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    Tuesday
    Mar012011

    You're asking me? Did you check LinkedIn?

    Maybe the job market is heating up.

    In the last three days I’ve been contacted by three separate recruiters; two agency, and one corporate, inquiring about my interest and availability for opportunities they wanted to present. That’s pretty cool - and probably equals the number of cold calls I have received in the last several months combined.

    Each call went more of less exactly the same - (Aside: I shockingly answered my phone for all three calls, which for me is some kind of record):

    Recruiter : Hi Steve - this is Joe/Mary/Sue from XYZ Company - how are you today?

    Steve - I am fantastic, how are you?

    Recruiter - Very well.  Steve, I came across your resume on (choose from the following: Monster/Careerbuilder/Dice/ ‘my files’) and I wanted to talk to you about an opportunity I am working on.

    Steve - Sure.

    Note - I don’t bother with the silly ‘How did you find me/get my phone number?’ questions. It is their job to find people.  I am pretty easy to find. And I am sure there is a ‘Steve’ resume out there on all those sites, I bet some of them have been floating around for years.

    Recruiter - So tell me, what are you doing these days? Are you working full-time? Are you contracting or consulting?

    Steve - Well, I sort of do a number of things, I'm keeping very busy.

    At this point I am basically stalling, because I genuinely want to know if the Recruiter really doesn’t know what I am doing, or they are using Recruiter jedi mind-trick #7 and attempting to see if what I say matches what they ought to know about me, (that's assuming that since they are calling me about an opportunity, they should know something about me).

    Recruiter - Aren’t we all?  Ha-Ha-Ha.  So let me tell you about what I am working on, it is a contract/position/engagement at …..... Is this something you may be interested in?  Can I send some more information to you about the position?

    Steve - Sure, send me the information, you have my email don’t you? No? It is steveboese@gmail.com. If it is something I am interested in, I will get back to you.

    Recruiter - Great, I will and thanks.  Have a nice day.

    Steve - You as well.

    And Scene.

    Three recruiting cold calls, each essentially following the same script. Sort of indistinguishable from each other, with all three marked by (at least the expressed) lack of awareness by the recruiter of anything about me other than what they have learned from whatever source information or document, some certainly several years old, that they were working from.  Did you take a minute to ‘Google’ me? Scope my profile on LinkedIn?

    Again, I have never been a recruiter, so maybe that feigned ignorance is a standard trick to feel out a prospect, and to get them talking about themselves in hopes they will reveal some insights that will help the recruiter make a quick decision whether to engage or to cut and run and move on to the next call.

    But to me, the ‘prospect’, it just seemed lazy.  In a world where information - updated, real-time information at that, is everywhere; the notion that a prospect should have to update a cold-calling recruiter as to ‘What they’ve been up to’ seems almost archaic.

    These days, and certainly for professionals that are candidates for the kinds of jobs I was called about, shouldn’t the recruiter have told me all about me? Are my eyes really blue?

    Heck, I am the last person you should ask if you want to know what I am up to.
    Monday
    Feb282011

    Recipes and Jobs

    This week Google introduced a new flavor (sorry about the pun), to its search engine by launching Google Recipe Search.

    With Google recipe search, in addition to normal keyword-based searches ('bacon'), supplemental criteria like other ingredients on hand, desired cooking time, and total caloric value of the dish can be indicated using new tools along the left-hand sidebar. The idea being that by allowing the entry of these other critical factors, Google can present more applicable and relevant search results.  How often have you searched for a recipe only to discover that you lack a key ingredient or two, or don't have the time required to complete the cooking process for a certain dish?Blue = 'jobs', Red = 'recipes'

    What powers this kind of targeted search is the use of underlying structured data that is built into the web pages that house the recipes themselves, sites like Epicurious and Food Network. These sites are coded to include information like ingredient names, cooking times, and caloric value in structured, defined, and machine readable tags - tags that Google recipe search can find and evaluate when the search is executed.

    According to a Wired piece, about one percent of all Google searches are for recipes, so this new advanced recipe search capability makes sense from a user satisfaction perspective, by returning more precise matches based on a more nuanced evaluation of the user's requirements, users are connected with recipes they are more likely going to be satisfied with.

    After reading about the new recipe search, I started to think about another frequent subject of Google searches - searches for jobs. We know from both anecdotal evidence and referral analysis that a large percentage of traffic to corporate career sites, job boards and job aggregators results from Google search. Heck, there is an entire cottage industry populated by consultants and companies offering organizations assistance and tools to improve their career sites' position in Google organic search. The importance of having your organization's jobs high on Google searches for your desired keywords is pretty much a given today.

    So to me it stands to reason if Google has spent the time to develop a 'vertical' search for recipes, then why not one for jobs? By my crude reckoning, 'jobs' searches are even more common than recipe searches. And 'jobs' searches certainly do lend themselves to the application of more structured search criteria, like required education, salary range, technical skills, and work location among others.

    Now I have no way of knowing, nor could I find any information (ironically by 'Googling'), about whether or not a vertical and structured Google search capability for 'jobs' is something Google will develop, but I also would not have thought a vertical for recipes was really all that important either.

    But it would not surprise me at all to see the development of a specific 'Google Jobs' search vertical. Google built the recipe search to help users connect more directly and rapidly with the specific recipes that meet their criteria, certainly job searches could use that same kind of utility. And if indeed Google decides to do the same thing for 'jobs', then it may be your organization's time to connect with your SEO consultant/webmaster/ATS vendor - whomever it is you rely upon to keep your job listings up high on today's keyword-based organic search. Will your keyword-heavy, search optimized, micro-landing pages work in a structured search process? 

    It makes sense to me that for job seekers that finding the right Google search result for their job requirements and capabilities should be as simple and precise as finding the right bacon, onion, and maple syrup recipe that I can make in under 30 minutes, having less than 500 calories.

    That recipe surely exists, no?

    Friday
    Feb252011

    'If you double-cross me, I will destroy you'

    Remember Atlas Shrugged?

    It is Ayn Rand's 1957 novel about capitalism, her theory of objectivism, and the role of the innovator in business and society.  For a novel published over 50 years ago, it remains a consistent seller, still appearing in the Top 50 of Amazon.com sales rankings at times as recently as 2009.

    'Shrugged' enjoys enduring popularity with college students, I think I read the book in college myself, and for many young readers it provides their first (made up) look behind the scenes of big business, government regulation, money and societal pressures, and the role of the innovator.

    Whether or not you believe in Atlas Shrugged's Objectivist positions and Rand's political views is entirely up to you, and I don't really recall enough about the ridiculously long book (almost 1400 pages) to have much of a take, other than to observe that world of high stakes big-business, ultra-rich society, and global corporate domination that the book focuses on come off as WAY more exciting that what most of us do on a day-to-day basis.

    And now in a move that is likely simultaneously absurd, and the smartest thing ever, a movie adaptation, 'Atlas Shrugged Part I', is slated for an April 2011 release.  As a novel, the artistic achievement of Atlas Shrugged is certainly debatable, but as a movie, if the trailer (embedded below, RSS and email subscribers click through), is any indication, 'Shrugged' is going to be an instant classic.

    We love sci-fi and action adventure movies because for a couple of hours we suspend our disbelief and imagine ourselves battling super-villains, having insane car chases in crowded cities, and blowing up stuff, (while accompanied by Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt).  But obviously those are all fantasies that can never come true. Great fun for two hours, but then it's back to the minivan for the ride home.

    But in the fake business world of Atlas Shrugged, rendered hilariously well in the trailer, we could sort of realistically see ourselves as global capitalist titans - wearing custom-made $4,000 suits, drinking 20-year old whisky served from crystal decanters, and putting our business adversaries in their place with jabs like 'If you double-cross me, I will destroy you'.

    Don't lie - you know you have wanted to use a line like that in your last budget meeting. 

    What do you think, will you see 'Atlas Shrugged' when it comes out?

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday
    Feb242011

    Winning Time

    Here's a shocker - I am a huge NBA, and specifically a New York Knicks fan. Once, back in the day I got asked to leave a sports bar for loud protestations of a bad out of bounds call in the first quarter of a Knicks-Pistons game.

    So naturally I was glued to the TV last night to watch the first Knicks game following the blockbuster trade that had the Knicks send 4/5 of their starting team to the Denver Nuggets to acquire Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, (there were some other players involved, but essentially these were the important aspects in the transaction).

    The game, which resulted in a 114-108 Knicks victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, was an uneven, at times ugly, and almost hard to watch affair.  The Knicks were obviously having some difficulty adjusting to the new composition of the team, there was naturally a heightened sense of interest and excitement in the game it being Anthony's first as a Knick, and the Bucks, despite playing hard throughout, simply are not a very good team.

    Anthony, the focus of intense discussion and speculation in recent weeks as the Nuggets tried to work out trades with several teams in the league, played an inconsistent kind of game.  Clearly a little nervous in the first half, he missed several easy shots he'd normally make, and had some difficulty throughout the game finding a natural rhythm and flow, particularly on offense.  His final stat line - 27 points on 10 for 25 shooting, 10 rebounds, and 2 steals.  On paper not a great game, not horrible, but on paper certainly not a performance that in the business world we would rate as 'Exceeds Expectations'.

    But the old sports cliche, 'they don't play the games on paper' is usually true, and to make a fair evaluation of Anthony's performance, you would have to actually watch the game. Late in the fourth quarter the other Knicks star player, Amare Stoudemire had fouled out, leaving Anthony the primary option on offense for the team.  In these last few minutes of the game, Anthony hit two critical baskets, one a baseline drive and dunk, and the other about a 12-foot step back jumper, to cement the Knicks victory.  These two possessions and baskets were the most important ones of the game, and without them it would have been entirely possible for the Bucks to pull out a win.

    I know you don't care about basketball, and if you have kept reading to this point, my thanks.

    Why might any of this matter at all to business, work, management?  Because last night Carmelo struggled at times, shot a low percentage, looked a little tight, and for three-and-a-half quarters was wholly unremarkable.

    But in the end, the part of the game known as 'Winning Time', he came though, and delivered what the team needed to for the victory.  If after the game the coach of the team were to give Anthony a classic performance review in the corporate sense, there is no doubt the bad shots in the first quarter, the passing the ball out of bounds, the confusion on defense - would all probably be duly recorded and noted.  Sure, the two huge buckets in the 4th quarter would make the review as well, but I bet they would appear to have equal, if not reduced, importance to the overall 'grade' as the negative plays.

    The final performance rating would probably be a 'Meets Expectations' with possible recommendations to work on his shot, and study the team playbook.  

    And I think we do this all the time when we manage people and write performance reviews.  We feel a kind of strange desire to make sure we find and highlight the negative, the odd item or two that has to be worked on, or to include the mention of some small incident, even a relatively unimportant one, as a kind of balance to the positive results achieved during the year. By creating this 'balance' we feel like we have been somehow more fair, but I bet the employees walk out of the meeting thinking only about the negative, and feeling like Carmelo would if instead of talking about the big baskets he made in the fourth quarter, we wanted to dive in to the missed layups in the first quarter.

    Sure, we want to achieve top performance all the time, at every stage of the game so to speak, but is that realistic, or even possible?  I wonder if a better focus is needed on what is really important and what makes the critical difference between winning and losing.

    I suppose we might need a better understanding of what 'Winning Time' means at work.

    Wednesday
    Feb232011

    It is a nice painting though

    This post is not about technology, (are any of them anymore?), not about workplace issues, not about some kind of pointless diatribe on social networking or any of that.Have say about $150M laying around?

    This post is about art, or rather it is about a specific painting, Jackson Pollock's 1951 work titled 'Mural'.

    The current owner of 'Mural' is the University of Iowa, and not unlike many colleges and universities around the country, these days the University is faced with a difficult set of economic circumstances. Shrinking financial support from Federal and State government sources, rising costs for infrastructure and facilities, and increased expenses for labor and employee benefits all combine to put Iowa, and many if not most other state Universities in a challenging position.

    But Iowa has something, an asset of sorts, that no other University can claim. They own 'Mural'. And by some accounts, 'Mural' may be worth as much as $150,000,000 on the open market.

    You read that correctly, that was a one-five with a whole bunch of zeroes following along.

    Understanding the current financial challenges that will likely linger for the foreseeable future, Iowa state Representative Scott Raecker floated the idea of selling 'Mural', making the argument that the funds from the sale could fund, in perpetuity, as many as 1,000 annual University scholarships for Iowa students.

    The idea of selling the Pollock piece was understandably met with resistance -  the piece is iconic, irreplaceable, and could impact the University's ability to solicit future non-monetary donations and contributions.  Ultimately the controversy and concern over selling 'Mural' has led to the proposal to sell the piece to be abandoned. 

    For now, 'Mural' remains hanging on the wall in Iowa, the (potential) $150 million remains a dream, and no high school students in Iowa are working on the first drafts of their 'Toss Paint at the Wall Scholarship' essays.

    The Huffington Post ran a long, thoughtful, and persuasive piece on why selling the painting would be a bad decision by the state. The arguments about the 'priceless' nature of classic art, an understated but palpable concern about foreign interests buying our uniquely American culture, and the kind of ivory tower, 'we are better than that' positions taken by some of the involved parties add up to a compelling argument.

    But to me it is an argument that eventually goes wanting. Selling the piece doesn't destroy it, or devalue the contribution made over 50 years ago.  Most university benefactors would (I think) be ecstatic at the ability to endow hundreds of full academic scholarships in perpetuity. And who knows, maybe one of the thousands of students that could benefit from such an endowment would produce a work or art that surpasses 'Mural'.

    Heck, most of the people that look at Pollock think to themselves, 'He just threw paint on the canvas, my 5 year old could do that'.

    In fact, when waking up to the idea that 'Mural' might be worth 150 large, I may hang up the blog for a while to toss some paint at the wall myself.

    What do you think? Are some works of art really 'priceless', no matter what?