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June 2008: What's In This Issue

    We all need a good story

    Too sexy to get hired?

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By Dale Dauten

“I’m embarrassed to say it, but I’m supporting the white male.”

That remark was from earlier in the Presidential campaign, when a middle-aged white woman confided… or was it confessed?... to a TV reporter that she planned to vote for John Edwards.  That was the same time that political analysts were reporting, surprise in their excited voices, that being a female candidate was a “net positive,” as was being Afro-American.

I’m no political commentator, and no one wants to hear the views of a white male on discrimination, but an election is a kind of job placement process, and there’s one thing that white males know about race and gender discrimination that blacks and females do not – what white males say, alone together, about blacks and women.  Here it is:  when it comes to corporate hiring, as in voting, being female is a net positive, as is being black.

Hiring is deciding who gets in and who doesn’t, so it’s a matter of being discriminating.  Thus, hiring IS discrimination.  And everyone faces some net discrimination score.  For instance, having an MBA is a big positive, and yet there are people who won’t hire MBAs (believing them overpriced or over-rated) and thus you have to subtract the percent of anti-MBA people from the pro-MBA people to get the net positive.

So what are the biggest net-negatives when it comes to hiring?  There’s having a criminal background, of course.  But also high up in the negatives are a history of drug or alcohol addiction, as well as extreme job-hopping.  Which brings us to what got me thinking – talking with business coach Stan Hustad, of Tucson, about his experiment with job coaching.  Hustad’s regular work is with business owners and executives, but as a favor, agreed to turn his coaching skills to a job search.  The man in question – let’s call him Smith -- had two of the big net negatives, alcoholism and possessing a deplorable job history.  And this wasn’t a young man who’d lost his way; he was in his mid-fifties and competing for jobs with much younger workers.

What Hustad immediately understood was that a conventional resume-based job search would be fruitless.  So, Hustad got Smith to replace his resume with a “story card.”  It was printed on 8 1/2” X 11” pieces of card stock, and Smith started telling people, “I don’t have a resume – I have a story.”  And he’d hand then a card that opened with “I’ve made some bad choices and had some bad luck,” and ended with “I’d be grateful for a chance to audition for a role at your company.” 

In between, Smith said, “Here are some of the things I learned from my experiences” and “This is how I believe I could be of help to your business.”

Smith took his story to job fairs and out networking.  Whenever some contact would say something vague like, “I’ll keep my ears open,” he’d ask them for a favor, to give his story card to two people who might be able to hire him.  The upshot was that he got several interviews and landed a better job than he’d hoped for, one with training and benefits, the sort of job that doesn’t go to a man with a lousy resume. 

Hustad added this observation about Smith’s self-esteem:  “Before he would go to interviews feeling he was having to hide his past, hoping not to be asked about it.  But with the story card, he went in, as I say with my coaching clients, ‘dancing naked.’  He went in honest and people respected that and wanted to give him a chance.”

Which takes us back to discrimination.  Sure, there’s plenty of it.  But against that is one of the most glorious of human traits, the willingness to help.  Here are two of the most beautiful little sentences in the language:  “Let’s give him a chance” and “Let’s give her a shot.”  It is part of our character to root for the underdog, and there are plenty of job applicants who qualify – their goal should be to find a way to give hiring managers a chance to give them a chance.

©2008 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

J.T. and Dale Talk Jobs


By Jeannine Tanner O'Donnell and Dale Dauten

Dear Dale and JT,

I have been actively searching for a job for five months now and can’t figure out why I get interviews but no offers.  I have even contemplated the idea that I can’t get hired because I happen to be a very attractive younger looking 32 year old.   Am I crazy for even thinking that?  


DALE:  One problem with the job market is that you rarely know why you didn’t get a job.  So your mind starts with guessing and second-guessing.  I just experienced it myself -- I was a finalist for a consulting project and when I didn’t get it, I started rethinking everything about….  Hold on.  JT is over here giggling. 

JT:  No, go ahead.

DALE:  Oh, I get it -- no, I did not worry that I was too attractive.  In fact, I learned that they didn’t hire anyone.

JT:  Which is all too common.  But, backing up, all the studies show that attractive people are more employable and make money.  So, I'd have to guess that something about your body language or communication style is making people shy away from hiring you.  To get that missing feedback, reach out to any hiring managers or HR folks you know and see if you could do mock interviews.

DALE:  If nothing else, videotape yourself and watch it with a friend with this is mind:  the interview isn’t about qualifications (those are pre-screened via your resume), but about deciding if you’re someone the hiring manager wants to work alongside.  That goal changes what it means to “look your best.”  My mother startled me the other day by referring to a family friend as a “sex pot.”  Apparently, Mom felt this woman wore too much makeup and heels that were too high.  Who knew?  With four generations in the workplace, “appropriate” dress can be tricky.  So, try this:  A day or two before you go into a company for a job interview, park outside the office at lunchtime or after work and see how people dress and act.  You aren’t dressing to look your best, you’re dressing to make potential co-workers comfortable around you. 

JT:  And that’s the right mindset – you’re not trying to impress them but to engage them, to let them know you’re there to help.  That’s the most attractive trait of all.

Dear JT & Dale: 

I am a long-term agent with a big insurance company.   I am 67 years old.   A few years ago, the company placed more emphasis on financial products.  These I have not embraced very well.  They gave me a "job in jeopardy" warning last week.  These are some of my thoughts:

1.  Buy my job....yuck… by purchasing annuities.
2.  Quit and try and get a part time job somewhere.
3.  Drastically cut back on my expenses and retire.

What’s your take? 


JT:  I don't like the idea of you buying your job because you’d be buying something you don't like.  And I don’t get the sense you’re emotionally or financially ready to retire.  So trying to find a part-time job makes the most sense.  You are 67 year old professional with lots of knowledge.  The key is to leverage yourself as an expert who is willing to work part-time and doesn't need benefits.

DALE:  How about looking behind door #4, which would be to actually turnaround the agency by embracing the new products.  Go to an agent or two in another city and ask for suggestions, then prove to the company that you’re rising up to meet the new challenge.

JT:  Then again, Allen has earned this time to explore and find a place that would let him use his strengths, without the pressure of meeting quotas. 

DALE:  But no one wants to hire, even part-time, someone who looking to ease back.  If you want to work, you need to learn and grow, and why not try it where you are?  It would be easier to reinvigorate your old job than to find a new one.  Either way, Allen, please let us know what you end up doing.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and founder of the consulting firm, jtodonnell.com.  Dale Dauten’s latest book is “(GREAT) EMPLOYEES ONLY: How Gifted Bosses Hire and De-Hire Their Way to Success.”

©2008 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


Dale Dauten, Author and Publisher

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