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Your HR Guy Thinks You’re Nice

Most people that I interview are nice people. Some of them are incredibly nice. More than likely, you are a nice person and your HR guy is an optimist: he thinks most people are pretty nice people. Granted that I’ve had an interview with a jerk or two and while it can be fun to make those guys sweat, it is pretty useless otherwise. But here is the problem with “being nice”:

Nice doesn’t get you the job.

How mean of your HR guy! Being nice isn’t a job skill though. It isn’t portable equity nor is it remarkable. Being nice in an interview is like wearing nice clothes and not smelling bad. It is expected of you and it is really a matter of respect and being polite (which isn’t the same as being nice by the way).

While I wish I could hire every nice person I interviewed, I can’t. And while I don’t particularly like the part of the job where I tell nice people that they aren’t going to be employed with us, it is necessary so I deal with it. Even if I say no, I probably still think you’re nice. So when a candidate (or hiring manager or the co-worker that referred him or her) uses this as a reason why I should hire them, I laugh a little to myself. While being nice is…well, nice…it isn’t a job skill and nobody will hire you for it.

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Be Memorable

If you’ve ever seen Stonehenge (either in person or in photographs), an image comes to mind that is unavoidable. So what HR guy? There are lots of works of man that are inspiring, what is so special about Stonehenge? Well, here’s my logic. Can you draw a picture of the layout of Stonehenge that would be any closer to 10–20% accurate? Do you know the history of the people that put it together? Not likely. It is a lesson about what makes anything memorable. Your resume full of job duties, history, education and skills doesn’t make you memorable (well, sometimes it does but it isn’t usually positive). Here are four things that job seekers can learn from Stonehenge to make them memorable.

1.) Have vision beyond what you can do by yourself. Your strongest asset is what you can accomplish with the right people and is usually not what you can accomplish on your own. Your ability to work and lead other people to make great things happen is memorable.

2.) Do things that are great. Stonehenge could have been smaller. In fact, there are replicas around the world that demonstrate that principle. The people who built Stonehenge wanted to make it memorable. They wanted to do something great. They did it.

3.) Be unavoidable. This doesn’t mean be a pest (I don’t want to get in trouble with stalker candidates). This means be so good that you are unavoidable in being considered. It means building your reputation and portable equity so that you become the Stonehenge in your recruiter’s mind. If you are anywhere near Stonehenge, you can’t ignore it. In a good way.

4.) Be passionate. Historians estimate that it took 20 million man hours to construct Stonehenge. These people had to be passionate abot what they were doing. There was quite a bit of work to be done and it must have been hard to see the final picture but they had the vision and the passion to make it happen.

Have a great weekend.

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Building portable equity

I reviewed Radical Careering here several weeks ago and while I thought the book was average, one point that stuck with me and has continued to do so is the building of portable equity. Portable equity is defined as skills, experience and education that you can take with you from job to job. These days, nobody would be attracted to a retirement plan that you lose if you get laid off. Employees want portability because they don’t see themselves as employees for life (and most employers, if they are honest, don’t either). The same is true with job skills that translate to the field you have chosen to work in. Building portable equity in your career takes work. As a recent graduate, you may be stuck with not-so-sexy job assignments and duties. Here are five ways you can beat the rap on those duties and become a superstar:

1.) You must do the job. The key to beating it straight out of the gate is to enthusiastically hit a home run with those not-so-sexy duties and every time you do, inform your boss that you are ready for your next challenge. No need to be annoying about it but no need to take it sitting down. It should be apparent from your actions that you can easily and competently take care of these minor job duties and you can start fitting in some projects with sex appeal.

2.) Be patient but don’t be a pushover. If you are on your second day, now is probably not the time to ask for more responsibilities and a raise. If a year has passed and you are doing the same thing you did your first month, you probably need to take control of your career. Don’t be a clock-puncher (a.k.a. the type of person that sits around years after his last promotion wondering why his promotion hasn’t come), go to work excited to do your job and present it as evidence to your boss that it is time to move up.

3.) Be prepared to take risks and experience failure. That doesn’t mean you falsify financial results until you get what you want. It is that you are prepared to risk falling flat on your face for both the possibility you might hit a home run or that you will learn something valuable once you dust yourself off. The best possible opportunities are the one’s that your boss thinks can’t be done. Taking on a project like this with enthusiasm is as near to “no risk” in business as you get. Figure out a way to make it work and knock your boss over.

4.) Build your resume now. Think about what you would want on your resume if you were forced to leave your job the next day. If you haven’t done it yet, do it. Stop putting it off and make it happen. The key to building portable equity is making sure you can use your experience and education to move (either within your company or to a different one). Try finding more projects that make your superstar status apparent.

5.) Be prepared to use that portable equity. While job hopping is not something I would ever promote, sometimes it is the only option in a dead end job. Before you go though, make sure you aren’t job hopping from a bad situation with no room for portable equity growth to another one with a nicer boss. You won’t be happy there either and then you’ll look like a job hopper. While you seek that next opportunity, spend time in your current job building whatever limited equity you can.

Maybe some other HR folks think I am throwing them under the bus here. I wish I had a room full of superstars but I won’t. The problem is that thinking in the above way is extraordinary. It is easy to find people who want to come in, punch a clock and get paid to do the basic requirements of the job. Finding people who are truly hungry for challenges is the difficult part.