Welcome to SixFigureStart®

Career Coaching by Former Fortune 500 Recruiters

If you don’t change your beliefs, your life will be like this forever. Is that good news? – Robert Anthony

What belief are you holding onto that is holding you back?

Do you think you’re not entrepreneurial. not ready for a promotion, not lucky enough?

What if you just suspended your disbelief or changed your mind?


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True Confessions of a Head of Campus Recruiting…

Forgive me, career services professionals, for I have sinned.  It’s been 20+ years since my last confession.  I ran campus recruiting for Fortune 500 firms that included Citigroup, Warner-Lambert, and most recently Merrill Lynch and during that time, I committed many sins.  I seek atonement through this article.    

Sin #1:  During company presentations and marketing events, I secretly wished that candidates would stop flapping their lips at record rates, talking about their focus, their past experiences, their talents, their wants, their wishes, their GPAs, their GMAT scores, their successes – even before they said hello to me, before they knew who I was and what business I represented. 

I wanted to tell them that they need to have posture and presence, as that got my attention much more than lip flapping.  I wanted to tell them to ask open-ended questions during marketing events such as “How did you get into this business” and “What trends have you seen recently?” and actually listen to the recruiter’s response.  I wanted to see their sincerity and their confidence even though they were truly nervous, because if you have tenacity, if you differentiate yourself, and if you create a support system, all will work out in the end. 

But alas, I sinned and said nothing.  I just targeted the students that had posture, that prepared, that were a pleasure to speak with, and that go to the events early. 

Sin #2:  I made instant judgments about what types of candidates they would be in the first three seconds I met them.  It’s true, I sized them up.  I’m guilty. 

I wanted to tell them that they should have tried that suit on two days before the event, so they could have gotten than stain off of their tie or jacket.  I wanted to tell them to look me in the eye versus over my left shoulder. I wanted to tell them to use breath mints, because they were leaving dead bodies in their wake. 

But alas, I sinned and said nothing.  I just selected the candidates that had polish, that prepared, that took care in their appearance from their hair to their nails to their shoes.

Sin #3:  When candidates asked why they didn’t make the cut, I never truly answered them.  Instead, I avoided any potential litigation and simply said “It was a competitive year.”

I lied.  I didn’t tell them they didn’t answer my questions directly, or completely, or enthusiastically, or in a “results oriented” way.  I didn’t tell them it was because they were five minutes late to the interview and I feared they would be late to a client meeting as well.    

But alas, I sinned.  It wasn’t my job to give them feedback.  It was my job to hire the best candidates.

My atonement has been found in my past three years as a career coach.  I tell the truth now:  the good, the bad and the ugly, so candidates can improve, and so they can launch effective and successful job searches, both on and off campus.  With immediate tactical and strategic feedback from a career coach, who is not beholden to any company, my clients can find the job of their dreams.  Amen!

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Job Search Success Stories: What Works In This Market

In the last few weeks, a flurry of our coaching clients have gotten jobs.  There is no industry connection — financial services, media, digital strategy, healthcare, academia.  There is no functional connection – the roles have been entry-level to executive and spanning sales, HR, marketing, research, and communications.  So what do these success stories have in common?

Tenacity.  Our clients did not apply for one job and magically get hired.  They had lists and lists of targets – different companies, several names within each company, networking contacts inside and outside the targets.  Some of these leads never materialized.  Some leads seemed promising and then fell through unexpectedly.  (One of our clients had two jobs that were rescinded due to budget constraints before having this final one stick!).  Some leads turned out to be the wrong fit.  But through it all, these successful jobseekers are joining the ranks of the employed because they tenaciously stayed with their networking meetings and interviews until the timing clicked.

Differentiation.  All of our clients struggled to follow our advice on cold calling, avoiding recruiters, and narrowing their search rather than casting too wide a net.  Yet, differentiating your search tactics is what is going to get you results that other jobseekers miss.  The masses will do what is easy, and therefore they will tap into the most competitive markets.  When you differentiate your job search, you stand out and you retain control of your search.

Support.  Good support systems include specific days and time blocks set aside for job search activities, a job search buddy or group to meet with regularly and maintain accountability, a mentor or coach that knows the job search process and can keep you from getting into a rut or repeating mistakes.  Some jobseekers are paralyzed by a seemingly endless to do list.  Some jobseekers stay busy, but do the wrong things or do things in the wrong way.  Some jobseekers start and stop their search and never get traction towards getting hired.  Without support you risk falling into any or all of these traps and derail your job search.

Will you stick to it despite the ups and downs?  Can you stand out and do the nuanced difficult work that other jobseekers will not do?  Do you have support in place to move you forward?  The market is picking up, and now is the time to ensure that your job search skills are competitive.

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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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