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How to Participate in the Gig Economy (Even as an Executive)

There’s a lot of buzz words in the job search world these days – the gig economy, contract gigs,  ‘permalancers’, talent exchange, talent economy, interim gigs, and my newly-coined version ‘gig economist’. At the heart of these concepts is one meaning – Freelancing. Once reserved for artists, editors, musicians, graphic and website designers, freelancing is becoming more mainstream and is being embraced by professionals and executives across a wide range of industries and backgrounds.

A recent LinkedIn blog post How the Freelance Generation is Redefining Professional Norms, the writer states, “The world of work is changing — you can see it in the numbers. Freelancers who made up a mere 6% of the workforce in 1989 are expected to represent 43% of the workforce by 2020.”

The world of work is indeed changing, and it sounds exciting. Those who long for work-life balance and flexible schedules can become gig economists. In fact, in the midst of writing this article (coincidence or not), this former Divisional Vice President contacted me for services. During our conversation she brought up the topic of interim jobs, suggesting that she is willing to consider such opportunities. “I am at a point where I want to continue working even if it’s not at the salary and title I am used to.”  That led us to talk about this trend of contract work.

Choice or Happenstance

One of my clients was laid off just before summer last year. He wasn’t in a rush for a new job but found one sooner than expected. This was a six-month contract. We discussed the pros and cons and he decided to take the job as it was with a well-established company with  great potential. (The contract has since been extended).

Whether by choice or happenstance, some job seekers are faced with the dilemma of unemployment or contract gigs. Some have been laid off (through no fault of their own), and are actively searching for full time jobs. Others are looking for a career change. But there is one group – serial contractors or ‘permalancers’, who are deliberately choosing to move from one gig to another when they want.

The quest for work-life balance, the departure from a set work schedule, and the evolution of technology have all impacted how work gets done. In an interview with Michael Carter, co-founder of Kahuso, an online marketplace that connects accomplished executives and professionals with companies for full-time, contract, advisory and board opportunities, I asked him about the demographic shift that is taking place within the job marketplace.

As a freelance executive and a multi-time entrepreneur, Michael understands the importance of having access to the right people at the right time. Michael and his co-founders also realized there was a disconnect between companies in need of executive talent and accomplished executives who have core skills they have developed over the years and would like to parlay into passion projects.

For senior executives, this shift towards the gig economy represents an incredible opportunity to enjoy a better way of working – one that combines interesting and lucrative work with the ability to control work flow, schedules and projects by creating arrangements outside of the traditional full time role.

There are those who still aspire to work, not because they have to, but because they want to continue to be engaged in value-based work, and have the flexibility and balance they seek. Kahuso fills this void, having created an executive cloud for companies to access. They work exclusively with executive-level talent by matching expertise with opportunity. This arrangement brings tremendous job satisfaction to executives while lowering costs and commitment for companies.

Another platform that’s worthy of consideration for interim work, if you are based in the United States, is Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ PwC’s Talent Exchange program. According to Pablo Medina from their US Advisory division, this Talent Exchange “is a marketplace that connects top independent talent with opportunities on PwC projects. By removing the middle-man, the Talent Exchange provides greater access and transparency to independent professionals, while building relationships that help PwC continue to deliver for its clients.” It is available to US-based talent who have the skills and experience needed by the firm’s Advisory practice.

Who really benefits from the gig economy?

Companies benefit from lower costs and just-in-time hiring. When there is an in-house shortage of skills, they know where to access a reservoir of talent. Freelancers or gig economists benefit from having a flexible work schedule or access to interim assignments. A Fast Company article How the Gig Economy Will Change in 2017, discusses the trend.

Even HR departments are beginning to think differently these days and are taking steps towards this new and emerging talent economy. Lisa Taylor, Founder & President of Challenge Factory, said in a virtual conference hosted by Career Professionals of Canada that, “HR is shifting from how work gets done to who does the work. They hire the talent they need when they need it.”

While the gig economy enables companies to hire talent on an ‘as needed’ basis without incurring additional costs, the downside for job seekers is a decline in traditional full time jobs.

How Job Candidates from all Levels Can Participate in the Gig Economy

Anyone can participate in the gig economy. Results of a 2016 survey by Upwork, a leader in freelance talents, and the Freelancers Union, shows that  that 35% of the total U.S. workforce are choosing to freelance. While this survey was focused on the US market, globalization and access to technology have allowed millions of people worldwide to successfully engage in freelance work.

Platforms such as Upwork (formerly oDesk), People per hour, Fiverr, are online marketplaces where people can ‘hire out’ their talents. I have personally hired talent from Upwork and Fiverr at one point or another. These platforms allow employers, companies or entrepreneurs to post work they need done, and freelancers bid on that work.

Companies want to know how and where they can access talent without owning it. If you are unemployed, recently laid off, or looking for a flexible work schedule, review the following tips:

  • Explore alternative work arrangements while waiting for your ideal job, whether you are an executive, manager or entry-level employee. Magic can happen when talent meets opportunity.
  • Leverage your talent! Hire out your talent on some of the platforms mentioned above or explore others. You will acquire new skills as you move from project to project. You will be building your portfolio, adding to your resume, and making yourself more marketable.
  • Stop feeling embarrassed about your short-term work assignments. Recruiters and employers understand the current job market, and are not that uptight about individuals involved in this kind of ‘job hopping’, especially those who have had a track record of steady employment.
  • Treat your interim assignments as if they were permanent. Look out for tasks that need to be done and do them. Your interim assignment can become a permanent one.
  • Autograph your work with excellence. Some companies use the short-term stint as a test before hiring full-time. If you can demonstrate initiative and fit, you could be the one offered the full-time opportunity.

Are you ready to take the big leap to become a gig economist? If not, what’s holding you back?

Share your thoughts here.

Resources:

Four Steps to Turn Your Contract Gig into a Full Time Job Offer

How to Tell If You Should Hire a Freelance or Full-Time Employee

85+ Freelance Marketplaces

 

She is in Pain and Fighting a Hard Battle

This is an unusual story. It deviates from the career and job search articles I normally write, but life happens. It will cause you to pause and reflect on some of what could be going on in the lives of some of the people around us.

I had just dropped my husband off at the train station for a trip into Toronto. On my return I stopped at the grocery store for one item. I didn’t need a flyer, but it’s customary for me to pick one up as I am entering the store. The flyer stand was empty, but I saw one tucked far inside a shopping cart, requiring me to put in the quarter to retrieve it. I went straight to pick up the item I needed, but it was sold out. You are now wondering where I am going with all this detail, but bear with me.

Since I didn’t find what I went for, I decided to flip through the pages of the flyer anyway to see what else I could purchase. As I got to the back page I saw this handwritten message:

“God brought me into this world as everyone else. What’s my mistake in it? How am I supposed to be blamed for this? I have kids. I want to live for them; watch them grow into good human beings. I am really sorry if God made a mistake by bringing me into this world. What’s my mistake where no one loves me!!

My existence doesn’t affect[s] anyone!!

Life is like an extra baggage!! Fed up of it since last 12 years. I want to be loved by someone. Don’t I deserve to be loved!!

What’s the point of living!!

My In-laws hate[s] me!!

My husband hates me!!

I hate myself!! I hate myself!!”

Holy! My head started spinning as I re-read the note. I paid for the items and left. As I entered my vehicle, I thought of the pain that that woman was (and is) going through, wondered where she was at that moment, and said a prayer for her. This popular quote: “Be Kind; Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle”, kept going through my mind. Wouldn’t a kind word or a shoulder to cry on have eased her pain that day?

We interact with people every day: at work, on the train, in the mall, at the grocery store, and at home. Some have smiles on their faces; others don’t, yet we are not always aware of what’s going on in their lives.

As a career coach, I collaborate with people facing career and job search challenges, whether it is a resume that isn’t communicating value; difficulty landing a job after several interviews; lack of career progression in the organization, or someone who is stuck, confused and, yes, fed up.

I have also had individuals contacting me for job search services, but early into the conversation we both discover they are dealing with issues that need to be resolved before we proceed. While not often, there have been cases where the issues are far outside my professional competence. In such cases I would refer the individual to a therapist or mental health professional trained to handle such matters.

In instances where the problem is not as extreme, we will work on them. Sometimes it’s a self-esteem issue because they feel they are not good enough. One woman actually told me she felt she was suffering from Imposter Syndrome. At other times, someone’s confidence has been shaken because they are not nailing the interview and keeps missing out on job opportunities. These individuals begin to second guess themselves:

  • “Why me?”
  • “Why did my last assignment end within three months, instead of the six they had promised?”
  • “Why am I not getting the jobs even after so many interviews? Could it be they didn’t like me, or was I not a good fit?”
  • “How come I was acting in the position for more than a year, and they hired someone else?”

These are real life battles and a lot of baggage for some people to carry. How can we help? Or, how about you? Do you see yourself in any of the above scenarios? Are you feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Are you having thoughts like the woman who wrote that note? If the latter, seek professional help, starting with your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), if there is one. If not, find someone you can talk to, or search for local organizations that offer counselling support.

By this I hope you now understand why this article did not focus on the job search or resume writing, and why I went into details at the beginning. There was probably a reason I went to great lengths to get the flyer even though I didn’t need it. I could’ve walked straight in the grocery store, picked up the item and left. But, probably it was to give me something else to write about outside my usual career topics. I don’t know.

Life happens outside of our jobs and careers. Sometimes we need to pause from our own busyness, or a focus on self, and become aware of what could be happening to people around us, and even those we don’t know.

That woman who told her story on that supermarket flyer was crying out and sharing her pain. She could be a family member, a coworker, a neighbour, or friend. We don’t know. What we do know is that we need to help carry one another’s burdens. Sometimes it’s as simple as a short conversation, a listening ear, zipping our lips before a hurtful word escapes, or taking the time to be kind. Kindness doesn’t cost anything.

A lot of anxiety and stress happens at the workplace. Considering many people spend many hours of each day in that space, it would be a great place to start being empathetic. The next time you are tempted to criticize someone, turn that criticism into kindness. Just think that this person could be having an ‘iceberg’ moment; a lot more going on beneath the surface. If a coworker snaps at you, invite them for coffee and listen, even in silence, or let them guide the conversation. If you are a manager and feel the urge to call out a staff member because they didn’t meet your expectation, turn the moment into a coachable one. Ask them a few questions and listen attentively to their responses:

  1. What is your dream?
  2. What motivates you?
  3. What would make your role in this department/company more fulfilling?
  4. Do you think you are currently performing up to your potential? Why or why not?
  5. What does success mean for you? What would a successful life look and feel like?
  6. If you could have anything in the world what would it be?
  7. What do you want the rest of your life to be about?
  8. Are you feeling overwhelmed? How do you release stress?
  9. What do you do to look after yourself on a regular basis?
  10. How do you enjoy yourself?

You might not have to ask or get an answer to all the questions, but that’s not the point. You shifted gears and took the time to make a difference in that person’s life.

On a scale of 1-10, life is not a perfect circle. There are ups and downs. If you are at a point where you want to take stock of your life or career, why not sit with a notepad in a quiet place and take a look at your life to determine what could be contributing to or impeding your progress or overall happiness? Find out what’s working in your family, job, career, friendships, finance, health, etc. and what’s not working. Rank them on a scale of 1-10. If they are low in most areas, it’s time to reach out for help from a trusted friend or a coach.

If you would like a free copy of an assessment tool – Brighten Up Your Life – which will indicate what a happy, satisfying life might look like for you in several areas, send me an email at daisy[at]thewrightcareer.com, and I will gladly make it available to you. (This tool will only work if you are committed to using it.)

In the meantime, take care of yourself and be kind to everyone you meet. They might just be fighting a very hard battle.

Need a quick chat about your career or job search? Give me a call pronto!

How to Get the Job You Want

“Only those who can see the invisible can accomplish the impossible!” – Patrick Snow

Lisa was the subject of my earlier post. What I didn’t mention is the depth of our conversation. She had dropped by to give me an update on her year of personal development. In late 2015, she took a sabbatical from ‘being in the dumps’ and decided that 2016 was going to be her ‘Personal Development’ year.

She had taken time off years ago for child-minding reasons, and was ready to get back into the workforce, but finding opportunities commensurate with her background and experience was proving difficult.

At the beginning of 2016, she harnessed all the resources she could get: DVDs, books, face-to-face meetings, teleconferences, webinars, and, of course, joined my Let’s GROW Project. We also continued our coaching check-ins, which started three years ago.

A day before stopping by, she had sent a Whatsapp message that said, “I got the job!” The job is with a well-known organization with offices around the globe, and she was thrilled. What intrigued me most about her approach were the unusual steps she took to get the job.

Nearing the end of her first interview, she was asked if she had any questions. She said, “I asked one of the questions you usually recommend: If I were the successful candidate, what would you like to see me accomplish within my first 30 days?” This time she chose 90 days.

By the look on their faces, the panel was probably not expecting that question, but after a few awkward moments, they responded. She made some notes, went home, and developed a 3-page list of her 90-day goals, which she sent to the panellists. She was invited for a second interview where the majority of the time was spent discussing her goal list. She felt very confident after leaving the office that day.

On her return home, she sent a thank-you note, but took the process one step further. She took out a family photograph, gathered her ‘sensory images’ (I call them ‘inspirational stones’), that were labeled Faith, Hope, Believe, and Success. She then bought a small Lucky Bamboo plant and arranged all the items as if they were on her desk at the company’s office.

 

 

Each day she would visualize herself at the desk, working, speaking with her new boss and coworkers, smiling and answering the phone. She said she didn’t have time to think about her competitors – the other people who had been interviewed for the job. She just focused on seeing herself in the role. Two weeks later she received the call that the job was hers.

If you are a skeptic you may scoff at all this. You are probably wondering what role, if any, the ‘lucky bamboo’ and the inspirational stones played in Lisa’s success. That’s not the point. Whether one is a student of Law of Attraction (whatever you focus on you attract), or one sees the value of prayer, or setting intentions, it is true that one’s focus determines one’s reality. Or, as I reminded some ladies in a recent Career Workshop, “Ideas or thoughts become things.”

Not only did Lisa visualize and surround herself with the sensory images, but she did the work that was required! She prepared for the interviews, maintained a positive ‘can-do’ mindset, took the time to research the needs of the company and set goals to support the company. Action was key! Her year of personal development paid off, and on January 9, this highly-qualified professional will start a new phase of her life.

As she said, “My Personal Development immersion over the year has not only helped me professionally, but helped me improve personal and professional relationships, improved my mental health, and my overall feeling of well-being and, most importantly, given me a strong belief that I have control over my future.”

There goes a client who did not leave her professional development to chance. She decided what her reality should look like, applied laser-beam focus to it, and with sustained action, she achieved one of her goals.

With only a few hours into the New Year, are you ready to visualize your own reality? The late Jim Rohn said, “If you don’t like where you are, change it. You are not a tree!”

Want to share your thoughts?

Stop the Procrastination! Do It NOW!

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It’s amazing what coaches can learn from their clients. That’s the reason I refer to coaching as ‘a collaboration’.

Lisa dropped by during the Christmas Holidays with a lovely Poinsettia (never saw that type before), and to give me an update on her year of personal development. We have been working together for the past three years, but mostly on an ad hoc basis over the past year or so. In fact, she was one of the first persons to join the Let’s GROW Project.

Our conversation was primarily about the tools and resources she had harnessed and been using during the year to get to where she is now.

As the conversation went on, she took out a wad of cards on which she had written affirmations that she uses throughout her day. Since I am a believer in prayer, in affirmations, law of attraction (whatever the label), I wasn’t surprised when she took out her stack.

Of all the cards she showed me, the one that got my attention was “Do it NOW!” There it was in bold print, sticking out like a sore thumb, pointing directly at me, the procrastinator.

As much as I hate to admit it, I do procrastinate. If it’s not a reluctance to getting my administrative tasks done, it’s some personal stuff, like folding laundry. Here’s an example of a time when I procrastinated. Although the idea to write my first book, No Canadian Experience, Eh? was percolating in my head for a while, it took me 10 years to finally bring it to life. It was all IDEA, but no ACTION!

When I saw Lisa’s “Do it NOW” in black and white, it resonated with me. As soon as she left, I decided to put the words into action. I looked at the two baskets of recently laundered clothes and told myself to “Do it NOW!” Before the end of the night, all laundry was nicely folded and put away. What an achievement! I sent Lisa a message the following morning to tell her what I had learned from her that evening.

Now, that act might appear quite small, or probably silly. After all, at some point or the other, the laundry had to be put away, but consider this on a bigger scale, or make it personal. What if it is something that you know MUST be done, but you keep procrastinating? What if it’s something you are afraid to do but you fear rejection? What if you decide to ‘Do it NOW’?

The New Year is but a few hours away. As mentioned earlier, I am not one for resolutions, so am not going to ask you to make any. In fact, if you have been a newsletter subscriber for a long time, you know I don’t encourage anyone to make resolutions. I suggest they set goals. This year, I won’t even ask anyone to set goals. The focus will be on TAKING ACTION; ‘doing it NOW’, whatever the ‘IT’ is.

What if your ‘IT’ is to:

  • Find a new job?
  • Reach out to someone in a company at which you would like to work?
  • Get a promotion?
  • Start a business?
  • Do a TED Talk?
  • Write a book. (Don’t take 10 years)?
  • Start your own Charity?
  • Experiment with freelance work if you haven’t found your ideal job yet?
  • Contact a celebrity, or someone influential for an informational interview?
  • Hire a coach (or someone you trust) to keep you accountable?
  • Travel, Sing, Act…?

Whatever your ‘IT’ is,  “Do it NOW!” Don’t put it off for another year.  Allow the phrase “Do it NOW!” to sink in until it forces you to ACT. I guarantee you will feel empowered just by taking that one small action.

Remember, “Inaction creates nothing. Action creates success.” – Stephen Richards

 

Watch for Part II:  The Case Study.

Being the Most Qualified Does Not Guarantee You the Job!

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Have you ever left an interview feeling you nailed it quite well that you would be offered the job? You wait for days (or weeks) only to hear you didn’t. I am sure you have, and it’s not a nice feeling.

The US elections are over. One candidate got hired; the other got fired, and for those of us who follow politics, we are wondering what happened. That conversation was what dominated the group coaching class with the women in my Let’s GROW Project today. One woman commented that the most qualified person did not get the job. I chimed in that 46.9% of eligible voters did not vote. Another spoke of places where people do not have the opportunity to vote. The discussion provided a segue into why being the most qualified candidate does not necessarily guarantee you the job.

Here is how the group drew an analogy with the results of the US elections and a job interview. Two candidates were shortlisted for the position and were going to be interviewed by a panel of the American public. One had a very impressive resume. She had 30+ years of experience in politics as First Lady of a state; First Lady of the United States, Senator and Secretary of State. She also had testimonials and references from high profile colleagues and celebrities. All that would easily make her a shoe-in for the job.

The other candidate didn’t have any of that. He touted himself as a businessman, and an outsider to the Washington establishment. Despite publicly passing incendiary remarks, and refusing to follow protocol, it did not stop him from getting the job. How did that happen? Answers to that question will vary, depending on which side of the political fence one is on. However, from a job search perspective we could examine the role that personal branding, messaging and the halo effect might have played:

Personal Branding and Messaging

One candidate branded herself as the one with the experience, a steady hand and an even keel temperament. She cited her many success stories and had proof that backed them up. Many on the interview panel (the electorate) believed her. In fact, she won the popular vote, but because of how the Electoral College works, she did not get the job. What went wrong? Was it her brand? Did people buy into the narrative that she was untrustworthy? What about her messaging? Was it clear to her audience that she understood their pain?

The other candidate branded himself as the outsider; the businessman who could turn around Washington. He pointed to his business successes and his ability to ‘swing deals’. Although that is debatable, it was enough to convince a good part of the electorate that he was the best person for the job. He showed himself as an astute marketer, ripping right into the heart of their core beliefs – that the status quo needed a shake up; that the other candidate was a part of the establishment and was going to offer more of the same. His messaging was effective enough where his negatives didn’t matter to his constituents.

The Halo Effect

The halo effect, as described in Wikipedia, “is a cognitive bias in which an observer’s overall impression of a person, company, brand, or product influences the observer’s feelings and thoughts about that entity’s character or properties.” This means, many on the interview panel could have been influenced positively or negatively by their perception of each candidate. If that were the case, their minds were already made up. Regardless of what the candidates said from thereon, they latched on to their first impression of each candidate.

  1. Not too many of us aspire to be a head of state, but we are very often invited to interviews. In preparing for an interview, what could we learn from the results of the US elections?
  2. A resume might not be enough. An impressive resume, LinkedIn Profile (with its many testimonials), and high profile celebrity references might not be enough to get hired. Go beyond those, and think of what additional value you have to offer. Determine if your 30+ years of experience is an asset or a liability, and will it help or hurt your chances?
  3. Branding is not just for companies. It is common these days to speak about one’s ‘personal brand’. This is a blend of people’s perception of you and how you see yourself. Are they congruent, or, do people characterize you as someone different from who you really are? One way to find out is to complete a 360 assessment. These are easily available from a variety of sources, including the 360 Reach Branding Assessment.
  4. Authenticity is a key part of your branding. Be yourself. Highlight the skills, knowledge and strengths that make you unique. Showcase yourself in a way that feels natural to you, yet capture the attention of the hiring manager. You need to ensure that your brand is received positively by the people thinking of hiring you.
  5. First impression matters. You should strive to make a good first impression. Extend your research beyond that of the company and to the people who will be a part of the interview panel. Don’t know who they are? Find out, then conduct a Google search. What you discover could serve as a conversation opener and rapport builder instead of having to discuss the weather.
  6. Messaging is important. Your message should be tailored to the needs of the employer. You need to articulate your success stories in a way that convinces the employer you understand their needs, know where their pain points are, and that you “can fix it”(according to one of the election candidates).
  7. Monitor your social media footprints. Most employers conduct a search on candidates before inviting them to an interview. Make sure you do the same. Do a Google search on yourself to see if there are any negative or unsavoury mentions about you, and clear them up as quickly as you can.

It hurts when you were not hired for the job you were sure you would get. You know in your heart that you have the right qualifications, skills and experience. You did all that you could do, but the decision making was not under your control. Don’t beat upon yourself too much and never stop believing in you and your capabilities. “Take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again”, said Frank Sinatra. This might not be easy. It could take days for you to come to terms with what happened, but life goes on and so should you.

What other tips would you offer to someone who is feeling dejected because of a lost job opportunity?

 

 

Why Are You Afraid to Tell Your Unique, Authentic Story?

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We tell stories every day – to family, friends and colleagues – yet we hardly think of telling stories when we meet recruiters, hiring managers, potential employers, and even potential business partners. Why? We are afraid; we don’t want anyone to label us as ‘braggarts’. A LinkedIn article titled “Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable – Why Now is the Time to Tell Your Work Story”, indicates that approximately only 29% of Canadians and 40% of Americans feel comfortable talking about themselves. In fact, 53% of workers admitted they feel like they are bragging if they talk about themselves. “We’re so uncomfortable touting our work successes that we’d rather share our political views on social media than let our followers know we received a promotion or got a new job.”

In his book, Tell to Win, Peter Gruber states: “Today everyone – whether they know it or not – is in the emotional transportation business. More and more, success is won by creating [and telling] compelling stories that have the power to move partners, shareholders, customers and employees to action. Simply put, if you can’t tell it, you can’t sell it.” This means, if you can’t engage, persuade, motivate and convince others of your accomplishments, your story will remain inside you, and someone else will snag that coveted job or business opportunity.

Storytelling has not only become a central theme to the job search process, but is also a powerful way to get your message across in any setting. It doesn’t matter if you are in an interview, at a networking event, delivering an elevator speech in 30 seconds, participating in meetings, or communicating one-on-one. What matters is your ability to confidently tell stories that will communicate your value and build credibility.

Bear in mind that you are also telling your story in verbal and nonverbal ways. For example, did you know that your resume and your other career marketing efforts are all telling your story? When your resume is set aside by a hiring manager for follow up, it is because something compelling grabbed the his or her attention. When it comes to interviews, you are often asked to “tell me about yourself” or “describe a time when…”. Those questions present an opportunity for you to recount stories that will convince the hiring manager you are the ideal person for the role.

Whether you are a job seeker or an entrepreneur, it’s important that you become a masterful storyteller. Someone who is able to strategically craft and deliver stories that will engage and capture an audience, whether it’s an audience of one or many. You need signature stories that you are proud to share, without feeling bashful. Stories that reveal your authenticity and set you apart from your competitors. How do you do that? Think of it as a movie where you were the main actor. Recall and write out compelling scenes that demonstrated the challenges you were up against, the actions you took and the results or outcomes. Look for patterns. What skills were you using most; where did you feel more energized. This exercise should give your confidence a boost and have you well-prepared to articulate your unique and authentic stories.

Before telling your story, consider the following:

  • Know yourself: Candidly assess your strengths, weaknesses, failures and successes, and be ready to address them if asked.
  • Learn to promote yourself. This might take you out of your comfort zone, but you need to learn to talk about yourself. This is not bragging. This is articulating what’s true about you; who you are, what you have accomplished, and what value you will bring to the new role. If you don’t tell your story, then people won’t know the broad range of talents you have. There is merit in the cliché of tooting your own horn, because if you don’t, no one will know you are coming.
  • Be authentic: Don’t borrow someone else’s story and try to be somebody you are not. Tell your own unique story honestly and with confidence and ensuring that you stay authentic. Author and poet May Sarton said, “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
  • Review interview questions ahead of time. While you may not know all the questions you will be asked, research, review and practice certain interview questions that are commonly asked. Then prepare to condense your accomplishments into a few short points that will be memorable.
  • Strengthen your online presence. Nothing speaks louder than a well-written, consistent, authentic online profile that tells your story even when you are asleep. This could be a personal website or blog, or your LinkedIn profile, complete with accomplishments and work samples (if appropriate).

Now, it’s your turn. Are you ready to tell your story? Need to learn storytelling strategies? Grab a copy of Tell Stories, Get Hired.

Are You Guilty of Unconscious Bias?

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Last Wednesday, serial entrepreneur John Greathouse published a blog post in The Wall Street Journal titled, Why Women in Tech Might Consider Just Using Their Initials Online. He argued that, “…women in today’s tech world should create an online presence that obscures their gender. A gender-neutral persona allows women to access opportunities that might otherwise be closed to them. Once they make an initial connection with a potential employer or investor, such women then have an opportunity to submit their work and experiences for an impartial review.”

Soon after the post was published, readers reacted, including Cathy Belk, founder of JumpStart, who wrote an article in Fortune titled No! Female Entrepreneurs Should Not Have To Hide Their Gender To Get Funding. She explains that “asking women to hide or change who they are doesn’t create equality or drive change. All it does is reinforce the status quo…”.

While Greathouse may have had good intentions, it ended up having unintended consequences. He may have thought that by hiding the fact they are women potential funders would automatically assume these applicants are men. This automatic assumption is known as unconscious bias. To back up his point, he stated that “Many people in the business community are “intellectually dishonest,” and while they preach diversity, they don’t practice it.” But, instead of  going after those he described as intellectually dishonest, he chose an easier path, suggesting that women create an online presence that obscures their gender. That, in itself, is acquiescing to the status quo rather than trying to change it.

Although the Wall Street Journal article focuses on women, there is a job search analogy to be drawn from it. Imagine a job seeker with a non-English name being asked to change it to one more readily acceptable, or suggest that they omit photos from their online presence, or use initials when applying for a job. This happens.

When it comes to bias, no matter how open minded we think we are, we all have it to some degree and by the way, it is not limited to ethnicity or race. It is shaped by our experiences, what other people tell us, media portrayals, etc. While we are mostly aware of conscious bias because it’s explicit, unconscious bias is instinctive; it is unintentional, and something we are not usually aware of. Because of all this, it is important that all of us (businesses, employers and individuals), become more in tuned with our biases before we make automatic assumptions.

In a recent LinkedIn post, Microsoft’s Chief People Officer, Kathleen Hogan wrote, a piece titled Screen In to diversify your workforce. She states, “Screening In reflects our desire to bring in talented people who aren’t carbon copies of existing employees, because building a homogenous workforce isn’t the best way to innovate and problem solve for the increasingly diverse customers we serve.” As well intended as this statement is, the image used in the article did not reflect the diversity of which she touted. Was unconscious bias at play with the choice of that image? Probably, although it does not detract from the message of a company committed to doing things right.

As part of the Screen In approach, all Microsoft employees are required to participate in an annual Unconscious Bias Training. Not only that, but Microsoft is making the training available externally for anyone to experience. Experimenting with the tool might help us learn our own unconscious biases and change our behaviours.

Another area of the job search where unconscious bias often rears its head is in resume reviews. A Fast Company article, How Unconscious Bias Affects Everything We Do,  suggests that before doing so, managers could be asked to respond to a series of questions such as:

  • “Does this person’s resume remind you in any way about yourself?”
  • “Does it remind you of somebody you know? Is that positive or negative?”
  • “Are there things about the resume that particularly impact you? Are they really relevant to the job?”
  • “What assessments have you made already about the person? Are they grounded in solid information or simply your interpretations?”

The Wall Street Journal article might have stirred up the hornet’s nest about gender, but it has also opened up an opportunity to have conversations around our preconceived notions. And, from a job search perspective, these conversations could help to decipher biases and tap into the skills, talents and expertise of everyone.

British Economist, Journalist and former advisor to the World Trade Organization, Philippe Legrain, said “Most innovations nowadays come not from individuals, but from groups of talented people sparking off each other – and foreigners with different ideas, perspectives and experiences add something extra to the mix. If there are 10 people sitting around a table trying to come up with a solution to a problem and they all think alike, then they are no better than one. But if they all think differently and bounce new ideas and reactions off one another, they can solve problems better and faster, as a growing volume of research shows.”

What are your thoughts on unconscious bias? Are you guilty? Take a few minutes to complete the free unconscious bias training offered by Microsoft. I am halfway through it.

Are You One of the 87 Percent Not Enjoying Your Job?

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Did you know that 87% of the workforce do not enjoy going to work? In fact, only 13% of employees worldwide report they actually like going to work, which means the rest are struggling to force them into the office.

Imagine this: it’s Monday morning, your alarm clock goes off. Your stomach starts churning, your head starts hurting and it takes every bit of energy to force yourself out of bed. For most people, just getting them to go to the same energy-draining, uninspiring job, Monday through Friday is work in itself.

What if you accept this invitation to ‘attend’ this FREE online event – The Ultimate Career Summit – that will help you take charge of your career, land a job you love and earn what you deserve? ACT NOW to learn from fourteen or more experts in the field of job search and career development/advancement. The expert panel will share effective strategies to help you begin to take positive actions in designing and developing a career; one that rewards you both emotionally and financially.

Here is a sample of what you will learn:

  • How to use LinkedIn to build visibility in the hidden job market
  • Learn how to obtain a federal job; forget what you thought you knew
  • How to create your personal branding for visibility to help advance your career
  • Hear what actions one can take to confidently and effectively discuss a merit/salary increase
  • The kind of fears stand in the way of career success
  • Why passion is essential for a great career, and why it is not enough
  • How to use a job-search strategy that matches your personality type

That’s just a sampling of what you will learn from this FREE global event, and it’s packed with career information. Here’s your chance to reserve your spot.

Imagine going to work to a job that makes you feel energized, appreciated and fulfilled. Wait no longer. Act now and REGISTER to gain access to this information including how to access the hidden job market or how to advance in your careers.

P.S. I get it. You already feel swamped, and stressed out! Then you are just the person this summit was designed to help. Schedule some time for yourself – only 30 minutes a day – and listen to this amazing group of professionals share tips and strategies that can help you take control of your work day and your life.

Register now to join us

 

 

Want to Find the Best Places to Work in Canada?

One of the critical elements of an effective job search is to conduct research. Every job seeker has repeatedly heard such advice. However, many have limited their job search to job boards and company websites. Those resources are quite useful, but if you are not gaining any traction with them, you might want to take your search up a notch.

If you would like to find the best places in Canada to work, the Top 100 Canadian employers, or the best jobs in Canada, then they have all been curated here.  These resources, listed below, will help you tap into the hidden job market, find opportunities and get hired faster. Make sure to bookmark the links so you will have them at your finger tips:

Best Places to Work in Canada (2016)

Great Place to Work, “Is an HR Consulting firm, conducting the world’s largest workplace survey with over 11 million employees world wide”, according to its Senior Vice President Nancy Fonseca.

Since 2005, the Canadian affiliate has been recognizing Canadian companies based on how their employees have been able to build high-quality relationships characterized by trust, pride and camaraderie. Robert Levering, Co-Founder, of Great Place to Work, states that, “A great place to work is one in which you TRUST the people you work for, have PRIDE in what you do, and ENJOY the people you work with.”

The company’s website states that, “Trust is the defining principle of great workplaces — created through management’s credibility, the respect with which employees feel they are treated, and the extent to which employees expect to be treated fairly. The degree of pride and levels of authentic connection and camaraderie employees feel with one are additional essential components.”

They recently released their list of Best Workplaces for 2016, including the best workplaces for women. Awards were made in the following categories:

  • 8 Best Small Workplaces in Canada with 25 – 49 employees working in Canada.
  • 50 Best Workplaces in Canada for Women
  • 50 Best Medium Workplaces in Canada with 50 – 999 employees working in Canada.
  • 50 Best Large and Multinational Workplaces in Canada with more than 1000 employees working in Canada or worldwide.

The full list can be found here: 2016 Best Workplaces in Canada.

Canada’s Top 100 Employers

Canada’s Top 100 Employers is produced by Mediacorp Canada. It determines Canada’s Top 100 Employers using eight criteria: (1) Physical Workplace; (2) Work Atmosphere & Social; (3) Health, Financial & Family Benefits; (4) Vacation & Time Off; (5) Employee Communications; (6) Performance Management; (7) Training & Skills Development; and (8) Community Involvement. Employers are compared to other organizations in their field to determine which offers the most progressive and forward-thinking programs. Their list of top Employers for 2016 can be found here: Canada’s Top 100 Employers

Canadian Business Magazine’s Top Jobs for 2016

Canadian Business has also ranked the Best Jobs in Canada in 2016, based on salaries, qualifications, and employment prospects. This allows job seekers and career changers to explore some of the fields with the highest pay and greatest potential. While they have their top 100 picks, they have also narrowed the list to the top 25 Jobs for 2016.

If you are looking for the jobs with the biggest salaries, fields showing strong demand for talent, or fields where there’s lots of opportunity, consult the following:

Top 25 Jobs for 2016

Top 100 Jobs in Canada for 2016

In addition, the Magazine has also published its second annual ranking of Canada’s Best Employers uncovering “the companies where people can’t wait to get to work.” In partnership with AON Best Employers, they gathered information on:

  • How they (employers) get every employee to innovate
  • How they hang on to their best employees
  • How small companies provide big perks
  • How they thrive in the face of crisis

Top 100 Best Employers

Statistics Canada (Canadian Labour Market Information)

Canadian Labour Market Information is a resource produced by Statistics Canada, and which includes labour market activities of the Canadian population. This is broken down into: how many people are employed or unemployed; the unemployment rate; which industries or occupations people work in; the hours they work; commuting patterns; wage and non-wage benefits; job training; labour mobility; work absences; unionization; unpaid work; and other topics.

Labour Market Information is a grossly underutilized career development tool, and any job seeker or career changer who would like to get up to speed on current trends in the Canadian labour market should have this resource in their job search toolkit. Canadian Labour Market Information

If you are a job seeker or career changer, or someone who is serious about your career development; if you are tired of scouring job boards and company websites; if your resume is getting lost in applicant tracking systems, it’s time to change your strategy. Each organization mentioned above has their own criteria for arriving at their top employers or top jobs. There could be overlaps, but these are comprehensive resources that will help you start your research, tap into the hidden job market and shorten your job search.

Do you have any other resources to recommend? Share it with us.

How to Win the Interview Game

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Interviews are terrifying. Job candidates are known to sweat profusely, become tongue-tied, give wrong answer and blow the entire interview. Some have even tried reading the interviewer’s mind to come up with what they think the interviewer wants to hear instead of than focusing on the value they could offer. These peculiarities are not limited to entry-level candidates but run across the continuum to management and executive level candidates.

It’s natural to be nervous and experience some or all of the above symptoms, but there are better ways to prepare for interviews, lessen your stress and win the interview game. It IS really possible to unravel the mystery in each question, develop answers that showcase your accomplishments, and convince the interviewer you are the perfect person for the job. It starts with knowing that the interviewer really wants you to convince her that you will be able to do the job; you will be productive and help them make money, and you will fit in with the team. All of this takes a bit of work!

Below are seven questions that are regularly asked at interviews. They are followed by a short explanation of what the interviewer is looking for. They are designed to help you understand what the interviewer is looking for and develop your stories. While they are geared to managers, mid-career professionals and executives, anyone who wants to win the interview game should take note:

QUESTION: “Tell me about a time when you accomplished something significant that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been there to make it happen.”

Another question related question could be: “Tell me a time when you were not a formal leader but became a leader.

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER IS LOOKING FOR: In both instances, they are looking for leadership competency. Are you an effective leader? Are you willing to assume a leadership role even if your job description doesn’t identify you as a leader?

QUESTION: Tell me about a time when, despite your best effort, you failed to meet a deadline. What factors caused you to miss the deadline? What was the outcome? What did you learn from it?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER IS LOOKING FOR: Are you competent at  goal-setting, project management or organizing and planning. Do you understand how to keep track of a project in relation to its deadline? Do you demonstrate above average organizational skills? Are you a procrastinator? Are you quick to blame others, or do you take personal responsibility for failures?

QUESTION: Tell me two characteristics of your personality you have to improve, and how you will do it?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER IS LOOKING FOR: This question is to find out if you are aware of your shortcomings (weaknesses). If so, what steps have you taken to work on them. They also want to determine if you are self-motivated, and can initiate your own developmental plans.

QUESTION: Imagine I am your manager and I offer you the position. At the end of one year, what will I be writing in your performance review?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER IS LOOKING FOR: They want to know if you understand the importance of defining and setting specific goals and objectives; if you set realistic goals, and if you attain them. Give the interviewer two or three short-term goals you would have set for your first year on the job, then describe the results after the year.

QUESTION: Why should I consider you a strong candidate for this position? What have been your most significant achievements in your previous role?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER IS LOOKING FOR: Have you reviewed the job posting thoroughly? Do understand the duties and responsibilities of the job? Do you have the specific skills and the right experience they are looking?

QUESTION: What if I should contact your supervisor to enquire about your technical competence in your previous position? What would he or she list as your strengths? What weaknesses would they mention?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER IS LOOKING FOR: They are looking for evidence that you are highly competent; that you are a contributor who work hard; that you demonstrate excellent interpersonal skills when working with others. They want to make sure you have the right skills and temperament for the job.

QUESTION: What do you know about the position we are trying to fill? What are your strengths for this job? Is there any reason why you cannot perform the essential functions of this job?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER IS LOOKING FOR: If you put a lot of effort into researching the company, if you understand the job requirements, and if your skills match their needs. You need to understand what they do, then demonstrate how you would fit in. Avoid mentioning any weaknesses related to doing the job.

You can win the interview game when you understand what the interviewer really wants. To do this, you need to analyze the job posting line by line to make sure your skills, abilities and background are aligned with the requirements. Your next step is to develop accomplishment stories that relate directly to these requirements. Know yourself and your success stories well enough so they are easy to articulate. Refrain from giving rehearsed, robotic answers as they are easy to spot. Recall instances where you helped the company make or save money.

When it comes to discussing your weaknesses, tread carefully, but don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. After all, you are human. Discuss a weakness that shows the imperfect human being we all are, but nothing that could exclude you from being offered the job. Are you impatient? That’s a fair human condition, but explain what you are doing about it.

Finally, this is not the time to be shy. If you really have accomplishments, talk about them with confidence. They are your stories.

Related article in the Toronto Sun on How to Read the Interviewer’s Mind:  How Shall I Answer That?

Want to win the interview game? Ask me how.