Your Career Will Outlive This Crisis
A Letter From Our CEO
We hope this finds you well, as are we. The Barrett Group has been active in the career management market for 30 years and has weathered all manner of crises, including 2008.
Yes, the US and the world are in the grip of a health crisis. Once governments recognize what needs to be done and commit publicly to doing it, people will adjust. Fortunately, with the measures rapidly being adopted in the US and Europe this is finally starting to happen, though it will certainly get worse before it gets better.
Where China has adopted strict lock-downs, the incidence of new cases has already dwindled.
There is hope that “shelter in place” and similar measures being adopted elsewhere can slow the rate of spread and allow health services to expand their capacity and source the equipment and supplies they will need as the crisis peaks.
Medically, most people even if they become infected are not at risk of anything worse than a severe flu, if that, but please take all necessary precautions. Extensive testing for example in Iceland shows that many who are infected never become symptomatic… though they may still be infectious for a period of time.
Industries will be impacted differently.
The cruise ship, airline, amusement park, and concert businesses are already suffering. Consumer goods companies, particularly makers of hand sanitizer, face masks, toilet paper and the like are thriving. The health care industries once they adjust will probably do well, too.
On-line shopping is booming as you can see from Amazon’s stock development. Microsoft and others have leapt into the remote-learning market as schools have closed.
Government stimulus and support is also making its way through the regulatory process and green shoots are showing on the world’s stock markets. Many other industries will not be significantly impacted in the medium term.
So, as one door closes, others will open.
At the Barrett Group we are modestly ahead of the curve as far as virtual working is concerned, and it seems that the world is moving our way. This may be the most significant impact of all in the long term as more and more companies recognize that there are in fact significant advantages to telecommuting.
Already, most initial employment interviews are conducted by telephone and videoconference.
By the way, we can help you set up a complimentary videoconference account of your own, if you wish, to help you capitalize on this trend.
Our discussions with major employers indicate that most expect to weather this crisis and continue recruiting major talent, as their organizational strategies are long term and not particularly affected by the whim of the market.
So, in a nutshell, as long as you are willing to do the work required, this health crisis should not significantly impact your career change campaign in our opinion.
Most of our clients land through the unpublished market anyway and we know how to help you make the connections required to be successful there.
Fear can be paralyzing. But you need not be a victim. Take advantage of this crisis to take stock of your situation. Perhaps it is time for you to take action. If so, please consult us. Thirty years of guiding executives toward a better work / life / compensation balance has made us the experts. We can help.
In the meantime, please do everything you can to stay healthy and protect the health of those around you.
Effective Law Office Management: 6 Things You Need to Know to Succeed
Efficient law office management can be a challenging task; it needs initial and sustained efforts and can be intimidating to even think about … but it definitely pays off. Every law firm aims to operate under efficient law office management systems, but actually making the changes can be daunting.
Although changing is easier said than done, it’s important to remember that you’re in a competitive jungle; one where your profession, livelihood, and oath to serve are at stake. That being said, here are some things to keep in mind to start improving work dynamics in your law firm:
Setting Goals and Priorities Makes Progress More Visible and Attainable
Looming deadlines are frightening; deadlines that are all over the place are even worse. While office work doesn’t always follow convenient schedules, setting up a law firm goals and priorities will help properly organize workload and optimize productivity.
In doing so, you get to check off work from a structured list so that you can see and feel progress. Make sure you make room for changes in deadlines and schedules. While it’s safe to be strict, it also pays to be versatile.
Having a Manageable Queue of Clients Should be a Priority
Understandably, many fall for the notion that the more clients they have, the more money they make. In a simpler world and business venture, this may be the case; however, with a business operating on legalities, service quality is something you can’t compromise.
For instance, some cases may need legal research. If you’ve got multiple clients lining up or expecting simultaneous and similar services, that’s going to take up time and resources. You might not have enough to provide timely and effective service for everyone. This will definitely take its toll on your practice, possibly tarnishing your reputation in the process.
Get what you can manage, and manage what you can get.
Paperwork Should be Managed Through a System
With the mountain of paperwork you constantly face, it’s only logical to resort to a paperwork management system to help you keep track of important files. You can’t risk losing court documents, client information, and accounting files with manual compilation.
While the internet is a great place to build a database for your legal documents, it’s also a risky place to be putting private data on cheap sites and software. So invest in management systems like Practice Panther and Clio for effective law practice management. These kinds of software programs will not only manage your records, but will also help your employees track and coordinate files and tasks.
Delegation is Efficient, Resource-Wise
Some employers can’t seem to find the sweet spot of work-delegation; it’s either they’re delegating it all or barely designating anything. Delegation is not only important for optimum work productivity—you need it to maximize your resources as well.
Delegating gives you the time you need to focus on more important tasks while minor tasks are being accomplished simultaneously. When you delegate tasks, you’re effectively receiving your pay’s worth for your employees while training them in the process to better fit their position.
Meetings and Evaluations Matter
Conducting meetings is an important part of establishing a successful practice. Your meetings are avenues to talk about work-related issues – internal and external. They also help bridge communication gaps.
It’s important to plan the frequency of your meetings depending on the size of your team and your workload. To make your meetings productive, be sure to set agendas prior to the meeting itself and allocate time for issues and concerns before dismissing. Stay professional and handle concerns in a proper manner. Remember to conduct your meetings at least once a week to check on progress, changes, and issues.
Additionally, you can integrate your evaluations during meetings; that’s to say, you can encourage per team or paired evaluation. Individual evaluations would work best on paper and one-to-one communication. Evaluations are great channels in helping your employees realize their strengths, and it helps them work on overall improvement.
Your Legal and Ethical Responsibilities Always Come First
Every employee and official in your law firm represents your practice as a whole; hence, the need to uphold legal and ethical obligations at all times. Not only does going against it risk legal repercussions, it poses danger to your individual credibility as well. You jeopardize your name, profession, and credence when you get involved in any monkey business.
Law office managementwill definitely need you to invest time and other resources. It can be a little disorienting initially, but once everyone gets accustomed to the changes, you can expect an upsurge in productivity. In the long run, this will help you take your practice to a whole new level at a steady and timely pace.
Remember: Effective law office management pays off!
When Hiring Managers Go Silent… Getting Ghosted!
by Julie Norwell
You wrap up an engaging interview at a company and come away feeling that this position would be a great fit for you. You have the impression that the hiring manager feels the same way about you. He walks you to the door, you shake hands, say goodbye…and you never hear from him again. Ever. Not only does he not call, he doesn’t respond to your follow-up calls or emails. You’ve been ghosted!
If this has happened to you, you’re not alone.
Companies have been ghosting applicants for years, and it happens across many different industries. A recent survey by Recruiting Daily Advisor found that among applicants that have gotten ghosted, 23% were seeking jobs at business, finance and legal companies, and 22% were job seeking at advertising, marketing, PR and media companies. Many other industries also make the list, including healthcare, retail & hospitality, and tech.
Ghosting is a term that got its start in the world of dating when one person suddenly quits returning the phone calls, emails or texts of the other with no explanation because, you know, it’s too awkward to tell someone that you’re just not that into them anymore. Instead you just pretend that they don’t exist until they quit trying to contact you.
In the business world, the reasons behind getting ghosted are usually not so petty, but it’s equally painful – perhaps more so because, your ego notwithstanding, there are mouths to feed and bills to pay. How long should you hang in there waiting for signs of life?
Job Application Black Hole
Some people experience ghosting at the application stage. They send a resume to company after company with no response. There are several reasons for this:
First, maybe you’re not qualified for the job. According to Dan Resendes, Chief Consulting Officer at The Barrett Group, the biggest mistake job candidates make is submitting an application that doesn’t have 100% of the “must have” job qualifications. It demonstrates two strikes against you: 1) You aren’t qualified, and 2) you didn’t follow instructions. In this case, applying is a waste of time.
If you are 100% qualified and your application still gets no traction, your resume might be to blame. Your resume should reflect ALL the job qualifications, and not just in the body of the resume, but also in the headline.
Most hiring managers handle huge numbers of resumes and only read the top few lines of each one.
If you’re applying to a position requiring “international sales experience” and your resume headline reads “sales experience,” you won’t get a response – even if your international experience is highlighted later.
At the same time, you should omit all skills outside the scope of the job requirements. Many people include a laundry list of common core competencies in their resumes, but this sometimes works against you. Hiring managers might think you’re over-qualified, would become bored, or might ask for too much money. It’s counter-intuitive, but if the requirement is for 20 years of managerial experience and you have 25 years of experience, write only that you have 20 years of experience.
Lastly, if you’re applying as a stranger to a job posting, keep in mind that sometimes the job opportunities don’t actually exist. Companies often already have a #1 candidate in mind, perhaps through a referral or an internal promotion, but company policy requires that the job be posted publicly. If this seems unfair, don’t get mad; get a friend on the inside who can propel your candidacy.
How NOT to Get Ghosted
First and foremost is to avoid getting ghosted in the first place. How? By developing social ties and good communication.
Get on the Inside Track.
You should never apply as a total stranger to a company before exhausting all avenues to find a social connection. If you’re looking at $80K+ positions, you can be sure that the people who land these positions are not strangers to the company – they will have been recommended for the role. Find a friend to recommend you and you will have personal reputations and political clout to support you.
If that is easier said than done, don’t fret. Many successful professionals don’t know how to leverage networking to their advantage when they’re new to the job market. They’ve been on the giving, not the receiving, side of networking and may be out of practice with the slow, inconsistent process of building and expending social capital. But no one with 10-20 years of work experience, who has impacted people’s lives through hirings, promotions, and business deals, should have go into a job market cold. Always leverage your social capital first by asking your contacts how you might best proceed for a job.
Know Where You Stand.
When you’re in the screening process ask your counterpart (with a twinkle in your eye): “Do you think I’m a good fit for this opportunity?” Often, she will be honest and say, “Yes,” and tell you next steps. If the answer is “No,” it gives you the opportunity to offer more information about whatever reservations she might have.
As a general rule, the last item of discussion should always be a mutual agreement on next steps so you know the timeline for follow up communication. If they say, “We’ll get back to you by Monday,” and you don’t hear from them, wait one day and check in on Wednesday. If you haven’t nailed down a timeline, wait one week before reaching out to check in.
How to Handle Getting Ghosted at the Interview Stage
If you do get ghosted, there are several things you should keep in mind:
Be Patient and Courteous.
If you get no response to your check-in email, wait one week and call. If you get voice mail, leave your name, phone number and a short message saying, simply, that you’re checking in. Nothing more. DO NOT reference any other attempts to check in or offer reprobation about the lack of communication, lest it sound critical. Remember, this is the ONE person who can open a door for you. When all else fails, try to reach out to someone else at the company, preferably one with a social connection to you, who can advise you on how to proceed.
It’s (Usually) Not Personal.
Don’t take it personally. The most common reasons applicants are ghosted by companies is simply bureaucracy or inefficiencies in the hiring process. Candidate selection processes are often handled by lower-tiered people who are overwhelmed or inexperienced. Sometimes decision-makers aren’t available for interviews during the given timeline. Confidential corporate changes might be underway that hiring managers are prohibited from communicating to applicants. Or maybe the hiring manager just got hit by a bus. In other words, it’s them, not you.
Don’t Give Up.
Resendes tells a story of a client who came to The Barrett Group for career coaching six months after being ghosted by a company. Although he felt like he was a perfect fit during the interviews, he got no response to inquiries about his applicant status. He grew discouraged and gave up. His career coach convinced him he had little to lose in following up again, so he called the company and was greeted with a surprising exclamation: “Thank God you’ve called! We wanted to hire you but misplaced our hiring files and didn’t know how to reach you!” The client swore that the coaching fee was the best money he’d ever spent because he would not have called the company again on his own. The takeaway: If you are running short of options, you have no reason to stop following up.
If schadenfreude is your thing, you’ll be interested to learn that ghosting now cuts both ways. The incidence of job applicants blowing off scheduled interviews or even accepting jobs only to fail to show up for work without notice or further contact is on the rise. The trend has been reported not only by professional social network, LinkedIn and many news organizations, but also by the Fed.
Undoubtedly, the tight labor market makes it easier for job applicants to give companies a taste of their own medicine, but resist the temptation to do so.
Even if a better opportunity surfaces, it never pays to burn bridges. Keep to the moral high ground and hope that companies will learn their lesson about ghosting!
More articles from The Barrett Group:
Trends in Employee Benefits and Perks: How Important Are They to Your Overall Compensation Package?
by Julie Norwell
Employee benefits and perks have come a long way since the advent of company cars and casual Fridays. A review of emerging benefits and perks in today’s business world yields novelties. Such as “pet leave” for new pet owners, nap pods for sleeping breaks, and beer on tap. These kinds of offerings are certainly a testament to what appeals to millennial workers. They comprise an increasingly large share of the labor force. But it’s not just millennials who are driving this demand.
The volume and diversity of benefits and perks now available to workers at companies bespeaks the growing value that employees place on them in the workplace – a value that sometimes rivals hard cash. According to a 2015 survey by company review website, Glassdoor, nearly 80% of employees would prefer new or additional job benefits to a pay raise. They also play a significant role in the job search process. Three in five people report that benefits and perks are among their top considerations in accepting a new job.
In an employment market as tight as the current one, employers need to pay attention. Because those who don’t risk squandering an opportunity to attract the best talent.
FAMILY AND FLEXIBILITY
In 2015 Netflix made headlines by offering unlimited parental leave – to both moms and dads –in the first year after the birth or adoption of a baby. That offer was in addition to its unlimited time-off policy for vacation and sick leave.
Netflix is an outlier when it comes to such generous benefits, but many companies are, nevertheless, trending towards more family friendly and flexible leave offerings. According to the 2019 Employee Benefits Report of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), which surveys employers annually about their employee benefits offerings, more than one in three U.S. employers offer paid maternity leave. Up from 21% in 2015, and many of them offer more leave than the federal and state mandates. In the same time frame, the number of companies offering paternity leave (30%) has almost doubled. Nursing moms will be happy to learn that this year more than half of U.S. employers report offering lactation rooms. This compares to just 35% in 2015.
Employers are ever more responsive to the high demand for flexibility in work schedules and remote working. With nearly 60% offering flextime during core business hours and almost 70% offering occasional telecommuting, up from 56% in 2015. In fact, more than one-quarter of respondents allow their employees to telecommute full-time.
FASTEST GROWING BENEFITS AND PERKS
The greatest increase in benefits were concentrated in health-related and wellness categories. 20% of employers indicating they had increased offerings in those areas. Given the prominent role many employers play in providing health insurance to employees, they have a great incentive in keeping healthcare costs down. And increasingly ply their workforce with wellness tips and information. About one-third have consistently offered an onsite fitness center, fitness classes, or memberships to fitness centers for the last several years. And just as many are offering a health insurance premium discount for participating in a wellness program, up from 17% two years ago. Nearly 40% offer company-organized fitness challenges.
Other notable changes in benefits and perks offered this year include the rise in onsite stress management programs, company-paid snacks, employee referral bonuses, and the number of employers who allow pets at work. And the number of companies offering standing desks have jumped from just 25% in 2015 to a whopping 60% this year.
Employers seem increasingly willing to invest in their employee. Over half of employers offer tuition assistance, and the ratio of companies offering student loan repayment, while still small, has doubled since 2015. In addition to professional development opportunities, which most companies have offered for years, an increasing number of employers are offering formal mentoring programs. And executive or leadership coaching, which didn’t even make the list five years ago, is now offered by four out of ten employers.
BENEFITS THEN AND NOW
Not surprisingly, the most commonly offered employee benefits are health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, retirement benefits, and paid leave for vacation and illness. The roots of these old standbys date to the 1940s. When companies were precluded by the Stabilization Act of 1942 from raising wages (in an effort by the U.S. government to prevent wartime inflation). Unable to compete with high wages for workers, companies began offering health insurance and other non-income benefits as part of their overall compensation package.
Today, nearly all companies offer these basic benefits in some capacity to their employees and have continued to add more. Over the 20th century the composition of benefits in employers’ total compensation costs has continued a steady rise. They now comprise about 30% in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What’s really interesting, however, is how much the variety and volume of benefits and perks have exploded in recent years. Twenty years ago, the SHRM tracked 60 employee benefits. In this year’s annual report, by contrast, that number has ballooned to 350 – and it’s likely to continue growing, according to SHRM.
Why? One reason is that benefits enhance a company’s appeal to workers without necessarily driving up fixed costs, as higher wages and salaries do. Another reason is that in our increasingly stressful world, workers are putting greater value on things beyond money. After all, how do you put a price tag on a flexible schedule, an in-house mentoring program, or the freedom to bring your dog to the office?
GET THE COMPENSATION YOU WANT
The growing importance of benefits and perks to workers notwithstanding, the negotiation of any new job, naturally, starts with salary. The first step in the process is to know what you’re worth. There are many online tools to estimate the salaries of particular roles in particular industries. Some are even able to calculate personal factors that could influence the estimate one way or the other. The second step is to do your research. Know what companies are paying for similar jobs in different industries, and how things may vary based on geography.
When a job offer comes and it times to discuss compensation, don’t be afraid to negotiate. And if you’re like many workers in the job market today, you won’t limit yourself to discussing money.
The benefits and perks offered by a company shape its culture and values, which may translate into greater job satisfaction. Smart employers who don’t leverage these to get you in the door will lose out on attracting top talent.
More articles by The Barrett Group Legal:
Challenges and Trends: The Future of Law Firms
Featured on 6/01/19 in Contra Costa Lawyer
It’s an exciting time to be practicing law! Law firms are grappling with several challenges, exploiting trends to meet the challenges and shape the future of law firms across the nation.
Top Three Strategic Challenges
Law firms are dealing with three strategic challenges that are shaping the future of law firms.
1. Privately-Funded Companies
You are probably familiar with Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs) such as Axiom and UnitedLex. You also likely know about Legal Publishers (LegalZoom, Avvo, RocketLawyer). These are privately funded companies with seasoned management teams. Although they currently target clients who may not be good clients for many law firms in Contra Costa County, they have ambitions to reshape the legal industry on a global scale. Meanwhile, they serve as sources of clients for many attorneys who are starting their own firms.
2. Productivity Lag and Rising Costs
Over the past decade, dramatic productivity improvements across many industries allowed companies to drive down prices without sacrificing (and sometimes improving) quality. The legal industry, however, has not significantly improved productivity. Clio’s 2017 Legal Trends Report found that attorneys typically bill only two hours per day. They spend the remainder of the time elsewhere, including administrative tasks (48%) and business development (33%).
The productivity issue is compounded by the rising costs of operating in the Bay Area: rent, compliance, and compensation specifically. In response to rising costs, law firms raise fees. This means that clients pay more for the same services, creating the opportunity that is being exploited by ALSPs and Legal Publishers.
3. Law Firm Succession and the Multi-Generational Melting Pot
Many law firms have aging partners who will be retiring in the next two to five years. Unfortunately, most of the firms are not prepared for the exit of these partners. Often, the firm must utilize outside advisors (succession plan experts, law firm strategists, etc.) to move forward. There are several potential issues:
- The junior partners cannot afford to buy out the senior partners.
- The senior partners do not want to cede control to the junior partners.
- The senior partners have no junior partners to succeed them, either because they cannot keep their talent or because they haven’t sought them out.
Complicating the succession planning effort is the multi-generational melting pot: baby boomers, Generation X, millennials (i.e. Gen Y), and Gen Z. Each of these generations has differing motivations and approaches. A law firm that works well for baby boomers is not likely to be appealing to Gen Y or Gen Z. The generational differences make it difficult to attract and retain the best talent and the best successors.
Trends Rise to Meet the Challenges
Challenges create trends. The trends in this article address three areas: cost reduction, productivity, and growth.
Cost Reduction Trends
Law firms are increasingly leveraging remote employees, both full-time and part-time. Remote employees can save on rent expenses as well as labor costs. Legal marketplaces such as Hire an Esquire and Lawyer Exchange make it easier for law firms to locate qualified talent elsewhere.
Alternative dispute resolution such as mediation is rapidly gaining popularity as a less costly, more appropriate alternative to traditional methods in certain situations.
Law firms are adopting technology more quickly. Practice management software, for example, is becoming a “de facto” requirement for law firms of all sizes.
The next step is the application of artificial intelligence/ machine learning to the practice of law. These software tools speed up the time it takes to gather, review, and analyze different aspects of data, allowing attorneys to spend more time on substantive tasks.
Typically, losing an employee hurts the firm’s productivity. Firms are finding that they need to change their culture to attract and retain millennial and Gen Z talent. The new culture typically emphasizes results over office hours, flexible work policies, work-life balance, and opportunities for professional growth. The firms that adopt these traits find that they attract and retain high quality talent, which in turn leads to a tremendous productivity improvement.
Marketing has never been a more powerful force in the field of law than it is today. The firms with the strongest marketing have unmatched reach and presence. They command a premium for their services and attract the best talent. The firms with weak marketing get the leftovers.
The reason for this is the internet. As more clients move to the internet to seek out an attorney, a firm’s online marketing acumen will increasingly dictate its growth potential. We see this in personal injury, criminal defense, and family law, and it is rapidly spreading.
Closely related to online marketing is the rise of thought leadership. Thought leaders are recognized experts in their niches. These people are the Super Lawyers, the Avvo contributors, the YouTubers, the authors and speakers. They are the people who focus on niches and sub-niches. Potential clients and referral sources will have unprecedented access to thought leaders. Thought leaders will leverage online strategies and technologies to build dominant national or international practices within their niches.
The last trend is value-based pricing. Value-based pricing is often misunderstood. It’s a powerful methodology, usually flat-fee based that prices the services based on its worth to the client, not on how much it costs to deliver the service. Law firms that adopt value-based pricing enjoy several strategic benefits. Value-based pricing will reach into every aspect of law over the next few years, because clients want it. Law firms that get it right will have a significant advantage over the others.
The future of law is bright. I’m particularly excited by the improved quality of life that attorneys will experience. Law firms will need to change to survive. They should be looking at three things:
- Embracing new strategies for growth
- Evolving their culture and technology to improve productivity
- Exploring opportunities to reduce costs
Hiring Best Practice: Invest Attention
In my work with law firms, the most common Hiring Trap that I see is attorney entrepreneurs who hire too quickly. This is what happens: often, they have waited too long to hire someone. They are under enormous pressure to make a fast hire. So, quite logically, they rush to hire the first person who is qualified.
The Downside of Hiring Fast
As your practice grows and you work longer hours to keep up, the quality of your life and your work likely pays the price.
And they may continue to suffer until you hire someone. You expect that having a qualified employee in the role will ease your workload and allow you to refocus your attention and efforts. You expect that you will regain balance in your life.
So, maybe you hire the first qualified person you interview and cross your fingers, hoping that it all works out. But unless you are lucky, it won’t. And worse, after the poor performer has been fired, they may leave a mess behind that will take more of your time and effort to clean up.
In addition to fixing the issues the employee may have created, you have now wasted your valuable time and resources training the poor performer. You have to re-start the process, redo the training, and hope for a better outcome.
The Caliber of Your Employees Matters
Simply put: You can’t build a great law firm with mediocre employees.
Each of your employees is a reflection on the practice and on you as an attorney entrepreneur. With every action your employees take, they either build up the reputation and brand of your firm or they diminish it. The quality of employees and their ability to perform their jobs impacts you, other employees, clients and the firm.
A great new employee must be a good cultural fit for your law practice as well. If a new employee is not compatible with the culture of the practice, you can expect problems and challenges. Even if they are great at their job, a “culture clash” can create a host of issues that can impact the firm’s brand, the employees, and the clients…not to mention your stress levels!
Good Employees Are Hard to Find
So be patient. Good employees are busy people. They often have demanding jobs and they are routinely pulled in several directions at once. When the time comes for a good employee to find a new job, they won’t be in the job market for long. This means you will have a small window to find, interview and hire them.
The Importance of Prioritizing Hiring
When you are actively trying to fill a role, you should plan to invest about five hours each week. It may seem like a lot of time, but this keeps the job opening “top of mind” so you can take advantage of everyday opportunities that could lead you to a great employee.
For example, when you are speaking with colleagues (e.g. after court, bar association events, etc.), you will be more likely to mention your job opening and ask them if they know qualified people who might be interested.
At the end of the day, you need great employees to uphold the quality of services you provide. Hiring good people may not be quick, but hiring the right people is the best way to transform your practice into your Perfect Practice™.
Suggested Action Items:
- Mention your job opening when you speak with colleagues
- Plan to invest 5 hours/week when actively filling a position in your practice
(This is an excerpt from my upcoming book. I hope you find it helpful. I would love to hear your comments via email at [email protected])
Where Are You In Your Career Cycle?
by Julie Norwell
Why is it that so many of us become dissatisfied in mid-career and begin to question why it is that we are doing the job that what we are doing? Sure, maybe it’s because you have been on the wrong career path all along. It’s more likely, however, that the original reasons you had for choosing your career are simply no longer valid. So, where are you in your career cycle?
It might be an indicator that you’ve reached full circle in your career cycle and should reassess your current values and priorities. So that you can begin anew in a career that better suits your needs at this time and place in your life.
Understanding career cycles and the stages within a cycle is liberating because it helps you understand the progression of a normal work life. It enables you to anticipate stages before they happen so that you can prepare for them. Transitions are challenging, so the more you know what to expect, the better.
What Are Career Cycles?
The concept of career cycles is one of several mainstream theories in career development to have emerged over the past 100 years. In the 1920s Frank Parsons kickstarted the idea of career determination with his publication, Choosing a Vocation. He was considered to be the founder of the vocational guidance movement. According to Parsons, workers should match their personal traits to specific occupations.
In the 1970s, Albert Bandura promoted the concept of self-efficacy. It suggested that the greater an individual’s confidence in her capabilities to organize and execute a goal, the more likely she is to attain it. It became de rigueur in the 1980s to identify your personality type as a tool to ascertaining your ideal occupation. (Raise your hand if you have ever taken a Myers-Briggs test to learn your personality type).
Some theories have weathered the vagaries of the 21st century employment market better than others, of which one is career cycles, conceived by Donald Super in the 1950s.
Super’s model sees occupational choice not as one decision made at a single point-in-time, but as an unfolding process that spans a lifetime and is influenced by life events. It is an excellent way to look at career shifts in a society where rapid technological developments are upending industries and work as we know it.
He argued that vocational development stems from the process of developing a self-concept and that people choose occupations that enable themselves to express that self-concept. To develop a self-concept, you must know yourself. What are your interests? Which kind of worker are you? What is important to you? What are your goals?
In addition to a self-concept, Super identified five stages of development in typical career cycle:
Originally, Super associated age ranges with each stage of development. The first stage beginning in childhood and the last stage culminating with retirement. Over time, however, he acknowledged that an individual might cycle through all five stages multiple times depending on whatever life changes or new opportunities might crop up.
For example, if a worker wanted to change careers in her 40s, she might re-launch a career cycle. Exploring new interests and passions, pursuing them tentatively at first, and following them through to fruition as potential leads opened up. Career cycle stages were, therefore, independent of age. A worker might expect to experience several mini-career cycles throughout her life.
WHERE ARE YOU IN YOUR CAREER CYCLE?
There are development markers and tasks associated with each of the five stages in a career cycle. Knowing where you are in your career cycle now can help you anticipate next steps as you transition from one stage to another.
In the Growth stage, an individual is expected to develop a self-concept that germinates in the fertile ground of fantasy, interest and a growing awareness of individual capacity and how it relates to the specific requirements of a job.
During the Exploration stage, an individual hones his self-concept more realistically and identifies vocational preferences, which he then implements experimentally in the form of hobbies, volunteering, and part-time or otherwise low-commitment work. If a particular choice turns out to be a poor fit, then he may pursue other interests.
When an individual enters the Establishment stage, she endeavors to secure herself in a position in a chosen field of work, establish herself, build good work relations, and pursue advancement opportunities.
The Maintenance stage involves a continuity of established work patterns and a preservation of one’s achievements. Workers in this stage typically break little new ground in their careers and may even plateau.
In the final stage, Disengagement, workers experience declining interest in their occupation and invest less and less energy into it. People over age 65 may mentally transition into retirement planning. For younger workers, however, this may be a point to reassess values and sources of satisfaction and re-launch a mini-career cycle by exploring interests that better align with their self-concept, which may have changed over time.
Is It Time to Consider a Change?
If you are unhappy in your work, feel stressed or unchallenged, face a poor work-life balance, or lack a career-related identity, you may be in the disengagement stage of your career. It’s important to reflect on the source of your discontent. Then consider how your needs, interests and priorities may have evolved. And acknowledge that it might be time for a change. It is natural for your self-concept to change along with life events, and your career choices should reflect that.
When your occupation is aligned with your self-concept you will be the most satisfied in your job. Acknowledging where you are in your career cycle allows you to purposefully move yourself into the next stage.
Maybe you have a new baby and want to spend more time at home. Or maybe your company is undergoing a round of layoffs. Not only are these kinds of life events normal, you should expect them. In fact, in the 21st century you should plan multiple mini-cycles because the rapid pace of technology is disrupting so many industries. Workers simply don’t stay in the same job throughout their lifetime as they once did.
The trick is to plan ahead and think strategically! Be open at all times to recognizing new opportunities as they arise and be willing to explore them. People who plan for change, even when things are going well, cope the best with a career change. Pulling the trigger on something new when the times comes can be scary, but the more adaptable you are, the easier it will be to transition into the next chapter of your career.
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What to Know About Hiring Cycles to Ensure a Successful Job Search
by Julie Norwell
Many factors affect hiring and recruitment cycles. Some are internal to an organization, such as organizational culture, or company product releases. Some are external to an organization, like economic trends. Seasonality is definitely important. Naturally, industry fluctuations play a big role, too.
When you look at the larger picture, it’s clear that what influences hiring and recruitment is often cyclical or evolves over time. The better you understand these factors, the better you can take advantage of them to set yourself up for a successful career change.
It’s the Economy, Stupid!
Obviously, the economy is the paramount influence when it comes to hiring. A strong economy means a good job market. With the unemployment rate currently at 3.6%, a 50-year low, we are seeing a uniquely advantageous time to be job hunting. However, the situation is even more interesting.
It’s clear from the most recent data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that many aspects of the job market are in ground-breaking territory – much of it good news to job seekers.
According to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), job openings have surged over the past decade.
Since hitting a low in July 2009, job openings have rocketed past the pre-recession peak of 5 million in 2014 to 7.4 million at the end of April 2019. Hiring increases have been even more impressive, surpassing pre-recession levels and peaking at 5.9 million hires, a series high.
What’s particularly notable about these figures is this: For most of the JOLTS history the number of hires (measured throughout the month) has exceeded the number of job openings (measured only on the last business day of the month). Since January 2015, however, this relationship has reversed, with job openings consistently outnumbering hires.
In other words, there are a LOT of open jobs. There were 1.5 million more job openings in April than there were newly hired people. In fact, there are now more jobs available than there are unemployed people! The ratio of unemployed persons per job opening was 0.8 in April according to JOLTS.
Clearly, in this market, the onus is on companies to act quickly lest they lose out on hiring the best talent.
What Industry is Hot and What’s Not?
There is an unsettling truth to keep in perspective if you’re looking to change careers: One reason why there are so many more open jobs than there are unemployed people is because there is a skills gap. Many open jobs are in technical fields requiring skills that too few job seekers have. If you are in a position to do so, you can’t go wrong by improving your technical skills. Technical fields and technical industries are perennially hot when it comes to hiring.
But other industries are growing, too. According to a monthly analysis by LinkedIn, the industries with the most notable hiring shifts in May were Corporate Services (7.6%), Wellness & Fitness (7.4% higher), and Software & IT Services (6.7% higher).
Year to year, employment in professional and business services, and health care continue to trend up. The chart shows the yearly change in the hiring rate in several industries according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Wondering which industries to shy away from? Answer: Mining and Logging, and export-producing goods industries, like Agriculture and Manufacturing – all of which are facing significant downturns in hiring.
A Season for Change
The granddaddy of all hiring cycles is the calendar. While some industries buck the historical trends, there are definitive hiring seasons during the year. Understanding the trends will help you choose the optimal times of the year to pursue a career change.
For several reasons, a New Year means new jobs. Companies have new hiring budgets and sales forecasts to act on at this time. Recruitment managers are refreshed after a holiday vacation and eager to start filling newly created positions. Moreover, many workers resolve at this time of year to make a career change, which creates opportunities in newly vacated positions. For all these reasons, the January-February time-frame is the springboard of a hiring season that continues throughout the spring.
The 2nd Quarter is also a good time to job search, although the later you wait, the fewer job options you might have. The ranks of new hires towards the end of this quarter tend to be filled out by newly minted college graduates. But hiring for many industries peaks in the spring, especially Construction, Tourism and Hospitality. It’s also common to find, at this time, many hiring managers scrambling to fill open spots before the office empties for the summer months.
Not surprisingly, hiring surges for seasonal industries like Tourism, and Outdoor & Leisure are typical during the summer months. Education also sees a big boost, as school districts seek to replace non-returning teachers. Professional industries, however, tend to experience a hiring lull. To the extent that companies are hiring, the available jobs are more likely to be seasonal or lower-level positions. After all, it’s hard to set up interviews and streamline the hiring process when people are on vacation.
Back-to-school season is also a “back-to-work” season, with hiring bumping up again. Rejuvenated once again from their summer vacations, hiring managers are keen to fill available spots in their departments during September and October. They are often motivated by a “use it, or lose it” mentality because whatever funds might remain in their hiring budget at the end of the year will disappear. In November and December, however, hiring falls of a cliff. The glut of major holidays and depleted budgets puts hiring on hold for many industries.
The chart on the left tells the basic story of hiring during the year, but remember that not every industry falls neatly into this pattern.
Hiring in Retail, Warehousing, Transportation and Customer Service, for example, surges during the end-of-the-year holiday season.
Likewise, because January to April is peak business season for Tax and Accounting professionals, hiring in these industries tends to happen outside these busy months.
Regardless of the season, you should never be doing nothing if you’re a job seeker. Slow times are ideal times to be researching new options, developing new skills and, most importantly, networking.
All of these tasks take time and are incredibly important in positioning you to act quickly when the right opportunity presents itself.
Create Your Own Hiring Advantages
If you are trying to figure out the best time to start a career change, familiarizing yourself with cycles and trends that influence hiring and recruitment is a useful place to start. But careers begin and end regardless of whatever economic trends, seasonal cycles, and industry changes are doing. So, when you’re trying to decide the best time to start your career change, the answer is NOW.
The most important influences on your recruitment by a future employer are the ones that you create for yourself.
That means that you should keep abreast of what is going on at your target companies, watch for news announcements that may identify an optimal time for you to make your move. Some hiring managers budget for positions early, so plan ahead and be prepared to send a resume at anytime.
The best time to get a new job is always whenever the right job comes along. The timing of that might be unique – completely outside typical hiring cycles. It could be NOW.
So, continue to network regularly, build relationships, develop new skills for yourself, and prepare to move quickly when the right opportunity comes along.
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Overcoming Barriers to Your Success
by Julie Norwell
Most people focus on their career in a reactionary instead of a strategic way. That means that if things go south, it is hard to understand what went wrong.
If you’ve adapted to the status quo, switching gears is hard. You may face barriers to change that sometimes feel insurmountable. Some of these barriers are very real, while others might be self-imposed.
Either way, overcoming barriers often involves a level of self-reflection during which you analyze your career and, more broadly, your life in order to assess your innermost goals and your value proposition – that is, everything that you can offer an employer. Only after you have taken stock of yourself and your dreams can you make informed decisions about how best to manage your career effectively and achieve your goals.
What is standing in your way? If you feel stymied in your efforts to advance your career, answering that question is the first step towards overcoming whatever barriers you face.
Maybe you’re worried about money. Maybe you don’t relish the idea of starting a new career at the bottom rung of the ladder. Or, you might struggle to find time in your day to job hunt.
Many people are paralyzed by fear – fear of losing their job; fear of speaking up at work; fear of getting passed over for a job because of age, gender or race. Or perhaps you have “impostor syndrome,” the fear that you aren’t qualified to do the job your hired to do.
Perhaps your problem is simply that you know that you are unhappy in your current job, but you just aren’t sure what else to do. Or maybe you know what you want to do, but you have no idea how to pursue it.
Some people worry about lacking experience. By the way, if this is you, you’re not alone. In today’s economy this should actually be everybody’s concern because the rapid change of digital technology is disrupting business processes in so many industries.
A 2016 report by the World Economic Forum forecast that within five years over one-third of skills that are considered important in the workforce will have changed.
Only after you identify what is standing in your way to a more fulfilling career can you focus on overcoming it. But be sure to give the question serious reflection. Arriving at an honest answer here is crucial, and it isn’t always easy.
You may need to dig deep to assess the real barriers between you and your goals. It may even be worth engaging the professional services of a career coach, such as those at The Barrett Group. Career coaches are a great resource for someone in a rut because they intentionally push clients out of their comfort zone and encourage them to consider perspectives and options they may not have thought of.
The methodology starts by investigating all aspects of what’s right and wrong in your life, including financial independence, business success, family and relationships, and health and fitness. Ask yourself challenging questions such as:
- What are you most proud of?
- What does success look like? or
- What is the worst thing that could happen if you don’t achieve your goal?
Such questions help differentiate between societal ideals of success (e.g. money or status) and personal successes (e.g. work-life balance and a happy family).
Use the “Five Whys” technique to drill down to the root cause of a problem. In this approach, you identify your problem (e.g. I’m unhappy at work) and ask yourself “why.” Repeat the question five times in response to each answer.
Typically, you will uncover alterable behavior on your part that could resolve the problem. When you ferret out self-imposed barriers in the path of your career advancement, you can think through how to dismantle them.
Commit to the Process
The clarity process is the hard part. Once that is done, you just need to come up with a game plan for advancing your goals and commit to it. First, consider how you can lessen the barriers that you identified.
Lack of experience? Up your game through online courses, reading books, or volunteering to work alongside someone who can coach you. Of course, if you’re an older worker, don’t underestimate the value of your soft skills.
Lack of time? Completely understandable! Prioritizing a career change is very hard, especially given that it doesn’t provide immediate gratification. Still, the benefits of scheduling even a few hours per week into your calendar to promote your career will build up over time.
Unsure how to pursue your goal? Start by building and nurturing your network of contacts. Reach out to them and have a conversation or solicit advice. You’ll be amazed how informative and helpful people can be.
How to Stay Motivated
Change is stressful and the frustrations of a job search can wear down the best of us. Getting organized and structuring a routine in your job search will help. Set S.M.A.R.T goals – goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
For example, schedule 10 hours per week towards enhancing your career opportunities, target three resumes per week to send out, or plan to meet 10 people for coffee per month. Revise the numbers as necessary, but stick to it!
There are several other steps you can also take to stay motivated:
- Focus on what you can control and not on the things you can’t control.
- Celebrate small victories whenever you can.
- Make a list of all your accomplishments, which has the dual benefit of making you feel good about yourself and providing you with a handy reference of your career highlights to use for quick reference. It may also spark ideas about how to link different career goals!
- Take mental breaks – looking for a new job is hard!
Don’t forget to keep things in perspective. If you ask people how they came to be doing what they are doing, they often answer that they fell into it due to chance circumstances. That may be frustrating to hear, but it should actually encourage you.
“Chance circumstances” is a testimony to networking. If you cultivate and grow your network, you will be surprised how opportunities will crop up.
Changing careers isn’t easy, but it’s easier than staying in a job you don’t want. It’s also easier when you have a strategy to overcoming the barriers to your success.
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Hone Your Networking Skills…and Slip in the Backdoor to Land Your Next Job
by Julie Norwell
Did you know that 85% of all jobs are landed through networking?
If you know nothing else about networking, that statistic should focus your mind – and your approach to job seeking. Short of being born into royalty, networking is THE best way to land a job, bar none. And, therefore, it should comprise the lion’s share of any efforts you exert to find a new job.
Networking has been touted for years as a valuable tool during a job hunt. In the digital workforce, it is indispensable.
According to a survey published on LinkedIn, networking is the biggest factor in finding a job for all types of people – whether they are actively job hunting, employed, or any combination of the two.
In fact, the survey indicates that the people who get jobs from networking most often are actually employed and NOT actively looking for a job. In many cases, they’ve been offered a job before it was published. That’s some powerful networking!
Are you fully leveraging your network in your job hunt? If not, it’s time to hone your skills so you, too, can slip through the backdoor of a company to land your next job.
Sow the Seeds Early, Reap the Benefits Later
It has been said that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is today. The same could be said of building a network of contacts.
A network is much more than the people whose business cards you collect. It’s about building valuable relationships.
Relationships develop over time and must be nurtured and maintained. Naturally, a network includes your professional contacts, but it also includes everyone you’ve ever met in any capacity: former co-workers, clients, vendors, school friends, people in your running club, members of your church – your family, of course…the list goes on.
If you’re anxious about getting started with networking, these are the people you should reconnect with first. Sure, your aunt is probably not the one who can help you get a job at Google. But her neighbor’s daughter’s boss might. You’ll never know unless you reach out to connect with her.
When you reach out for the first time, find out what people are up to. Typically, you will catch up a bit and talk about family, work and aspirations for life. When you enter into those conversations, focus on giving to the relationship, not taking.
At some point in the future, your contact may talk to someone about something that reminds them of the conversation with you and they’ll reach back out to you. It may take a short time or a long time – but the opportunity will grow only if you’ve planted the seed.
Continue to build these connections and expand your circle. Surprisingly often, they lead somewhere.
While a business lunch is still a perfectly acceptable way to network, the best way to build and maintain the informal relationships that are most useful in job hunting is through social media. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are popular options with younger folks. For more seasoned professionals, however, the most important one is LinkedIn, where 56% of workers go to job search.
Unlike other social network websites, LinkedIn is uniquely designed for professional networking. You can summarize your career and highlight certain skills and expertise. You make connections by inviting people to join your network.
This enables you to see their connections and even the connections of those connections. Through this visual web of professional connections, you can develop new ones at the companies or industries that interest you.
Members in your network can also endorse you for skills, which increases your professional value in the eyes of other members of your network. Your goal should be to get endorsements from 99+ people in your network.
How? The easiest way is to endorse people in your network yourself. People will often return the favor. What’s more, the activity might also lead to a phone call in which you verbally reconnect, catch up and possibly learn about upcoming opportunities.
Three Types of Networks
As you build your professional network, you should remember that networking is not just for job-seekers. Everyone should always be networking because there are so many other tangential benefits. Networking is a great way to build up references, meet potential new clients and vendors, and learn the perspective of people outside your industry.
According to professional organization, Association of Talent Development, there are three main types of professional networks: operational, personal, and strategic.
- Operational – this is the group that you engage with in a professional sense and upon whom your success hinges. These are the people around you that you need to do your day-to-day work – your immediate colleagues.
- Personal – this group includes those individuals that you trust and to whom you can turn for advice or just to discuss career options, even in a social setting, like coaches, mentors or people you might ask to be a reference.
- Strategic – this network may overlap the other two. These are peers, industry leaders or other contacts with whom you can share ideas, discuss future initiatives and how to realize your goals. Building and maintaining this network takes time and attention away from your routine, so it is typically the most neglected of the three networks. But it is, arguably, the most crucial one to build.
Whenever possible, you should always try to be on the giving end of a relationship with anyone in your network; it builds good will and you never know when you might need to exercise some of that social capital for your own benefit.
Success in Any Industry Starts with Networking
No matter what industry you are in, it is smart to develop a strong network, especially one that spans many other industries, because you just never know where an opportunity might arise.
Dan Resendes, Chief Consulting Officer of the Barrett Group, recounts the story of a client who was an executive at Pepsico for 22 years. He was looking for something new, but was getting no traction because of ageism.
The client used LinkedIn Analytics and was soon referred by someone in his network to two scientists who were trying to produce an artificial sweetener. He went to work for them, and in his second year made over a million dollars. He never used a recruiter or even a resume. It was all word of mouth.
“This happens all the time,” said Resendes. “Of our clients, 75% land a job through their social networks.”
When you leverage your networking skills, you learn about potential opportunities before they even become available. With luck, that creates an opportunity – and then you slip in the backdoor.
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