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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!

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.

 

Why You Can’t Pick My Brain for Free

Can't Pick My Brain_daisywright.comThis blog post is directed primarily to solo entrepreneurs and service providers like me. Too often we are asked for free advice by individuals who have no intention of hiring us, and many times we are left feeling guilty if we don’t acquiesce.

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Related tweet from business diva, Marie Forleo: “If they want to pick your brain, ask them to pick a time and method of payment.” @marieforleo

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A few months ago I was returning from a career conference in Florida when my seat companion on the plane struck up a conversation with me. He told me quite excitedly about the new franchise deal he had just sealed. Realizing I was ‘a career expert’ according to him, he asked if he could ‘pick my brain’ and review his bio which he had written himself.  By the time I was finished editing it, it became a full rewrite.

A few weeks later he called to ask if I could give him a few pointers on his business resume. I told him I could, but it would cost him. He told me it was just a review and it wouldn’t take me that long.

Well, while seething under my skin, I asked him politely what his response would have been had I showed up at his deli franchise and asked for a free sandwich. He apologized and said he would call back.

Mr. Franchise Owner didn’t give much thought to ‘picking my brain’ for free for the second time. Consider this email I received last week:

“Hello Daisy,

[Joe Brown] gave me your email address, because I asked him for some tips.

I’m going to have a couple of high level interviews the following week, with two VP´s, can you give some tips??

Thanks in advance!!”

What’s wrong with this picture? Lots! Who is he? What profession or industry is he in? What interview challenges does he have? What position is he interviewing for?

I responded with one of my enquiry emails, asking some of the questions above and, of course, explaining how my coaching works. I have not heard from him since.

The above are just two instances, but I get these requests all the time, and in my client newsletter I discussed two such situations. Unfortunately, individuals like these don’t have any intentions of hiring me. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy helping people. That’s why I have been writing blog content and newsletters for many years, providing a wide array of job and career advice. That’s why, from time to time, I host free career-related webinars or teleseminars. In fact, I continue to offer pro bono services on a personal level, but that’s my choice.

Earlier on, I would have been overcome by guilt if I didn’t offer free advice to all who ask. But, and this is a big BUT…I think some people forget that I actually operate a real business, not a hobby. Successful businesses invest in their employees, making sure they have the resources they need, that they are well-trained, and allowing them to attend workshops and conferences. They want to make sure they have the skills they need to keep the business going. As a solo entrepreneur, I am no different. I do the same things…and they all cost money. That’s why I instituted my Introductory Power Hour Coaching service, which is a win-win all the away around.

Michael Hyatt, the former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, wrote a blog post recently on what happened to him when he decided to charge for his blog content which he had been giving away for free for five years. Once he started charging for it, he began to receive some push backs, with some people even questioning his integrity and sincerity. While I am not Michael Hyatt, my time and services are just as important. Here are five nuggets I picked up from his post. (Point #6 is mine):

  1. People don’t respect what they get for free. (In many cases).
  2. Until people make an investment, they are not invested in the outcome.
  3. When you start charging for your services, you go from being an amateur to being a pro.
  4. In short, when you charge, you respect yourself and your own work more. It creates value in your own mind.
  5. Charging for your services is a necessity if you are going to support your family. If you don’t charge, you won’t be doing what you do for long.
  6. If you don’t value your time, neither will others.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do some brain picking myself, but I never assumed it is going to be free. If it is free, I always ask how can I return the favour. However, when someone is going to brazenly take me for granted, then they have passed my threshold of tolerance.

What about you? Have you faced such situations? How do you handle such requests?

A Twitter colleague of mine, Adrienne Graham, summed it up best in her Forbes.com article No, You Can’t Pick My Brain. It Costs too Much. She also has book of the same name.

Related Resources:

Why You Should Do It for the Money (and Stop Feeling Guilty About It)

Three Ways to Say No When People Want to Pick Your Brain

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!

Sharpen Your Negotiation Skills and Get the Salary You Deserve

Salary Negotiation

Salary negotiation is not an easy task for many people, but it’s even harder when you are a newcomer to a country. The case study below shows how a little bit of research and some coaching strategies led to job search success for one client.

My client and his family arrived in Canada two months ago – July 2010. We began working together months before he left Asia, and by the time he arrived, he had had his professional resume, cover letter and other related resources ready to begin his job search.

His first interview was in response to a job posting for a temporary position as Senior Research Advisor with a major Canadian institution. The position required a Masters Degree or a PhD, and he has the latter. After his second interview he was sent an email with a preliminary offer, but there was one glitch; the hourly rate was not quite what he was expecting. He asked me to help him prepare a negotiation strategy as he wanted to accept the offer, but at a higher pay rate.

I asked him to consider questions such as: What’s the minimum he would be willing to accept? What was most important to him – the money or the experience? How important would the experience be for him as he moves his career forward? What would he do if they stuck to, or withdrew the offer? I advised him to research the pay rate for similar positions so he would know where to start his negotiations. I also advised him to have a Plan B just in case they said they couldn’t raise the offer. He was also concerned about hours of work and benefits, considering it was a six-month temporary position. We brainstormed on how he would handle those issues if and when they came up. At the moment, the money was the sticky issue.

With all bases covered, I helped him to craft the following response:

Dear Mr. ________:

Thank you very much for your email indicating that you would like to offer me the temporary position of Senior Research Advisor. While it would be a privilege for me to work for ___________, and contribute my knowledge and experience to the position, I find the hourly rate of $24, lower than I had expected. Having met with me twice, I am sure you have recognized the value I would bring to __________. Would you consider raising the rate to $28? If you could do that, I would accept your offer.

Not only did they consider his request, but they offered him $30 per hour – $2 more per hour than he had asked for, and $6 more than their original offer.

Careful research, understanding his value, and a little bit of coaching helped him to ink the deal. He could easily have accepted the first offer on the basis that he was new to Canada and should take what was offered, but he did a few things right. First, he researched the salary range for similar positions. Second, he sought help, as this was a new arena for him, and third, he presented a counter-offer, knowing that his offer could be rejected.  He took a risk and his efforts paid off, and he will start his new job in two weeks.

What do you think of this approach? What additional advice would you have given him? Please add your comments below.