Career Transition Mythology - Part Two

The more I think about it, the more career transition myths I come up with, but for the sake of brevity, we’ll keep it to ten – for now. Here are five more to add to the previous list:

1) The myth: If you have a terrific interview, with instantaneous great feedback, the odds are good that you’ll get an offer.

The reality: Think of the interview as just the first part of a process.  What happens after the interview is almost as important as the interview itself.  

A follow-up email is imperative, within 24 hours. It’s not a matter of etiquette. It’s about marketing, and about solidifying the points you made on the interview. You want to reiterate why you think the position is a great fit (“fit” being one of my favorite job search words). You may want to add something that you may have not had the opportunity to include in the interview. You know how you sometimes leave an interview and all of a sudden realize that you left out a critical element? The follow-up email is the opportunity to fix that.  

Keep the email short and business-like, with short paragraphs, or perhaps bullet points. Make it easy to scan, like all business communications. Reiterate your interest in the position.  

Another follow-up element is staying in touch. Never let more than five to ten business days elapse without some sort of contact. It should be a low-key voicemail or email, just “checking in” on the status of your candidacy. Maybe if the process drags out (more common than not), you offer to come in again to make their process easier. Maybe that sounds a bit presumptuous, but I think it’s a “why not?” if the process is lagging. Nothing to lose!  

2)The myth: Spending a couple of hours a day calling contacts and answering postings should just about do it for allocating time to any job search.

The reality: Time management and prioritization are critical elements of a successful career transition. For the unemployed, it’s a full-time job. Research, building and maintaining a contact database, maintaining accurate records of all activities, reaching out, and aiming for as many as five live meetings a week should create an extremely busy schedule. A truly proactive search is time-consuming.    

For employed people, it’s tougher. I highly recommend a quota system for those on a search, i.e., a certain amount of dedicated time per day. Even if it’s just 15 minutes of reading about a targeted area, that’s part of the process. The key is to maintain momentum by aiming for some time every day, whether it’s reading or making a phone call, or trying to get one live meeting per week.

3) The myth: “Networking” means calling everyone you know, and asking for job leads and new contacts.  

The reality: Real networking is a process.  It’s not a quick introduction, or one meeting. As with sophisticated sales technique, it’s cultivating relationships – over a period of time. It’s also more subtle than just asking friends for leads. Another label for the concept is “indirect marketing.”  

Each meeting should have three objectives, which is a good way to measure its effectiveness. 

  • First, the relationship itself is key; so is maintaining it after the initial contact.  
  • Second, the meeting should be structured around prepared questions that both reflect your knowledge of the industry, and the self-marketing questions you wanted to ask in the first place. 
  • Third, what you may have thought the whole thing was about, a chance to expand your network by asking if there’s a possibility of referrals to others who might be helpful.  

4) The myth: A great 15-second “elevator pitch” is critical to your success in any career transition.

The reality: The very idea of a 15-second pitch strikes me as ridiculous.  Yes, it might be appropriate for that elevator, but who wants to be pitched on an elevator? It also might work well at a social or professional gathering, since you don’t want to corner anyone with a full pitch. Your objective there, after all, is just to get some business cards for future reaching out.

A pitch is a 1 ½ - 2-minute summary of who you are, what your skills and experience have been, something memorable that makes you different from others, a one-sentence job history, and a summary of all of it to cement what you’ve already stated. 

A great pitch is one of the hardest aspects in transition and one of the more critical. It’s not only imperative for the “tell me about yourself” question on an interview, but it’s also a great introduction in a networking meeting, a way of establishing yourself on a new job, a good outline for scripting your approach and follow-up emails. In other words, it’s your brand, and you want to use it as the cornerstone of your transition.

5) The myth: Cast a wide net in your search. Apply for everything. Talk with everyone. The numbers are bound to work in your favor.

The reality: Designating clearly defined targets (Plan A, Plan B, and maybe even Plan C) is the critical first phase of any transition. It’s not necessarily what’s available out there; it’s what you want, and what is feasible.  

After figuring out what the possible targets will be, it’s important to then research what their markets are. If it’s a target which may have only two or three organizations that might hire into those positions, it’s not a great statistical target – unless the other(s) have more possibilities. Overall, you want a high probability of success, contingent on a large number of possible options in the target.  

An unfocused search might work, just by sheer randomness – but not that often. A targeted search will work faster and better, assuming you’ve performed a basic due diligence on the feasibility of those targets first.  

Here’s a good philosophy to stick to: The best work situation is one where someone in career transition looks for what fits his/her life, rather than fitting the life to the career. This will add to the necessary focus.  

Avoiding these myths will help keep any career transition on track.  


For a quick course on networking, pick up my Ebook, Networking: How to Make the Connections You Need

If you're looking for more in-depth advice on your job search, In Search of the Fun-Forever Job: Career Strategies that Work is available in paperback and Ebook.

Closing the Deal - The Wrong Concept for Interviews

When I’m analyzing a client’s or student’s career transition, trying to create a diagnosis of what may be going wrong , I’ll take a look at several critical elements:

  • Are there two or three clearly defined targets?  How were these chosen?
  • Are there well-designed pitches for these targets that will establish the value and unique qualities of the job seeker?
  • Is his/her networking leading to contacts with decision makers?
  • Are networking meetings resulting in new information, a reinforced or new relationship, and new potential contacts?  
  • If interviews have taken place, is there a problem getting to the subsequent rounds? 

It is the last item on this checklist that is one of the most difficult to figure out. The job seeker is getting interviews, which is usually the most difficult part of the process. That means all the other components are working, indicating that what I consider to be the toughest aspects, especially relationship-building, have been successful. And she or he is getting past the first round of interviews, also a tough obstacle.  

Getting to the next round

I think the interview is generally the easiest part of the career transition process to fix.  

Learning how to answer the difficult questions, how to present well, how to actively listen and respond accordingly are more mechanical and direct than the somewhat amorphous nature of building networks.  

But something goes wrong when the applicant doesn’t get past that second round. Sometimes it’s pure chemistry, and sometimes it’s just not a good match. It can also be luck of the draw, perhaps even the timing of the interview. And, too often, it’s impossible to figure out what didn’t work; prospective employees end up trying to read tea leaves, endlessly.   

When the process ends after the second or third round (or later), I will ask a client or student to tell me details of all of the interviews. What I’m particularly interested in is – what was the difference in substance and tone between the second and third rounds or between subsequent ones?  

Where job seekers go wrong

In a majority of situations that haven’t worked, I have learned that the applicant’s tone has changed. 

The problem, then, might be one of two issues that occur in the advanced stages of an interview process. First, there’s the sales notion of “closing the deal.” In other words, pitch and sell hard. Be more direct. Change tone and be more assertive. 


I usually advise job seekers to maintain the same tone that got them there in the first place. If an applicant gets past the initial screen, it means a representative of the organization feels it’s a good fit, stylistically and substantively. So why change in the next – or the one after that - round? 

I think it’s important to stay the same throughout the process, continue being the person they thought was a good fit at the beginning. The only thing that should change, perhaps, is adding more “war stories,” more behavioral examples of accomplishments.  

The other potential problem in advanced rounds is an assumption that it’s “in the bag,” so acting like it’s a done deal, with confidence, will reinforce the interviewer’s positive perception.


Never assume anything. The selling nature of interviewing should be continued throughout the entire hiring process, including negotiations. It doesn’t stop. Not even when a decision-maker indicates that you’re the lead candidate. (How many times have job seekers heard that one, and then never heard from the person again?) The tone should stay the same, and the selling should continue. 

What works

For as long as I can remember, I’ve advised people in career transition to always stick to my version of President Kennedy’s often-quoted inaugural speech, “Ask not what the organization can do for you; rather, ask what you can do for the organization.” That should be the focus of all interviews, and especially the later ones. With no change of tone.  


For a quick course on networking, pick up my Ebook, Networking: How to Make the Connections You Need

If you're looking for more in-depth advice on your job search, In Search of the Fun-Forever Job: Career Strategies that Work is available in paperback and Ebook. 

Interviews are Getting Trickier - 5 Tips for Avoiding Pitfalls

I started to notice around 10-15 years ago that many organizations were taking much longer to hire. It was especially noticeable right after recessions in 2001-2002, and again in 2008-2009. 

The big investment banks were an exception to that change--long, involved interview situations have been part of their hiring process for years. 

In general, though, what used to be 2-3 rounds of interviews at most organizations somehow has evolved into 5-6. Gradually, more hurdles have been introduced into the equation. Assessments. Interviews with potential subordinates. Group interviews. Initial phone screens (more and more common). Delays. Lack of response. All resulting in a much longer process.  

I'm not sure that the increased hurdles have yielded better results, but one thing is certain--organizations are afraid of making hiring mistakes, and want to try to guarantee a successful hiring process. Yes, it's expensive to hire the wrong candidate, but it’s not yet clear whether the new, extended interviewing has guaranteed the desired results.  

Unfortunately, job seekers will encounter these labyrinthine processes more often than not, and it's important to try to get through them by avoiding some of the pitfalls.   

Let's take a look at a few possible steps you might face in a protracted process: 

  • Group interviews 

Group interviews are tough. You never know whether to address the questioner or behave as if the interview is supposed to be a performance for an audience. 

I always think it better to address your answers to the person who asks the question. That way you can avoid the anxiety of having to perform for a group; the others in the group will hear the response, too. Responses to individuals are also more personal.

  • Interviews with potential subordinates 

Interviews with potential subordinates are tricky. You're always wondering whether the subordinate has already applied for the same job and been turned down (and may be a political problem later on). Or, you're thinking you need to impress with your command of the situation. 

I think the best way to handle this kind of interview is to treat it the same way you would treat any other interview situation. Be prepared with those war stories that are addressed in the interview chapter of The Fun-Forever Job ("Would You Please Remove Your Blouse?"), to demonstrate that you know what you're talking about, and you've done your due diligence on the organization.

  • Phone screens

I recommend what my senior sales clients have suggested, which is to have some scripted bullets in front of you, so that you don't go too far off target (time is limited and you want to make best use of it). Use a headset, so you can gesture, which adds energy to your phone manner. Stand up and walk around, which will add some depth to your voice. Don't worry about not getting much feedback; few phone screens yield any significant feedback, and you can't read the body language. Just accept that, and realize it's more typical to walk away from the interview not knowing anything than feeling optimistic about it.  

  • Delayed response

I think it's an unwritten law that hiring managers and/or human resources professionals will not respond when they say they will. 

I can think of many reasons for this, but it's important to understand it's not usually about you; it's about not being able to get a decision together from many decision-makers. Or a requisition signed. Or funding secured. Or a person terminated (sounds awful – but that's frequently the case). So the applicant ends up reading tea leaves, endlessly ruminating and interpreting the signs, which is rarely useful, while sitting by the phone or at the computer. 

My general thinking is you never let more than 5-10 business days go by without reaching out. A simple email or phone call restating your interest, or restating what a great fit this job is--and why, and a request about the status of the situation. At this point, I love to ask my clients or students, what do you have to lose? Ego can’t be that important anymore. You just want an answer. 

Years ago, when I was doing heavy recruiting at a large bank, if I didn't hear from a prospective employee, I would assume the person had lost interest, or found another job. So what's the harm in expressing interest, in a low-key manner? No desperation, of course, and no accusations of "You said you'd call me…"  Bottom line--be proactive.   

Here's where you'll need to do some juggling. Be proactive but don't try to "close the deal." Closing the deal means a change of behavior. That's the exact opposite of what should be done. If you've been asked back several times, that means they're interested. Why change your tactic? Be the same adorable, charming, brilliant person you were all along, because that's the person they've asked back--not the person who changes tone and becomes someone different (the deal closer). There is an old baseball adage that applies here: Dance with what brung ya. In other words, use the same strategy that got you that far.   

Assessment seems to be gaining some traction in some companies. That's a topic for a whole other blog. Tricky issue.  

You need to stay steady through all these steps, maintaining a consistent tone and building your value by showing what you can do for "them." I hope most readers won't have to go through all these steps, and can get to a decision with maybe two rounds. But it's always good to be prepared.