Briefcase Coach's Career Briefs: Job Search Smarter

C-suite salary cuts, resume hack for bypassing AI filters, productivity in the workplace, avoiding employee burnout and more...

Dear Reader:

In case you didn’t know, Vintage GAP is sizzling hot right now, while the “current GAP” is a bit chilly. According to the news site, The Gaudian, the number of items sold on eBay with “Y2KGap” in the listing has more than doubled in recent months. Not only does this mean you’ll see more Gen Z wearing popped jean jackets this fall, but with the recent announcement of Richard Dickson (formerly of Mattel) as the new CEO, I am sure this will also mean a transformation of the stale brand.

2023 is the year of brand redefinement. Beyond the obvious examples– X (Twitter>> app that “can do everything”) and Taco Bell (cheap food >> most innovative franchise), we’ve seen many staples of the 90’s try to reinvent themselves this year. Pepsi embraced a maximalist logo, Kraft Singles changed their packaging and Barbie’s theatrical debut was a major milestone for Mattel.

Leaders of today need to demonstrate that they are agile and innovative.

You have to demonstrate that you:

  • Have a keen understanding of current and emerging challenges facing your industry

  • Have a forward-thinking growth mindset

  • Are always looking for workarounds to challenges, and fresh angles on convention

  • Have the confidence to take on big, ambitious goals and take risks

"Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things." - Theodore Levitt. Remember, you don’t have to have to be “inventing things” or have a handful of patents to demonstrate that you are INNOVATIVE. An innovative leader is someone who fosters an environment of creativity, experimentation, and growth, inspiring their team to think outside the box and find new and better ways to achieve goals and solve problems. When preparing your marketing collateral and job search strategy, be sure to use strong examples of how you were innovative in your career. How did you implement new processes, procedures, or language to transform your work?

Rooting for you,

Ps. Will you do me a favor? Will you forward this newsletter to one other person who you think might find value in the content? Maybe your colleague, a friend who is job searching, or a former B-school classmate. Thank you. 🙏🏻

Cutting C-Suite salaries during tough times

During the pandemic, many companies cut c-suite salaries to show unity with workers amidst uncertain times. This New York Times article looks at the practice continuing post-pandemic. Many companies are once again using salary reductions to show solidarity. Executives reduced salaries during the pandemic to send a message to the world that they were going to feel the pain along with them, said Don Lowman, who advises on executive compensation. Some argue, however, that cutting executives' base salary is a token gesture because much of their compensation is from other avenues, as illustrated in the chart from the article featured below.

Source: New York Times, Korn Ferry

Are outplacement services helpful?

U.S. companies are not required by law to offer outplacement services–a service the employer typically provides to help terminated or laid-off employees transition to new jobs— it is becoming a standard benefit in many industries. Some career thought leaders, such as Sandra Sucher, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, have argued companies have an ethical obligation to help laid-off workers find new jobs. Unfortunately, many outplacement companies offer low-quality, low-touch services where displaced workers feel like “herded sheep” instead of “seen and heard.” Outplacement services are not all created equal— if you get the opportunity to choose your provider, I recommend choosing the local or regional boutique outplacement service over the global brand leader as you’re more likely to find that the owner is very invested in the community and cares a lot about your experience (or hey, choose us!). The Morning Brew recently interviewed me and my career colleague Bob Goodwin about our thoughts on corporate outplacement. Check it out!

Landmark ruling gives more protection to the “gig economy”

By definition, an independent contractor works independently and is typically hired for specific projects or tasks. These types of employees are not covered under many labor protections or offered benefits from their employers. In June, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) overruled the Trump NLRB's SuperShuttle (2019) standard, finding that the makeup artists, wig artists, and hairstylists at the Atlanta Opera are employees, not independent contractors and therefore permitted to unionize under the NLRA. This landmark ruling will have a profound impact on the gig economy, providing workers with greater protections and benefits and deterring companies from misclassifying workers to impede unionization efforts.

Resume hack to bypass AI filters

Companies have been using a form of AI in hiring processes for a while. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are software tools that streamline and manage recruitment processes. Many ATS have the capability to analyze resumes and application materials to extract key information, such as work experience, skills, education, and contact details.

Some job seekers think they’ve outsmarted the system with the use of “white fonting” on their resumes. This “trick” has been around for over a decade, but it’s been trending on TikTok. This is the practice of including keywords from the job description on a resume and changing the font color to white. While the goal of this hack is to make the text visible to the ATS and not the human eye, it doesn’t always work as planned. This is a hot topic in the recruiting world as some see it as “cheating” to get through the first round of computer screening.

My take: Yes, it’s important to have a keyword-rich resume. BUT it’s not the most important factor in a successful job search. Some job seekers over-emphasize keyword stuffing as part of their job search strategy and under-emphasize networking. The law of diminishing returns applies to spending time keyword-stuffing. If you only have an hour a week to job search, I recommend spending that hour having a conversation with a decision-maker or something who can influence a decision-maker.

What do you think? Is the use of “white fonting” cheating?

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AI tools available to help your job search

With the rise of AI and it’s capabilities, there is no shortage for its usage in a job search. While many recruiters wouldn’t recommend using ChatGPT and the like to write your resume, there are tools available that can save time and enhance the efficiency of a job search. This Forbes article outlines five AI resources to help with tasks like drafting messages to hiring managers and calculating a “credit score for your career,” among others.

The common practice of “Productivity Theater” in the workplace

“Productivity theater” is the practice of appearing busy but not actually being productive. Fast Company explores this prevalent practice, both in the office and virtual, the company culture that drives it, and how managers can help alleviate it. “In a survey of 1,000 U.S.-based full-time employees by people analytics provider Visier, 83% admit they’ve engaged in at least one type of productivity theater, and 43% said these types of tasks exceed 10 hours a week.”

Are meetings a “straight jacket” for productivity in the workplace?

CBS Sunday Morning re-aired a segment last weekend about the impact of meetings on the productivity of a workforce. It is an eyeopening look at the amount of hours many spend in meetings each week and how it is impacting the work being done - and not in a positive way. The segment reported that Shopify imposed a meeting moratorium in January and expects to liberate 300,000 hours this year alone. Meeting scientist, Steven Rogelberg, from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte shares his research on meetings, when they are important and how to make them most effective.

Calculating the Value of Not Commuting for Work

The value of not commuting for work is enormous, according to NYT’s opinion columnist Paul Krugman. The average American adult spent more than 100 hours a year on work-related travel before the pandemic, but by 2021 that number had fallen by about a quarter. Putting a dollar value on the benefits from reduced commuting is tricky because people probably don't view time spent on the road as fully lost. However, the overall benefits from not commuting every day are equivalent to a gain in national income of at least one and maybe several percentage points.

The blog, Political Calculations, known for creating easy-to-use, simple tools to do the math related to current events, developed a calculator to run the math on Krugman’s claims and calculate the value of avoiding a daily commute.

Are you or your employees burning out?

Burnout causes us to feel exhausted, cynical and disassociated from our work and the people around us. It can be caused by an endless stream of emails, ongoing conflicts with coworkers, or being buried beneath a never-ending pile of tasks. Productivity guru and self-help author Chris Bailey recently wrote an article for Harvard Business Review on how to assess how close you are to burnout. He offers techniques for overcoming burnout, staying engaged and reducing overall stress.

In the article, Bailey provides a checklist to help identify stress factors that may be leading you to a state of burnout.

Source: Chris Bailey & Harvard Business Review

Can college admission practice changes impact socioeconomic diversity in the US?

The debate over affirmative action has been a contentious one, with proponents arguing that it is necessary to level the playing field and create more inclusive opportunities. A recent study published by Opportunity Insights found that leadership positions in the United States are held disproportionately by graduates of 12 highly selective, private "Ivy-Plus" colleges, which are attended by less than one percent of Americans and are mostly attended by students from high-income backgrounds. The researchers conclude that by changing their admissions policies, Ivy-Plus colleges could significantly diversify the socioeconomic backgrounds of America’s highest earners and leaders.

💡FYI: Typos in this newsletter are intentional and designed to keep you on your toes. This CEO recommends them. 

Can you do me a favor?

I’m on a mission to help job seekers land amazing jobs. Would you consider doing one of the following:

  • Forward or use the referral link below to share this newsletter with your job-searching friends or post about it on social media. This small act really helps!

  • Reach out to us about featuring your executive job posting in our newsletter. We are looking for hiring managers, founders, and search firms to talk on video about their ideal candidates.

  • Consider sharing my company name with your HR leadership. We are a great “white-glove” boutique option for executive outplacement

  • Recommend me as a paid speaker for your company events on networking, job searching, or leveraging LinkedIn

  • Recommend my services to high performers wanting to work one-on-one with an executive resume writer / or experienced interview coach

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