Archive for the ‘job search’ Category

There is an interesting little book on my shelf by Dr. Richard Wiseman, the author of “The Luck Factor,” a great treatise on harnessing cognitive therapy techniques to increase serendipity (my review is on Goodreads and Amazon, if you’re interested). ThisInterview chairs new work, “59 Seconds,” offers a myriad of suggestions on happiness, motivation, relationships, decision making, et al, all of which can be accomplished in under a minute (I hope I don’t have to tell you where to find my review!).

One chapter, Persuasion, includes some fascinating insights on how to have your best performance in a job interview. As is always the case with Wiseman, the three suggestions offered are backed by empirical research. While admitting that virtually all interviewers are seeking to select the candidate who best matches the requirements of the position, there are clearly significant subjective factors that interviewees should consider to improve their chances.

Ready? Here they are . . .

Be likeable. Take the time to learn things you like about the organization and mention them in the interview. Seek to connect with the interviewer in areas of related interest. Feel free to be complimentary to both the individual and the company. Show enthusiasm. Smile frequently and maintain appropriate eye contact.

Be honest. Research seems to bear out that you are better sharing any shortcomings you may have early in the interview, not near the end. This type of open, up front communication tends to boost credibility. Also, save some of your strongest qualifications for the finish. It not only demonstrates modesty, it provides a strong close to the interview.

Don’t panic. Do your best not to overreact if you feel you’ve really made a major mistake. In most cases it is likely more noticeable to you than to the interviewer. Apologizing extensively or focusing on a faux pas tends to accentuate, not correct the mistake. Simply acknowledge it and move on.  For example, one of the experiments cited under this theme involved individuals wearing Barry Manilow T-shirts on a college campus. As embarrassed as the the test subjects were, only 20% on average of the people who saw them even noticed what they were wearing!

As important as qualifications are, research consistently highlighted the following question, per Wiseman: “Did the candidate appear to be a pleasant person?”

You may feel that these suggestions are not worth mentioning. Doesn’t everyone act this way? The short answer: “No, they do not!” This is what I call “uncommon sense.”

See, your mother was right when she told you to “Be nice!”

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”!

Conversations with students this week reminded me of this pithy wisdom:

“… le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.”

In Italian “Il meglio è nemico del bene” (The better is enemy of the good), this phrase is initially credited to Orlando Pescetti and was later popularized by Voltaire, who used the saying in Italian in the article “Art Dramatique” in the 1770 edition of the Dictionnaire philosophique. It eventually appeared in French in “La Bégueule” in 1772, ascribing it to an anonymous “wise Italian”…

“Dans ses écrits, un sage Italien

Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.”

(In his writings, a wise Italian says that the better is the enemy of good.)

The moral: In insisting on delivering only the best, you may end up accomplishing nothing!

First of all, WHAT is it?

Fuzzy Logic is an approach to computing based on “degrees of truth” rather than the usual “true or false” (1 or 0, on or off) Boolean logic on which the modern computer is based. It was first advanced by Dr. Lotfi Zadeh of the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960’s as he was working on the problem of computer’s understanding natural language. Generally speaking, most computers are literal – they always do what we ask, not what we mean – while human beings are a bit “Fuzzier” in our ways of communicating and interacting.

Fuzzy Job Hunting implies that there is No One Distinct, Guaranteed, Always Successful Method for achieving meaningful employment. Employment search and career development is a moving target, requiring continuous action, adjustment, revision, sometimes even radical change in what you do and how you do it! This “Fuzzy” approach may relate to your vocational targets, your actions, your thought processes – everything involved in the career development and job-search process.

Let’s take a look at WHY you should employ Fuzzy Job Hunting.

1.   It will increase activity.

That old saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is quite true. There is however, another phrase: “paralysis by analysis.” In a desire to have your act completely together, your resume absolutely perfect, your career target razor sharp, your employment search plan mapped out in 15-minute increments, you may never get started. Fuzzy Job Hunting encourages you to get an inkling of what and where and start moving. Laser-guided job search can create strategic and efficient action, if you ever come up with “The Target!” In the meantime, you are mired in the morass of planning the best course of action and end up going nowhere.

I like to think of this as selecting a basic direction for movement – Northerly, for example. As you move ahead, keep your eyes open. Maybe you’ll end up going Northeast or North / Northwest, but at least you’ll be moving in a direction that is generally correct! If you never strike out in a direction, you’ll never see any sights at all!

2.   It will create opportunities.

I once heard that “If you aim at nothing, you will surely hit the mark.” Well said! As noted above, pick a direction and start moving. Fuzzy Job Hunting creates the potential for Serendipity, “the faculty of making fortunate and unexpected discoveries by accident” (The American Heritage Dictionary). Things happen when you are in action.

As Barbara Sher said in I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, “The amount of good luck that comes your way depends on your willingness to act.” When your job hunt is “Fuzzy,” you tend to move more, get more visible, interact with more people, create more networking opportunities. Oh, sure, some of this may appear to be a waste of time, but how do you decide where the best contacts should be made? Many of my clients have found the most productive contacts they ever made came from the most unlikely of sources. Fuzzy Job Hunting gives you the chance to discover and be discovered.

3.   It will introduce new perspectives.

As open-minded as you are, there is no way to have much of a viewpoint on reality other than your own. As you employ your Fuzzy Tactics, you will get introduced to new ideas, new alternatives and other ways to look at things. Do you remember the story of the four blind men and the elephant? They each approached the animal from a different vantage point. One touched the elephant’s side and declared, “An elephant is like a wall.” The second reached out to the animal’s leg and said, “No, an elephant is like a tree.” The third tugged on the elephant’s tail and stated, “You are both wrong. An elephant is like a rope.” Finally, the forth reached out and touched the beast’s trunk, declaring, “None of you knows what you are talking about! An elephant is exactly like a snake!”

Who was right? They all were, each from their distinct perspective! The Fuzzy Job Hunt works much the same way by allowing you to benefit from the views of others. Each person you meet will have a slightly different slant, evaluating things from another side. Take advantage of their perspective.

4.   It will provide results.

Fuzzy Job Hunting increases activity, visibility and alternatives. I’ve said it before and will say it again: the traditional approach to the job market is chaotic and ineffective. It does not work particularly well, either for employers or for job seekers. The vast majority of job-search success (at least 85%) is through “nontraditional” methods, such as research, networking, social media, volunteering, etc. There is no better way to tap into the “hidden job market” than by thinking and acting “Fuzzily.”

So sharpen up your career development to be more “fuzzy!”

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 eggnog?

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 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.

  1. 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 difficult 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!

  1. 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 we 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!

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

Sorry for YELLING in all caps, but I have heard this phrase too many times to ignore it. spider webHere are some corollaries:

“Do I HAVE to do it?”

“What if I don’t KNOW anyone!?”

“I HATE it! My experience should speak for itself!”

We constantly read about networking. It’s the secret to cracking into the “Hidden Job Market,” whatever that is. Yet most of us don’t have a clue how to do it. What’s more, the vast majority of us are likely to be either frightened or disgusted by the thought of “influence peddling” to get what we really want and deserve – an opportunity to do a good job, have a career for a fair wage.

Why do most of us find networking so awful? Is there a networking secret, a clandestine handshake that one can learn to open the door to Career Nirvana?

No, not really. There are, however, some significant misunderstandings and misapplications of this unfairly maligned process that need to be addressed before I move on to the how-to portion of our little discussion. I liket to call them Networking Myths.

Networking Myth #1

Networking is dead. People have been using it for so long that no one has time to talk to anyone anymore. They know you’re looking for a job or a killer lead and don’t have one for you. Go away!

Nope, networking isn’t dead. If it doesn’t work, it may be that you don’t understand the very nature of the networking process. To be sure, there are people out there who have abused the process, wasting others’ time and manipulating relationships to get what they want, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t network both effectively and professionally.

Networking Myth #2

Networking is telling everyone, everywhere, all the time, that you need a job or a new career. Don’t stop until someone gives in and hires you. The more people that know you are out of work or dissatisfied with your career, the higher the likelihood that someone will help you.

Wrong again! Telling everyone you need a new job is a good way to start a career as a hermit. Most people will not be aware of opportunities right away and are likely to feel that they are “put upon” to help you. What is more, they may actually feel that they can “catch” your unhappy (un)employment status. It’s much more effective (and positive) to seek information and advice instead of job leads.

Networking Myth #3

Networking is pretending to be interested in people until they like you, then going for the vocational jugular. Ask them for a job while you have them warmed up.

Oh, please – people are smarter than that! Individuals who try to practice this mangled type of networking will soon be “blacklisted” by every potential networkee out there. A genuine desire to learn from others is the only way to make networking work for you.

Networking Myth #4

Networking is the ultimate answer. It’s not what you know, it’s WHOM you know.

Wrong again! Although extraordinarily effective, networking is only a part of the employment search process. It’s a very important part, to be sure, and something that should command a large percentage of your time. The what / who you know issue is an important one. If you have nothing to offer, and know everyone out there, you are likely to remain dead in the water. Conversely, if you are replete with knowledge and ability and are a complete unknown, you will also be vocationally adrift. Networking allows you to create the “positive visibility” you need to discover and identify opportunities.

Networking Myth #5

You need to have killer contacts, people in the corridors of power with whom you are on a first-name basis to be an effective networker.

Sorry, not true. My experience has shown that the most effective networking contacts are frequently NOT first generation contacts (the first person you talk to), but typically referrals from that contact or people that you you’ve not talked to in some time. My clients have also found that many of their best results come from people who would not appear to be at the top of the corporate ladder, people “in the trenches.” This is not to say that networking with movers and shakers is a waste of time, but that effective networking with all sizes and shapes of people from diverse walks of life has the potential to yield extraordinary results.

Networking Myth #6

Networking is a means to an end. Once you have a job, you can cut out all of this networking nonsense.

Try again! Networking, the exchange of ideas and opinions, the give and take of sharing perspectives, should be a lifelong endeavor. Developing and growing your network throughout your work and life (networking does not have to relate only to employment) will continue to enrich you personally and professionally, while providing opportunities for you to help others.

The Key to Effective Networking

Give and take. Listen and talk. Any networking session you leave without offering something in return is not a good one. Phone calls and e-mails also count, by the way. Building relationships through constantly cultivating and expanding your network not only allows you to stay plugged into the world of work and beyond, it provides opportunities for you to give back to your networkees (and others) in appreciation for all of the help that you’ve received.

So, GET NETWORKING! (Yes, I AM yelling again!)

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?