When looking at why your business does or doesn’t stand out, can you put your finger on one thing specific?
All too often, business owners think they have their fingers on the pulse of what makes consumers tick, only to later discover that they truly did not know these people as well as they should have. As a result, potential business dollars essentially go out the window.
In order for your brand to capitalize on all of the potential earnings sitting out there in the consumer world, make sure you are nailing down any and all possible avenues to promote and literally sell your brand.
As you will soon discover, the right business acumen can go a long way in setting you up for a long-term revenue stream.
Giving Your Customers What They Want
For starters, giving your customers what they want should always get your attention.
If customers come to you for products and/or services, only to be left going home disappointed, your brand stands to suffer the consequences.
In the event you haven’t exactly been meeting the needs of customers recently, check out this list to see where you need better attention to detail:
Don’t make them just a number – It is important to always remember that customers are more than just a number. Yes, while each customer is literally a number (in terms of the business they do with you and the invoice you fill out), they are so much more than that. As an example, if you run a nail salon or anything along those lines (small business with people regularly coming through the front doors), it is important that you put a name to the face. When people feel like you’re taking the time to get to know them, they tend to react in a more positive manner;
Embrace all tech has to offer – No matter what line of business you call home, how much stock do you put in today’s technology? If you are truly letting technology drive the engine that is your business, then you stand to benefit in a number of ways. For those in the nail salon industry, using nail salon software is great in that it allows you myriad of functions. From allowing clients to make their own times to come in for an appointment to overseeing your invoices and cash flow at the touch of a button, such software will help you better organize and ultimately run your business;
Make families feel welcome – While you still see plenty of individual shoppers on any given day across America, you also see countless families doing their everyday shopping. From malls to mom and pop shops, families typically will outspend individuals on any given shopping day, usually due to the fact there are more mouths to feed, more bodies to clothe, etc. With that being the case, your business should always make families feel welcome. Yes, having a little terror or two running around your gift shop can make for some nervous moments, but it is the price you pay for opening your doors in the first place. While you do not have to go out of your way to be rude, a simple written sign such as “You break it, you pay for it” or something to the equivalent works. As has been seen too often in businesses nationwide, giving off an unwelcoming feeling to families can be the death kiss of losing business;
Take customer service to the next level – Finally, taking your customer service initiatives to the next level can only help your brand. Whether it is sending a little thank you not for shopping with you or giving customers a “free gift” on occasion, anything to win their long-term business is exactly what you want. When you go that extra mile or two for your customers, many of them will spend a little more than usual with you.
Nailing a winning business formula is not rocket science, but it does take some initiative and good will.
If your business is wondering how to take both your brand and your revenue stream to the next level, get a little creative and remember just how important your customers truly are to your survival.
Change is afoot in the United Kingdom, which last month voted to break with the European Union amid a wave of working-class frustration and renewed nationalism, sending stocks tumbling and forcing Prime Minister David Cameron to resign.
After weeks of alliance forming and intrigue, leader of the Conservative Party Theresa May has taken over from Cameron.
By Parliament’s standards, she is a moderate. But in a sign of the times, May has aligned herself with pro-labor reforms that would raise eyebrows in conservative U.S. political circles. Most notably, earlier this week she came out in favor of installing employees on corporate boards, a practice called “codetermination” that is already required in countries such as France and Sweden.
“It is not anti-business to suggest that big business needs to change,” May said on Monday, as she outlined the proposal as part of a campaign speech. “If I’m prime minister . . . we’re going to have not just consumers represented on company boards, but workers as well.”
Minutes later, Andrea Leadsom, her last remaining rival for the job, conceded the contest.
May did not elaborate on her proposal, and many analysts have dismissed her reference to consumers as imprecise and unenforceable. But corporate governance models involving employee representation have gained momentum in Europe, with the idea that such boards are more likely to curb executive pay and respond to workers’ demands.
Whether that idea holds water depends on what you read. The Times of London was quick to note that C-suite pay has “spiralled to new heights” in Germany, which requires a two-tier board structure involving employees at large companies. CNN, in contrast, points to the model as the reason for Germany’s manufacturing growth.
Business leaders in Britain sounded a cautious note following May’s remarks. “These items would not be at the top of businesses’ wish lists right now,” Tim Thomas, director of employment and skills policy at a manufacturing trade association, told the Financial Times.
“It sounds fair, if worryingly European, but can backfire badly,” Sam Bowman, executive director of the Adam Smith Institute, wrote in the Telegraph, pointing to scandal-plagued Volkswagen as an example.
It’s a question many of us ask ourselves and have trouble answering. Because what is success, anyway? Is it writing a book and selling a million copies? Winning awards? Or just feeling satisfied with your work? We’re often told that success is in the eye of the beholder—that we need to define it for ourselves, on terms that are meaningful to us.
Which is true. But it doesn’t tell us how to do it, and try as we might, many of our achievements still wind up fitting a mold that suits somebody else—like our employers or society—at least as much as, if not more than, it suits us personally. And we still find ourselves left unsatisfied or unhappy, wishing we had something more or something else, no matter how “successful” we’ve been.
Here’s a look at one of the most likely reasons why.
As someone who’s studied and written about the psychology of happiness, I’ve discovered there roughly are three types of success. The trick—first—is to remember that you can’t have them all at once, and then to figure out which one you’re aiming at. It looks something like this:
1. Sales success is about getting people to buy something you’ve created or put on offer: Your book is a commercial hit! Everybody’s reading it, everybody’s talking about it, you’re on TV. You sell hundreds, then thousands, then even millions of copies. Dump trucks beep while backing into your garage to pour out endless royalty payments. (Most book authors can tell you the publishing business doesn’t work anything like this except for a lucky handful, but you get the idea.)
2. Social success means you’re widely recognized among your peers—people you respect. You’ve earned critical success. Industry renown. To extend the book author example, the New York Times reviews your latest novel. You’re short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and the top tastemakers are all talking about you and your work (whether or not it’s a commercial hit).
3. Self success is in your head. It’s invisible. Only you know if you have it, because it corresponds to internal measures you’ve established on your own. Self success means you’ve achieved what you wanted to achieve. For yourself. You’re deeply proud of and satisfied with your work.
These three categories are broad and therefore approximate, but that’s why they’re so useful: Chances are good that any major achievement you reach will fall more clearly into one than another. They apply to pretty much all industries, professions, and aspects of life. The point is that success is not one-dimensional. In order to be truly happy with your successes, you first need to decide what kind of success you want.
Are you in marketing? Sales success means your product flew off the shelves and your numbers blew away forecasts. Social success means you were written up in prestigious magazines as a result, nominated for an award, or recognized by your company’s CEO. Self success? That’s always the same no matter who you are or what you’ve achieved: How do you feel about your accomplishments?
Are you a teacher? Sales success means you’re offered promotions based on your work in the classroom, which your superiors want to magnify and implement more widely. You’re asked if you’re interested in becoming an administrator. Social success means well-regarded educators invite you to present at conferences, mentor new teachers, and the principal or school district administrators recognize you for your work. Self success? Again: How do you feel about your accomplishments?
Here’s the catch, though: However they may overlap, it’s impossible to experience all three successes at once.
Picture the triangle above like one of those wobbly exercise planks at an old-school gym. If you push down on two sides, the third side springs into the air. In our lives and work, it’s rare that any given thing we do—any single success we achieve, no matter how great—can satisfy ourselves and others in equal measure. Aspiring to that, if you ask me, is a mistake.
Sales success, for instance, can block self success. That’s what happened to me as a writer when I got hooked on best-seller lists. Personal goals took a backseat to more tangible commercial ones. “Make hay while the sun shines,” the saying goes, even if you feel like going to bed—but this is the artist who sells out. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with chasing commercial success. But you can see how it can block your personal goals sometimes—those that can’t be tracked on a retailer’s weekly sales rankings.
However they may overlap, it’s impossible to experience all three successes at once.
Personal achievements don’t necessarily have a marketable strategy—so no sales or social success may follow from them. That goes for the stunning birthday cake you bake for your daughter. Or the incredible lesson you, a teacher, put your heart into for weeks. The backyard deck you built with your bare hands. You wouldn’t expect royalty payments or critical reviews from those endeavors. You’re not trying to sell cakes, great teaching, or decks. You could! But that wasn’t your goal.
Finally, it’s worth noting that critical darlings rarely sell—which means that social success can sometimes block sales success. One of my favorite movies a last year was Spotlight. Tense, dramatic—I was glued to the screen. The movie won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, a high honor. But its total domestic box office last year was $45 million.
Furious 7 made $353 million.
If you were a filmmaker, which one would you have rather made?
Know which of the three kinds of success you want. Pick one, aim, and then fire.
You just got the call you’ve been waiting for. After several rounds of interviews for a job you really want, it’s finally time to get down to discussing the offer.
If you’re relatively new to the workforce—and especially if you’re about to negotiate your very first job offer—there are some common pitfalls you may not know to avoid. Here are four of the most common ways early-career professionals tend to get out-negotiated by employers, and tactics you can use to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
1. You Break The Silence Too Soon
Silence is a negotiating tool that many employers use during salary negotiations. Don’t let them. Silence is designed to make you feel like the employer is losing enthusiasm for your candidacy during the course of negotiating an offer.
Once you state your salary requirements, many employers will fall silent or not react to your request. This uncomfortable moment often prompts candidates to volunteer information they shouldn’t—like, “If that’s too high, though, I can always consider a few thousand dollars less.” Resist that urge to backpedal. Just ride out the silence, calmly return the interviewer’s gaze (or wait out their silence if you’re speaking by phone), and force the person on the other side to speak next.
It doesn’t have to be standoffish, either. If you’re presented with a salary that’s lower than you’d hoped for, use that silence in your favor. Let them see that you haven’t been wowed by their offer. This can open the opportunity to ask for more money in the course of the discussion, because your interviewer won’t want to lose you and start the process over again—all over a couple of thousand dollars.
2. You Ask For A Salary That Reflects Your Lifestyle, Not Facts
Lifestyle salary requests are based on a candidate’s cash needs to support their current style of living. And indeed, it’s hard to blame less experienced job candidates for thinking along the lines of, “In order to pay my student loans and live on my own, I need to earn around $40,000 a year.” Unfortunately, though, your lifestyle has no place in a salary negotiation.
To your employer, your living needs are your concern, not theirs. Most employers work within salary guidelines set by the company for entry-level positions. If you bring any mention of your lifestyle into the salary negotiation, the company can quickly shut that down by pointing to its compensation protocol.
However, if you present your salary requirements based on average salaries listed on Glassdoor, Indeed, and other job sites for jobs similar to the one you’re being considered for, you can now get on the same page—using facts that are pertinent to the employer, not just you. And once you do that, your chance of landing a better starting salary dramatically increases.
3. You Accept A Low Salary Without Negotiating
Many early-career job candidates are grateful to be in the position to be offered a job with a company they really want to work for, so they accept an offer that’s below market value. The candidate’s thinking often is that they just want to get into the company at any cost, and they’ll worry about the money later.
But the truth is that if you do that, you’ll likely be underpaid as long as you stay at that company. That means the only way to get your salary up to industry standards is to leave, and you may not want to. Remember, there’s almost always room for negotiation in any salary discussion, even at the entry level.
The best way to handle a situation like this is to ask for a little more, not a lot more (where you might actually risk losing the job). Usually there’s no harm in asking for 4% to 6% more than what’s initially offered. This way you’ll walk away feeling that you’re being fairly compensated. Every company has a little more to pay you if they really want you.
4. You’re An Uncreative Negotiator
Most entry-level candidates look at salary negotiation as a black and white thing. Maybe a $38,000 starting salary has been presented to you as a final offer, so you feel like there are only two choices: Either accept it or reject it—and take your chances on finding a higher-paying job.
But rather than rejecting the offer, what if you were to ask for a six-month review and a salary adjustment based on your performance? That’s actually pretty common. Many employers will agree to this, understanding that they can keep their entry-level salary structure intact while at the same time giving you an incentive for strong performance during your first six months on the job. It’s a win-win situation for both of you—just as long as you think to ask about it.
Sometimes a company has an “oh no” moment that can cause it to fall by the wayside. How it responds speaks volumes about the organization’s potential longevity, as well as its leadership. For Avid Life Media, the company behind the infamous dating site Ashley Madison, that time is now.
After a huge public crisis that led to one of the biggest digital security breaches in history, the company is now trying to rise from the ashes. Last week it announced new leadership, this week it rebranded; “Avid Life Media” is now “ruby.” The question is: Is this enough to regain the trust of its users?
Ashley Madison, the storied dating site for people looking to cheat, has been in the spotlight for the last year when a hacking group claimed it had breached its system. The saga culminated in the attackers posting a database of every user on the website and the company spending months to figure out how best to regroup.
But changing a parent company name does not a new organization make. And when a website known for bucking social mores falls even further from public grace, it’s more than an uphill climb to become solid brand again. The two new executives at the helm believe they know what to do, and they explained the new “ruby” plan to me.
Rob Segal and James Millership[Photo: courtesy of Avid Life Media]
Last week the company announced that Rob Segal would be the company’s new CEO and James Millership would take the helm as president. Both men have worked with large companies and helped facilitate big turnarounds or rebrands. And, after talking with them about their plans for Ashley Madison and the like, it seems they both relish the challenge of repositioning an embattled company.
This project will be no easy feat. Indeed, the company has been in disarray for months, with users being outed and revelations that many accounts on the site were robots, or “fembots,” which were computer programs coded to chat with lonely men. A site like Ashley Madison is built on a strange form of digital anonymity and trust that was unceremoniously yanked last year.
Last year the company decided to regroup, and probably the most important part of that equation was finding new leadership to steer the way. Both Segal and Millership were approached by ALM and spent months considering whether or not they would take the plunge. According to Millership, the two worked together performing due diligence to figure out if and how they could save the company. “We didn’t take the decision lightly,” he said. Ultimately the two figured there was an opportunity to be had and accepted the roles.
Following their appointments, this rebrand is the first important move the company makes to try and reclaim its territory. Now, “ruby” needs to reprove itself. Segal believes that what originally differentiated Ashley Madison from other sites could actually help rebuild the company. As he sees it, these sites have the “ability to operate at a level that most other dating sites can’t.” Sure, Ashley Madison was considered vulgar because of the kind of activity it facilitated, but he believes it looked at relationships in a markedly different way than every other dating platform out there. During our conversation Segal waxed philosophic about how human sexuality in 2016 is very different from even ten years ago. As Millership put it, he saw an opportunity to market to even more of Ashley Madison’s “adventurous clientele.”
What’s most interesting is that Avid Life Media is rebranding itself and not the infamous Ashley Madison name. This, says Segal, is because the site is a “huge brand.” The opportunity isn’t starting from scratch, but making something better from what is already there, he says. For one, the site will be “a lot more female-friendly.” Moreover, there will be a new emphasis on being both “tasteful” and “respectful.” The whole rebrand, says Segal, is to make now-ruby “a little more elegant.” The focus won’t be on cheating, per se, but on those excited moments that exist outside of monogamy and everyday monotony. Segal described that moment you first see someone that excites you; “you get butterflies,” he said. One ad in the company’s new campaign shows a woman in a boring job and tired relationship, and then seeing an attractive mystery man at a hotel counter. The new emphasis, from what I understand, is on facilitating that moment.
Also, the company says it is learning from past mistakes. It is take security more seriously than ever, say the two new leaders. They say the plan is to rebuild the technology and bring on new names to the roster. Ruby is “investing into new technologies,” says Millership, adding that it’s also looking for new brands and potential acquisitions. They are also trying to show how much they care about security and privacy—indeed, there’s a very prominent link on its home page to a section titled just that.
Rebrands are hard, and crisis public relations is even harder. The company remained silent for almost a year, ousted its CEO, and began trying to figure out a new path. It seems after months of boardroom discussions and leadership searches, it has crafted a new plan. The rebrand is part of it, along with a slew of new advertising like the one described perviously. The two executives also referred heavily to its global user base.
This is all in line with how companies believe they should respond in times of crisis. The Avid Life Media brand was significantly marred when news hit of the breach. It needed to craft a plan and create a congruous positive message post-crisis it could disseminate to the world. Most importantly, If the company is to survive, the one thing it would have to do is regain the trust of its users while maintaining the individuality that it had.
Related Video: Why Even A Startup Company Needs H.R.
Crisis PR experts heavilyrefer to the strong “ties” and “relationships” organizations have with their customers. If that relationship is diminished, all bets are off. Companies have been able to do this in the past. For instance, 23andMe was in the spotlight three years ago for potentially giving erroneous information from the home DNA tests it offers. After months of bad press and fallout with the FDA, the company shifted slightly to still offer tests but focus more on the raw data provided, as well as ancestry information. The company is now back in good graces.
Of course a health-tech DNA testing company is a far cry from a website for people to cheat on their spouses. But Ashley Madison did have a fallout with its clientele and is trying to shift in a somewhat similar way. The rebrand and new focus on being “tasteful” is a way to offer a carrot to those who were scared off by the site before. Perhaps even those who don’t want to technically cheat; another ad shows a tired couple becoming excited about the addition of a possible third. Of course, the company isn’t swearing off the kind of services it offers. Instead, say Segal and Millership, ruby wants to show people that it wants to listen and be more amenable to what its customers want.
Photo: courtesy of Avid Life Media
As Segal describes it to me, ruby’s new intent is to build dating sites “that people relate to.” The ads feature women prominently, and tell stories of people in known relationship quandaries (tired of their partner, bored, etc). Part of that is changing the inherent culture of the site, he says, and being more inclusive. Before, Ashley Madison was perceived as an outlet for disgruntled men to find affairs, now the hope is to include more people in the mix. “Ruby is reflective of where we want to take the company: feminine, multifaceted, sensual.” This refocus mixed with the new ads is a way the executives hope to bring in a more diverse user base. The company says it’s trying to make the ratio of men to women (and not men to robots) more even.
In short, Ashley Madison isn’t changing what it does, but is trying to show its customers that it cares about them by reframing its services, focusing on more global customers, and pledging to be more secure.
The next year will show us whether or not the rebrand works and customers once again trust the site. For Segal and Millership it’s about explaining to people that they listened to their concerns and changed they handle things. At the same time, they feel they have to “stay true to the edginess of the product itself.”
For Ashley Madison, it’s not a new name. Instead, says Segal, “we just feel that she can be repositioned.”
Some of the world’s largest banks and insurance providers just signed a pledge aimed at getting more women into leadership at their organizations. The likes of Barclays, HSBC, Deutche Bank, and Morgan Stanley, among other firms, agreed to set goals to diversify their upper management and report on their progress annually. Failure to meet the goals will be tied to the bonuses of their senior executive teams. According to Catalyst, women make up nearly half of all employees in the financial services industry, but only 25% of senior management roles.
“It’s good to have a goal,” Mindy Grossman tells Fast Company. But the CEO of interactive multichannel retailer HSN, Inc. (you probably know it as the Home Shopping Network) says, “A mandate can create a falseness,” as opposed to working toward achieving diversity as sound business decision. Grossman, who says her passion for diversity extends back more than 15 years to her tenure as global VP at Nike, believes that the more voices and minds you bring to the table the greater the degree of problem solving and innovation you can have. “I’m also talking about a diversity of thought and experience,” she points out, not just of gender and race.
Under her direction since 2006, HSN has made gains in both market share and diversity. Revenues have been on the rise since 2011, going from $3.18 billion then to 3.6 billion in 2015. Currently, she presides over a staff that boasts 61% female representation at the director level and above. Forty-five percent of HSN’s vice presidents and 50% of its executives are women. “What’s happened here is the fundamental foundation of who we are,” she maintains, “We are naturally diverse as an organization.
With last week’s appointment of Fiona Dias to HSN’s board of directors, the company achieved gender parity there, too. But Grossman insists this wasn’t about driving toward a percentage, but creating the best board for the company. A company that, she underscores, has a customer base who is 85% female.
Grossman says that she’s been looking at the board composition for the past number of years not only through a gender lens, but also through one of competency. Having experience relevant to the e-commerce business was necessary, but she wanted to bring in another woman. It’s a challenge because currently, women only hold 19.2% of S&P 500 board seats in the United States, according to Catalyst.
“What I am finding is that you really have to be much more aggressive to stick to the fact that this is what you want,” she explains. “I’ve seen too many instances where a board makes a profile so narrow,” she recalls, that it turns into a pipeline problem. If you are looking for a female CEO of a Fortune 500 company, for example, how many are out there? ( Only 20)
To find the right person, Grossman says they worked with a consultant who has partnered with a lot of companies in the tech world. They looked for relevant experience, she asserts, but “we definitely had a focus.” The result, she contends is that the combination of personalities and insights creates a more stimulating dialogue. “That’s more thought provoking for management,” she adds.
As Grossman points out, diversity isn’t just about race and gender. Generational differences can create a similar chorus of disparate points of view.
At Everbridge, a global software company that helps government agencies and businesses warn people about severe weather, mass shootings, and cyber attacks, they’ve achieved a workforce split of 44% millennials, 44% Gen Xers, and 12% boomers.
The Massachusetts-based firm observed media coverage of the age bias heavily present in tech companies in Silicon Valley. But Everbridge’s CMO, Joel Rosen, tells Fast Company, “Fortunately, our team did not need to make any concerted effort to equalize any generational splits.”
He insists it’s been an organic occurrence that came as a result of the company’s culture. “Our focus on transparency, accountability, and opportunity, as well as our ability to “make a difference” in the lives of the communities and businesses that we serve,” Rosen says, “naturally appeals across generations.”
The staff has regular access to all Everbridge’s financial results and quantitative goals. On the HR side, says Rosen, core competencies and success metrics are established each year, and teams are given internal training, education resources, mentors and benefits. “This focus on providing clear direction and objectives appeals to both younger and older workers,” he says.
Everbridge’s workforce grew by 50% this year, but eliminates bias by hiring through a behavioral interview process. “This technique was adopted to improve our ability to assess candidates and to further focus on identifying candidates that have the competencies that we believe make an individual successful at Everbridge,” Rosen explains. Competencies include adaptability, collaboration skills, resourcefulness, and passion or drive.
For example, he says that when assessing someone’s passion you could ask the question: “Tell me about a time you set a really ambitious goal for yourself. What was the goal, how did you go about achieving the goal, and what was the outcome?” Rosen contends this question doesn’t factor in age or experience.
The company credits its generationally diverse staff as one of the reasons its revenue is over $50 million.
Jellyvision, an interactive software company, has just over 300 employees. Though they haven’t tracked progress over time, the workforce in total is currently made up of 51% males and 49% females and their leadership team is 55% male and 45% female.
Mary Beth Wynn, the vice president of people at Jellyvision, says getting close to gender parity wasn’t a direct initiative as much as a byproduct of the company’s values, leadership, and an intentional recruitment process.
Wynn also acknowledges that diverse staff can help the business succeed, and says Jellyvision is continually working to achieve diversity in as many aspects as possible, whether it be through gender, sexuality, race, etc.
If Jellyvision had made 50/50 a conscious initiative, though, they would have risked the reverse. Deserving individuals might not have the opportunity for a role because their gender wouldn’t fit the company’s goal. Wynn says they do work with recruiters who are directed to bring them diverse candidates.
For their job postings, Wynn says, “We lead with the characteristics that we’re looking for and leave “requirements” to the end of the posting.” She says this serves not to knock out candidates with requirements, but rather “give them a well-rounded perspective on what the job is and what characteristics we’re looking for.” The hope, she says, is that applicants will self-select based on those rather than a degree or years of experience.
Jellyvision’s hiring team really pays special attention to cover letters. “We give folks the opportunity to tell us why they’re a fit, which may highlight things we won’t see in a resume,” she explains.
All candidates must also pass through an audition, which is a skills test for people to show what they can do, rather than count on their background and previous experience alone. Wynn says, “We make the ‘audition’ part of our hiring process identity redacted to avoid any subconscious bias that might be associated with a name.”
Wynn also notes that the company’s FAQ page addresses questions around transgender and disabled candidates and their needs. “This supports our position on welcoming individuals of all backgrounds.”
Wynn notes that Jellyvision is still small enough for senior leadership to see who’s accomplishing what. “We move people into leadership positions based on what we’re seeing,” she says, which also occurs organically rather than through mandates.
Grossman underscores that there is still much work to be done. “Given the disparity, we are not going to get where we need to go if senior leaders don’t embrace this as a business imperative.”
Copious amounts of research have indicated that diversity quantitatively and qualitatively improves business performance. A recent study revealed that an even gender split at one company contributed to a 41% increase in revenue. Catalyst found that companies with higher female representation in top management outperform those that don’t by delivering 34% greater returns to shareholders. Although only 5% of Fortune 1000 companies have a female CEO, they generate 7% of the Fortune 1000’s total revenue and outperform the S&P 500 index during the course of their respective tenures. “If you are not diverse,” says Grossman, “you are saying: ‘I don’t want to be successful.’”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that their revenue was approaching $100 million. The company has since revised that estimate and tell Fast Company that their revenue is over $50 million.
Pop quiz: How many companies were looking for people with a background in cloud computing in 2014? So few that it didn’t even make LinkedIn’s list of the most sought-after job skills by U.S. employers. Just two years later, cloud computing tops that exact same list.
So how can you possibly prepare to stay ahead of changes you don’t even know are coming—changes not just in the skills you need to be competitive but also in the way we work, search for jobs, and get ourselves hired? For everything else that’s shifting unpredictably, a few things are staying pretty consistent, and some of that may surprise you.
Not too long ago, I started a company that focused on using data to help people get hired, and I’m now head of product here at LinkedIn Talent Solutions. I’ve had a front-row seat to some of the latest shifts we’ve seen in the job market and a few others that are on their way. Here’s what you need to know in order to stay ahead of the competition in 2016 and into the next few years.
Our latest research shows that the number of professionals actively looking for jobs has increased steadily during the past three years, from 25% in 2014 to 36% this year. At the same time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 5.5 million jobs remained open in May 2016.
That suggests many companies are holding out for “A” players with all the right skills at the same time that more and more professionals are looking to change employers. But they don’t seem to be finding each other—which means we may need smarter ways to get connected.
When we surveyed more than 500 people in North America who changed employers between February and March this year, 40% said they were referred by one of the company’s employees. But only a little more than one-tenth (11.7%) of respondents had one or more first-degree connections on LinkedIn at the company six months before they started working there.
That means most of these professionals scored that referral from second- and third-degree connections, not from people they were connected with directly. As our economist Guy Berger puts it, “It looks like it’s not who you know, it’s who you know knows.”
So while I wouldn’t downplay the value of a first-degree connection as a valuable “in,” it’s important to pay close attention to that second layer if you’re in the market for a new opportunity: Who you know who may be linked to a company that interests you—albeit by a matter of several degrees. A former colleague from a big accounting firm might not be able to offer you a direct path to the tech company of your dreams, but they may know someone who knows someone on the inside who’d be willing to make an introduction.
The top two hottest skills in 2016—cloud computing and data mining—didn’t even exist a few short years ago. The world is simply changing too quickly for even young professionals to rely on the hard-won skills from their college years. You may choose a well-researched major or what looks to be a stable career path, but there’s no guarantee those skills will be in demand in 10 years’ time—sorry!
But there’s an upside to that. Today, a number of once-steady careers face the threat of automation, from well-documented declines in manufacturing and certain facets of health care (a growth field overall) to retail and education. Still, many of the same forces that are automating some jobs out of existence are creating new fields and industries out of nothing—like artificial intelligence, the Internet of things, self-driving cars, and virtual reality to name just a few.
In such a world, it’s difficult to predict which industries and jobs will face decline and which will be the next wave. How many companies employed a chief data scientist or an economist in 2011? Now some companies (LinkedIn included) have both.
For employees, that means everyone should be thinking about developing new skills right now in order to keep up, or how they could adapt their existing skills to a new specialty. Job seekers who will come out on top will be those who stay curious and are lifelong learners. For companies, it’ll mean arming existing workforces with new knowledge, getting creative with job requirements, and keeping an eye out for skills that could transfer well into newly imagined roles.
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We’re about to see more power shift away from companies and into job seekers’ hands as technology makes it easier than ever to find or change jobs. The rise of gig-economy players like Uber, Lyft, and Upwork is just the latest evidence of a trend that’s set to continue, with technology empowering people to take more direct control over their careers and livelihoods—even if the world that ultimately creates isn’t something we’ll still call the “gig economy,” as though it’s something distinct from the job market overall. Because increasingly, it won’t be.
In the process, job seekers will not only enjoy more connectedness and company transparency than ever before, they’ll also become savvier about promoting their professional brands online. We’re already seeing these trends today, so if you’re in the market for a new gig, it’s worth polishing up your online profile right around now. And as the gig economy and remote work options expand, professionals are finding more and more opportunities available to them. Traditional 9-to-5 work is no longer the norm; it’s just another option.
Finally, the most powerful job seekers in the market will also usher in a new era of reduced complexity, as technology continues to advance and employers, hard-pressed to find great people, leverage those advancements to simplify their hiring processes. Soon, job seekers will have new ways to signal their interest in a job, sending companies to them rather than the other way around. What will be more important is that those employers can readily find you online and see an accurate snapshot of what you offer, making it easy for them to knock on your door.
Beyond that, professionals need to keep doing what they’ve always had to do: Work your connections. Keep learning. Stay flexible. And always keep an eye on the market, because new, never-before-seen opportunities will be waiting around every corner.
Eddie Vivas is Head of Product at LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions.