Archives for September 2016

Really – You Are NEVER Too Old To Make a Career Change

Mayor Richard Stewart gives a speech by teens4unity of Flickr.jpg

Mayor Richard Stewart gives a speech by teens4unity of Flickr.jpg

 

I’m never one to say “never.”  But I’ve said it.

At the end of this month’s Epic Career Tale (subscribe HERE for the monthly podcast), coming out this week (get on the mailing list now!), I make the claim that you are never too old to find and pursue a new passion. It does not have to be a political career.

The main reason that I interviewed a state senator this month was because I was concerned that kids may decide NOT to pursue a political career due to all of the negative ad campaigns and hate-charged dialogue from both sides of the conversation. Kids know they are going to make mistakes, so what they may learn is that you cannot be someone who makes mistakes and be a successful politician. Or they may learn that when you are a politician and you make mistakes, the world will watch.

Really, it takes a special breed of human to be able to shrug off the naysayers while still actively listening to the needs of the community he or she serves.

I had been focused on kids with political aspirations, but wanted to assure the audience, who most assuredly would not be kids, that no matter what age you are, it is never too late to identify and pursue a new passion.

At that, the senator, who has been known to draw a chuckle, chimed in to say, “If you’re 95, that’s probably too late.”

Challenge accepted, Senator.

Here are two stories of 95-year-olds who took on a whole new career:

95-year-old James Nedley ran for mayor after serving as a motorcycle policeman and spending 26 years as a contractor. His reasons? “This town is going to hell.” That might put a little spark back in your plug.

The name of this man is never revealed in the article, but he is LITERALLY writing the book on career reinvention. He has changed careers multiple times. He was respectively a pilot, corporate executive, loan officer, and then went to law school at age 51 to reinvent himself as a successful lawyer. Finally, this nameless man at 95-years-old took on the feat of “author.”

 

It’s never too late…

 

Drops the mic…

 

Picks the mic back up…

 

…unless you’re dead.

 

5 Must Do’s for a Successful Job Search Week

Job Searching by NJLA of Flickr

Job Searching by NJLA of Flickr

 

I have received a lot of feedback and many of you found the sample schedule to be very helpful. As a result, I decided to outline five major components of a successful job search activity that you can integrate into your schedule every day or, at least, every week. This will help build competencies toward your expertise in job searching.

Why would you want to be an expert in job searching? I know most people find it rather dreadful. However, when job searching is done right you can feel as much like a rock star in the flow, or in a groove, as you did when you were on top of your game in your job. The major benefit of gaining this critical life skill is reclaiming power over your destiny.

 

1. Research

The research you will be conducting every day or every week will be to identify new target companies, find out what major initiatives, challenges, and potential setbacks your target companies are experiencing. Discover how you can add direct value, and identify people who can either be internal sponsors for you or be your next potential boss. If you are really adept at research, you can even find out some personal things about these people that will enable you to build rapport and hit their hot buttons.

The resources that you will use to conduct this research include the obvious search engines like Google or Bing, as well as local business journals and newspapers, niche authority sites, business directories and databases such as leadferret.com and zoominfo.com, and your network.

If you are really bold and adventurous, you will try feet-on-the-street research. This means that you attend events or “stake out” the location of various popular breakfast, lunch or dinner spots in the vicinity with the intention of procuring intelligence from strangers.

2. Bold Action/Experimentation

The above can be considered bold action. I encourage you to experiment with this approach, if not for the adrenaline rush, for the fact that it can get you further faster than waiting for friends and acquaintances to take action on your behalf.

The activities that fall in this category very well might be outside your comfort zone, and thinking about them as experiments may help you detach from an investment in the outcome. I encourage you to celebrate everything that you try, whether it turns into an opportunity or not. Do keep track of your results so that you can repeat the experiments that produce great results such as pivotal introductions and interviews.

Everyone has a different comfort zone threshold. You know yourself best. If incremental progress works best for you, then take baby steps. A good example is trying out a new social media platform that you recognize some of your potential bosses are using and sending them a direct message. Some of you may thrive on taking a big leap and testing your limits. This could look like a creative gesture such as sending an unusual gift with a hidden meaning.

An example of a successful gift attempt that led to an interview and a job offer was a candidate who was demonstrating his attention to detail by creating and sending intricate origami eagles. I heard a story once about a candidate who sent a shoe with a note that he was hoping to get a “foot in the door.” I’m not sure how that went over, but the results of any of these attempts are going to vary from person to person. This is where it is critical to know your audience.

Being bold can also look like attending a keynote where an executive leader is speaking and asking the best question. The key, really, is to garner POSITIVE attention that you can use as an opening to create intrigue, build rapport, discover needs, and promote yourself as a solution.

3. Network Nurturing

I saw Ellen Weber of Robin Hood Ventures speak at a TedX event in Philadelphia and she forever changed the way I advise my clients to offer help to their networks. The eye-opening insight she shared was that when we ask someone generally, “How can I help you?” we put a burden on them to figure out how we can help them. She talked about a very personally challenging time in her life, and how her closest friends made that time easier simply by taking the initiative to find ways to help, as opposed to waiting for her to direct them, which felt uncomfortable. One friend would drop off meals, the other would help fold and put away laundry, and another even cleaned her bathroom while some friends whisked her away to get a pedicure.

Think of consultative sales, where you are not pushing a product, but asking really great questions and listening earnestly to what the client’s actual needs are so that the solution that you propose sells itself. In a podcast interview between Larry Benet, CEO of the Speakers and Authors Networking Group (SANG), and Vishen Lakhiani of MindValley, I learned some really great questions that are simple to ask and easily uncover some of these needs, such as, “What is the project you are working on right now that excites you the most?” followed up by “What would help you complete it sooner or better?” Another question, which can be quite personal, is “What keeps you up at night?” or “What wakes you up in the morning?” Vishen actually starts all of his interviews with this question, and, of course, he already has a good rapport with guests and relates to them on a personal level prior to the interview.

Once you know what you can do to help, the next thing to do is to follow through. If you cannot identify a need, the next best thing you can do is to share some relevant news, resources, or tools that you think may be of assistance. If you have ever wondered when and how to follow up, now you know.

 

4. Self Nurturing/Wellness

I considered putting this before network nurturing, as we have all heard the analogy of putting the oxygen mask on yourself before you assist others. What good are we unconscious? Well, similarly, as we have written before, science has proven that you are at your best when you are taking care of yourself. Do not skip the workout, but get at least a couple minutes in to increase your oxygen levels. You will actually work faster and more productively. What you produce will be better with fewer errors, meaning you won’t have to re-do that work. Have a cover letter to write? Go for a brisk 10-minute walk or do some jumping jacks. Eat a diet rich in the healthy fats your brain needs to be at its best. Cut out the carbs that cause brain fog and sluggishness. Once you start to treat yourself better, you will perceive yourself as more valuable and be better able to promote yourself as such.

 

5. FUN!

There is a lot more to these start-ups with their ping pong tables and video games than just hoping to attract elusive millennials. Fun is known for increasing creativity, building more cohesive teams, making employees more receptive to bad news or constructive criticism, and, if you believe in the law of attraction, it is apparently responsible for bringing good things into our lives.

You can leverage fun activities for your job search such as organizing a happy hour or bowling night with your friends so that you can catch them up on how they can help you. Moreover, you can also just have a good old-fashioned good time and still reap the benefits in your job search. As we wrote last week, happy people tend to achieve higher levels of success than people who simply work hard. Really! Harvard says so.

 

If you are in a full-time job search mode, I recommend doing each of these daily. If you are working full-time while searching, I recommend that you designate a day of the week for each of these activities.

As an experiment, try these activities for four weeks. Then share with us how intentionally integrating these critical components into your transition helps you build momentum and opens new doors of opportunity.

 

The Chicken or Egg Quandary: Happiness or Success?

happy by Gordon of Flickr

Happy! by Gordon of Flickr

 

What comes first? Happiness or success?

I have a client who is unhappy at his job (hence why he engaged me, obviously). He makes great money, when he is performing, but his compensation is highly commission based. When he’s not performing, he’s not making great money.

Due to life changes, he NEEDS to catch up financially and find a new job that pays the same or more to what he was making when he was at the top of his game. He also really wants to make sure that his next step is the RIGHT next step, or he will find himself at square one.

There are also personal priorities in his life that he rated highly, but is willing to delay them for years, if necessary, in order to land and succeed in a new, high-paying job.

In essence, he is delaying happiness for success.

However, what I learned this weekend from a Consciousness Engineering class is that Harvard studies prove that happiness increases success, and not just by a little bit. A quality annual vacation time of 11 days or more away from home leads to GREATER performance.

The main takeaway from this class was that using happiness as a means rather than an end increases productive energy by 31%, sales by 37%, and the likelihood of promotion by 40%.  Additionally, you are more likely to live longer and stave off sickness and disease. You raise your intelligence and improve your memory. Your creativity and problem solving abilities receive a boost. There is also the link between your wellness and performance to consider.

“Great,” you say. “Just get happy, eh?”

I understand. It is not as easy as it sounds, so Shawn Achor shared four practices that, when done daily for a period of 30 to 90 days will improve your happiness and gives you all of the benefits previously mentioned. None of them take longer than two minutes and you can use the strategy of habit pairing. An example would be doing these while you brush your teeth, to increase your likelihood of making them true habits.

Here they are:

  1. At work your first item of the day is to spend two minutes expressing your gratitude in writing to a colleague, boss, or vendor.
  2. Every night think about three new things that you are grateful for and WHY– the WHY is most important.
  3. Think about a single positive experience you had in the past 24 hours and write four bullet points recording the details you remember about it, such as the clothes you were wearing.
  4. Spend ten minutes focusing on your breath moving in and out, or whatever time you can make. Yes, this is meditation. Think you don’t have time? Investing this time has produced 62 more minutes of productivity. So, in essence, it creates more time.

Ironically, I listened to this class while driving down to the shore in an effort to make myself happy after an unusually challenging day with my youngest daughter. It did not work, but the next day we got to bike ride on the boardwalk, play in the ocean, and go on rides before heading back home for her first day of Pre-K. Today, even though I am still exhausted, I feel calmer, happier, and even more patient.

 

Try experimenting with happiness in your life and share with us the results you find.

 

Is There Still a Social Division of Labor?

Construction Workers by Adam Cohn of Flickr

Construction Workers by Adam Cohn of Flickr

 

True story: last week a guy named Pat walks into Wawa to buy a cup of coffee and stands behind two men wearing suits. The two men were discussing why people wearing fluorescent vests should have their own line.

Looking down at his own florescent vest, Pat inferred that these men were insinuating that blue-collar workers should be treated differently. He asked these two gentlemen if they built the house they live in, if they manicure their own yard, and if they repair their own car.

I don’t know if Pat’s interpretation of the conversation was accurate, but his sense of separation from these two men is real.

I was watching Harley and the Davidsons on Labor Day evening and became attached to the story of the Davidson son, Arthur. He had grown up, but had not started a career like his older brothers and his father begged Author to do something respectable. By respectable, he meant taking on a skilled trade or anything at which he had to physically work hard. Meanwhile, Author was hustling to get a new venture off the ground. It was so interesting to see how entrepreneurship was perceived as not real work, and business men were known for shiftiness. They were also not trusted or respected because they did not physically create anything with their own hands.

Of course a lot has changed in America since the turn of the last century, or so we’d like to think. Certainly a divide still exists, but is it smaller or bigger, and has it flipped upside down or is it just as equal on both sides?

There is a lot of talk about the talent gap, and there are many efforts nationwide to insure that America breeds a skilled domestic workforce to fill that gap. But while people are talking about STEM careers and making it possible for more people to go to college, a very necessary population of skilled laborers is shrinking.

I certainly understand the inclination of many parents to want their child to go to college. I also understand that jobs requiring physical labor may not last as long as a desk job.

My brother, a mechanic turned educator, cannot make a career underneath the hood anymore because of a bad back. My husband has had his fair share of back issues, too. While he has a college degree, a second job as a coach, and he enjoys his work as a certified gas fireplace installer, we both have to face the fact that coaching will eventually be his main gig. Coaching is his true passion and his gift, but it does not pay as well, so we have to plan accordingly now. Really, a back injury could happen any moment.

I had one client who was an accountant and when he was laid off he went back to the job that gave him a lot of pleasure, detailing cars. It was a very cathartic change, but one he could not sustain as he aged. He had enjoyed being an accountant, but he became very disenchanted with corporate careers for a while. When he decided to return to accounting, you can imagine he faced some challenges.

I’m looking at these two different career paths, skilled labor versus corporate. I have noticed that both attract a fair amount of talent, passion, and sense of contribution while at the same time there are drawbacks, concerns, and career mine fields that need strategic navigation. I would like to believe that in the 100 years since Harley-Davidson’s creation the divide between business professionals and working class citizens has diminished. However, there is obviously still a fair amount of misunderstanding, distrust, and even resentment on both sides.

Though the Labor Day holiday was founded to celebrate the effort of unionized labor, it has evolved to celebrate the “contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” I don’t find anything exclusive about that statement.

Not only do we need more youth to pursue careers in skilled labor, but we need to accommodate more flexibility in shifting careers. More importantly, we need to show skilled labors acceptance and appreciation because without them, we would not have roads or houses. Some of us would not be able to find our keys or be in compliance with home owners association standards.

Without business people, contractors could not finance materials they need to build homes, your local landscaping company would not know how to advertise, make revenue, or hire people. Furthermore, that grant would never have funded that new highway.

 

I think Pat summed it up perfectly:

“I don’t care what you do for a living, your title, how much money you make, as long as you’re happy doing what you do is what matters. You shouldn’t look at other people and put them down because of what they do for a living.”