Wednesday, October 28, 2020

China Syndrome

Some people are just more athletic than you. Some clearly seem to be luckier. Some are better looking, some are more ambitious and some are just smarter. This is a hard to accept concept for many in the developed world but not so in China. The masses not only accept it but are grateful for the benefits the work of the few bring to the many.

China has pulled an astonishing number people out of abject poverty in the last 40 years. For all the legitimate "the ends does NOT justify the means" discussion about their policies, this massive quality of living transformation is undisputed. Many if not most were villagers living in the countryside who migrated to urban areas. Millions were urban multi-generational poor born in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Transforming the lives of hundreds of millions of people this quickly who previously did not have enough to eat, clean drinking water, stable housing and access to basic medical care is unprecedented in human history.

China's economic achievements are not news to me or anyone who pays attention to such things.

What I recently learned about Chinese societal norms and culture that helped facilitate this is news to me

Like all nations, China has some extraordinarily brilliant minds. They also have significant numbers of highly organized and driven individuals whose work in the public and (semi) private sectors are a major reason why things turned around the way they did. Ordinary Chinese are grateful their fellow super-citizens are where they are and are doing what they are doing. They know the efforts of their elite compatriots is the reason the countries' standard of living has increased exponentially in a very short people of time. If wholesale jealously exists about the elite's lofty status, it's neither written about nor discussed publicly. (though that perceived silence is a different discussion).

In the Western world and, in particular the U.S., things and perceptions are often very different. In our endless "have nots versus the haves" public dialogs and protests, we mostly hear about how corrupt our system is and how the 1%'ers have designed the system to enrich themselves while keeping the others down.

One can't ignore there is enormous advantage to being born into a connected and wealthy family . It's even more true that notable numbers of the offspring of the wealthy will live very comfortably for the remainder of their lives without ever contributing anything of societal value. It's tempting to demonize these "idiot sons and daughters".

What virtually every study of wealth in the U.S. has revealed, however, is considerably more than half of wealthy Americans are self-made. Back to the beginning of this piece-they are more driven than you and are probably more intelligent. But because of them, you have an iPhone. And commercial jets to fly on. And they will operate on your heart if it is not working properly. The list is very, very long.

Our culture usually doesn't bother to dig too deep to where your money came from. If you have it, well, you're just one of those exploiting 1%'ers.

It's not possible to attempt to understand the very complex situation here at hand in a couple hundred words. 

But let's drop the entitlement groupthink and recognize and appreciate the efforts of these gifted producers- their output has benefited more than a billion people such comfort and care that royalty only 2 centuries ago wouldn't recognize.


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Phoned it in- another perspective.

"Hey boss- not going to be able to come in to work today. It's my back..again"

Saying something like this is more than likely going to get an eye-roll from someone..very possibly the person you just said it to.

Possibly more suspicious to the listening audience is when others hear someone is not coming to work for some purported mental health issue. I'm not talking about the now ubiquitous "mental health day" that seemingly everyone seems to ask for and take from time to time in the 21st century. I'm talking about the type of mental health issue often mapped to very serious outcomes..including the most serious outcome of them all. ("Gosh...just horrible..nobody knew").

Unless an illness can be seen under a microscope or from an MRI, a sizable percentage of people think it is a sham. They think the system is being gamed. And it is true there will always be people who will game the system. But most unable to answer the bell for these reasons are hurting, often badly, and they know you don't believe them.

Chronic back issues and mental health are clearly very different things though both can stop people in their tracks. If you are fortunate enough to struggle with neither, I can understand how the idea of carrying your weight- and some of the weight of others- can be disillusioning. Especially when some are claiming they are not well but, in fact, are almost certainly capable of fulfilling their duties. Just remember, however, the ones who are unjustifiably "phoning it in"- be grateful that you are who you are instead of ruminating how inadequate they are. You'll be an exponentially happier person.

People carrying mental health issues also struggle mightily with the stigma. If you feel the urge to judge them or verbally beat them up- they've already beat you to it. 

Awareness has been elevated in recent years but there will not be any wholesale change any time soon. It's not a shining moment on our collective humanity. The boss or co-worker who exclaims "I'm getting screwed over" when someone misses work or another obligation is really just exhibiting another shade of victimhood- but not the type typically associated with that word. 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Keats, Boxing Gloves and Melvin Udall.

It was the great poet John Keats who spoke: "writing is hard, kinda like trying to remove a splinter from a rabid wolverine while wearing boxing gloves".

John Keats never said that- but writing is definitely hard. For this reason, along with about half a dozen other reasons, is why I haven't written a syllable on this blog all year.

Pretty much everything that is worth a damn is hard. Getting tanked on New Years Eve?-not hard. Writing a goofy blog post on New Years Eve?- a little harder. Writing something thoughtful, intelligent and maybe a little witty?- harder still. Disassembling, piece by piece, your smartphone and intricately attempting to put it back together while liquored up on New Years Eve? Hard, yes, but astonishing stupid a far better descriptor.  (Today is New Years Eve, hence this ridiculous exercise).

Caught most of the now 20 year old film As Good as it Gets on a plane the other day. When I first saw it all those years ago, I thought whoever the writer was who penned that exceptionally poignant line of dialogue did the world a great service. The cantankerous, obsessive-compulsive Jack Nicholson character said to the tough-but-kind Helen Hunt: "You make me want to be a better man". I never forget it and 20 years have passed since I saw the film (and the line) again.

I've gotten real cynical as I've aged though I feel no need to apologize for it. The world is always changing and the current iteration, when it comes to civility, creativity and unforced humility, is not of my liking. The annual ritual of making New Years Resolutions I find trite. But that line from that movie hit me right between the eyes. And, yes, a new year is essentially here.

There are at least half a dozen people in my life who need me to be a better man. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Bass Ackwards

Business publications can't stop screaming about the lack of skilled and especially highly technical workers. Meanwhile, companies screen-out by the millions the very people qualified to interview for these positions.

How did we get here? Here's how:

The people screening these resumes are doing nothing more than looking for a series of keywords on these resumes. No keywords or not the right keywords? Into the electronic trash pile it goes. A reasonably intelligent Golden Retriever is capable of this type of low-level resume screening.

Such a colossal waste.

What these screeners are missing is what might be an unconventional background or possibly a somewhat parallel set of skills and work history in which a manager/supervisor can VERY quickly size up and determine if this person is capable and qualified to do the work.

Backing most organizations, managers who primarily supervise work are also asked to do some hiring. We're talking about "hiring managers" here.

Now, these managers are told by the executives above them what an important part of their job hiring is.

These same employers and these same executives, in their endless efforts to increase production while lowering cost, then sabotage the very act and process of hiring good people. More on that below.

Not to be forgotten in all this: jobs that don't get filled are putting the burden of all this extra work on to existing employees.

So here's the part that is just SO ass backwards. People ENTIRELY unqualified to determine if a potential employee is CAPABLE OF DOING HIGHLY TECHNICAL AND SPECIALIZED WORK are the ones screening most or all of the resumes- instead of the line of business manager who has spent years both doing the work and, later, supervising the people doing the work.

Now it's true that, if asked, hiring managers often state they want nothing to do with the labor-intensive screening process.

I ask: What if hiring managers were fairly compensated for being much more involved in the recruiting process? I mean, after all, companies talk a good game about the importance of hiring. But the overwhelming majority of these firms burden the hiring manager with extraneous work, creating a collective position that does echo: "I don't have time to look at candidate resumes!".

Get the hiring manager VERY involved early and often. That is the solution. That is the solution to this perceived "shortage" of skilled and/or technical positions unfilled by the millions.

Friday, May 5, 2017

We're passing on Mr. Hodges..

Mine was not an exciting resume. I changed jobs frequently and, on paper, appeared content to coast for years on end. Didn't make me a bad guy- but it did make me something.

Imagine yourself a business owner or someone who answers directly to either an owner or a major stakeholder in a company. Years of blood, sweat and cold beers, er..ah. I mean tears. Years of busting your stones and making sacrifices. Business owners know the intense pressure of meeting payroll when receivables are shaky and lines of credit are shrinking...or worse. They know a million other major stressors that 8-5'ers will never know.

When owners are thinking about hiring someone, it's important the someone they're considering appears to be a person who gives a shit.

I've read, witnessed and most important lived endless discussions about resumes and how important they are (or aren't) when considering hiring someone. It's true there are many instances of a subpar resume resulting in a great hire. It's considerably MORE true, however, that a person with a consistent and stable work history is a WAY better investment than someone who has neither.

Recruiters used to ask me why I left an employer. I almost always answered I didn't want to work there anymore. I wasn't being a smartass, I was simply being honest. I knew the recruiter wanted one of those stock, bullshit-intensive answers as to why I left but it seemed pointless to play that game. My honesty rarely if ever rewarded me with recruiters. But I wouldn't expect an owner to like the fact that I never seemed matter where I previously worked.

(Worth noting, as a self-employed person, I am all in. Apparently, this is what I needed to feel the same commitment and zeal as the people who hired me in the past).

It's common to hear the phrase Think Like an Owner in business.

I suggest to people who can't understand why their resume isn't opening more doors to think like an owner. Like it or not, resumes tell a story. What story is yours telling?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Candlestick Makers

There's a school of thought that says- if you're going to do something- make every effort to do it at the highest possible level.

(Notice from the faculty of THE SCHOOL OF THOUGHT: We are canceling classes Thursday and Friday so we can sit around and think about random and often trivial things.)

This is how the ambitious view the world and we often benefit from their efforts. Think of the top people who work tirelessly to cure disease or stand up for people society has forgotten or re-build parts of the world destroyed by human or natural catastrophe. Without smart and ambitious leaders (and doers), this stuff does not get done.

The flip side, of course, is how the hyper ambitious and cutthroat-competitive seek nothing other than personal gain with zero regard for who or what they leave in their wake.

As with everything, there's a middle ground. So if you're a butcher, a baker or are involved in the manufacture of candlesticks- why not give it all you have to be a world-class baker? (unless, of course, you're a Project Manager of some sort...or a butcher.)

Being the best at what you do will mean something is going to suffers or lack. Unbridled ambition is a zero-sum game. The great Jack Welch of General Electric fame said he really didn't know his four grown adult children and it saddened him greatly. Thousands of other uber achievers have similar stories. Many of the super-accomplished were aware what was being short-changed in their lives while in the middle of it. There are no simple answers here but I do believe, as people, we need to be who we are as opposed to who the world tells us we should be...even if the regrets are pronounced.

I have felt the pangs of not answering to what very clearly could have been "a calling". I'm still not totally at peace with it. In my work now I routinely speak with people who need to decide on whether to go full bore and/or are currently taking personal inventory on what it is they want from their work.

So, by all means, go forward, purchase a custom cut of prime rib, stop by the bakery and later pick up a bizarro-scent Yankee Candle. While you're at it, ask yourself if it makes sense to go THE FULL MONTY with your career..I'll be over here.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Recruiters work for Employers- NOT YOU.

I wrote about this recently on this blog (May 17th).

I'm adding more because I'll soon be a live case study on how a recruiter can put THE CANDIDATE'S best interest first (and their own, of course) while still effectively managing the hiring company expectations, requirements and placement fees.

In the coming weeks, I will be contacting many of the top 10% (+/-) in Construction Management-or at least the top 10% from profile appearances. Appearances meaning stability and tenure, career progression, what I can gather about past project performance and specialized training and education.

It's my belief the industry's top performers want to take charge in managing their careers- "managing" meaning understanding their value in the open market. This includes commensurate and fair compensation, avenues to promotion inside and outside their current organization and reasonable expectations of a life outside of work. It also means weaning certain professionals from the endless noise that is LinkedIn. For every nugget of value on LinkedIn, there are 99 nuggets of complete horsehit.

The best time to understand your place in the market is when you are on top. Like everything else of value, it requires some work on your part (and plenty on mine). Don't wait on your network of industry friends and/or professional contacts to hand-deliver something for your exclusive benefit- not advisable for driven people who claim to know what they want from their work.

I wrote previously how the recruiter, regardless of industry, is acting in the best interest of the hiring company- no exceptions. The agency recruiter is always a 3rd party representative for the company doing the hiring. When a recruiter introduces you to a company for a position you have a legitimate interest in, regardless of how strong a track record you have, the hiring company has a leg up. The company expects and often demands your salary history from the recruiter who, in turn, requests it from you.  This is a HUGE advantage to the hiring company before and during any type of negotiations regarding what your pay could be.The hiring company also expects the recruiter to present more than just you for the position. The company often has additional agency recruiters presenting candidates for the position. The hiring company's directive, whether spoken or not is: "get me the best person at the best (lowest) price".   None of this should be new information to you if you've been down this road before.

Having a 3rd party agency recruiter present you for an open position to an employer is not how you, an elite producer, want to maximize and leverage years of exemplary work.

Because companies' hiring hold the cash does not mean they have all the leverage. But that is how the system works- this is how it ALWAYS has worked- regardless of what is being said.

I've had some smart people tell me that the system can't be changed because of who is holding the money.

Let's look where it's the talent that has the agent and not the entity holding the money.

The top earners in high visibility fields such as entertainment and sports have agents.

I wish I could say we're talking about the same dynamics here- BUT WE ARE NOT. The world's elite athletes and entertainers have something to offer that virtually nobody on the planet can replicate. In real-world professions, no matter how exceptional you are, there are always at least a handful who can perform close to, equal to or even beyond your output. This is where we're told the candidate agency model in untenable.

So what's the good news? For openers, the candidate agent already exists but NOT by design. That is a separate blog post. The net of it is recruiters are unable to recruit the best of the best. And in the rare instance they've got the ear (and resume) of an elite producer, they typically blast the resume to the hiring managers they've worked with. That's all they do. They spray-n-pray..and hope someone answers. Good grief.

Back to the good news...let's change that to great news. 90% of your peers are incapable of your production and profitability. The ones who supposedley are- what are they doing to ensure their employer (or another employer) is providing them what they have earned and desire? Almost all of them are doing nothing, Only so many hours in a day and (seemingly) all of theirs are accounted for.

So your real competition is not even in the game.

It all comes down to smart positioning and sequencing in how you present yourself to the market. That and your agent busting their ass to get the right doors opened.

So how does it work? How does one use "an agent" but not participate in the system described above? That's what I do. Though I have some marketing panache and a rigorous methodology, it's mostly just hard work. If you've read this far, your retinas need a rest. I'd like to leave you with a few things that took me a long time to learn- as a candidate in a previous life and later as a recruiter.

Recruiters who tell you what THEY want (to fill a position for their client), tread lightly.

Be VERY judicious when discussing your salary history and requirements. Recruiters ask you for that information early and often- for the express benefit of their client(s).

Market your track record and credentials, NOT YOUR NAME. Your anonymity is critical and needs to be kept as long as possible- ideally revealed only when you come face to face with a hiring manager. Sounds improbable in an industry where people know each other- but it's not.

Don't be fooled by recruiters who boast of all of their "relationships". WHO KNOWS WHAT..AND WHEN DO THEY KNOW IT. That's what companies care about in terms of recruiters. They're not hiring someone because Recruiter Ricky is a swell fellow.