Interview Boldly

Interesting conversation with a job seeker this week. He’s interviewing with CPG vendor who sells into grocery and mass. As he talked to me he mentioned some concerns about the company. Not quite “red flags” more light red, maybe blush or a light tea rose sort of deal. For one thing this company isn’t as “with it’ as he’d like. The interview process was professional enough but some of the follow up and communication wasn’t so great. They take a long to time call back for one thing. He was getting mixed messages from different interviewers about the role and an appointment was flat out missed. They just seem in tish unorganized.

I get it.

He was also concerned about the company’s product strategy. While he saw a ton of potential, he just didn’t think they were resonating well with retailers. He thought they could be doing a few things differently in messaging and approach. Tweaks, as he put it, not an overhaul. He had the final interview the following day frankly had concerns. To sum up:-

“I just don’t know if they’re going to be open to change and if I’ll just wind up being frustrated.”

There’s two things came to my mind during this conversation, both of which I think are worth considering, especially for my former Target friends:

Compared to Target, most companies are unorganized

Folks, you just came from a world class organization when it comes to management execution. Target is the benchmarkee in this space. You have to expect that most other companies aren’t nearly as robust. Target’s policies and procedures, I would argue, are so robust that at times they seem to envelop team members, prescribing not only what they’re going to do, but how they’re going to do it and what they’re going to think about. In DETAIL. Think back on the Target interview process for example, three interviewers, three sets of prewritten questions, three questions per interviewer. There was a formal process to post for a job, another to schedule the candidates and another to do turn downs and hires. All about consistency, easier to rinse and repeat.

In my experience, those conditions are pretty rare in the world. Be prepared for some ambiguity and some “not quite as buttoned up as I’m used too” situations. And, I can’t stress enough that you’ll have to be ready, and in the right mindset, to roll with the punches. Keep in mind that the smaller the company, the more “roll” you can expect. If it feels weird that you haven’t been called back in a few days or a week, or if you’re thinking that you’ve received mixed messages about the job from different interviewers, let it go.

Your key here, be ready to think on your feet and to stay focused on the big picture. Why you are interested in the job, what superpower are you bringing to the table, and what is the company trying to accomplish by hiring you?

If it’s completely unbearable or if you’re seeing signs that the place is just dysfunctional, respectfully pull yourself out of the interview process. I have one example of a friend who went to work for a small consulting firm that he admittedly felt sketchy and unorganized at the top. He wound up dealing with bouncing paychecks and an unbearable workload. Didn’t take too long for people to figure out who was organized and who could get stuff done, see let Mikey do it. You get it. You’ll just have to go with your gut.

Go Bold in the interview.

In my friends’ case, his gut was telling him that he might be walking into a situation where his company wouldn’t listen to him, shortcut to the frustration zone. Legit concern given the circumstances. But at the same time, he liked the company a lot, he liked the products, he saw potential and most importantly, he liked the people he was talking too.

“If I could just be sure they’re open about change.”

Since he asked me, and given that he had a final interview the following day I offered some free advice. He was really wondering if he should stick with the company or just back out. Given his conflicted thoughts I suggested a course of action that would force the conversation, flip the tables on the interview. He should come to the interview with a three slide presentation to have what might be an uncomfortable conversation, but one better had before he signed on rather than after.

Here’s my suggested outline:

  • Company, this how I would change your messaging and tweak your strategy, and why.
  • This is what I would do in my first 90 – 120 days were I to accept a position here (See what I did there)
  • This is why I have the credibility to make these suggestions.

That a pretty gusty talktrack when you’re the interviewee. But if the company is serious about bringing in someone of his caliber (and the associated expense) to drive change, they’ll hire him on the spot. If the presentation scares them or raises concerns that he’s too aggressive, they won’t. And if they don’t, he probably just learned in 20 minutes what might have taken six months to figure out on the job.

Free advice.

Key message here, as I say all the time “we’re all free agents”. Don’t take a job just because you were lucky enough to get asked, find a job you want. Which means at some point you’ll have to reverse roles and interview the interviewee. Be bold, you’ll learn more about yourself and your prospective employer. All they can say is “no”.

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What would you tell your 22 year old self?

This question came from LinkedIn. Something I sort of think about a lot.

I’m an early adaptor if you will, always have been. Technology, trends, you name it, I jump on it early. At 22 I was married, in my first job out of college and in debt with a new car loan. I was getting a jump start on life. Getting married at 22, which seems so odd today especially given how different my kids are, or were when they were 22. At the time however, it seemed like such a no brainer. And 30 years later I’m happy to say, it was. But that doesn’t discount the fact was sort of impulsive, I took a huge risk, statistically it was a bad bet, marriage success for people who tie the knot that young aren’t great frankly, not today and not back then.

Lots of friends of mine in the years to come would ask me “how did you know that she was the ONE?” Fact is I didn’t know, hell she didn’t either we just went for it and over the years we’ve grown, sometimes together, sometimes not as together, but we had a commitment, even back then, that at the end of the day this had to work out, and because of that it was worth investing in the emotional capital to make it so.

G-d willing on August 4th, or sometime around then, we’ll get to celebrate 30 years. And when we do we’ll do to from perspective a having successfully raised extraordinary kids, having surrounded ourselves with incredible friends and basically having almost everything we could want or need. Well, expect that Surface Pro 3 I’m craving, the i7 version with the 512 gig.. but I have time.

Rewinding back to 1985 when I was 22 I’d have to ask a question to my young self, resplendent in the 80’s bushy mustache and oxford cloth button down shirt. I’d ask myself about risk and fear. Here it is: Dude, how is it that you’re willing to take a total flyer on your life partner.. and I mean that in the most loving way really but at 22 should you be committing to life with a woman you’ve only known a couple years socially? Anyway, how could I take that flyer on her and be so nervous about taking a similar risks when it came to my career?

Fact is I craved economic security above all things back then. I never took much risk at 22. Or at 32. Or at 42. It wasn’t until I was 51 years old that I finally took a chance and left a company where I’d been working for 27 years to move to a role at company I’d never heard of, working in a field I had no idea even existed before they called me.

And why? Well, for one thing there was timing, I got a recruiters call at the perfect time, just ended one huge satisfying project and wasn’t sure what would be next. I felt that after 27 years at one company I’d like to try something different, somewhere smaller and more nimble. Somewhere where I could leverage more of the things I like doing; learning, providing thought leadership, persuading and solving problems. And less of the things I don’t like doing, big company stuff. I wanted to “soar with my strengths” and find more passion about work. Thinking about it, it’s the same thing that drove my decision to get married a year out of college. Passion, a feeling of doing what I knew was right, and what I knew I would love.

But not at 22! At 22 I wanted to find a job. I wanted to find security. I wanted a steady paycheck, that’s what came first, job satisfaction would come later I hoped. And it did, kinda. Honestly you can’t stay at place 27 years without some measure of joy. Over the years I learned to enjoy my job, I got pretty good at certain things and I learned more about my passions and what got me excited as I gained experience and credibility. I even figured out how to navigate to jobs I liked and away from ones I didn’t.  It all worked out, but…

But what if my 22 year old self had been less worried about money and short term reward and been just a bit more focused on what I liked doing. What if I’d listened to my Father and took a risk or two instead of settling for the highest paying job I could get out of college? I don’t know how different my life would be today but I’m pretty sure the lessons I’ve learned about risk and change and failing, or rather the fear of failing, I’m pretty sure I would have learned those lessons decade or three earlier and I’d be in a different place now. I would have probably have worried a lot less, taken a lot more chances and had a tish more confidence a lot earlier in my career.

I’d tell my 22 year old self to take more risks and stop looking for safe and secure when you’re only 22 and have nothing to lose. Kid, use those early years in your career to find your passion and build your confidence. If you do that, security will come. Trust me, and oh and your bride over there, just you wait marriage thing is going to work out a million times better than you can imagine.

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Colliding Processes- Sales Process and Job Hunting

It has occurred to me that searching for a job, and going through the whole hiring dealie-do, well this whole process is really nothing more than executing on sales process, a deeply personal sales process because the product you’re trying to sell is YOU.
Little disclaimer here, when it comes selling stuff I’m no expert, as a matter of fact I kinda stink at it. But I do know processes. And I do have a real knack for being able to figure out when a process used in one sitauation might have application in another, and this example peeps, is one of those processes.
For those of you not familiar with the “sales process”, there’s a bunch of them out there but basically they can all be boiled down to about six different steps. They are:

1) Identify and prospect– Know who you’re talking too and make some contacts. (Ok so its two things, but I committed to staying to six which allows me to demonstrates the missing step, adding value)
2) Qualify– Research and get an understanding of your customer’s needs.
3) Propose– Create an offer that meets their needs and yours.
4) Present– Meet and present your proposal.
5) Negotiate– Come to agreement
6) Close– Seal the deal
As I think about this process and these steps, I’ve been thinking about how people could apply them to their job searches, especially if they’re stuck or don’t know exactly how to get started. Hopefully there’s not too many of you Target folks left in that camp. However I would throw out that even you seasoned hunters might want to consider some new about job hunting and approach, maybe there’s some nugget here you hadn’t thought off or better yet, put a few more bullets in your belt when you’re out the job jungle with the other 1700 (and if the rumors are true soon to be another huge bunch more) folks out there.
Here goes, more free advice. You’re welcome.
Identify and Prospect

This is where you’re going to do your research. Some things to consider here-
Internal research, i.e. – soul searching

  • Question #1 what are my super powers and why should people pay for them? We all have a few and knowing what they are will take you a long way. Practice telling them to people in 20 seconds or less. Your little speech should roll out of your mouth like a hymn. How’s this scenario sound, you bump into the hiring manager for a killer positon at a party and when they ask what you like doing all you can answer is… “Um”… Good to think a few things out before you go into the world.
  • Things I hate doing. Knowing what you don’t like to do is as important as knowing what you do. Empowers you to say no.
  • How much risk can I tolerate in my new role? Am I cool with a startup that looks like the greatest job ever or do I prefer corporate cultures with rules and formalities and stead paychecks?
  • My perfect job(s) is (Remember that project you worked on that was your most favorite project in your entire career? Uh huh.. that one, well it just might be your perfect job) the better you can visualize it, the better you can actually do it someday. Or keep doing it if you already are lucky enough to be doing so.

External Research

Now that you know what you like, start finding the roles that fit your strengths. Minnesota is lucky enough to have a department of Economic Development, they can help with this matching. Job counselors, coaches, friends, leaders in other organizations can all provide input into this. Seek help, it will go a long way.

  • Figure out who are the companies that have these roles, and more importantly, what do they call them?
  • Collect data, lots and lots of data, and them, collect some more. I don’t believe you can know enough about a company where you contemplating spending more time than you do with your kids.
    • Companies- who, what, when and where
    • Hiring managers
    • Company org structure- how does the role you want exist within the company you’re thinking about? Will also tell you how they value the role.
    • Get the names and titles of as many employees as you can. Create lists of names, contact information. Keep them somewhere more formal than a business card file. I’ve been doing this for years, keep track of people I meet, taking some interest in what they do and what they’re about, and you’d be surprised how often that comes in handy. One rare compliment that came my way, and really meant a lot to me, came a few weeks ago from a former VP of HR at Best Buy. “You make connections between people and things faster than anyone I know”. Nothing says “LEVERAGE” like making good connections and being able to bring them up at the appropriate time. Critical.
    • LinkedIn- Sorry Luddite friends, LinkedIn is not an option. You have to do it, and you have to it well. It’s the first stop shop every future employer is going to go to try to do a little background checking up on you. It’s become the face of your professional brand. If you don’t have a complete profile, like your picture is the blue face guy? If I’m an employer I’m thinking that A) this person doesn’t know much about job searching and B) They on par with my 80 year old mother when it comes to technical prowess. Neither conclusion of which is good.
  • Networking events- This is where you can really shine. What’s that you say, you’re a closeted introvert and can stand the idea of meeting new people and getting out and about in a group of strangers? Let me assure you I’m right there with, I sort of like I’ve met everyone one in my life whom I want to meet and would be perfectly happy living in my basement. And while that feels true and comforting to me, I’ve found it not to be the case when it comes to most any other thing I can imagine except watching bowling and deer hunting.
    Maybe this will help, 90% of networking, is showing up. There’s enough Extroverts (really way more than I like in the world) who will ask you a few questions which should prompt you to open up and talk about yourself.
    In all seriousness, get up and put yourself out there, I predict you’ll be surprised at how it goes.

    Levity ahead.
    If after deep reflection you really think that any interaction with people is too much, there’s still hope in a rewarding career in the introverted world actuary sciences or accounting. My mother is accountant. You know why people become accountants? Because they don’t have the personality to become morticians.
    Thank you I’m here all week.


Ask yourself, what actual needs are my target companies are trying to staff? This isn’t “We have an open head count and we need someone to fill it” That’s how the DMV works, not the real world. Matter of fact, if that’s all the company is doing, keep this blog post handy you’re going to need again in a few months. If you can figure out what business needs companies are thinking about when they post an opening, like having someone inside feeding you information.

An example for your consideration-
A company in Nashville is hiring BA’s with analytcs backgrounds to support their consumer package good business. That’s what the posting says anyway. What they really need to do is to improve their capabilities in understanding consumer behavior so they can sell more stuff. And not to consumers, to their retail customers because their competition is kicking their ass at shelf and their customers aren’t thinking brands, especially their brands, are important anymore. The BA are going to work on a new consumer measurement tool and a better category management sales system to help them drive more business with their retail customers.

How do I know that? I can read with a capital R. Data has been over the press baby. Was there a press release that said the above specifically? NO. But they’ve all but laid it out in their SEC filings, all of their strategies are outlined in annual reports and analyst briefings, and Glassdoor is littered with postings for web developers and analytics folks. They’re looking for Java, Hadoop and Python. They’re also looking for JDA Space management experience and CAD developers. They’re telling you EXACTLY what they’re doing, you just have to be able to read it from the tea leaves.

Of the companies you’ve identified which ones are really great at the role you want? Which are not? Do you want to learn how to be better/further your expertise at what you do? Lean toward “good at this already”. If you want to have impact and change the world lean towards “Not so good at this”. Free advice.

How committed are these companies to the role? They actually have the role on their books, a title and an office waiting? Great, you’re on your way. If the answer is they really need this role, but don’t have it defined yet, you’re in for an uphill battle, winnable but it will take effort and there will be casualties. This is the “I’m going to write my own job description” scenario. Works better for roles higher in the organization.

The Pay Question

Huh? You do know what you want right? Understanding your salary requirements is critical before you go chatting and negotiating. Keeping in mind you’re looking for compensation, which in my experience is combination of enjoyable work, benefits and actual pay. Only you know how to balance this. but it’s probably a good idea to do balancing act this early on so you’re not trying to do it on the fly.
Work Culture
Culture is SO important to mental and emotional wellbeing. (which leads to physical wellbeing) Some ideas on trying to understand work culture.

  • Check out Glassdoor- see what the employees are saying.
  • Network around and ask what it’s like to work at Acme?
  • Check out linked in- how long have people been in position? How long have they been with the company?

When you’ve done these steps correctly you will have a nicely qualified list of companies where you want to work. A list of contacts in and around those companies you can start to research and contact to get introduced and make inroads with. And in the best case scenario, a list of jobs that you’re going to apply for. You WILL have a clear set of objectives in your head about what you want to do, how much you want to get paid and if your expectations are realistic.
AND that my dear friends is THE start of a focused search plan.

Now you’re going to fill out, contact and apply for roles that are open and waiting for you (the traditional method) AND I’m going to send some notes to hiring managers and department heads for roles that aren’t posted but that I think I would kick ass at (the all in go for it method). After all it never hurts to try, at worst you’ll have some new contacts… Remember, more touches=more chances.
One word of advice and if you look at the mind map I recommended, is to keep track of where you apply. Keep track of contacts, dates, notes.. and each and every conversation and email. Sounds lame but you’ll thank me later when Gwen, the recruiter from Acme who went on her honeymoon for 4 weeks calls you back when she returns and you can just pick up right where you left off. Unless of course you’ve found a different position.. but you know, keep the options open.

In my mind this analogous to the interview process. If you get to this point, there is nothing is more important than nailing the interviews. Also nothing is more important in then keeping in mind interviews are a two way street. You friends are interviewing the company just as sure as they’re talking to you! . If after a couple interviews your SpiderSense tells you working with these folks would be double plus un-fun.. pull yourself out of the process. Don’t get hired to be hired. You deserve better.

Prepare for the interview, if you’ve done your homework in Qualify, you’re going to be ready. But just to be double dog sure-

  • Know the position you want and are interviewing for.
  • Know something about the company and what they do
    • How’s their business?
    • How’s the financial pictures
    • What’s the in the press about them?
    • What are their products?
  • What do you think you’re going to bring to their party?
  • How does you Superpower apply to their business needs?
  • Have a plan to talk about YOU.
  • Rehearse. Talk to yourself. Talk to a friend. Do a mock interview, CALL ME if you no one will help you. Seriously get this right. Because you’re going to have to prove to them exactly why:

YOU are you the answer to their problems.


Now comes the difficult part that I’ve talked about here before. Glassdoor can help you understand the pay scales and culture at the company. You’re negotiating a compensation package not a salary. Once again, for goodness sake DO NOT negotiate in piece parts and please don’t undersell yourself.
Remember the lesson of the car dealer.
Sales Process – The Car Dealer
They come at you with four things to discuss; monthly payments, trade in value, extended warranty and “off the lot” price of the car. This isn’t because they’re all that complicated or they’re really working on your best interests, they do this because human beings can’t keep track of more than two things at once. While you’re feeling super about your really’sticking it to them on price because the deal you negotiated was$500 under their cost, you’ll totally forget that you sold them your old car on trade in at $800 below market value (So much easier than selling it yourself right? um no) and that you’ve agreed to a 60 month loan that will double the interest you’ll pay on the car. Yea not such a good deal now…

Salary is just a piece of the total compensation package. You’ve got vacation in there, education allowance, sabbatical (yes in the Silicon Valley they’re pretty common), family leave, medical and dental, car/transportation/parking. There’s plenty of things to negotiate.
Remember the sage words of the Teamsters “You are worth more”.

You’ve done your homework, you’ve aced the interviews, you’ve established value for you and the company, now comes the big close. If you’ve done everything correctly on the previous steps, you’re ready to close the deal
Here’s why I’m the best candidate out there for what you’re looking for.
Here’s why you’d be remiss in not hiring me
I’m smart enough
I know all about it this role
I work hard.
And darn it, people like me.
And THAT line of thinking, dear friends, put Al Franken in the US Senate.
Stay with it, I’m rooting for you and we’re all in this together.


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No Local Liquor ’til Sunday Sales are OK

I’m getting really sick of this.

For the umpteenth time since I’ve lived in Minnesota, which is 20 years now, the lobby for small liquor stores owners, the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA) has poked a finger in the eye of Minnesota’s taxpayers by lobbying our courageous legislators once again, convincing them not do their jobs for the people of Minnesota and vote against Sunday sales of alcohol.

Seriously, elected officials are elected to do what their constituents want, and what we want, overwhelmingly, is what 38 other states have, Sunday liquor sales.

Then these folks insult my intelligence by trying to say this law would hurt the small guys by making them unable to compete. My favorite quote was from State Representative Jack Considine from Mankato who called sales on Sunday an “assault on Mom and Pop liquor stores in Minnesota”. As a social worker I’d think Jack would know the difference between an assault and doing the peoples will. Because the people of Minnesota want this.

If a store wants to close on Sunday, close. Chick-Fil-A does it. Mom and Pop can do it. They don’t want to because at the end of the day, they like their day off and they like their money too, and for some reason their day off trumps the free market and legislative priorties.

So as a liquor-buying member of the public I suggest that it’s time we take matters into our own hands. Our legislators are letting us down, the lobbyists are letting us down, and Mom and Pop are letting us down. Normally I go out of my way to support small business, but in this case, I’m done.

I’m calling for a boycott of Mom and Pop liquor stores across the state of Minnesota. Lets show Mr Considine what a real assault is. Until this law is changed I’m urging those of you who read this to only buy your liquor at the big stores- Total Wines (Who is going to put all these little stores out of business anyway, only a matter of time), Trader Joes, Cub Liquor, Blue Max, Haskell’s.

Stop going to that little store on the corner where you’ve been buying your booze forever. Not only will you help get this law changed, you might just save a ton of money in the process. I urge you to pass this along to your booze buying friends.

No local liquor until the store is open on Sunday!


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How’s the Interviewing Skills and Some Thoughts for us Older Seekers

How’s the old interviewing skills these days? Lots of you are getting them now. Been out of practice for a while? Only interviewed at Target in the last 10 years?

Feels like the interview process out there in the world has changed a bit. Not to mention if you’ve been at Target for a long time, the way other companies do interviews is probably going to be quite different from you’ve experienced.

I was chatting with one of my friends about his progress through the interview process. He made the comment that while he thought it was going good, he didn’t think he’d had a “real” interview yet. “What makes you think that?, I asked. I haven’t had any behavioral questions yet. So far it feels like they’ve just been get to know you sorts chats. Nope, those are the interviews. HR organizations are HIGHLY disparate in their process, sophistication and approach to candidates. The good news is they’re not all as formal and structured as Target is.

At Target interviewing was a very prescribed process. In many cases, and for many jobs the questions were prewritten in a list. Interview “teams” would be assembled for given jobs, each interviewer would get their list of core competencies they were to ask questions about, all drawn of course from Target’s “approved list” of leadership dimensions. And after the interviews were completed the interviewers would compare notes and decisions were made. I find in talking to people that’s not very common out there. Certainly almost never happens at any mid-size or smaller company. Target folks, don’t expect the same rigor, which frankly I think is a good thing, that you had at Target.

And if you’ve been at Target for a while or just out of the interview game, it’s not like was the last time you put on the suit. Things have changed and you should be prepared.

So here’s some interview methods I’m hearing about-

  • The Group Interview. More and more companies are doing panel interviews, usually later in the interview process. Good news if you get the chance to do a panel interview, they probably like you and you’re most of the way there. Expect to be interviewed by 2-3 people, and often as part of that process you might be expected to create and deliver a presentation. They want to see how you think on your feet, evaluate your presentation skills and get a chance to compare notes based on a common interview. In other words get away from the “he/she didn’t do that when I talked to them”. Preparing for these inteviews, it might be helpful to really bone up your strengths and why you think you’re the best person on the planet for job you’re interviewing for. Chances are you’re going to be asked the same questions a couple different ways. If you’re well-grounded in what your strengths are and who you are, you should be rock star when it comes to giving clear and consistent answers to questions.

One general note about the group interview, also applies to one on one interviews. Sometimes, the best advice, and this is counter intuitive in interviewing is to STOP TALKING. If you ramble, if you find yourself over answering the question.. which you’ll know because you’ll find yourself wondering where you were going with this, if you get nervous and start chatting away.. STOP IT. If you’re in a group interview, your nervous as hell already, and you get that question that you just can’t answer, take a pause. Yup- take 5 seconds and stop what your doing and formulate your answer. Even if that answer is “I don’t know”. Which happens. Don’t take a pause to answer what college you went too, unless your my age and really did forget, but for tough questions.. it’s ok to pause to answer more thoughtfully. You’ll come off a lot more confident as well.

  • Automated Interviews. This is a new one for me. Heard a report of a company that provided a candidate with a link to an automated interview. The process worked like this. The link was received with a 48 deadline to complete the interview. During the interview the system would present the candidate with a question, give them 5 minutes to think about their answer, and then record their response. My sense, and this was more or less confirmed by the person who took the interview, these are very position specific questions that are designed to prove your competency for the job you’re applying for. It also gives HR a file they can pass around with your verbal responses. Basically they can get a feel for you before they meet you.
    To prepare for these interviews, I suggest that you read, read and read again the posted description of the job and have talking points ready to go when HAL9000 asks specifics. And since it’s automated, take notes and have them at the ready.
  • Video Conferencing. I suppose since businesses in general have become more virtual, why not interviews. A lot of folks are intimidated by thought of video conferencing for some reason. My advice here is to make sure you’re making eye contact with the camera on your computer. And obviously STAY FOCUSED on the camera in your computer. And do the obvious, especially if you’re talking the interview at home, look at see what’s behind you before you share it with you future employer, and for heaven’s sake put the dog out, unplug the phone and the doorbell and send the kids out to play with matches if you have to. You want the cone of silence.

All of the above seems pretty obvious. I mention it in case you’re hadn’t thought about the idea that you might be interviewing virtually, or with a group, or in a combination of both. Just be ready and go with the flow.

Us Older Folks-

Something that came up this week with some of my contacts who are older, they’re feeling like they may be having some issues with age discrimination. Fact is, they probably are. But it’s so subtle that even the persons doing it may not realize that they’re doing it. I was thinking about this quite a bit the last week and I’m thinking that like any other characteristic of your super powers, there might be ways you can use this in your favor, especially later in the interview process, after you’ve built a bit of rapport. Experience is a good thing if you can demonstrate that gives you the ability make connections and anticipate the impact of decisions. It’s a bad thing if it demonstrates that you still use an abacus. You get my point. Experience means you can look at data and make better contextual conclusions from it because you’ve got more context draw from.

If you can subtly bring that up and add it what a great mentor you’ve been over the years, that you make people around better at what they do, are free with information and have coached folks in your previous positions.. you’re going to be very interesting to a company that has a staff filled with folks who don’t have a lot of experience. Believe me, there’s a ton of those companies out there that would kill for that competency because you’re know helping them and their staff get better.

Also critical, demonstrate that you are a fast study and that you stay current in technology and trends.

Last word interviewers- look out for the “pigeon holers”. Lots of examples I’ve heard of HR reps, and typically these are younger in their careers, who have a req in their hands and check list of what they’re looking for and if you don’t have one of the items on the check list, you’re out in the initial screening. I had a contact I was working with who had years of high level merchandising and optimization experience at Target. She is fantastic and I was able to help her get an interview at a major ERP software provider. They were looking for someone to support their presales effort, meet with potential customers and talk to them about how their software would meet their needs. This woman would have been the bomb, with her Target experience she would have commanded attention with any retailer she met with. And in the interview screening process she was eliminated in the first 10 minutes because she had “no sales experience”. Conversation ended right there. The way you get around this one is, once again, prep. Read, read and re-read the job posting if you can. Do your research on the company and their business. Know what they’re looking for before you talk. She didn’t have “formal” sales experience by I guarantee you she is highly skilled at persuasion, influencing other and negotiating deals. Exactly what sales people do.

Now, sometimes the HR person is so black and white you just aren’t going to get around them. Some roles require certification, can’t get around that either. But if my friend had repositioned her opening statements to “I leverage impact and influence to sell my executive team on new initiatives..” May not of worked, but you never know, it may have.

At some point it’s a numbers game, more touches=more opportunities.

Stay positive peeps. It’s been a couple months now and I’m starting to hear about folks getting hired. I told you it would take 6-8 weeks. Good things are ahead. And if you haven’t started yet.. Not too late.

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That Guy

An observation from the front lines of American business, the airport. On a weekday.

I keep running into “that guy”. Which guy you ask?

Missing- Middle aged guy, grey hair, goatee, tan pants, blue striped shirt, navy blazer, brown tassel oxford shoes.

Sound like anyone you know? The airport is crawling with them, it’s like a fucking uniform. Actually, a pretty comfortable uniform if you ask me. I like uniforms, I find the idea of wearing the same thing every day comforting. Mrs S complains that left to my own devices I’d wear the same thing every day. Not exactly sure that’s a problem really. And really, it’s not true, there’s weekends and sporting events where I’d be sure to mix it up.

Ah who am I kidding? Honestly I’d wear that blue shirt thing every day if I could, black T and jeans on the weekends. Have I stopped caring how I look after 30 years of marriage? Better question for you, did I really ever care? If it weren’t for Mrs S’s gender linked “fix him” trait, I’d still be wearing flannel.

I’m off tack, my point is most dudes, straight ones anyway, would be only too happy to have no choices in apparel. It’s all so damned complicated and at the end of the day lame. One reason I don’t do much with the Mason’s anymore- tuxedos and suits. If my kids are reading this, if you want me to attend your weddings please make them causal, otherwise no guarantees. Unless Mrs S gets involved. Thankfully two of our three kids are boys which means there’s a very very good chance that she’ll get shut out of the wedding planning by her future daughter in law’s mother. I’m not sure how that works out for me personally because I’m sure I’ll be on the receiving end of a lot of criticism and complaints..

What was that? I’m predicting problems? You bet I am, with 90% certainty. In addition to finding solace in uniforms I also find solace in historic patterns in human nature. It is what it is, deal with it.


Being the cold shower of reality in my house BTW, also makes me “that guy” apparently. I


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Now that you’ve been out of work for a bit, how’s it going?

Hey Target friends, how’s it going? I wanted to check in with you guys, it’s been about a month since the layoffs. I have the chance to talk to a bunch of you over the last few weeks. Thank you for thinking enough of me that you’d seek me out to connect on things. Means a lot to me,

While we’re chatting here are some observations that I’ve had. Lots of you were very kind to say nice things about my blog post a few weeks ago. I must have touched a nerve because I’ve received more feedback on that piece than the previous 8,000 or so I’ve written. Among the things I’ve heard is that the piece resonated and validated some of the feelings that you were having about the layoffs, and that in some small way you found some gleanings from it that helped out.

Best compliment I’ve ever received. I helped out.

So, in that vein I want to check back and see how things are going.

My sense is, for some of you, reality is starting to set in. Reality in the sense that this job search thing isn’t going to be easy. Even the folks who left Target at 11:30 that Tuesday morning with a box in their hand, went home and had resumes in cyberspace that afternoon, most of them are still looking. Just to reiterate what I’d mentioned before, in my experience the fastest companies still take 6 weeks to vet a candidate and move from initial screening interview to hire. Keep up the optimism and keep working your plan.

You do have plan right?

One thing I’ve heard from more than a few of you is that you’re starting to feel isolated. One transition that the job search books don’t really prepare you for, or maybe can’t prepare you enough for, is the transition of going from a busy, deadline filled, meeting loaded week of activities to one where you’re time is pretty much your own, and conversations with other folks.. almost only happen when you make a call or attend an event.

That’s a really hard change, don’t underestimate it! The advice I’d give, which you’ve also been given by every job search website, book and seminar out there, is to set a schedule for yourself every day and stick to it! I get concerned when I hear folks, and I’ve heard more a few, start to say how they’re having trouble figuring out what they want to do next, and how to approach their search, and that they’re having trouble feeling connected. Personally I believe these go hand in hand, you trained yourself for your entire career, well Target trained you, to think on your feet, to prepare for deadlines, to facilitate executive reviews, manage plans and to execute, execute, execute. Those meetings and time sucks created guard rails for you to plan your days and accomplish your work. Now you have no guard rails, your reference points are gone and it’s hard to focus. You’ve been driving on freeway for 20 years and now you’re driving in a huge empty lot with no lines or parking spaces and it’s tough to navigate.

Make a schedule for your own sake. And when your scheduling don’t forget to include time meeting with people, networking with a few former colleagues would probably be helpful. I’d suggest creating job search plans and sharing them with a couple friends who are in the same situation, and hold each other accountable for outcomes. Just my thought.

There’s a few of you I’ve talked to who are disoriented enough that you’re still in a period of shock and mourning. If I know several, I’m sure my many of you know several more. Folks, please reach out to people who you haven’t heard from since the layoffs, or who have withdrawn or aren’t doing anything to move forward. My experience in change management says that 20% of a population has enormous difficulties with change. I encourage all of us to reach out to these guys, take a few minutes, make a phone call… don’t email unless you have no other way to get ahold of them the personal chat gives you a chance to hear their voice, and they yours. Chat about what they’re up too, offer to have coffee, let them know you’re here to listen. That’s it. 10 minutes. You will make a difference.

And do it again a week or so later.

For a few of you, you’ve been lucky enough to get interviews, you’ve made it past the screeners and you’re starting to get down some brass tack negotiations. Shockingly I have some thoughts here as well.

If I could do one thing to interact personally with you guys through this blog it would be to turn words into a giant boot and collectively kick the lot of you squarely in your Target Red behinders. If I could cash checks for the amount of collective undervaluing I hear from my friends at Target, I swear I could buy a new MacBook and still have enough to pay of the US National debt. You guys are making easy for the recruiters out there to get your talents for cheap.

I get it. You need a job. But needing a job doesn’t mean you don’t negotiate peeps. Just because you’re out of work doesn’t mean you don’t have leverage.

Couple things to think about in the hiring process folks. Common sense, you probably know them already, but just hear it once again from Uncle Sank.

  1. If you made it through a screening call, 3 hiring managers, 4 peers and an HR person, if they flew you to Austin, or flew the New York team to Minneapolis to meet with you, THEY’RE INTERESTED. The have decided that YOU have a skill, a product if you will, that fills a critical need they have and they’re willing pay for it. Got it. So please stop feeling like you’re just grateful to be considered and will take what they offer. Don’t give away your bargaining position in the screening call. See #2
  2. When the HR Rep on the second call in the interview process asks you “Can you tell me what your compensation at Target was?” The correct answer is NOT what your compensation at Target was. Got it? Seriously.
    They’re going find out but let’m find out after you’ve been offered a job. Folks, here’s the deal with HR. The HR person gets evaluated on finding talent for as cheap as they can. When they ask what you were making and you say $100K, what you just done is given them a reference point to low ball you on your future salary. As “hmm. $100K, out of work, I can probably get Sank for $90, I’ll start at $85 and see what I can do”. And because we all worked at Target for 20 years where salary negotiations were limited to “do you want me to tell you the number before I read your review, or at the end”, we’re not very good at it.
    The correct answer is “Before we talk about what I made, can you tell what the range for the position
    is?” of, if you’re feeling really confident “I’m looking for a positon that pays X, is that realistic for this job?” Think about this, what if the last person in this role made $200K and you tell them you made $90K at Target. You see where I’m going. Be assertive but professional.
  3. Good cop, bad cop. Typically you’ll have an interview with HR, they’ll screen you, then you’ll talk to the hiring manager, maybe their boss, maybe a few folks in the department, and then back to HR. The goal is for your future manager and you to connect so develop a desire to take the job. That’s the good cop. Then back to HR for the reality check, which typically sounds like “now about your salary requirements, they’re not really realistic…” Now you’re in negotiation mode, but at least you’ve set precedent that they’re going to have to work to get you. That’s a good thing, But since you’re back talking money THEY WANT YOU. Don’t fold up at the first offer.
  4. “But I already told them what I make”. That’s OK, there’s other things to negotiate on. Matter of fact, regardless of salary, you should never, ever, in any negotiation limit the discussion to one metric. There’s vacation, 3 weeks instead of starting at 2, working from home, tuition reimbursement, sabbatical after five years, hell, lots of stuff. . Bottom line is you have options. Think about them, create a position or a bottom line, and negotiate from strength. You deserve it, your training and all the experience you’ve earned at Target is extraordinarily valuable. What? You don’t believe me? Retailers are paying consultants $300 an hour for management advice from kids who have never actually worked in a real front line retail job. You know that’s the case, you worked with them at Target.

Now some bad news. I’m concerned, again based on what I’m hearing from folks, that some of the companies coming in here to recruit are lowballing salaries figuring theirs a talent glut at the moment. I think it’s a combination of Target paying really well and a little bit the former. Leads to my last, and maybe most important piece of advice.

  1. Base your decision on what you want to do, not on the money. A boss once told me, as I was being given my 1.2% annual raise that “money is a short term motivator”. And while his timing sucked, the message is true. It is. You all deserve jobs you love. If you can make your decisions based on that idea, the rest will come.

Take care, make connections and stay focused and call a friend.

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