Failed Start-Up Gap in Your Resume

Today I responded to a LinkedIn question from a job-seeker. The person wondered whether he should drop a job from his resume, namely, a failed-startup job. I told him to leave it in! Failed startups are great on your resume as long as these two conditions are met:

1) Your resume isn’t full of failed-startup job histories; and
2) You can speak, thoughtfully and cheerfully, about your failed-startup experience and what you learned from it.

Heck, 99% of the dotcom startups tanked! No one can blame you for that. What they can blame you for is having learned nothing from the experience, or believing that because you were a VP when you were twenty-seven years old in a 13-person company, you’re a VP for life. Not so much.

Endorsements and the Phantom Tollbooth

Do you remember the Norton Juster book The Phantom Tollbooth, from your childhood? I highly recommend it. This kid named Milo gets a tollbooth in the mail from a mysterious source, and gets in his toy car and drives through the tollbooth to have a whole series of magical adventures. Anyway, at one point, Milo starts jumping to conclusions as he’s driving (and chatting with his magical travel companions) and finds himself, you guessed it, transported to an island called Conclusions.

The other night I wrote a blog post about the value of LinkedIn endorsements, and posted a note about the article on the popular LinkedIn discussion forum MyLinkedInPowerForum. In my intro, I also suggested that those of us on the LinkedInPowerForum who can vouch for one another’s work (e.g., me and group owner, Vincent Wright, whom I met through MLPF and who has since helped several of my job-seeking friends) could also endorse one another. One of the other members took exception to my post, in a big way, writing (excerpt):

Liz, with all due respect, “Worth a million bucks”. So can people
expect commissions ???

So where does this start and end. LI is becoming the recruiters easy
way out. Will we see recruiters offering more “spotters” fees for
finding people. What is the true value of a trusted and reliable
contact. I am in great fear of this being discounted by the mad keen
rush towards the “pen pal” mindset.

Granted, there are people for whom a large contact base is part of
their “business” – recruiters and the like, and there are those whose
minds are capable of handling hundred or even thousands of “contacts”
but those are not the norm, and I would refer readers to the concept
of a “Dunbar Number” as discussed by experts in the field of social
anthropology. (simply put, most people are unable to handle a social
contact context of more than around 150-250 people). People that are
in the “wannabee” category with respect to this stand out like sore
thumbs as offering little addition to the concept of networking (such
as validation, and citeable reasons for endorsement) and IMHO do
their own credibility a disservice, rather than being perceived as
being “in the know” or well-connected. What is forgotten by so many
that head down this path, is that Linkedin itself offers that service
with a level of safeguards and integrity, as part of it’s core design.

> Since we are thinking about endorsements, why don’t we on the MLPF
> endorse one another (as appropriate, of course)? Forgive me if you’ve
> already had this conversation on the list.

Endorsements, just because people subscribe to the same online forum.
Give me a break.

That is almost as bad as the folks in LinkedinBloggers, who came up
with the idea of “referring each others blogs” in order to increase
their technorati etc rankings. With all due respect, collusion to give
impression of professional endorsement, blog readership or the like is
deceitful, and an “easy way out” for giving the impression that
someone is either knowledgable (wrt blogs) or well connected and or
well respected (and justifiably so).

This is right up there with the people who think that linking to
anyone and everyone that they can gives them “better networking”. Nope
it just gives them a bigger rolodex full of people that they haven’t
met, don’t converse with, and have not even validated.

On the issue of Validation, There has been discussion in forums
recently of sexual harassment. I am aware of bankrupts, and people
being chased by the fraud squads in multiple countries, as members of
Linkedin. There is a member of MLPF who is a senior exec of a company
that is under investigation for securities fraud, and appears to be
avoiding prosecution on civil matters.

I think that discussion of what “as appropriate” means would better
serve everyone’s purpose rather than a headlong flight into
promiscuous networking, for it’s own sake, whatever that may be.

This guy got a little exercised, as you can see. What’s comical is that I have written reams protesting the connect-to-anyone, vouch-for-anyone style of networking. I’ll remember this overreaction the next time I get all puffed up about something — I’ll try to remember to take a few moments to calm down before I start ranting.

Apart from all that — it is nice to endorse your friends and colleagues. I would do it if I were you.

Ask Liz Question: The Unpronounceable Last Name

Dear Liz,

Through diligent internet research I’ve found the person I want to reach at a Marketing agency I would love to work for. She doesn’t use LinkedIn and rather than send her a surface-mail letter, I’d like to call her up and introduce myself by phone. But I don’t know how to pronounce her last name. If I call up the agency and stumble over her last name, that won’t look so great. I don’t know anyone who knows her. How do I figure out how to pronounce her name before I make my phone call?

Yours,

Carina

Dear Carina,

You call the front desk at the agency from some generic phone number (even a pay phone) just in case of caller ID, and you simply ask the front-desk person “Can you please give me some guidance? I have been given the name of Laura, um, Geezwint? Jessuwinch?” and wait for the front-desk person to help you out. Once you get the proper pronunciation, wait a day, call back from your own phone and pronounce that name with confidence!

If the company uses an automated phone system, it will either speak the employees’ surnames to you in the course of handling your call, or allow you to type in the letters of her last name and eventually put you in her voicemail box where she should speak her own last name. If you go through the automated system and she picks up her own phone, you’re home free, because if she picks up her phone she won’t expect you to say her name. She’ll say “Hello?” and you’ll say,
“Hello Laura, my name is Carina Brillant and I…..” and so on.

Cheers – Liz

Real vs. Manicured Speech?

I taught a managerial communication workshop this week and included the DiSC assessment – you probably have run across that one at some point. The DiSC identifies participants’ favored communication style – D for Driver/Dominant, i for Interpersonal (people people, in other words), S for Steady/Stable and C for Conscientious – that means detail-oriented in “DiSC” language. Anyway, this class had a large number of Cs in it. Those are the accuracy-first, detail-minded people.

So my premise throughout this workshop and all the communication workshops I deliver is that communication is a skill like typing or html programming. You can get better at it. You can become a more effective communicator over time. The first thing that pops into your head doesn’t have to come out of your mouth a half-second later. You can, and should, strategize your communications as you do your other professional (and social) activities. Make sense?

So one of the “C” folks in the audience was thinking all this through, and asked a great question, namely: Is it manipulative to plan your communications with different people based on those people’s own communication styles?

For instance, if you get feedback that some of your email messages come across as terse or abrupt – whereas your intention in writing these messages was merely to convey information precisely, with no tone at all apart from an informative one – you might start adding little openers like “I hope your week is going well” or closers like “Thanks so much for your help.” You might add these ‘filler’ lines in order to soften your tone so as to communicate more effectively with “i”-type people who value relationships more than anything else. If you made those adjustments, would that be manipulative – or cynical?

Is the only valid communication the kind that springs organically from your heart and brain to your lips? If you manage or censor your own communications, is some of “you” lost in the translation? Or is it a sensible and polite thing to communicate for the benefit of the recipient?

The Vortex

I am in the business center of a Best Western in Pueblo, Colorado. We took the kids to Santa Fe for a few days during their Spring break, but a lot of things are closed at this time of year in Santa Fe (including the children’s museum and the only mini-golf place) and so we headed home early — we made it halfway, to Pueblo, and here we are. The four-year-old, Darrien, has been driving us a little crazy, so much so that my husband referred to the kid as Damian today.

The busy state of the new Ask Liz Ryan email group when I’ve been able to check email, once a day, reminds me that I still have a job and things to attend to. In my mail today were fact-checking requests for interviews I did with Working Mother magazine and an HR magazine ages ago. On Thursday I am doing a training workshop in Denver; time and tide give way for no working mom, evidently. Still, on this little trip Darrien has learned to spell. He’s conquered the “at” family (cat, bat, sat, fat, hat)and is moving on to the “an” family. He is excited to be cracking the code: every few minutes, in the car, he’ll ask “How do you spell ‘corndog’?” or “How do you spell ‘secret castle’?”

Here’s my take on the multiple-W2s-question that the brilliant commenters have already nailed: run away from that weird request and possibly shady company. I’m anti any W-2 requests at all in the hiring process, but seven!?!? Could be an identity-theft scam, don’t you think?

Meanwhile, USA Today’s front-page story on the War for Talent today reminded me that there are at least two job markets out there. On the one hand, companies are bemoaning the fact that they’re not deluged with talented candidates for every job they post. (Waaa, waa if you ask me.) On the other hand, plenty of smart people are still job-hunting. How can this be? Much of it is that companies are still being hyper-frugal, meaning they want multiple, tough-to-find skill sets embedded in every new hire. For instance, PMI certification and seven years’ project management experience plus html skills and experience coordinating large events. I’m not joking! Take a look at the job openings out there.

What’s your take?

The Job That is Open Vs. The Job You Want

I love both pieces of advice for Shel, the person who wrote in yesterday to ask about interviewing for a job he doesn’t want, in hopes of getting a better job. If the job you are interviewing for is so uninteresting that you couldn’t stand to do the job while positioning yourself to be promoted internally, don’t interview for it; the company won’t go for that at all. They’ll feel you’re toying with them. Instead, seek to contact the decision-maker for the job you do want (via LinkedIn, e.g.) and bypass the more junior-level job altogether.

Today I got a message from a job-seeker in Manhattan who got this request from the prospective employer: not one year’s W-2, but SEVEN years’ worth. This woman doesn’t have her last seven years’ W-2s sitting around. What do we think about that request? Leave a comment and share your views….

New Start, and Our First Question

Well – it was a good day for my Outlook account. Several dozen people wrote to me, some to say they are sad, others to berate me. You never know what will happen next.

Meanwhile, people who don’t know me at all apart from reading job-advice articles that I’ve written, continue to write every day with questions about job-hunting, surviving corporate life, growing their own businesses or managing their lives outside of work. So, perhaps this blog will give me a chance to answer those questions in a way that will be more efficient than via one-on-one email messages.

Here is one of the questions I got in my email today:

Dear Liz,

I want to work for a certain company, but not in any of the jobs that they are advertising. Should I go on an interview for one of the open positions, and from there convince them that I’m a great candidate for a higher-level job? Or will that make them angry at me?

Yours,

Shel

Dear Shel – this is a great question and I would like to wait 24 to 48 hours to answer it, in hopes of seeing what kinds of phenomenal advice the other readers will provide. Please folks: leave a comment below with advice for Shel!