SPEAKER’S CORNER: Abby Kohut’s Job Search Lessons from Superstorm Sandy

AbbyKohutCrowd Storms Downton (Somerville) “Abby,” Fuels Million-Jobs March
By Andy O’Hearn
On January 22, Abby Gilbert Kohut, president of Staffing Symphony, LLC, presented “Lessons from Sandy – How to Take Your Job Search by Storm in 2013” at the First United Methodist “Abby” of Somerville.
Absolutely Abby” is the self-styled HR corporate-recruiting expert and entrepreneur with 11,134 Twitter followers (an award-worthy accomplishment; check here, here and here also), 5,600 LinkedIn connections, and 1,239 Facebook fans.
She is the same person who has hired 10,000 people over the past 16 years (and when you multiply that out, she’s also rejected a million people) and has spoken to more than 200 job search groups.
Abby’s latest shared adventure is a cross-country quest (13-state, 38-city tour) via RV to educate a million people about how to find not just a job, but rather a lasting passion for what they do each day. She will also be recruiting volunteer facilitators for Neighbors-helping-Neighbors USA, Inc. (NhN), a highly successful peer-led volunteer support and networking group.
Girding for the day when “HR professionals may band together in a herd and try to shoot me,” Abby reasserted her determination to disburse as many HR recruiting secrets as she can. Disrupted in Columbus, Ohio, by the landfall of Superstorm Sandy on October 29, Abby intends to press on so she can help job seekers strike career gold in California (perhaps meeting her hero, Ellen DeGeneres, late March, in the process).
Taking questions throughout her free-flowing presentation, Abby noted that Sandy taught all of us the five P’s—we learned to be Prepared, Persistent, Patient, Positive and Prudent; we also learned to develop Partnerships with others and then be Pliable/Pleased with our Progress (alliteration aside, there were Plenty of Pertinent Pointers for People to Pursue their Particular Passions without Perpetuating Pet Peeves of “Personnel”).
Be Prepared:

  • Research the company.
  • Practice the commute in rush hour.
  • Dress to impress: Follow the style of superiors one or two levels above you. Reasonably priced professional clothing can be purchased at Kasper, Burlington Coat Factory, and consignment/Dress For Success/Goodwill stores. Minimize jewelry, perfume, and make-up; maximize hygiene.
  • Prepare your CARs/PARs for motivation-based interviews, especially this question: “What single project or task would you consider the most significant accomplishment in your career so far?” Memorize ten things you’re really proud of, and then simply do the best you can (recognize that many other less-prepared interviewees will do worse than you). Bring a leather-bound portfolio of relevant samples.
  • Prepare at least 30 questions to ask the interviewer, while staying away from the usual trite ones about culture, benefits and the current candidate-selection process (next steps).
  • Practice the most common trip-up questions often, in advance, via role playing with a trusted colleague.
  • Prepare your six to seven references (bosses, colleagues, vendors, clients) well in advance with a copy of the job description, what qualities to stress about you, and a reminder to call the recruiter back promptly and professionally.
  • Do your own company research (also try Glassdoor; ask former employees; tap the power of your LinkedIn relationships). Remember, you are also interviewing themyou get to make the final decision.

Be Prudent:

  • Never complain about anything (e.g., politics, sports, religion) or anyone, unless no one can hear you. This is especially true on social media. “Employers don’t want to hire angry, complaining, nagging people,” Abby said.
  • Don’t hound or stalk recruiters while waiting for interview follow-ups.
  • Carefully screen all career documentation for typographical errors, lest you wind up on some recruiter’s “Wall of Shame.”

Be Willing to Partner:

  • Ask for help and accept it when it’s offered.
  • Pay it forward; share job leads (don’t just sit on them).
  • Ask for and forward requests for introductions and write recommendations for your peers on LinkedIn.
  • Leverage your other networks and communities (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, Yahoo! Groups, email, etc.).
  • Coach, mentor, or “buddy up” with other people via in-transition groups . . . or non-job-related groups and locations.

Be Persistent

  • Just as in Superstorm Sandy, Abby reminded attendees that it may be wise to leave your homes—but this time, to keep your job-leads funnel full.
  • Set attainable S.M.A.R.T. goals that are within your ability to control. Examples of attainable goals include:  ten job applications per week; remember to use LinkedIn to find the hiring manager and “get around” the HR gatekeepers; attend # of networking events per week; make # introductions; schedule # informational interviews” (i.e., ask for Advice/Insight/ Information /Referrals/Recommendations, not actual job leads); or research/test # new keywords per week.
  • To tap into the “hidden job market” and avoid the “black hole” of mass job boards,  turn to your connections for help; the pile of resumes that come in “recommended” by current employees is always less daunting to recruiters.
  • 93 percent of recruiters say they use LinkedIn to recruit. While there are plenty of jobs out there, many jobseekers have no idea how to actually get connected to the hiring managers. Don’t forget to check targeted (i.e., not just generic) LinkedIn Groups for job leads.
  • Keep yourself accountable, because, as Abby said in another recent high-profile presentation, “Small ripples make big waves.”

Be Pliable (flexible, adaptable, responsive, current)

  • Temporary or contract jobs can help job seekers earn the right to have first crack at eventual full-time, paid jobs with benefits.
  • Be willing to consider different levels of benefits (especially with the onset of Obamacare); determine ahead of time what your absolute base rate of pay must be (especially if you are on the hook for the cost of benefits, taxes, etc.). Don’t rule out jobs in big cities, where there are typically a greater supply of jobs. Think about options such as job-sharing, telecommuting, even relocation.

If it all seems a bit overwhelming, just remember: skillful as she now is at her craft, Abby was once in a similar quandary as you. For example, as an undergraduate at the University of Rochester, she changed her major ten times in her first year. “I had no idea what I wanted to do,” she confessed. Even so, Abby never lost sight of who she is, hearkening back to past childhood experiences (e.g., putting on a carnival in her parents’ driveway and charging neighbors admission) to gather clues about her passion, destiny and ultimate legacy.
And while there can only be one Absolute Abby, by minding your P’s and (answering) your Q’s , you too can weather the storm and come out well ahead of the competition.

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