family” may be the real answer, but you can’t use that and expect it to float.  Sit down when you have a quiet moment and write out your thoughts about why you are going down that road. Be honest with yourself.  Make sure you list all the pros and cons (preferably more pros than cons). Remember what they say, the best defense is a good offense. 

Good luck.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

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