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What Jobseekers and Career Changers Can Learn from Tiger Woods’ Spectacular Win

Photo credit: Masters Tournament

Other than my job as a career coach, I am a sports fanatic! I don’t play any sport, but ask me what’s going on and I can tell you. Right now it’s playoff season for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors, and am getting nervous.

The purpose of this article, however, is the big news about Tiger Woods’ win yesterday, and what job seekers and career changers can learn from it.

It was April 15, 2008, that he won his last major championship. Yesterday, almost 11 years to the day, he won his 5th Masters and added another green jacket. (It was 14 years since he had won his 4th Masters).

What did it take for him to make this great comeback after so many years of personal and professional struggles? His will to win. He said in an interview, “I feel I can win.” He ingrained it in his head that he could win, and went about doing all the little things it took to make it happen.

He didn’t spend time focusing on what his competitors were doing. His eagle-eyed focus was on where he was going and what was at the end – his goal of a fifth Masters championship and another green jacket.

What about you? Can you see yourself being so relentless with your job search or career? Do you see yourself bouncing back from so many failures and disappointments, or, are you getting ready to give up?

Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, was rejected 27 times by publishers before getting his big break. He was ready to give up, and was planning to destroy his manuscript when he met his friend who had just become an editor at a publishing company. The rest is history!

Tiger said “This stuff is hard. I made a few mistakes at the British Open last year and it cost me a chance to win.” He said he had serious doubts if he could play well enough to win, but when it mattered most, he dug in and won. He told himself that despite not being as strong as in his prime years, he still had good hands and if he could put the pieces together, he could win, and he did.

Your struggles might not be like Woods, but am sure they are no less painful. You too, will have your doubts, you will make mistakes, but I encourage you today to:

  • Create a success plan and harness all the support you can get to see your dream come through.
  • Determine what your strengths are, and capitalize on them. Tiger relied more on his hands because his back was not as strong as before.
  • Be relentless in your pursuits. Remember that “A winner never quits, and a quitter never wins”.
  • Never give up on your dream even if when it appears insurmountable.
  • Don’t jump off the train while it’s going through the dark tunnel; there’s light on the other side.

Tiger Woods didn’t give up. After a plethora of surgeries, personal failures, and disappointments, he fought his way back to the top. You can do it too. Ask yourself the question, “Why not me?”

Source: Tiger Completes His Historic Comeback

She Re-launched Her Corporate Career After Hitting Rock Bottom


Courtesy of Pixabay

“If you really want to do something, you will find a way. If you don’t, you will find an excuse.” ~Jim Rohn

When you hit rock bottom, there’s nowhere else to go but up! Consider Trudy’s story, a woman I had the honour of working with some time ago. (Name changed to protect her identity).

Her voicemail message said she was looking for career coaching, but her ominous tone left me thinking she needed counselling (therapy). When I returned the call she confirmed she wanted career coaching.

A few years prior, Trudy had given up her corporate job with a major Canadian company due to family obligations. She did a variety of odd jobs that allowed her the flexibility she needed at the time, finally settling as a house cleaner with one of the more popular home cleaning franchises. She received a lot of push back from family and friends when she made this decision, and according to her, “My Italian mother saw it as a step down, and was not happy.” Yes, it was a step down, but she thought it would’ve been a great segue into entrepreneurship and owning her own cleaning business.

A little over a year doing this job, she gave it up, concluding it was not for her. By then, things had changed on the home-front, and she decided she wanted to return to a corporate environment. Not only was she now looking for a new job, but her already low self-esteem had reached rock bottom. Is she going to fit in? How will she position herself after a four-year hiatus from the corporate world?

At the end of our first meeting we agreed to work together, but there was one drawback: she couldn’t afford my fees. I asked her what option would work for her, other than having to reduce my fees, and she said she would schedule sessions whenever she had the money. Not only did I see the pain and frustration she was going through, but also the determination to get back up, and that was compelling.

We made arrangements to have face-to-face sessions twice per month. I would offer her as much support as I could, including short spurts of coaching if absolutely necessary. I also explained that for coaching to effective, she had to commit to doing whatever work and assignments that were necessary. Before we tackled the job search, we had to work on the self-esteem issue. After our third meeting and a couple of assessments, I noticed a significant difference in her behaviour. She had started to regain her confidence, her inner dialogues and negative self-talks had subsided, her head was no longer held down, and “people were beginning to take notice”, she said. At one point, she beamed as she told me how she was asked to “take up the collection at Church.” “No big deal”, one might say, but to her, it was!

Before we tackled the job search, we had to work on the self-esteem issue. After our third meeting and a couple of assessments, I noticed a significant difference in her behaviour. She had started to regain her confidence, her inner dialogues and negative self-talks had subsided, her head was no longer held down, and “people were beginning to take notice”, she said. At one point, she beamed as she told me how she was asked to “take up the collection at Church.” “No big deal”, one might say, but to her, it was!

As our work continued, I introduced her to individuals in my network so she could arrange informational meetings. We figured that after a four-year absence from the workforce, she needed to gain insights into current workplace practices and business culture. I developed her resume and cover letter, and coached her on interviews, services that were not included in the coaching agreement.

Two months into the coaching relationship, she said, “I am ready to start my job search, and want to find a job by the middle of next month.”

On her way to her first interview, she stopped by my office to show me her new outfit and to let me know she was wearing lipstick. Trivial, it might seem, but that was an example of increased confidence and transformation.

She didn’t get the job, and was quite disappointed. A week later, on her way back from another interview, she phoned to say she had been offered an administrative position with a leading clothing company, and was hired because of her background in customs and logistics. When we checked the date, it was March 14, exactly one month from the day she set her intention to find a job by the middle of the next month.

Trudy demonstrated discipline, motivation, and perseverance, which helped her move from rock bottom to a new job. These are equal opportunity characteristics that do not require a degree; everyone has access to them.

Some people enter coaching looking for quick fixes, but it takes time to untangle the web of past experiences to get to where one wants to go. And to get results, it’s important to plan purposefully – set goals or milestones – and work diligently to achieve them.

It starts with one small step. If you don’t take that small step and start doing the things that seem frightening, difficult or uncomfortable, you will realize that one year from now, you will be at the same place in your life or career.

Take a chance!

Quick Resume Reference Guide at Your Finger Tips

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Resume Writing Strategies That Haven’t Changed

Why Microwave Interview Preparation Does not Work

On May 4th I received the following email:

“My wife is looking for some coaching on job interviews.  She has had a few recently, but no offers came about.  She is actively looking, and has another phone interview set up very soon.  I would like to know if you have some availability this weekend (May 5-6).” 

On May 10th I received this one:

“I have an upcoming interview next Monday the 14th for a Presales role, and the Interviewing preparation that you provide seems interesting.

I would like for it to take place in the next 3 days, ideally on the 11th or 12th of May. Are you available?”

I have highlighted these messages not because I want to point fingers, but to call attention to a common occurrence, and the casual manner in which some people treat their job search. And, it’s not only about interviews. Last Thursday, a man called to say he was laid off two weeks ago after 14 years at the same job, and he wanted his resume updated. He then asked if he could drop by to get it done as he would be passing my way soon.

In all the above cases, the individuals either believe I am available anytime, including weekends, or that I can easily update a resume for someone who hasn’t searched for a job in 14 years.

We live in a microwave society where we expect quick results in everything we do. Sometimes, this microwave mentality shows up in the job search, particularly when it comes to interviews. Some job seekers believe that pressing the ‘Quick Minute’ interview button is enough to adequately prepare for the interview. My advice is, if you really want to ace the interview, you should not wait until the last minute to seek help. In fact, once you are in job search mode, at minimum, you should be:

  • Researching your target companies
  • Creating a professional resume
  • Contacting your references, and,
  • Preparing for the interview

The fourth part of the above plan is what this post is about. Some people treat interview preparation as an afterthought; they don’t seek help until they are called for the interview. But, the approach that works best is to think that the interview begins once you have submitted your resume. What if you are the sought after candidate, and the hiring manager just happens to see your resume? You could be contacted immediately. While some companies give a week or two advanced notice, others want to interview you as soon as possible, so don’t be caught off guard.

To be fair, a good number of clients contact me at least five business days before their interview because they don’t want to ‘wing’ it.

Last week, for example, I coached a film producer who reached out to me weeks ago before he had the interview arranged. Another client, a recreation manager, sought interview help even before the job was advertised. She knew it was coming, got her resume ready and wanted to get a head start on the interview. These two individuals know what’s at stake, and don’t want to leave it up to chance.

My aim with clients is to have them well-prepared and confident before they go for the interview, not unprepared and jittery. It is better that they are prepared for an interview opportunity and not have one, than to have an interview opportunity and not be prepared.

When it comes to the job search, and interviews in particular, there is no microwave solution. The slow-cooker method is the preferred way.

Do you find interviews challenging? Don’t wait for the last minute. Contact me for assistance.

 

How to Quickly Give Your Job Search a Boost

What did you spend the last week doing with your job search? Were you:

  • Hiding behind a computer uploading resume after resume to any company that advertised a vacancy?
  • Applying to every job, whether or not you were qualified for it?
  • Sending the same resume to all the positions?

If you were engaged in any of the above, you were taking the path of least resistance. Roll up your job search sleeves and get back to the basics with the following tips:

  1. Network to get work. Many job candidates believe that networking doesn’t work. It does, but it is a long term strategy that involves work and time. One of my LinkedIn contacts, Brigette Hyacinth wrote that “Networking is the only way to bypass the bias filters (Overqualified, Employment Gap) in automated systems. Talk to 100 people in your network rather than apply for 100 jobs via job boards. The door won’t open automatically, you will have to PUSH your way in!” Start your networking today!
  2. Toot your horn. Speak up about your accomplishments and the stellar results you have achieved. There is no better time to toot your horn and claim your successes than during the job search.
  3. Prove you know what you want to be hired for before submitting your resume. Don’t leave the hiring manager guessing which position you are applying for. Dissect the job posting and make sure you understand and fit the requirements.
  4. Give your resume a ‘once-over’ before hitting SEND. Review your resume to ensure the top third, referred to as Prime Real Estate, gives a synopsis of your measurable achievements. If the most important and relevant information are not featured in that space, it may miss the hiring manager’s attention.
  5. Tell stories to get hired. When it comes to the job search, the importance of storytelling cannot be underestimated. Learn to weave stories into your resume (and at the interview), to demonstrate why you are qualified for the role. Recruiters love to hear (and read) authentic stories.
  6. Match the Keywords. Keyword matching is essential, so make sure your resume contains keywords from the job posting if you want to advance beyond the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and get the attention of a human.
  7. Stop mass mailings. Customize your resume for each position instead of sending the same version to every company. Hiring managers can easily spot when you are mass mailing your resume, and they will lose interest.
  8. Focus on value over length. Don’t stress yourself about the length of your resume. Most recruiters look for value over length, so don’t short-change yourself. Use your title or level, and years of experience as a guide.
  9. Send a cover letter. While some recruiters do not want to see cover letters, there are others who do. Include a concise and customized cover letter with your resume. A cover letter helps you stand out in the selection process, so use it to further share what you bring that others may not.
  10. Create a strong social presence and review it regularly. Social is critical to hiring managers and sometimes they share social media profiles with their teams. Therefore, make sure you have a very compelling and consistent social media presence, particularly LinkedIn.
  11. Send a Thank-you letter after an interview. Common courtesy goes a long way in today’s busy workplace, so follow-up after the interview with a Thank-you note. The people at Manpower Group believes that a “thoughtful post-interview thank you note matters more than ever in an era of e-communication.”

Those are some quick tips you can start implementing today to help you boost your job search.

When competing in a tight job market, if you can’t find a way to stand out, it’s harder for you to get a call back.

 

 

What if LinkedIn is the New Business Card?

LinkedIn touts itself as the world’s largest professional network with close to 530 million users in 200 countries. It is also referred to as a ‘resume-on-steroids’ because it’s available for viewing 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. As the platform continues to evolve, it is probably time to consider it as an online business card.

Over the past  year, I made a conscious decision to reduce my use of business cards, preferring instead to carry post cards. These are not the most convenient to carry around, but they have more space than a business card to add information about who I am and what I do. During a recent conference at which I spoke, I observed attendees interacting with speakers, and when they asked for a business card, they were told to “Connect with me on LinkedIn”. Suddenly it dawned on me that a LinkedIn profile could be considered a business card.

At the end of one session, I went over to Melody Adhami, CEO of Plastic Mobile, and mentioned that I thought I was the only speaker without business cards, although I had pot cards. She did not say she had abandoned the use of business cards, but said LinkedIn was more convenient for two reasons: 1) everything that anyone needed to know about her was on her profile, and 2) she uses LinkedIn as a recruiting tool. Anyone who engages with her on the platform will get her attention, and more often than not she will peruse their profile, and decide whether or not to connect.

Why am I suggesting that LinkedIn is the new business card? Unlike a real business card that is restricted by size and space, or a resume that is limited by number of pages, LinkedIn offers a good deal more. Users are allowed to include as much information as possible about their background, skills, and accomplishments. They can upload media (videos, images, presentations, etc.). It could probably be the most significant online business card that one will have to tell one’s story, build a professional network, and find opportunities. Assuming that’s the case, many users are doing themselves a disservice when they do not maximize its benefits.

 

Below are 10 easy tips to help you create an almost perfect LinkedIn business card:

  1. Use a professional head shot. Some people are shy and do not want to use a photograph in their profile, but if you are serious about your job search, or about connecting with people, a professional photograph is a must. LinkedIn’s Michael Shamshoian said, “…one’s LinkedIn Profile is 14 times more likely to be viewed if a photo is included.”
  2. Headline. The entire LinkedIn profile is important, but the headline and summary sections are considered ‘prime real estate’ spaces, and should be maximized. Think of your headline as an online 30-second elevator pitch that quickly describes who you are and what you do in 120 characters. For those who believe that job titles and degrees must be included in the headline, there are no rules to that effect.
  3.  Create your own LinkedIn URL. Did you notice when you first created your account LinkedIn assigned you a default URL with numbers and letters that don’t seem to make sense? They don’t, neither do they add any value to your brand. Create a simple URL with your name. If your name is already taken, use one from the options LinkedIn offers. Make sure it’s a name that will be found when people search for you.
  4. Write a captivating summary that will entice readers to want to connect with you. Use every last one of the 2000 characters allowed in this space to tell your story and describe your most noteworthy accomplishments. The Summary section is where most people spend their time.
  5. Weave keywords throughout your Profile. Research the keywords that will show up when people search for you on LinkedIn, then weave them throughout your profile. Hint: Most keywords can be found in the job posting.
  6. Complete your Profile 100%. Recruiters have said that the more incomplete a profile is the more likely they are to ignore the profile. Don’t be bypassed by recruiters and hiring managers because you have a skeleton of a profile.
  7. Personalize your Invitations. People are less likely to accept your invitation when you use the generic “I would like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”. Help them answer the question, “Why should I connect with you?” Were they in the news? Are you a member of the same Alumni?
  8. Build the relationship first. Asking for favours, or trying to sell to someone you just connected with, kills the relationship before it starts. Some people have even used their LinkedIn Invitation as a way to sell – long before establishing the relationship. Don’t fall into that trap. Begin building the relationship slowly. Comment on, or Like their posts, or share articles and resources that could be of interest to them.
  9. Join LinkedIn Groups. Joining and contributing to industry or interest groups is one way of showcasing your expertise and building your brand. As people see the value you are adding to these online conversations, they will be more likely to connect with you.
  10. Request Recommendations. Recommendations add credibility to your profile, so ask people who know you, and who can attest to your skills and attributes, to write one for you. This takes time and thought, so make it easy for them to comply by drafting one yourself, highlighting what you would like to focus on. Pay it forward, and write a recommendation for them.

Keep in mind that LinkedIn is not your personal web page. Save your profile as a PDF, and download your connections from time to time. You do not want to lose your contacts’ information, neither do you want to be left without a back up of your Profile.

What Employers Are Looking for in Employees

What are employers looking for in their employees?

 

STEMpathy!

 

Coined by author and journalist Tom Friedman, STEMpathy is “a combination of science, technology, engineering, and math with human empathy, the ability to connect with another human being.” This is what employers are looking for in their employees; people who not only have technical expertise, but soft skills and character.

At the 2017 Gateway Conference hosted by The Municipality of York in October, I was privileged to sit on a panel of HR professionals discussing What Employers are Looking For in Employees. The other panellists were Moderator, Mary Duncan, Chief Human Resources Officer at CAA, Shelley Khosla, Director, Human Resources at Weber Shandwick, and Sonya Whyte, Associate Vice President, Talent Acquisition at TD Bank.

As the discussion progressed, Shelley told the audience that she looks for people “who demonstrate passion, curiosity, resiliency, and creativity, and who are able to work collaboratively in teams.” She also said that employers look for employees who align values with principles, embrace and celebrate differences, work in the same direction, and contribute to an irresistible culture.

Sonya remarked that she looks for employees with passion, diversity of thought and people, and inclusion. During interviews, she looks for people who show depth, who are able to demonstrate what separates them from others, and who are able to talk confidently about their background. That’s one of the reasons she listens carefully to people when they answer the “tell me about yourself” question as it gives her an idea of the person’s thought process. She also looks for employees who “think like a customer and act like an owner.”

Mary said she looks for people who demonstrate competency, creativity and cultural fit, and who display enthusiasm about the company.

For my part, I focused on the interpersonal or people skills. These soft skills are harder to observe, quantify and measure. They are akin to character skills and are very important in and outside the workplace. They complement the technical skills and are required for everyday interactions.

It is very important to hone your soft skills. While your technical know-how may get your foot in the door, it’s your people skills that will open more doors for you; it’s these skills that will determine success or failure in one’s career. Faizolhardi Zubairy, Head of Digital Media at PETRONAS Dagangan Berhad, said, “Your work ethic, attitude, communication skills, negotiation skills, emotional intelligence and leadership are the soft skills that are crucial for career success. (Stretch Beyond Your Comfort Zone for Career Growth).

The bottom line is that employers are looking for employees who have a good blend of technical capability and soft skills. They look for people who can communicate well; who are positive, respectful, reliable and honest, and have integrity. They look for people who are able to function in cross-cultural environments, appreciate differences, fit in with the corporate family (culture), and contribute to a team. They also look for people who demonstrate the five elements of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

In making a decision between two candidates, Kevin Sheridan, Employee Engagement and Management Expert, and contributor to HR Daily Advisor blog, said I would take the person with the right character any day of the week.  Character is ingrained in a person’s core being and dictates how he or she will behave.  It encompasses one’s ethics, values, dedication, motivation, and outlook.  It is nearly impossible to alter a person’s character, for better or for worse. Skills are things that are learned.” (Culture is Merriam-Webster Word of the Year – For Good Reason).

It makes sense, therefore, that anyone who is in a job search or a career transition, should assess their STEMpathy skills. You may have the  technical expertise (STEM), but lack character and soft skills, so pay attention to both. You will also need to assess your emotional intelligence skills, becoming aware of your strengths and weaknesses, how to control your emotions, demonstrate empathy, exhibit professionalism and strong interpersonal skills, manage disputes and build and maintain relationships.

Apart from discussing the skills that employers look for in employees, members of the Panel also offered additional job search advice:

  1. Weave stories into your resume and during interviews.
  2. Create your resume with the most important and relevant information up front.
  3. Make sure the content of your resume aligns with the job posting if you want to get the attention of the HR manager.
  4. Keyword matching is essential; make sure your resume contains keywords from the job posting. It should also have lots of white spaces to make it easy to read.
  5. Customize your resume for each position instead of sending the same version to every company. It’s easy to tell if you are mass mailing.
  6. Your resume should be short – a maximum of two pages
  7. Create a good LinkedIn Profile. “Social is critical to employers”, said Sonya Whyte. “I sometimes share LinkedIn Profiles with my team.”
  8. During interviews, speak about your unique successes and stellar results
  9. Follow-up after the interview and send a Thank-you note. Common courtesy goes a long way in today’s busy workplace.
  10. Demonstrate that you understand, and have the skills required for the job
  11. Articulate why you are qualified in your resume and at the interview. Draw the alignment between your skills, experience and job requirements.
  12. Describe how your transferrable skills match the position
  13. Send a concise cover letter. While some recruiters do not want to see cover letters, some on the panel believe they serve a purpose. They help you stand out in the selection process, so use it to share what it is you bring that others may not.

Armed with the above skills, you will fit the mold of what employers are looking for in employees.

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!