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Archive for the category “Job Hunting”

Last Post and Launch of

English: PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 6, 2007) - Flight...

Well this is going to be my final post on the twinpillars site. Starting out here from scratch on my first attempt at blogging less than 12 months ago I had no idea how this was going to turn out. It has been both fun and very rewarding.

I know what busy lives you all lead so I feel truly honoured by the steadily growing number of you who take the time to stop by and read my thoughts here.

Thank you!

I now invite you to join me on the new site smartcareerstrategy – launching this weekend

The focus on the new site will be very similar to what you have become accustomed to here. And all the previous posts will still be accessible there so you can read them again at your leisure.

The new site has already gone live so feel free to check it out at smartcareerstrategy

Over time I plan to add new sections with the aim of offering additional resources as well as the blog. I would welcome any suggestions or requests you may have for resources and additional content that you would like to see there. Why not leave a comment with your thoughts on this?


Thanks heaps to those of you who previously signed up to subscribe to twinpillars. I have not yet worked out how to/whether I can simply transfer your subscription details to the new site and I certainly don’t want to breach privacy. It would be wonderful if you would like to go to smartcareerstrategy and subscribe there from now on.


Winner and a new name!

Hallo twinpillars readers

I am delighted to announce the winner of the “Name This Blog Competition”

Congratulations Paul R. 

(Paul has agreed to be mentioned but I have not published the surname for privacy reasons)

After sorting through the many great suggestions you sent in I picked a few favourites and then went looking for related domain names to re-name this site. I ran into some problems with that as most of those names had already been taken.

However,…one suggestion made by a faithful reader and in fact former client, set me off on a path to successfully finding a name that I think will make sense and reflect what this blog is all about. I couldn’t use exactly what Paul suggested but his idea led me to….

Thanks a million Paul – make sure you stay in touch to claim your prize!!

What’s next?

I am now  working through the mechanics of setting up the new site, transferring all the existing content and re-directing visitors from the current (soon to be ‘old’) twinpillars site.  I hope to have all this covered within the next week or so.

Keep a lookout for the first post on

Thanks again for your interest and support. Look forward to seeing you again when is up and running


Tough Job Search – time for Plan B?

Fork in road

Fork in road

“The job market is pretty tough and there don’t seem to be many opportunities for me out there – should I be looking at other options or is it too soon?”

I get asked a question like this probably two or three times a week at the moment. So what’s the answer? Or is there one?

Well, I am a coach so instead of just trying to answer this straight off I usually throw a few questions back. I want to make sure my client has done and is doing everything possible to be positioned effectively in the market where they will have the most traction – which will give the best prospect of landing a new role as quickly as possible.

6 Key Questions – you may find them useful as a “sense check” on your own job search:

  1. How efficiently are you using your time to source advertised roles? (i.e. focusing on those for which you are extremely well qualified and not spending too much time on this as it is the smallest source of opportunities. Usually not much more than around 25-30% of the available roles)
  2. How well differentiated and targeted are your cover letters and resume when you do apply for an advertised role? Are you hitting the advertiser’s “hot buttons” to have the best chance that your letter and resume will actually be read?
  3. What pre- and post-application contact and follow-up are you doing?
  4. What ongoing relationships have you established with well-connected recruiters who work in your industry and functional niches and what have you done to build rapport and maintain proactive contact – never quite off their radar screen without irritating them?
  5. How much time and effort are you putting into maintaining and building your networks in your chosen industry segment(s)? As a rough rule of thumb it would be ideal to secure 3 to 5 meetings or phone conversations per week with new contacts.
  6. How  effective is your online branding and activity? (Twitter, LinkedIn etc.)

If you are doing all of these things consistently and well, and have been on the market for about 4 to 6 weeks without much success in landing interviews you have two choices. Well, more than that but these will do for now.

Assuming you have good financial resources, stick to your game, be patient, in time the role will come.

In the current Australian market if you are targeting a salary of around $150K or more it is likely that your job search will take 6 months or more. It could be much shorter or in some cases much longer. Make sure you have the reserves to ride out a 6-9 month campaign with no income.

(If your experience  is different or the market you are in has different pressures and timelines I would love to hear from you – feel free to leave a Comment).


Don’t give up on your primary search but start working on Plan  B in parallel – now.

Bear in mind that what works for one may not suit another. So what does Plan B look like for you?

Ideas that have worked for some of my clients

  1. Build a new prospect list in a related but different industry niche; build a new network in this niche to assess the viability of a shift based on your transferable skills
  2. Open up your search to include short and medium term contract roles or consulting assignments
  3. Seek out opportunities to do pro bono work using your skills and experience to benefit a business or NFP that otherwise could not afford your help. Apart from feeling good about making a contribution you never know what new networks this can lead to.
  4. Volunteer – even if not in your core skill areas – helps to get you out of your own head!
  5. Explore buying or starting your own business. Often just doing the research around this opens up avenues you haven’t thought of and gets you introductions to new networks that could even lead to a more conventional role

I hope that some of the thoughts here will help to unlock and accelerate your search for a fantastic new role. If so it would be great if you would consider sharing this through your own social media channels.

(Photo credit: creativelenna)

‘Name this Blog’ Competition Results and a Question

Well this has not turned out the way I expected.

First of all I am most grateful to you for the many good ideas you sent in for new names. I really appreciate the time and effort taken.

Working from those ideas I drew up a list of what I thought were names that would capture the essence of the blog – and that is when I ran into unexpected trouble!

The next step was going to be to set up a new domain name with a re-direct so that any twinpillars readers would be able to find the new site. It has been very frustrating to find that all the great names we came up with together were already taken as domain names, so I can’t use them.

Grrrrr !! Frustration deluxe.

And that explains why it has been a while since launching this little competition before being able to announce a new name – and the winner of a FREE resume make-over. It has been a real struggle over the last couple of weeks to come up with something else that is fresh, interesting, not just ho-hum and also really says what the blog is about.

So here is the question

It would be fantastic to get your feedback as to whether I need to persevere with finding a new name.

Perhaps you have come to like “twinpillars” and the story behind it. Check out the About page to find out where the name came from…and leave a comment or send a private feedback through the Contact twinpillars page

Second chance to win!

I will of course honour my promise to offer a free resume makeover for the best naming idea, despite the issues with domain names – that’s not your problem. I will announce the winner soon – but here is a chance for another winner.

The same offer goes to the first person who leaves a relevant comment or feedback. If you don’t want or need your own resume reviewed you can have this done for a friend you think would benefit.

Looking forward to hearing from you….

….and look our for my next post soon on whether it is time for job-seekers to start activating “Plan B”

(Photo credit: Sybren A. Stüvel)

‘Name this Blog’ update and thank-you!

something's coming

Hi twinpillars readers…

Here’s the update and a thank-you

In March I asked for your help to rename this blog. I was a bit nervous when I did this as I had no way of anticipating the response – but I need not have worried. As they say, most of what you worry about never happens!

I was delighted with the response to that request and have had a great time checking out the many great suggestions that you have sent in. I have narrowed it down to a couple of favourites and will soon be announcing…..

…..the new name AND the WINNER of a free resume make-over.

So watch the next few posts as it may be you!

And now for a HUGE THANK YOU!

It has been a real thrill to see that my latest post on How to Get Hired in a Buyer’s Market has been my most read post to date since I started this journey in July last year. Not only that but this week, and the month of April so far, have been the “most read” week and month to date. And there are still nearly two weeks to go!

So a huge thank you to all of you who graciously take the time to read these articles and even more to those of you who have been kind enough to share them through Twitter and LinkedIn. I hope you will continue to enjoy, get involved through comments and perhaps subscribe to receive posts direct to your inbox.

So remember – watch this space for the new name – coming soon 

(Photo credit: MBK (Marjie)

How to get hired in a buyer’s market

Stand Out from The Crowd Unique Golf Tee Game ...

First of all, what does a buyer’s market look like?

Here are 3 recent examples of what many of my clients are facing when applying for jobs:

  1. GM Finance – mid sized financial services company – 173 applications
  2. CEO – second tier niche biochemical company – 200+ applications, including many from Europe
  3. Executive Director – international but small NFP – over 700 hits on the advertisement, not sure how many sent in an application, but assume one third actually applied.
  • Executives earning 200K+ used to take 6-9 months to land their next role. This is now more like 8-10 months, or even longer. Not to say you can’t land a role much faster but this pattern is common at the moment.
  • A lot of noise and competition to cut through to even make it to the first round interview for a role for which you may be very well qualified.

A buyer’s market – 4 actions you can take to give yourself a better chance

  1. Define your “edge”
  2. Develop an integrated professional brand
  3. Build and leverage your networks
  4. Be a problem solver

May sound simple and obvious but many executive job seekers do not do these 3 things very well. We’ll take them one at a time.

1. Define your “edge”

Do you currently have a personal value proposition/branding statement that articulates in 10 – 20 words how you add value to an organisation?

Many resumes do a good job of describing skills, experience, style, industry background etc. This tends to be an “inside looking out” description of what the candidate does well. It usually fails to differentiate the candidate.

How do we fix this?

Think like a marketer and craft 2 lines of text at the start of the Profile section of the resume. Any more than this will be too “fluffy”. Describe your likely contribution from the employer’s (buyer’s) perspective. What are you known for? Make a bold claim that you can substantiate with achievements and references.

If you don’t do this, you will look just like everyone else with a similar background. If you do this well you will dramatically increase your chances of getting the employer’s or recruiter’s attention.

The rest of your information can now follow in context. You may want to have a look at some examples in another post I wrote.

What can you use to put this statement together?

  • 360 degree feedback
  • Referees’ comments
  • Your professional reputation – what do you think your colleagues within the company (and perhaps across your industry) say about your strengths
  • Build in a sense of what motivates you deeply

But keep the language fresh and interesting – try to avoid words that are fine in themselves but are now over-used. (see list of overused LinkedIn words)

Be prepared to wrestle with this for a while until you have a strong, bold statement that serves to differentiate you and entice your reader to dig into the rest of the resume to find evidence to back your claim.


2. Build an integrated brand

This post is not about the “how to” of social media. However it is no longer optional. A Bullhorn survey found that in 2012 93% of recruiters used LinkedIn to source candidates, up from 87% a year ago. Twitter is growing as a candidate source as well, now into double figures.

One of the largest best global executive search firms has stopped using a resume database and will use only LinkedIn from now on.

Make sure that your brand positioning is consistent across your resume, your LinkedIn presence, the way you use Twitter and the way you speak about your background and future aspirations in person.

For LinkedIn the headline is crucial. You should be able to create a clear, succinct one that summarises the essence of your brief value proposition.

My own one isn’t perfect by any means. But it used to be very “inside looking out” and didn’t state what outcomes people can expect when working with me.

So I changed it and the number of vies and appearances in searches is steadily increasing – and I am not even looking for a new job at the moment.

On LinkedIn my job title is Executive Career Coach

My headline is simply (Purpose, Value, Strategy) – some important key words that help people find my profile.

The first statement in my profile is in two parts, the most important one first:

What I Do

Coach executives to create a renewed sense of purpose, a sharply articulated value proposition and a strategy for achieving career goals


Help clients to write a powerful resume, cut through to the short-list, handle tough interviews and grow robust networks

3. Build and leverage your networks

Again, this is not a lecture on how to network –I have written about that in other blog posts.

Main point is it is not so much who you know

….but who knows you

Do whatever you can to create and sustain a professional relationship with a willing advocate who has the power to influence relevant hiring decisions, in every one of your target companies.

This will increase the likelihood that when one of those organisations is experiencing ‘pain’, your name is likely to be mentioned as someone who can take the pain away.

And finally…

4. Be a problem solver more than a job seeker – especially in the interview

 Many job seekers unwittingly take on a subservient mindset, hoping they interview well and with a bit of luck they will get the offer.

This is based largely on the mistaken view that the employer holds the keys to an opportunity and you (job-hunter) sit with a problem (need a job). Bear in mind that the interview would not be happening at all if they didn’t have a need or business problem and didn’t already think that you, yes YOU, might be the person to help them.

Even better if you can go into the interview seeing it more as a business meeting than an interrogation.

Use the interaction to understand their business problem. Find out if it is a problem you can and want to solve. Then pitch relevant aspects of your skills and experience to show how you can take away the problem or deliver the outcomes they need.


  1. Differentiate yourself by articulating your value proposition from the buyer’s perspective
  2. Ensure your brand is consistent on paper, on line and in person
  3. Find or create an advocate in each target company
  4. Focus on solving problems that your target employers want solved

If you found this helpful please feel free to share.

Further reading – here is an interesting article on how this approach applies to corporate mission statements, especially for Not For Profit organisations. Check it out Kevin Starr’s article on the “8 Word Mission Statement“.

Photo credit: Stand Out from The Crowd Unique Golf Tee Game September 19, 20119 (Photo credit: stevendepolo)

Should I accept a lower salary?

Should you ‘stand your ground’ on the dollars – or should you accept less?

Most career coaches would probably say quite firmly that you should do your research, have a clear understanding of what your skills and experience are worth in the current market, and do everything you can to achieve the same or a higher salary than in your last job.

And I would agree with that advice, or I would have until the last few months. For now, the game seems to have changed.

More and more as I coach senior managers through a variety of career transition and job hunting scenarios I am hearing that they are experiencing very real downward pressure on their salary expectations. It’s tough out there.

So why stand your ground in the first place?

The rationale for this is quite simple.

  • The employer almost always has “something in reserve” in order to secure their preferred candidate. They almost never make their very best offer in the first round of negotiation. Without being greedy, why just give away salary or other benefits you could have won through holding your nerve and negotiating sensibly?*(Example below)
  • If you accept a lower salary you must recognise that this will be the basis that will drive the value of other benefits that are often linked as a percentage of your base pay.
  • If the drop is really significant, this will have a major effect on how you are positioned when you ext enter the job market – you will find it hard to recover lost ground.

But has the market shifted?

It looks like it may have done just that, certainly in Australia and the USA. Many of my clients, and those of my career coach colleagues, are finding it very difficult to match the high salaries they have been accustomed to. This is particularly true for senior managers with long years of experience in banking and financial services.

Longer time to landing

We are also finding that the time to find a new executive role has stretched out considerably. At a salary of AUD200K or more it used to take between 6 and 9 months. This is now more likely to be 8 to 10 months or even a full year.

There seems to be very much increased competition of high calibre candidates for the few roles available. This is contributing to a perception amongst employers that they can find A-grade candidates at B-grade prices.

So while it will still be dangerous to accept too big a drop (for example more than 20% perhaps) for the same reasons I have already given  –  you may need to consider a flat move or small step backwards*(Example below).

Compare this with the financial cost of staying on the market  for the rest of this year with zero income.

*True story:   One of my clients very recently landed a good role, quite quickly, mostly through his network connections. While the salary on offer was substantially lower than his previous earnings (a little over 20% down) he was still able to negotiate a final package about 12% higher than the first offer. The upside for him was a quick return to the workforce and very little if any interruption in his income. The role also reports in at a senior level so it hasn’t done his future positioning much harm.

What do you think?

Leave a comment and let us know whether you have run into this in your own job hunt. Maybe you have had a different experience or can give us feedback from the employer’s point of view? What is it like in markets outside Australia and the USA?

P.S. If you haven’t read Dr Spencer Johnson’s outstanding book on dealing with change “Who Moved My Cheese?”, I strongly recommend it. You can find information about it here . I won’t earn a commission if you decide to buy it – it’s just high on my list of “must reads”

Successful Job Hunting: 3 different plans that work

How are you managing your job search?

Working to a plan or just seeing what each day brings and “rolling with it”?

We are all different. Some of us like to do things in a very structured way; some prefer a more free-flowing approach to life. Whatever your personality, I have observed over many years of career coaching that the job hunter who works to a plan usually lands a better role faster than those who don’t get organised.

I’d like to share the stories of 3 of my clientsfor obvious reasons of confidentiality some details and their real names will not be published.  Read more…

3 Reasons to Stop Looking for the “Ideal” Job

  1. It probably doesn’t exist anyway
  2. You can’t know everything before you take the job so there will be some surprises
  3. Things can and probably will change after you are hired

It probably doesn’t exist anyway

I have allowed myself to chew up many hours wrestling with trying to define the ideal job for myself. Perhaps I am too picky, not  smart enough or whatever but I have yet to settle on a definition that will completely satisfy me. A huge percentage of the people I have coached through career transition have started their conversations with me around their aspiration to “use the process as an opportunity” to find that elusive ideal role. It’s largely a myth. Read more…

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