Posts Tagged ‘Gift of Self Career Services’

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.”

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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!

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!”

I recall watching an episode of The Mythbusters (yes, I am an unapologetic and rabid fan, now enjoying it in reruns) where Adam Savage – Mythbuster and cohost with Jamie Hyneman (the hirsute Hoosier) – was intensely recording data from one of their typically unique experiments (it related to the possibility of Jack and Rose surviving on a wooden plank left behind in the detritus of the Titanic, as I recall). In the middle of capturing the information, Adam looked up at the camera, flashed one of his signature impertinent grins and espoused the following:

“The only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down.”  

“Wow!” – I cried out immediately. “What a great quote!” And, is often the case with my unusual thought processes, I found a corollary between this insight and endeavors in our careers and lives. Here is why I say “Write It Down.”

Writing it down makes it real.

Experts tell us that journalizing, committing thoughts to paper, recording ideas and impressions is extremely helping in focusing, working through alternatives, reviewing, revising and considering options. When it makes the trip from between your ears to appearing immediately before your eyes, it becomes more genuine.

Writing it down makes it active.

Now you have something to look at, to argue with, to challenge and revise, retrofit, even throw away and start over. As it bounces around in your mind, it is more likely to stay in the subjective realm. That “thought” staring back at you on a piece of paper or on a screen challenges you to do something with it.

Writing it down makes it measurable.

You’ve made it real. You’ve made it active. Now you can take action and see if it works. When our thoughts remain our thoughts (for most of us, at least), it’s difficult if not impossible to tell whether they will work (or are working) or not. Write it down with a number, a timeline, a date, some kind of benchmark to revisit what you’ve done and decide whether or not to continue or, if necessary, write something else down and go with that!

So the next time you have an idea, formulate a plan, consider a course of action, etc…. Write It Down!

Thanks, Adam!

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!