Oh Noes!! I've Been Fake-Fired From My Fake Job!

Yesterday, I was fake fired from my fake job at the company I don't work for.  Don't panic, I run my own company, so it's not like I'm actually fired, but we'll come back to that in a moment. 

Several years ago I was speaking with a manager who used to work at Boeing.  When I say, used to, I mean it had been 9 years since he worked there.  One day he was driving to his current place of employment, and pulls into the parking lot, and realizes, he's at Boeing.  His brain had gone back in time and driven him to the employee parking lot of his previous position.  That's a work habit. 

My father was always an early riser.  Years on a farm and then the military ingrained in him the desire to wake up around 5:00 in the morning.  I could never understand this, but years after he needed to, he would still rise every morning, out of habit.

I worked in a cubicle for 9 years myself.  Different jobs, but a cubicle nonetheless.  So when I moved into new office space in April that had a cubicle, I set up my computer and was hit with the strangest emotion.  Fear. I was afraid a boss was about to come by and tell me what to do.  That was a habit. 

I've run my own company for six years.  I've had an office for the last three, a retail space in Ladue that was very nice and most important, mine.  When I moved to Dallas, I tried the home office, but decided to sub-lease some space, and the first available was a row of cubicles inside an office of a friend of a friend. I figured it would be fine, so I took it.  And after a few days, the "boss" feeling went away, and I worked 10-12 hours at a clip. 

So imagine my surprise when the guy who rented me the space walked up to my cubicle and asked to speak with me, privately in his office.  I walked back to his office, and he told me that I couldn't sublease anymore.  The office management was notified of new keycode access, and when they realized it was a sublease, pointed out they weren't allowed to do this.  It wasn't a big deal - in fact I had my eye on an executive suite two blocks from my gym I was going to move into in August, but the next 10 minutes were surreal. 

People wouldn't meet my eye when I walked by.  When I handed in my keys, one asked for the mouse I had borrowed that morning.  I exchanged addresses with the guy I had become friendly with, and promised to stay in touch.  I took my Red Bull from the fridge, dumped the salad I had saved for later, and erased my data from a whiteboard behind me. I had to box up my stuff, and when I was done, they cut me a check for the unused portion of my rent!   Short of having a security guard escort me out, what happened was exactly what would have happened if I was actually fired.

But, there was no emotional aspect to it.  It was like I was being fired on the day I hit the lottery.  It was comical, not sad.  I called my wife and we had a good laugh, and drove to the executive suite to secure a place for the next day at the same price but with more privacy.  30 minutes after leaving, I had a new, better place.  I was fake hired and a new fake job.   

And yet, lingering in the back of my mind, is the recognition that if I had been employed there, if I had needed the job, my emotional response would have been much different.  I haven't ever been fired, but I have fired people, and I've been there when others were fired.  

Yes, my story ends well, because I was never in danger.  And yet, l can't quite shake the feeling that yesterday, I was let go.  Call it an old work habit - a ghost from days past when the threat of losing your job every day was real.  Even though today it is my responsibility to hire, manage, and make a payroll, old habits die hard.  From Boeing parking lots to early rising to bad coffee in the breakroom - every day at work is creating a habit in who you are.  

How Do You Describe What You Do?

I was having a very pleasant meal last night, and thought I'd share a conversation.

JD: What do you do for a living?  

Dinner Companion: I work as a radiologist.

JD: A Radiologist?

DC:  Yes.  Do you know what that is? 

JD:  Oh, yes, I love DJ's.  What's your favorite music? 

DC:  That's a good one. 

JD:  It's X-Rays,  right?  You do the x-rays ? 

DC: Close.  I don't take them, I interpret them.  A x-ray technician takes them.

JD:  That makes sense.  Wait.  I have a question.  

DC: Yes?

JD:  You said you work as a radiologist.  You didn't say you were a radiologist.

DC:  hmmm, I never thought of that.

JD: It's an interesting choice of words.  Most people say they are "a blank," or they say they work for someone.  But you said work for.  I wonder if that's because you're not attached to one place, but move around so much. 

DC:  It's possible.  I do work for a single company, but we're contracted out to different hospitals and clinics. 

JD: So it could be that "you work as a radiologist," is a phrase based on the style of work you do.  That's very interesting. 

We moved on from that, but it got me to thinking, who else has interesting phrases to describe what they do?  We know that inflated titles is common, with teachers calling themselves "educators" and garbage men calling themselves "environmental impact technicians," and salespeople calling themselves, "account executives" or "account managers."  But how would explaining your career help a recruiter understand your motivations? 

When someone has ambitions, you hear them say:

"I currently works as a (server, retail associate, accountant), but I'm taking night classes for (insert profession here)."

Technical folks tend to define themselves by title: " I'm a network architect."

Financial folks (corporate) define themselves by the company they work for:

"I work with Ameren, or Citigroup, or Peabody." 

Financial planners just say: 'I'm a financial planner with "company.'"

Small business owners come in three sizes: 

"I own a company" (I've had it for a long time). 

"I run a company. (I work very hard)

"I founded a company" (we're not profitable, yet)

Any others I missed?

Advanced LinkedIn Recruiting Webinar From The Social Media Headhunter

I've got a new webinar for LinkedIn that we're doing at Netshare's The Expert Connection tomorrow. 

The signups have been the best we've seen in the last year, a sign either of LinkedIn's IPO, or a recovering economy. 

Here's the link to the advanced webinar.  The registration fee is $100, and you will receive a video download link after the presentation.  

Why is it Advanced? 

This time, we're not talking about how to understand LinkedIn.  We're not discussing the features.  We're walking through a series of my personal recruiting experiences, learning how to integrate not only LinkedIn, but your entire social network to source and recruit candidates. 

How can unmarked Twitter accounts improve your LinkedIn Sourcing? 

How can Slideshare be used to get candidates to respond faster? 

What secrets in profiles of your current employees can be used to identify new employees?

The secrets behind LinkedIn Groups, from a community manager expert

How mobile and location based services can alter your recruiting strategy. 

Why LinkedIn should be the second site that go to, not the first. 

What I'm talking about can't be taught by social media experts, and it is not known by recruiting experts.  Come learn from the Social Media Headhunter how Social CRM will change the way you look at the full recruiting process. 


Why Our Clients And Managers Say The Things They Do

I once sat in a meeting with a number of staffing firms listening to an executive tell us that he didn't mind putting food on our tables, but he didn't want any of us getting rich off of his company. 

At the time, I, like the rest of the folks there, ketp a stony face, and said nothing, but inwardly, most of us must have either been laughing or indignant.  What business was it of his what we made?  If we provided people at the market rate and they did the job, how exactly did that impact his business?  We didn't benefit from his cost savings, so why should he benefit from ours? 

This isn't the kind of thing you're supposed to talk about in polite company (you're not supposed to question big clients), but I was reading through a book that described why exactly the executive felt the need to say something. 

The book is called Organizing America: Wealth, Power, and the Origins of Corporate Capitalism,  and it was provided to me long ago by the Princeton University Press.  I picked it back up for some light reading, and saw I had marked some 30 pages, almost all for blog material.  Despite it's title, it is not a leftwing academic title.  It's well-researched, and gives a lot of excellent background on the formation of textile firms, railroads, and other corporate entities in the United States. 

Key to this discussion, and the book isn't in front of me so I'll paraphrase, is the understanding that outsourcing, which used to simply be known as contracting, has a long and glorious history, but it's essential character is to provide costs savings to the corporate parent, without giving the appearance of providing to high of a benefit to the contractor.  While that seems to just be common sense, you can see the same tension I started describing at the front of this post in negotiations between marketing and product finishing in the context of 18th century textile mills in Massachusetts. 

This is a phenomenon we see in many instances, where human beings, using their internal logic, speak based on their position rather than on the general market. This is an important step to learn in business, as we often ascribe false reasoning to our clients and managers based on our emotional reactions to their words, rather than understanding why they make the statements they do.  Understanding where the come from helps us learn how to overcome their objections. 

Let me give you another example, this one internal.  I've had three managers do a very weird thing.  All three were recently promoted into a position, and they needed me to help them achieve an objective I didn't believe in.  In each case, the manager told me it was my job to help them, and that they wanted me on board.  They didn't say why.  They just demanded acquiescence.   Their words were all similar.  

Manager: Are you on board?

Me: Yes

Manager: I want to hear you say it.

Me: I said yes, I'm with you.

Manager:  No, I want you to say, I'm on board with you.

Me: I'm on board with you.

On it's own, the conversation hardly bears any merit.  Managers say these kind of things all the time.  But after the second time, and then the third, something was clear.  These managers had nothing in common.  Different industries, different parts of the country.  And yet, they all had a need to have me speak out loud, as to reassure them.  Even though each of them had used coercion to get me to agree to their point of view, and they must have known that I was responding simply because they told me to.

And yet, they sounded the same.

What happened is in each case, a new manager saw me as a leader in the office, and wanted to demonstrate to me they were in charge.  They used the words that gave them the illusion of control, because they knew they didn't have control.  Six months before and six months after, this conversation would not have mattered.  

Do you see?  It was their position that led them to say what they said, just as it was the position of the executive to tell us he didn't want us getting rich (a statement that has at least 200 years of history behind it).  

True innovation, and great salesmanship, comes from differentiating between what is expected, and what is possible, in client relations.  Comprehending why a client, manager, or personal relationships speaks certain phrases is the value of experience.   

A Facebook Training Video From Two Years Ago Doesn't Work Anymore

Two years ago, I launched a series of training videos for recruiters and small businesses focused around the use of social networks to sell, recruit, and market.  I had titles for LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, SEO,and Web 2.0 tools. 

This is an example of one of the trailers for Facebook. 


And it's now only about 20% accurate. 

In two short years, the old ways of recruiting on Facebook are no longer relevant, and in fact, the training I do for Facebook now is almost 180 degrees in a different direction.  Was I wrong before?

Not at all.  Facebook has made big changes in content, sharing, and privacy in the last few years, and in doing so, their usefulness in business has increased greatly.  Where ads on social media used to be low click through, today they account for 1/3 of total search spending (and they actually work - heck, even I click on ads now).  Search functions are upgraded to insane levels, and even the content strategy is different.  You used to create content on a blog and send it to Facebook.  Now, creating separate content on Facebook in most cases is better for you, and in fact expected by your fans. 

Ultimately, this is good for all industries, but it is trying.  I shut down the stores last year because the effort in creating new content was too much to handle.  Still, it's fun to look back on what was.  

Now here's the kicker.  My SEO disk is also out of date.  There's still some good information on the basics of SEO for recruiters, but changes in the Google Algorithm, and the entrance of Bing as a player, make it the second worst disk to now have.  You can see this as a response to Facebook, as Google made changes to stay relevant, including real-time results from social networks. 

The web 2.0 disk is old because half of the companies on there are out of business or were bought out, or now charge for their service. 

But the Twitter disk, and the Linkedin disk, both have staying power.  While there have been cosmetic changes to both systems, and new add-ons in the advanced sections, the basic LinkedIn and Twitter strategies, both for sale and for recruiting, have not changed in the last two years.

Make of that what you will.  



Social Media Talent Launching In Dallas, St Louis

I'll be in town this week, meeting with a few clients and prospects, and speaking at a panel at SLU.  Drop me a line if you want to chat, but our new business is called Social Media Talent. It's a staffing firm for social media consultants, working in partnership with Craig Fisher of Talent Net Live.  Craig is a trainer and recruiting expert with a similar background to my own.

Social Media Talent is a unique staffing firm in that we're providing long-term contractors for corporate clients having difficulty finding and keeping their own social media talent.  The gap we saw was between entry-level practitioners and strategists who can provide high-level guidance, but won't work internally with a client to drive the kind of change necessary for long-term success.

Craig and I focus on productivity in Sales, Recruiting, Customer Service, and Marketing, and our personal networks give us access to the best talent in the country.  It's an exciting time, and we're glad to be driving real change in the social media world.

Jim Durbin Founds Social Media Talent

Social Media Talent is a new kind of staffing firm for mid-career social media talent. Utilizing a unique blend of traditional staff augmentation and a proprietary training program, SMT places highly qualified consultants into corporations to execute marketing, recruiting, and social media strategies.

Working in tandem with outside agencies or in-house personnel, the Social Media Talent consultant provides a steady presence to train, promote, consult, create and implement social strategies within the corporation, ensuring maximum value for your staffing dollar.

There are many high level strategists and entry level employees in social media, but the middle career consultant doesn't yet exist for social business. We aim to create that middle niche and own it for years to come.

Learning About Recruiting In The Late 90's

My first experience with recruiting came in the 1990's. It was my job to wrangle up some friends and get them to come work for a local catering outfit.  $8-10 for them, and I wasn't paid, but it was social networking nonetheless.

My second experience was hiring employees for Abercrombie and Fitch. We'd bring in young folks in college (SLUH primarily), and those on break, and hire them to work because they had a certain look.  There was actually a "look book" that was put out. It was my first experience with sexual harassment.  When a really hot girl came in, all the male managers would interview her.  And then of course there was the jean folding.  They weren't bad guys - they were just young guys, and no one stood up to them.  Truth is - many of the women liked it, which is why they dated the managers.  Still - the hiring was interesting, because the brand was the best at the time.  People worked at Abercrombie because it was cool.  You made minimum wage, and had to buy the clothes, but people worked there because their employment branding was effective.

My third experience with recruiting was as a manager's assistant for a call center.  I was the first level of interviews for an inbound sales team, and my filtering was horrible.  Of course, so was the level of resumes.  The company decided to pull people off the floor and use them to bring in resumes.  They were incented with $10 a resume.  After making thousands with no hires, they moved on.  Turns out they were calling Apple Temp Staffing offices and asking them to fax over resumes.  Easy money.  That was my first experience with how incentive programs are useless if they aren't managed well. The resume scam was like a corporate version of the Sorceror's Apprentice, but the funny thing was it continued for two months after I reported it.  No one I reported to cared - because it wasn't their budget.

And that was my first lesson in office politics.

What makes all of this interesting, at least to me, is how these practices are commonplace.  Small businesses still look for friends and family to staff.  Retail hiring is all about the brand and the look.  And high-turnover jobs will always be subject to internal scams as managers seek to alleviate the hiring problem with a "system."

Understanding how this works is the first step to being a better recruiter, or manager.

Back In The Old Days

The first staffing firm I worked in was a satellite office in Los Angeles.  We had a Monster and a Dice account, but our primary files was a stack of resumes about 6 feet tall that came from a pair of files in the corner.  We would take the files, call people, and "update their resume," while putting them into the computer.

Good times.  And as I progressed in the organization, I would always start my recruiters out on those paper files - learning to pick up the phone, dial, ask questions, and enter information into the recruiter.  Those that did well in that first week excelled. Those who struggled with just that simple task, never got it and quickly moved on.

Today we have the fancy applicant tracking systems that are supposed to solve all our problems, but I still maintain that working with paper files the first week or two is the key to good training, both for the phone and for entering data into the computer.

Yes, I do a lot of training and talking abotu social media, but the secrets of my recruiting success has always been more phone calls than google searches or board resumes.  And while I use social media to prospect these days, I use the phone to close the deal.

Paying For Client Entertainment: Why Not The Gun Range?

Back in the salad days of recruiting, when I was an account manager selling staffing to local companies, I had an expense account.   At every firm I went to, it was understood that meals, drinks, coffee, golf, and the occasional entertainment expense was not only acceptable, it was required.  In fact, on one occasion, I was told that my expense reports were not robust enough, and I needed to spend more if I wanted to be score highly in my next employee evaluation.  I spent more.

At my last company before starting my firm, excessive expenses were frowned upon.  The company was a public one, and profitability played into the manager's bonus, so there was no pressure to spend for the joy of it.  Spending was okay, but no one said double your account his month. 

I don't know if things have changed in the last several years - certainly now that I own the business the money I spend is more select - but I wonder how much is has changed for the rest of the industry.  I know my wife often laments my paying for meals - she thinks it's a residue of having an expense account all those years.

I bring this up because yesterday I was down at the gun range test firing a Colt 1911, and it dawned on me as I was paying how awesome it would have been to take clients to the range instead of the golf course. 

1) Even the most liberal of guys likes to fire a gun now and then.

2) Enthusiasts will think you are the best account manager. EVER.

3) It only takes an hour, first an afternoon or morning for golf.

4) It's relatively cheap, even if you have to rent the gun.  $100-150 is cheaper than golf and sometimes even drinks.

5) You stand out.  No one forgets firing a weapon. 

Sure, there might be some kind of complaints if you announce it to their office, but it's a great way to relieve stress, and get someone out of the office at lunch. 

Any account managers want to weigh in anonymously?  I'm tweeting this as well.