In the summer 2003 PROMAX convention issue of M21, published by www.c21media.net, editor Kris Sofley says she "comes face to face with career strategist Dan Cooper who has some good advice to offer".
I'm reprinting this interview because of its value in understanding what I brand "job crisis management". Kris "gets it". Here is M21's introduction:
Intense competition, diminishing budgets and a continuum of acquisitions, mergers and new network launches have contributed to the television industry's precarious work environment, especially in the marketing and promotion sectors. Now more than ever before, junior, middle and even senior management personnel are formulating strategic career growth plans while also learning the importance of corporate politics, mentoring and networking.
So when M21's Kris Sofley met career strategist Dan Cooper, a former senior producer for 20/20 and member of the Fox News Channel launch team, she asked him for some free career advice.
M21: Let's say a young promotion staffer learns that his boss has jumped ship to another network, leaving the department in a state of chaos. As network executives clamour to hire a replacement, what can that young staffer do to ensure his future with the network?
DC: ÒRegime changes are times of great risk. But he can survive -- I survived three consecutive regime changes at a Fox unit in an executive position, so I know it can be done. YouÕve thrown some curve balls into the equation, and they need to be caught.
The typical chaos that fills the leadership vacuum: this isnÕt only terrible for the emotional state of the staffers in the unit, news of the chaos travels throughout the company, and thatÕs bad news for the current statf. It ushers in the letÕs-clean-house mentality that gets passed on to candidates for the new top job slot. Sadly, some of the staff will never recover from the chaos period. TheyÕll become permanently disaffected and will be dismissed. And itÕs corporate management thatÕs to blame for this.
Here are the rules: do not, at all costs, including losing friends, participate in the bitching, moaning and slacking. If you have good contacts outside the unit, lobby with them, share your concern about keeping the unit focused, and that your loyalty to the company will transfer to the new boss. When the new boss shows up, the ass-kissing festivities will commence. I want you to observe the boss closely, and listen carefully to her words and guide yourself by them. YouÕre going to speak of loyalty and continuity.
But the most important thing youÕre going to do is make a presentation to the new boss of all your projects. Start with what your mission was and then what you accomplished. Describe your innovations; reaffirm your loyalty to the company and to your new boss. And clearly articulate that your mission now is to establish continuity and apply your extraordinary skills to the vision of the new boss. YouÕre going to make it clear that youÕre a doer; you know how the place runs -- that knowledge is invaluable to the new boss -- and that you can be her go-to person and that youÕre discreet. If asked to assess the old boss, say nothing negative. If asked about the chaos, say it was all regrettable, but you were too busy to pay any attention to it and made it your business to have nothing to do with it. Make it clear that you want the company to be your home. Ask tor a first assignment. Nail it. But remember, ultimately you will be leaving the company, willingly or not, so youÕve always got to keep up your resume and contacts. ThatÕs the nature of the business."
M21: Your boss of the past five years, whom you adored, is fired and someone youÕve never heard of comes in to Ôturn the shop aroundÕ for the network. Do you try to bond with the new department head or do you start polishing up your resume?
DC: ÒThis one is easy. You keep closely in touch with the boss you adore, hope he lands a fabulous new challenge, and follow him there! As I said previously, regime changes are times of enormous career risk. First choice is stay with the winner. If for some reason thatÕs not possible, the alternative is both bond with the new department head and have a professional service rewrite your resume.
Follow the steps I mentioned earlier for how to ingratiate yourself with the new boss. And by the way, flirting is out. With regard to your resume, I recommend Resume.com, whom I use (and pay, I have no connection to them), and I would recommend against wasting money on "resume blasting". The only response youÕll get is from companies who want you to pay them to run job searches. IÕm finding that the major job boards like Monster.com, Hotjobs.com and the rest arenÕt delivering the goods right now, for whatever reason. Very few good opportunities are posted. WeÕre back in the age of making direct contact to potential employers, networking, using the Internet in innovative ways to deliver your message and any other guerrilla marketing techniques you can devise to position yourself as a most desirable hire."
M21: Everybody and their brother started their own Ôboutique design firmÕ in the past year or two, and while the independence is appealing for many, others find it hard to let go of that steady paycheck. How does someone know when itÕs time to go solo and, conversely, what steps can people take to buy more time at their present job?
DC: ÒThe best time to go solo is when youÕre young and hot and donÕt have children yet. Those are your prime risk years. It can certainly be done later, and itÕs done all the time. But later in life, if youÕve got a family, youÕre betting their future. Ask yourself some hard questions. Does your spouse have a solid job with good medical benefits? Can you, or you and a partner, put together a business plan that will generate a sufficient business loan to allow you to lease your technology as well as pay for staff, administrative and advertising costs? Most important, are you so hot in your region that clients will leave their current vendors and come to you? Can you attract the artists and editors you want, pay them and give them benefit packages?
While youÕre still working for The Man, put your business plan together. Check the website www.entrepreneurialconnection.com for great advice, and make it mandatory to visit www.sba.gov, the US Small Business Administration web site. ItÕs a tremendous resource. Then, when youÕre ready to make your move, make sure your web site is listed in every directory, such as YahooÕs business category directory. Be sure you appear under your category in your area. And optimise for search engines with Web Position Gold 2.0.
And as tempting as it is...donÕt over-animate and lose search engine position!Ó
M21: What about those people who are just now entering the job market. With the continuing saga of a soft advertising market combined with a weakened economy and further splintering of the television audience, what steps should young marketers take to make themselves more attractive or valuable to potential employers?
DC: ÒMarketers often overlook the most important Ôfirst ruleÕ of marketing and thatÕs knowing the importance of marketing ourselves. ItÕs something weÕve all been told a thousand times -- weÕre our most important life product. Easy to say, but what specifically can you do to land the job in a tight market? How are you going to differentiate yourself from a thousand other marketers looking for work?
Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin, authors of Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition give a list of differentiation techniques on the Trout & Parners website, www.troutandpartners.com. And while I wonÕt go through all of those techniques now, Trout does say that a one great way to differentiate yourself is by being first and suggests, 'the trick is to be first with a good idea': Well, you can do thatl Bring one good idea for the company you are interviewing with as a way of setting yourself apart from the other job candidates. Do your homework, research the company and its current market position and come up with one of the finest ideas youÕve ever devised for that interview. Rather than focusing on getting the job, make your goal to be the first interviewee who presents a good idea"
M21: Are there any other tips or words of wisdom you can share with our readers regarding career strategies, Dan?
DC: "Life in the early zeros is going to be a series of career changes for each of us. WeÕre all going to go through periods of pain and hopefully periods of glory. Each of us needs a career strategy, and we need to be ready to implement crisis strategies. When opportunities arise, we must be wise, never rash. When thereÕs an earthquake at the office, when itÕs time for a life change, take a breath and step back. Make a plan. Put yourself in your bossÕs shoes and try to imagine what pressures heÕs going through.
Never lose sight of your God-given gifts and their great value, and your great value and dignity. Your office may be a mess and your boss a horror, but you have the power to change your relationships with your superiors. You also have the power to find another place to work where your work is recognised and rewarded emotionally and monetarily. But you have to deliver the goods. ltÕs in your hands."
When you have a problem with your boss, or your colleagues, or any other work-related problem threatening your job, the best advice is NOT to shut up and do your work. You CANNOT succeed by keeping your head down. When you hear that from a friend, parent, spouse, agent, whatever, IGNORE THEM.
Hear my credo. This is what I have branded "job crisis management". When you have a job crisis, you GO TO WORK strategizing a complete turn-around in your situation. Use the "Three M" process: Moves, Meetings & Memos. You can survive and prosper in the media jungle.