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What You Need to Know About Job References – Part I

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Most job seekers spend a lot of time on their resumes. A smaller number spend some time preparing for interviews, but not very many give the job reference process the priority it deserves. In fact, many treat it as the easiest part of the job search. That shouldn’t be.

It is customary for employers to conduct reference and background checks on candidates they are planning to hire. Studies have shown that 80% of employers conduct reference checks, and this is because they need to validate the accuracy of the resume and whatever other information the candidate provided. The process is critical to successful hiring and is necessary to ensure that employers have full information on potential employees. A bad hiring decision can prove very costly, and employers want to avoid this.

Start Early

It’s never too early to start building your reference list and engaging your references. Gather a list of names and review the list carefully. Think of people with whom you work, including your direct reports. Individuals who are able to tell stories of your capabilities and accomplishments, and who will leave the best impression.

Avoid individuals who might come across as overly dramatic. Such individuals can discourage the recruiter or hiring manager, or lead them to ask more questions. Do not use family members, friends, or anyone you know would not present you well, including anyone who fired you. Ideally, the references selected should be professionals you know through business, non-profit organizations, your place of worship, or professional associations.

Meet With Your References

Set up a time to meet in person with your references, if possible. They will feel more invested in your success. Provide a copy of your current resume and the job posting. It allows them to have the same information as the employer. Help them remember exactly what you did together. Ask them how they want to be contacted by employers and ensure you have their up-to-date contact information.

Give Adequate Notice

Give your references at least a day’s notice so they are prepared. The more notice they have, the better prepared they will be to speak on your behalf. Provide them with details of what the job entails; who might be calling; what skill-sets are required in the new job, and any specific project you want them to highlight. If they are not notified in advance of the call, they might not be prepared and may come off as uninformed. Such an interaction could reflect poorly on you.

Prepare a Customized Reference Sheet

Separate yourself from the pack and create a Reference Sheet. Ditch the usual sheet that lists name, contact number, and email address. Prepare a customized version that includes attributes that your references can attest to on your behalf. Provide some insights of your knowledge, skills and abilities that connect with the job for which you are applying. Share this document with your references so they will know how they are being presented to the recruiter or hiring manager, and what to focus on during the call.

Follow Up With Your References (after the Interview)

Give your references an idea of how the interview went and what things were highlighted during the discussion. This will help them respond well when they are called, and mention things that are relevant.

If your job search is taking longer than the norm, schedule a meeting or a telephone call to tell them how things are going, and to ask them questions. Ask who reached out to them, and if any of the questions were challenging for them to answer. This will give them an opportunity to talk things through with you and prepare you for future reference discussions.

Don’t Smother Your References

Some candidates might find themselves applying for numerous positions or going to several interviews, especially if the search is long. In such cases, have more than three individuals from whom to choose, and be selective in how you use them. You don’t want to overuse any of your references to the point where it becomes annoying for them.

Keep in Contact and Express Gratitude

It is important that you keep your references up-to-date with your progress. In fact, as often as you update your resume you should review and connect with your references. Be sure to let them know how much you appreciate their willingness to support you. This is a good way to show how you value them and it will help them to remember you in a most positive way in the future. As Marty Britton, of reference-checking firm, Britton Management, says, “Always thank your references, especially if you got the job. A handwritten note goes further than an email.”

This article is the first of a three-part series on Job References. It includes information from my book Tell Stories, Get Hired, as well as from notes taken during a webinar presented by Manpower Group in 2015.

You Are the CEO of Your Career: Take Charge!

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As the New Year looms, some people are rethinking their career strategy. Competition, layoffs and uncertainty are forcing them to assess themselves to see how they can take charge of their careers.

A chief operating officer of a financial company and a director at one of the Big Four consulting firms contacted me recently. They were looking for guidance as they plan for the year ahead. The director has already started to lay out her 3 to 5-year plan. She is planning to pursue an EMBA, and has her eyes on a very senior position. Although she has a mentor whom she meets with once per month, she is also looking for a sponsor to help her advance. At the time, I thought to myself: how many people really map out a 3 to 5-year plan in such an unpredictable job market?

The initiative taken by these two individuals is not new. Some people do this, particularly at the start of a new year. But, there are others who invest more time and money on vacation plans than they do on their careers. If your goal in 2016 is to take charge and become the CEO of your career, consider the following:

#1 TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR CAREER

“There is one person that has responsibility for your career, and that is YOU.” ~ Carla Harris, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley (@CarlaannHarris)

There are many people who believe that their HR departments or their bosses are the ones responsible for their career progression. Not anymore. Your career trajectory is your responsibility. That’s the reason you must begin to see yourself as a take-charge CEO, and map out a career strategy.

#2 TREAT YOUR CAREER AS A BUSINESS

“Manage your career as if it were a start-up business because traditional job security is a thing of the past.” ~Reid Hoffman, Cofounder of LinkedIn and coauthor of the book, The Start-Up of You. (@ReidHoffman)

Even though you may be an employee, in order for you to compete in the freelance economy, you need to think and act like an entrepreneur. Get out of your comfort zone and take risks. Invest your time (and money if necessary), to get your ‘business’ off the ground. Think in terms of the value you could create for your employer. What new skills could you learn that would make you more marketable? Start thinking that you are in the business of marketing and selling product YOU!

#3 BUILD YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE

More and more HR professionals are turning to the internet to seek out information about candidates, including social media profiles, personal websites and blogs. ~ The Undercover Recruiter (@Undercoverrec)

Social media is an equal opportunity platform, and does not require a PhD to participate. This means anyone can use it to engage in conversations, demonstrate expertise, build credibility and gain visibility. Don’t be left out, especially as online interactions are becoming as meaningful as in real life. Keep in mind that hiring managers and recruiters frequently peruse LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools, to find candidates. It makes sense for you to develop and maintain a robust online presence to make sure you are discovered during these searches.

#4 PREPARE TO ADVANCE ON THE JOB

“Early in my career, I believed that career advancement was based solely on having a strong work ethic and solid performance results. While I still believe that there is no substitute for hard work and strong performance, what I learned over time is that being successful is also highly influenced through the learning that takes place and the exposure to new perspectives gained through mentoring relationships and building your networks.” Arie Ball, Vice President of Sourcing and Talent Acquisition at Sodexo, USA, and contributor to my book Tell Stories, Get Hired. (@Arie_Ball)

Years ago, it was assumed that longevity and hard work meant one would automatically climb the corporate ladder. The world has changed, and the career ladder is no longer a straight line. Sometimes a lateral move, or a step or two down could be steps in the right direction. It could also mean a chance to learn new skills, gain new perspectives change career focus, and become the CEO of your career.

#5 FIND A MENTOR AND A SPONSOR

“Both mentors and sponsors are important in maximizing career growth…Not only will sponsors and mentors believe in your potential when you are doubting yourself, but they will champion your successes, to open doors for your next big career move.” ~ Louise Pentland, Senior Executive & General Council at PayPal (@PayPal)

Why do you need both a mentor and a sponsor? A mentor gives advice, and can be someone inside or outside your company. A sponsor is someone internal to your organization who puts his or her career on the line for you. He or she can vouch for your work, and more importantly, has a seat at the decision-making table, so they can speak up passionately on your behalf. They can put a word in on why you should get the promotion or that next plum assignment.

“Sponsors are well-connected to the organization, and the industry, and have insider knowledge about opportunities (and threats). They are very much out in the open. They are visible supporters and champions of your career”, said Christine Brown-Quinn, author of Step Aside Super Woman: Career & Family is for Any Woman, and contributor to my book, Tell Stories Get Hired. (@FemaleCapital). Therefore, if you are interested in career progression, especially to the more senior levels, it’s career sponsorship that’s going to make that defining difference.

#6 NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK

“The key to all successful networking for job search is to build relationships first, ask for assistance second and offer to be of assistance always.” ~Unknown

You cannot avoid networking, no matter how distasteful the word sounds, so reject all its negative labeling. Networking is a series of connected relationships built up over time. It’s making personal connections, not bombarding people with your business card or elevator pitch. It’s getting to know people well enough before you begin asking for favours. Networking is about sharing: sharing of ideas and resources without expecting reciprocity. To become a better networker, get into the habit of scheduling specific time on your calendar to connect with people in your network.

#7 ENGAGE AND NURTURE PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS

“Dig your well before you are thirsty.” Harvey MacKay, Author & Leadership Guru. (@HarveyMacKay)

Since it is human nature to gravitate towards people we know, like and trust, you should regularly engage and nurture the professional relationships you have developed. Don’t wait until you are in a rut to connect with them. In fact, it’s not beneficial to contact your network only when you are in need of help. Keep in touch with them frequently, and always ask questions such as, “How can I help you? Who can I introduce to you?” When you nurture your network, you will be on top of their minds for opportunities.

#8 INVESTIGATE OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE

“Consider volunteering one hour each week to a cause that pulls at your heart strings. Make a habit of volunteering and you will make a world of difference.” Christopher Kai, author of Big Game Hunting: Networking with Billionaires, Executives and Celebrities. (@UnleashtheKai)

Many people frown when they hear about volunteering. They believe that because they are not being paid, it is useless work. But, volunteering is one way to take charge of your career. It strengthens your leadership and interpersonal skills. It gives you an opportunity to meet new people, take on high profile assignments, and in general, do excellent work. These days, many corporations encourage volunteerism among their employees. This is beneficial on two fronts. First, the employee is participating in a worthy cause, and second, the company is demonstrating good corporate citizenship.

The above points will help you on your journey of becoming the CEO of your career. Are you ready?

Related posts:

Reflections, Resolutions, Goal-Setting & Action

Ditch Your Resolutions, Set Smart Goals

How to Make Sure You Get a Seat in the House

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After a 22-year hiatus, baseball playoff fever hit Toronto (well, all of Canada for that matter), and it was contagious. I couldn’t watch, tweet or read enough about the Blue Jays (until Game 6 of course), but one story in the Toronto Star of October 8, caught my attention. In that story I discovered a seldom used strategy that job seekers, career changers, and entrepreneurs could emulate, and it came from a diehard Blue Jays fan, 81-year old Herm Dyck.

Sportswriter, Dave Feschuk, wrote how Dyck’s passion for baseball got him the best seats in the house in 1977, when Major League Baseball announced that Toronto was getting an expansion team.

Prior to that announcement, Dyck, a businessman at the time, had heard that beer industry executive, Don McDougall, wanted to move the San Francisco Giants to Toronto. He didn’t know McDougall, but he knew that he wanted the best seats in the house, so he contacted him. According to Feschuk, Dyck wrote a letter to McDougall congratulating him on wanting to bring the franchise to Toronto, and included the following line: “And by the way, this is my application for two tickets should a team materialize.”

The Giants’ move didn’t materialize, but Dyck kept his letters going. By 1977, when MLB announced that Toronto was going to get a franchise, Dyck was well known by McDougall. He had pestered him so much that McDougall called him one day and said, “Any man that’s as interested as you are, can have any two seats in the house.” He still has those two seats whenever the Blue Jays play at home games. That’s called ‘nurturing a relationship’.

Fast forward to a few years ago, when an 18-year-old high school student saw a sign in a plaza that a major pharmacy chain was going to open a store in her neighbourhood. She faxed her resume as the sign stated, but did not stop there.

She called the head office of the pharmacy to ask for additional information. She was given the name and contact information of the new owner whom she called. In the conversation she informed him that she lived within walking distance of the proposed pharmacy, that she had had some retail experience, and that she was looking forward to working with him.

Her resume was pulled from the pile and she was one of the first people to be interviewed and subsequently hired. Her proactive efforts got her a seat in the house. That’s called ‘brazen and proactive’.

While Tristan Walker, founder of Walker & Company Brands, is pretty well known in Silicon Valley now, that was not always the case. A Fast Company article reported that Walker “emailed Dennis Crowley, cofounder and CEO of Foursquare, eight times asking for a job. After Crowley half-seriously offered to meet him, Walker hopped on a flight to New York the next day and showed up at their offices, laptop in hand. Stunned, Crowley and cofounder Naveen Selvadurai challenged him to sign up 30 small businesses as Foursquare merchant partners within a month. He found 300 in a little over a week. After that, he was asked to become the company’s first director of business development.” That’s called persistence.

One does not have to be a business man like Herm Dyck, a brazen and proactive 18-year old high school student, or a self-starter like Tristan Walker, to get a seat in the house. It matters that you want something so badly that you will do anything (legal and within reason) to get it.

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Some people, especially those conducting a job search, might say “Been there, done that”. Others might want to dismiss this approach because it sounds hard, or because someone tells them it’s futile. And, then there are those who will take the easy, docile route that most people take instead of going the extra mile. They upload their resumes to an inanimate applicant tracking system, then wait for someone to contact them. When that doesn’t happen they revert to questioning their capabilities, and start believing the naysayers who speak in absolutes: “You are wasting your time because it will NEVER work. It never worked for me, and it won’t for you.”

To get a seat in the house takes all the courage you can muster, a willingness to step out of your comfort zone, and a determination to let go of negative people. You have to surround yourself with ‘possibility thinkers’ who can encourage you when the going gets tough. And then, you have to be resolute and persistent, and eliminate the notion of giving up just because you hear “No”. Remember that ‘No’ is not final. It just means ‘not yet’.

Those are some of the strategies that will help you to get a seat in the house.

Are you ready for the challenge? If so, what can you start doing NOW that will take you closer to getting a seat in the house?

Related Links:

Toronto Star & Herm Dyck

Fast Company & Tristan Walker

STOP Scaring Recruiters With Your Bare Bones LinkedIn Profile

TheWrightCareer.comIt’s not yet Halloween, but your LinkedIn Profile could be scaring away recruiters and potential contacts in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. Recruiters and hiring managers source LinkedIn all the time for great candidates. When they stumble on an incomplete profile, a blank photo box, or missing dates, they don’t contact you for details; they move on to your competitors.

A lot of people believe that the fact they have a LinkedIn account with a name, degrees and a list of employers they are all set. Not so! Take the example of someone I was introduced to recently. Her name was followed by a list of degrees, names of former and current companies, and a long list of committee and board affiliations. That was it! As bare-boned as a skeleton! Yet, in speaking with her, I discovered she is a highly-accomplished professional who could easily attract the attention of recruiters, But her LinkedIn profile lacked substance and would scare the daylights out of a recruiter.

In an informal conversation with a few recruiters recently, I asked them what scared them the most about someone’s LinkedIn Profile. Here are some of their thoughts:

  1. Gaps and Omission of Dates. When recruiters review resumes, they zero in, with eagle eyes, for start and end dates at each employer. It’s no different when they view a LinkedIn Profile. Olivia Petrou, Research Consultant at TWC International Executive Search Limited, says the lack of dates, or gaps in dates, scares her most when looking at job candidates’ LinkedIn profiles. “It makes me curious as to whether that person is hiding something.”
  2. Photograph vs Blank Box. Many LinkedIn users omit, or refuse to include a professional photograph in their profiles. It is a given, in my opinion, that people would be more inclined to reach out or accept a LinkedIn invitation if they can associate a name with a profile. On a recent webinar with LinkedIn’s Michael Shamshoian, he said that “one’s LinkedIn profile is 14 times more likely to be viewed if a photo is included.” (By the way, there are some people who have included a photo but it is either a group or a photo of their spouse. Really now? “Who is who?”).
  3. Skimpy information. LinkedIn offers 120 character spaces for the Headline and 2,000 spaces for the Summary, yet so many people skimp on the information they include. While the entire profile is important, the headline and summary sections are considered ‘prime real estate’ spaces and should be maximized.
  4. Incomplete This relates to point 3 above. When we consider that LinkedIn is probably the most significant channel to tell one’s story and build a professional network, members do themselves a disservice when they have incomplete profiles. Geoff Webb, Global Sourcing Strategist at Aon PRO said, “I consistently hear from recruitment teams that the more incomplete a profile is the more likely they are to ignore the profile, so there is great value in making your profile as complete as possible.” 
  5. Spam or Fake Profiles. Who hasn’t received LinkedIn invitations that, at first read appear genuine, but once they are accepted, they are quickly followed up with unwanted business proposals or romantic pursuits? I have had my share and that’s scary! Webb continued: “I am more concerned with the increasing number of ‘spam’ or ‘fake’ profiles on LinkedIn, and although they are pretty easy to spot they waste a huge amount of effort”. Fake profiles and spam messages are time-wasters, and LinkedIn is not for that.
  1. Misreading the audience. Jeff Wedge, a Senior Talent Acquisition Consultant at Aon RPO, opined that although he reviews over 300 resumes and LinkedIn profiles per week, he is hard pressed to find one that attracts his attention to the point where he would pick up the phone to reach out. “Most candidates, ranging from CEO to entry-level, do not understand the audience they are trying to reach. That scares me. They need to have teasers or accomplishments that would convince me to pick up my phone”, he said.

LinkedIn considers itself the world’s largest professional network, and it offers free visibility. In fact, it is frequently referred to as someone’s resume-on-steroids (being visible 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year). Unlike a resume that has to be brief, a LinkedIn Profile has a number of categories to showcase your skills, experience, education, accomplishments, projects, causes hobbies and interests. Maximize its benefits. Use the categories and spaces to build a robust profile and draw recruiters and potential contacts to you rather than scaring them away.

 

Got Laid Off? So What?

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This article is a guest post by Nathan Tanner, a member of LinkedIn’s Acquisition team, and author of Not Your Parents’ Workplace, Critical Lessons for Interns and Young Professionals. In the article, he offers insights into the lessons he learned from his failures.

January 14, 2009. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I was sitting at my desk when the head of our team tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to come by his office. At that moment I knew that I was toast. I was told to collect my things, and after a few quick goodbyes, I was forced to leave the building. It was over that fast. The job that I’d worked so hard to obtain was over.

I had only been an investment banking analyst for six months. I joined Lehman Brothers just weeks before its record-setting bankruptcy, then transitioned to Barclays Capital after it came to the rescue and acquired Lehman’s US operations. For weeks there had been rumors of layoffs, so I wasn’t that surprised when I fell victim.

Facing rejection

While I felt surprisingly calm that fateful day, my new reality sunk in that next morning. I woke up with no responsibility and nowhere to go. Time to find a job. I was excited to get started and optimistically thought that it might take a few weeks to find my next gig. I knew the financial turmoil had created a difficult environment for finance jobs, but I soon realized just how hard it would be to find any job in any industry.

As the days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, I continued to cast my net wider. I applied for positions that had little connection to my degree or work experience, and I was fortunate to interview for many of them. I went into those interviews feeling confident and qualified, maybe even overqualified for some of them. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t land a job. At this point I had been out of work for four months.

I felt like such a failure.

I eventually found a great role in a completely different industry, and I was thrilled to get back to work. I can’t recall the number of jobs I applied for, but I ended up interviewing with 65 people at 20 different companies.

Lessons learned

At the time I felt like getting laid off would permanently damage my career. On the contrary, I was able to bounce back, and I learned several lessons along the way.

The first lesson I learned is the importance of having a job. I obviously can’t speak for everyone, but I didn’t realize or appreciate how much value I got from going to work. I missed having somewhere to go each day. I missed being a part of a team. I missed being needed. I learned that having a job, even if it might not be amazing, is a privilege.

The next lesson came during my job hunt. Early 2009 was an awful time to be looking for work, but that’s only one reason why I struggled to persuade companies to hire me. The main reason I couldn’t get an offer is that I failed to show companies how I could add value. I thought companies would want to hire me because I went to a good school and worked for a good company. But that’s not enough.

During an interview at a retail company I talked about my ability to analyze financial statements (my skill), but failed to demonstrate how I could help them manage inventory more effectively (their need). Companies don’t just hire smart people; they hire people who can passionately demonstrate how they can make a big impact in the organization.

Lastly, I strongly believe that one of the reasons I got laid off from Barclays is that I failed to develop strong relationships with my coworkers.

The slow financial markets gave me a lot of down time, and the looming bankruptcy created a less than positive work environment, so I routinely left the office as soon as I completed my work. While other analysts were discussing recent events and the fate of the company with senior bankers, I mostly kept to myself. I failed to take advantage of those slow periods and didn’t spend sufficient time building deep relationships.

When difficult decisions need to be made, it’s a lot easier to let go of someone who you don’t know that well. It’s a mistake I’ve tried to avoid ever since, and I now love getting to know those I work with on a personal level.

Failure can be a great teacher, and while I would never wish to re-live that period again, getting laid off and struggling to find a job taught me valuable lessons early in my career.

Build strong relationships, demonstrate how you add value, and strive to remember that having a job is a privilege.

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Nathan Tanner is on the Talent Acquisition team at LinkedIn and is the author of Not Your Parents’ Workplace: Critical Lessons for Interns and Young Professionals. He recently graduated from BYU with an MBA. Follow him on Twitter @nhtanner.

Related post: I Just Got Laid Off…Now What?

Hard Facts About Soft Skills and Why You Need Them

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“During the session you told me of a document I need to complete. When can I expect it?”

“I have all the requirements for the attached position, when will we discuss it?”

“Sorry to miss our meeting. I am available tomorrow at the same time.”

Ouch! Those are snippets from email correspondence from a client before we had a discussion on the hard facts about soft skills. He is a brilliant and technically savvy professional, but with such a brusque attitude, and one that lacked common courtesies, he was heading in the wrong career direction.

It is often said that the majority of employees fail in their jobs, not because of their technical prowess but because of poor interpersonal skills; a shortcoming in their social, communication, and self-management behaviours. These are soft skills, and they play a significant role in one’s ability to.

Hard Skills vs Soft Skills

Hard skills are the technical abilities required to do a job or perform a task, and are usually acquired through education and training. They include the ability to use computers and software programs, operate machines, analyze data, etc. These skills are easy to observe, quantify, measure, and teach.

Soft skills, also called “interpersonal” or “people skills”, are harder to observe, quantify and measure. They are required for everyday interactions in and outside the workplace, and complement the technical or hard skills. Soft skills relate to how people communicate, listen, engage in discussions, give feedback, collaborate as a team member, solve problems and resolve conflicts.

An interviewer will not ask a candidate if he or she has soft skills, but will ask questions to uncover how the skills were used. The same could be said about the term ‘corporate fit or culture’. No one will ask a direct question like, “Do you think you will be a good fit for our company?”, but they will ask questions to see if, and how well, a potential employee will fit into the company. Will they mesh with the team or will they disrupt team synergy.

An individual could have the required expertise, but that, by itself, is not enough. Companies also look for people who are can communicate well, and who are positive, respectful, reliable and honest. They also look for people who are able to function in cross-cultural environments, appreciate differences and contribute to a team.

In a Huffington Post interview recently, Faizolhardi Zubairy, Head of Digital Media at PETRONAS Dagangan Berhad, was asked what was the most valuable advice he had ever received when he was facing challenges in his career. He said, “Hone your soft skills. While your technical skills may get your foot in the door, your people skills will open more doors for you.

Your work ethic, attitude, communication skills, negotiation skills, emotional intelligence and leadership are the soft skills that are crucial for career success.

As you can see, hard or technical skill is not all that’s required to obtain and keep a job. One’s attitude and attributes are also very important. The fact someone might know their job well is not a guarantee of on-the-job success. In fact, given the choice, some employers would prefer to hire someone with more soft skills and less hard skills, because they believe they can teach someone the hard skills, but it’s difficult and time-consuming to teach soft skills.

If you are someone who struggles with a lack of soft skills, all is not lost. These skills can be developed and sharpened through training and practise, and this will help you to advance in your personal and professional life.

Welcome Aboard Flight 2015

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Welcome Aboard Flight 2015! This is both a New Years’ greeting as well as a dose of my usual Monday Rx.

First of all, I am not the author of the original message, and I do pay homage to that person for his or her ingenuity. But, I thought it was such a classic New Year’s message that I decided to create this Infographic and put a slightly different spin on it.

Since it’s the first Monday of the year, I think it would be a good idea to think of what’s ahead for you as you board flight 2015. Let me ask you a few questions:

  • Have you set any specific goals for the year? If you haven’t, it means you have indirectly set one, and it is to remain where you are.
  • Have you decided if you will be a passenger or the pilot of your career this year? It’s up to you to determine if you will be taking charge of your career in 2015, or you will be assigning such an important responsibility to others.
  • Are you ready to eliminate the negative thoughts or people that surrounded you in 2014? My advice is, when negativity calls you on the phone this year, don’t argue with it, just hang up!

In addition to those thoughts, here are some wise words from famed basketball coach, John Wooden. Unlike resolutions, these are promises you can keep:

 

  • Promise yourself that you will talk health, happiness, and prosperity as often as possible.
  • Promise yourself to make all your friends know there is something in them that is special and that you value.
  • Promise to think only the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best from yourself and others.
  • Promise to be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
  • Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
  • Promise to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to greater achievements in the future.
  • Promise to wear a cheerful appearance at all times and give every person you meet a smile.
  • Promise to give so much time improving yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
  • Promise to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit trouble to press on you.

We cannot rewind the past, but we can take advantage of the present, and leap into the future with great expectations. That’s my wish for you in 2015. Welcome aboard flight 2015. Enjoy the ride, and contact me if you need a career companion!

 

Your Job Search Failure is Not Fatal [Monday Rx]

Failure is Not Failure

Many of us have experienced a failure of one kind or another at points in our lives. Sometimes it’s an interview that did not go well, a job offer that went to someone else, or a promotion that did not materialize.

The reality is that whatever the failure, its initial impact is never pleasant. But, because most of us tend to wrap our self-worth around our jobs or careers, when we experience a failure or we are rejected, we tell ourselves that we don’t have what it takes to succeed.

Last week, soon after I sent out the Monday Rx, I received the following note from a client:

“Daisy, I have a job now…I am working with xxx as a Client Supervisor and Foot Care Nurse. My boss is great, and I really like my job. Very little stress and lots of fun. Thanks for all of your help. I will keep in touch.”

One would not believe that, at one point, this woman was near to giving up on herself, and she had several reasons to prove it: Her original resume wasn’t marketing me well; her age was going to preclude her from consideration; she was crippled by nervousness when it came to interviews. “I just cannot conduct a job search anymore”, she said to me then. One of my first questions to her was, “Are you a great nurse?”

Having said all of that, did she find overnight success? Of course not, but she changed her perspective about herself, and something about her changed!

As a job seeker or career changer, realize that a few failures do not mean the end of your career journey. When you embark on such a journey, you have to believe in yourself and your abilities. You have to dig deep to uncover your success stories and own them, then learn to articulate them clearly and convincingly in your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn Profile, and your other marketing documents. Your goal with this exercise should always be to make sure you are seen as the only candidate for that job.

Your job search failure is not fatal. Learn from your failures and setbacks, but don’t allow them to take over and cloud your ability to tell a convincing story to get hired.

Just in case you believe you will never rise from the ashes of a failure, consider the following individuals who faced rejection and failures in their lives, but went on to achieve great things:

Oprah Winfrey was told she wasn’t fit for television.
Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen received 144 rejections from publishers for their book Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Jay-Z had big dreams to become a rapper, but couldn’t get signed to any record labels. He created his own music empire: Roc-A-Fella Records.
J.K. Rowlings got fired because she spent her time writing stories on her work computer.
Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. He went home, locked himself in his room and cried.

While your story might not be as well-documented as these celebrities; while you might not aspire to such heights, you could change the direction of your life if you view failure as an opportunity to start over. Bob Marley, in one of his songs, says, “As one door closes, another one opens.” Don’t continue staring at the closed door of failure that you miss other doors of opportunity.

Your job search failure is not fatal. Make a decision today to learn from your failures, and spring forward to success.

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Note: Sections of this post have been excerpted from my new book “Tell Stories, Get Hired”, which will be coming soon to a bookstore near you.

 

 

 

Dare To Take Chances – [Your Monday Rx]

Monday Rx_CareerTips_Sept_27Have you ever wanted to do something – probably pursue a dream, or ask for a promotion – but got stopped by a big knot in your stomach? Or, did you allow a negative comment by someone to derail your dream? This happens all the time – in the workplace, at home, with friends, BUT…

Have those dreams remained dormant? Are you being haunted by regrets of “I should’ve…, could’ve…, If only I had…”? It’s not too late. You still have time to pick up from where you left off. It’s time try again. Social Media consultant Chris Voss said, The difference between try and triumph is a little umph.”

Whether it’s an entrepreneurial dream, a dream of a better job, a promotion, or a career transition, here is what you need to know:

  • You don’t have to go it alone. Ask for help!
  • You don’t have to risk your life, limb or livelihood. Start small.
  • You don’t have to become overwhelmed with negative thoughts and by negative people. Banish negative thoughts from your mind, and surround yourself with ‘possibility thinkers’.

Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, said “Most people live and die with their music still un-played. They never dare to try. Mary Kay Ash knew it all too well.

After seeing all the men she was training being promoted over her, she decided to write a book to help women survive in the male-dominated business world.  One of the things she did was to make two lists.  One list highlighted the things her employers had done right; the other had things she felt they could have done better.  After reviewing the lists, she realized she had inadvertently created a marketing plan for a business. The rest is history!

Whether you are a male or female, you too, can make your two lists. One list could be what you have done; the other could be what you can offer an employer or a customer. Those two lists could be the beginning of your own marketing plan for your job search marketing plan or your business. Whichever one it is, are you ready to step out in your boldness, and try again? Phil Knight, Co-founder of Blue Ribbon Sports, now known as Nike, told graduates of Standford’s Graduate School of Business (his alma mater): “Dare to take chances, lest you leave your dreams buried in the ground.” 

You don’t want to leave your dreams buried in the ground! “Let your dreams be bigger than your fears and your actions bigger than your words.” ~Unknown

This is another dose of the Monday Rx. Have a great day!

Related link: Find Your Calling and Ask for Help

Did They Really Call You That?

 

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Did they really call you that? Pardon the term, but have you ever been called a networking ‘ask-hole’? Someone who is always asking for a job; asking for an introduction to someone’s network, asking for favours…sometimes from complete strangers they just connected with on LinkedIn?

The term ‘ask-hole’ is certainly unflattering, (and I am cringing at its use), but if you were really described as such, you may have fallen into the misconception trap that networking (or merely connecting with people) is all about asking for favours.

Every job seeker has heard, at some point, how important it is to network to find hidden job opportunities, but only a few have been told how. Most have been told to ask, not give, and anyone who is constantly asking, runs the risk of being called an ‘ask-hole’.

Networking is not about ask-ask-give. It’s about give-give-ask! You need to develop a Give-Give-Get mentality, according to Porter Gale, author of Your Network is Your Net Worth. Seek opportunities to give, before you begin to ask.

Below are five simple things you could do today to become a better networker. Each tip is backed up by a supporting quote:

  1. Build the relationship first; favours will come later. Before you start asking for favours, start building relationships first, then ask for favours later. Asking for favours too early in the relationship is like going on a first date and asking your date to marry you. In networking terms, it’s a huge turn-off. Brian Tracy said, “The value of a relationship is in direct proportion to the time that you invest in the relationship.”
  2. Don’t ask for a job; ask about them. When you first connect with someone, don’t ask them for a job. Ask about their career trajectory and success stories. (Psst…People enjoy talking about themselves.) Carlos Ghosn said: “Any job very well done that has been carried out by a person who is fully dedicated is always a source of inspiration.” Show them that you are inspired by their stories.
  3. Be respectful of their time. When you ask for a few minutes of their time, stick to the schedule. Do not prolong the meeting beyond the time you had requested. “Respect people who find time for you in their busy schedule.” Unknown. Give them the option of extending the time.
  4. Give of your time, talent and/or your resources. There is always something you can do for someone, whether he or she is on the lowest rung of the organization, or is the CEO. Share your industry expertise; offer to help out on a project; send a congratulatory message on a recent promotion. All these giving efforts will showcase your brand and make you more attractive to decision makers. In Benjamin Franklin’s words, “Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?”
  5. Be fully engaged in the conversation. When speaking to someone, show them that you are fully engaged. Do not let your eyes wander around the room for your next catch. Do not take a quick peak at your mobile devices. Do not interrupt the conversation to finish the person’s sentence. Remember Jimi Hendrix’s wise words that “Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens”. Listen attentively.

Networking is a proven pathway to the elusive hidden job market, and ultimately to job search success. But, it is not an easy process. It requires strategy and patience, and more giving than receiving. If networking doesn’t work the first time around, keep on trying, but always start from a position of giving before asking.

What’s the one step you can take NOW that will help you become a better giver? After all, you don’t ever want to be called an ‘ask-hole’.

Go ahead and take that one step now! Your job search depends on it.