Chickens, Eggs, Gess and Kevin

Posted in Brenda at 10:21 am by livefood

Thank old saying “Don’t count your chickens until they hatch,” couldn’t be more appropriate than in today’s job market. While the lead indicators are showing slow progress to dig the economy out of the recession/depression, there are still indications of some rough road to go.

The commercial real estate market is just horrid. The sector is facing many of the same problems that the residential market has been and is still facing. That may be the drag on the economy in the next several months.

Where a few weeks ago we were very optomistic about the short term job market as we spoke with clients, today we’re not so thrilled with the market. Several weeks ago our conversations with clients were much more encouraging than several months ago. But the past week, the conversations are much more like those of several months ago. The clients are not encouraged nor are they encouraging.

We remain however, extremely optomistic with the mid and longer range employment pictures. We continue to see a significant change in the employment situation after the summer, a period which has been traditionally “slow” for our firm. We always equate “back to school” with back to work.

I thought about this topic this morning just after I received news of our friends Gess and Kevin who are traveling in a remodeled school bus for the next year. Day -1 was the kick off party, day one on the road later than expected (we saw them on the freeway as we went out to dinner)…and day two, well let’s just say they are “stuck in Lodi” and it’s not a country western tune.

So while Gess and Kevin are up on day and down the next for the next year, I suppose the employment ride will be similar. None of us should be counting the chickens just yet.

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Nothing To Do With HIT

Posted in Brenda at 9:59 am by livefood

A visit to our local bank usually means talking with the manager. She’s a long time friend of ours. We get to catch up on the latest about her daughter and share about ours. None of our children are in careers within healtcare. There is usually something new and interesting that comes out of the visit. The visit just yesterday was no different.

First, foot traffic (she called it lobby traffic) is way off. Just nobody needing to stop by. I’d say that you could roll a bowling ball down across the floor and not hit anyone, but the lobby is not that big. The bank is doing extremely well. But then, they don’t do residential home loans. Smart move.

But the more interesting news was that her daughter was recently transferred. She is in marketing and was sent from a large metro area with all the bells, whistle and nightlife to a very small town in the upper mid-west where nearly 1/2 half of the town worked for one employer. She is there for a while so she’s trying to fit in and get used to some of the more conservative values. It’s the little things like the local physician asking, “Do you attend Church regularly?” on their personal information form before the exam.

What she is finding out is that the rest of the USA doesn’t think or even relate to the economy the same way a larger metro area might. It’s been enlightening for her.

Where we live unemployment is about 6.5% whereas the state is just short of 2x that. We have no major “blue collar” employers in the county. The largest employer in the county IS the County. So we’re diverse in that regard.

It’s sometimes hard to “see” what is going on in other areas. It’s sometimes hard to relate to what is going on in other areas. It’s certainly hard to understand the fear in a community where nearly 1/2 half of the employment is dependent upon one manufacturing facility. The situation that our friend’s daughter has found herself in is not terribly unusual. Many smaller town throughout the midwest are dominated by a single employer. Giant 3M has many plants making single products spread all over the midwest. In good times this means that eveybody is “fat and happy”, making the money to cover the bills and life is good.

In this economic climate, having a job with stability is a good thing. I’m pretty sure in a small town with nearly 50% of the town relying on one employer, the angst of loosing jobs is shared by 100% of the population.

The daughter is also finding that the small midwestern community that she is now living in is a very tightly knit group of people. That is probably their saving grace. Like we all witnessed this past winter with the community spirit shown during the flooding, these small towns come together and help each others.

Let’s just hope that nobody has to deal with more mass layoffs.

I know that this BLOG posting doesn’t have anything to do with HIT and HIT employment. It’s just something I think we sometimes forget to think about.

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The Healtcare Reformation…still up in the air

Posted in Jim at 10:07 am by livefood

How should the Healthcare system be deconstructed and then reconstructed? Good question. But I don’t think our congressional folks know what to do.

There are so many competing interests it would be difficult, and for some impossible, to sort fact from fiction. The Wall Street Journal tried in their article: Separating Fact from Fiction on Health-Care Reform

Try as they might, even the WSJ falls a tad short in the article…but read the comments from readers and you can get a sense of what is being felt in the field…not the top of the corporate interests, but physicians and patients. Okay, som maybe a few of the comments are from the “C” level folks.

Some comments, “Why they won’t be able to compete is that they won’t have the negotiating leverage that the federal government has by virtue of that fact that the federal government doesn’t negotiate, they dictate.”…”Coverage does not equate to cost control. Cost control with the government plan will only be able to be achieved with some sort of rationing or queing system.”…”consider charging smokers and the obese insurance rates that are significantly higher (this is no different from charging the driver with DUI’s or speeding tickets more for auto insurance).”…”The government is taking advantage of the public’s rightful disgust at this situation in maybe nationalizing 1/7th of the economy. Isn’t there a simpler answer?”

The comments are across the board from the practical to the simply elegant, but listening to the American people is not something that congressional folks do all that well. They need to leave their offices and dress down a bit, eat at a McDonalds on just about any morning and listen to what the breakfast groups are groaning about.

It doesn’t help the congressional prespective to be participating in a healthcare plan that can be likened to the Cadillac of plans, something most people can’t consider as real.

The only things I know are that healthcare is important to everyone, even the healthy and that the healthcare industry is huge.

The rock I continue to stand on is that HIT can play a significant role in helping healthcare become better, both on the patient care side and the business side.

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Dump It or Shred It

Posted in Brenda at 9:36 am by livefood

All the talk and worry and work about HIPPA, compliance, “meaningful use” and then I find this report:

Medical records discovered in garbage truck, landfill

Our daughter is currently working on making digital copies of all of the records from an office. The paperwork goes back a couple decades. She should be able to complete the project in about 45 days. It’s one of the projects where you can stick in the ear buds, crank up the iPod and pretend to be someplace other than where you are.

At some point, when the project is completed, the dispensation of the records needs to be considered. I’m sure that sending them to the landfill is not going to be an option and a shredder will be put to good use. I’m sure that someone down in Alabama sure wishes they had used the shredder on those files that ended up in the dump.

Of course there is a huge difference between having to look through hundred of pages of analog information for little bits of personal information and being able to “look” at 1000’s of pages in the blink of eye using digital records. It’s important for the industry to work towards digital security.

If for no other reason, to give patients the confidence that their information and records will be seen by those who should be looking at the matieral. Hopefully they will have more confidence in a digital system than they seem to have in the analog one…which ends traveling around town in a truck headed for the dump.

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This Is Not New

Posted in Jim at 2:01 pm by livefood

One of the newsfeeds I have pushed across my screen ran a story from Business Week in a section called Economic Unbound. The author, Michael Mandel had several charts and graphs on June 23 that show the employment picture, more specifically new job generation, for the past decade.

A Lost Decade for Jobs

The problem with the lack new job generation started prior to the last administration and is continuing today.

What is particularly scary to me is the number of government jobs created as opposed to the number of jobs created in the private sector. This phenom seems to be a model that we can easily carry forward. Continuing these paths can not be sustained as the tax burden to pay for the government jobs can not be supported by the decreasing growth rate in the private sector. At some point, and I’m quite sure some would argue that “some point” is now, the number of private sector jobs generating tax revenue will not be able to support the costs associated with the public sector jobs. Sort a “Economic 101″ type of deal.

So when you throw the lack of job generation of the past decade over the top of the more current job cuts (mostly in the private sector), the whole employment thing gets beyond scary into the downright frightening area.

The only shining beacon was that the heathcare sector on the charts has been good. We still believe that healthcare will remain a good job/employment proposition for the foreseeable future.

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Education is Experiential

Posted in Brenda at 7:51 am by livefood

My partner recieved her MBA from Domincan University of Califronia several years ago. It’s a small liberal arts University located in San Rafael, CA. Admitedly it’s a small school, but the quality of the educational experience is very high. I say “experience” because, sitting on the sidelines and observing what she was going through, led me to believe that one aspect of the program was the interaction between the students in her cohort.

So when I saw this article on my feed this morning, I was intrigued…and then disappointed.

Jack Welch Launches Online MBA

But…apparently I’m not alone.

Quoting from the article and Ted Snyder, Dean of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, “there are challenges that an online MBA program like Welch’s will have a difficult time overcoming, even if the technology and faculty are there. “The integrity and quality of engagement between faculty and students is the most precious thing we have,” Snyder says. “Assuming it’s there, it dominates. These things are hard to replicate online.” ”

I couldn’t agree more.

Many parts of the Dominican program…and many of the individual courses, were enhanced because of the groups interaction, both with the variety of instructors and presenters as well as with the other students. The projects done by groups were extremely helpful to the students because of what each of the group brought to th table. The face time was one of the most valuable parts of the MBA program and the relationships developed during the process continue to this day.

So while I applaud the notion of bringing affordability into the educational system, in some respects you get what you pay for. Degrees can’t be valued by quality of the paper they are printed upon, it’s the quality of the education, and particularly in MBA program, education is to a large degree experiential. I’m not convinced that interacting with a computer screen can be the complete experience that an MBA should represent.

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No Conclusion Just Yet

Posted in Brenda at 12:10 pm by livefood

A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.

I keep files with jokes that I’ve heard or read over the years…and the joke above could almost be some job seeking people’s reaction in the current job market. It goes something like, “I am tired of thinking about the bad economy and high unemployment, so I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no jobs so I’ll stop looking.”

Don’t reach the conclusion too early.

Yesterday I was at a board meeting for HIMSS in Northern California. I had the opportunity to speak with many people, but two conversations really stuck out. One person from a huge consulting giant was talking about the firms belief that the healthcare consulting sector will not rebound for about five years. The second person, from a large (but not giant) consulting firm was clear in their belief that we will see a “uptick” in the Fall, slide a bit, but see growth in Q1 next year and beyond…company two is writing lots of IT plan proposals.

Who’[s right? I think that one firm got tired of thinking and reached their conclusion. I think the other firm is still using their creative juices and sees a different set of solutions. I want to think like the second firm…an uptick in the Fall and growth starting in Q1 of ‘10.

But, I don’t think I’ll reach a concluson just yet.

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More Resume Turnoffs…

Posted in Brenda at 10:30 am by livefood

I once read that a resume should not be old and stoggy buy should be new and modern. Nice thought but sometimes poorly executed.

If you have ever sat in a desk across from someone who slides the most recent version of their dayglo pink resume with the floral scented paper that you can smell before it hits the desk surface…well then you will know what “new and modern” is not.

If you have ever read through 300 resumes in a day, you will know all about the readability of a font and how agitated one can be when a font like badfonts1is used…it makes for a long day. Do people really think these fonts are cute or are they really just not wanting to make it to the next round?

And about all of those crazy alphabet soup acronyms…must you? Leave those organization specific catch phrases off the resume. Put them in the same place with the 14 versions of the software (1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.5a). You could put something like 1.1 through 1.5a on the resume and make a better statement.

If you think of your resume as mind food, you need to make sure that it is easily digestible.

I can remember one of the lessons my Mom taught me. It went something like, “never assume that the person on the end knows what you are talking about…explain it so that they can understand it.” Basically the lesson was about speaking (and writing) in a “speak” that the listener or reader will understand. Using catch phrases and acronym laden company specific terms will not serve you well on a resume.

If your resume looks like a cookie-cutter template, good luck. Does that mean you are a cookie-cutter employee? You can start with a template or a format you find from a third party source, but you really should take the time to customize your resume to speak clearly about you…not someone else. The codes that are embedded in some templates really play havoc with some resume reading software. Personally, we prefer resumes to come to us in a Word friendly manner.

One of the new things that we do here is to look up names of candidates on the internet. We just type the name in Google and see what pops up. Most of the time we find nothing at all. Sometimes we find interesting and useful information. Every so often…and more frequently lately…we find “interesting” information posted on goofy Facebook, MySpace, and other sites. Sometimes what we find fits into the catagory of TMI (too much information) and is rather damaging or at least odd.

We’re recruiters. If we can find it, employers can (and will) find it.

You don’t have to make it easier by placing links to your social networking sites on the resume. Unless you are in a field that is web related, linking to sites other than an online profile page could come back to haunt you. But if you chose to have an online profile make sure that it, like your printed version, speaks clearly about you and your skill set and is not about pink floral backgrounds with bubbling brook audio.

A resume is a written dialog and should speak well of you.

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You turn off the employer when…

Posted in Brenda at 2:25 pm by livefood

…your resume has absolutely no connection to the posted job requirements.

You waste their time and of course yours.

You need to reverse the thinking a bit and think about what is good for the employer and not what is good for you…or more politely, think about making your job search all about the employer and not all about you.

You need to “keep it real.” It’a about relevancy. Do you have something they absolutely can use. Do a “SWOT” (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis…even if it’s ad hoc. You can find out quite a bit about most major companies by search on line in locations other than the corporate web site. Where can they be stronger…what weakensses can you mitigate for them…what opportunities for growth can you help exploit and which threats to the corporate growth can you mitigate.

If you don’t do the research and tailor your resume and your face to face pitch for the companys needs, you might not be using the “speak” that they use and probably won’t making the most of your opporutnity to pitch your skill set. If they call salespeople “associates” and your resume call the role “sales engineer,” do you want to spend the day convincing them the role is exactly the same? You might not change the words on your resume but you can speak differently in the cover letter and during the interview.

Take the time to learn about the company. You would take the time if you were wanting to make a sale.

We frequently get resumes sent to us that are completely and nonsensically unconnected to anything we might we working on…forklift operators for example. It doesn’t speak too highly of the applicant to be that far off the base.

Take the time to make sure that your resume is grounded in the verbiage of the job posting…connect the job to your skill set. You stand a much better chance of moving yourself towards a face to face and ultimately the offer if you do.

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The Jack of All Trades IS the Master of None

Posted in Brenda at 10:09 am by livefood

We are a small and focused niche market recruiting firm. We are who we are and we know who our customers are.

Once upon a time, when the firm was new, we were growing willy-nilly. We hired a young ambitious recruiter who could bring in clients like nobody else. It’s almost like she would walk in the door and the phone would ring. One day she persued and landed a new client who was having a terrible time finding good candidates.

I asked the recruiter if she knew where the town was and she said, “North of here.” She wasn’t being cute, I could tell by the look on her face she had never been to Eureka, CA, before. It’s about 5-6 six hours north of here (depending on the weight of your foot and the weather). It’s a smaller town and somewhat isolated from any major metro areas. Being small and isolated is not a bad thing. Friends that live in Eureka like it that way, but for a firm that didn’t do “long line” recruting at the time, Eureak could have been the moon. I had been recruiting in this market for several years and had never had anyone asked to move to or commute to Eureka.

I had the recruiter call the firm back and explain the situation. They were gracious. We learned a lesson.

We can’t be everything to everybody.

That week we sat down and defined the commute corridors we would work in so we could set some limits on our marketing. We looked at where our current clientele were located. We examined how well we responded to the needs of clients. We must have looked our services from dozens of angles. In the end, we defined who we were and what we were good at. It was a healthy excercise.

Not that we have always followed our own advice, but we have found that developing a good plan and executing it well has served us very well over the years. When we don’t keep ourselves focused on our plan, things start to get out of hand a bit. Part of a good plan is knowing and understanding who you are and what your core strengths are.

So when times get a bit “interesting” like the economy is now, it is a good time to examine the core strenghts and to remind yourself that the customer is not always right, but the customer is always the King. Know your customer and served them well. Know what they need and what you can deliver. But remember, you don’t serve (nor do you need too) all the Kings requests…if you are a chamberlain you might not want to bill yourself as a jester…the King might not be pleased.

So while we may not be the GM of the recruiting world, we’re not bankrupt, and we our sporty offerings are pretty quick and nimble. As in most things, it’s not the enormity of the firm that matters but the performance of the firm that is important. Part of that ability to perform is to remember that you don’t have to be everything to everybody.

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