Archives for October 2016

What Do You Want on Your Tombstone?

Tombstone by Martin Cathrae of Flickr

Tombstone by Martin Cathrae of Flickr

 

You might have heard that the most significant part of the tombstone is not the epitaph, but the dash between your birth date and your death date. What will the dash mean to the people you leave behind? Will you have had the chance to fulfill your highest purpose? Is that even really important?

According to Dr. Abraham Maslow, a purposeful vocation is essential after your most basic happiness needs are met. With nearly 70% of Americans being disengaged in their vocations, the majority of us won’t know higher levels of happiness before we make our exit.

On this Halloween, when the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest, it might seem preposterous to suggest visiting a graveyard. If you are not that kind of thrill seeker, simply read through this exercise then close your eyes and use your imagination.

Sit in front of a tombstone and imagine that it is yours. Reflect on your life. Consider the legacy you cultivated. Did you bring forth your fulfillment in this lifetime? Did you complete your missions? Did you find your passion and share it with others? For what do you wish you had made more time?

When life gets hard, it especially becomes difficult to be grateful for the little things, like the fact that we woke up this morning and we’re still alive. We have today, but we don’t know if we will have tomorrow. What can you do to make today a meaningful part of your dash? What can you do tomorrow, if you are lucky enough to still be here?

Are the hours you are spending at work bringing you closer to the kind you of happiness that will make you feel proud of the life you led?

If this exercise makes you aware of a gap that needs filling in your purpose, contact us and we can help you accelerate the career discovery process and help you find a purpose-lead vocation that suits your skill set, personality, and desired lifestyle.

 

Don’t wait until December for my book, Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint Your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days.

 

Five Major challenges that Face Today’s Job Seeker

Scaling Walls and Overcoming Boundaries by Israel Defense Forces of Flickr

Scaling Walls and Overcoming Boundaries by Israel Defense Forces of Flickr

 

We certainly live in different times than when I first graduated college, and I’ve listened earnestly to generations before me to learn about what managing careers were like for them. They certainly make it sound simpler, but not necessarily more satisfying.

From my perspective, people enjoy a lot more freedom and options in opportunity, but navigating this cultural landscape has proven too challenging for most.

Below are five major challenges that I see continually standing to prevent many professionals from realizing their career potential.

 

1. The accelerating evolution of technology

While some fundamentals have never changed, such as treating others with dignity and respect, the tools and technology that help you position yourself as a competitive candidate in today’s talent marketplace continue to evolve. Additionally, the tools and technology that facilitate how work is completed continues to evolve. At what pace this happens can be highly determined by your particular circumstances. Some of my clients from Fortune 1000 companies will tell you that procurement, implementation, and adoption are too slow. The internal due diligence systems that ensure investments are made based on business cases can make it so that by the time technology gets approved and used, a new technology is close behind. Others can tell you that a company’s effort to be using the latest and greatest to gain the optimal competitive edge has gaps. These gaps are between the talent that understands fully how to best utilize the technologies and developing standard operating procedures that let them know for certain new technologies are working in their favor. When you want to consider changing roles, you face the challenge of deciding if you need to acquire new technical skills to be marketable to the most amount of opportunities possible, or if you can find a company that has the perfect blend of technologies that enable you to fit its environment.

How do you possibly manage your career or even develop a plan, without knowing what technologies businesses are going to find critical in the next five years?

Then, when it is your turn to prepare yourself for being in transition, how are you supposed to tell which tools and technologies are going to take you the furthest the fastest in a flooded marketplace of career apps and differing opinions?

 

2. Shape shifting models of progress

We can all look around and notice that there are a lot of broken systems. Hiring, healthcare, and Social Security are chief among these broken systems. Any significant changes intended to improve these systems (or even to replace the systems), stand to cause tremors in the careers of all professionals in those industries. Just imagine if we were to adopt a healthcare system that was more focused on financing preventative care. What if fewer people needed pharmaceuticals? What if it was a significant amount of people? Will there be enough customers to justify the cost of research and development? How will all the professionals in this industry transform themselves to fit the new model? Both presidential candidates have been focused on bringing manufacturing back as a major US industry. Whether they succeed or not, are the professionals who are impacted by the shift overseas going to find relief, or are they going to be impacted by the move to 3D printing?

 

3. Pessimism, cynicism, and self-limiting beliefs

I see this as the most dangerous challenge, simply because so many people have a blind spot to just how pervasive and detrimental these mindsets are once they become firmly embedded. Furthermore, if you don’t have a clue that there is something that can help you, why would you even think to seek it out, and even once you are aware that something can help you, if you are pessimistic (even if you decide to make the investment), your lack of faith will diminish its efficacy. I previously wrote an article about a belief that has been considered an epidemic– The “I am not enough” belief.  The experience generation tends to perceive the younger generation as having a sense of entitlement and even having it too easy- it is the “everyone gets a trophy” generation, where rewards are given instead of earned. How did that even happen?

It happened as a response to parents who had grown up feeling beaten down emotionally or physically, and swearing that their kids would have a better life. It is not as though there are two camps on this topic – there are actually infinite camps on this topic, and they do not necessarily have clearly defined borders. If you look at it from one perspective, you can see value in being able to confront and overcome tough challenges, developing grit and a thick skin, and being able to navigate the real world successfully. On the other hand, if you are groomed to know your worth, feel confident, and sense that things are easy to achieve, you are more likely to be a big dreamer and make big things happen in this world. Most people weave in and out of varying degrees of these two dichotomous worldviews.

Which one is right? I am not here to say and who is not right. I won’t find out if I’m right until my kids are fully grown adults with lives of their own.

I can certainly empathize with the constant challenge of trying to decide in every single circumstance how to help my children find a balance between a real world that is rife with adversity or where success is everyone’s for the taking.

At a minimum, they need to believe that they are good enough, or they will fall short of every single goal they set for themselves.

 

4. Being heard or seen in a world of communication bombardment

There is certainly a lot of noise to compete with if you want to get noticed. Big data has enabled marketing to know more about its customers, their daily activities, and when and how to best capture their attention. The science and art behind this craft is constantly being studied by Epic Careering, and the career services industry is starting to ride the big data wave to learn more about the behavior and preferences of hiring managers and recruiting professionals. That being said, people will continue to have their own opinions, preferences, and worldviews while at the same time their companies will be at varying degrees of hiring effectiveness, with most being at the low-end. Which begs the question, are we just capturing data on what is being done ineffectively? As far as I have seen, none of these new hiring systems and technologies has cracked the code on hiring effectiveness.

From a career management and transitioning standpoint, we do know which activities and behaviors tend to lead to job search success, and a targeted proactive networking-based campaign is statistically more successful than a reactive, internet-based job search.

However, when you are proactive, you have to gain a depth of understanding of your audience in order to ensure that you capture their attention, that your résumé is read, that it resonates, and that you choose the next company that will offer the best opportunity. A successful strategy will vary from person-to-person, which is why one-on-one career coaching (with Epic Careering) is really the best investment for an optimal and accelerated job search, if you can see it. (The next best thing is to learn how to build your own successful campaign with the Dream Job Breakthrough System.)

 

5. Distraction

It would not be fair to just point out that our target audiences face distraction without admitting how distracted we can easily become. There are day-to-day distractions that are much harder to escape, those things we have to do, such as pay bills, do laundry, mow the lawn, etc. We can certainly fill our day with these activities, but would we be really be accomplishing anything? I can relate to feeling so exhausted just by taking care of these things that I justify downtime, which I can admit is me wasting time with other distractions, like television and social media. Sometimes I even convince myself that this is an important activity for me, because I need to keep up with everything going on in the world. I, by all means, do not suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), but some legitimately do without realizing that what they are really missing out on are adventures of their own. I know in my case I am prone to more of a curiosity that leads me down a path of unproductive input collecting. I have taught myself how to overcome these challenges by setting a timer, keeping a list of the things I am on social media to accomplish, and designating time after I have crossed off truly important AND strategic tasks to more personal exploration.

What do you notice distracts you from investing time in activities that move you closer to the life you want? What do you tell yourself that justifies engaging in these distractions?

I had a performance evaluation sometime during the planning of my wedding and a concern was that I had been spending too much work time taking care of personal details for my wedding. Of course my inclination was to assume I had been working diligently for an acceptable amount of time while taking a reasonably small amount of time to take care of the things that always need attention when you are planning a wedding. The only way to know for sure was to track my time. I was given a spreadsheet and instructed to track all of my activities for a week. I would have assumed that I was spending maybe three hours a week on personal business, and that it was mostly during my lunch hour. I was surprised to discover that while I was being paid to perform my job, I had actually spent double that on personal business during hours I was supposed to be working. I was very surprised and embarrassed, but I now knew that more self-discipline was necessary and more boundaries had to be enforced with my time.

 

  • We actually have solutions for all five of these major challenges.
  • We can help you master the tools and technology of modern career management and transition.
  • We can help you determine which technical skills you should plan on acquiring to position yourself for the best growth and fulfillment.
  • We can help you reinvent yourself if your industry is facing the potential for disruptive changes.
  • We can help you recognize and overcome models of reality and beliefs that limit your potential and interfere with your ability to achieve your goals.
  • We help you strategize breaking through the chatter to catch your next employer in the flow of their day with a message that creates an urgency to consider your value and hire you.

 

Does one challenge stand out as something you are experiencing? Does it threaten to stand between you and your next great opportunity?

We have a toolkit designed to help you stay focused on the activities and resources that open the most doors to quality opportunities. We can even text you a to-do list every morning so that you never wake up wondering what you have to do to get closer to a great job.

 

Comment with the corresponding number of the challenge that stands out to you as the biggest culprit of job momentum interference.

 

How to Tell if You’re About to be Laid Off

CIMG6096 by Daniel of Flickr

CIMG6096 by Daniel of Flickr

 

It is always worse when a layoff comes out of left field, isn’t it? There is definitely something to be said about being mentally prepared to find a new job. Of course there is even more to be said when you are fully prepared with an updated résumé and a branded LinkedIn profile that will position you for what’s next.

I can relate to being in denial; I certainly should have seen the signs coming before my first layoff after 9-11. Even though I had been yearning for greater responsibility and wanting to either move up or move on, I took my layoff very hard. When it took ten months to find something new, and that something new was a step back, I regretted not being more prepared.

That was the first of three times, so I feel like I have learned a little something about how to tell when bad news is coming. The more warning you have, the higher the chances that you can turn the bad news into a positive next step.

 

1. News of future plans grows quiet

Any company doing well is going to want to generate excitement about the future. If projects are suddenly put on hold, or high-priority projects that your manager had previously told you were coming down the pike suddenly don’t seem as important, something is about to change.

This treatment could even seem like being given the cold shoulder. You may be starting to consider whether you should just confront your boss directly. If you do, be prepared to hear no news or to receive bad news. Ultimately and unfortunately, when bad news is impending there is a pecking order for who is told first.

 

2. Your employer no longer spends money on certain things

This could refer to perks, travel, technology, training, or even bonuses. Even if there are no immediate plans for the company’s leadership to sell or close, and you can see that the focus is more on cutting costs than growing, it is only a matter of time before they lose market share or become obsolete. If you want to be noble and go down with a sinking ship, that is your prerogative, but simultaneously prepare a life boat. Read over any non-competes, decide what company you want to target, update your LinkedIn profile and start reconnecting with people in your network, update your résumé, and decide how you are going to tell people about why you are looking for something new. (Do so in that order.)

 

3. Other people are being let go

This sounds pretty obvious, but I have seen some professionals insist that those who were let go were logical choices, whereas they were top performers. This is who gets hit by the news the hardest. You might have done everything right, you might have established that you are irreplaceable, and still be the victim of a workforce reduction. Does it have to do with your salary? Maybe. You will spend days and weeks trying to figure out what you could have done differently and the answer could be nothing. Instead, act immediately to position yourself as a rock star and a thought leader in high demand. Promote everything that you have done to add value to your employer and promote your résumé through social media. Consider publishing posts and responding to calls for speakers at industry conferences. Set up lunch meetings. Organize happy hours.

 

Being uncertain of the future and being in flux are very uncomfortable for most people. The best way to ease your worry is to make something happen. Start to build momentum. Even if you are wrong and your job is completely secure, you might open new doors to unexpected opportunities.

 

4 Questions That Build a Killer LinkedIn Summary

LinkedIn Logo by Esther Vargas of Flickr

LinkedIn Logo by Esther Vargas of Flickr

 

I am glad that LinkedIn exists for multiple reasons, but mostly because there is a venue for professionals to communicate beyond concise and awkward résumé language. Through LinkedIn, they can “speak” in their own natural voice with their own innate verbiage.

As a former hiring professional, it was helpful to understand who the candidate was behind the résumé. As a branding professional and Certified Professional Résumé Writer, I love having a place where I can better express my clients’ personalities and add greater context to their achievements and unique value.

Storytelling has burned a place into corporate and personal marketing because of its effectiveness. It helps people better learn and recall what makes a person impressive and better inspires them to take action on that person’s behalf.

If your LinkedIn profile summary still is a carbon copy of your résumé summary, answer the four questions below. These questions will help you better optimize the 2,000 characters that LinkedIn allows you, so you can distinguish yourself in your own voice. If your computer or phone has a dictation app, I recommend that you use this tool. Do not be too concerned about wordsmithing or character limits as you initially answer these questions.  Do not yet judge how people will perceive your answers. Just record your answers as they emerge.

Not only will this exercise enable you to craft a LinkedIn summary that provides visitors with a much better idea of who you are as a person (not just a professional or a candidate), but it will reveal to you how you have been presenting yourself to your network. You may even find that once you record your answers, evaluate them, and edit them that you have been divulging messages that are extraneous, irrelevant, and incongruent (or even damaging ) to your brand. Once you become conscious of these, you can craft better network messaging and become more effective at inspiring introductions and interviews.

 

Question 1:  How did you get here?

You have an experience section on your LinkedIn profile, so there is no need to chronicle your employment history. However, look at your present status as a sum of inspirational and educational moments that you have acquired throughout the years. Some of your most inspirational moments may be more personal than professional. Again, do not initially judge your answers. What we share about our personal learning experiences can often be more powerful in helping people resonate with who you are and what you have to offer.

Think about it and record those moments to answer to this question. What you record may wind up being paragraphs or even pages long, but eventually you will want to edit it down to one paragraph, starting with a vivid depiction of one of your most powerful moments.

 

Question 2: From what contributions have you derived the biggest sense of fulfillment and satisfaction?

You do not want to spill the beans with all the specific anecdotes from your employment history that have made you most proud. Instead, you want to entice the reader to keep on reading and to scroll down to your employment history to read the rest of the story. In your summary you want to be general. I encourage you to include anecdotes as an answer to this question because it will help you write summaries for your previous positions. Sometimes it is easier to recall specific memories and then to take a step back and figure out what these memories have in common.

You want to look for patterns and themes that have been threaded through each of your previous experiences, regardless of how different those experiences may be. This is where you demonstrate your passion. Notice, please, that I have yet to encourage you to tell people how passionate you are. The answer(s) to this question will do a much better job of communicating that you are passionate without stating your passion.

 

Question 3: How have you honed the primary skills and talents that enabled you to make these past contributions?

In the Career Management course I teach at Drexel University, my students are tired of hearing me lecture about how important proving your KSAs (Knowledge, Skills and Achievements, aka KSEs: Knowledge, Skills and Experience) are to potential employers. Rather than simply leaving your list of skills out there without context as to which skills are strongest and without proof as to whether you really possess them or not, use this opportunity to explain how you developed personally and professionally. Some of this could be through formal training, some could be through life experience, and some could be through interesting challenges that enabled you to identify talents you didn’t know you previously had. Can you see how this creates more intrigue?

 

Question 4:  How do you envision being able to apply and further develop these talents and skills to make greater contributions in the future?

Whether you are a happy and engaged employee hoping to elevate your status within your current company, you are confidentially looking to leave your current employer, or if you’re unemployed and seeking your next big career opportunity, the answer to this question will help you position yourself for growth. Even if you are confidentially seeking new employment but working, you can shape shift the answer to promote your current employer and as a byproduct, promote yourself. This will enable you to mitigate potential suspicions that your new LinkedIn updates are intended to help you leave. You would need however, to find a way to make your future aspirations fit within the future vision of your current employer.

If you are unemployed, you may need to resist the temptation to keep your options wide-open. I understand the logic of wanting to do so if you need an income, but in my 15 years of experience I know it will most likely prolong your search or, sometimes worse, lead you to land in the wrong position at a toxic company where you become stuck and feel hopeless. Good employers want to offer their employees growth opportunities. It is integral in their hiring process to find candidates who are clear about their short and long-term ambitions. These days especially, you don’t have to make a lifelong commitment. In fact, most likely in a few years you will reinvent yourself.  But, for now, demonstrate that you have clarity over how you want to apply your skills and talents, and that you have goals.

 

After you pared down your answers to about a paragraph each, or about 500 characters, leave yourself another 500 characters to create a call-to-action (use the formula within this article) and/or a list of skills that will help you keyword optimize your profile.

Visit this LinkedIn post to see how to include symbols, such as bullets, in your content.

If you use these questions to transform your LinkedIn summary into a compelling story that attracts new connections and opportunities, please share a link to your profile and your results in the comments below.

 

3 Formulas for Powerful Achievement Stories

Day 102-365 by Markgranitz of Flickr

Day 102-365 by Markgranitz of Flickr

 

After you have defined your distinct brand and clarified your target audience, you are tasked with creating content and messaging that will resonate with your target employer and position you as a competitive candidate for jobs of your choice.

I know that résumé writing doesn’t come naturally to most people, even writers and marketers. In fact, a lot of us go to work feeling like we are merely fulfilling our functions and collecting a paycheck for our efforts. We are completely unaware and unawakened to the value we bring to an organization and the greater purpose and impact of our work. Yet, identifying and articulating this is what will enable you to inspire your next employer to offer you the job.

At a minimum, you must set up some context for what you did, and prove that you did it well or better than someone else who might have filled that role.

At a maximum, to excite the employer, you want them to be able to easily visualize you succeeding in the role by using an approach and being a personality that meshes with their culture. The impact is the extra step most formulas are missing. Distinct from a result, the impact is what occurs after a job has been done well.

For instance, writing a résumé that my clients completely love is a result. The impact of the résumé done well is that it produces interviews. The impact of an increase in interviews is an increase in confidence and hope. This leads my clients to feel a greater sense of empowerment and control over their professional destiny. I may not include all of these impacts in the résumé, but I would most certainly start with the most immediate impact on my client, and then in my LinkedIn profile go into greater details about the most fulfilling part of doing a job well, which is the trickle down impact and cascade of further positive outcomes.

To just get started with the basics, here are some formulas that can help you build the bullets of your résumé and prepare anecdotes that will validate you have the skills to do the job throughout the interview process.

Most achievement story templates tend to be two to three paragraphs that fit on one page. They may be included in a portfolio or binder that you bring with you to interviews. However, most people do not easily recollect details buried in paragraphs, and you will not want to read your achievement stories in an interview. At the end of the last formula, we will tell you how to remedy this.

 

Beginner formulas:

 

  1. PAR/CAR – Problem/Challenge > Action > Result

Problem/Challenge – This becomes difficult for someone who, say, closes the monthly financial books.  Ask yourself, what are the consequences to the business if this job is done poorly? Within the answer you will be able to find the value. It is what you may prevent from happening.

Action – What you did, specifically, to resolve the problem or overcome the challenge.

Result – The proof that what was done was effective.

 

  1. STAR – Situation > Task > Action > Result

Situation – Includes Who, What, When, Where and How

Task – What had to be done and what the challenges of doing so were

Action – What YOU did, specifically, your individual contributions

Result – What was the measurable outcome? How do you know you took the right actions?

 

Advanced formula:

  1. SCPDASTRI – The EPIC formula

My formula is not as simple an acronym, and you would not necessarily use all of these components in a bullet in your résumé. Use this formula to lay the foundation of a cohesive story that your résumé, LinkedIn profile, interview and other venues compliment and supplement, building greater and greater excitement.

Situation – the conditions that existed that necessitated a change or some kind of action

Challenge(s) – what made this an impressive feat

People impacted and the impact – who was experiencing the conditions AND who was engaged to address it

Decision made – and who made it/them

Actions taken – and by whom (“we” is not specific enough.)

Skills, talents applied – “hard” and “soft” skills

Tools used – technical tools, as well as approaches and methodologies

Results – what outcomes did the actions produce in as many measurable terms as possible. Think about showing PROOF that the action was taken or that it was successful

Impact – how that trickled down to other people

 

For a résumé intended to be concise, you would pick out the most impressive components, and start to build bullets from the bottom of the formula and work upward.

For a LinkedIn profile, you would include more of the backstory and use natural language, versus concise résumé speak.

In an interview, you would actually want to break the story out into bullets, and, depending on how you best recollect details, associate these bullets with something memorable to you. (More in a future blog on this.)

It can be quite a leap from thinking of your job as fulfilling your daily, weekly, monthly duties to seeing clearly the impact that you had on an organization by doing your job well. I recommend that you start with the basic formula. Build it into your résumé to have something effective that will help you present your skills, knowledge and experience. Make sure your LinkedIn profile converts your bullets into a compelling story, and then convert your story into even shorter bullets that will be easy to remember when you network and interview.

Then, as you master that, start to expand your awareness of your value and impact. Look past your duties to the reasons you were chosen to do the job, and why your bosses and co-workers should be grateful that you were the one in the position (whether they were actually grateful or not).

Fill in the additional details from the advanced formula. Re-craft your bullets and LinkedIn profile. Enhance the achievement story bullets that you have already been recalling with ease with additional details that paint an even more vivid picture of what it looks like to have you in the job.

 

The better your interviewer/future boss can visualize this, the harder it will be for someone else to come in and make a stronger impression.