Category Archives: job hunting

thoughts and musings about finding a job

How to Find A Job: The art of fittinging in and STANDING out

If you are like most people looking for a job, you do a couple of the following smart things:

  • Find a job listing on LinkedIn that sounds like a position you would like to do
  • See if you have any connections to the company
  • Send a cover letter and resume to your connection (if you have one) or directly to HR
  • Hope you have a bit of luck and that they call you

While this is a decent strategy, the problem is that it’s the SAME strategy that everyone else is following . If you want to get a job — and believe me, I found this out the hard way — you have to do more than just show you can fit in with the company. You have to stand out! dr_seuss So what does this mean in practical terms? Well, let’s give an example. Let’s say you are applying for a specialist position at a digital marketing firm.  This digital marketing company helps its clients by providing blog content, email marketing, on-line promotions and video content. Say this digital marketing firm has a number of clients in the food industry.  Well, knowing that if you get the job, you could be working with a number of these firms, you could set out to develop a digital marketing portfolio that  mimics what you would do in the job.  For example:

  • You could create a blog about the hip foodie events happening in the city that week
  • You could also make a top 10 list representing who you think are the best chefs in the city and why
  • You could do a video of the top outdoor markets in the city

I would recommend creating a few of these so that you could mention them in a cover letter. What better way to catch a recruiter’s eye than by showing them that you are serious about the job from day one? Think this is too much work? Well, then ask yourself how much do you really want the job.  If you cannot find it within yourself to take the extra couple of hours to needed to create this content then you probably don’t really want the job that badly. Companies are going to pick the best person for the job. Prove to the company that you are the best by taking that extra effort from the beginning and demonstrating it at every interview along the way. If you are focused on a particular industry such as app marketing or website development, then it makes sense to create content during your downtime and then tailor it to the specific company as needed.

Of course, you will need to pass the other check-points along the way in order to get the job. These are the ways to show that you will be able to fit in.  You need to read over the company’s website, know if the company has currently been in the press, know the company’s main products and know who the company’s directors are. Know who the company’s main competitors are and what challenges the company faces.  Knowledge of these points will demonstrate your interest in the company and that you want to know more about them. Also, be familiar with the LinkedIn profiles of the folks who will be interviewing you . It is quite appropriate to ask the individual coordinating your interview who you will be meeting with and what will be the focus of the interview. Specifically, as you get later in the interview process, the questions and expectations will be more directed where as the first few interviews will be a test of whether you have the skills the job demands.

Just imagine though how much easier those first interviews will be if you can demonstrate from the beginning that you do have the skills the job demands. The interviewer will know it because you have already demonstrated as much with your online content. Even if what you have to show isn’t digital, you can showcase your craft with pictures on pinterest or slides using

It was Sun Tzu who wrote “Know your enemy and know yourself, find naught in fear for 100 battles”. While a potential employer is not an enemy, Sun Tzu’s message is appropriate none-the-less. By standing out with your work, you show that you know your enemy . You already know yourself. Make sure your prospective employer is aware of your knowledge as well.

How Boston Can Think Like A Better Entrepreneur

The Rappaport Institute at Harvard’s JFK School of Government and MassChallenge teamed up yesterday to provide a lively discussion on how the City of Boston can foster growth. There was a range of discussions, as you might have guessed, over how to provide help for start-ups and Boston start-up companies.

Personally, while I thought that Ed Glaeser , a Professor of Economics at Harvard’s Kennedy School, had many interesting points to offer on how zip code clusters foster innovation, I don’t think anyone sent him the message that this was not an academic conference. The people in the audience – like yours truly – were looking to find out what other entrepreneurs think needs to happen to make Boston a more inclusive, start-up city. Glaeser had a McKinsey-consulting length PowerPoint document and only 15 minutes worth of time for delivery. The result was a rushed and hard-to-follow presentation. However, I am sure if Professor Galeser had slowed down I might have some interesting take aways.

A birds-eye view of Harvard

Outside of having more Boston start-up events, what needs to happen so that Boston doesn’t just live off the laurels of its great universities? How does Boston become a dynamic city like San Francisco and New York, which seem to have entrepreneurs – real and aspirational – flocking to their city gates?

Jennifer Lum of Adelphic Mobile

As of Adelphic Mobile put it, when she lived in New York or San Francisco, there were at least 9 social activities going on every night that she could participate in. In Boston, it’s not that easy. In Boston, you really have to work to find that night life and make a community. In essence, Boston needs to be more than about start-up business ideas . It also needs to be about fun and how to attract an interesting night life to the city.

For me, though, the most inspirational words of the day were brought forth by former Gemvara CEO . I told Matt after his talk that “while some of these guys have PhDs in sciences and liberal arts, you have a PhD in life.” So practical were Lauzon’s words that they touched me.  Matt made many fine points and I am not sure this blog will do him justice. However, here are two of  Lauzon’s messages that made an impact on me:

1. Make sure the city provides PAID internships

Lauzon noted that when he was a college kid at Babson College, he was a didn’t have the means to have his parents support him through the summers. During those summers, he had to work. So the concept of an unpaid internship was a non-starter. He needed money to pay off loans and save for his expenses. Thus, Matt said that companies should really think about what type of message they send when they offer unpaid internships. Do they really only want kids applying for those positions whose parents can afford to support them? Probably not.

Payment would not be a great hardship for these companies. Also, just think of the type of opportunities they would be offering students from lower-economic strata backgrounds?

2. We need to encourage growth in EXISTING businesses
While many exiting university want to be founders of the next Facebook or Microsoft, the

Foster growth

reality is that they don’t often have the skills or fully formed ideas to make this a reality. Instead, the city should encourage more growth in existing businesses. So, rather than trying to feed every start-up – which is unsustainable – focus on nurturing the 15 and 20 people start-ups and try to make them successes.

I don’t think Lauzon was advocating that we cut the lifeline to incubator stage businesses. I think the existence of institutions like MassChallenge and TechStars ensures that won’t be a reality. However, I think Matt makes of point of where the City should also think about putting its resources

Perhaps I was moved by Lauzon’s words because I have been to so many start-up events in Boston but have never heard an entrepreneur say these messages so clearly and succinctly.  My thought to the city of Boston: find more men like Matt Lauzon to be in charge.

Dell Meets (at) Innovation

Takeaway: Technology is like A Hammer – They’re both tools or Destructive

Dell Women met here on Tuesday March 5th

I had an auspicious beginning to my day this past Tuesday. On the train into Cambridge to attend the Dell Small Business Thinking
On Tuesday, March 5, a small and influential group of Boston based entrepreneurs, founders, small business owners, startups and local leaders gathered at the Cambridge Innovation Center together for a half-day of listening, collaboration and dialogue.

Personal Inbound Marketing: Making HubSpot’s Executive Playbook Personal

How to bring people to you? Effective social media

I went to a great seminar held this morning by HubSpot out at Boston’s lovely Westin Copley hotel. On paper, the seminar was designed to increase executives’ understanding of the interplay of sales and marketing. Yet, the longer I listened to the great muses on stage expound how you (I’m lookin’ at you) could improve your conversion rate through the effective use of sales and marketing, the more I realized that the messages being drawn up by Head of Enterprise Marketing Jessica Meher, CMO Mike Volpe and VP of Enterprise Sales Phil Harrell could be taken as messages for all of us who are looking for jobs. In short, following the rules of inbound marketing campaigns offer a profound recipe for how to make ourselves into someone employers will look at, love and hire.

Message Number 1: Be what employers want to consume

If you have been searching for a job for a while then you have probably heard those dreaded words:”well, you’re just not the right fit.” Meaning, you’re not the right tool for the job. Nothing personal, mind you, but your skills aren’t the ones needed to get the job done. So, think about it then: what skills ARE needed to get the job done? How do you optimize your profile ? Do you need computing skills, writing skills, programming skills or presentation skills? The reality is that without knowledge in these areas it’s hard to get a job as more than a barista. Now mind you, people skills are really important, too. But, in order to be effective at the job search you need to *be* what they want to consume . So if you see job titles that resonate with you be ask for skills that you don’t have then find a way to get them. Go to a local university or on-line school. In this sphere, there’s no reason not to find a way to learn what you need to.

Message Number 2: You don’t find employers. They find you
Message two might seem counter-intuitive to job seekers. Isn’t looking for a job all about putting your best foot forward and pounding the pavement? Well, the answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Let me explain.

First, the ‘no’ part. Many searches conducted on LinkedIn and other job sites are based on keyword searches . Even if you have a lead into a company and get your resume forwarded to HR by a friend, the recruiter is still going to look for those key words in your resume that align with the responsibilities found on the job posting. So, while it seems like a pain in the bottom to constantly tweak your resume to reflect the language in the posting it is the difference between getting found and getting recycled.

As to the ‘yes’ part, you still need to do your best to network and make connections so that you have the opportunity to get in front of the recruiter. But, as any executive coach will tell you, getting in front of HR is only half the battle.

Message Number 3: Optimize your social media

I met a contact today who is a friend of a friend of a friend. Did I get that right? I think so. In any case, this new friend of mine did an actual inbound marketing campaign on himself. Pretty incredible. He created a website called (joe smith is not his real name). On his site, he told the story of why he’s interested in social media and what he feels he can do for your campaign. He had a link to his blog, twitter feed, writing samples, resume and contact information. This new friend told me he even created an app that allowed for a mobile ready presentation of this information.

You might say my friend is a bit hard core with his approach. I think his approach is brilliant. Guess what, he now has a job in social media that puts him just where he wants to be.  But even if you cannot be as aggressive as my friend, you can still have the time to blog or write or comment or peoples’ articles who are experts or notables in your field. I keep on

You need to juggle your social media profile

chiding myself for not being more active in social media. Here’s my attempt at drinking my own medicine.

To HubSpot’s point of optimizing social media, you need to use Google’s keyword search to make sure your content is filled with key words and that you are sharing material and following best practices. These are mainstays of B-to-C social media as well as B-to-B.

Message Number 4: Fill the funnel

One of the key points of effective social media, is to use tools such as blogging, SEO and demand generation to create leads which fill the top of the funnel. In searching for jobs, it might not be clear what the analog is here. I think though that the analogue is to constantly be on the lookout for opportunities. Find ways to provide value to potential employers either through short project work or through an internship. Tell the potential employer that you have read up on their company and have some ideas on what you can do for them. All of these are opportunities that get put into the top of the funnel. Some of them will work out and some won’t. The biggest take away is do not get discouraged .

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So, I don’t know what Darmesh Shah and Brian Halligan would say of my take on inbound marketing. Maybe they would get a laugh or a chuckle. More importantly though, I hope you find value in these words. Whether they are words of wisdom or not …. well, that’s up to you. Clearly though it is important to be in charge of your own social media management.

Never having attended an unConference before November’s exceptional event in Boston, I thought the term ‘unconference’ was some sort of newfangled term designed to present the sense of an unconventional and slightly weird conference. To some extent, I was right. The event was unconventional. Thankfully, it was not weird.  The event did succeed though in upending every notion I had of how conferences should unfurl.

My interest had been originally piqued in the conference thanks to a tweet by Boston Globe columnist Scott Kirsner . Scott had described as the best of the year. I was curious and certainly the website listed a who’s who of attendees. So I rolled up my sleeves and pulled my old trick of volunteering to gain free attendance to the conference. I thought to myself, “unConference: Here I come”

What was so unconventional about the conference was that it took the idea of “flat organizations” and extended it to a conference. Imagine a conference with no agenda, no roster of dedicated speakers, and no hierarchy. Thankfully, the organizers weren’t so unconventional as to forego the requisite free morning coffee. If you can get your mind around this somewhat bizarre design process for a meeting, then you have Boston’s unConference firmly planted in your mind. Instead of an agenda for the conference, bold folks (which I was sadly not) proposed topics at the morning session which were then vetted by a moderator. If the topic was widely acceptable, it was put up on the agenda and given a space at the conference in which people could attend and share thoughts on the topic. Sound unconventional? It most definitely was.

For me, what the conference truly brought home was about Thinking with Your Feet, Thinking Bold, and Thinking Strategically.

Thinking with Your Feet

The notion of “think with your feet” was thrown out by Joshua Kauffman at the beginning of the conference. Joshua was the moderator of the morning session where peoples’ ideas were vetted. Joshua’s sianara to us all before letting us loose upon the Hynes Convention Center was to ‘think with your feet’. With this statement, Joshua was telling us to “go to sessions where you can be useful or where you can learn the most”. Well, theoretically one could learn from almost any of the sessions at the conference. But to Joshua’s point, it is all a measure of degrees.  If there’s a session where you won’t be able to add or won’t learn something truly useful to you as an entrepreneur, then don’t go to that session. Essentially, vote with your feet.  Being at that difficult stage of life where I want to be a sponge, I went to sessions that I could learn the most from.

Think Bold

It can be difficult, even painful  (not to mention awkward) to go up and introduce yourself to someone new, but that is just what I did … on several occasions at the unConference. The success of my endeavors has less to do with my skills as a conversationalist and much more to do with the atmosphere of the conference. The conference was unique in that way because it wanted to create an atmosphere without hierarchy and without convention. As much as my individual chutzpah , the format of the conference with its small break-out rooms and sessions attended by a dozen people makes this type of interaction possible.  With this lack of hierarchy, the conference gives people the added confidence to feel sufficiently comfortable in their skin that they can introduce themselves to anyone they want to talk to. For my part, I took that mantra to heart and introduced myself to journalist Scott Kirsner so that I could hear his thoughts on how best to write a blog. I spoke to Pixability’s CEO Bettina Hein about how her business markets itself to large businesses. I also finally met up with Dan Powdermaker who I had casually met online, but never spoken to before.

Think strategically

Thinking fast is as much about quick thought as about practical thought. There were many folks who I knew would be at the meeting that I wanted to get to know. Who they are is less important than how I approached them. Now I’d like to say that I am a brilliant strategist, both suave and a wonderful raconteur. Would that these were true. I don’t even think my parents or doting grandparents believe these to be my strong points. But what I did realize is key to thinking fast and hence, as I have noted, thinking strategically, is to consider the people you want to meet as potential friends. To illustrate this point, when is the last time you developed a great friendship by first telling this person that you needed something from them? The answer is probably never. Similarly, when meeting someone who you think can be important to you, don’t approach them by asking them for something.  To my point, and to the point made by many of the well known folks who attended Scott Kirsner’s great session at the unConference on how to get famous fast, if there’s someone you want to get to know, start reading up on them or following them on Twitter or on their blogs. Follow them strategically and then reach out to them with a question or comment. Most importantly, and this was reiterated by many of the famous folks in attendance, BE USEFUL . It’s almost like the Boy Scouts of America meet PR. The cardinal rule of getting in touch with useful, highly positioned people, is find a way you can be useful to them.

Now, my experience at the conference only dissects a small part of what was available. In contrast to my experience, people involved with start-ups could meet with VCs or CEOs to gain insight and guidance. One could also attend sessions headed by these same VCs or CEOs. As you can tell, opportunities were hanging low off the tree.

For me, the take home message of the conference was about the beauty of flat organizations. High-level spoke to low-level and vice versa. Information flow was seamless and you could learn from everyone. I wish that more organizations were run just like this meeting, where a member from the marketing team could talk about their company’s product in a small group with their VP for Product Development and an engineer on the QC team. This thought is not without merit. In fact, lean start-up guru Eric Ries writes about the necessity of this type of interaction in his acclaimed book The Lean Startup. In his book, Ries writes how it is important to have cross-functional teams because they are key to disruptive innovation. Similarly, the unConference was disruptive in its realization that effective conferences break up the hierarchy and allow for a seamless flow of business cards and information.

I wish I could have attended more of the conference than I did.  As it was, it was great to be a part of the conference for the day. My only regret is that the conference was only one day and that I couldn’t replicate myself and attend more workshops than I did. Oh well, only another year to wait.

Even though to err is human, to read Jane Eyre is divine

Perhaps the mere mention of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre sends shivers up your normally non-literary spine. Does it bring back long-since forgotten memories of half-dozed-through lectures in high school about repressive 19th century English mores? If you are like me, you were ruined by a seemingly incomprehensible introduction in 11th grade English to Wuthering Heights written by Charlotte’s sister Emily. From this failed reading, you concluded all 19th century English fiction is a bore.

Copy of original “Jane Eyre”.

And then perhaps a nudging comment from a well-read friend, one too many New Yorker articles or a dinner party conversation in which you felt like a wallflower due to your inability to add to the conversation about 19th century literature persuaded you that really, REALLY, really you should at least give the 19th century one last try before dismissing it into oblivion.

I’m not sure what motivation was the proverbial boot to my proverbial behind that prodded me to finally pick up Jane Eyre . However, I want to thank that boot, because I have not stopped talking about Jane Eyre since I finished reading it in 2010. To me, Jane Eyre has come to encompass not just great literature – a good read, if you want to be crass about it – but also an incredible road map for how to dare, dream, and do in life. Jane Eyre’s character is so full of life and commitment to values that I would hold her as a far better example for how women can learn to achieve in life than any commentary from an actual business book.

There are three main points I would bring as evidence of Jane Eyre’s greatness as a business book. The first point is shown early on in the novel. When we first meet Jane in the novel, the young orphan and protagonist is mistreated by her aunt, cousins, and general society. She is short on love and long on woes. She is beaten, yelled at, and treated as garbage. Jane’s aunt eventually forces her to leave the house. To this, Jane replies: “ You have no feelings [Aunt Reed]. People think you a good woman, but you are bad; hard-hearted. You are deceitful. ” To Jane’s comment, we applaud. We cheer. We have seen in the past pages how Jane was treated by her cruel cousins and cold aunt. We share joy in her little victory over her oppressor and think that next time we see someone treating ourselves or others in an inappropriate manner we should call them out as did Jane.

As an aspiring entrepreneurial type, I see Jane’s response in the face of her aunt’s cruelty as a reminder that there are many people out there whose unkindness could serve to knock me down and unhinge me from my bearings. However, if I am to think like Jane then I will call them out for their unjustness – even if only in my own mind – and continue to not let fear control me. Rather, sheer resolve and determination should be my bedfellows. Like Jane, I hope to have great inner fortitude which serves as my hitching post.

As a second point, I put forth that Jane is a wonderful female protagonist who believes in self-improvement through education, thrift and sacrifice. Jane’s teacher at Lowood tells her, “ we shall think you what you prove yourself to be ” and to this challenge, Jane wishes “ to earn respect … and win affection. ” As she notes of her progress at Lowood school after a few weeks of attendance, “ I had meant to be so good, and to do so much at Lowood…Already I had made visible progress: that very morning I had reached the head of my class. ” To Jane, to lose the respect of her colleagues and superiors is to feel akin to dying. Yet a few pages later, Jane remarks that at one point after a difficult time in Lowood “ I resolved to pioneer my way through every difficulty: I toiled hard, and my success was proportionate to my efforts: my memory, not naturally tenacious, improved with practice; exercise sharpened my wits; in a few weeks I was promoted to a higher class. ” Despite the harsh treatment at Lowood that Jane receives from the leaders of the school, she stays. Granted she is short on alternatives, but in spite of the hardships of the school, she stays and improves herself to the point at which she becomes a teacher at the school.

Every entrepreneur faces travails and challenges. Those items are in the gift bags one receives upon entering the entrepreneurial realm. As I reconsider these words from Jane whose life is challenged in every way, I cannot help but reconsider my own resolve and try to exercise my own tenacity. Jane is a steady character whose resolve and commitment stand as a challenge to the reader to do better by those around them.

As a third point, I would note that Jane is incredibly self reliant. She leaves Mr. Rochester because she finds out that he remains married, albeit to an insane woman. She desperately loves Mr. Rochester yet rather than staying in his home with the man she loves, Jane chooses to throw her penniless self out into the cold world where she feels at least she will live with dignity. She will not marry a man who remains married to another. Jane tells Mr. Rochester, “ I do love you, more than ever: but I must not show or indulge the feeling: and this is the last time I must express it. … Mr. Rochester, I must leave you. ” One can only imagine the demanding and soul-searing control Jane had to demonstrate. Among her last and parting words to Mr. Rochester before leaving his estate are to “ trust in God and yourself. Believe in heaven. Hope to meet again there … We were born to strive and endure.

For Jane, the belief in character and self-reliance are essential. In spite of her love for Rochester, she cannot marry him. She trusts both in God and her own sense that marriage to him is wrong. Even an atheist can appreciate that nuance of Jane’s belief that she must follow an inner compass of morality and direction. Jane shows incredible resolve and commitment to values in spite of her heart’s leanings. One can only wish that more business men and women showed this fortitude of character.

Would scandals of the past years, headlined by outsized embezzlement and fraud have ever been committed had Jane Eyre been in charge? No, I believe they would have been minimized. Jane’s counsel would have been tried and true. In the face of challenge, Jane would advise to strive and endure. She would tell us there are no easy paths. We must embrace the challenges put in front of us and trust in ourselves.

And how can someone not feel that they are shy of the standard held by Jane? Jane always holds herself to the highest of moral standards and will accept nothing else from herself or those around her. Jane, I want you to be the CEO of my company.