Thursday, March 12, 2009

John Gross Inc, Quarterly Report, Q1, 2009

I have figured out some good stuff in the 8 weeks since I was freed from my last job, and I wanted to share it here for a few reasons:
  • Some of you may be interested in what I've been up to
  • There may be useful info or ideas here for others in my position
  • My full-time job now is to find my next gig, and I see this as a good way to help accomplish that.
In other words, this is one way to market John Gross Inc.

I got off to a good start after getting the news on January 15th, because I was ready for it. For a couple of years before that, I had been growing more and more unhappy at work. I started networking quietly with friends last spring, showing them the list I had drawn up of all the things I really liked and really hated about my job. Both sides of the list were long! Many of my friends said I should stay where I was, because there were so many good things I liked. I wasn't convinced, but I also wasn't ready to quit without having another job lined up. I updated my resume last fall, and the networking continued, and broadened. So by the time I found out that I was looking for a new place to work, (and that my old employer was happy to pay me to do that for several months), I was ready to get going on that.

That's not to say that I wasn't surprised & shocked by what happened. (and especially by the number of people who joined me out the door that week!). And I was sad to be leaving some really good people, and a product that I had poured 14 years of my life into. So there was still a short period of mourning and dealing with a bunch of very mixed-up feelings.

My first project was to expand my network, primarily using LinkedIn. I probably spent half my time the first 2 weeks sending out LinkedIn invitations, and scouring the contact list of each new connection for more people I knew that I ought to connect to. Along the way I collected a good set of recommendations from my former colleagues, many of them unsolicited. The growing network and the nice words were good medicine to help heal the wounds.

My former employer set me up with a good outplacement service (Knightsbridge), and I attended several of the seminars they offer to brush up on my job-hunting skills. I refreshed my knowledge of Behavioural Interviewing, and did my homework to identify my main competencies, with 10 or so "STAR stories" as examples of how I have demonstrated each of them in the past. Another seminar called "The Persuasion Factor" built on that, showing how to connect those demonstrable skills to what an employer needs, and how to translate some hard questions one might face in an interview into an opportunity to paint that "your need/my skill/here's an example" picture. Seminars on Networking and Research Strategies provided some useful information on how to reach more people, and learn about the companies I'm interested in and the people who work there (the goal being to figure out what their needs are in advance of getting an interview). Another series of 3 seminars explored entrepreneurship, which is a direction I'm considering. Over the past 8 weeks, one full week has gone to these seminars, and it's been time very well spent.

So here's what I've figured out so far:

1) My key competencies that I want to get across to potential employers or partners include:
  • Managing complex logistics to deliver products/projects on time
  • Bringing people/teams together across geographic & cultural distances
  • Engaging customers/partners to make sure they know what we're doing, and to be able to meet their needs and expectations
These are all transferable skills I could bring to different roles than the one I left. Somewhere in there is the "brand identity" for John Gross Inc, though I have not yet distilled it down to a catchy little slogan.

2) My next gig needs to offer most or all of these things:
  • It needs to be a "cool" company or product. "Cool" is a little hard to define, but it includes being innovative in some way. The customers served, and the problems being solved have to interest me and matter to me. There ought to be a certain level of schwag (like cool T shirts).
  • It needs to stand out from the crowd, and be different/unique in some way.
  • The company needs to be a "good" company, in terms of how it treats people and the planet. If the actual work contributes to solving the world's problems in some way, even better.
  • I need to work with smart people I can learn from, whom I enjoy spending time with.
  • I need to respect and believe in the leadership, and know that their values align well with mine.
  • I won't be moving, so the opportunity needs to either be in the Toronto area, or allow me to telecommute with a reasonable amount of travel to do the work.
3) I've identified a few potential opportunities that fit well with everything above, and I've moved to the next level of networking to pursue them. I'm doing that in two ways:
  • Start with people I know and ask them who they know who can help me get where I'm going.
  • Figure out whom I need to reach in a company I'm interested in, and use LinkedIn to work backwards to find people I know who can either introduce me to my target, or get me one step closer. This has been easier than I expected. LinkedIn is very powerful!

So after 8 weeks I have a clear sense of what I do well that should be attractive to an employer or potential business partner. I'm able to articulate those skills and give examples of how I've used them to achieve results in the past. I've got a solid network to help me sniff out opportunities, and help me reach the people I want to sell myself to. And I have a few ideas of opportunities I'm interested in.

That said, I still expect it to take a while longer to land somewhere. The opportunities I'm pursuing aren't advertised jobs; they're roles I need to convince people to create for me. So I'm looking for more opportunities that match my criteria, and that need someone with my skills. If you think of something that would be a good fit, please let me know! If you're not yet LinkedIn to me, now is a good time! And if you feel like adding a recommendation, they're still welcome! As you can see, I've overcome my shyness...

But this stuff goes both ways. So if you are looking for something new and think I can give you a hand, by reviewing your resume or LinkedIn profile, working up your list of competencies and examples, or putting you in touch with someone I know who could help you, just ask.

This quarterly report has not been audited. It contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Smoking Mad

I spent last weekend in Las Vegas with Alison. We had a great time, saw a couple of good shows (Cirque de Soleil’s Zoomanity and some decent stand-up comedy at the Riviera) and we ate too much. I lost less at blackjack than I had budgeted for. And Alison got to see the spectacle that is Las Vegas for the first time. All in all a great little trip. But it also brought me closer to what I have the least tolerance for: smokers.

In Las Vegas, smoking is allowed inside the casinos. It’s been a while (hmm, I guess 14 months, since my last trip to Vegas…) since I've been exposed to smoke indoors. So we were breathing foul air much of the time we were there.

Look, I understand how wonderful smoking is, how good it makes them feel, how it helps them keep off the weight, and look glamourous. Those aspects are all clear to me. I just don’t like having their excretion blown in my face. And that’s what it is: excretion. We have designated, private rooms for people to deposit their solid and liquid forms of excretion, so why isn’t the gaseous form treated the same way?

Why (and I’m back in Toronto now – the Las Vegas bit was just the hook to introduce the smoking thing) do I have to run the gauntlet of smoke when I enter a place of business, with smokers huddled near its front doors?

Why is it considered acceptable for smokers to toss their butts on the sidewalk? It’s spring now here, the snow has melted, and the piles of cigarette butts rival the revealed dog shit for how disgusting they are (excretion, I say!).

Why is it considered normal behavior for smokers to drive with their window half open, flicking their ashes out to be blown back into the car behind them?

OK, not all smokers are as rude as all this, but a lot of them are. It’s just not OK. And it makes me mad.