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fish in waves

BIG Fish, small pond?

We are not going fishing but we are going to play a short game of “Would you rather…” in which you get to pretend to be a fish! Whether you choose to be viewed as a BIG fish or a small fish is all relative to the size of the body of water you choose to swim in. You may choose a little pond or small company versus Lake Michigan or a large company. Knowing the size of the pond that best suits you in the work world is important. Understanding whether you are at your best leading and setting the pace or whether you prefer to work as part of a larger team with common goals can determine your overall happiness and satisfaction with work and with your organization.

In my most recent work experience, I accepted a leadership position with a small company which was almost immediately gobbled up by a larger company. Overnight, my pond expanded without any input from me. In past work lives, I’ve worked for each a small, a mid-sized, and large company. Although I performed well within the different environments and I believe that I am very adaptable, each experience taught me something different about myself. The experiences provided insights into the types of environments in which I believe I excel best. Understanding that the position I accepted was no longer the position I held, I had to revisit a few questions that would determine my level of happiness with my future work. If you are facing a similar quandary, start your evaluation by asking yourself these “Would you rather” questions.

Would you rather be the architect or the builder? An architect designs and makes the decisions on the structure, whereas the builder follows the architect’s plans to bring the structure into existence. How much input do you need to have in the major decisions of your work? This question focuses on impact, the impact of your contributions. How critical is it to you to see an immediate or fairly swift impact in your work? In a smaller organization, you may be able to leave at the end of each day knowing and seeing the impact of your actions and your decisions. If that means a lot to you, it can be frustrating waiting for others to consider incorporating your input in a larger organization. But, perhaps you do enjoy knowing that you were part of a team that helped bring a project or plan to life? A builder’s team most certainly looks over a structure at the end of a construction project with a sense of pride.

Would you rather be MacGyver or James Bond?  This is in reference to resources. MacGyver didn’t do too poorly with string, duct tape, and a Swiss Army knife. However, Bond had the support of MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, with fairly unlimited resources and state-of-art equipment.  This is not to say that well stocked small ponds do not exist. In general, larger ponds have a more ready supply of both physical resources as well as intellectual capital from which to draw. I’m certain there are many who love the ingenuity and creativity required to work with limited resources and still excel within small organizations. But it can be very appealing to have the road smoothed out so that you can move at a faster pace. Speaking of pace…

Would you rather be a tortoise or an antelope?  See how I avoided the hare? Okay, the pace of progress and the ability to be nimble varies greatly between the small pond and Lake Michigan. You can row across the small pond in minutes. In crossing Lake Michigan, we’ll see you…. I’m not really sure how long it would take but I can safely say it will take MUCH longer. Communications and decision-making can move quickly if all you need to do is travel down the hall a door or two. Within a larger entity there are levels of hierarchy that must be traversed, buy-in that must be gained from a larger span of people. If you are accustomed to moving swiftly to take advantage of an active market or address an unexpected complication or challenge within a smaller organization, you are going to have to become acclimated to the time-lag that is part of swimming in a much larger body of water.

The questions above were the essential starting point for me in evaluating, BIG verses small. There are others that will be specific to your situation but may revolve around new responsibilities, development and growth, as well as future opportunities for advancement within each environment. Your personal choice of small or BIG company should center on what fits you best, the magical pond in the woods or Lake Michigan where I hear the sailing can be very good!

Best regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics. She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX.

Vivian offers leadership development workshops as well as individual mentoring and coaching sessions (http://morahr.com/ExecutiveCoaching.aspx and http://morahr.com/CultivateSuccess.aspx). For more information, please contact her directly at (877) 310-6553, ext. 702.

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No, not personal names. That’s a completely different subject and is way touchier than what I want to cover today. I’m not feeling all that controversial today. The sun’s shining out the window and I’ve just finished reviewing 80 resumes for a position my firm is working to fill for a client company. That’s why the subject of names has come up. Shakespeare quoted, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  In his writing, it is asserted that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention. In a job search, I would not be so fast to assert this!

So, what is in a name? I received 200+ resumes for this one position referenced above. Not all of the candidates met the qualifications for this particular position. However, what stands out to me is that almost 20% was eliminated due to a name; a cute name, a sexy name, no name, or a clever but inappropriate name. Some might say this is a superficial justification. Is this elimination from the candidate pool based on “an artificial and meaningless convention”? It’s not, in this case (or I’m justifying it as not). This is a top position for a function within an organization. It requires strategic thought and good judgment.  Of the 80 job seekers’ resumes currently under review, all used an email address that most people would classify as professional and a straightforward or functional name for their resume file. Cute and not so cute names in an email address (snuggles777, coocoo4cocoa, jessiesgirl, nightrider99, 2kofun, etc) should be reserved for communicating with friends and other loved ones, not the person who may hold the key to your next career move.

Set up an email address just for the purpose of job hunting if your customary email address is less than super-professional (you can put super in front of almost anything to up the level, right?). Based on the number of email addresses that are available to a single account these days, you can’t run out unless you’re a spammer. In that case, maybe you shouldn’t get the job anyway (please spare my inbox). Given the tight competition for scarce jobs today, don’t guess as to whether your customary email address is or isn’t professional enough. Use your name or your name in combination with your location if you don’t want to use your name alone (“jonathandoe” or “jdoe-houtex”). Whatever you use, try to avoid being cute, sexy, or overly clever. I know you want to show your personality but just being you works best here. That’s who the recruiter wants to see, not Snuggles or Jessie’s Girl.

My next comment concerns the name you allocate to your resume file. More than a dozen email resumes for this one position arrived with the name “Resume[1].doc” or something similar. Why? It’s the first resume in the resume folder on your computer so you named it “resume[1]”. It makes sense in that setting. Let’s shift to you now sending this file to a recruiter in a company or an independent firm, someone like me.  Remember, it’s now the 149th for the open position and the 10,000th for the recruiter’s overall database. Assign it a name that will have significance to the recruiter. Would “jondoe_civil engr_PE” work better than “resume[1]”? The first example gives the submission meaning and actually makes it easy to consider, not only for this position, but for other positions calling for a civil engineer with PE certification. 

Final note on this, most recruiters including those who use applicant tracking systems (see my last post if you are not familiar with these) save resume files to a folder for later review or as backup after the system extracts information. When this occurs, only one file named “resume[1]” can be saved. Will it be yours? There is definitely something in a name. Don’t risk elimination because of it. Set your resume apart from the crowd with a name that tells the reviewer who you are immediately. Stay in the gene, uh, candidate pool.

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Darwinism, in the modern sense, is used to describe evolutionary concepts.  Most commonly, when used, it is weaned down to the single concept of natural selection. Of course, Charles Darwin covered way more territory than this but since we are going to discuss “the resume” this is fitting. The resume, after all, is a selection tool. You pull together a collection of detailed information about your career. You format it in a standard fashion. You locate a job of interest. Finally, you send it off to a company to be reviewed along with many others and you hope that from among that group, yours is selected for follow up of some kind.

Now, let’s go back to the concept of natural selection. Natural selection is defined (answers.com) as “the process in nature by which only the organisms best adapted to their environment tend to survive and transmit their genetic characteristics in increasing numbers to succeeding generations while those less adapted tend to be eliminated.”  This applies well in screening resumes because so many candidates permit themselves to be eliminated by simply not adapting to the environment. Every job, which is the “environment”, is different. When you choose to not customize your resume submission to the job for which you are applying, you allow the law of natural selection to go to work in eliminating you from the gene, uh, applicant pool. Yes, it’s more work – more work than merely sending the same resume (and cover letter) for every job. But how’s that been working? By customizing your submission and showing the recruiter or the applicant tracking system (we’ll discuss this) that you are a perfect fit for the job, you allow the law to work in your favor. You get to survive and possibly transmit your genetic characteristics, also known as work efforts, to succeeding generations! The process I described at the end of the above paragraph actually should be applied in this order: You locate a job of interest. You pull together a collection of detailed information about your career based on that job. You format it in a standard fashion. Finally, you send it off to a company to be reviewed along with many others….

All job seekers need to understand applicant tracking systems (ATSs) and how they work.  ATSs are designed to accept your resume in electronic form, then, screen and sort them based specific inputs or keywords which usually come from the job description. MOST companies use these. As an independent recruiter, I use one. Therefore, if you did not customize your submission or, at least, review it for fit against the job description, it doesn’t stand a chance of getting in front of a recruiter or hiring manager. The ATS will eliminate you from consideration before any human can intervene. Put some work in your resume. The strategic use of keywords and position-specific terms found in the job description can get you past the ATS and possibly get you that follow up you’ve been seeking.

Take or leave this nugget of information but remember, Darwinism is always hard at work even it you aren’t. Survive.

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