Careers

Back in the Hiring Saddle

First, let me take a moment to acknowledge the amazing support I have enjoyed from my former assistant, Angela Moseley. I know there were times I took for granted how much less I had to burden myself so that I could better support Epic Careering clients and move forward initiatives, like publishing my book. In fact, until I had to replace her, I hadn’t realized frequently enough how lucky I was to have talent like her – A self-starting Journalism graduate from Temple, with a sense of pride in her work, and as much of an appreciation of what we do as a company as you could expect from someone who hadn’t built the company herself.

Angela, best wishes to you in your new full-time endeavor. I hope you find the shift from freelancer to employee to favor your hopes and dreams for the future.

Today my daily devotional distinguished knowledge from wisdom as wisdom being derived from experience that teaches you, and knowledge as being information you acquire. I always thought that being truly wise meant learning from other people’s experiences – not having to endure the same trial and error to reach the same conclusions.

Having now endured my own search for a new assistant, there is some wisdom I would like to impart. I continue to read disgruntled posts from job seekers and hiring managers alike on why recruiting is even a profession – why do businesses need to allocate such a critical function to an outside party?

I attempted to straddle in between the job seeker’s perspective and the hiring manager’s perspective, constantly re-visiting my process and standards as I saw what was coming in. I can’t say I am certain I didn’t stray too far in one direction or another at times, but I can tell you that if my budget allowed for extra margin, I would have totally outsourced this very important job, and I have experience as a recruiter.

Let me report happily that, while it was not easy and required a tremendous investment of effort, energy and time, I have found someone I believe has great potential to help me push Epic Careering toward even greater client and customer service as well as greater product quality and usage so that we can help more people empower themselves to harness our resources and the power within them to pursue and land career opportunities that offer them the life that they want.

Help me in welcoming Syndie.

This will be the first blog Syndie will help me post. (Complaints can be directed to… just kidding 😉

Here are some observations that were somewhat forgotten and reinforced by my experience back in the hiring saddle.

1. Many candidates don’t follow directions

I’m not sure if some people feel that they are exceptions that you will just have to notice how great they are in the way that they do things, rather than how you want them to do things. I am hiring a subcontractor to work ¼ time, and yet I want to hire someone who considers themselves a part of the fabric of what I have built and continue to build, so from the get-go, I want to see a candidate not just willing to, but interested in learning about the career services industry, where the résumé is considered a major product and tool.

I am not expecting applicants to be résumé experts, but I expect an actual résumé – not a sales page. In my business your résumé is not just a critical introduction to your work history, but a work sample. If providing a résumé or making improvements to your résumé based on my instruction is too much outside your comfort zone, I don’t see why I should see that you are going to be a valuable contributor to my business.

In trying to see things from the freelancer’s perspective, I could only assume that these freelance virtual assistants had such a thriving reputation and pipeline of opportunity that my opportunity didn’t stand out as particularly interesting. I concluded that Epic Careering is better off without someone who was not interested enough in this industry to want to develop/furbish a best-in-class résumé.

2. Many candidates do not research thoroughly (enough)

While I do recognized that I am the expert on such things, I find it hard to accept that people take the time to write a cover letter without specifics that demonstrate that you have attempted to understand what we do, what initiatives we’re invested in, and what there is to have genuine excitement about when I post a blog each week that puts it right out there.

Why would I want to waste any time reading a letter that was not targeted to me, or did not give me an indication that you really want this opportunity?

Here is where I attempted to get back over the line into the job seekers’ perspective – the conventional job application process can be a confidence, even a soul, killer. Once your hope in a good outcome is dead, efforts seem futile. Making an extra investment of time, allowing yourself to get excited about an opportunity, attempting to make a meaningful connection with a stranger you hope to be your boss, can seem like a great recipe for (further) disappointment. This is why we coach our clients to reset their expectations and execute a proactive campaign method. Otherwise, you are going to get stuck in your own self-fulfilling prophecy loop.

Statistically, you are more apt to have positive results (introductions/interviews/offers) if you invest more time getting closer to opportunities for which you have genuine excitement than to half-heartedly pursue opportunities you are hoping for only because they represent an earning potential you need or want.

3. Many candidates do not have a sense of urgency

I clearly outlined the steps to apply, as well as the qualification process. Many precluded themselves from consideration by not supplying requested documents at all, even upon specific request or instruction; they took a long time to deliver. If I need you to be available 10 hours per week, I would anticipate you would have at least an hour to invest in helping yourself through the qualification process.

Again, I understand that if you had spent time on searching for a job or freelance opportunity-seeking using conventional methods, you are probably reaching a point of resignation. If only those who failed to deliver understood clearly the restoration of faith you will gain in your own ability to make great opportunities happen by landing this opportunity, you might have been able to create the time you needed to pursue this further.

 

Your loss is Syndie’s gain, and the drop-off and disqualifications of all other candidates during the process will prove to be my gain.

Back in the Saddle Again, Aerosmith

i got bored again

Intend to Land Before the Holidays Hit? What You Should Be Doing Right Now!

Holidays by Jim Lukach of Flickr

 

I am in as much denial as you that it is August already! My nieces and nephew in Georgia had their first day of school today and one of my Midwest clients’ kids went back two weeks ago.

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future.

Your brain, like mine, may simply refuse to acknowledge that the holidays will be here before you know it, but it is true.  There is always so much to do.

“I’ll just wait until school starts and we will settle into our new routine before I think about my job search.”

But then, the school year starts, and papers, to-dos, and events start to mount up.  The kids go back to their activities and you realize that things don’t settle down – ever!

As much as I admire my students for realizing so young the value of hands-on experience through Drexel University’s world-renowned co-op program, year-round 10-week terms demand a lot of their focus and energy. I wonder how they do it. Then, on top of that they have to pass my 1-credit, but very writing-intensive Career Management class in order to graduate. I can see how some of them may have complaints about the added demand, especially when some of them have landed jobs already.

However, the point can be made that as much as their education and lives demand of them right now, it is likely not going to get easier. Forming good habits by making time for professional development now will prove to exponentially impact their career and income trajectory throughout their future.

My clients already get that; they are the go-getters, the game changers, the disruptors, the thought leaders who invest time and money in increasing their visibility, reach, and impact. They are always looking ahead.

September is traditionally the second busiest hiring month. This is due to new job creation and companies needing to give one last push to end the year with maximum profit.

According to the BLS.gov, job creation was increasing more going into this summer than it had been in 15 years, but September offers the chance to re-invigorate summertime efforts to fill positions that proved challenging because of numerous stakeholder vacation plans.

If you want to get in the mix, you have to be already prepared to strike with a branded résumé and LinkedIn profile that enable you to compete, not just qualify.

Of course, this is true for new jobs, too, but the hiring process may still take several weeks to months, depending on the level and process.

That’s why, if we are being realistic…

The time to start preparing for a change in jobs before the holidays is now.

Here is how you start:

Step 1:

The first step for everyone is Career Discovery, which is an evaluation of what you want to keep and what you want to leave behind, and what you want in your future. This goes for your role, your level of responsibility and impact, your ideal boss, your ideal culture, your ideal income growth, and your overall ideal situation as it contributes to your desired lifestyle.

Yes, shoot for ideal first. You can always test the viability of the ideal and add a step or two if it is not obtainable now, but think far ahead before you plan your next step.

Step 2:

Consider and research what qualifications are needed to obtain the ideal based on those who have come before you. Do some self-reflection, take some assessments, or engage a coach who can help you identify how your natural and acquired abilities lend themselves to such a path.

Step 3:

Craft a brand that promotes your unique value in relation to the pains, challenges, and initiatives of your ideal target.

Step 4:

Compose a résumé and LinkedIn profile that tell a compelling story, but that are native to the media. In other words, have a résumé that takes all your special knowledge, skills, experience, and talents and puts them concisely into hard business terms that demonstrate that you are someone who adds tremendous value and fits the organization’s culture. Have a LinkedIn profile that compliments the story, but sounds like you and allows your personality and passion to come through without sounding trite and cliché.

These are the minimum steps you will want to take in August if you want to land by the holidays.

Sound daunting?  Is it too much to handle?

Nah. You can handle it, but you do not have to handle it alone.

If you think it would be beneficial to invest ($900 – $2000) in an expert partner to help you navigate this process, take advantage of a free 40-minute consultation by completing and sending a needs assessment form and your most recent résumé, even if it is incomplete or not updated.

 

If the investment is beyond your budget, we understand, and have DIY solutions so that you can still take advantage of my expert advice on the branding process and use tools that help you create your own branded content.

 

Step 5 to a Happy Career: Action

Work by Hamza Butt of Flickr

Nothing feels better than when you are facing a challenge or trying to achieve something by taking action. But does taking any old action make a difference? Or does it have to be the right one? The answer is they are both right.

You may have of heard of a phenomenon called “analysis paralysis.” That is when you think through all of your actions so carefully that you scare yourself out of taking that action. Then there is the opposite end of the spectrum where you act before you think and then your actions can actually have negative consequences and put you further away from your goal. There are so many benefits to being in action, however, there is such a thing as a wrong action, and if you are uncertain what the right action is, the best first action is to ask for help.

There is a right and a wrong way to ask for help. The wrong way is to obligate anyone to help you. Depending on the volume of help that you need, you may also use the wrong medium, and that is a more difficult thing to understand. Everyone has their own preferences about communication. Some people in the professional world would rather you not find them on Facebook to ask them for help. Keeping that in mind, you might be starting to see why there’s so much to consider and some people spend so much time in consideration that they do not act. Let me go back to the benefits of action.

When you act, you let the world know that you are serious about what you want. It is not always true, but most commonly people do not receive the help that they need and ask for because they have not inspired people to believe that they will follow through and make them look good. When you think about it, most of what we do all day, every day is to make ourselves look good, or make someone else look bad. Hopefully, we do not spend as much time doing the latter, but if you have been in a CYA corporate environment, you know that making other people look bad is sometimes how you survive. It is an awful existence, and nobody needs to spend their days that way, because they have options. However, these types of environments can do a lot to diminish your belief in better things.

That is when people get stuck, like my mom. That was one of the major reasons this line of work resonated so strongly with me. I get to help people renew their hope and get into companies that have more nurturing conditions where they can thrive. There is also the benefit of pride. There is so much that can happen in a job search that can make you feel bad. When you take action, you feel like you are doing something to make your situation better and that feeling can develop into greater confidence and self-worth. These are two things you need in order to convince an employer to hire you. However, when you take action and have high volumes with your results, it can actually have the opposite effect and make you feel worse.

There are five different categories of action that you can take that will move you toward greater opportunity. Any given day you can decide that you are up to tackle one of these kinds of activities, or you can do all five in one day and really feel accomplished. The key to this, just like anything, is balance – do not rely on any one kind of activity too heavily; they all need your attention and action.

 

  1. Administration

You need to have systems in place to track your activities and you need to actually input those activities in order to see where you can make improvements and get better results.

 

  1. Research

Before you even ask for help, you need to understand who you are asking, what their experience and expertise is, and what kinds of things they have going on that you can provide value for. You may even be able to discern how this person prefers to be contacted based on what they say or share. If there are several options, pick the one with the least volume. Other things we can research include potential careers, positions, and companies. Find out what a day in the life of someone whose footsteps you want to follow in is like. This research does not have to be purely online, in fact, the more you get away from your computer, the better. Head to the library and read a biography. Attend a professional organizations event and come with questions.

Asking questions is a deceivingly simple action, but actually doubles as massive action, which is the next type of action.

 

  1. Massive action

This could really be any action that requires you to have courage and be bold. While it is recommended that you make research the step before this action to make sure that your action is as strategic and effective as possible, this is something that you want to do at least weekly. For most people this means picking up the phone. The action should scare you and excite you at the same time. Not only is it intended to help you make quantum leaps toward your intended goal, but it is also intended to expand your comfort zone and test yourself. If the phone just seems way too scary, then pick an action that isn’t as scary and build up to the phone. For instance, send someone a direct message through social media. I would advise against sending an email, even if it is something that you find to be uncomfortable, simply because it is such a non-urgent form of communication, and some people like short emails while others want you to tell a compelling story. It is too easy to spend a lot of time crafting an email, get no response, and make that mean that you are not worthy of a response. If the phone is easy for you, do something in person, or whereas you might feel comfortable reaching out to a director or VP, reach out to a C-level executive.

Before you take action, set your intention. Know and visualize clearly the outcome that you want. Determine that it will happen. If you need to, remind yourself of all of the great value that you have the potential to offer.

It may help you to practice what you were going to say, and you can also over-practice what you were going to say. It does not really matter what words you use as much as it matters where are you are coming from when you speak. When you come from a place of high confidence and intention for the highest good, the right words tend to naturally follow, and they flow with powerful heart-felt inspiration that leads people to know you are serious and want to take action on your behalf.

 

  1. Network Nurturing

Do something to help someone in your network without the expectation that it will be returned. This could be making an introduction for someone else, sharing a resource, sending relevant news or articles, or letting people know about an event. It could also be a random act of kindness. Volunteering is absolutely one of the best ways to satisfy this action. You may think that your volunteering has to have something to do with your profession, but, in fact it does not. However, I will say that the better volunteering opportunities are the ones that enable you to interact with people and work on a team. Perhaps you can even be the one that organizes a community event. If you do this, then your massive action can actually be combined by having a conversation with someone there about your goal. Just make sure that the conversation is actually satisfying that action- what you do for others is the number one agenda.

 

  1. Take Care of You

Some may argue that YOU should come before nurturing your network, just as they teach you on the airplane to put the mask on yourself before you help other people. If that resonates as true for you, then do that. I did not put this item last because it is the least important. I simply put it last because I’m planning your week, most people use Friday as a day for personal things, and if you are doing one thing per day, Thursday would be the better day to nurture your network. However, it is worth noting that you can evaluate your own cycles of high and low energy to determine when you do different types of action. For instance, massive action requires high energy. Maybe you have the highest energy on Friday. I have actually had more personal success reaching and engaging VIPs on Fridays.

Taking care of yourself can look like doing yoga, watching your favorite show, having tea or a drink with a friend, taking a nap, playing an instrument, coloring, seeing a concert, calling your best friend far away… I think you get it. It could really be anything that makes you feel alive.

Yes, as you probably guessed, the importance of this is to replenish yourself, but it is also important because the more time you spend happy, the more your chances of success increase.

We used to recommend number five as a reward, but I learned from Gretchen Rubin that rewards are more effective than reinforcing positive habits when they are tied to the goal itself. So, if you seek to reward yourself for a week of great action, perhaps you can reward yourself with a nice pair of dress shoes for interviews, or invest in a personal brand touch up with us. You could reward yourself by getting a ticket to a high profile event or conference. There are things you can do that cost no money at all. A great way to come up with this type of reward is to think about what your ideal job could offer to your life, and sample that in some way. For instance, if what you are aspiring to have by landing a new job is more time with your kids, reward yourself by going on an adventure or playing a game with your kids. This type of reinforcement will produce good feeling hormones in your body and train your brain to condition you for even more action. In other words, implementing a reward system will help you form better habits.

For a better idea of how these five activities could look in your schedule, refer to this blog post.

It is unfortunate that so many people do not reach out for help from someone like me because they know that they have been making very strong efforts, so they conclude that I do not have the results that they want, or there are external conditions that they cannot control. Unfortunately, they are destined to stay stuck. The ones who actually do change their situations are the ones that recognize that they need to do something differently; I learned specifically what the most effective different things to do are. If you are unsure, ask. You can even ask me.

 

If you want to know if you have been doing something wrong, take action and have a free consultation with me.

 

Step 4 to Career Happiness: Allow, Accept, and Architect

The Architect’s Hands by Steve Grant of Flickr

When you visualize yourself in your ideal future, is there dissonance that makes you resentful, fearful, or even guilty?

Does it make sense that if you experience these emotions, you are not able to fully go for it?

Actually, you can, but you have to acknowledge these emotions, confront them, and overcome them first. You have to dis-empower them, or they stand to call the shots without you even realizing it.

  • They may prevent you from reaching out to a VIP.
  • They could make other things more important than attending that event or filling out that application (which, as you know by now is your last resort, Plan D, but still sometimes necessary).
  • They could keep you from articulately and powerfully promoting yourself when you do get the chance to interact with potential game-changing contacts.
  • They could stop you from stepping up in a meeting to share your idea.
  • They can keep you from trying at all, even just doing online research.

How do you dis-empower them?

The first step you did last week. You noticed them. You have no chance of stopping them if you do not even realize they are there, and tuning in to how you feel when you really put yourself in the place of having your ideal future is a great way to initially notice them. However, the next step is to catch them while they are operating in your life.

Mel Robbins talks about this phenomenon called activation energy – it is a natural occurrence when you have an inkling to take action, but it dissipates after five seconds if you do nothing (what she calls the five-second rule).

She is pretty clear about this – fail to take advantage of activation energy, and you are sabotaging yourself. Why do we do that? These automatic thoughts that manifest as negative emotions are the reason.

So, next time you have an idea to do something that could potentially bring you closer to your future, be mindful of your decision.

Do you decide that you’ll do it later? Do you really ever do it later?

Do you not only add it to your list of things to do, do you add it to your calendar?

Or, do you take care of it right away?

According to Mel, you do not have to necessarily take care of it right away, but you if you take a baby step, you will experience all the good feelings, such as pride and optimism, that can lead you to forming good action-taking habits faster. You can become addicted to these good feelings, and that will lead you to take immediate action more frequently. This immediate action will compound toward momentum that gets you ever closer to your ideal situation.

If, however, you do none of these things, really look at why. By really, I do not mean what was your excuse. In most cases your excuse is just how you justified it to yourself to ease the negative feelings of inaction – further guilt, shame, etc. that can compound instead toward depression and anxiety, which further hampers your ability to take action on your own behalf. By really look at why I mean, what was the automatic thought and corresponding emotion that led you to do nothing.  Allow these thoughts to surface. You could have been suppressing them so long you have tuned them out. It could take some time for you to fully take notice of them.

I am NOT intending for you to feel bad about your inaction. As I explained, this is of little value and can actually be a hindrance. The intention is for you to find the lesson; identify the thought, acknowledge it, listen to it. Give it a chance to make a case for truth. Act as the judge and jury, weighing the veracity of this thought.

Will your friends and family really ostracize you for achieving something great in your life?

Will you change for the worse by being successful?

Will you be a hypocrite?

You may find, actually, that there is truth to these statements, in which case you now have to make an empowered choice to either accept mediocrity for the sake of integrity, love, and acceptance, or you can decide that achieving a more ideal version of your life is worth risking love and acceptance. You may also decide that it is ultimately up to you whether you maintain good character or not (which it is). Perhaps your ideal future is not as ideal as you thought, and you can create a new vision of an ideal future that would not have you risking so much.

On the other hand, you may adopt a “make it work” attitude. If your neighbors, friends, or families really cannot accept a more successful you, they will learn to. You can reassure them. Love is stronger than judgment.

You may also find none of these things are truth – just fears, perhaps even fears that were someone else’s originally – not yours. You adopted them, but you can now reject them.

Before you do, though, thank them. Be grateful for your new awareness of these thoughts. Either accept them or release them, and then feel the sense of peace that you have with your decision.

 

Whether you decide that your ideal vision of the future is not worth what you think you could lose, or you decide to adopt a new way of thinking about having an ideal future, you get to be the architect of change in your own life.

 

Step 2 to Career Happiness

Happiness by Goutier Rodrigues of Flickr

 

Some people grow up believing that they can do anything. Some people have parents that reinforce this belief. When you grow up under these conditions, you develop a very friendly perception of the world. You perceive very few limits and are attuned to identifying and leveraging resources to achieve goals. You are apt to try things that other people would never attempt, simply because you have an ingrown faith that success is inevitable.

Many would consider you blessed, even charmed, and they may be resentful. Just as it is hard for them to understand why you are so lucky, it can be more difficult for you to empathize with people who suffer from career and financial shortcomings. To you, it looks like a choice.

You are not wrong, however the choice is not a conscious one.

We all run on programming that we developed at critical, impressionable stages growing up. Even two people growing up in the same household can develop very different beliefs with a different meaning they ascribe to the same event.

Last week, my challenge to those who identify a recurring, automatic belief that success is for others was to imagine yourself in your current circumstances, but in the flow. The flow is a state of being in which you feel that just by being your fabulous, highest self, things are working out perfectly.

Perhaps your commute to work has green lights all the way. There is a parking spot right up close. Nobody comes to talk to you for 15 minutes while you evaluate and plan out your day. The meeting you dreaded has been rescheduled. That person you’ve been trying to reach has returned your message. The challenge that you were working through last week has a viable solution. The week you requested off has been approved. The project you and your team successfully completed has received high accolades and has been noticed by key players in your organization. Your boss now wants to talk to you about growth opportunities. Everyone you speak with is picking up on your positive vibes and returning them with friendly gestures and offers to help. You end your day having satisfied your list of tasks, and even made headway on some strategic initiatives that will help you gain even more visibility and credibility. On your commute home, your favorite song comes on the radio, and you sing like no one is watching, even though they are. You get home to a peaceful, clean house or apartment and your favorite meal, courtesy of someone you love. After spending some time engaging in a favorite pastime, you excitedly take a look at your day ahead, and rest easy knowing everything is as it should be.

Have you ever had a day like this?

If not, or if it has been a while, the first step is visualizing your day to go exactly as you want it to.

Practice it every night and or morning for a week, and then start this new exercise:

Visualize your ideal day with the circumstances you perceive to be ideal.

Perhaps you no longer commute, and instead work from home or from anywhere. Perhaps instead of speaking with grumpy customers all day who complain about a poor product your company makes, you are onboard and supporting clients who love what your company has helped them do. Perhaps instead of having a boss who rarely offers support and guidance, you are working underneath one of the most brilliant minds in business and she invests an hour or two each week to coach you on how to get to the next level. Maybe instead of following someone else’s rules that do not make any sense, you are architecting the best practices and standard operating procedures that are helping your organization run über efficiently and effectively.

Sometimes we think that we envy someone else’s situation, and then we put ourselves in it and realize there are things about their situation that we would not want.

I have a client who thought his ideal employers were in the city, which would have been an hour or longer commute every day, after running a company from home for many years. He took a job in the interim that was still a significant commute, but much shorter than the city. He realized in the first week of having that job, and not having seen his three-year-old for several days in a row, that working for those employers in the city would not have made him happy.

Now that he knows this, he has a greater peace and empowerment around his choices. He can more confidently invest his time and energy into a next step that will make him happy at home and at work.

His homework is the same as yours – once you have spent a week visualizing yourself in your current circumstances in the flow, spend a week visualizing ideal circumstances, from wake up time to sleep time.

The best time to do this is in the morning when your conscious and subconscious mind are still closely connected. You may also choose to do this as you go to bed, though sometimes I can get myself so excited that I do not sleep as well.

This exercise alone does not stop those recurring beliefs that success is for other people. You will still want to notice them, and when you do, go back into your visualization, but affirm for yourself that this is possible for you.

 

If that feat is very challenging, ask yourself why it isn’t possible for you.

Are these answers truth, or story?

 

What Career Did You Decide Was “Too Hard to Break Into?”

Dreaming in color by _davor of Flickr

 

This week I just wanted to share a brief notice about a trend that is way too prevalent.

People decide that their dream career is unobtainable. Just because– not because they did the research, crunched the numbers, interviewed people in that job to see how they got there, or even checked the LinkedIn profiles or biographies of those who were in that career – just because.

They assume.

And yet, other people are seeking and obtaining their dream careers.

True, you might have to fill a knowledge or skill gap. You might have to take a step back in income. But do you know that, or are you guessing that?

And even if few people get to do it, who is to say that you couldn’t do it?

Ask yourself this question: Why couldn’t you?

Is your answer based on fact or story?

Think it is too late? Doubtful!

If an 82-year-old nun can finish an Ironman Triathlon, what makes you think you are too old? A 98-year-old yoga teacher would tell you anything is possible at any age.

Who gets to decide that you are too old anyway?  In most cases, you do.

Read this blog by Tim Ferriss about an experiment he conducted at Princeton University to prove that bigger goals are more than obtainable. Most people assume that things are harder than they are, and they don’t even try, EVEN when there are exceptional rewards.

 

So, what dream job did you exclude as possible, and is it or not?

 

For What Are You Willing to Sacrifice?

 

My father-in-law, Kenneth Huller

I sit astounded at how many made the ultimate sacrifice. God bless those who were willing to leave their loved ones, put themselves in hell on earth, and give their life to secure a safe, prosperous life of freedom for future generations.

My Uncle Barry fought in D-Day, and made it home to receive the Purple Heart. My husband’s father was shot guarding the US Embassy in Germany. Thankfully, he survived to meet my oldest daughter. But my husband’s grandfather died in WWII when his mom was just four. I am eternally grateful for the choices we are afforded because of this sacrifice, but also saddened that my mother-in-law had to spend time in an orphanage when her mother could not support her three kids after her husband was killed.

Today I honor not only the men and women who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend my freedom, I also honor the families who sacrificed for them and suffered for this cause.

A memorial to my husband’s grandfather – click for a larger size

I think about the comforts we are afforded because of their sacrifices, and though I cannot say we all take them for granted, too many stay stuck or stifled, unwilling to risk that comfort, even in small ways, to pursue their truth, their passion, and their freedom.

While the majority of us recognize that our basic needs are met every day – food, shelter, clothes, we often have much more than we need to survive, and yet not enough in our lives to feel fulfilled and happy.

I aim to teach my kids not to succumb to what is immediately gratifying when what they really want for their lives requires a little effort, time, and patience. It seems like such a small thing compared to putting your life on the line, but it is because of their sacrifices that we have much smaller sacrifices to make in order to live a full life.

 

What are you willing to give up to improve not only your life, but also the lives of future generations?

 

Dear Soon-To-Be Graduates: The Last 2 of 7 Things You May Not Want to Know, But Need To

Graduation Day by MD Saad Andalib of Flickr

The big day is arriving soon, dear graduates.  You will be a full-fledged member of the “real world.”

Some of you are ready, while others are scared to death. The difference between the two groups is outlook. The ones who are ready perceive the real world will be able to offer them more than childhood or college life, such as independence and self-reliance.

I considered myself in the other group – the scared group. I perceived that the real world was harsh, and success was not necessarily dependent on my effort and talent, but on my aggressiveness, competitiveness, and self-preservation.

This was so unappealing to me, and I did not feel very powerful or self-reliant. As the youngest child and only girl, I was taught to be afraid of the world, that there are situations and places I should avoid, like the city. At nearly 40-years-old, my father still worries about me going to the city. He thinks I’m naïve. I’m not – I receive alerts of assaults where I go to work in the city every week. I grew in my awareness of a self-limiting belief that was formed by this conditioning and decided it was not truthful. I did not have to let other people take opportunities that the city offered so that I could stay safe in my suburb – which is equally untruthful.

There were a number of things I perceived about the real world that limited my early career growth, and one that I did not realize, but got lucky and unlucky in how things worked out.  Here are two things that I want to share with you that might have made a big difference to me, had I known them.

  1. The demands of life will become greater; enjoy yourself, but put in the effort to be a reliable performer.

It is very hard to help you form a realistic expectation of how limited your freedom will be once you settle in to family life, if that is the life you choose. Some may express resentment, in fact, for how free you are. As long as your personal activities do not interfere with your professional obligations, take advantage of this time in your life – travel, socialize, be civically engaged, volunteer, delve into your passions – whatever they are.

Attend conferences and make great new contacts. Maintaining relationships will become more challenging, even if you do not choose a family life, because OTHER people will, and that will limit their availability and freedom to connect. The more you connect and engage with people now, the stronger your bonds will be, and the easier it will be to reconnect with people after some time passes. You may not see some of your best friends more than once a year. This is okay, but do not give up on people because they become busy. In fact, it will take more effort as you age, but it is just as necessary, maybe even more so, to maintain these relationships.

Keep your word – it is your key to long-term success. If you say you are going to do something, deliver. Last week I shared how as you grow older it will seem harder to procure the help of others, because people generally grow more skeptical, if not cynical. However, if you have impressed people as a person of your word, and you come through for people (if they are given proper direction and inspiration), they will be more apt to come through for you, too. Making an extra effort on someone else’s behalf requires time. Many perceive time as a resource they already lack. To make it an effort they are willing to make, you have to be WORTH the effort. Use your youth to establish yourself as a person worthy of the effort of others. Remember to express gratitude to those who invest their time helping you grow and develop. Look for ways to give that value back and pay it forward.

  1. It will become less acceptable for you to not know what you want as years pass.

As you gain professional experience, it is expected that you will discover what you like and do not like in terms of role, culture, boss, structure, and environment. As you gain valuable skills and experience, the investment of hiring you increases, and the stakes for your employer become higher. Retention and engagement determine if a company receives a return on their investment in talent, so they will want to ensure that your intended career path coincide with the current AND future opportunities that they can offer you.

Though it was relatively early in my career when I discovered a field that lit my proverbial fire (coaching), I was also too early to have enough experience to be credible and effective. I had to spend several years learning more about how to make success more likely and failure less likely. Because I knew my ultimate goal and my reasons for staying in recruiting, I was able to ask for greater opportunities to interface with the clients (employers), and ask questions that helped me do my job better, but also learn more about how hiring managers in diverse organizations qualified top contenders and chose which one received the offer.

Then, when I started coaching at age 28, it was challenging to convey that I was senior, mature, experienced, knowledgeable, and credible enough to attract the volume of clients I expected. If I had not been so sure, however, that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing, that I had found the career where I could make an optimal contribution, I would have struggled (even more) to survive, and would likely NOT have survived to be celebrating 11 years in business in a couple of weeks.  By the way – I had a coach that helped me maintain my “true north” when challenges threatened to sway me wayward.

I had a nephew that died at 28. I have lost over a dozen classmates. You may feel like you have your whole career to figure out what you want to do, but I urge you to invest time EARLY and OFTEN assessing where you can be the most successful, happy, and effective.

 

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is NOW.  If you are NOT a soon-to-be graduate and you are just now learning these lessons, there is still time to have them make a difference for you.

What lessons would you share with future business rock stars?

 

Dear Soon-To-Be Graduates: 5 of 7 Things You May Not Want to Know, But Need To, Part 2

Respect – Undergrad Graduation by m00by of Flickr

 

It probably sounds a bit condescending, this, “Take it from me; this is how the world works” post. You are probably sick of that, huh?

Well, don’t tune out, because this is just what I wish I knew, and if I had, I might be much further along in my mission, which would actually mean that the fixes to what is broken in careering and hiring would be available and applied already. When I put it that way, can you see the butterfly effect of NOT knowing this?

So, here are two more things that, if I would have known then, I would have been much more prepared and confident to confront the “real world,” instead of wasting time avoiding it. And, yes, there are two more tidbits of advice that I will share next week. (Be sure to read the first part of this series, if you missed it.)

 

  1. At this moment, if you make a humble yet concerted attempt, you will find it easy to get advice, find a mentor, get inside information on the workings of companies that can help you get hired and succeed.

When I was advised that networking was the number one way to get a job, I was very discouraged. I did not come from a well-connected family. I did not perceive my inner circle to be influential, and I also did not feel confident that I was anyone who could make a strong enough impression to impress a stranger. That is what I thought networking was, and it seemed so inauthentic to me – shaking hands, schmoozing, BSing, bragging… I was more content to avoid corporate jobs, politics, and bureaucracy. I thought pursuing a career in radio was a way to do that.

I was NAÏVE.

Here is what I wish I had known – People LOVE helping other people! If I had seen it more as asking for advice and mentorship, I would have found that, whether I asked a stranger or an acquaintance, the percentage of the time I asked for help, I would have received it.

See, I thought most people were getting it all WRONG! I thought they were foolish to play along with this “dog and pony show” (the actual words of one of my former interns) only to get STUCK in corporate servitude for the sake of keeping up with the Joneses. So, I did not bother asking for advice.

I was POMPOUS and STUBBORN.

I just had not known many people who were fulfilled and happy in their corporate jobs, but that did not mean they did not exist. I did not know at the time I would even want that someday, but if I had taken the opportunity to sit down with someone in human resources or recruiting (the corporate kind, not the MLM kind – I did that!) to learn about skills required, the challenges, and the triumphs, it would have altered my past, present, and future.

Though I do feel I am exactly where I am supposed to be and believe that all things happen in their own good time, my curiosity will always lead me to wonder where I would be if…

When you are in college or beginning your career, people see you as very moldable, and will want to help you now more than ever.  As you grow in your career, it’s strange, but not as many people will make the time to help you – some still will, and it is worth asking, but there seems to be a more worthwhile endeavor in helping a young person. Perhaps it seems too hard to change a more experienced person, or perhaps there is an increased perception that you are competition. Either way, obtain as much support and advice as you can right now, and furthermore, FOLLOW UP on that advice. The more you reward people for taking the time by making it pay off, the more people will be willing to help you in the future. Also, pay it forward. In fact, the fastest way to learn is to teach. You do not have to be in a position of power to be in a position to help.

 

  1. No one expects you to know it all, but be prepared to PROVE what you do know.

As I have mentioned before, those that hire a lot tend to be skeptical, if not cynical. If you genuinely do not know an answer, it is best to admit it. There is the famous saying, “fake it till you make it,” and that has paid off for some people, but you should also note that many well-respected leaders do not know the ins and outs of the jobs underneath them, but they know how to hire, trust, nurture and support experts, and can get answers when they are needed. Being resourceful is much more valuable than being all-knowing, and easier to believe, too.

As far as what you do know, that will have to be proven. If you merely state that you have X skill, without a clear demonstration of how you used that skill to add value, you are leaving much to be guessed, and you want them CERTAIN of your skills. So, make sure you explain what you are capable of DOING with that skill to clearly convey your strength.

 

Next week I will share two more wisdom bombs to help graduates accelerate their professional growth. By the time you are 30, the “cool kids” are the ones who are rock stars at their jobs and can afford a great lifestyle.  It is okay to be a late bloomer like I was, but trial and error in your career can have a cost you will NEVER know.

Please share what you want today’s graduates to know.

 

Dear Soon-To-Be Graduates: 3 of 7 Things You May Not Want to Know, But Need To

The Graduates by Luftphilia of Flickr

 

I went back to college this weekend. It was horrifying to discover that these girls were born the year I pledged. My sorority invited alumnae back to campus to say farewell to the house that has been ours since my senior year. It was a time to reflect on some of the most impactful years of my life, but also to remember the fear, uncertainty, and sadness that accompanied leaving college, where your best friends were often just a door away. I had no grand plan, like some of my friends, and no full-time salaried job as an aspiring radio personality. I was under the impression that if I could not make it in radio, I would be living in a ditch begging for change to buy a meal.

That never happened, though hard times did follow. When asked, “What’s life like after graduation?” I had to remember that some of the best things in my life happened after college – my band, my husband, my company, my kids, and teaching, in that order.  As my friends now turn 40, (I’m the youngest, so I get to watch them all get there first) I see that for some of them, it means it is all downhill from here. That was an exact quote from a 40th birthday party I went to last night. (Happy 40th, Neal!) Looking back at the last decade, at what I have learned, how I have grown, what I’ve been able to accomplish and contribute, I am excited for the next decade.  I’m looking forward to it, and I think there are amazing things yet to come.

BUT, there are some things that I would have wanted my younger self to know, which I felt compelled to pass on to the graduating seniors in my sorority, and my students, as well as ALL soon-to-be graduates. I feel these things would have potentially catapulted me so much further so much faster if I had known and applied them.

Before I get into the hard truths, I most want ALL people, but particularly young people, to know that there IS a formula for success, and no matter what family structure, social or economic status, education, circumstance, or hardships you are from, they DO NOT limit your future at all. At any time you can improve your life. The tools, technology, and teaching exist – all you have to do is harness them.

Okay, now on with what you may not want to hear, but need to know if you want to make your 30s onward the best years of your life.

  1. Unless you land at Google, Apple, Disney, a Big 4 consulting firm, or a company with a similar colossal reputation, it will not be as easy as it is right now to land a job.

The co-op program where I teach is world-renowned. The biggest, most admired companies want these graduates badly. They come out of school not as entry-level workers who were getting coffee and observing leadership, but as junior business stars who have already solved real business problems. By the time they take my mandatory career management class, many of them already have jobs lined up from campus recruitment efforts and co-ops that led to offers. While you may be recruited aggressively if you work for a company with clout for hiring and developing the best talent, the legwork to find your next gig, even internally, if you don’t is on you.  AND, furthermore, even if you are aggressively recruited, you are not necessarily managing your career optimally by being reactive to recruiters’ sales pitches. This is why the class that I teach is not “Get a Job 101,” but Career Management and Professional Development. See your career growth as a trajectory and learn how to course correct early. Learn and master the life skills of personal branding, networking, and career management.

  1. The bottom is often the best place to start if you want to be a great leader.

Many of my clients are influential leaders today because they were once in the trenches. Isn’t that the point of Undercover Boss? Making well-informed business decisions can be easier when you have first-hand knowledge of business from the front-line to the executive office. Those that have been successful in implementing massive change say that they were able to rally the troops because they were once the troops. Empathy, as we have stated before, is quickly gaining popularity as one of the most effective leadership tools.

Also, even for those students who were solving real business problems in their co-ops or internships, it might be worth considering starting even lower if the target role or company is worth it. I can speak from experience here.

While I was on air, reporting news, DJing, producing live talk shows, and operating the board for remote broadcasts at a small community radio station, my fellow Communications majors were putting up flyers at concerts, dressing up in costumes, and handing out chotchkes for the major media radio stations. I figured I had the advantage, but I was wrong. I moved to the Jersey Shore and did get to work producing talk shows for an AM station, while digging into commercial production and more part-time work. I temped to pay the bills. Meanwhile, my fellow classmates went on to full-time jobs eventually at the major media stations. Granted, some of their jobs involved much less glamorous, even undignified tasks, like getting shot from a cannon. Guess what – they are STILL THERE, loving their jobs and making what is probably good money. Casey is the Executive Producer of a VERY popular morning show that is streamed worldwide.  Matt is a Regional Director for Advertising for the conglomerate and Joann is Traffic Manager for a radio station in the same company.

When it came down to it, I had recognized after a year in radio that I was not really willing to continue working awful hours, get paid peanuts, do the boring parts of the work OR keep moving from market to market in order to achieve my ultimate position, but that was what I had learned was necessary from the people who were more senior than I at the station where I worked. At the larger station I would have had a completely different experience, and even though I might not have started out on the air, perhaps I would have found a different niche in radio and stayed there until today, too. Not that I have regrets – I think things worked out just as they were supposed to. However, I’ll always wonder.

  1. In time, you will earn the right to demand certain accommodations IF you are a top performer. But for now, you have to play their game.

Older generations will tell you that they had no illusions – work hard, get a job, work your butt off, save your money, and you’ll be fine. That is not what the younger generations have seen, though, so it is not what they will believe. With diminishing financial security for employees came resentment to employers for taking more than they give. This is what has led to a perceived sense of entitlement.

Even though there are talent gaps, and certain skill sets are very high in demand, most are not. Yes, talent is hard to find, but that does not mean companies are willing to bend over backwards to hire you. Ultimately, there has to be mutual respect and value in the deal.  Many things ARE negotiable, but that depends highly on the company, their policies, their culture and what you have PROVEN you can do to make it worth giving you more than they have given to employees before you.

If you are really that good, get in and prove your worth. You may earn the right to ask for more flexibility, more money, extra vacations, or perks. In the meantime, understand that though your package should remain confidential, IF anyone were to learn of you getting preferential treatment, you would not like the climate that breeds.

 

As graduation month ramps up, I hope this food for thought is helpful, even if it may not be encouraging. In a way, your adult life does not really begin until after college. Adulting is not always fun, but being armed with wisdom and systems for success will make it much more enjoyable.

Follow me and stay tuned for more things you need to know, but may not want to hear.

Share this with graduates you know.