Stuck in a Career Rut? Allow us to point you in the "Wright" Career Direction

What Happened at Our Quarantine Networking Party

Unsplash

At the start of 2020, the beginning of a new year, and a new decade, many of us had had lofty plans, resolutions and goals, or whatever we chose to call them. A few months in, and COVID-19 has upended every facet of our lives. We are now reaching for some semblance of stability in a world of uncertainties. Some of the everyday things we once took for granted now have a deeper sense of purpose. Chief among these are the relationships between family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues. There seems to be an urgency to connect, of course within the #StayatHome restrictions.

Last Saturday night I decided to host a “Quarantine Networking Party” via Zoom with a few women from my Let’s GROW community. We hadn’t gotten together since January 11, and I thought it would be a good idea to schedule a quick check-in. What I thought would’ve lasted an hour, took two hours.

We opened with an upbeat rendition of Bob Marley’s One Love: “One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright.” What is striking about this is, I wanted to begin the get-together with something fun and upbeat. It wasn’t until one of the said out loudly, “Everything is gonna be alright!” (another of Bob’s songs), that I realized we were actually going to get together, and whatever happens post-COVID19, everything is going to be alright.

We took a few minutes to introduce or re-introduce ourselves and discussed how the evening would proceed. We then entered the breakout rooms where the aim was to go beyond the customary “How are you doing?” question and really dig deeper. This idea came from a Quartz article written by Elizabeth Weingarten of Ideas42.org. (Credit goes to my friend and supporter Kasindra Maharaj who shared the resource with me.)

In the article Weingarten says, “In this challenging moment, let’s move beyond “how are you doing?” and get more serious about the questions we’re asking our colleagues, friends, and family…It’s a matter of keeping our relationships strong and solvent during what may be a long stretch of healthy spacing ahead of us.”

Asking the right questions

In line with the article, I preselected a few of the questions to do just that – move beyond “how are you doing?” Each person was to choose any of the questions and discuss them in their group. The seven below is from an original list of 20:

  1. How are you taking care of yourself today?
  2. What part of your shelter-in-place residence have you come to appreciate the most?
  3. What surprising thing have you been stocking up on (that isn’t toilet paper)?
  4. What habit have you started, or broken, during the quarantine?
  5. Which specific place in your neighborhood are you most looking forward to visiting once this is all over?
  6. What’s the easiest part about the quarantine?
  7. What are some things you have realized that you don’t really need?
  8. “What problem—either yours, or something more global —do you wish you could solve?”

The Debrief

We regrouped for a debrief. We learned that someone in the group was recently laid off as a result of COVID-19, and two had been job hunting. Someone immediately shared a link to jobs in the GTA. The others of us are okay at this point. In view of the COVID-19 crisis, it was not surprising during the debriefing to hear comments such as:

  • Family is much more than “How are you?” Deeper conversations are taking place.
  • Nobody knows what the new normal will look like. It is scary in one respect, but exciting in another.
  • People seem to have become more collegial, and empathy and compassion are more evident. This is one thing we would want to see continue.
  • Remote work is here to stay. More employers are going to buy into the concept that remote work makes good business sense. Put another way, the toothpaste cannot be put back into the tube.
  • There is more communication between employers and employees, online meetings are more prevalent, and relationships overall seem to be much better.
  • Those deemed essential workers are garnering more respect. Not only those in health care, but train and bus operators, retail and grocery clerks, delivery drivers, etc. People are waking up to how important they are.
  • Some companies are demonstrating social responsibility by, not only keeping their staff pretty much intact, but also ensuring that PPEs get to some hard-to-reach northern communities.
  • Being laid off come with blessings, but the job search will continue
  • Virtual coffee chats and kitchen table bible study groups have been created.

The last question, “What problem—either yours, or something more global —do you wish you could solve?”, was reserved for the main discussion during the get-together. It was to put legs to a book idea I have been mulling over for my 2020 Let’s GROW theme. It was a question we agreed to contemplate beyond the meeting, but it provided a segue into a brief introduction of Ikigaki.

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that examines all areas of our lives that give us purpose and meaning. “Having a direction or purpose in life, that which makes one’s life worthwhile, and towards which an individual takes spontaneous and willing actions giving them satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life.”

The plan, moving forward, is to apply aspects of the Ikigai concept to our lives: What’s our passion and mission? What can we do in the space that we have? Who can we empower, inspire and motivate? What will our legacy look like, and how can we capture that legacy? Equally important, what are we learning, or what have we learned? How are we growing, or how have we grown?

That’s how we ended our quarantine party – with lots of food for thought, as we consider the book project and where it will take us. The coronavirus may have descended on us and created a lot of uncertainties, but all is not doom and gloom. Out of a crisis comes opportunities, and we need to seize the moment. That’s what the Let’s GROW 2020 project is going to do.

I Was Zoom-bombed On a Career Chat…and It Wasn’t Pretty!

Pixabay

Since the onset of COVID19, and realizing that some job seekers and employees are facing anxiety and uncertainty, I decided to host a few weekly Casual Career Chats where I would answer questions about job losses, job search, career transition. resumes, etc. I invited three of my colleagues, Maureen McCann, Michelle Precourt and Christine Cristiano, to be a part of the panel answering the questions.

The first Zoom meeting was on March 27, and it went without a hitch. Last Friday, April 3, I logged into the meeting a few minutes early to give us (the Panel) a chance to chat before the 3:00 pm start. Suddenly, I saw a message that my screen was being shared, and in seconds the vilest of pornography started broadcasting, interspersed with the N-word. At the time, my daughter and her son were in the adjacent room, and she shouted, “Mom, what’s that I am hearing?” They were not online, and didn’t see the images, but I quickly rambled off what was happening.

As one can imagine, the invasion of my computer screen startled me. I was in shock as I grappled to find a way to end the nightmare. Eventually, I gained some semblance of composure and clicked on “End Meeting for All”. Assuming it was an error, I re-started the meeting a few minutes afterwards, and in a flash, the pornography began. I immediately terminated the meeting.

In speaking with my colleagues afterwards, I learned for the first time about Zoom-bombing. One shared a link to an FBI article on the subject (which is posted below). Prior to the article, I had only heard about the lack of proper security on Zoom, but I didn’t pay it much attention. One reason was that I have had a Zoom account for years, and never had a problem.

After the conversation with my colleagues, I proceeded to do a bit of research, and what I discovered was horrifying. There has been a litany of incidences where hackers have been bombarding online classrooms (from kindergarten to university), and primarily targetting people of colour. A young African American man was defending his PhD dissertation via Zoom when his screen infiltrated. An article in last Friday’s USA Today summarizes what happened to K’Andre Miller, a hockey prospect for the New York Rangers. An online community gathering by a Jewish high school in Vancouver was also invaded. Most of these incidences have escalated since COVID19, when the use of the Zoom app ballooned from 10 million users in December 2019, to 200 million now.

A half hour after my incident, and without contacting Zoom, I received a “Dear Valued Customer” email from them. It was advising me of what they were doing to tighten security and what safeguards I should put in place.

I spoke with Peel Regional Police Communication Bureau to find out what they knew about Zoom-bombing. The woman I spoke with hadn’t heard of it but her colleague did. I then called the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and they had heard about it, and urged me to take greater security.

Putting the onus on me to adhere to Zoom’s security protocol is not a problem. But, let’s face it, this infiltration of my screen speaks to a larger issue: RACISM! And before anyone hastens to dismiss my pronouncement, let me say this, whenever someone tells you they have experienced racism, believe them. Don’t be too quick to write it off as “playing the race card.” It’s too easy to resort to that, and then miss the opportunity to have a civil discourse on the topic.

Many of us shy away from such discussions because it’s uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable because race is a social construct that places people in boxes, or on a hierarchy that presupposes one group is more, or less, than the other. Herein lies the problem. It’s awkward to argue such a concept, but if we are not prepared to have a candid discussion about racism, we will continue to perpetuate this fallacy.

Many years ago I was invited to speak to a group of university students in a women’s studies class. Of the 50 students, 3 were non-white. During the Q&A, one student asked me if I had ever faced racism. I smiled, then said, “If I tell you I haven’t, I would be lying. I have had my share, but I never allow racism to stop me from doing whatever I want to do or going wherever I want to go. If it means going up, down, sideways or plowing through, I am going to get there. Obstacles may slow me down, but nothing is going to stop me.”

That has always been my approach. Probably it’s because of my Jamaican background, where we don’t cringe when faced with obstacles like these. We deal with the elephant in the room if it raises its head, and then move on. And, by the way, sometimes, the racism is not as blatant as the Zoom-bombing experience. Sometimes it’s the microaggressions that we face in our workplaces, schools, and communities, both on- and offline. They are real!

There I was, with my colleagues, offering free career advice to job seekers and people who feel uncertain and lost during this COVID19 scare, and someone (or group) decided that invading my online space with pornography and racist taunts was more important. I don’t get angry very often, but this time I did. However, I won’t focus on the anger lest we miss the point of the real issue.

I know what I am saying is not at all comfy, but it is not meant to be. Sometimes we just have to call a spade a spade! That said, I am not going to allow trolls to stop me from doing my work. The Casual Career Chat will continue for a couple more weeks as was intended, but with a different set of security protocols.

As I conclude this piece, I want to say I am privileged to have built relationships, and serve a client base from diverse races and cultures. I am the better from the experiences, and I am confident my clients and connections would say the same. But this should, and will not prevent me from calling out racism when I see it, and this one hit close to home.

Related Posts:

New York Rangers Prospect Zoombombed

CNN’s Interview with Zoom’s CEO Eric Yuan

Zoombombing attack Left Doctoral Candidate Shaken

FBI Warns of Teleconferencing and Online Classroom Hijacking

 

Kick Ageism to the Curb…Your Career Isn’t Over!

A day before presenting on Ageism to a group of mostly baby boomers, I asked my LinkedIn community if they could provide some tips on the topic that I could add to my own resource kit to share with the group. The ‘ask’ was for ONE tip from each person.”  The community’s response was overwhelming!

In appreciation for their generosity, I decided to curate the content (mostly verbatim), and make it available to contributors and other interested parties. The information and contributors are not listed in any particular order.

It’s important to note that, while ageism is a two-way street where younger workers also face discrimination, this particular discussion relates to older workers and the challenges they face in the workplace.

Click on the link below to download your copy:

Kick Ageism to the Curb-Your Career Isn’t Over_Crowd-sourced Resource

Keep adding to the job search debate about ageism in the workplace.

 

Quick Resume Reference Guide at Your Finger Tips

Need a handy guide when writing your own resume? Download a copy of this Infographic.

Resume Writing Strategies That Haven’t Changed

It’s International Women’s Day…So What?

International Women’s Day 2019

Normally, I would have a blog post ready to deploy on International Women’s Day, but busyness caught up with me this week, so I am late to the party. As the saying goes, “Better late than never”!

Now, the title of this post could’ve turned you off. Could’ve had you thinking that I am trivializing the Day. Not at all.

It is International Women’s Day all over the world, so what? What’s the difference with the other 364 days? For 24 hours we will be wishing each other Happy International Women’s Day, but will it be business as usual tomorrow, probably lowering our heads, drooping our shoulders and being sorry for ourselves? I don’t think so. We are better than this!

If it’s the former, let’s change that, starting with the narrative in our own heads. The stories we tell ourselves to keep us down instead of allowing us to flourish: “I can’t; I am going to fail; I am not good enough.”

With that out of the way, let me begin by wishing all the women in my circle, and by extension, all women around the world a Happy International Women’s Day. You are awesome! Keep doing your good works, whether it’s quietly behind the scenes, or in the limelight. It’s not what or how much you do, it’s the impact you are making in the lives of others. Let that sink in!

Having said that, allow me to give all of us a pep talk, because we are more than enough, we can, and we will, and we are not going to fail. Not if we support each other. Not if we amplify each other’s voices; not if we commit to being ‘brag buddies’ for each other.

The Past is Gone, Embrace What’s Coming

Don’t be defined by your past; learn the lessons and move on. It doesn’t make sense to continue staring at the closed door when windows of opportunities are passing you by.

Don’t Fall for the Little Four-Letter Word “QUIT”

When it gets difficult, and you feel like giving up, rest, but don’t ever quit. Be tenacious; don’t back away. A Quitter never wins!

You Can and You Will

Surround yourself with other women who are on a positive pathway, and ditch those who seek to hold you back; those who see limitations; those who dare to tell you that you can’t.

Be You! All the Others Are Already Taken

You are unique! You were not made to be who or what somebody else wants you to be. You were made to be you. If you’re ever going to become all you can be, you must refuse to be defined by others.

Shameless Plug

Don’t be ashamed to toot your own horn. If you don’t, no one will know you are coming. You don’t need anyone’s permission to root for yourself. And while you’re at it, root for the other women around you, too.

Don’t Allow Anyone to Write Your Story

Some people will try to minimize you and your accomplishments. Don’t allow it! Gather every ounce of confidence you can muster and speak up for yourself. Claim your space!

Make Space at the Table for One More…

Some of us keep success to ourselves on the premise that there’s not enough room at the table; that the ladder does not have more space. We need to support each other. Let’s stop bashing and backbiting one another. Don’t pledge support, then complain or criticize when another woman pulls up a chair to sit at the table. There’s always one more space for one of us. Let’s be welcoming.

Collaborate, not Compete

Let’s work together and become better allies to, and for each other. Let’s adopt the Ubuntu mindset that says “I am Because We Are.”

Get Rid of Imposter Syndrome Mentality

Every time the beast of imposter syndrome takes a grip on you, whisper the mantra “Why not me?”

Think about “This time next year…”

March 8th may be International Women’s Day, but there are still another 364 days for us to blossom, and grow. Ask yourself right now, “This time next year, where will I be?”

Think about that!

Happy International Women’s Day!

12 Productivity Hacks for Very Busy People (Coaches, Job Seekers & Entrepreneurs)

Photo by Tomas Yates on Unsplash

“Don’t be Busy. Be Productive!”

That’s a line I read recently, and it caused me to stop and think. Sometimes we deceive ourselves in thinking that being productive is tantamount to being busy, or vice versa.

In fact, when we think of productivity, we tend to focus on volume: how many boxes of widgets passed through the conveyor belt, for example.

What if we start thinking of productivity as making better use of our time?As a career coach, and almost a Jill-of-all-trades in my business, it’s important that I find tools that, not only help me become more productive, but tools I can share with clients to help them do the same.

Recently, I attended and presented at CANNEXUS, Canada’s largest career development conference. While my presentation was initially billed as 19+ Productivity Hacks Career Practitioners Should Know (the number 19 reflecting the year – 2019 – as well as the conference’s hashtag – #Cannexus19), I ended up sharing more than 30 productivity tools.

While I did not use all 30, many are tools I use fairly often. For example, the Way Back Machine is one I often use when I need to see what was on my website, say 4 years ago. It is so good that now and again I make a small donation so it will continue running.

One attendee at my session at the conference sent an email that said, “My director is overjoyed with your slides!  He used the Way Back Machine, and found information on our archives that was lost for 20 years and no one could recover it!  All of Senior Management is now using the Way Back Machine and it’s all thanks to you! 

In this article, I am sharing 12 of those hacks for anyone who wants to increase their productivity, or at least, check them out. (Most are free, and some have an option to upgrade).

Way Back Machine

As mentioned above, if you are looking for the contents of a website that no longer exists, or whose information has changed, save time by using Way Back Machine. It contains 20+ years of web history.

Unroll.me

Have too many email subscriptions? Use Unroll.me to unsubscribe from those you no longer want to receive.

Coschedule Analyzer

Need an irresistible Blog Headline? Coschedule Headline Analyzer is your friend. Type your text and click Analyze. It will evaluate and give a score. Any Headline with a score of 70+ (or is coloured green), is considered good.

Get Pocket

Get Pocket is another must-have. Save articles, videos and stories from any publication, page or app to read later.

Do Nothing for 2 Minutes

Have you been on online, or on your devices for too long? Need a short break from your routine? Take a 2-minute break with Do Nothing for 2 Minutes. You cannot cheat with this one. If you touch your laptop or device, it asks you to start over!

Flipboard

Flipboard is a news-reading App that gathers articles and delivers them to your device(s) as Smart Magazines.

Rescue Time

Want to track how long you spend online? RescueTime runs in the background on your computer / laptop. It tracks, and gives an accurate picture of the time you spend on applications and websites.

10 Times

10Times is a must-have! Want to look for events, conferences, tradeshows or meetups happening near to you? Download this App using your email, LinkedIn, Google or Facebook account.

24.me

24.me acts as a Personal Assistant that helps people boost their productivity. It handles one’s Calendar, To-Do List, Notes, etc.

Toodledo

Toodledo is slightly different from 24.me in that it tracks your habits, create structured outlines, collaborates with coworkers and family on projects, and will sync across all your devices.

Sharethrough

Sharethrough is similar to CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer. It offers a Quality Score as well as suggestions to increase your headline’s impact.

Google Keep

Google Keep lets you create notes and to-do lists that sync across your computer and phone or tablet. Computerworld has a good article on this App. Remember it’s Google; therefore if privacy is an issue, do your due diligence.

So there you are. Twelve time-saving tools, and there are more where these came from.

Have You Chosen Your WOTY Yet?

Courtesy Pixabay

Well, what if I made up the acronym, but it seems WOTY, aka Word-of-the-Year, is quite the craze these days. Some people are choosing to have a Word-of-the-Year instead of making lofty resolutions. Yesterday, I read a LinkedIn post by Melinda Gates (see link below), where she discussed the reasons she chooses a Word-of-the-Year instead of making resolutions, and Wow! did I resonate with that? I have found that have just one word keeps me focused.

I started this practice in 2016, when my WOTY was BELIEVE. In 2017, it was TRUST, and in 2018, it was COURAGE. Not only did COURAGE serve me well during the year, but in February, one month after I had chosen the word, I was looking through photographs of children needing sponsorships through World Vision, and my eyes locked on to this little boy. When I began reading his bio, I discovered his name was/is COURAGE! Without hesitation I selected him, and now I have a human reminder of my 2018 WOTY.

With COURAGE, I stepped out of my comfort zone, and attempted and accomplished many things in 2018. While most of what I attempted worked out, some didn’t, but rather than feeling disappointed and disillusioned, I learned to find a YES hidden in the NO’s.

This year I won’t have a WOTY. Instead, I have chosen a theme: #WhyNotMe. This will not be just about me, but will be all-inclusive. As I work with clients this year, I will challenge them to ask themselves the question “Why Not Me?” when faced with doubts and fears about their capabilities. They should ask themselves “Why Not Me?” every time they are preparing for a job interview, going for that promotion that always seems elusive, capturing their value when developing their resumes, or when they are thinking of starting the side hustle they have put off for so long. Ask that question E.V.E.R.Y.T.I.M.E!

I want to challenge them to step up to the plate when that pesky little inner voice keeps telling them to step down; when the naysayers in their network keep telling them in words and deeds that they are not good enough. When they start second-guessing themselves, they should ask “Why Not Me?”

If you would like to get a taste of what my #WhyNotMe Movement looks like, join me, and the other women who have already registered for the event. It will be held at the Peel Art Gallery Museum & Archives (PAMA) in the heart of downtown Brampton on January 12th. In case you didn’t know, since 2010, the second Saturday of January has been designated National Vision Board Day.

Not only will you be meeting me (if you haven’t already), but you will also meet three phenomenal speakers: – Alicia, Shelly and Taranum – who were a part of my Vision 2018 event last January, and who kindly agreed from then, that they would join me on this journey this year.

If you are ready to own your worth and express your worthiness in your career, life or business;

If you are ready for growth and change, or you know someone who does;

Share this link #WhyNotMe Dream Factory with them.

Here’s what they can expect:

  • Have access to a number of tools and resources that will help them re-shape their dreams, overcome obstacles, and get on a path to achieving their goals.
  • Link arms with a supportive group of smart, committed women who are ready to realize their dreams in 2019.
  • Get opportunities to network, get support, and give support.
  • Meet their next group of friends and colleagues to hold them accountable as they progress through the year.
  • And, Surprise! Surprise! Every attendee will receive a very SPECIAL GIFT, that will last a lifetime, guaranteed!

Ready to join the women who have already registered for the event? Register here >> #WhyNotMe Dream Factory. Not for you this time around, kindly share the link as others have done.

Links:

Melinda Gates WOTY

National Vision Board Day

I Am Raising My Fees…

…because the last time I had a raise was in 2013. But, that’s not the only reason. A lot has happened since.

In addition to being a Certified Career Management Coach, I have since earned the CELDC (Certified Executive Leadership Development Coach), as well as the CCDP (Certified Career Development Practitioner) designations. Not to speak of my Certified Resume Strategist designation.

In short, I have learned and grown professionally by investing hundreds of hours thousands of dollars in myself.

It is true that certification validates the work I do, but client success also count. When I collaborate with clients who want to change careers, advance to better and higher-paying jobs and increase their earning potential, and they achieve their goals, or they gain clarity on how to move their career forward, then their success becomes mine.

I have also realized that valuing myself and the work that I do, doesn’t take anything away from anyone else.

A gentleman contacted me for services recently. After I explained how my process works, he asked, “Any possibility to reduce the fee?” I asked him if he had plans when he goes for the interview to ask that they reduce his salary. He paused, then said he didn’t.

Much like job seekers who are hesitant to ask for a raise or negotiate a higher salary, some career coaches and practitioners do not feel comfortable raising their fees either.

Many of us think we will lose out on clients when that happens, and that may be true. But, there is an upside. It frees us up to embrace the value-minded client who is willing to invest time and money into him or herself.

My colleague Dorothy Vernon-Brown said in a recent newsletter that she was listening to 2015 Entrepreneur of the Year, Bassem Ghali the other day, when he said “As much as we want to sell to everyone and make them happy, we can’t. We have to filter out those who can’t afford our product or service and stick to those who can.”

That might sound harsh to the ears, but I agree with the statement. We cannot serve everyone who comes knocking. What I usually do is to recommend specific individuals, depending on the potential client’s needs, or suggest they reach out to others in my career community who might be a better fit.

One measurement of my success (and I confess I don’t succeed every single time), is the fact that I am making a contribution and helping my clients grow, and their testimonials speak for themselves. On November 17, I received an email from an executive I worked with six or so years ago. He said:

“The last time you assisted me with my resume, I was told it was the best they had ever seen.

It is once again that time for me to seek another opportunity.

I have expanded my knowledge base, designations, and experience.

When can we meet?”

Yes, he has expanded his knowledge, earned designations, added more experience, and now he is ready for a new opportunity, and a raise.

A woman in Edmonton who I coached a year ago, wrote me on November 29, to say “You helped me with getting the project management role with the government.

I am writing with some good news and a request. Good news is, I have been on my role for over a year and I have enjoyed it immensely. I was even  scouted by one of the directors to work on a different role on a temporary basis with the possibility of a permanent, more intense role. 

So here I am four months in, and now the possibility to apply  to the job full-time has presented itself to me and my new boss has encouraged me to apply for the opportunity. 

As the role is a highly competitive one, I am seeking your help again.”

I am proud of the work I do, and am equally proud of the clients who I have worked with, and who have gained some level of success.

As I pondered my decision to raise my fees, I thought that if I were working in the corporate world, I would’ve received several salary increases since 2013.

Therefore, for the reasons stated above, I know I deserve a raise, and will be implementing my new fees in the New Year.

I am always ready and willing to work with anyone who is committed to investing in their future.

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.

 

What You Need to Know About Job References – Part III

yes-238381_1280_DaisyWright

This is the final of the three-part series on Job References. The first part of this article looks at how to handle negative references, and the latter part contains a list of 18 questions that job references could be asked by potential employers.

How to Handle Negative Job References

Most employers know that people are not perfect and that work relationships sour. However, if something had happened at any of your jobs that could potentially put you in a bad light, you should be ready, if asked, to explain the highs and lows in each of those positions. This is not the time to badmouth the boss, ex-boss or anyone else. If the relationship was not all that great, say so, but frame it in a way that’s open and honest. Here is a suggestion:

“I am not sure what George at The Widget Company would say about me at this point since he wasn’t too happy when I resigned. After three years in the department, I was bypassed for a promotion and asked to train the new hire. I decided it was time to explore other opportunities and so I left for the position with ABC Company. That position represented not only a hike in salary, but the responsibilities were exactly what I was looking for. As you can see, I excelled in that role and was promoted within 12 months of joining the company.”

If you are willing to be transparent and authentic, and discuss the situation candidly while focusing on lessons learned, you could end up being a better reference for yourself than anyone else could.

Questions Your References May be Asked

In an article in the Globe and Mail, a job seeker asked, Why are references even required in this day and age when information about a candidate’s job history and accomplishments can be found online…?” Great question, but as mentioned in the earlier series, it is very costly to make the wrong hire. Therefore, employers look for honest answers, not only during the interview but when they contact your job references. Make sure your references are prepared in advance.

The following questions represent a sample of what your references may be asked. While there are no guarantees, knowing what these questions are ahead of time will put you in a better position to advise your references on what they may be asked:

  1. Can you verify candidates date of employment, title, dates and role?
  2. Is the candidate eligible for rehire? Why or Why Not?
  3. Did the candidate go above and beyond what was required?
  4. What are their strong points? Areas for improvement?
  5. Is there anything else you can add about the candidate, or that I should consider before we hire?
  6. What was she like to work with?
  7. How did she handle conflict?
  8. To what extent was she perceived to be a team player?
  9. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the candidate?
  10. Describe the candidate’s day-to-day responsibilities on the job
  11. What kind of situation would you not hesitate to put the candidate in? What kind of situation would give you pause?
  12. Provide an example of how the candidate raises the bar for herself and for those around her.
  13. If you could create the perfect work environment for the candidate, what would it look like?
  14. What kind of development plan was communicated to the candidate and how did he respond?
  15. How would you describe his interpersonal skills?
  16. What would you say motivated her most?
  17. Why did the candidate leave?
  18. Could the candidate have stayed if he had wanted to?

While your job references will not be asked all of the above questions, it is important that you, the job candidate, familiarize yourself with them and share them with your job references. The answers they give could be what stands between you landing the job or being bypassed.

A final thought on references: When asking someone to act as a reference, pay attention to their response. If they were slow to respond, or appeared lukewarm, this could be a warning sign. Select someone else. It’s better to have someone who is enthusiastic about speaking on your behalf than someone whose lack of enthusiasm could land you at the bottom of the list for consideration.