Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

Conan and Burning Bridges
January 22, 2010, 4:00 pm
Filed under: Career Advice

OK, typically I like to stay away from the hype that surrounds drama in Hollywood. But the things that are going on with Conan O’Brien and the Tonight Show caught my eye when a Time article came out about a $4.8 million show expense that was done to ‘stick it’ to NBC. Granted, no one can blame Conan for being salty about what’s going on; any of us would feel shafted by this treatment. But there’s more to this than hurt feelings…

I was pointed to this article on Brand For Talent, and in the article it discusses the HR nightmare being created by this situation. Was also shown this article by Jason Seiden. And in light of the recent actions by Conan, I think this is setting an incredibly terrible example for the average person in properly severing ties with a former employer. To all my HR and recruiting friends out there, please correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest to burn bridges like this, or in this case, attach a powder keg to the supports and blow it up.

Please keep this in perspective: Conan is a celebrity. He gets paid to be funny, and on top of that, he is getting millions of dollars out of this debacle. How many of us would ever dream to get the kind of severance that he is? So obviously this is a special situation. Unfortunately, lots of people skip over the ‘special situation’ part, and they just look at what he’s doing and say, “Yeah, Conan – you tell NBC. Stick it to the man!”

Unfortunately, there will be a LOT of people who think that this is acceptable behavior when leaving a company, whether by your choice or by theirs. That’s just simply not the case. If we were to translate this kind of behavior into the average person’s experience, that would be like taking a box truck, backing it up to the front door of your office, and loading it up with all of the office supplies and computers within before giving your former boss the finger and telling him to shove it while you walk out the door. I’m sure many of us have wanted to act like this, but we know better. Because we know that almost inevitably, there will be a situation in which we will run into our former employer, or former co-workers who witnessed such an event, in a professional setting. Awkward! Actions like that will always come back to haunt you – choose your reactions wisely.

So while this is all wildly entertaining, I just ask you to use discretion and common sense when thinking about making a similar grand gesture on your last day of work. What works for one doesn’t always work for another 🙂


My Pledge To Communicate With You
January 19, 2010, 8:30 am
Filed under: Networking/Social Media, Thoughts

I have a confession. Over the last several months, I have sucked when it comes to communicating. Phone calls have gone unreturned, and emails have been piling up in my inbox. Looking at my inbox right now, I have 1,480 unread messages just in the mail email alone, not to mention a few of the filters I have. I have a few other boxes with close to 100 unread messages. Sure, lots of the unreads are probably notifications or email subscriptions that someone signed me up for just because I gave them a business card at a conference (shame on you!) – but the fact remains that I haven’t done a good job at staying in touch.

I could use any excuse in the book – the move, the travel, settling in to a new place, new job, etc. But I’m not going to because I’m tired of making excuses for not achieving the things I set out to do. It’s a bad habit I’ve somehow picked up and has never been a part of my M.O. before, so I am losing it today. No more excuses.

I feel like a hypocrite talking about the importance of networking and developing relationships with people, when many of you reach out to me and never receive a response, or it takes several weeks at best. Networking is not just about friending someone, or leaving a note on their Wall, or accepting a LinkedIn invitation, or retweeting something they said. It’s about responding, engaging, and building trust. And it may sound silly to you but I think it’s hard to trust someone who doesn’t acknowledge your attempts at communicating with them.

I’m so sorry 😦

So my pledge to you today is this:

  1. No more unreturned phone calls. If you call me, you can expect a returned call within 48 hours. If you thought enough of me to reach out, I am going to return the favor right back to you.
  2. Personal emails will be responded to within 72 hours. I’m trying to give myself more personal time on the weekends, so if I get an email on Friday, it might be Monday before I respond, but I WILL respond.

To do this, I am going to need your support:

  1. Be specific – if you have a question you want me to help you with, be specific about it. Don’t just say “I’d like to pick your brain”; tell me how exactly I can help you!
  2. Be patient with me – we’re all human and we all make mistakes. I am not planning to slip up on this pledge, but it might happen and I might fall behind at some point. All I ask for is encouragement; be my cheerleaders! Kind words do more to motivate me than you may know…
  3. Return the favor – we all lead very busy lives. For some of us, email or a phone call is the only way to stay in touch any more. I miss a lot of my friends whom I used to talk to a lot; please call me back 🙂

I hope you will all hold me accountable to this pledge. I’m completely serious about this: I am drawing a line in the sand. The time for action is now, and I am excited about reconnecting. Look for me in your inboxes and on your caller ID!

Cool Tool Alert: Twiangulate
January 14, 2010, 9:00 am
Filed under: Cool Tool Alert, Networking/Social Media, Recruiting, Research, Twitter

This seems to be a great tool to find common connections between you and someone you follow or want to follow on Twitter. If you’re looking for a tool to help find great people to follow, give Twiangulate a shot.

“Twiangulate is a tool for discovering hidden tweeters, friends of friends (or friends of enemies), micro-influentials who only insiders follow… or sometimes just friends you haven’t yet realized are tweeting.” So basically, this is an automated discovery version of Twitter lists. But unlike lists, these groupings aren’t generated subjectively by individuals – the results are generated by algorithms and other complicated tech things designed by Henry Copeland, Kaley Krause, and Jessica Siracusa among others.

Here’s how it works: you can auto-authenticate your Twitter account to get started, and then enter up to 3 usernames of people whom you follow or would like to explore. I chose to start with just one person whom I highly respect for this example:

Caution: if you choose people who are popular, you may have to run them one at a time or else you’ll get an error message.

As a result, this is what was returned – three people who are mutual connections of ours, as well as a long list of others that Twiangulate found to be the most influential people whom these folks follow. The provided list may be sorted by # of followers, # of people whom they follow, or by location as well:

While this is certainly a fun tool for finding new, interesting people to follow – think about it from a sourcing or recruiting standpoint. What if you were to plug in the Twitter account for say, an alumni group, or a professional association that tweets? You could then get a list of the most influential Twitter accounts followed by those people…

Example: @NACEorg– not a huge account, but one of interest to me, because according to the bio, “The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is the leading source of information on the employment of the college educated.” So I plugged it into Twiangulate and here’s what I got – some pretty interesting new accounts that I should be following and interacting with:

Go ahead and give it a shot yourself. You might be surprised at the individuals who come up that you should have been following all along!

Job Competition
January 11, 2010, 7:00 am
Filed under: Career Advice, Networking/Social Media, Recruiting

Lots of competition for jobs these days, with the economy on the repair. Have you found yourself in a situation like this recently?

It’s tough out there today! Instead of resorting to sabotage of your fellow job-seekers and risking bringing bad karma on yourself, try making yourself memorable instead. As a recruiting professional and also the occasional job seeker myself, here are some things that I think will help you out:

  • Dress conservatively for your interview, but wear just a hint of flair – ladies, a bright colored collared shirt under your skirt- or pants-suit, and guys, a colorful or interesting tie. Caution: make sure it’s interesting without being tacky/inappropriate.
  • Find out a little about the people with whom you’ll be interviewing before you meet them, and write down some interesting facts about them that you can use in your interview. I’d caution against making direct connections with them until after your interview though (i.e. LinkedIn)
  • Bring a notepad to your interview pre-loaded with questions about the company. Take notes during your interview and ask questions related to the things you discuss with your interviewer.
  • Following your interview, send a hand-written thank-you note to the people with whom you interviewed, in addition to a quick thank-you email. Hand-written notes are not common any more, and people remember them.
  • Tip: always be pleasant to the receptionist. That’s your opportunity to make a great first impression, and a lot of interviewers ask them how they are treated by those who come in to interview.

If you have other interviewing tips, please leave them in a comment below. Wishing you the best of luck on your interviews!

Defining Success In Recruiting
January 8, 2010, 7:00 am
Filed under: Recruiting, Research

When you ask recruiters how they measure their success, most of them will tell you that it is related in some way to their placements. Notice I didn’t say NUMBER of placements, because that is going to vary depending on the kind of positions for which you recruit. Examples:

  • A recruiter who only recruits C-level executives might view success as making one placement every 6 months, if those placements are worth six or seven figures a pop.
  • In contrast, a high-volume recruiter who places candidates in call center environments wouldn’t be able to put food on the table with one placement every 6 months. They might view success as making 10 placements per month. For the C-level executive recruiter, this is simply an unrealistic expectation, given the nature of their work.

One size never fits all, so generalizing success in recruiting will always yield you inaccurate data. We all have different amounts of experience, different approaches to client and candidate management, different methods (and tools!) for sourcing, and let’s face it, we each have our own biases to our own way of doing things.

What this means is that you don’t need to go running off signing up for every new resource just because it worked for someone else, or changing the entire way you work just because one of your peers found success with a new method. But in the same breath, just because a particular method or tool doesn’t work for you, this doesn’t mean it will not work for anyone. Each situation is unique.

Define your own success and don’t measure your results against anyone but yourself. You don’t know other people’s stories, what their focus is, what tools they are using, what their fees are, and what their cost of living is.

2009 In Closing: Life Is Wonderful
January 4, 2010, 6:00 am
Filed under: Thoughts

Several of my friends and colleagues have been setting New Year resolutions and predictions, and reflecting upon the last year, as well as the last decade. I was sitting at Starbucks over the weekend with one of my AT&T coworkers and we were talking about the last 10 years and the ups and downs that have happened. For me – 10 years ago I was a senior in college ringing in the new year in Gainesville, FL, and discovering that my desired career path wasn’t, in fact, what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. 2 1/2 years later, I landed my first job in an industry that has allowed me to discover a passion in social media.

Between the years 2000 – 2009, I’ve had ups and downs just like everyone else. I’ve been hired and fired, recruited and laid off, in and out of love, and I’ve welcomed new family members to the world and said sad good-bye’s to loved ones. I’ve built beautiful new friendships and cried as old ones soured, I’ve left familiar places for the complete unknown (several times!), I’ve taken risks that turned out to be bad decisions, and I’ve tried new things that ended up being the best decisions of my life. I have started businesses that were lucrative for a season, and learned that it’s OK to move on to new things without considering yourself a quitter. I’ve read books, blogs, magazines, published articles, spoken at conferences, shook hands, laughed, cried, hugged, and loved freely because that’s what life is all about. It’s about living and enjoying everything around you.

In thinking about the last 10 years, even the worst days carried valuable lessons. I learned how not to do something, how not to act, how not to conduct business from these low points. In the high points I learned how awesome real friendship is, how wonderful family can be (even when they’re irritating!) and how luck is non-existent because opportunities come by us every day – we just have to learn to recognize and embrace them. For all its ups and downs, the first decade of the new millennium I think was pretty great.

I am reminded of an old movie from the 80s called Parenthood. In the movie, the old grandmother talks about a roller coaster and a merry-go-round at a carnival. She says how the roller coaster was frightening and exhilarating all at the same time, with all the ups and downs and the incredible speed at which it runs. She then talks about the merry-go-round and how some prefer it to the roller coaster because it’s closer to the ground, and it feels safer. She then shares how she prefers the roller coaster because the merry-go-round just goes around and around, never getting anywhere. Such is life, in my personal opinion.

I think the last decade, and in particular the last year, had to happen in order for us to really appreciate all the wonderful things in life. You cannot know love without knowing loss. You cannot know true success without knowing what it feels like to fail. You cannot appreciate good friendships without knowing what bad ones look like. We must take the bad with the good to understand everything that life has to offer. And so, I feel thankful for 2009, 2008, 2007, and so forth because of all the amazing learning opportunities I’ve had and how enriched I feel my life is because of them.

I think the perfect ending to 2009 and the ideal beginning to 2010 can be described in the words of Jason Mraz‘s song, Life Is Wonderful. Because it truly is. The good moments as well as the bad moments shape each of our individual life experiences and make us into who we are. By learning from each one, we make the choice to turn the good into bad, or the bad into good. The only time we fail is when we fail to dust ourselves off and keep making progress.

Happy 2010 to you – may your year be Wonderful.

“It takes a thought to make a word
And it takes some words to make an action
And it takes some work to make it work
It takes some good to make it hurt
It takes some bad for satisfaction.” ~Jason Mraz

2010 Prediction: Employees MIA
December 28, 2009, 7:00 am
Filed under: Recruiting, Thoughts

As a professional in the recruiting world, I love watching employment and hiring trends and the way the decisions we make as a collective nation affect us immediately, and the ripple effects of our decisions over time. In the past decade, with the popularization of the Internet for public use, a microwave mentality has crept into our daily lives. We want everything instantly. If something doesn’t happen immediately, then we become impatient and antsy. As a result, we have forced companies to create some efficiencies to help streamline the delivery of products and services for our consumption. This is fantastic, as I believe it creates much-needed competition and quality control in commerce. However, in many instances, our desire to have what we want, right here right now, creates an urgency that forces shoddy workmanship and thus produces cheap / ineffective products or services that, if we could have waited a little longer, might have produced a higher quality, more beneficial product or service. Our impatience as a society has forced operational efficiency in some area, however in other areas it has produced poor quality work.

What does this have to do with the disappearance of the traditional employee? Last week, Paul Hebert wrote a great post on Fistful of Talent asking the corporate world to consider employee attraction and retention practices if the anchors of employee benefits, which include healthcare, were not in place to entice them to come on board. As well, earlier in the week my colleague Dave Mendoza pointed out an article from the Wall Street Journal that talked about the implications in the workforce of the healthcare bill in its current form, should it pass through Senate. (update: as of Christmas eve the Senate gathered enough votes to pass this bill)

Whether we want to admit it or not, healthcare is a huge issue today. And it’s going to affect more parts of our lives than just how we’re able (or not able) to obtain coverage. Most believe we need healthcare reform. Some think what got rushed through Senate will take care of that. Others don’t, and would like to slow down and consider some other viable options. While this is not the time or place for discussion of your position on this, I think we can all agree that whatever comes out of this situation is seriously going to affect many parts of our lives outside of our health. Including our employment situations.

Having read both of the above linked articles, and taking into consideration what I’ve learned over the years on the inside of HR and recruiting practices, I came up with this prediction:

Over the course of 2010 we will see a decline in direct-hire employees and a rise in both contractors and entrepreneurs in the workforce.

Let me just say that I am by no means an economic or social expert. The things I’ve considered in taking my stance on this prediction are simply from observing my community, my industry, and people in general. I could be completely off-base, or I could be spot on. I am simply one person with an opinion and a thought I’d like to share, with a few personal observations to back up why I think the way I do. I appreciate you respecting my thoughts in this and taking the time to read about them, even if you disagree with them.

So, why am I predicting this? Here are a couple of observations:

  • With the astronomically rising cost of healthcare coverage for employees (mind you, this has been going on for years and I fully recognize that it did not start with the onset of the government wanting to take over healthcare, but I certainly don’t feel it will be alleviated by the proposed bill either), companies are less and less inclined to offer this benefit to employees. Thus, a reasonable alternative is to hire contractors, putting the financial and benefit burden off of themselves and onto the contractor’s shoulders.
  • Necessity is the mother of invention. With the number of people unemployed or underemployed still in double-digits, it makes for a better environment for creativity in creating income, thus encouraging individuals to start a business and be self-employed.

This could be a fantastic thing. I think for some people, self-employment is the way to go. It’s not for everyone, but for those who are not averse to taking a risk, the reward can be great.

But it’s not guaranteed… and there are things to consider that companies eliminating offering benefits could have an impact on when it comes to employment, and ultimately, retirement:

  • With companies being less and less inclined to either offer healthcare benefits (and consequently 401K and retirement), or being more inclined to hire contractors so as not to shoulder the burden, this will force people to have to be proactive in seeking out their own healthcare and investment opportunities. From personal experience, I know that purchasing healthcare independently is quite expensive, and that cost will only continue to rise. I’ve read that as much as 21% of one’s income would go to nationalized healthcare, should it be instituted. *again, I’m not an economic expert, this is just what I’ve read and heard from those who live in countries with nationalized healthcare, like my friend’s mother who was a nurse in the British NHS for 40+ years – she would know!*
  • According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, our rate of savings over the past decade is pitiful, averaging near 3%. For the average household which makes about $40,000 per year, that’s a pathetic savings of $1200 yearly. In all reality, most Americans save nothing at all when you count credit card debt, car payments, and home mortgages. So obviously our rate of savings leaves a lot to be desired already. Being forced to purchase government-mandated healthcare coverage because our employer simply can’t foot the bill any longer could essentially wipe out the ability for people to continue saving even at a meager 3% rate.

Ripple effects:

  • For both employer and the individual:
    • What is a company’s incentive to hiring direct when they have to pay such astronomical costs for benefits for their employees? I believe companies will start to hire more contractors; then they won’t have to shell out for the benefits. Could be a good thing, as it would encourage more entrepreneurialism, which ultimately leads to the creation of more jobs.
  • For the individual:
    • As a result of this, contractors will end up paying out-of-pocket for health insurance (expensive), & there will no longer be ‘auto’ savings in the form of 401Ks or retirement plans – through the company, at least. Making those decisions will be left up to the individual. Again, this could be a good or a bad thing, depending on the level of personal responsibility of that individual. But as seen in the above example of personal savings over the last 10 years, it’s not a likely scenario for many.
  • For the employer:
    • An increase in recruitment and hiring costs. Employees are more likely to be loyal to a company than contractors. While contractors don’t carry the cost of insurance and 401K matching, it’s an expensive process to constantly hire new and renew existing contractors. It gets even more expensive if you’re going through a 3rd party contract provider, because not only are you covering the contractor’s rates, but the escalated rate of the provider in order for them to cover their operating costs.

Distant future ripple effects:

  • With the decline in savings in the US, as the X and Y generations reach retirement age, there will be even more of an increased demand for someone else to foot the bill, unless we get a grip today on taking personal responsibility for our futures.
  • I’m all for entrepreneurialism – if you feel called to be self-employed I totally support that! Just make sure you prepare for your future. The great thing about being self-employed is that you rely completely on your own efforts. The downside of being self-employed is that you rely completely on your own efforts. There’s no one there to blame but yourself if retirement time comes around and you didn’t plan ahead enough.

My recommendations for this 2010 prediction:

  • Individuals: Be personally responsible. Start saving today. If you don’t believe you can, find a way. I’m sure there are things in your budget you can cut back on. Do you really need that daily Starbucks latte, or 5000+ TV channels?
  • Companies: continue to offer benefits and have a leg up on your competition for talent. As other companies drop benefits like a bad habit, a company can use this to their advantage by continuing to offer them as value-adds for new hires. You’ll attract more, and loyal, talent if you offer something that your competitors no longer can.
  • Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, or it will cease to do so. Companies aren’t perfect, but employees aren’t either. Remember that the next time you’re grumbling about the popcorn tower your company gave you for a holiday gift as you’re stealing office supplies. The fact that many companies DO currently offer benefits is a privilege, NOT A RIGHT (please do not confuse the two). Yeah there are some companies out there that do shady business or don’t treat their employees well. If you work for a company like that, you have the option to leave. No one is hand-cuffing you to that desk, regardless of what you may think. (by the way, if your response to this is “but I can’t leave; I’ll lose my benefits!” – I suggest you re-read the bolded text that started this bullet point…)

Be THANKFUL for what you do have. If you currently work – you are much better off than 17% of this country as of September this year. Be careful, and think about the things you ask for; consider all of the consequences, short- and long-term. The long-term ripple effect might overcast the short-term benefit.

Disclaimer: I anticipate many varying viewpoints on government-controlled healthcare as related to this post. I don’t feel this post, or this blog, is the correct venue for that discussion, however, you have a comment to make about the rise in contractor / entrepreneur status as compared to employee status, feel free to do so! If you’re insistent upon sharing your opinion on healthcare, you are more than welcome to email me directly and I’ll be happy to engage in a civilized conversation. Thank you for respecting my space and I look forward to an engaging exchange!