Posts Tagged ‘Gift of Self Career Services’

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!

I’m compulsive when it comes to correct grammar. Disagreement between subjects and verbs feels to me like fingernails on a blackboard. I ALWAYS use all of the letters on my phone when emailing, even when Tweeting! (I’m not bragging or complaining; I just want you to know how challenging it is for me to break my grammar rules in using the following “double negative!) Are you ready? Here it is:

CAN’T NOT!

How does this relate to you and your career development? When you think through your life experiences, the talents you have, your deepest held values, the themes that “haunt” you day and night, here’s my question:

WHAT ARE THE THINGS IN YOUR LIFE THAT YOU “CAN’T NOT” DO?

In other words, what activities, involvements, thoughts, principles, etc. do you find yourself inexorably drawn toward, either in the way you do your work or how you “back fill” your time when not working? These CAN’T NOT’s keep showing up, even when you have difficulty putting them in words!

Over my years in career coaching and counseling, I have discovered the following fact: Even though a significant number of individuals never discover what they should be “when they grow up,” they are constantly trying to do it!

Allow me to share an example. I had a client whose job was to assemble complex systems on which to suspend large lighting and sound systems for entertainment venues. His work was something like putting together full scale Lego™ structures according to specific diagrams. It was important and intricate work. In session, I asked him to describe something he had done that caused him to feel proud, accomplished, something that he thought was “worth doing.” His response to me spoke volumes: “Does it have to be at work?” (Of course, it did not have to be at work, but at least some of it should be!). His answer: he shared a time when he worked with a friend on the design, selection of material, and construction of a customized kitchen system. His eyes lit up as he shared this adventure with me (not unlike the phenomenon of Flow, as developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – great stuff, you should look it up!). Clearly, this gentleman’s CAN’T NOT should embody creativity, design, and the hands-on manufacture of unique “works of art” – like a custom kitchen! Here’s a fact for us all: if it doesn’t happen at work, it must happen somewhere!

I often use carefully selected assessments with individuals to aid them in identifying these themes, discovering that the best of these instruments seldom “inform” the individual of new personal information as much as they “affirm” for them of where their CAN’T NOT’s lie.

How about you? Can you articulate your CAN’T NOT’s? Are you practicing them? If not, everyone loses! Take action to make it happen.

One side note, some of your CAN’T NOT’s may be too important to do as a living, but still belong in your life…

Trust me…You CAN’T NOT do this!

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!”

In his excellent book Go Put Your Strengths to Work, Marcus Buckingham introdbicepuced what he describes as 3 critical myths regarding strengths. Whether you agree with his premises or not, they are certainly worth considering.

Ready? Here they are:

Myth #1: As you grow, your personality changes. Individuals certainly make adjustments, have new experiences, mature, acquire new skills and knowledge, etc., but the core of the person stays pretty much the same. You should become intimate with what I like to call “Your Best Stuff,” because that’s where you will be the most accomplished and satisfied. This is why I chose the name “Gift of Self Career Services” to describe what I do. What you do should be who you are!

Myth #2: You will grow the most in your areas of greatest weakness. I can remember naively uttering the statement, “It’s not a weakness, it’s an opportunity for development.” True, to some degree, but it’s still a weakness! Spending an inordinate amount of time seeking to cobble a weakness into an ability that is barely adequate cannot begin to match the contribution when one is using their strengths to contribute to the organization. This does not mean, by the way, that you get a pass on your weak areas, just that most time should be spent on growing “Your Best Stuff.”

Myth #3: A good team member does whatever it takes to help the team. If this means finding the areas in the task, project, assignment, etc. where each team member’s strengths can contribute the most, this is a true statement. If, however, it means that individuals who are less talented in certain areas should step into these tasks, both the team and the individuals suffer. A good team member will help the entire team to identify and assign duties to match the strengths of each member for the task before them. That’s when the true ROI (Return On Investment) can take place!

Interesting take on strengths and weaknesses, is it not?

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!

Optimism is a “gift that keeps on giving.” Not surprisingly, research has shown that optimistic people tend to be more well-adjusted, handle pressure better, tend to perform better, have less health issues, etc. We all know people like this, individuals who always see the opportunity, the up side of a situation, the glass as half full. I once heard a comedian say, “I don’t care if the glass is half empty or half full. I just want to know who is drinking it, and do I have to pay for all of it?!”

With all of the positives coming from an optimistic approach to life, the question remains: Can anyone, even those who are not predisposed to “look on the sunny side” become more optimistic?

According to Dr. Martin Seligman, the answer is a resounding “YES!” He started with early behavioral research that demonstrated the existence of “learned helplessness” – an attitude of giving up, taking no action out of the belief that nothing would improve anyway, so why bother? Rank pessimism is the result. Admittedly, some levels of pessimism can be useful (thinking through “worse case scenarios,” for example), but left unchecked it becomes a recipe for disaster.

Seligman shares his findings and his recommendations for reworking the individual’s “explanatory style” in his excellent book Learned Optimism. As helplessness can be learned (by and large, children often start out naturally optimistic and hopeful), so we can all “learn” optimism. His prescription for this change in approach can be addressed through a process characterized by the letters A-B-C-D-E:

  1. Identify the ADVERSE event or situation.
  2. Understand what your initial BELIEFS are about the event.
  3. Lay out the CONSEQUENCES of taking direct action as a result of these beliefs.
  4. DISPUTE these beliefs to challenge their accuracy. Or, DISTRACT yourself from focusing intently on these natural responses to avoid a “knee-jerk” response.
  5. ENERGIZE yourself to take positive action based on your new interpretation of the situation.

Over the course of time practicing these techniques, this Disputation and Energization towards a more positive response can become more rapid and effective, even becoming your “default” response.

At this point, Congratulations! You’ve LEARNED OPTIMISM!