Women & Interviews

Career Matchmaking
By Patricia Bush

Women & Interviews
Chat Transcript
Beyond The Trick Question
A Lawyer's Adventures
Career Basics For Women
Career Matchmaking
Ms. Xecutive Holds Forth
Ain't No Personnel Jockey
Recruiter's Point of View
Brassy, Foolish Dames
Ask The Headhunter

In the last 10 years I've lived in a variety of economic environments... upstate NY when it was called "totally economically depressed"; the Midwest, always seeming to have healthy business (at least where I was, in Minneapolis and Chicago); Silicon Valley, which was "post boom" but with startups in every neighbor's garage; and now in rural Arizona (I'll spare you the description!).

While I've always managed to be employed, I've noticed something. The worse the environment, the easier it is to get work! How's that? I'm not kidding! The more everyone told me there were no jobs, pay was lousy, no one's hiring. . .the quicker I got a job. My best paying job (and the one I loved the most) was in Rochester, NY where layoffs had hit an all-time high.

What's the trick? Actually no trick at all. Every job I've ever won I've won for one main reason: I approached it not with the desire to just get a job, but with the desire to make the right match for myself and for the employer.

There's a fine line between a headhunter (a la Nick) and a matchmaker. If we are acting as our own "headhunters" when trying to find the best job for ourselves, maybe we should also look at it like we're matchmakers.

For a good match... in job or spouse... you need:

1. similar goals and values

2. mutual appreciation and support

3. desire to see the other person (or thing) grow

4. willingness to change

5. trust

6. commitment

7. love of the "work" or "person"

8. willingness to reward your partner(s)

9. willingness to take risks

It's the goal of a job interview to determine how good a "match" you are making. This is a mutual endeavor as both sides are looking to make a commitment to someone.

In order to do a good job of it, you need to look below the surface to perceive the values that are part of the company or person. Structured, formal question and answer interviews are not going to tell you much. Show and tell is the name of the game.

Before the interview, figure out what you need to know to feel comfortable in that work environment. What are the corporate images and needs? What are their secrets? Everyone tries to put the best face on everything, so you need to be ready to "hear" what's really going on behind the "front".

When I was recruited for a job in NY some years ago, I was a buyer for department store chains. This was an industry undergoing tremendous change and consolidation. Overstock was killing off chain after chain. I was relatively new to the industry, but I'd discovered this "truth" and knew that my particular skill set was well-matched to solving that problem.

During my interview I asked directly about their stock flow. The division manager went on and on about how clean the stock was, how few problems they had, etc. etc.. Ya rite. So I kept pounding on how good I was at cleaning up my predecessor's "problems" at my current job, and how I was numbers-oriented and able to keep to budget.

They listened politely but didn't reveal anything. But, I was hired at almost twice my salary and relocated with alarming swiftness.

Guess what? They had a huge overstock problem in that department and were near tears about what to do about it. I knew the industry, knew they had stock problems, knew they were being taken over by a company much more bottom-line oriented, and knew I could help.

Before a matchmaker makes a match they investigate both parties. You have to do your research too, because there's always more than meets the eye. Sometimes the other party doesn't even know they need you until you show them!

Nick talks about researching to find the type of work you really love. You also need to look at what sort of environment you need to thrive and grow.

Some of us may desire the structure and security of a large corporation or governmental unit. Others of us might thrive in a fast-paced, ever-changing start-up or maybe an artistic, creative setting. Still others may feel most comfortable in a mid-sized, family-style workplace. These considerations are just as important as the actual job responsibilities you'd have.

How competitive are your co-workers? How supportive? Which do you like better? It takes all kinds, and there are no "right" answers.

It's the questions that are important.

Learn enough about the company itself, its "style" and that of its management so you know ahead of time how you feel about their methods and values. Sure, they may change, but you need a place to start, and you may change too as you grow and develop and mature.

I loved buying fashion for big department store chains -- for 15 years! Now, though, many parts of that environment would drive me crazy! At the time, the fast pace and competitive pressure were like mother's milk to me. Now I feel much more comfortable with teamwork and more time to "get it right".

I've achieved some of the recognition and success that I really needed. I am (almost) as happy now to see others gain the limelight and get praise.

However, I'm not dead: I still love challenges and success! But nowadays I also enjoy the puzzle of how to make a company grow; how to make them more efficient; how to get people to change their ways. It's a similar challenge, but the differences are important to me. I also have more confidence now to "go on my own". That feels particularly good!

How you are treated as a woman (or a man) is an important area of your job-hunting investigations. Try to be aware of your feelings as you go through the interview process. How are you welcomed? How do people respond to you? How do you find yourself responding to the people you meet?

Nick makes a good point about doing everything you can to check out the actual workspace, the people you'll be spending time with and reporting to, and the people who will be reporting to you. On a match-making level this is extremely important. After all, you'll be spending the majority of your time there! Of course you don't have to be crazy about every single individual, but you do need to feel you can make a "home" there.

Sure you need to "sell yourself" to get the job. But my two cents is this: If the job doesn't fit, it won't wear well. It's just like every time you've bought a dress or outfit that you "think" looks great, but doesn't fit just right. It ends up in the closet. Or when you meet someone who seems like the "right" person on the surface - and you find out pretty quickly they're not right for you.

My view is that there are tons of jobs out there and lots of ways to make a living. Just remember that more than a job, you're looking for the right match.

Patti Bush works with small growing companies, helping them to organize and computerize their office systems, and to create low-cost marketing and sales strategies. Her company, StrataGEMS, also markets sales-enhancing items such as PhotoStix(R), a stick-on backing for photographs for use in promoting such things as art shows, photographers, real estate and travel opportunities.

After 15 years in retail merchandising, Patti started StrataGEMS to advise companies on effective strategies for getting involved with the Internet and World Wide Web. Her current client list includes advertising agencies, travel bureaus, real estate agencies, computer systems and alternative health care products companies. Based in Sedona, AZ, Patti has been online for over ten years.

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