Create your own job

Over on GL Hoffman’s blog, Seth Godin is telling people not to look for a job. And I agree. Godin thinks it’s smarter to start a business. And I agree.

What’s a headhunter doing telling people to start their own business rather than to go find a job? Well, I’d rather have one company client hiring lots of people than one job candidate filling one job. So I’d love it if you’d just go start a business and then give me your business.

I might as well ask you to wrench your neck 270 degrees and then fold your head under your armpit so you can walk backwards while looking ahead. Most people just aren’t cut out for it, though everyone would learn how to be better at any job they do — if they tried to start a business. And some would keep at it and a few would succeed.

I love Seth’s idea, but if you’re gonna tell people to do something I think you need to tell them how. So let’s look at two ways to do this.

First, if you’re never gonna try to start your own business, you should nonetheless approach your next job like it’s a business. Hell, the employer does. (If the employer could avoid hiring you or anyone else, he would. He doesn’t want to create a job. He wants to produce more profit.) So if you want to get a leg up, get your hands around that job like it is a business. Show the employer what you’re made of, or you don’t deserve the job. Here’s the basic blueprint to Create your next job without having to actually start a business.

Or, wanna have some real fun because you’re smarter than the next guy? Good for you. Don’t even pick out a new job. Go ahead and design your new company. Design your product. Then go find the vendors you will need in order to produce it. Find the customers who will buy it. Meet the competitors that you will put out of business. Go talk to all of them — they’ll be glad to meet you. (Aw, man, these meetings are looking a little like veiled job interviews, aren’t they? Well, consider that a bonus.) Know what? Every one of them is a potential funding source for your new biz, and they are also all potential employers. Your competitor may hire you to avoid beating its head against your wall. A vendor may want to use your idea to sprout a new product line. Your customer — well, customers are hard to figure out. Sometimes they want to bring an idea in-house… or they just wanna buy you out.

This latter approach to job hunting came up when a pair of software developers — a husband/wife team in Croatia — asked me whether they should Get a job, or start a business? It was fun to develop the path between both options to make them both viable. It’s not rocket science. Take a look and see if it’s the how-to solution you need.

So should you try to get a job? I dunno. I say, start by creating a job by designing the work you want to do as a business, then decide whether to do it for someone else or whether to work for yourself. Find a way to produce profit and go show it to people you respect. Either they’ll help you start a new biz or they’ll hire you.

Good will and squandered assets

If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will soon. The economy drives job hunters — especially if they’re unemployed — to call everyone they know and ask for job leads. It’s an awkward request to make and people get understandably nervous about asking. It’s wonderful when friends and acquaintances can help out.

I help whenever I can and my heart goes out to those in dire straits. I urge you to make thoughtful introductions for people you hold in high esteem. (On the other hand, never recommend a job hunter who isn’t worthy. You will risk your own reputation.)

But let him beware to whom I give a valuable introduction who does not follow up. Do that to me and I’ll never give you the time of day again because you have wasted the hard-earned favor of someone who trusts and respects me. I have spoken to that contact, referred you and vouched for you. My contact is ready and expecting your call. I have just written a check to you against the good will I have amassed someone else’s bank. If you don’t make the call, I look bad. I’ve wasted an asset.

I get great satisfaction when I make introductions that lead to job offers, business deals or just to enjoyable conversations and new friendships that may blossom into business later. The recipient of the favor benefits. But so do I because the quality of the introductions I make reflect on me, and my credibility grows. My contact trusts that the next time I make an introduction, it will be another good one.

I know how frantic the search for a job can be. But don’t lose track of the “checks” your friends write to you. Enjoy the good will and use it fully. But treat a personal referral with respect. Follow up. Call the person who’s expecting your call. Behave like the person that I have vouched you are. But if you squander my assets, don’t ever call me again.

The real reason employers want your salary history: Hiring is a crapshoot

We’ve talked salary history to death. I dunno — it still astonishes me that HR demands it. Not one compelling reason has been offered to justify why HR must have it. On the other hand, we’ve heard from enough job hunters who routinely decline to disclose their salary, and life still goes on. The Job Police don’t show up at anyone’s home with warrants for old pay stubs. Lots more folks are aware that they can say NO. (I’ll offer this caution again: Withholding salary history could cost you an interview or a job. Judge for yourself before you act. Saying NO ain’t for everybody.)

Which brings us to a bigger matter. The real reason employers want your salary history.

Now, I don’t accuse employers of conspiring to defraud job applicants of decent job offers.  (Though, I do think some companies — including the one represented by the HR manager we all heard from — are indeed defrauding applicants.) I think the problem is far bigger. In most cases, I think companies demand salary information because they don’t know how to run their business for profit.

When they’re trying to fill a position — and put a value on a job applicant — I believe employers just plain don’t know how the job contributes to profit. They have no idea how to judge your ability to do the job or how the work will contribute to profit. In other words, they have no idea what you are worth. The job is just a line in a budget, and the number is right around what it was last year.

So for most employers, hiring is a crapshoot. They don’t know how one additional employee hired today will affect profits. Think about that.

When was the last time an employer showed you a business plan for the job in question — with a number in it that shows what you’re expected to bring to the bottom line?

I contend that this is the problem. Employers want your salary history because they need to start somewhere. If they knew how the job in question contributed to profit, and if they could figure out how you will contribute to that profit, well, then the entire hiring process changes. We want only people who will boost our profits significantly. In fact, we’ll pay based on how much extra profit we think you will bring to the bottom line. So here’s the business plan, here’s what this job brings to our bottom line. Show us what you think you can do — that’s what we really care about. That’s what we base offers on.

I contend that the only way a company can rationally determine a job offer is to first put together a business plan for every position the company fills. Then it must measure an applicant against that plan. Otherwise, hiring is a crapshoot. In fact, hiring is a crapshoot and employers want your salary history because they don’t know the value of the job in question. They have no idea how much profit it can produce. So they’re flat on their asses, using what your last employer paid you, to predict their own future.

That’s a woo-hoo! big problem.

Salary history: Will HR put up or shut up?

In recent postings (How to make more money, Why you should tell me your salary) we’ve discussed whether job applicants should disclose their salary history to an employer. This topic has taken wing elsewhere: On BNet (Should Jobhunters reveal salary requirements?), on PunkRockHR (Candidates, Salary, and Disclosure) and on Job Hacking (What happens when you don’t pay attention to statistics?).

Job hunters seem to clearly recognize why it’s not a good idea to disclose, even if some feel pressured to do so. (Hey, I don’t knock anyone who desperately needs a job and decides to disclose. But I think that’s a short-term fix and later the tire is gonna blow on you big-time…)

Some in HR offer all kinds of reasons to support their position that applicants should — or must — disclose salary history or forfeit their chance at a job. I find none of them compelling.

But I don’t think HR managers are dopes or even disingenuous. I think they’re brainwashed and can’t see past their own bureaucracy. So I’ve been trying to figure out how to turn the tables and help HR solve the problem without waiting for candidates to cough up their salary info. That way these employers won’t have to pass up good candidates.

So here’s my suggestion and my simple business logic. HR contends it’s legitimate to ask for an individual’s salary history and that the information is a crucial component when assessing a candidate. HR contends salary information should be shared in the context of a job application and interview to enable both parties to determine whether further discussion is realistic, and to ensure that if discussions lead to an offer, acceptance of the offer is a realistic possibility. HR contends that salary history helps an employer judge a candidate.

So here’s what HR should do. Following the same logic and rationale, at the point where HR would ask for the candidate’s salary history, HR should instead share: Read more

Why you should tell me your salary

In How to make more money we’re discussing why a job hunter should decline to state salary history. People who stand firm and say NO to the demand for salary info argue it’s the only position to take. HR folks and some headhunters argue that if an employer requires your salary info, you’re dead meat if you decline. They claim it’s not smart to say NO.

Let’s change the question from, Should you disclose your salary history? to Why should you disclose it?

So here’s the challenge to employers (and HR) and to headhunters: What can you tell the candidate to convince her that it’s to her advantage to tell you her salary? How will disclosure clearly benefit her? I’d like to see some solid reasons why it’s to the candidate’s advantage. (“Because if you don’t tell us, we won’t consider you,” is not an answer.)

I think there are some valid reasons to disclose to a headhunter, but no good reasons at all to disclose to an employer.

Uh-oh. A good job board. If you wanna call it that.

It’s easy to criticize all the opportunistic online career businesses — they are everywhere and they’re obvious. So, is every career-related site online worthless, crooked or just plain dog doo?

Of course not. There’s some good stuff online. I regularly try to point you to sites that publish non-career content that I think can be used to advance your career. Now I’m gonna show you a job board — yes, a job board — that’s worth using. I know that no matter how often I recommend using personal contacts to find jobs, many of you will use job boards anyway. So you might as well be smart about it and use a board that actually does what it claims to do: show you real job listings from real companies, and nothing else.

LinkUp is a new job board with some interesting features. Most interesting is what LinkUp does not do. Here’s the FAQ:

Where do LinkUp job listings come from?
Directly from employers. LinkUp does not accept jobs from third parties. You know: multi-level-marketing operators, recruiters who work in dank basements in unincorporated countries, and those iron-curtain identity thieves. All LinkUp job listings come from employers.

How does LinkUp get its job postings?
It uses spiders to gather real job postings only from real companies. LinkUp does not scrape jobs from other job boards (oops… that’s what the other job boards do). LinkUp doesn’t ask permission to gather the jobs, but no company has ever complained that LinkUp is doing it. LinkUp adds a company’s jobs without charging the company. So if a job is out there on a company web site, you get access to it in one place.

How fresh are the listings?
As fresh as last night. LinkUp gathers jobs and updates its listings every night. If there’s a dead listing in there, it’s because a company itself left the job on its own jobs pages on its own site. (Hey, there’s no law against dumb companies.)

How does LinkUP do that?
Really good programmers and staff who work late.

What happens to my personal data when I apply for a job on LinkUp?
This is what I really like about LinkUp. You don’t fill out forms on LinkUp and LinkUp has no job database or resume database or application database. You find the posting on LinkUp and LinkUp sends you directly to the employer’s web site. Anything you submit goes to the employer, not to LinkUp. (LinkUp cannot control whether an employer might outsource its job-board database to Monster or one of the other boards, but that’s not under anyone’s control but the employer’s. Keep your eyes open anywhere you go. All LinkUp does is let you find a real company’s real jobs on the company’s own site.) This is as clean as a job board is gonna get. If you want better service, use personal contacts to find a job.

Will LinkUp find me a job?
No, Dopey. You do that yourself. What I like about LinkUp is that it won’t find you a ton of detritus that’s been lying around some job board’s database for six years. And it doesn’t let dirt-bag “recruiters” dump their trash into your results page.

Can you guarantee me no problems and that this is legit?
Have you ever heard me guarantee you anything? I don’t. LinkUp was started by GL Hoffman, a guy I’ve worked with and known a long time. If he’s pulling my leg, I’ll never buy him another beer. And when have you ever seen me recommend a job board, anyway?

How does LinkUp make money?
Always follow the money. LinkUp pays me nothing and I don’t pay LinkUp anything. Ever hear of Google? You know those search results up top on the Google page, the ones in the shaded box above the rest of the results? Those are results an advertiser is paying for, but you know that. Like Google, LinkUp puts some paid job listings at the top of its search results, too. But they’re not ads; they’re job listings like all the rest that you’ll see, and they match your search criteria. (They have a colored background so you know what they are.) But if someone clicks on them LinkUp earns some money.

What’s LinkUp going to charge me to searchfor jobs?
Nothing. It’s free for job hunters. It’s free for companies, too, unless they want a couple of their jobs up top in the highlighted section of the results.

Yah, sure. But what does it cost for PLATINUM service when I’m looking for a job?
There is no platinum service, gold service, or anything for a job hunter to buy from LinkUp. They don’t sell resume-writing services, or career coaching, or your information to third parties. It’s free. No catch. LinkUp makes money from companies that want their jobs highlighted in search results.

Well, this doesn’t sound like a job board any more.
LinkUp is not a job board. I called it a job board to get your attention. LinkUp is a search engine that finds jobs on companies’ own web sites.

That’s it. Try it and let me know what you think. If you find a bug, it’s because the geniuses at LinkUp keep tweaking it to make it go faster and to find results more accurately. And if you find something that really bugs you, say so and I’ll dangle a beer to get GL to come over here and answer your question.

How to make more money: Withhold your salary history

One of the most popular articles on is Keep Your Salary Under Wraps. The advice is simple: Don’t disclose your current salary or your salary history when a prospective employer asks you for it.

The reason is also simple: When you disclose your salary information, your negotiating leverage is gone. Your salary history is not any employer’s business. Always decline to disclose, politely but firmly. No matter what they say, no matter what they threaten. In fact, be ready to walk away if they don’t back off. It’s not worth talking to a company that insists on having your salary info.

(Go ahead and post arguments about why employers must have an applicant’s salary history and why applicants must disclose the information if they want to be considered for a job. If you work in HR and I’ve made you nervous, go ahead and level every threat you can think of to protect your hiring hegemony. I’ve heard all the dusty rationalizations. None of them hold water. They are all rubbish. I’ll answer every single one.)

I regularly receive e-mails from readers who take this bold position when applying for a job. They are almost always astonished to realize that employers back off from the demand if the applicant stands firm.

Having controlled their confidential salary information once, people never go back to forking it over. They lose their fear. They are emboldened. They send me stories about how they walk out of interviews when the employer threatens to terminate their candidacy unless they divulge the magic number. People learn to say no, and they realize that conceding is wrong. They realize that employers who insist are a bad risk. Why work for someone who tries to force you to share private information that has no bearing on your interview, on your value, on whether you get an offer, or on what the new salary offer is?

A fellow named Ryan runs a blog called The Idealistic Investor. It’s a new blog, not much stuff on it, but all the articles are about some aspect of personal investing and work — and full of common sense. What I like is that Ryan is a techie. He works in IT (information technology) and he brings a techie’s practical, clear-headed perspective to pesky issues like stress at work, layoffs and what to do with your money.

Ryan is also one of the people who politely but firmly declined to divulge his salary history to an insistent reruiter at a technology company. The phone call ended and so did Ryan’s expectation for a job interview or a job. Learning what happened next is worth your time, and probably a nice bit of change in your next job offer: Do You Disclose Your Salary History? Check it out, then tell me what you think.

[UPDATED 3/17/09] Some of the dialogue here stems from today’s edition of the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter: HR’s salary moxie.