Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Art of Articulation

Lets discuss articulation: - n   the act or process of speaking or expressing in words.
Whether you are interviewing via the phone, video or in person.... or presenting information to a group of people in the workplace, being able to articulate yourself in a clear and sensible manner is extremely important.  This post is in no way aimed at persons with speech impediments or heavy accents, the focus of this post is to bring attention to the way we communicate with others and how our communication tendencies can hinder us while seeking employment or in our current jobs.

How many times have you been involved in a discussion with another person or listening to a presentation and been annoyed by the "fillers" the person is using; "and", "um", "ah", "understand" etc?  Sometimes it isn't just single words or sounds, but full phrases that are repeated over and over again such as; "You know", "Like I said", "get my drift".  We aren't going to delve into the hidden psychological meaning behind the reason this happens, but put an effort into making sure we eliminate it from our own speech patterns along with a few other tweaks to assist in gaining the listeners attention.

Years ago when I was a member of a weekly business networking group, part of the process was to stand up and give a 60 second "commercial" about the company you were representing.  During the time that I was a member we were fortunate to have a Toastmaster as part of the group.  This woman was relentless!  Each time someone stood up to give their schpeel she would make a loud buzzer noise if they used a filler.  Needless to say it didn't take long to eliminate the fillers from our speech patterns, but sadly... we don't all have a Toastmaster following us around to yell "UUUNNNNNNTTTTTT!" each time we get hung up on what we're saying.

Many people become uncomfortable with the quiet moments in between points or topics.  They have a need to fill every silent space with a sound... my lovely Mom has a habit of saying "and that" when there is a lull in the conversation.  She's done it forever.  I'm not even sure she notices she's doing it, and while it drives me nuts, I've never had the heart to bring it to her attention.  But, having a conversation with a family member is much different than trying to make a positive impression on a potential future employer or a room full of colleagues. 

To help eliminate this bad habit from your conversations, the next time you interview or do a presentation record it.  Then listen back and pay attention to whether or not you are using fillers.  As soon as you become aware of it, you'll begin to notice when you're doing it and eventually you'll stop.

Here are a few other things that you should be conscious of when you are carrying on a dialog or conducting a presentation:
> Misusing words.  I'm a firm believer in increasing one's vocabulary, but make sure you have a firm understanding of a new word before you go throwing it around in public!
>Going on and on and on and on and on (you get my drift).  It's great to listen to someone that has real passion for their topic of discussion, but keep in mind that not everyone may share your passion, so find a balance between getting your point across and talking too much.
>Tone of voice and inflection. Have you ever found yourself drifting off into a day dream when listening to someone else?  Their tone is flat or they are completely monotone, or they speak so quietly its almost like a lullaby instead of a dialog?  To learn more about your tone of voice, record yourself in a normal conversation and listen to it... then make any necessary adjustments. Inflection is  the modification of a word to express different emotion.  Remind yourself to be upbeat, you don't have to be Tony Robbins but work at showing some enthusiasm when you speak.

Public speaking and professional speaking is a learned skill, not many people come by it naturally.  With a bit of effort and training you can learn to captivate.... instead of annoy.... any audience.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Where Oh Where Has My Resume Gone?

Where is your resume going?  Why is it important to know?  I've touched on this topic before when discussing important questions to ask your recruiter, and feel it is worth more attention.
Experienced Healthcare IT Consultants often receive multiple calls and emails from industry recruiters on a weekly basis.  Sometimes it is difficult keeping all the information straight, but 2 things are imperative:  1.  You should always keep a spreadsheet to track where your resume has been submitted.  2.  You should always know the name of the client where your resume will be sent.

Why are these 2 items so important?  For starters.... for your own sanity.  It is bad practice to apply for multiple opportunities without tracking your process.  What if you have spoken to 4 different recruiters from 4 different firms about 6 different opportunities that may be a fit for your qualifications?  Along with all the other things you have to remember on a daily basis, are you really going to remember which recruiter posed which position to you with what requirements without writing it down?  What happens if Recruiter A calls you to request a client interview and you get it mixed up with the job description Recruiter B gave you about another opportunity?  How will that sound in interview?  How will it look if you say to the recruiter "what was the job again?" Not very professional at the very least, and at the worst, like you're interviewing for anything that comes along.  I have a hard time remembering scheduled conference calls, let alone all the information involved in job descriptions, thank goodness for outlook calendar and databases!

Another faux pas made by people in the employment search process is to give a recruiter permission to submit their resume to a client without obtaining important information about the client.
Before you allow a recruiter to submit your resume you should ask these 3 essential questions:
A.  What is the name and location of the client?
B.  Do you have a contract with this client?
C.  When should I expect to hear back from you about next steps?

Here are a few situations that may arise when you have not asked the above questions.
(A) By not knowing the name and location of the client these scenarios may arise:
>The recruiter submits your resume to the client and it turns out it is a facility that you have NO desire to go to.  (due to location or culture or other reasons, by knowing in advance this saves you, the client and the recruiter time and energy)
>There are potential non-compete issues; for instance, because you were recently employed by a consulting firm and the position is with one of their clients or you were at that facility previously and it isn't listed on your resume. (or various other scenarios with non-compete contracts, again saving you, the Recruiter and the client valuable time)
>Another recruiter from a different firm just submitted your resume to this client 3 days ago. (Many clients that receive the same resume from different sources will throw out the resume, feeling that the candidate is not worth their time) With the shortage of qualified personnel in the Healthcare IT Industry, many Healthcare Facilities and Consulting Firms are working with multiple staffing vendors to fill their roles, so you may be approached my more than one recruiter about the same opportunity.

(B) Why it's important that the Staffing or Consulting firm have a contract with their client:
>If the recruitment company doesn't have a signed contract in place with the client it is very possible you will never receive a response on your resume, or if you do get into the interview process it may take weeks for an offer to be finalized while you wait for the contracts to be approved.
>You may get a call the following week from a Recruiter with another firm that DOES have a client contract in place with the same facility you've already been submitted to, but you now have to avoid a duplicate submittal and must continue working with the first company.

(C)Why knowing when to anticipate follow up is important:
>When you end the conversation with a recruiter without having an idea when to anticipate follow up, you may never hear back from them.  One of the chief complaints I hear from candidates is that they had an interview with a recruiter who promised to submit their resume to a client and they NEVER heard from the recruiter again. 
>Some clients are great about immediate response, others can take weeks.  A good Recruiter will know their clients and be able to give you an idea of their normal response time and what to expect for next steps in the interview process.

There are no good reasons for a recruiter to keep their client confidential.  If a Recruiter refuses to divulge the name of a client, find someone else to work with.

I've had the following situation arise many times over the years, you definitely do not want this to happen to you:
I speak to a highly qualified candidate about a particular position, describe the responsibilities, job title, discuss pay, travel, client information and all the particulars, only to have the candidate say "I am very interested but think I may have been submitted by such&such company for this job last week.  I'm not sure, they didn't give me the name of the client or the exact location but it sounds similar."
I then inquire if they have received any response from the recruiter since then and they say "No."  This puts us both in a tough situation.  I shouldn't forward their resume to my client, because if I do, and in fact the other recruiter did as well, the client is likely to disregard the candidate all together. Unfortunately the candidate isn't getting feedback from the other recruiter and has no way of knowing who their client is or if they even have a contract with that client because they didn't ask. The candidate may also may miss out on a great opportunity if my client is not the same client as the other company but we do not submit their resume because of concerns that it might be.
By taking the extra time to ask those 3 important questions you will be saving yourself and the recruiters you work with valuable time and energy.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Who Knows You're Looking? Marketing Yourself.

We all market something everyday, some of us get paid for it in typical sales & marketing roles, the rest of us market all sorts of things free of charge via word-of-mouth.  When is the last time you chatted with a friend or relative or co-worker and recommended a restaurant or movie or a product you've used?  Each of us do it on a regular basis, we're great at telling someone why they should try "Joe Schmoes" down the road and what a great experience we had there and how fabulous the food was..... but how good are we at marketing ourselves?  If someone put you on the spot and asked you to market yourself and your qualifications in the same fashion... could you do it?  If you are seeking new employment, do you know how to talk about it and who to discuss it with? 
Some of us are accustomed to working contract engagements and have probably built a strong network of people that can be contacted and networked with each time we are seeking a new gig.  Other professionals have spent years working with the same employer and might not readily know who in their list of contacts can assist them in finding a new position.

Lets start with the basics and assume you are looking for a new job, whether it be a contract engagement or full-time / permanent employment.
Lets also assume you've updated your resume and made it eye-catching! (for more information on how to build a great resume see my previous post on that topic)

Your next step should be making a list of all your contacts that could potentially help you land your next position.  Whether you prefer a spreadsheet or a legal pad and pencil, start making a list of EVERYONE that you have come in contact with that might either have a lead for you or may be interested in hiring you.  Here is a list of ideas that might spark a name or two:
  • Present & Past Co-workers, Managers and people that have reported directly to you.
  • People you have met at industry conferences, trade shows, etc (like HIMSS 2012)  Break out those business cards you've been gathering over the years.
  • Your list of Linkedin Contacts that are in your industry.*
  • Any family members that have an understanding of what you do and may know people in similar industries.
  • Any long time friends that work in similar industries
  • People in business groups that you belong to (such as ASHIM or AMIA etc)
  • People in your groups outside of work (Yoga, Mommy & Me, Zumba, the Gym, Fantasy Football) 
Once you have made the list, determine who you have contact information for (phone or email).
When creating an email DO NOT send a mass email!!  It appears unprofessional and even if you've taken the time to BCC instead of CC each person on the list, it won't be personal and many people may disregard it all together.  DO take the time to address individual emails to each person and include your resume, what type of role you are seeking, if you are open to relocation or want to travel etc, how soon you will be available and the best way to contact you.  If you are keeping this search confidential from your current employer you may want to remove the current employer name & info from your resume or at least make a point of mentioning that your search is confidential in your email.  For the people on your list that are closest to you, take the time to call them in person and discuss your search prior to sending your resume.  When preparing for your conversation make sure you can articulate your best qualifications, the specifics on what you're looking for and if necessary your salary/rate requirements.  ALWAYS steer clear of negative chatter, do not bemoan your current situation, do not complain about your bosses, co-workers, current responsibilities.  Be up-beat and focus on the positive.

After those tasks are complete you should be left with the names of people you do not have current contact information for.  Search for these individuals on linkedin and if you are not already connected, connect with them.  Now that you have access to them you can communicate about your job search.  *In regards to utilizing linkedin to market yourself.... start by doing an "advanced search" for people, use a few key words that will target people you are connected with in your industry (i.e.: Cerner, RN, Informatics) and reach out to all your first connections that result from the search. (Make sure you check their current employer before you send them your information in case you have worked there or do not desire to work there).

Marketing your skills should be as easy as marketing your favorite restaurant.  No one knows your qualifications and experiences better than you do!

*Copyright - Expressed permission must be granted by the blog owner to recreate, copy or use this material* - but please feel free to share the link if you enjoyed the content!