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

tell them your story - advice in isolated vintage wood letterpress printing blocks

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.

Life and Work Getting You Down? Call a Career Coach

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.

You can’t reach the top of your game all by yourself. Just as sporting champions benefit from the wisdom and guidance of their coaches, so can you in your working career.

~ Robert Half Career Coaching Guide

Once upon a time coaching was exclusive to business executives, actors, athletes, professional speakers, and entertainers. These experts hire coaches to help them assess their strengths and weaknesses, keep them motivated and support them as they work toward fulfilling their goals and dreams. You might not fall into any of those categories, but that does not mean you couldn’t benefit from coaching. If you are experiencing any or all of the following symptoms you might want to consider a career coach:

  • You are standing at a crossroads in your career and need help identifying the right direction
  • You are dissatisfied with your job, but not sure what to do next
  • You Lack confidence and have been passed over for promotions or other job opportunities
  • You are not getting interviews, and when you do, you are not moving on to the next stage

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a woman who has been in a career rut for a few years. Her career includes working in marketing and advertising with some well-known brands in Toronto. She also had a stint in television. Now she is ‘stuck’. At the end of our exploratory conversation, I asked her, “So, how can I help you? She said, “Ugh, I thought you would tell me.” I explained to her that coaching isn’t about telling someone what to do – it’s asking the right question to help the person gain clarity and come up with his or her own answers.

At the end of the conversation, I thought about this common misconception that people have about career coaching. A career coach cannot look into a crystal ball and tell a client what to do. It’s a collaborative process. The client explains the challenge they face, and where they might need the most help. The coach listens, prods, listens some more, advises, provides resources and keeps the client accountable.

Of course, it’s not easy to get out of a rut. Sometimes the journey starts off on the right foot but at some point the wheel falls off. Life gets in the way sometimes, but most times it’s because of a lack of action; a firm commitment to doing the homework (assessments, assignments, quizzes), and participate fully in the process. At some point they  abandon the process and give up. Giving up shouldn’t be an option if one really desires to get out of a rut.

Author and Marketing expert Bill Connolly wrote an article in Entrepreneur titled Stop Planning Your Career and Take Action. In it he summarizes the story of Dr. Susan O’Malley, a cosmetic doctor and personal development expert who specializes in helping people transform their own obstacles into victory:

  • College-dropout who worked as a secretary
  • At age 39 she became a doctor. (The day she started medical school she was six months pregnant and single.)
  • Became an entrepreneur at age 50
  • At 63 she became a first-time author writing her book, Tough Cookies Don’t Crumble: Turn Set-Backs into Success

Dr. O’Malley did not waver, complain or give up when she was forced  into a middle age change. “She dove head first into her new path, realizing that ‘now’ was far better than ‘never’, said Connolly. She advises anyone in similar positions as she was to start with small risks and work your way up.

“Everybody is afraid at one time or another. Fear prevents us from taking risks and stepping outside our comfort zone. All the stars will never be aligned perfectly and sometimes you have to make a decision with what you have.”

Anyone who realizes they are in a rut (career or otherwise), and wants a change, should take  action. Don’t leave such an important decision to happenstance. Once the decision is made, keep calm and carry on. Giving up should never be an option.

If you are feeling demoralized; if you find yourself at a plateau, and if you lack confidence, you might want to consider career coaching. A career coach can boost your confidence and give you a competitive edge.

 

How a Newly-Arrived Immigrant Landed a Six-Figure Job

http://www.daisywright.com/2013/07/23/how-a-newly-arrived-immigrant-landed-a-six-figure-job/Matthew had started his job search a few months before he arrived in Canada, but realized he needed coaching and a resume targeted to the Canadian market. He was referred to me by someone with whom we are both connected through LinkedIn.

After our initial discussion we agreed on a resume package that included a rewrite of his LinkedIn Profile. In his resume, we positioned him as a Global Business Development Executive. He was pleased with the resume, but wondered if it could intimidate some people. To calm his fears, I asked him the following questions:

  • Is the resume an accurate reflection of your achievements?
  • Did you oversee million dollar budgets?
  • Were you involved in some key contract negotiations?
  • Did you grow revenue by 65% for 3 consecutive years?
  • Did you reduce staff turnover by 50%?

He answered “Yes” to each question. I told him he had nothing to worry about but should focus his energies on how he could duplicate his successes with a new employer.

One of the first things he did after receiving his documents was to contact the CEO of one of his target companies through LinkedIn. He did this using a networking email I developed for him. Soon after, he was asked to send his resume. While waiting for a response, he began responding to postings on job boards. After he had uploaded 10 resumes over seven days, he contacted me to say he was not receiving any responses. I brought him back to reality by telling him that job boards, while important, were not the most effective tools for an effective job search.

He also had a couple of concerns. As successful as he was, he felt he was at a disadvantage without an MBA. He had also heard a lot about internationally educated professionals who were languishing in survival jobs because they lacked ‘Canadian experience’. I confirmed the truth, but suggested that he not allow such thoughts to take root in his head. He should focus, instead on his value proposition – what he had to offer employers.

Not too long into his search he was contacted by a VP to whom the CEO had forwarded his resume. In less than three weeks after that, he had had two interviews and a job offer. Before signing on the dotted line, he called me to ask questions about the offer. I gave him my non-legal opinion, and soon after he started his new six figure job as a Senior Director, Product Development with the company.

I imagine that several thoughts are going through your mind right now. Who is this guy? Where did he come from? What industry is he in? What did he do that I didn’t or couldn’t do?

Here are some things that contributed to Matthew’s success:

  1. He exuded confidence. Even though he may have been quaking in his boots, he displayed confidence in himself and his abilities – online and in person. During our strategy sessions, he mentioned that he was not averse to taking a survival job if he had to, but felt his resume would help him reach key decision makers. I also encouraged him to aim for his ideal position.
  2. He tapped into his network. Building and nurturing a network is crucial to job search success. Over time he had built a strong online network that included the CEO mentioned above. They were not buddies but he had the courage to send his resume that grabbed his attention. That is what set the process in motion.
  3. He invested in himself. He spent the time, money and effort needed to begin a serious job search and the results speak for themselves. So many people hesitate to invest in themselves and their careers yet worry when they don’t get the job or promotion they had hoped for.

The questions rolling around in your mind are legitimate ones that matter, but sometimes it just takes courage, perseverance and a don’t-ever-give-up-no-matter-what mentality! Begin by valuing your worth and believing that you have something to offer an employer. Determine how you are going to package that value, then find ways to go above, under or through the barriers. Do so as if your life depended on it, because it does! I’ll leave it at that for now and ask that you send me your comments.

Why Dumbing Down Your Resume is a Dumb Idea

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If you are dumbing down your resume and downplaying your achievements, you are playing small. You are cowering under the pressure of other people’s opinions. You are undervaluing your capabilities.

The majority of my clients are aspiring managers, managers and emerging executives. Some are also senior leaders or presidents of their own companies but are considering corporate opportunities. Many are faced with challenges from being told they are overqualified, they don’t have Canadian experience, or that they are too old.

I had a conversation with a senior leader (someone in his late fifties) this past week where he said that headhunters have told him that he is too old. I asked him how old is his intellectual capital – that mass of knowledge, ideas and experience housed in his cranium that some 30- or 40-somethings wouldn’t have. This man is an executive within the energy industry, and prior to that worked in the investment and bond markets. Will his age prevent him from adding value to a company?

My colleague Sharon Graham, wrote a blog post recently on this topic. The link is posted below. In it she exposed some of the myths about dumbing down one’s resume. She discussed the fact that there is currently a leadership vacuum, and that new industries are emerging, while others are here to stay. For those reasons, one should highlight one’s achievements instead of dumbing them down.

We live in a real world where these things happen, and I know you hear it quite often. Employers, hiring managers and recruiters telling you overtly or covertly that you are overqualified or you are too old. This is a dumb approach and only serves to exclude potentially good candidates. By the same token it  puts you on the defensive. There are strategies that you, a potentially good candidate, can use to overcome these barriers:

  1. Research the potential employer thoroughly then focus on areas where you know you can solve their problems and add value. Don’t apologize for your accomplishments and successes.
  2. Seek to connect with decision makers, or other people who know these decision makers. This proactive approach might be uncomfortable for some of you but it’s better than constantly uploading  resumes that may end up in the resume black hole.
  3. Be prepared to begin your conversation with something like: “I want you, just for a moment, to suspend your belief that I am overqualified, too old, don’t have Canadian experience [or whatever your specific circumstance is]. If you would like your company to remain where it is, then I might not be a good fit. But, if you would like to see explosive growth within the next X months/years, then we should be having a discussion.” Of course, you have to back up this blatant claim with your proven success stories.

It is the responsibility of managers, emerging executives, or any job seeker for that matter, to focus on what they have to offer their next employer. The next step is to determine how they can package this offer in a way that will have employers reaching out to them. This is not the time to leave your career up to job boards, applicant tracking systems, or junior staff who sometimes screen you out because their perception is that you are overqualified or too old.

If you find yourself downplaying your achievements, it’s time to stop. You are someone with a whole lot of things to offer. Stand tall, pull your shoulders back and be prepared to articulate your stories in ways that produce conversations. If you are meeting too much resistance, then ask yourself if this particular organization would be a good place for your to work.

Have you been told to dumb down your resume? If so, share your story in the comments section below, reach out to a career coach, or contact me. We just might be able to help you overcome these job search obstacles.

Related resources

Dumbing Down a Resume is Not a Great Idea (Sharon Graham)

10 Resume Tips to Beat Online Applicant Tracking Systems

 

Ditch Your Resolutions and Set SMART Goals in 2012

January is just around the corner and it’s time to start thinking about New Year resolutions, or is it? How many of your 2011 resolutions did you keep?

For several years now I have been advocating that people set goals instead of make resolutions. Goal setting helps you to decide what you want to achieve and create a step-by-step plan to do it. Resolutions, in my humble opinion, are ideals that are short-lived. Most people give up on them within a few short months. Goals, again in my opinion, are more realistic. You lay them out, break them down into small manageable steps, and they suddenly appear achievable.

The SMART acronym – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely – is usually the centre of any discussion on goal setting, but for this article, I have put a new spin on it:

Set Goals and ditch resolutions. As stated above, resolutions are transitory, so set realistic goals and then commit to them. Goal setting is such a critical element of one’s career, or life that it requires discipline, commitment and desire. Don’t just say “I need to get a new job, or I need to change my career”, then sit around and wait for it to happen, because it won’t. Create a plan.

Make it happen. Keeping your goals in your head won’t make them happen, but if you write them down and surround yourself with a circle of people who will hold you accountable, a major shift will take place.

Abandon negative self-talk and fear. These attributes – negative self-talk, being around negative people, and a fear of failure – coalesce to hold us back from achieving our goals.

Record and Review your activities. Identify and record the steps you needed to achieve your goal. This act of recording is essential to making your goal come alive. In writing them down, they become clearer to you. After that, spend as little as 1o minutes each day to review your progress.

Think Big and Bold! It is said that one of the mistakes we make in setting goals is not thinking big enough, but big goals generate excitement and passion. If you stretch yourself to set a few big and bold goals, it should be enough to capture and hold your attention.

2012 will be your banner year, if you focus, invest in yourself, and stick to your plan. Set your SMART goals and see what’s possible for your life. Surround yourself with positive people who will encourage and inspire you and share in your successes. Take time to reward yourself for each accomplishment, however small because these tiny rewards will serve as motivators for you to keep on going.

Become your own success story in 2012! Remember, “Successful people always do what unsuccessful people do not”. Be the change you want to see!

A Happy and Prosperous New Year from The Wright Career Solution, the company that moves your career forward…one step at a time!

 

Monday Rx: Thank a Co-Worker Today!

This coming Thursday, November 24, is the US Thanksgiving, and the Black Friday TV ads are already reaching me from across the border. After all, I am just a mere 90 minutes away from Buffalo. But, because of the prevalence of these ads, a debate has begun between my brain and my pocket. Should I head across the border on Friday? Right now, I don’t know which one will win the debate by the end of the week.

OK, so what does this have to do with my topic? Well, it’s so easy to get wrapped up into the commercial aspect of the Holiday; so much that we forget the real reason for the season. It’s all about gratitude – being thankful for what we have; being appreciative for family, friends and coworkers, and being open to share.  And talking about coworkers, when last have you thanked one of them for ‘just being there’?

According to Jon Gordon, author of the Energy Bus, “the number one reason why people leave their jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated. A simple thank you and a show of appreciation could make all the difference.”  Can you imagine that a simple ‘thank you’ could determine whether a co-worker stays or leaves? Yes, two small, but very powerful words could make a difference.

Wherever you are today, whether or not you are celebrating the official US Thanksgiving, find a co-worker and tell him or her how much you appreciate them. It could make their day, and yours too!

To your success,

 

 

 

PS: Every Monday, I take off my career coaching and resume writing hat and write a ‘Monday Rx’ post to stave off the Monday blues from which some of us suffer. Why not add your email address in the box on the top right of this page to receive each post? And, while you are at it, ask a friend or coworker to add their email address as well. I appreciate that. Thank You!

 

Monday Rx: 7 Simple Steps to S.U.C.C.E.S.S.

What is success? Whatever answer you come up with will be correct, as success means different things to different people. I read a quote recently that said “If you fail and learn something from it, that’s success too.”  Isn’t that amazing?

These seven simple steps won’t tell you how to get a promotion or how to make more money. They are more basic than that. They will guide you into making simple changes to your thought processes and set you on the path to achieving your success. You see, there certain things we all have to get out of our way before we can begin to see success.

S

STOMP out all the ANTs – those Automatic Negative Talks that you engage in with yourself. Crush those negative self-talks. If you don’t you will be impeding your ability to succeed.

 

U

UNDERSTAND that no matter what you are going through, no matter how bad your circumstances appear, you are never alone. Someone else is going through the same or worse than you are at this moment.

 

C

Be open to CHANGE. When you become too rigid and develop this “it’s my way or the highway” mentality, you are stalling your growth, so be open to change. Be flexible!

 

C

Learn to COMMUNICATE your value to everyone with whom you associate. What is it that you do better than anyone else? Learn to answer that question and then communicate it in a way that it’s easy for people to understand.

 

E

Reach out to EXPERTS. If you are struggling with an issue, there is always someone who knows a little bit more than you do and is willing to offer assistance. Seek him or her out. It’s never a weakness to ask for help.

 

S

SURROUND yourself with positive people. Those who will engage, motivate and build you up rather than drag you down. They will inspire you to keep on going when the going gets rough.

 

S

STAY focussed on your goal. Don’t allow small setbacks to stop you from moving forward. The road may be winding but don’t deviate. If you stay focussed on where you are going you will be successful.

Do you have anything else to add here? Post your comments below, and have a succesful week!

The Tale of a Title Change

One of my lovely nieces emailed me last week to solicit my career coaching assistance. She wanted to approach her boss about changing her title to reflect the work she is currently doing.

I asked her to send me a list of her accomplishments. She sent me a list of her MAJOR RESPONSIBILITIES. I sent it back to her with a phrase at the end of each statement, “And so?” She understood what I meant, as the list I got back was filled with value-based scripts.

Two days later, she had the conversation with her boss and gave him the list of her achievements. Without any hesitation she had her title changed from Software QA Specialist to Senior QA Analyst. While she did not ask for a raise because she understands the company’s financial situation, she was told in a memo that “…You will also be considered for a salary increase if any funds become available later this year”.

All it takes is a short conversation. It’s as simple as that!

Take a Leap of Faith, Not a Leap of Fear

My previous client newsletter briefly discussed the dreaded word “FEAR” – that scary monster that grips, paralyzes and keeps us from moving forward with our dreams. This short New Year’s message comes with a request that if you find yourself gripped by fear, make a concerted effort to replace ‘fear’ with ‘faith’ in 2011. That’s right! Start believing in yourself again!

Reflect on just one thing you would like to achieve for yourself in 2011. Don’t worry about what you didn’t do in the past. Darren Hardy, editor of SUCCESS Magazine said, “No matter what your past has been, you have a spotless future.” Imagine that! You do have a spotless future. You have a clean slate or a blank canvas to paint whatever picture you wish in 2011. In your mind’s eye, visualize or paint the picture in its finest detail, just as you would want it to be. Is it a picture about your health, career, finance, family, spirituality, or is it something as simple as retooling your skills just to be ahead of your competition? Whatever it is, start now. Let go of whatever it is that you fear – the fear of failure (or success), the fear of what people might say, the fear that you are not good enough, not healthy enough, not young enough, not smart enough – and go after what it is that you want.

As a gift to you, watch this short slideshow, and see if you will be motivated to start making things happen for you! Best wishes for a Happy and Prosperous 2011.

Don’t forget to visit us at the Careertips2Go Café to see what’s going to be brewing in the New Year! We might just be able to help you take a leap of faith and achieve something for yourself.

Slideshow:

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Are You ‘Shoulding’ on Yourself?

Merry Christmas… Joyeus No?l…Feliz Navidad…Season’s Greetings…Happy Holidays!

Well, 2010 came in with a bang, and now it’s almost gone. As you reflect on the year, how do you stack up against those goals / resolutions you set at the beginning of the year? Are you pleased with your accomplishments, or are you lamenting the fact that much of what you had hoped to achieve just didn’t happen? In fact, are you ‘shoulding’ on yourself because of what you failed to get done? You know what I mean – the “I shoulda, coulda, didn’t bother…” conversations that tend to clutter our minds when we fall short of our own expectations.

Don’t waste another minute shoulding on yourself. What’s gone is gone, and there’s nothing you can do about it. There were moments when I wanted to ‘should’ on myself because some of what I set out to do got derailed – sometimes because of my own effort (or lack thereof), but I changed the direction of my thoughts and focussed on what I had accomplished, and what still had to be done. That mental shift made the world of difference to finishing the year having done much of what I set out to do. It’s not too late for you to make that mental shift. Here are three tips to help you if you really want 2011 to be different:

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. Some people are so fearful of failing, that they don’t bother trying. Later on they blame themselves for things they should or could have done. Whatever it is that you really want to do, I urge you to feel the fear and do it anyway! R.W. Emerson said, “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain“, and former First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look FEAR in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do”. So, look at FEAR for what it really is – False Evidence Appearing Real, and take a leap of faith and surprise yourself.

Move Out of Camp Complacent. If it feels too safe and comfortable doing the same thing(s) day-after-day even though it no longer gives you satisfaction, it’s time to move. Complacency destroys drive and passion. That promotion, that new job, that sales call you need to make, that business you want to start, that book you want to write, stretch yourself and strive to make them happen in 2011. Remember that if you continue doing what you have always done, you will remain exactly where you are.

Commit to Making a Decision. Too many people prefer to sit on the fence of indecision while life is passing along on its merry way. Case in point: It took one man nine months to get back to me about working on his resume. He was unemployed when he first contacted me, and he was still unemployed nine months later. What did he say when he came back? “I should’ve done this a long time ago.”  What he was also doing was copying and pasting parts of different sample resumes to create one of his own. That did not work, so he too, began ‘shoulding’ on himself.

As you look forward to a New Year with all its potential, tell yourself that you cannot hold on to the life that was, but you can fully live the life that is, right now. Make a concerted effort to make your dream a reality in the coming year.  If you would like some assistance in the New Year, check out my new website CareerTips2Go Café and make plans to join me in January, when the Café officially opens! It’s a work-in-progress, but there will be tools and resources to help you in your job search or your career transition.