Welcome to SixFigureStart®

Career Coaching by Former Fortune 500 Recruiters

Positioning Yourself for Big Versus Small Companies

One reader asked:  What are the differences between hiring objectives of a small (startup) company versus a bigger corporation?

The job search does differ when you are targeting start-ups versus established firms. Getting information on and networking into smaller, newer firms requires deeper research and more resourcefulness. You probably have just one chance at the hiring manager in a small firm, while at a larger firm, there are more potential points of entry. Finally, as this questioner mentions, the hiring objectives and practices of a start-up will differ from a bigger corporation, and you will need to adjust your search accordingly.

Your role will be different depending on the size of the firm, even for the same functional area. Your team size, budget, and other resources will vary, and therefore you need to position your skills specifically against what your target requires. For the start-up, you may want to highlight your flexibility and resourcefulness. For the corporation, you may want to elaborate on your relationship-building skills.

Your career path will vary. When you talk about your ambitions, you want to position them to match what is available. For a start-up, there may be no clear path, or it will likely include lateral and cross-functional moves. For an established firm, there may be a well-defined path and clear rules of engagement for next career steps.

The differences in culture and opportunity presented by big versus small firm require you to be clear about your motivations. Why do you want to work at an untested, lesser known, possibly volatile start-up? Why do you want to work at a staid, Fortune 500 bureaucracy? When I recruited for start-ups, I was suspicious of candidates who didn’t know my client because they seemed to be chasing any start-up rather than my client specifically. Likewise, when I recruited for Fortune 500 companies, I was suspicious that candidates who couldn’t articulate clear reasons for wanting my client were just chasing the brand.

Size does matter in your job search. The skills you highlight, the plans you share, and the preferences you reveal all position for companies of a specific size and history. It’s okay to pursue both targets. Just remember to adjust your messaging accordingly.

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Cold Calling For Your Job Search

As a former recruiter, I will be the first person to recommend against cold calling a recruiter.  In addition, those job postings say, “No phone calls, please” for a reason – calling to follow up on your application is not a good use of time.  However, does that mean you should never cold call in your job search?  Not at all — I am a big advocate of cold calling prospective employers in your job search for the right reasons and with the right technique. 

Cold calling covers more ground:  finding a personal introduction for a “warm” call might be impossible for certain firms where you just don’t have a lead.  Cold calling is faster:  when you rely on someone else to make an introduction you are hostage to their timetable (and no one will have the same urgency about your search as you will).  Cold calling keeps the ball in your court:  you know exactly how you’re going to pitch a cold call, but you can’t control how someone talks about you when they refer you, regardless of how well-intentioned they are.

But cold call hiring managers, not recruiters.  My job as a recruiter was to find the best match for my client, not help you with your job search.  It was rare that an unsolicited call was from a candidate with the exact fit – if you have the exact fit to an open job, the recruiter will likely find you.  The irony is that, as a recruiter I had the perspective to often see how someone without the exact background or experience could do the job, but I was not in a position to advocate for that person.  A recruiter’s role is to make the exact match and keep everyone else out.  Hiring managers, on the other hand, are the decision-makers for the actual job and don’t need to focus on keeping people out, just getting the right person in.  You want to cold call the hiring manager.  This means you need to identify who is the decision-maker for that job. 

Your cold call to the hiring manager needs to demonstrate that you are that right person for their job.  A lot of jobseekers focus their pitch on who they are – where they worked, what they did.  The prospective employer cares about how their new hire will work for them and what they will do for them.  Frame everything you did in terms of benefit to the hiring manager.  It’s not just about having done extensive market research for Old Company A.  It’s about being able to research this Market-You-Care-About for Target Company B.  This means you need to know your target intimately – what they are working on, what keeps them up at night – so you can position yourself as the answer to their prayers.

Identifying the right people and positioning yourself in a way that gets noticed is hard work.  But it’s the difference between the average jobseeker with little to no results and the star candidate with multiple offers (yes, people are getting multiple offers in this market).  Identifying hiring managers and pitching yourself well, while difficult, are skills that can be learned.  Many of my clients didn’t believe in cold calling till they did it and got jobs because of it.  So get the support you need to do it right and cold call away.  Cold calling is an effective job search strategy.

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It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. – Lena Horne

What do you do with the difficulties and anxieties that you have?

Are you fixated on them, paralyzed by them, or do you press on?

How would you be if the weight were lifted off your shoulders?

Can you release yourself from that weight?

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Book Review: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

The tagline of “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith is How Successful People Become Even More Successful.  Goldsmith asserts that successful people overlook their foibles and carry bad interpersonal habits with them as they ascend.  Invariably these bad habits become the obstacle to their next round of success.

Goldsmith describes 20 bad habits from Winning Too Much to Not Listening to Making Excuses.  At face value, these habits seem obvious and easily correctable but the book includes good anecdotal examples of otherwise top performers and how these habits can subtly interfere.  Goldsmith then offers a 7-step plan, including Feed Forward (the opposite of Feedback), which focuses on future change.

I was already a Goldsmith fan from his business magazine columns, and I can see why this book became one of his signature works.  It’s a breezy read, but comprehensive.  There will probably be 1-2 nuggets you can use immediately.  I particularly loved Is It Worth It — pausing before saying anything and asking if what you would say is worth it to say or just let it go.  I also loved how Goldsmith emphasized the interpersonal and how it’s the interpersonal skills that make or break you as you ascend in your career because the technical skills are often a given. 

I recommend “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”, especially if you are at an inflection point and open to considering making a change.  It will help you identify potential areas of change.  It will also help you manage other people, up and down, as you’ll probably have more sympathy for other people’s struggles as you identify your own.

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Everything is sweetened by risk — Alexander Smith

Are you able to see risk as a good thing?

Do you feel the accomplishment (or just the struggle) when you stretch for a goal?

What would you do if you enjoyed rather than avoided risk?

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Guest Post By Katheryn Rivas: The Problems with Professional Brown Nosing: How to Do It the Right Way

I’m sure if you’ve ever worked in any sort of job environment, you’ve encountered co-workers who kiss up to their superiors as if it’s in their job descriptions. From personal experience, there’s always at least one. You know the story—they are grandiose in their irrelevant compliments, they go out of their way to demonstrate competence only when their bosses are watching, they trumpet and promote themselves ad nauseum, and, worst of all, they will go to great lengths to step over others whenever it is in their best interests.

Many of the more cynical people in the job market will tell you that it’s a “dog-eat-dog world” that competition—the cutthroat kind—is an absolute inevitability of the marketplace in an economic climate that is built on competitive advantage. I propose, however, that it is not. Or at least not necessarily.

From my observations in the working world, of course there will always be moments at work when you should promote yourself, but to me, this is only appropriate when you have done something to warrant notice. It is always a good idea to be on good, friendly terms with your employer. However, it’s a good idea to be sincerely friendly with everyone in the office.

I think the biggest thing that is missing in the office environment, generally speaking, is sincerity. Of course, there will be times and places when you won’t always “like” everyone with whom you work. I know that has been the case with me. But if you simply attempt to humanize all your co-workers—both the “important” ones and those who are on the same wrung of the ladder as you, or even, as the case may be, “lower” on the totem pole—then you will find that getting along with all becomes exponentially easier. It’s all about understanding everyone on their own terms.

Although there is value for its own sake in trying to develop solid relationships with everyone in the workplace, the benefits you will reap in addition to simply being liked are various. It will make your work more enjoyable and efficient. And, believe me, the higher-ups will notice if your efforts—both in your immediate work and your personal interactions– are genuine. Nobody likes a fake. Fakery gives birth to various problems, whether or not they are immediately perceived, the worst being excessive gossip. Don’t fall into one of the most common workplace traps. 

This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes on the topics of online universities .  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: katherynrivas87@gmail.com .

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The Downside To Ditching Your Job Search To Start A Business

In my May 4 post, I outlined several advantages to starting your own business in lieu of a job search.  But it’s not easy to start a business, and there are disadvantages to taking time off your search to try entrepreneurship.

Every entrepreneur has to master a variety of important skills but they may not be the skill set that helps you stay current in your field.  Sales, marketing, PR, and accounting are just some of the things an entrepreneur must do, in addition to whatever technical skill is the focus of the business.  An accountant client of mine thought that starting his own firm was for him till he realized he’d likely do more sales and other business-building activities and less actual accounting as he built his practice.  (He opted for traditional employment.)

Your message to the market gets diluted.  If you’re thinking you can do both the business and the job search, will friends and family know to tell you about a great job or about a great prospective client?  What will you pitch to a company that could be a great employer and client – your resume or your business?  You need to know how to talk about yourself and how to divide your market targets.

If you decide to go back to traditional job search, prospective employers may be suspect of your time in entrepreneurship.  They may think you really want to start a business and are just looking at a job as a stop gap.  They may think you can’t work for anyone else since being your own boss.  They may think you are a dilettante or a quitter as you go from employee to business owner back to employee.

Starting a business can be a great alternative or complement to the job search.  But there are significant costs in time, energy and focus.  While both entail selling yourself, networking, and identifying your market value, these are separate pursuits and require separate strategies.  For the many people who do balance both successfully, there can be a great payoff but not without risks.

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If you take a risk, two things will happen. People will laugh at you. Or you’ll be way ahead of everybody else. — Steven Tyler

Risk and reward.  Risk and consequence.  Do you focus on what you’d lose or what you’d gain?

What would you do differently if you believed in the upside?

Are there risks you need to take now to propel your dreams forward?

Filed under: life coaching, ,

SixFigureStart Interviewed On CBS Moneywatch

Jack Otter of CBS Moneywatch interviews Caroline Ceniza-Levine about the improving job market and what jobseekers need to do now to take advantage:


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Book Review: Getting To 50/50

The subtitle of “Getting To 50/50” by Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober is How Working Couples Can Have It All by Sharing It All, so just in case you didn’t catch it in the title, you know exactly where this book is going.  As a working parent I’m also inspired by the stories of how others make it work, and the pedigree of the authors peaked my curiosity — Meers is a former MD at Goldman Sachs and Strober is an MD at a Silicon Valley private equity firm.

The book is not a how-to for those struggling to make the dual-career + kids formula work , but rather it’s an argument for why it’s better if you go this route.  The comments from working fathers were comforting.  The statistics throughout the book were interesting — I especially was surprised that the percentage of women who work in v. out of the home stays roughly constant across income demographics (I had assumed it would be higher as household income increases).  I was hoping for more examples of how people make the juggle work and not just reasons why you should.  The book, while comprehensive, seems more appropriate as a baby shower gift to couples struggling with the question of 2 careers v 1 or perhaps for the reading list of a college course.  For working parents who have already made the decision to go for it, there is the we-are-not-alone benefit but little by the way of practical tips.  I would have loved to see a few day-in-the-life examples of Meers and Strober’s juggle.

That said, I was glad that I read it for its comprehensive dive into what can be a very polarizing issue.  If you’re part of a working couple that is on the fence about staying 2 incomes v 1, I highly recommend it.  If you’re interested in general business/ market trends, there is enough research and statistics to placate you and it’s an important subject.  If you’ve made up your mind about making it a go and looking for tips to make it easier, you will find some but not many here — I’d save this read for when you’re questioning your decision and want the comfort that dual career + kids is a good thing.

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