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Are You All Ideas and No Action?

 

“Ideas have a short shelf life; act on them before the expiration date.” ~John C. Maxwell, Leadership Guru

Consider this: If Steve Jobs hadn’t moved on his idea to develop the Mac computer, Apple would’ve remained a dream, or would it? If Oprah had wallowed herself in self-pity when doors were closing in her face, would she have enjoyed the success she has?

What do you do with your ideas when they pop into your head? Do you just keep them there, or do you write them down then act?

I used to be an ‘idea in my head’ person. I would get loads of ideas, but I would leave them floating in my head for ‘someday’. Many times that ‘someday’ never came. The idea to write my first book No Canadian Experience, Eh? A career success guide for new immigrants, lingered in my head for years (ten years to be precise). I did not put pen to paper until the panic monster struck. I was speaking with a librarian at a networking event when she told me she thought she saw a book in the library with a similar name. When I later checked, it was not the case, but it forced me to spring into action.

I also started reading Henriette Anne Klauser’s book Write It Down, Make It Happen, which was among my unread collection at the time. I gave the project undivided attention especially during the last six months of working on it, and the first edition was published in 2007. Thanks to several colleagues, a second edition was published in 2014.

What I learned from this was to keep a pen and notebook handy on my night table, not only to jot ideas down when they come in the middle of the night, but to take action.

This brief story of inaction is even a bigger one than mine. Two years ago I was coaching a young lady who lives in Florida. She was “tired of working for people” – her exact words, and wanted help in exploring possibilities, including venturing into entrepreneurship. One of the ideas she came up with was to invent a shoe with convertible heels. When she mentioned it, I thought it was a brilliant idea!

We discussed it a number of times: could she patent her idea before anyone else took it; who would she get to make a prototype, could she write down the idea, date-stamp an envelope and mail it to herself, etc. At the time we weren’t sure if an idea could be patented or if the ‘poor man copyright’ still worked. We agreed her next step was to conduct research on patents.

 

 

Fast forward to last week when I came across this Mashable article in my Twitter Feed. I sent the link to the young lady, as well as a link to Mime et Moi, the website of the company making the shoes. She responded, “OMG! They stole my idea. I really need to be more of a go-getter and stop sitting on my ideas.”

So far, I haven’t seen anything on the company’s website to suggest they were making convertible heels up to two or three years ago. But, the young lady in question didn’t act on her brilliant idea, and now someone else has brought her idea to life. These shoes are being sold on the company’s website for an average of 190 Euro per pair (US$220 or CDN $278).

One never knows if, and how her idea would’ve turned out for her, but I would label it a ‘missed opportunity’ from the perspective that she did not take any further action on it. She has since transitioned to a new position with a different company; is enjoying the role, but still has plans to pursue entrepreneurship. (I have her permission to share her story without mentioning her name) because she wants others to know about her “missed opportunity and what can happen when one has ideas, but fail to act,” she said.)

No Entrepreneurial Aspirations? What if…?

So what if you do not have any entrepreneurial aspirations or no desire to invent anything? What if we bring this same analogy to your career transition or job search? Have you been toying with the idea of hiring a career coach to help you get unstuck, or thinking of getting your resume prepared, but something is preventing you from taking action. Have you considered what it is costing you when you don’t act? There is an opportunity cost to inaction. Assuming the young lady above had followed through with her idea, just think of how many pairs of shoes she could’ve been selling at US$220 per pair? (I am sure someone is thinking that if it were meant to be…).

What if you are unemployed and your goal is to find a job with a salary of say, $70,000 per year? Do you know that every week that you are unemployed is costing you about $1,346, or $269 per day for a 5-day work week. This is based on the assumption that the length of an average job search is 40 weeks. Are you getting ideas that you should change your search strategy and reach out to people inside and outside your network, but you keep putting it off for someday? That’s inaction, and there is a cost associated with it.

What if you are employed, but a promotion is on your goal list, or you would like to apply for a job outside of the company? What are you doing about it? Your indecision could be costing you. To calculate how much your inaction (or indecision) would cost you per week or per day, deduct your current salary from the one you would want in your new role. Is the amount of dollars enough to drive you to action?

Many of us miss out on opportunities because we have ideas, but fail to act. Or, we engage in low priority activities that give the appearance we are doing something, but we are just spinning our wheels. If you ever have an idea, big or small, act on it. If you are thinking of a career transition, or need to brush up on your interview skills or revamp your resume to meet the September hiring rush, don’t wait until September. By then the panic monster will start nipping at your heels.

Are you full of ideas, but failing to act? Think of the opportunity cost of not doing anything.

 

How to Spring Clean Your Career in One Day!

If a job opportunity falls in your lap today, would you be prepared for it? A woman left me a message this past Monday: “I would like a professional resume, and need it done by Friday, so I can’t really waste too much time here.” Wow! I said to myself. Some people seem to conduct their job search by the seat of their pants. They spend more time planning for their vacation than they do on their job search or career. Think of it: they research the places they want to go; determine a budget, and book the date, but when it comes to the job search, or a career transition, they don’t give it the same priority. They have a casual approach to the very job that would help them pay for the vacation.

“It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.” said Whitney Young Jr. It is not too late to spring clean your career and be ready for your next opportunity. Here are some tips:

Conduct an Inventory of Your Skill-sets

The moment some people think of job search, they equate it to a resume. “I just saw an job posting, and I need a resume right away.” Although the resume is very important, it is not the first thing one should think of when it comes to the job search. Think of what you would and would not want in your next role. Take an inventory of your values, interests, skills, knowledge and personal qualities:

  • Values – what is important to you? Integrity, status, accomplishments?
  • Interests – what do you enjoy doing?
  • Abilities/skills – what you are good at?
  • Knowledge – what you know: your “intellectual capital”.
  • Personality – your attitude, what you are passionate about, what motivates you.

This assessment helps you plan what type of job or career you wish to pursue.

Dust Off the Old Resume

Creating a professional resume is not something to be done in a hurry as alluded to above, so never leave this very important task for the last minute. Review your journal (hopefully you have been keeping one) where you recorded your achievements, the projects you worked on, and the role(s) you played. Check your email for recognition messages from people you have interacted with. Pull out your performance appraisals and review the positive feedback. These all tell your story, and should be appropriately incorporated in your resume.

Prepare to be the Closer (Not the Loser), at the Interview

Some people are afraid of interviews the way others are afraid of public speaking, but that’s not you! You are ready with memorable stories of your successes (and failures). Yes, what have you learned from those failures? Research, not only the company, but its competitors; not only their website, but annual reports and industry reports. Prepare a mini presentation or proposal identifying the company’s pain points. You can bet your competitors won’t be thinking that far ahead. Even if you don’t get a chance to present it, you can have it as a ‘leave-behind’. (A year ago, I took my own advice, created a mini presentation when I interviewed for a Committee position, and was selected).

Craft Your Salary Negotiation Story

Afraid to have the money talk? Unable to answer the “What’s your salary expectation” question? Salary discussions can be scary. Some candidates are scared they might mention a dollar amount, or say “yes” too quickly and lose out on an opportunity. Do not wait until an offer is apparent before you craft your negotiation story. Conduct your research and enter the negotiation conversation well-prepared and confident.

Build Your Online Brand (and that includes a Personal Website)

Many people wince when they hear they need to build their online brand. Some believe only executives should do so; others start thinking they are going to overexpose themselves. There is some truth to that, but in the digital world we live in, coupled with a very competitive job market, it makes sense to explore the online world when seeking to stand out. A LinkedIn Profile is great, but what happens if LinkedIn disappears? Someone referred to that situation as “having your house built on a rented property”. As a backup plan, think of building your own personal website that you own and control.

Put a Job Search Strategy in Place

You need a proactive and carefully orchestrated job search plan that will bring results. Not one that have you looking for a job once you become unemployed, or when you are at your wits end. This ‘on-the-fly’ job search approach does not work and will, more often than not, end in frustration. It’s better to take the time to conduct a targetted search with a limited number of companies you would want to work for, than uploading your resume to any and every company for any job, and hope to be contacted.

Learn Effective Networking Strategies

The moment some people hear the word ‘networking’, they conjure up images of people with name tags and business cards running around in a meeting room. They then tell themselves “That’s not for me…I am too shy…people might think I am forcing myself on them.” Some of that may be true, but if orchestrated well, networking is not as difficult as it’s made out to be. According to Executive Search guru, David Perry, “For those of us who are terminally shy the Internet has made it possible to network from our computer keyboard and avoid those awkward mixers. So start your networking online, but be respectful, and don’t go begging for a job at the first opportunity. Build the relationship first.

The above advice is just the tip of the iceberg. If you are ever looking for an accountability partner to assist you, I would be pleased to be that person. In fact, if you are in the Greater Toronto Area, you could benefit from a Career Empowerment workshop I am hosting on June 3, 2017, at the Corporate Event Centre in Mississauga. Click here for details: Spring Your Career in One Day!

 

She is in Pain and Fighting a Hard Battle

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the point of living!!

My In-laws hate[s] me!!

My husband hates me!!

I hate myself!! I hate myself!!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Get the Job You Want

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want to share your thoughts?

Being the Most Qualified Does Not Guarantee You the Job!

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

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

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

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

Personal Branding and Messaging

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

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

The Halo Effect

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before telling your story, consider the following:

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

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

Are You Guilty of Unconscious Bias?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Interview For a Law Firm

Despite what you may have heard and read, many job seekers, including new lawyers, still get the jitters when they are invited to an interview. However, unlike painting, you don’t need to be Monet in order pull in a few useful skills that can help you land the job. New lawyers looking to get their foot in the door will need a bit more help than just your regular job interviewing tips.

Law firm jobs are sometimes difficult to obtain, and while most law firms prefer to hire someone with a good amount of experience, they’re willing to consider new hires who can nail the interview. What you need is the right mindset and a few helpful tips to put you on the right track.

First of all, it’s best to get out of your mind the idea that your interview is going to be like a courtroom. While you are on trial in a certain sense, you won’t be asked complex legal questions. The law firm wants to get to know you. Your resume will play a major role in that conversation, but how you handle yourself in the back-and-forth dialogue will be the most telling part for them.

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New attorneys will need a resume that is clear of ambiguity. To the point and totally free of spelling and grammar errors; remember that your resume is going to be the first thing the law firm sees. Avoid including extraneous information that is unrelated to your graduate and undergraduate education, and that includes unrelated work or volunteer experience.

Before handing in that application, be sure to conduct research on the law firm you are applying to. Know their history, the kind of law they practice, their size and especially any of their notable accomplishments. A lot of this information can be gleaned from their website and local news media.

Keep in mind that having questions to ask your interviewer is a good strategy. This shows your interest in the company, and your desire to want to learn more about them. Failing to ask questions can make you appear uninterested. You will also want to know more about the law firm’s culture, and to determine whether it will be a good fit for you. Remember it’s a two-way street. The interviewer is assessing whether you will be a good fit for the firm, and you should do so as well. Consider asking questions about how the firm handles assignments for associates, development strategies and continuing education.

The term “Dress for Success” applies for your law firm interview. Professional attire is commonplace for law firms, so make sure you are properly prepared and that your own personal presentation fits the bill. Also review the types of questions your interviewer is likely to ask. This can include question such as:

  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • What type of practice are you interested in?
  • Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty at work.

You will also be questioned about your resume. Make sure you know your resume thoroughly, and be prepared to elaborate when asked.

Make sure to exude confidence at all times, but avoid sounding arrogant. Be sure that you keep your conversation to the topic. Avoid making any disparaging remarks about others or other law firms.

Prior to your interview, make sure to research your interviewer(s). Know their career history and accomplishments and be prepared to weave some of this research into the conversation. This will not only show that you went the extra mile to find out something about them, but will give you something pertinent to discuss instead of the standard ‘How is the weather?’ small talk. Having said that, avoid getting too personal.

Finally, never forget to follow up! This includes a handwritten thank-you note that individually addresses a specific topic of discussion in the interview. Make sure to send the note the day after your interview. In fact, send it the same day, if you can. If a few weeks pass without any contact from the law firm, do not be afraid to send an email inquiring about the position.

For an easy to remember, easy to digest version of this article, Tenge Law Firm LLC, kindly contributed the article and accompanying Infographic below for you to use as your visual guide on How To Interview For A Law Firm.

 

 

Want to Find the Best Places to Work in Canada?

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

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

Best Places to Work in Canada (2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada’s Top 100 Employers

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

Canadian Business Magazine’s Top Jobs for 2016

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

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

Top 25 Jobs for 2016

Top 100 Jobs in Canada for 2016

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

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

Top 100 Best Employers

Statistics Canada (Canadian Labour Market Information)

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

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

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

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

The Truth About Colour in Your Resume

Whether you are an executive, a manager or mid-career professional, in a tight job market you know you are competing against equally qualified candidates for the same position. What can you do with your resume (and your other career marketing documents) to differentiate you from your competitors? Infuse them with a tinge of colour.

Before you baulk at the idea, take a look at the Colour Emotion Guide below. It contains some of the most recognizable brands. Notice their logo colours? They did not choose them by accident. A lot of thought went into their decision.

Image credit: The Logo Company

      Image credit: The Logo Company

Colour speaks a powerful language even without uttering a word. It evokes emotion. It plays a huge role in marketing. Corporations such as IBM and Coco Cola use colour in their branding with the hope it will evoke a positive response from consumers. In an Entrepreneur.com article, The Psychology of Color on Branding and Marketing, writer Gregory Ciotti states that “It is of paramount importance for new brands to specifically target logo colors that ensure differentiation from entrenched competitors.”  As a job seeker, you are also involved in marketing and should employ some of the same tactics as the big brands if you want to stand out.

For those of us who collaborate with clients on their career marketing documents, there is a rationale behind our use of colour. Although our main aim is to help clients uncover their value proposition and tell a focused story, we are also involved in developing an ad campaign to help them differentiate themselves from their competitors. This may include designing a logo, adding some lines, boxes or charts, and adding colour. More often than not colour is used sparingly to ensure it does not overpower and detract from the main message

All this colour dialogue might not resonate with everyone. First of all, when it comes to resumes, opinions are plentiful as to the perfect design, length and format. If ten people look at a resume, it will garner ten different responses. Second, colours mean different things to different people, depending on one’s culture and personal likes and dislikes. However, what most people would agree on is that resume appearances have evolved, and are no longer restricted to black ink on white, gray or ivory paper.

As alluded to above, colour impacts our psyche. It induces an emotion. Generally, if one sees red (as in a flashy red car), it is supposed to denote energy, flamboyance, and dominance; blue symbolizes tranquility, trustworthiness and confidence, and green signifies nature, growth and generosity. The list below contains a few popular brand colours and their meanings:

  • Blue is very popular and implies honesty, trustworthiness, tranquillity, confidence and authority.
  • Red is very intense and aggressive, and draws attention.
  • Gold is associated with value, luxury and prestige. It reflects wisdom, beauty and generosity.
  • Gray is neutral, calm, and conservative but also implies security and reliability.
  • Green has an harmonizing effect. It is associated with nature, health and growth; balances the emotions, inspires compassion, and encourages generosity and kindness.
  • Orange inspires warmth and optimism, and creates enthusiasm. It also suggests affordability and cheap.

While the content of a resume is of paramount importance, anyone who wants to differentiate him or herself from their competitors, should experiment with a dash of colour in its design. It just might boost their brand, garner some extra attention and hopefully evoke an emotional response from an employer.

Want to determine your brand colour? Watch this 4-minute video from the Personal Branding website of William Arruda, developer of the 360Reach Personal Branding Assessment (a tool that I am certified to administer): Discovering My Brand Colour.

Are you ready for the experiment? Go ahead!