Archive for the ‘Gift of Self Career Services’ Category

As the holiday season bears down on us all, the pressing questions for the job hunter/careerist are: Should I take a break? Is anything really going to happen in the job market snowmanbefore the New Year? Don’t I deserve a respite from this brutal process and relax by the fire with a bracing cup of spiced cider?!

Well, YES and NO. To be sure, taking some time during the holidays to enjoy the delights of the season and appreciate those around you is an excellent idea. This is certainly NOT the time to pull out the plastic and run up a tab with the retail industry, but having a sensible, enjoyable holiday time with family and friends is something you DO deserve.

That being said, please allow me to make a case for maintaining a certain level of activity between now and the waning din of the noisemakers on the first day of the New Year.

1.There is no better time to network.

The holidays represent an extraordinary number of opportunities to see and be seen by family, friends and folks from all over. It would be foolish to not consider all of this “face time” as a resource to increase your “Positive Visibility.” Please understand the importance of your attitude and approach, however. Nothing can put the damper on a festive gathering more quickly than someone who is pumping the hands of the crowd for job leads, or who has the “deer in the headlights” look of someone whose career is stalled! Be sure to focus your contact with others in a positive manner, seeking information, advice and referral to investigate and consider alternatives. Remember that most individuals truly would like to help, but are at a loss on how to be of assistance. Allow them the luxury of simply giving advice rather than 1) feeling pressed to deliver that killer contact for you or 2) staring through you to someone, anyone at the other side of the room. My experience has been that, in such cases, most people will choose Door Number 2!

An additional word of warning: be sure that your solicitation of “next step” options and advice is not the first question on your list, nor is it the only item of conversation. Ease into these topics. Ask how they are doing, what is new in their lives. Show honest, genuine interest and concern for them as people, not as networking contacts. Also, help them realize that you are in the investigation mode, not desperate for a pay stub or a lead to that next great promotion.

2. Many decision makers are at home, not on the road.

One of the challenges of job search and networking is navigating through the maze of individuals who need to participate in any decisions being made. In mid-August, for example, it is often challenging to get the right people in the same room (or even in the same state) long enough to give their opinions, since Smitty is at Myrtle Beach and Ms. Jones just left for New England. This is not as true during the holidays!

Indeed, many people will be staying nearer to home, traveling less and becoming more accessible. Although staffing issues may not be at the top of the holiday list, there are still decisions being made, perhaps even more quickly due to the availability of decision-makers. In addition, the end of the year is often the time when budgets are being reviewed and finalized, and new business plans are starting to take shape. Remember: The best time to get connected is always the present.

3. Most individuals are more open to being helpful at this time.

Admittedly, this will not always be the case. Certainly I would not recommend an intense networking contact at the checkout counter on Christmas Eve! It is true, however, that many are more full of the “milk of human kindness,” more willing to share and provide honest insights and assistance to a well-placed question or request.

4. Your competition may be reduced.

This is one of my personal favorites! Many of your fellow careerists may decide that this is simply not the time to think career at all (for all of the reasons recounted earlier) and mothball their power suits until the New Year. As a result, there is high potential that your competition will dwindle. Why not take advantage of this “thinning of the field” to forge ahead? As others decide not to take any action until early next year, your well-placed voicemail, LinkedIn update, tweet or short e-mail may improve your standing. In addition, it’s much more effective to maintain a level of activity than attempting to ramp up again on January 2nd!

Finally, Pace yourself!

Now that I’ve made my unassailable arguments for burning up the snow-covered pavement with your career development, I want to introduce the other side of the issue – we ARE in the Holidays! Be sure to take time to care for you and yours, to be thankful for what you do have, to count your blessings. And perhaps, even sip a flagon of eggnog at least once in front of a crackling fire! Sounds good, doesn’t it?!

Happy Holidays and best wishes to you and yours!

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As are so many truths, the concept of “strength-based organizations” seems to be obvious. Why would any business ask their people to do something in which they are bicepless than an expert? To cite a quote (inaccurately, I am sure) from a Marcus Buckingham article I read years ago, “Companies should stop trying to make people things they aren’t and use them for what they are.”

So true, yet many organizations are struggling to simply stay afloat, much less seeking to devote the time and energy they would like to in developing the talent of their workforce. What’s the answer?

Here’s the shorthand for this quandary – YOU discover where you excel, what inspires and enthuses you, what causes you to lose track of time and space, etc., and then seek a way to do it for the company! If it doesn’t exist there, maybe it’s time to start looking. Or, if you “in transition” (what I refer to as Free Agency), invest time in discovering your “Best Stuff” (another one of my terms, and an area where I may be of assistance) and find somewhere to do it!

This can create a Win-Win scenario for all involved. The employer gets the very best Return On Investment from you as a worker, and you won’t be calling Wednesday “Hump Day!”

Hello my name isIt just happened! You are negotiating a group of strangers in a self-titled Networking get together, and one of the attendees saunters up to you cautiously. After the obligatory mention of the weather, the size of the event, or other noncontroversial topics, your ears are subjected to the terrifying query:

“So, what do you do for a living?”

OH, NO! What’s your answer? More importantly, what’s the RIGHT answer? A misspoken word can doom this conversation, inspiring your listener to glance around the room for the door marked EXIT.

Although I cannot with confidence provide you with your specific answer, I do have some guidance for negotiating this interrogatory minefield:

It should NOT be a job title, nor should it be recounting the panoply of duties listed in your most recent job description. What it should be is a short description of you and your most deeply passionate contributions in the workplace.

Allow me to emphasize this concept in a single sentence:

“What you do should be who you are!”

If your response to this inevitable question sounds like a memorized “elevator pitch,” take the time to inventory your strongest interests, deepest values and most enthusiastic skills to come up with a short, passionate statement that sounds like you, the “you” you want to be. If you’re not quite sure how to compile such a list, an accomplished career coach may be able to assist (one comes to mind immediately!).

By the way, here is my answer (just in case you ever meet me in a networking setting):

“I help people discover and practice their God-given abilities in their work and lives.”

If you don’t shoot, you’ll never score…

Shots on GoalCommon sense, of course, but seldom acted upon. I like to call this “UNcommon Sense!”

My research (I am an unabashed “data junkie”) recently identified a significant statistic quoted during hockey games: “SHOTS ON GOAL.”

It’s not hard to figure out why this is a critical measure of success. IF YOU DON’T SHOOT, YOU’LL NEVER SCORE! To be sure, you want to develop some skill in executing these shots, but waiting for the perfect line for that killer slap shot that’s featured on SportsCenter ™ will likely keep you from ever scoring!

In the same way, if you choose to take limited action in advancing your search, your career explorations, your professional and personal growth, etc., you’ll likely end up with exactly what you put into it: BUPKISS (nothing, or precious little of value)! To quote The Great One, Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!”

So, exactly what is the “shots on goal” statistic for your career development?

I continue to be amazed by the words I read on my screen from individuals expounding their views on Social Media! I am perplexed by these passionate remonstrations, statments that I doubt that they would ever utter in person, yet are happy to commit to a medium that is accessible to virtually anyone with a smartphone, a tablet, or a computer! Their lack of discretion reminds me of my favorite “quote quote” – “Never say ‘Quote, unquote,’ because once you have said it, there’s no way to make it go away!”

Oh, I realize you can go back and edit it or delete it, but it’s probably already been seen! Allow me to make my case by taking you to the hallowed halls of jurisprudence:

I can see it now…an emotionally charged court room. A deafening hush has fallen over the entire spectacle, from the anxious, restless jury to the thrill-seeking spectators.Image

The Prosecuting attorney strides up to the accused perpetrator, extends a critical finger in his direction and almost screams: “Isn’t it true that you and the victim were involved in a Ponzi scheme some 10 years ago?!”

Defense bolts out of her seat. “Objection, your Honor! That question is irrelevant and immaterial!”

The wizened old judge responds. “Objection sustained. The jury will disregard that question.”

Oh, REALLY?! (We’ve now left the courtroom, by the way). Do you really think that, as a result of the judge’s directive, the jury will now totally ignore the question, not even considering the possibility that the victim and the accused had a history of illegitimate dealings?!

Of course, forgetting the question is exactly what each and every juror must do, but here’s the sticky bit: They all just heard it! Of course, they can (and should) consciously seek to ignore this potential bit of “evidence,” but the seed has now been planted by the wily Prosecuting attorney.

THIS is why you should never say “Quote – Unquote.” Once it’s been heard (or read), it’s too late. Oh, you can back pedal a bit, work up some reasonable explanation, provide some additional information to soften the blow or assuage the damage that’s been rendered, perhaps even recover somewhat from your verbal (or written) faux pas…

But wouldn’t it have been better if you’d taken a little more time before you opened your mouth or started typing? I sometimes think we should invoke the “7 second delay” used by radio stations to allow time to expunge inappropriate words, etc. before they get on the air.

Years ago, I had a college professor, Dr. Carl Cassell, who admonished us to “never say ‘Unquote,’ only say ‘End quote’,” since once it’s out there, you can’t make it go away!” It’s simply not possible to “unquote” something that you just “quoted.”

This sage advice should apply to all communications, from phone conversations, tweets, blogs, online posts and emails to networking meetings, presentations, and interviews, all creating your Personal Brand. As I have tweeted, “Measure twice, cut once” is not only good advice for carpentry. How about this? “Think twice, speak (or type) once.”

I even found corroborating evidence from the Apostle in James 1:19: “Be quick to hear, slow to speak.”

Good advice. And you can quote me on it!

I recall an insurance company ad where a young lady is bemoaning the accident that totaled her beloved car “Brad.” She and that car had been through so much in the 4 yearsclipboard she owned it…2 boyfriends, 3 JOBS!

Welcome to the new job market, Sports Fans! The Rules have clearly changed!

First, let’s revisit the old Rulebook:

  1. Get training in a field where there is work.
  2. Find a good job with a solid company in that field.
  3. Do what you are told.
  4. Take every promotion they offer you (after all, promotions are always good, right?)
  5. Don’t leave; stay until they present you with the “Gold Watch.”
  6. Retire and then go do what you want!

NOT ANY MORE! I would respectfully suggest that there is a New Rulebook in town!

Be prepared for change at all times.

Only two things don’t change – God and change. As an employer, stay flexible, forward thinking and open to adjustments for you, your industry and your personnel. As an employee, you need not fall in love with change, but you’d better learn how to handle it! Change happens.

Act as if you are self-employed.

I recall reading the following credo on career development: “Because EVERY Job is Temporary.” Well, it is. As an employer, don’t assume that you will be ordering gold watches at a volume discount. Help your employees see themselves as integral parts of the solution. As an employee, take action at work as if your paycheck is directly related to your contribution (because, ultimately, it is!).

Never stop learning.

Employers should provide opportunities for employees to acquire new skills, knowledge, and expertise that enhance them as individuals as well as enabling them to contribute at higher and higher levels. To borrow a title from another one of my blogs, your workers are likely to be thinking “Play Me or Trade Me!” Employees should be seeking opportunities for growth continually, even if they must do it on their own.

Keep adding value to your work.

“What have you done for me lately?” sounds very ungrateful, but it’s a Fact Of Work these days. The best way to stop advancing in your job is to simply do what is expected of you. Employers, create opportunities for the employee to contribute more to the position. Employees, never be completely satisfied with your performance. Always seek to improve. I’ve coined a term to describe this mindset: “Professional Dissatisfaction.”

Take charge of your attitude.

When I’ve been called in to work with employees, it is never on how to use a spreadsheet or fill out a time card. It’s to teach them how to “play well with others!”  Employers should seek to enhance the communication and team building skills of staff through modeling the appropriate behavior as well as providing training and support in these areas. Employees should invest time and energy into enhancing their interpersonal abilities.

Is it a New Workplace? You bet it is!

STOP READING THE OLD RULEBOOK!

According to my yard (AND the dandelions!), Spring is now here. Let’s talk Mystery Gardening(tm)!

I have had myriad conversations with clients, friends, peers, etc. about the seeming lack of progress often present in job search and career development. In ruminating on this ever present phenomenon, I realized that thinking about the process in gardening terms may help resolve this frustrating conundrum.

Allow me, dear reader, to suggest some insights by introducing my Career Development Parable of ImageMystery Gardening™. Basically, here’s how it works:

Let’s suppose you go to the local garden store to buy some packets of seed for planting. On the shelf you discover some discounted containers. The packets are very inexpensive, primarily because they’re old and the labels fell off a long time ago. Oh well, the price is right, so you decide to give them a try. You have very little to lose, after all!

When you arrive home, you dig a furrow in the ground, guessing how deep to go and how far apart to place each seed (you have no clear instructions, remember?). You then cover them up and give them some water (guessing again).

You follow this procedure for each of the packets of “mystery seeds” that you have purchased.

So, what do you have? You don’t really know! Here is what I can say so far about your Mystery Garden(tm):

  • You don’t know if anything will come up at all.
  • You don’t know how long it will take if something does manage to push its way up towards the sunlight.
  • You are unsure if anything you planted will turn into something you’ll like.
  • It’s likely that some of the seeds are completely inert, providing no results at all.
  • Some may have a longer germination period and may appear to be dead but are just working their way towards the surface under their own time frame (a time frame that is frequently not yours!).
  • Some of the seeds may produce plants that hold no interest to you.
  • And, some of them may actually give you excellent results!

Personally, I’m not really much of a gardener, but here is something I do know: if you simply dump the seeds on the ground and walk away, you’re virtually guaranteeing little or no success. Yet, if you take the time to care for these “mystery seeds” by planting, weeding, cultivating and watering, sooner or later something will show up!

In a real sense, this entire process is quite similar to your career development. As you start to plant “seeds” through your various techniques (networking, side bar conversations, social media, research, kibitzing, etc.), you have little or no idea WHAT is going to happen, IF it is going to happen or WHEN it may happen!

You do, however, know three things:

1) You’re “planting seeds” of opportunity and

2) these “seeds” need to be cultivated.

3) In addition, sooner or later, something will come up!

Oh, there is one more thing you should be aware of: if you fail to “cultivate” these “seeds” through continued activity and follow-up, even continuing to add “seeds” to your Mystery Garden(tm), your chance of being able to “pick” the best plants from your vocational harvest is significantly reduced.

The moral of this little parable: Start planting, keep planting, watering and cultivating and don’t stop. It’s the only way to get your best “harvest”!