Archives for April 2016

“Why Did You Become a Career Coach?”

Cross Country Coach by John Brooks of Flickr

Cross Country Coach by John Brooks of Flickr

A client asked me last week, “Why did you become a coach?”

My simple answer at the time was, “I get to help make people’s lives better.”

Often when I tell my story, recalling the moments when I started to realize that recruiting was really not bringing me fulfillment, I remember a couple of months in a row that I didn’t place anyone – not one single soul. There had been a lot of changes internally: new people, new mottos, new metrics, and new matrixes. I thought about just changing firms. I thought about moving to a corporate recruiting role, wondering if I would be more fulfilled helping one company build its workforce and contributing to its culture and profits. Something in me knew that while I might find that new and exciting for a while, there was something else calling me.

There were three significant events in my career that led me down this path, and if I had not been able to see these events as gifts, I would have definitely grown bitter and cynical. I imagine that would have bled into my relationships and my health, and I can really only imagine how detrimental that would have been.

I’m not saying that I always looked at everything as a positive. The positive was not always easy to see, but I’m thankful that I had people in my life that challenged me to turn something negative into something positive, and who believed in me enough to know that I would succeed.

After college I moved to New Jersey to live with my boyfriend. This was my first really significant relationship and I felt certain we would get married. At the time, I was working in radio and I thought that was going to be my lifelong career. It took some time to realize neither my boyfriend nor radio were true fits for me. It was not easy to say goodbye to either one of them. It became easier to say goodbye to my boyfriend when I found out he been cheating on me. Saying goodbye to radio, however, meant deciding on something else. With student loans looming, I really did not want to be wrong about my next choice. In one way, it felt like I was surrendering, as I was moving back home as a 20-something. I was definitely more scared than ashamed because now I had to figure out who I was all over again. I wish somebody could have told me then that reinventing yourself, however intimidating of a process, can be one of the best things you do in your life.

After a summer home, I landed a job in executive recruiting working for a woman who would become a very influential entrepreneurial role model. I found the work challenging at first, but it was not long before I was craving greater responsibility and the opportunity to interface more with candidates and clients. I was learning a lot, but I did not feel like I could really apply it as much as I wanted. Then one day the owner brought in a television and as we watched the towers collapse, we thought only of the direct impacts of the lives lost and the wars that would take others. It would take months before we would realize how our everyday lives would be impacted.

Our clients grew quiet. Hiring was at a standstill. How was the firm going to survive? How could I possibly find another job in recruiting if no one was hiring? How was I going to grow as a recruiter? How could I continue on the path I finally discovered to be a fit for me?

The owner, recognized that the firm she had invested blood, sweat, and tears into growing, needed new revenue. She assigned me to perform market research on the executive coaching industry, and a new hope and vision for my future started to germinate. I started to think less about how prevalent the unemployment problem was. Instead, I thought more about how quickly an economy can rebound and grow when corporate leaders are in jobs that capitalize on their innate talents and strengths, when they are receiving the right support and advice to reinvent their companies’ future, and furthermore, when they find, recognize, and hire the right people to make it happen.

I greatly wanted to help the owner to transform her practice to make this contribution, but instead I found myself laid off. As hard as it was to confront all the various emotions of being laid off, I started off enthusiastic that this was an opportunity to change course to something exciting. It would be months of heart-breaking rejection before I realized that as my former owner tried to tell me, a young 20-something is not someone people perceive as being able to provide much value to executives unless I’m entering their data or bringing them coffee. Having to concede that I had to jump off this path and find something else to pay my bills was probably harder to take than being laid off in the first place.

I finally started to apply good advice that led me to a job, which was a great revelation and helps me help other people today. Though that job, thankfully, didn’t last either. After being laid off again three months later, it only took me five weeks to land a job at a recruiting firm.

Three months after that I was promoted and I was finally able to interact with candidates and clients in a way I had always wanted. I did it with a whole new perspective, however. Without realizing it, I had a subconscious agenda to invest time learning how various companies make hiring decisions and what the successful candidates were doing to become noticed, hired, promoted and paid well. My discoveries, as well as being able to give someone the news that they were chosen, were the highlights of this job. However, there were a lot of other parts of the job that were leading to burnout, disengagement, and discontentment.

Having to tell people who had been unemployed for six months that our clients would not consider them, after having been out of work for 10 months myself, caused me a lot of inner conflict. Additionally, the parts of my job that I took the most pride in, investing time and getting to know candidates, making sure that our jobs were true fits for them, whether they were contract or not, were constantly butting up against the need to accommodate the metrics of success that were constantly shifting in my firm. I could not possibly spend more than 20 minutes with a candidate on the phone if I had to make 100 calls per day. On top of that, we were expected to conduct 10 in-person interviews per week. At an hour a pop, the culture that had been described to me upon my hiring as a work hard/play hard environment became a work hard/work long environment. In the midst of planning my wedding and dealing with typical dramas that can surround such events, I let my performance slip. I was put on notice.

I consider myself a very bright and high performer. To know that my reputation was not reflecting that brought me considerable shame and that certainly didn’t help my performance at all. However, as a result of this unfortunate event, and because of companywide morale concerns, I had the opportunity to work with a coach at the firm’s expense. Experiencing first-hand how to coach really impacts your life by helping you see what needs to be seen, by asking questions you would be to afraid to ask yourself, and by empowering you to make choices that may not be easy, but that make life easier in the long run. It was exactly what I needed to get back on my true course.

In June it will be 10 years that I have been a career coach. Being self-employed has not always been easy financially or logistically for myself or my family, but what has been easy is continuing to become better and better at coaching. What has made it the best decision of my life is what I have been able to do for so many other lives.

So, why did I become a coach?

To help someone relocate to be with the love of their life, to help them buy a house together and start a family together.

To help someone realize that they mistakenly dismissed the viability of finding an even more fulfilling job on the same island country as their husband that pays equally well as their US corporate job, and reuniting husband and wife. Then helping the wife land a job as a professor where she is fulfilled impacting the lives of dozens of students every year.

To help someone who was never able to use the six weeks of vacation that they were awarded because of internal corporate pressures and increasing scope, to move to a job where vacations are considered mandatory and now is enjoying seeing the world.

To help someone who gave up at reinventing himself, who resigned himself to stay at home with the kids while his wife supported him, discover that he can continue to stay home and raise his kids while working remotely making a meaningful contribution to his family’s finances.

To help someone foreign to navigating corporate inroads recognize and articulate the transferability of his creative and entrepreneurial ventures. To see him go from being in the hole to being a six-figure corporate rock star who revolutionizes medical technologies that help millions of people.

Now a question for you: What can I do for you?

 

The #1 Mistake Job Seekers Make That Get Them Stuck

"You're only as good as your last at bat." Created with Pablo by Buffer

“You’re Only As Good as Your Last At Bat” Created with Pablo by Buffer

 

So you have decided that now is the time to start taking action to change your career circumstances. You sort through old files, dig up the old résumé, and realize that it has not been updated in years. You struggle to remember everything that you did. For a moment you doubt if you are hirable. Taking a look at your outdated résumé, you wonder if you would hire yourself. Conclusion: not with this résumé.

You wonder to yourself if you really have time to give this job search what it takes. You tell yourself that you have to do SOMETHING. You cannot stay where you are any longer. Something has got to give. Writer’s block sets in hard, though, as you look at job descriptions and say, “I could do that. I could do that, too. How do I put that in my résumé? What did I really spend all these years doing? Did the work I performed really matter?”

Dusting off and updating your résumé does seem like a logical place to start when you decide that you must take action. However, if this is where you start then you are making one of the most common mistakes that lead most jobseekers down a road of frustration, disappointment, and hopelessness.

I have found that a lot of people love to talk about themselves, especially when they are asked the right questions. It is not as enjoyable, however, to write about yourself, especially when it really matters.

If your résumé is not the best place to start your job search, what is the best first thing you can do?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about creating a vision that pulls you out of bed. I was certainly trying to speak to the people who find themselves in that state of frustration, depression, disappointment, and hopelessness, but do not wait until you are in that state of mind before designing your future. Save yourself NOW from that future torture.

Epic Careering outlines seven steps of the transition process, the first of which being Career Discovery. Questions you would ask yourself during this stage would be, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” and, “What is the next logical stage in my career if I am to meet my ultimate goals?”  Even if you think you know that you want something similar to what you have, but just with different circumstances, it is worth an investment of time and thought to decide exactly what improvements in circumstances look like.

Would you report to a manager who is much more open-minded about your ideas?

Would you want to work with people who you would hang out with socially?

Do you want to work for a company whose mission you support and believe?

If you have already reached the end of your rope with your job, you may believe that any change would be an improvement. Nevertheless, I have seen this type of thinking produce even worse conditions.

When writing a résumé and conducting the job search seem intimidating, it will be tempting to reach for the low hanging fruit and resort to doing whatever is easiest and seems to take the least amount of time. This usually means plopping in some new responsibilities that you assumed since you last updated your résumé, scouring job boards, and clicking apply.

This is exactly what leads to a cycle of frustration, disappointment, and hopelessness.

Take some time, and it doesn’t have to be much, to really think about what your next position and boss have to offer you in order to thrive and be successful. Maybe you do not change your role at all, but just the conditions under which you perform your next role. If you know you do not like your role, but you need to change and make an income, you might tend to think that you will do what is easiest. That is landing something you have the highest probability of getting because you did it already, and then take more time to search for something better while you are still working.

Hey, this is sometimes what you have to do, and recruiters will certainly tell you this is the most logical step (because you represent a placement fee). What I have seen happen more times than not is that people land, and they realize that they better perform if they want to keep their job. They put their efforts on hold for 90 days to obtain training in how to perform, and get to know the key players. That is 90 days wasted. They wind up miserable, and then have to try extra hard to seem motivated and engaged, when they are really already burned out. They come home, not only too tired to search job boards or attend networking meetings, but too tired to play card games with their kids or deal with the broken lawnmower. Not only do they feel like failures at their job, but they feel like failures at home. It bleeds into every area of their life, and they start to forget how brilliant and valuable they really are, which makes it that much harder to imagine interviewing. Essentially, they become “stuck.”

What you might not know is that you can land something you really like and would succeed in just as quickly with a clear vision of what you want. This includes a professionally branded résumé targeted to resonate with the employer who is able to offer you the conditions under which you will succeed, and an effective proactive campaign to find them and convince them that they need you.

You will not know if your résumé, however well-written and up-to-date, is effective until you know who’s reading it and what they need to know about you to identify you as the right fit. Furthermore, you will not know if your résumé is really a powerful tool in your success until the interviews that it garners are for jobs that you would really want and succeed in.

I think it is wise to have a plan A and a plan B. I challenge you, if you think that plan A is finding something lateral even though it will not make you happy, to invert which one is your plan A and which one is your plan B. Also, do not try to write your résumé until you know who you want to read it. (Then call us, because we will ask you all the right questions.)

Gary Vaynerchuk, Social Media and Business thought leader, believes strongly in meritocracy, where “you’re only as good as your last at bat.” If you don’t take the time to set yourself up for a successful next job by developing your criteria, you can lose value in the marketplace, decrease your competitive edge, and make it that much harder to find something that really suits you. This means a weakened career and income trajectory. It means a lesser quality of life.

We’ve certainly quoted Jim Carrey before, “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

It is not that it takes a lot of time to develop a good idea of what you really want; it is that you have to dig through layers and layers of untruths that you have come to believe about what is possible.

Remember, we have systems, services and tools to usher you through all of this – Career Development, Criteria Identification, Target Company Profiling, and Personal Branding.

Fill out and send us a needs assessment form and your most recent résumé and we will help you begin a career roadmap that actually helps you navigate to a happy place in your career.

 

 

Stop Suffering in Silence…NOW!

From BrainyQuote

From BrainyQuote

I don’t know if I like April anymore. At all. Two years ago after the passing of my nephew on his 28th birthday, I urged you to take immediate action to make yourself happier and more fulfilled in the 40 hours you spend at work.

This week a 22-year-old and a 41-year-old were buried on the same day. While their short lives were celebrated, and we all are grateful for every second we were able to spend with them, we feel robbed. We have been robbed of future encounters, future moments, and future embraces. They have been robbed of all future possibilities. Everything we wanted for their future can no longer happen.

The day after these two young souls were buried, I learned that a friend has been suffering silently in a successful job. She is paid very well and her family depends on this income to maintain the standard of living that is important to them. Their kids are in one of the best school districts. She has been promoted. However, she is not inspired by her company’s mission, and because of her hours and commute, she has handed many of her “mommy” duties to her husband, for which she suffers much guilt. (I can, and most likely will, write a blog about the archaic corporate and societal expectations that are unfortunately alive and well and causing undue pressure for professional moms.)

She did not tell anyone how long she has been unhappy, and how much impact it was having on other areas of her life. She was embarrassed and bewildered by the fact that she did not have it all together. The discussion with her doctor to go on anti-anxiety and depression medication was surreal.

It felt silly to complain. She lives in a nice house in a great neighborhood. Her kids are actively involved in sports. She makes great money and she has a job for which many people vie. She thinks about how many people are not as fortunate as her, and then feels additional guilt for being unhappy.

She had been taking action to change her circumstances. She was applying to jobs and interviewing. It was time-consuming and heartbreaking. She would become excited about an opportunity only to learn that she was not offered the job. With little precious time to spend with her kids, she resigned herself to being stuck and unhappy.

Until yesterday…I hope.

In a 20-minute conversation with myself and another friend, we helped her create a new, inspiring vision for her future. At first she said she was not really sure what she even wanted to do. It turns out there is a mission for which she has a lot of passion. You see, she has learned quite a bit about how to brand yourself, to obtain buy-in, and to do more in less time as a woman in a male-dominated corporate world. Although her confidence is more than a bit shaky from the self-inflicted mental torture she has been enduring in silence, she knows that she can teach what she has learned, and it will make a huge difference for women striving to be seen, heard, noticed and rewarded equally. With her background, her chances of being successful in this new endeavor, whatever it happens to look like and whenever it happens to come to fruition, are very high.

She not only has created a vision that will pull her out of bed, but she has also created a new heart-centered possibility for her career. That vision will not only make her fulfilled in her work, but will also enable her to be the mom and wife that she wants to be. I am so excited for her and yet I’m still saddened by how long she had been suffering without my knowledge. I wish we had this conversation months ago, if not years ago.

If you see yourself in this story, please, please, please… ask me for help. This is why God put me on this earth (besides to have my beautiful children). It is why I sacrificed a handsome potential six-figure salary as a recruiter. It is why I don’t mind taking (some) time away from being a mommy to do career coaching and learning how to do it better.  It is my passion and my gift.

Tomorrow doesn’t come for everyone. Live while you are alive. Change isn’t just possible; it is highly probable when you have me as your partner.

 

I expect to hear from you: Karen@epiccareering.com

 

2 Common Networking Mistakes and a Formula to Train Your Network to Be a Job Lead Generation Army

Networking by Greentech Media of Flickr

Networking by Greentech Media of Flickr

I seem to repeat this almost every day – you cannot be everything to everyone.

You can try, but you will eventually fall short in something. It becomes very difficult to maintain the persona of someone who is equally strong in a diverse range of competencies. Even if you land the job (and it may be appealing to smaller companies and start-ups, if that is your TRUE brand), it may not keep you employed when a company feels that your competencies have been misrepresented. It also may hurt future transitions if you have to explain why your former employer may not be a positive reference for you.

Branding is the opposite of being everything to everybody. An effective brand distinguishes an individual or a company as having unique qualities that appeal to a particular cross-section of the population or demographic based on their needs or wants, also known as a niche.  Companies can execute different branding strategies for different demographics. You might notice that a phone company will air a much different ad on Lifetime than it will on Spike. However, LinkedIn has been very strict about their users only having one profile. As a job seeker, you will actually prolong your job search if you diversify your brand to reach several different employer audiences.

For employers, there is greater risk in hiring people who present themselves as the perfect fit for all their needs. In this market, the candidate whose qualifications and motivations can be trusted will be able to compete more effectively for an open position, and their future performance can be more accurately assessed. In order to instill trust, be honest about what your strengths are and what skills you want to develop further. Prominently identify the qualities or skill sets that distinguish you as a top candidate without making assumptions about the caliber of talent the company already represents.

Many people recognize that networking is the number one transition activity that helps people get hired. However, even people that network fanatically may not be developing the volume of job leads that they would like. There are two major mistakes I see most people making in networking that prevent them from being able to leverage this activity to generate momentum.

 

Networking mistake #1

It may sound counterintuitive, but not being specific and concise enough for network contacts will actually narrow the number of leads that your network produces for you. Your contacts need to walk away from the conversation understanding how to recognize a good job lead.  The chances of your contacts coming across an open position for your job title is so much slimmer than them conversing with someone who has a problem you can solve.

 

Networking mistake #2

Asking for favors is not the way to inspire people to make powerful introductions for you. A call to action is much more likely to have a positive response when the individual being called upon to act has a clear understanding of the mutual benefits of an introduction. People want to connect you so that they can help both you and their network contacts.

 

Flip your networking script

Think of network branding as training your contacts to be lead developers for you. Do not use industry lingo if they are not savvy. Do not run down your whole employment history. Tell them what they will remember, such as why companies have hired you in the past and what problems you can solve for a company. Demonstrate the mutual benefit of connecting you to your network’s contacts.

I have seen many formulas for 30-second commercials, but Margaret Lynch’s “Captivate From The Start” formula is the most impactful, by far. Though it was designed for coaches, and was a product of training that SHE received as an EFT practitioner, she decided to pass it on to coaches in her tribe, and I must share the concept with you.

It starts with understanding the pain of your audience. People are motivated to take action primarily by two things: avoiding future pain and ending current pain, with the more dominant driving force being the latter. As a job seeker, you’ll want to think about why the position you want exists, or why it should (because it might not). What business needs does the position fulfill? When it is not filled, or when it is not filled by the right person, what pain results, and for whom? What are the costs of this job not being done well?

Let your network contacts know who would be impacted, and that is a sign to them as to whom an introduction would be beneficial. Tell them two or three things that your target would experience that would be a sign that they have needs you can fulfill, and then give them an idea of the results you can bring about for them.

For example:

I help business leaders and engineering teams who have difficulties launching on time because they are not agreeing on product specifications that understand each other and the customer needs, so that products are launched with minimal bugs, with as little time and budget as possible, and with the highest satisfaction ratings possible.

It seems like a mouthful, but would you be able to find a lead for this professional?

To turn this 30-second commercial into a 60-second commercial, think about why you are the right person to fill this position. What evidence do you have to present that proves that, among people with similar qualifications, you add something uniquely valuable that will make the resolution of the pain faster, greater, or more pleasant? What was one major problem you resolved for one major initiative that you were pivotal in making successful?

Once you get the lead and someone encourages you to contact a VIP in his or her network, follow up, even if the opportunity does not seem like it is a fit. Be forthcoming if that is the case, and always offer to be a resource to your network and the network they make available to you.

 

Train for long-term retention with something tactile

Of course, not everyone learns audibly, so it is wise to have something you can leave behind, whether it is a business card that has comparable information on it, or, even better, a one page networking profile. These are becoming more standard for executive networking groups, and yet I find them to be not much more interesting than a résumé for the average reader.

People crave speedy, visual information. Not only do infographics make information easier to understand, and more fun to read and share, but they make it more memorable. If you really want to wow your contacts, give them something they will be excited to show their contacts and engage us to create your one page networking infographic.

 

Words are the most powerful force we have as a species. By changing what you say in your networking conversations, you will multiply the number of opportunities that people send your way. Furthermore, these opportunities may not look exactly like job openings that thousands of other people are vying to fill. They will most likely more often look like people who need you and are eager to find out how you can ease their pain. In turn, your pain will be relieved. Interviewing will be more productive and more fun, and will more likely result in a job offer.  The job offers you receive are more likely to be for positions that fully utilize your talents and experience. Because you will have the leverage of having a solution to an immediate need, negotiating will be that much easier and more successful. Use this formula to lubricate the tracks to success and accelerate toward a successful job landing.