PF Hour Episode 21: Michael Hampton Talks Career Counseling with the Guys

by brian on September 27th, 2009

Jim and JD were joined this week by Michael Hampton, Director of Service Learning and Career Development, from Western Oregon University, to talk about Career Development.  (It should be noted that it was Michael that gave JD the copy of Your Money or Your Life that prompted JD to start getting interested in personal finance.  Indirectly we can thank Michael for all that we have read on Get Rich Slowly over the years)

Michael started the show by complimenting both of the hosts about their recent posts on resume writing on each of their respective blogs.  He specifically said it was nice to see them incorporate employment strategies into the personal finance realm.

Finding jobs in a tough economy

Michael mentioned some of the things that people traditionally do is “update their resume, send it out to a lot of potential employers and hope to get a response”.  Michael disagrees with this approach.  He believes that people get jobs from other people; by communicating with others and mentioning your strengths and backing those strengths up in your resume.  With so much automated resume screening these days, it’s important to get through to a person before sending your resume in to a large company, and hopefully being referred to a position by another individual.

JD suggested one way to tap into your network is through social media.  He also asked of Michael, “How does one build a social network?”  Michael responded by saying we already have the start of our network via friends and family members but there are other ways to grow our networks as well.  Search your local paper and find an article by someone that does something that you may want to do, and reach out to that person.  This type of “informational interview” taps into the two things that people enjoy doing, talking about themselves and talking about what they do.   By doing this, you are creating an authentic way of networking and build a relationship.

Michael used to work for Nike.  He was often approached by people that he just met that would ask him one of two questions, “can you get me free stuff?” or “can you get me a job?”  Both of these were turnoffs for him.  However people that asked questions about what it was like to work there, or what the challenges that come with working there, always led to a more fruitful conversation and a better networking connection.

Jim chimed in asking Michael about how one can network without seeming slimy or too desperate for a job.  Michael said a good way to go about this is to network after you have already applied for a job at the location.  Another way is to reach out to a hiring manager and talk to them about the position.  That manager may be more receptive to your resume if your cover letter states something to the effect of, “Thank you for taking the time to talk to me about this position last week” and if it reeks of what the hiring manager is specifically looking for to fill that position.

Another way to try and track down someone is to call the company, and listen to the automated directory; find out who works in what department and whom you want to contact.  Furthermore, if you get through to a receptionist or another gatekeeper, it could be wise to strike up a conversation and ask what they do, and how they feel about the company.  Providing information to you will make them feel good and may be a means of getting passed that gatekeeper in the future.

Not getting too down

Jim asked about the emotional strain that comes from a job search.  Michael’s recommendation was to reach out to your support system and to have that one person that really is in your corner.  There are lots of highs and lows throughout the job search and its helpful to have someone talk you through the process.  Someone that can pump you up and put you in a good place is also essential, as you want to go into an interview excited and in a good mental place.

How do you use your network?

When you make a connection, try to get the names of three other people that are at that same company that you can contact.  This provides you with multiple avenues to approach at the employer and allows you to keep getting information.  One person leads to new smaller networks for you to join.  By connecting to these people and following up with them, they are much more likely to reach out to you about job opportunities that they hear about.

Callers and Chatters

Baker (Man vs. Debt) called in asking about social media in the job market.  He referenced a fellow blogger who has recently received a job offer based solely off of his blog.  Baker wanted to know if there is a new trend in the job market based off of people’s use and creativity with regards to social media.  Michael’s advice was to remain professional and not to seem desperate when using social media.  Also, he said it was important to make sure you make those connections in real life in addition to those online connections.  He also added that social media can have a negative effect on your ability to be hired at an institution if you aren’t keeping it relatively professional or locking it down so that potential can’t see content that you don’t want them to see.

Later in the show it was mentioned that another way an employers often times check credit scores as another way to get a feel for someone’s responsibility level, even if there have been studies that show that a person’s credit score doesn’t correlate at all to the likelihood of a person’s willingness to steal from the company.

Donna Freedman (Columnist with MSN and Co-Host of MSN’s Smart Spending Blog) called in about social capital.  She often gets into situations where people ask her to get her in touch with her editor about a possible job.  Often times, as a freelancer she doesn’t know her editor, but other times she doesn’t feel comfortable giving that information out.  Michael suggests editing and filtering out who you give information to and if you think the person would be receptive to receiving an unsolicited call or email about a job.

Brian (that would be me) from My Next Buck called into the show to ask the two hosts and Michael about a new series I started entitled “Friday Financial F*** Ups”.  I am not blogging anonymously and plan on using my blog as a tool for employers to research me.  That said, I was hesitant to use a curse word in the title of a post, however I felt that it was more “me” (which is to say that I am not always the most politically correct person).  JD suggested that it wasn’t terrible but maybe I should look into possibly changing the name from “F***” to “Foul”.  Jim felt that it was not a big deal; however there may be no added benefit to using a curse word in that instance.  Michael’s response, however, was more blunt.  He said plainly, “I think you are eliminating a lot of chances out there for employment.”  His reasoning was based on the fact that a lot of hiring managers are older, and those older hiring managers may be a bit out of their comfort zone and not as accepting of such unprofessional language being available so openly.

Final Thoughts

Michael suggested looking at volunteer opportunities to work your way into a position slowly by volunteering your time and building a relationship with the company or organization and learning the position while on the job.

Michael suggests following your passions instead of following the money.  Typically by doing something you love, the money will work itself out.  Now for recent grads, this may be difficult to accept because of the massive amounts of student loans that one has, but over the course of your early career, you are likely to find those things you are passionate about and want to pursue further.

Next Week’s Episode: Jim and Baker Go 12 Rounds on the Debate of Cash vs. Credit Cards

1 Comment
  1. First off, this is a really nice article. I just stumbled onto your blog…good stuff.

    Effective modern job search strategy is a huge topic, a topic that I have dedicated a career to research and translate. Most people that look for a job tend to reach out to job boards as the foundation for their job search. That strategy leads many job seekers to job search paralysis. Only 6% of open jobs are filled through job boards. Relying on resources and techniques that yield no fruit crushes the job seeker’s psyche. Yes, personal branding is job search gold. Leveraging social media to develop business friendships with hiring managers is also paramount to job search success. I recently helped organize a Los Angeles job fair and the feedback from the recruiters was fascinating. One nugget I have learned is that only specialists get hired, not generalists. Typically, when a company has a slot to fill they have an opening because a specialist jumped ship. When a candidate is sending out their resume, meeting an employer or engaging people at a networking event the goal is always to have a specific voice and establish yourself as a focused expert.

    Keep up the great content!

    Adam Reiter

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