Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's New Gig

In a few hours, Barack Obama will do something we’ve all done before, start a new job. Granted, it’s a much bigger job than most of us have ever tackled, but I’m sure he’s feeling the same emotions of excitement and fear we all do when heading in the door for our first day. President Obama is faced with historic challenges. Economy, security, environment, healthcare….this list is long and the solutions complex.

With every new job there is a sense of renewal and optimism, that we can change things and improve our personal and professional lives for the better. I think that optimism, even if it’s unrealistic at times, is a good thing and spur productivity. I’m taking it upon myself to approach my work with a renewed sense of optimism, excitement, and commitment.

I figure that while I can’t directly impact energy plans, foreign policy, or the war in Iraq – I can impact the economy by working a little harder, a little smarter, and with a little more passion. If millions of Americans did their jobs just 1% better than yesterday, think of the value added to our economy. A slight change in our collective productivity and efficiency could impact operating costs and profitability and spur investment and job growth nationwide. We have the power to help turn our own economy around.

Take time out today to enjoy the inauguration. Let the significance soak in. Try and capture some of the excitement and energy from the millions of people on the Mall. And tomorrow, on your way to the office, try to pretend that you are starting a new job. Feel the butterflies and feed off the excitement, fear, and optimism. Use it to make yourself and those around you that much better, and know that your efforts can help make our new President’s difficult job just a little easier.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fired for Interviewing?

Jeff Jagodzinski, head football coach at Boston College, was fired on Wednesday because he interviewed for the head coaching job for the New York Jets. Many have joked that even interviewing for the Jets head coaching job shows enough lack of judgement to justify termination. As a Jets fan, I have to acknowledge that there might be some truth in that jab.

The Jets history of failure aside, this situation does bring up a interesting discussion about the state of employer/employee relations and how employers position themselves to attract talent. Mr. Jagodzinski was two years into a five year contract with BC, and had been doing very well. Well enough that when the Jets were looking for a new head coach, he was on the short list of candidates. When presented with the opportunity to interview, Coach Jagodziniski took it. He was immediately fired by BC for his actions, which is exactly what BC stated they would do. So at least everything was done with full disclosure, which is good.

But I wonder if BC lost sight of what's really important as this situation was playing out....

I understand BC's desire to have a coach (or more realistically the perception of a coach) who is 100% committed to their school. But at the same time, what did they gain from their stance and actions? It's not like he was interviewing at a conference rival, or for a lateral move, Mr. Jagodzinski had a shot at the big time, the pinnacle of all coaching careers - the NFL.

BC could have supported Coach Jagodzinski and either accepted him back if he didn't get the job, or sent him off in style. If BC chose that strategy, they likely could have leveraged Jagodzinski's accession to the NFL as a selling point in hiring their next coach. BC would be known as a supportive employer, with a high profile program that can help get coaches to the ultimate goal, the NFL. I think that would be an attractive employment brand for BC.

Instead, the situation is now this. Mr. Jagodzinski is out of a job. BC has no head football coach and might have a harder time finding a good one. BC has made it obvious that they expect 100% commitment on the part of the coach for the full length of the contract, regardless of what circumstances arise. But are they willing to reciprocate that relationship? Will they keep a new coach if he starts losing and the program heads downhill? Would the new coach have to watch is back and be worried about his job if he innocently talks with the wrong people?

I don't think those are the questions you want good candidates to be thinking about during and interview process.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Timing the Job Market (for employers)

The stock market is bad. That’s not news anymore. Google, a year ago trading near $700 per share hovers around $300. And GE is down nearly 50%. But anyone who took Finance 101 or watches Mad Money knows that econmic downturns, while painful, can also create a tremendous buying opportunities. Now is the time to take a look at your investment portfolio and dump any underperforming stocks and take advantage of the discounts on companies like GE and Google while they are relativly inexpensive. Buy low, sell high is the mantra, and I think it applies as much to the employment market as the stock market.

In the last few years, the employment market has been heavily in the favor of job seekers, not employers. Job growth was strong, and candidates (even average ones) were scarce and expensive. Now that the job market is a little softer, employers have been presented with the opportunity to take a step back and evaluate the quality of their staff “portfolio”. Performance or attitude issues? Address the immediately. Or maybe its just that you have some average performers who were hired during desperate times and are not quite earning the salaries they demended at the time. Either way, this is defintly NOT the time to close up shop and stop interviewing. It’s time to consider upgrading your potrfolio.

During tough times, companies may resort to emergency cuts, sometimes with little regard for performance. As a result many good candidates are entering the job market who typically are not looking for work. Now is the time to entertain top notch candidates, be diligent in your selection process, and upgrade your team when you find the perfect person.

For the first time in a long time, the job market is in employers’ favor, don’t miss out on the opportunity.