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Brilliant but Plagued By Insecurities (Is That You?)

“Success in your career transition or job search requires work, practice, commitment, and the ability to get back up, brush yourself off, and move forward having learned from your setbacks.” ~Career Coach Daisy Wright

As I reviewed her resume, I thought of how brilliant she sounded on paper, and when we spoke, it was confirmed. She is indeed a brilliant woman, ready to take her career to the next level, but something was holding her back; she was plagued by insecurities.

Mara reached out to me from British Columbia several weeks ago asking for help to “ace her next interview for a position with the government.” She wanted to transition from a manager to a project management role in Health IT. She said she didn’t have a problem getting interviews, but was not getting offers. “I am plagued with insecurities”, she said.

Mara’s story is not unique. Insecurity sometimes hits when we are facing a career change, speaking up in meetings, or even broaching the subject of a promotion. Many people, like Mara, struggle with interviews. They get pre-interview jitters, sweaty palms and ice cream headaches, better known as brain freezes. Some worry that they might not measure up to their competitors. Others are unable to tell authentic and convincing stories to sway the interviewer.

I explained to Mara that our interactions would involve more than reviewing interview questions. We would begin by first acknowledging that none of us knew exactly what questions were going to be asked, and we won’t attempt to read the interviewer’s mind. When I threw out a couple of test questions to her, I realized she was barely skimming the surface; giving hollow answers instead of diving deep to uncover the value she was creating (and had created) for her employers.

For homework she was asked to conduct a thorough review of the job posting – Job Overview, Accountabalities, Job Requirements and KSA’s (Knowledge, Skills & Abilities). She was to review the competencies associated with the role, as well as go over some sample questions. In reflecting on her experiences, she was to recall success and failure stories. After all, interviewers want to know about some of those projects that didn’t turn out as planned, and what lessons were learned.

After some gruelling conversations and exercises, Mara went for the interview. She was excited when she called. We did a debrief, and I advised her to follow up immediately with a Thank-you note. It was not going to be the standard “Thanks for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon”, but one that would include something significant she learned during the interview. She was to reiterate how she could solve the problem, or what contributions she could make. Her next contact from the interviewer was to ask “When can you start?”

When I work with clients – whether it’s through a career transition, developing job search marketing documents, or interviewing with confidence – I employ a ‘strategy tree’ approach (made popular by Anthony Tjan, CEO of Cue Ball), which addresses: Why (Purpose), What (Value Proposition), Who (Target Company) and How (How to win). A client once remarked that the process felt like a SWOT Analysis: identifying internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats, and it is, because we want to cover as many bases as possible.

A colleague and I were speaking this week and we talked about the coaching that’s involved in the work that we do. Some people believe they are hiring us on a transactional basis, to develop a resume, cover letter, LinkedIn Profile, but it goes way beyond that.

Below is a un-edited letter from Mara detailing what it was like working with me:

“I came to the Wright Career Solution as someone who would get an interview, but not get a job offer. I wondered what was it that I was doing to get so close yet still so far? Why weren’t employers committing to my vision of the role? So, I contacted Daisy through her website, and she got back to me very quickly.

We had a few weeks to get prepared for my interview and true to her word she asked me the questions I had thought I had asked myself enough times. Somehow, she got me to dive deep into the reasons why I was not getting the job offer. I realized through working with Daisy that I have never been well prepared for an interview and I was just finding this out now!!

She coached my language use, how to market myself, how to look at a job description and dissect it to its tiniest parts and build it back together to a riveting story that captivates the audience of my hiring committee.

Thank you Daisy! The Wright Career Solution got my career in the right direction! Everyone should invest in a career coach.

Mara!”

She and I will be working together during her onboarding process to ensure her new move goes smoothly.

While not every client is a ‘Mara’, the reality is that it is not easy to deal with rejections, especially after a number of interviews and not one job offer. It is not easy to focus when the promotion you had in mind did not materialize. And, sometimes it is even more difficult to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel when you are in the doldrums, and conversations become littered with self-limiting declarations such as, “What’s wrong with me…?… It’s probably because of my age… I will never… I should have…”.

In moments like these you need a coach, or someone you trust who can help you through a mindset change, where possibilities exist; where you can jump over barriers and bounce back even when things didn’t go as planned.

If you are ready, willing and able to persevere even when the going gets rough, connect with me for an initial conversation.

PS: In the midst of writing this article, another client – a Professional Engineer – sent this email:

 

Canada Career Week – November 4 – 8, 2013

Canada Career WeekToday’s issue of the Monday Morning Rx is a salute to Canada Career Week.

The week, November 4 – 8, 2013, has been designed “to promote, showcase and celebrate career development nation-wide”, by the Canadian Career Development Foundation and its partners.

Canadians are, indeed, at a crossroads in their careers, and even though there are a plethora of services and resources available, many are still not sure how to access these resources and make them work to their advantage.

public perceptions about career development and the workplace

At The Wright Career Solution, we will be hosting a FREE Q & A on Thursday November 7, at 8:00 pm EST, to provide answers to questions about career, resumes, interview strategies, or the job search. Details are below.

Can’t attend? No worries…send your questions to: careercoach[at]thewrightcareer.com, and we will answer them live.

To join from a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android device: Go to Canada Career Week at The Wright Career Solution. If you would prefer to join by telephone, the phone line is: 1(424)203-8450 (US/Canada only). Meeting ID: 474 467 653.

If you are a career professional, then I invite you to participate as well.

Related information on Canada Career Week and Career Development:

Sharon Graham’s Blog

Facebook

CERIC’s Online Survey of Public Perceptions About Career Development and the Workplace

 

 

 

 

Why I Love My Job

There were times when I didn’t love my job, mostly because I felt stifled as promotions were few and far between, and I knew I had so much more to offer. One day I took a leap of faith and landed into teaching and resume writing, then career coaching.

Most of my clients these days come from referrals. This not only makes it easy on my marketing, but it’s third-party validation of the work that I do.

A couple of months ago, I received an enquiry email from an HR Manager who was looking for a resume suitable for a Board appointment; a LinkedIn Profile and another resume in readiness for another opportunity, notwithstanding she had just been promoted a month earlier. In the email, she mentioned she was referred by a one of my clients. While I always aim to autograph my work with excellence, when it’s a referral, I double down, literally.

We met in my office and she explained what her needs were. I reviewed the documents she brought then asked for additional information including past performance appraisals. Within four weeks she had received her career marketing documents and was on her way.

After several weeks I followed up with her, as is customary. While listening to her feedback I asked if she could put some of what she was saying (about working with me) in writing. This is what she wrote. Am blushing even though you wouldn’t notice:

“I too am thankful to Gladys for connecting us.  She told me you were amazing and extremely helpful but I don’t think I realized at the time just how much of a return on investment would come my way when I first reached out to you.

In working with you, I found that the process of resume development should be pursued with thoughtfulness and consideration.  Taking the time to focus in on the accomplishments of my past and quantifying my value in each role has been one of the greatest practical skills I have learned from you.  One of the first things I did at work was to quantify the mediation work I performed into legal/arbitrations savings for my Director.  She was wowed by that information and immediately wanted to show it to her boss.

I was extremely impressed with the extra efforts you took to assist me with my moderator assignment – helping me craft a biography and even building on my speaker’s notes.  The rave reviews I received for that initiative was definitely attributable to your encouragement, support and assistance.  You’re coaching skills are outstanding.  Ever since you recommended ways to build upon my personal brand, I have been journaling my work accomplishments and projects every week so that I have something to look back upon for ease of application and retrieval.  

Daisy, you’re a consummate professional.  You’re passionate about your work and ensuring that your client puts their best foot forward.  You helped me identify and promote myself through an eye catching marketable resume and cover letter.  I even marveled at my accomplishments after reading your work.

I hope that we can continue to work with each other in the future.  You will be the first person I call for coaching and interviewing tips when the time comes.  It’s been an absolute pleasure working with you. Thank you very much for all that you’ve done to help me in this next phase of my career.”

The other client was a star employee for a couple of well-known technology brands. She was not a referral but found me through Google. As an entrepreneur for more than 10 years, she has reached the stage where she wants to do work that she enjoys rather than “chasing the money”. We spent many hours strategizing on what skills to highlight, and what to say if she’s asked why she’s targeting lower-level jobs – yes, lower-level, but interesting positions. I get hot behind my ears when I have to ask for a testimonial, but when I listen to what some people say about my services, I sometimes sheepishly ask them if they mind putting it in writing. Here’s what this client wrote:

“Daisy is a powerhouse of knowledge and compassion.  She has helped me to reposition myself and my resume so that it reflects more of who I truly am. Through working with her I can now approach prospective employers with greater confidence and ease.  It is such a pleasure to not only work with Daisy but to experience her knowledge, care and support that goes well above and beyond!”

While writing this post, I received an email from another client. He hasn’t announced his new position publicly as yet, but his note reads:

“Before I publicly announce it via LinkedIn I wanted to let you know I’ve accepted a role at (Big Name Company) as a Director in Technical Sales.  I am making a huge leap forward financially and in terms of responsibility.  Thank you for helping me to understand my unique value proposition.  I’d love to write you up an official recommendation if you like.”

It’s a given that not everyone who contacts me will be a good fit. I have had to turn away clients and some have had to turn me away, but in all cases it has worked out well for me, and I hope for them. I have learned in the process to narrow my niche to individuals in mid to senior-level management, and those on the cusp of management – who recognize that it takes time to understand who they are, what their goals are, and develop career marketing documents that focus on those goals. They understand that price plays a role, but value is more important than price. They are also willing to accept my advice, believe in themselves, and stretch beyond what they thought possible.

Having said that, am I giving up on other potential clients because they don’t fit the above profile? No, because many of my clients are not in that niche but we have built such a relationship that we’re stuck with each other. Others I have volunteered to work with on a pro bono basis after assessing their needs, and am equally happy to continue helping them.

These are the reasons I love my job, and I am grateful to work with the calibre of clients that I have.

Is the Résumé Really Dead?

Every so often I read a blog post or hear comments about the death of the ubiquitous résumé, and I am sometimes tempted to believe it. After all, it draws its competition from the overabundance of social media tools and, to a lesser degree, from individuals with the ‘gift of gab’ who can talk themselves into any job without a résumé.

But, let’s pause for a moment! Probably, the résumé isn’t dead after all. A few days ago, one of my clients was interviewed for a Senior Vice President position by the top three honchos of a company. They were impressed with the content and structure of his résumé because after the interview, he sent me the following note:

The Top Guy stated he had never seen a better résumé and appreciated the time and effort I put into it.  I was straight up and told him I solicited assistance. I said, “No one stands alone but draws on other people’s expertise as required”. He loved that.

Naturally, I was happy for him that things went well, and by the looks of  it, he may be getting an offer soon, but I also reflected on the CEO’s comment. This couldn’t have happened if it was a collaborative effort between the client and me. Before crafting the résumé, I put him to work by having him complete an assessment to uncover his strengths and the work environment in which he strives best. It was a worthwhile exercise for him as he wrote to say, “I want to express how important this process has been for me to re-evaluate my worth and experience. I have a fire I have not had in a while!”

The next step was to delve into his background, unearth his success stories and formulate them into a cohesive value proposition that articulates what he is good at, what he consistently does well, and how he delivers tangible results. He was stunned when he received the draft document and remarked, “To say we are blown away (the wife and I) would be an understatement. This is GOLD!”

Before meeting with company officials, we also discussed interview strategies – what to say, when to say it, and what to hold back.  This brings me back to the question, “Is the résumé really dead as some would have us believe?” Not really! Hiring managers and recruiters usually request one; job postings ask to submit one, and CEOs sometimes want to see one before agreeing to meet a candidate. What is on its way out is the résumé as it used to be. The one devoid of value-based scripts, filled with ‘responsible for…’ statements and does not address the employer’s needs or buying motivators. Such a résumé cannot stand up to the competition and will certainly meet its demise if it hasn’t already. On the other hand, the one that tells stories, focuses on major strengths, and promises value, that’s the résumé that will lead to interviews and then to a job offer.

What are your thoughts? Have your say below.

 

But, let’s pause for a minute! Probably, the résumé isn’t dead after all. One of my clients met the top three honchos of this particular company when he interviewed for a Senior VP position a few days ago. After that meeting, he sent me an email from which I quote:  

The Top Guy stated he had never seen a better resume and appreciated the time and effort I put into it.  I was straight up and told him I solicited assistance.  “No one stands alone but draws on other people’s expertise as required”, I told him. He loved that.

In order to come up with the client’s résumé, I had him complete an assessment. After he had reviewed the results, he said, I want to express how important this process has been for me to re-evaluate my worth and experience. I have a fire I have not had in a while!”

The next step was to delve into his background, unearth his success stories and formulate them into a cohesive value proposition that articulates what he is good at, what he consistently does well, and how he delivers tangible results. All this was necessary to craft the résumé that caught the attention of the CEO. Even the client was stunned when he received the résumé. He said, To say we are blown away (the wife and I) would be an understatement. This is GOLD!”

So, which résumé is dead? The one devoid of value-based scripts, filled with ‘responsible for…’ statements and does not address the employer’s needs. Such a résumé cannot stand up to the competition, and will certainly meet its demise if it hasn’t already. However, the résumé that tells stories; focuses on major strengths and promises value, that’s the résumé that will lead to success.

What are your thoughts? Have your say below.

The E.A.S.Y Way to Ace Your Next Interview

As career professionals, we can learn a lot from our clients. They come to us because of their perceived belief that we have all the answers. They believe we have the expertise to help them when they are seeking a professional resume to distinguish themselves from other candidates, or when they are looking for interview coaching to help them tell their stories and get hired.  Little do they know how much they also bring to the coaching relationship and how much we learn from them.

I am coaching a young man who is interviewing for a position in law enforcement. His contact at the agency suggested he retains a Career Coach to help him prepare for the interview. After our first session and I had given him his homework assignment, he sent a note to say someone in his network heard of an E.A.S.Y. way to practice for this particular type of interview. I was intrigued! After all, I had coached other law enforcement clients before and always used the S.T.A.R. or C.A.R. interview technique. Was this something new?

When I reviewed the concept, I found out it operates on the same premise as the C.A.R. technique we had agreed to practice. Now, we wouldn’t have to ditch our original plan, except that we would now be working with a different acronym – E.A.S.Y.Event, Action, Step taken and Yield (or Outcome). Once we got that straightened out, it was easy to get back on track to prepare for the next session.

If you are a job seeker and would like to ace your next interview, or you are a career coach and would like to incorporate another acronym into your interview coaching toolkit, it’s E.A.S.Y. :

E – Event:                           What event did you face?

A – Action:                         What did you do?

S – Step taken:                  What steps were involved?

Y – Yield:                            What did you get? What was the outcome?

So, Miss or Mr. Job-Seeker, the next time you are preparing for your interview, suggest to your coach that you use the E.A.S.Y. way to tell your success stories and get hired.

What are your thoughts? Please leave your comments below.

Case Study: Interview Coaching Nets Client $20,000 Pay Increase

The above title reads like a headline from your local newspaper, but this is a classic story of what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

Rick is an IT Project Manager, and has been my client for the past three years. He reconnected with me recently for interview coaching as he was pursuing an opportunity through a recruiter. He met with the recruiter and got a clear idea of the challenges his target company was facing. Using that information he developed a strategic plan, prepared a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the challenges and offering solutions, and sent it to the recruiter for review. The recruiter was so impressed with his approach that he asked all shortlisted candidates to prepare a presentation.

By the time Rick came to me for coaching, he had updated the presentation to include matrices and charts, and was confident he knew what the company needed and the value he could offer them. I reviewed the presentation with him, then we focussed on interview questions he would most likely be asked. To cover all bases, we reviewed other questions that could come up based on the problems he identified and the environment in which he was going to work. He left feeling very confident.

At the interview, all eyes were focused on him and the presentation. When the interview ended he was told that he would hear from them by Friday. In less than two hours, and before he got back to his office, they called to offer him the position. Not only did he get the job, but it came with a $20,000 pay increase and an excellent benefit package.

Here are some things that Rick did right:

  • He took his job search very seriously instead of leaving it up to luck.
  • He did not wait until a day or two before his interview to seek coaching. Too many people go to the interview ill-prepared and with high expectation that something miraculous will happen.
  • He researched  the company, found out what problems they faced and offered strategies for solution.
  • He separated himself from his competitors by going the extra mile. He capitalized on his strength and, in so doing, raised the bar by which the other candidates were measured.
  • His expertise and enthusiasm shone during the coaching session and because of that we were confident he would do well at the interview.

Rick’s case is not unusual. More and more hiring managers are asking candidates, particularly those at the managerial and executive levels, to prepare to deliver a 10-15 minute presentation. Rick was not asked to do one, but it gave him an edge, and to a large extent, allowed him to set the agenda and control the interview.

I have coached many individuals to do what Rick did.  In one case, it was a corporate lawyer who wanted to apply for an internal position as Corporate Responsibility Officer. A presentation was not a requirement but I suggested she prepared one anyway, as she was competing with three other internal candidates. From her assessment, they appeared to have had the edge, including one who was with the company for 22 years and was acting in the position. The research that she did and the strategy we developed helped her to ace the interview and get the job!

As competition increases, job seekers are being pushed to find creative ways to stand out from the crowd. Not everyone will have the successes mentioned above; not everyone will be vying for positions at those levels, but if you are serious about moving your career forward, it requires an investment of your time.

Some people spend more time planning their vacation than they do their job search, and from my experience, it’s easy to spot these individuals. They call in a panic the day before the interview to ask “Do you guys do interview coaching, and can you see me this weekend?” or they leave a message wanting to know the fee for a ‘general’ or ‘generic’ resume so they can apply for a job that has a deadline the next day. This quick fix, microwave approach won’t work, and that’s the reason some people’s job search go wrong. Don’t let this happen to you.