Archives for “career focus”

Is Work Killing You?

If-you-are-depressed-you

Sound words of advice from Lao Tzu

 

Yoshinori Ono is a producer for Capcom, a Japanese video game development company. After a long and grueling work schedule, Ono suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized for a week. He remembers the morning of his hospitalization very well. Ono woke up to use the bathroom and saw steam everywhere. There was so much steam in the air that it seemed to choke him. He then collapsed on the bathroom floor. Hearing the crash, his wife called for an ambulance and Ono was rushed to the hospital. When Ono regained consciousness, the doctor informed him that his blood acidity level was extremely high. He had the same level of acidity as someone who had just run a marathon. Ono joked he was just using the bathroom, but his wife noted there was never any steam in the room. In reality, the long hours he put in at Capcom had taken a toll on his health. Even though Ono would go on to recover from his illness, he still puts in long hours at work.

Reading Yoshinori Ono’s story may cause you to wince, but have you ever assessed your own employment situation? You may be a workaholic without realizing it. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • When you are with your friends or family, are you thinking about work?
  • Have you been turning down invitations to social events to work more hours?
  • Do you rarely take vacations or find yourself working through your vacation?
  • Do you have trouble delegating work?
  • Do you feel your identity is your work?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be a workaholic. A workaholic is defined as a person who works compulsively. Some people work long hours because they LOVE their career. Other people work long hours because they are motivated by fear, anxiety, or pressure. Whether you work long hours because you love your job, or you’re motivated by pressure, long hours at work can cause an imbalance and negatively impact your health.

Dr. Travis Bradberry noted in his article “Is Your Boss Worse Than Cigarettes?” that a bad boss can have serious health effects on workers. While having a bad boss isn’t the sole cause of workaholism, the effects are similar. Worrying about losing your job can make you 50% more likely to experience poor health, while having an overly demanding job makes you 35% more likely to have a physician-diagnosed illness. These illnesses can include depression, heart disease, heart attack, sleep deprivation, strained relationships with family and even death. In the long run, the quality of your work may suffer because of mental exhaustion and burnout.

 

A visual of the statistics from Dr. Travis Bradberry's LinkedIn article.

A visual of the statistics from Dr. Travis Bradberry’s LinkedIn article.

Other studies have concluded that working too many hours can even impair your cognitive functions. In a five-year study conducted by the American Journal of Epidemiology, participants who worked 55 hours per week performed worse than the participants who worked 40 hours per week. Compared to many other cultures, Americans tend to work longer hours and take shorter vacations. People who worked long hours did worse in terms of intelligence, reasoning and verbal recall. In short, working longer hours has a negative impact on productivity, and the overall returns are diminished. Working long hours can also lead to major regrets later in life. Game Designer Jane McGonigal mentions in TED Talk about regrets of the dying that remorse over working long hours and not enjoying life is the first regret of many people.

Admitting you may be a workaholic is the first step in tackling the problem. You may be deep in denial, as many people are. However, the idea of not spending your waking hours being productive, or seeing leisure time as wasteful are big warning signs. If you find yourself working too many hours, stepping back from work is a good way to help combat workaholism.

 

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your complete attention to the present moment. It is being fully aware of yourself and your surroundings. You live in and meditate in the moment, instead of thinking about the past, or the future. Mindfulness is also a great way to relax, and can help relieve stress and anxiety. Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, is famous for his timeless nuggets of wisdom. On anxiety Tzu stated, “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

 

Find ways to lighten your workload

If you have a heavy work schedule, you may need to let go of some of your work.

  • Don’t accept more work than you can handle.
  • By juggling more tasks, you may feel more productive, but in reality you may not be accomplishing much more. Marcus Buckingham revealed some great research about multi-tasking and the detriments of doing so in his book, Find Your Strongest Life.
  • Manage your energy by completing the most urgent tasks first in your day.
  • Learn to delegate some of your tasks to others, as you may not need to complete each and every task yourself.
  • Learn to stop being a perfectionist and a multi-tasker.
  • Taking on too many tasks at once can cause you to lose focus on what’s important and your work may never seem to end.
  • Take your breaks. If you’re fond of not taking lunch breaks, or eating at your desk, it’s time to kill that bad habit.
  • Take your entire lunch hour and try going for a walk during your breaks.
  • Exercise before you work. Brent Phillips, MIT-trained engineer and founder of Awakening Dynamics- The Formula for Miracles, promotes exercise for increasing blood flow to your brain, increasing your productivity, and your IQ.
  • A few small changes to your day can go a long way.

Businessman and author Tom Peters has stated, “Leaders don’t create more followers, they create more leaders.”

Lao Tzu also has a few words of wisdom on leadership, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim is fulfilled, they will say: ‘we did it ourselves.’”

A heavy work schedule may also be a matter of the work being allocated to you unfairly. If this is the case, don’t allow this practice to continue. You can do better! Sometimes people take on more because they can’t say “no.” Is this you? There are a ton of articles that teach people how to say “no.” However, we also TRAIN people how to treat us. We think that people “always” treat us unfairly, but really they have learned from us how to treat us, and we condition them, by reinforcing that we will accept and complete the work.

 

Leave work at work

You are more than your job. You are allowed to relax and to enjoy your free time. Think of it this way- anything that runs at 100% all of the time will eventually burnout. The same applies to you. Schedule free time into your day and heed that schedule. During your free time, ignore the temptation to squeeze more work into your day. If you’re with your family, whether it is the weekend or a vacation, dedicate your free time to them. Don’t run to your phone every time it beeps with a new message or e-mail. Save those matters for your working hours, unless it is an emergency. Taking the time to rest and to enjoy that rest will ensure you return to work refreshed and recharged.

 

Think about your future and the legacy you may leave behind. You may enjoy working long hours at work because you love what you do, or you may be fearful of not working hard enough. The short-term bursts of productivity are negated by the long-term detrimental tolls overworking can exact on your mind and body. Learning to let go of long hours can improve your health, your productivity, and your relationships with your family and friends. In the long-term, you will look at your career and smile as you’re able to say you worked hard, but took time to take care of yourself and your family.

 

I Landed a Contract-to-Hire Job, Now What?

Working Hard by Thomas Heylen of Flickr

Working Hard by Thomas Heylen of Flickr

Earlier this year the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that 40% of Americans have contingent jobs. These are considered alternate work arrangements as opposed to full-time positions, and include contractors and consultants. You may have landed a contract-to-hire job with the promise of a full-time position at the end of the contract. Now what? There are no guarantees that an employer may actually hire you at the end of a specified contract. Even so, many job seekers end up taking this kind of work while searching for a full-time job in the hope that it may become a permanent position. For some, it may be a conflicting decision because they feel by taking a contract-to-hire job that they are going to miss the opportunity of permanent work without the contract period. How can you optimize this arrangement to increase your probability of landing a full-time position at the end of a contract?

 

Optimize your contract-to-hire role

Employees in a contract-to-hire position can make the most of their contract by looking at the arrangement from the company’s point of view. Employers see the benefit of a contract-to-hire job as getting a chance to try out an employee before they commit to a full-time position. In this trial run, employers have the opportunity to judge an employee’s skills and to see if they are a good cultural fit. You can think of it as an extended interview for the duration of a contract as employers see if a candidate lives up to what was stated on a résumé. Additionally, employers can also ensure the budget for a particular project is secure without having to worry about paying salary and benefits. A contract job may seem to favor an employer, but can it be a backdoor that leads to landing a full-time position. In other words, it’s a great opportunity to convince an employer why you’re the best candidate for a full-time job.

Consultants who are trying to make the switch to full-time employment have a uniquely different experience than a candidate who is directly hired as a full-time employee. As a consultant, an employer expects you to know your subject matter, as there may be very little on the job training. Furthermore, consultants need to have the ability to focus, to be aware of, but not involved in company politics, and to know their strengths and areas of comfort. This means going above and beyond what is expected of you. You may be on contract, but there’s no reason not to approach the job in the same manner as a full-time position. Just like with a full-time position, you want to make your employer look good, and you want to respect their chain of command. You may be used to working as a full-time employee, but your role as a contractor is slightly different. You want to be noticed as an exceptional worker, but you don’t want to step on any toes. For example, you may have recommendations and feedback for the company. However, it is best to keep that advice limited to avoid being seen as a know-it-all. I’ll explain how to provide recommendations in few moments.

As a contractor, you are occasionally limited to using the same skill sets over and over again because you’re hired as a subject matter expert. Nevertheless, you are able to sample different cultures and environments and you can look for opportunities to touch technologies, processes, and functions that you previously haven’t been exposed to while you’re there. Being able to see what some companies are doing right, wrong, and a little bit of both can give you an expanded perspective that can help you become a strong strategist. This enthusiasm and willingness to learn can go a long way in convincing employers why you want to become a full-time employee, especially if you’ve been a contractor for a long time. Some employers may believe that you will miss being a road warrior (which is part of some consulting jobs, but not all), that you miss earning a higher hourly wage and that you are not as easily integrated into the fabric of the company so that you effectuate change. Beware of this color of perception, but it is absolutely a challenge you can overcome. If you need our help, we also specialize in this area.

 

Will this job translate into full-time work?

The employee who is rewarded with a full-time position has proven their value to a company. They have managed to stand out and have gone above and beyond to become indispensable to an employer. As I stated earlier, a contract-to-hire position is like an extended interview. Just like an interview, you want to demonstrate the value you can bring to a company. Find an employer’s pain point and work to solve the problem. Ask questions and challenge yourself to move beyond your comfort zone.

Asking questions is especially good because you can be seen as an outsider by other employees who may consider you to be a know-it-all coming to impose your idea of what is right on the company. This can be surprising to people who have never been in a contract-to-hire role before. This type of position takes a certain amount of diplomacy and earning trust. Asking questions is a great way to demonstrate that you seek to understand your role and the role of others. You’re able to gain a wider perspective and see the bigger picture of how all the pieces fit together at a company. This will enable you to grow faster into a strategic role in your company or at a different company. A full understanding of your role is always a great way to be visible to a wider audience and to expand your network and the company.

Contractors are expected to start out at a running pace and to come in with the skills that the company needs to perform at a high-level from the gate. Immediate contributions are going to be expected, so any understanding that you need in order to deliver should be procured within the first week. Then you will want to network with and ask questions of people in other departments regarding their function, duties, goals, and challenges. Stay away from asking about internal politics. Of course you want to know about them before you decide to become a permanent member of the team, but they usually become evident to you without inquiring too deeply.

Ask your hiring manager for feedback on a weekly basis rather than waiting for a 90-day performance evaluation. Make sure you know the protocol for operating as a consultant, as it differs slightly from the protocol of a regular employee. Follow the chain of command and respect your peers’ and employer’s reporting structure. Participate in social events in moderation- remember this is the age of YouTube and camera phones. Work longer hours and don’t leave before your boss.

Keep a diary or a notebook where you can record questions about why things are done a certain way at a company. Let your boss know that you’re keeping this diary during your weekly performance meetings and ask questions regarding these things before you make any recommendations.

 

Considerations to keep in mind BEFORE you accept a contract position

If you’re on the fence about taking a contract-to-hire position, there are a few things to keep in mind. Before you accept a contract position, ask the employer how often those contracts are converted into full-time positions. Even if employment is a possibility, keep in mind there are no guarantees. If someone in a consultant role doesn’t fully consider why he or she wants to be a full-time employee, a contract-to-hire role may end badly. I previously wrote about how the shift from a consulting role to full-time employment isn’t always easy– it’s worth reading if you’re undecided.

Contract work can show employers you have a good work ethic. That said, I think some people have the impression that as a consultant you’re able to manage your own schedule and that it’s like working for yourself. In reality, contractors sometimes work longer hours and they don’t necessarily enjoy some of the perks and benefits of employees. As a contractor, you are sometimes brought in to finish projects quickly and to sometimes clean up someone else’s mess. It can be an all-hands-on-deck, do-what-it-takes type of effort. You can also be excluded from certain meetings and social events.

Contract-to-hire jobs can fill gaps in your résumé. Employers are more understanding of candidates who land new consulting positions every few months versus full-time employees who change companies every few months. Even if you have landed a position as a consultant with a company, don’t stop your job search. A very tricky part of being a contractor is trying to line up your next job while you’re still working full-time (and them some) on the contract. Update your résumé as you go and keep a careful record of your every effort, result and impact you make. We specialize in helping contractors with this type of job search.

 

Contract-to-hire jobs are one pathway into full-time employment. Similar to an interview, candidates who prove their value to employers, and demonstrate their industry expertise stand the best chance at landing a full-time position at the end of a contract.

 

5 Reasons Why Most Job Searches Take 2X Too Long

Sails Aback by Don McCullough

Sails Aback by Don McCullough

One of the questions on our needs assessment form asks how long a prospective client can sustain themselves financially while they are in transition. Unfortunately, too many answer a few weeks or they are not currently sustaining themselves. They navigated their job search without a captain and became lost at sea, drowning in debt and despair. By this point, there is nothing left to invest in services such as mine (which is why we developed a whole suite of low-budget DIY tools). What’s worse, they don’t have the energy or attitude to give what is necessary to get back up to speed. Their spirit and hope are broken, watching the safe harbors of income and opportunity drift further and further away.

Job seekers who are granted unemployment compensation or severance may decide to ride the transition out, which is very much like using up whatever gas is in the tank figuring that the wind will blow you back to safety. How predictable is the wind? About as predictable as your job search results without a captain.

There are five main culprits of job search delays, which cost job seekers critical income each extra day they spend searching in vain.

 

Lack of Clarity

I’m going to keep this simple, because I’ve covered this extensively in the past and it probably deserves its own post in the near future: What you want matters to great companies. American companies lose $300 billion annually due to disengaged workers, so they aren’t going to believe you’ll take anything and be satisfied. They want to know why their position will satisfy you. Gone are the days where you can be everything to everyone. You have ONE LinkedIn profile, and if it doesn’t jive with your résumé, you are perceived as a risky candidate, and move down in the ranks.

 

Stray Bullet Résumés

Yes, most résumés fall below my standards, and many are FAR below. However, sending your résumé through online career portals is actually the bigger cause of delays. We aim to understand what kinds of results our clients had been getting with their résumés, and many take multiple interview invitations as a sign their résumé is working for them, and that can be true. That said, I sometimes find after little digging that the jobs are not at all in alignment with what they want. They are executing a reactive job search. Job seekers put their résumé out there, wait for responses, and then go on interviews because they’re offered, not because they are a fit. This leads to a lot of false beliefs about what’s possible. After a few failed interviews, they will start to believe that they don’t have the skills that are in demand right now because the feedback they constantly receive is that they are looking for something different. That’s when job seekers think they have to change their target and that they have to be to be more open and flexible, and perhaps take a step backwards in pay and level. They believe this is the faster path to employment because they’re now going for what is in demand. However, if they were more proactive in pursuing what they wanted and networked to uncover opportunities, job seekers wouldn’t have to worry about “keyword calls,” when recruiters or sourcers call candidates for skills that are buried deep within the past. Job seekers would be proactively uncovering opportunities that require the skill sets and strengths they offer. When evaluating whether your résumé is written well, don’t just evaluate whether or not you are receiving offers for interviews; evaluate how closely those jobs align with what you want and how successful you will be.

At Epic Careering, we measure success as happiness and fulfillment. You will need more than just the right keywords in your résumé to be found for the right job. Nevertheless, it takes more than a résumé to generate momentum. You may receive fewer offers for interviews from job boards and recruiters when your résumé is written for a target role and employer, but that’s not reflective of a lesser viability or availability of opportunities. Your time is valuable, especially when you’re out of work. Your outlook is invaluable. It’s dangerous to engage in job search activities that lead you to feel disappointed in the results and in yourself. If you’re spending most of your time on job boards, you’re setting yourself up for a longer transition that will not have an ideal outcome. If you are saying right now, “But I need a job, so I’ll take anything,” please refer to my last blog to understand why you’re limiting your possibilities with this approach. In the same time or often faster, you could find yourself with a really great opportunity.

 

Negligent Networking

Job seekers are taking the advice of the experts and are going out to network. Even smarter still, are the people who go out to network while they are not in transition. When the time comes to look for an opportunity, these people are already in a stage of momentum. However, successful networking doesn’t look like shaking a lot of hands and making superficial contacts, meeting strangers with whom you have nothing in common, and wasting your time getting to know people who have nothing for you. Please understand that I’m not telling you to be closed off to networking with anyone. I’ll be the first to tell you that you never know where your next opportunity is going to come from, and if someone is willing to sit down and talk to you and get to know you, open yourself up and see what opportunity may come. Again, when it comes to managing your time and being proactive, don’t go to just any networking event because it’s happening. You have some really good options and what is good for another job seeker may not be as good for you. I encourage you to go to events for job seekers, because employers are actively recruiting, but keep in mind you are competing with everyone else attending and it will take that much more to distinguish yourself. Make sure a bulk of your networking occurs at events related to your industry and they are attended by hiring managers from your target companies. If an executive in your target company is receiving an award at an event, buy a ticket. I promise you that a $125 ticket to a gala will give you more traction than five $25 job seeker events. Why? You will appear as someone of high caliber. You will have a level of credibility that you will not be able gain at events designed for job seekers.

Then there is what you say when you network that makes a difference. Don’t introduce yourself as a job seeker; that’s your status, not your identity. Your identity is your brand. You want to leave an audience with an impression of who you are and the value that you have to offer. You want to talk about the solutions that you offer and the people to whom you offer them. Maybe they will identify themselves as someone in need of what you have to offer, or even better, you can have them think of three other people who need what you have to offer. Wear a nice suit– you will walk a little taller and stand a little prouder. Show your audience that you take care of yourself and that you see value in yourself. No one else is going to see value in you unless you see value in yourself. You’re worth the $125 black tie event ticket!

 

Unprepared Interviews

Emily Allen of Seer Interactive, a highly sought after employer due to their trusting culture and unlimited vacation policy, stated in our Epic Career Tales podcast interview that one thing she wished every job seeker knew was how important it was to research the company. A company like Seer Interactive takes pride in what they do and they want to hire people who are going to be just as enthusiastic. Enthusiasm isn’t something you state; it’s something you demonstrate. The only authentic way to demonstrate your enthusiasm for a company is to take the time to research what they’re up to, who their thought leaders are, what their challenges are, their plans to overcome them, and how you fit in with their solutions. If you fail to do this research, you fail the interview. Too many of these failed interviews lead to frustration, a diminished sense of self-worth, and false beliefs about what’s possible in your job search. It doesn’t matter how many interviews you earn if you’re just racking up failures. You would rather have three or four successful interviews than a dozen failed interviews. If you follow this track record, you also become susceptible and fall prey to companies that don’t care about you or what you want.

 

The Shoo-in Trap

We’ve addressed before how easy it can be to stop your job search efforts once you have one or two great opportunities, but that is a trap. You might have received strong indications that you’re the front-runner for a position, and still anything can happen. You better believe that the company has continued to make sure they have a backup candidate just in case anything happens to you, and you would be wise to continue your job search efforts. Killing your momentum by quitting your job search activity will mean that you have to start over from scratch should anything fall through, and in my experience as a recruiter, things fall through most of the time. As much as you want to believe you are a shoo-in for a job, you cannot just go by great feedback. It only takes one person’s feedback to alter the course of a hire, and any type of organizational shift will change what they need and want. Until you have an offer letter, have decided to sign and accept an opportunity, continue your QUALITY job search efforts.

 

Consider me your career captain, experienced and trusted to make sure everything is ship-shape– the weather looks good, the provisions are stocked, the fuel is planned out, and the destinations are mapped. If you hire me as your captain, you will avoid many travel risks that can cause delays in your arrival. Additionally, you are sure to have all you need to enjoy your voyage and your destination.

Without me, you will either have to spend your time prior to departure learning the equipment, relying on questionable meteorological instruments, shopping for the provisions, checking the motors and sails, and planning out your navigation. Or, you can learn as you go, risking big mistakes that will take you far off course.

Now imagine that your voyage is a professional one, and each day you spend lost at sea instead of in port, you lose money. What investment do you think is worth arriving safely where you can make money? One day’s pay? One week’s pay? If you land one week sooner, that’s one more week’s worth of income. What if you land in half the time? Based on the generally accepted industry formula, you can expect to be in transition one month for every $10K of salary. I’ve never found this formula to be accurate, as my clients have landed in half the time, and often sooner. I have had many executive clients land within a month, and I have had clients with serious challenges who spent 8 months or more searching prior to engaging me as their captain land within 2 months after we set sail.

Time is money. Land ho!

The Weirdos Will Inherit the Earth

Sometimes-by-Keith-Davenport-of-Flickr

Sometimes… by Keith Davenport of Flickr

 

Mike Lazerow is an entrepreneur with a philosophy that grasps you by the chin and makes it impossible to look away. At least, that is how I felt when he stated his case about being a “weirdo.” In his words, “You do everything that authority says you have to do- get good grades, take the right subjects, make the team, wear the right clothes, comb your hair, go to the right college. You land your first big job interview and the first question they ask is, ‘Why should I hire you? What makes you so different?”’

At an early age we are dissuaded from pursuing our passions in order to settle for a “safe” and “normal” career. While this brings in income, 68.5% of employees are dissatisfied with their jobs. There IS an alternative to high employee dissatisfaction. Through what we have been able to achieve with our clients, we know that having a career that fulfills you and pays you what you’re worth is not just possible, but probable when you execute an EPIC job search.

“There’s a lot of mediocrity being celebrated, and a lot of wonderful stuff being ignored or discouraged.” -Sean Penn

 

Surviving, not thriving

The most recent Gallup poll revealed that nearly 70% of employees are actively disengaged from work. This cost companies $300 billion annually. If a lack of employee engagement cost companies hundreds of billions each year, what does it mean for workers? This disengagement can cause frustration and a deep sense of unhappiness. In turn, that frustration leads to stress and anxiety and/or depression. Disengagement can also teach future generations that work isn’t something you enjoy or that can be fun, but is something you HAVE to do to survive. I see people settling for jobs that offer what they think is security in exchange for their passion as a sacrifice for their family. This exchange is what they think they need to do, but how did they come to that conclusion? How and when did they decide that they couldn’t have a job they loved and that enabled them to take care of their bills, family and retirement? It is a fallacy that was learned from the examples of others, and the longer we perpetuate it by staying in jobs that don’t engage us, the more future generations will continue the same cycle.

In other words, work becomes merely a means of drawing a paycheck. Many people settle for jobs they tolerate or outright dislike because they start to believe nothing greater is possible in their careers. This disengagement is a symptom of a greater issue- people have been striving for survival rather than thriving. Great solutions, great leaders, and great innovations are being diminished and squashed by the social pressures to be “normal.” Going back to Mike Lazerow, he states his most unhappy friends are those who became lawyers and accountants because it was expected of them, not because they had a passion for the work.

 

Strive for engagement

The best cure for disengagement is to avoid taking a job you don’t enjoy. Some people may wonder how to tell if they’ll enjoy a job or not. Others believe they’ll eventually find enjoyment in a job if they try hard enough. There are questions you can ask yourself to ensure you accept a job you know you’ll love. Seek a job that leaves you fulfilled, adds value to your personal and professional life, and gives you a greater sense of purpose. Before you apply to your next job, figure out what you want from an employer by identifying your criteria.

If you’re disengaged you are either A) in the wrong job, or B) not taking full accountability for improving your situation. I believe the majority of people are in the wrong job and have yet to find work that is exciting and fulfilling. When people settle, they settle for way less money than they would be able to make if they were in jobs that enabled them to fully utilize all of their talents. A fulfilling and engaging job would allow people to thrive and perform at higher levels, because they would have an effervescent energy that would be hard not to notice. Putting in extra hours would be a natural inclination, because you love what you’re doing. Job fulfillment is something that gives you energy instead of draining you.

If I knew growing up that I would find work that I love so much, work that I would want to do all the time, that gave me a buzz, and that made me feel triumphant, I would have been looking for engaging work from the start.  I didn’t know such work was possible until I found it, and I’ve had jobs I liked before I discovered my passion. Passion-filled work is on another level! It literally calls to you and draws you closer. Or as Emmy Award-winning Fox 29 Producer Berlinda Garnett stated in our August Epic Career Tales interview, “A calling is that thing that’s been laid on you.” Esther Hicks nicely sums up why passion trumps motivation, “Motivation is the antithesis of inspiration.”  You don’t need to manufacture motivation when you do work that is inspiring.

Being fully engaged at work means finding satisfaction and pride in how you contribute to your company. You want to say you’re proud to work for your employer, you’re proud of what you do for a living, and how you and how your job contributes to society as a whole. An engaging job also presents challenges that aid in your growth. Tim Pash and his role at Microsoft are the epitome of an engaging job. Tim is definitely proud to work for Microsoft and loves the challenge the company provides. Tim admits Microsoft is a tough, but fulfilling place to work because the company really pushes employees’ abilities. The company also encourages employees to constantly create and share new ideas with co-workers and managers. Thanks to the challenges, mastering a job at Microsoft is one of the best feelings in the world. For more on Tim Pash’s role at Microsoft, make sure to sign-up for our newsletter so you can listen to and read about his Epic Career Tale.

Some people believe it doesn’t matter how you feel about a job as long as you’re able to pursue your passion outside of work. I disagree for many of the reasons I’ve already stated, but one really stands out to me: We don’t know how much time we have in life. Why bother to spend the time we do have stuck in an employment situation where survival is just good enough? The death of my nephew two springs ago really drove that point home. Working too hard, not spending more time with friends, and not living a life true to your dreams are some of the many regrets of the dying that Jane McGonigal highlights in her TED Talk. Just imagine how much pleasure and joy we can derive from life if we apply our talents to work and pursue what we love, rather than going after the jobs that we think will provide the most stability, even if it costs us our happiness.

 

Imagine waking up every morning and being excited to work, instead of dreading another 40-hour week. You may have had people who’ve constantly told you it is better play it safe with a career you might not like rather than risk failing by pursuing what you love. This attitude can bring unhappiness and disengagement. Many people also VASTLY underestimate who they could be and what they can do. It’s not too late to reconsider your career choice. The pursuit of work that engages and satisfies you can lead to a life where work is a joy and you spend your time doing what you really love.

We are proponents of letting your freak flag fly. Don’t fear not fitting in- there’s always a place you can feel welcomed and accepted. Fear never finding that place because you wanted to feel normal.

How Hobbies Can Advance Your Career

Meghan Played Guitar by Emily Mills of Flickr

Meghan Played Guitar by Emily Mills of Flickr

Can hobbies hold the key to landing a job faster? Most of us have hobbies we enjoy. In addition to being a great way to unwind, hobbies can also be a valuable asset to your career in numerous ways. Think about it this way- hobbies can impress employers, allow you to make new connections in your network, and hobbies allow you to focus on passions outside of work. For example, mountain climbing can demonstrate your ability to take risks to employers, while playing Sudoku may show your ability to think strategically. Hobbies may be deeply ingrained in the corporate culture of some employers, while other companies may not care. Fortunately, hobbies have benefits that go far beyond impressing potential employers.

 

Impress employers

When it comes to landing a job, hobbies can be one of the deciding factors. Some hobbies strike a chord with a hiring manager and others can be seen as a cultural fit for the company. In the past, I worked for a firm who stated the fact that I played on the intramural softball team and sing in a band marked me as a good cultural fit. They considered themselves as a “work hard, play hard” company. Employers may find the fact a person loves to golf or hike as a valuable asset. Or an employer may be impressed with a person who competes in triathlons, restores cars for fun, or even plays Dungeons and Dragons. These kinds of activities can show initiative, dedication, and creativity.

In terms of office culture, there are employers who take recreation seriously. A company may consider it worth their time to have pool tables, foosball, ping pong, and air hockey in the office. Google’s offices are legendary for their recreational areas. Some employers have added these extras to be trendy and as a way to enhance creativity via play. According to the National Institute for Play, playing engages the creative side of your brain, allowing creative ideas to flow more freely, which in turn can boost productivity.

 

Networking interests

I often explain to my clients why they would want to include hobbies and interests on their LinkedIn profile. Since LinkedIn’s inception, it has included a section for interests. I recommend that you fill in the interests section because it makes you more open and approachable. A completed interests section also makes it easier for people to start a conversation with you and to build rapport. I have yet to have a client refuse to fill out this section after I explain the benefits.

When it comes to networking, I’ve often talked about how shared interests can make it easier to connect with others- especially at events. It is possible to use your hobbies to strike up conversations while networking. There’s nothing like the burst of joy you feel when you converse with someone who partakes in the same hobbies and passions as you. Shared interests can increase likability, and form or deepen relationships. Imagine being sought out for employment because of your shared interests, or meeting the next person who may be able to help you land a job while at a blogging workshop, or playing basketball.

 

Learning skills and transitioning to new careers

Hobbies can become the catalyst for learning new skills or improving skills that can aide you in the workplace. For example, playing video games can sharpen your ability to solve problems and work with others. In corporate America, gamification has earned credibility as an effective training tool. Cisco uses gamification to provide global social media training certification to their employees. Before implementing a gaming program, employees had a difficult time figuring out where to start in the 46-course program. Gamification allowed Cisco to split the program into levels, as well as fostering competition, which ultimately resulted in higher social media certification for employees.

On a personal level, activities such as baseball can teach you teamwork, and volunteering can teach you leadership. If you’re really passionate about your hobbies, you may consider a career transition to pursue your passion. MilkCrate CEO Morgan Berman wanted to make a large contribution to society. She turned her passion for tech and sustainability into a career by creating her own startup. You can listen to Morgan’s entire story in our May 2015 Epic Career Tales podcast. Another example is Helen Wan, a lawyer who decided to leave law and became a novelist.

 

Relaxation and mental well-being

Pursuing hobbies can give your mind a much needed break and serves as an outlet for your passions during your off hours. In turn, this helps you focus when you return to work. According to a study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, hobbies can reduce stress and increase overall mental well-being. Hobbies allow people to feel relaxed and confident because they provide a healthy distraction from stress. Gaming in particular can provide amazing stress relief. Video Game Developer Jane McGonigal explains in her TED Talk how games can increase resilience and even add 10 years to your life. She goes on to assert many of the things people often regret later in life such as not giving themselves time to be happy, not staying connected with friends, and worrying too much about what others expected of them, can be partially solved by playing video games. Games have the power to change how people interact and solve problems. Accelerfate is my own way of using mobile gaming to help change the job search. Even if you don’t use hobbies directly in your job search the stress relief and mental well-being they can provide are reason enough to pursue them.

 

If you haven’t been spending as much time as you like on the activities that bring you joy, hopefully this article will give you some great justification to fit joy into your life. Hobbies can be a means of connecting to and impressing employers. In some ways, your hobbies may make it easier for you to land because potential employers may see you as a great cultural fit. In some cases, sharing your hobbies on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, and Periscope can make it easier for you to expand your network and may take your career to interesting places. If your hobbies are never mentioned directly at work or in your job search, they still can be a great way to reduce stress, increase creativity and boost productivity, giving you an edge in your career.

 

 

Networking for the Introvert

Dell Women's-Entrepreneur Network 2014 Austin by Dell Inc. on Flickr

Dell Women’s-Entrepreneur Network 2014 Austin by Dell Inc. on Flickr

 

Do you enjoy solitude? Do you keep a small group of close friends? Does being around large groups of people become exhausting? If you answered “yes” to these questions, you may be an introvert. According to Psychology Expert Kendra Cherry, introversion is a personality trait characterized by a focus on internal feelings, rather than relying on external sources of stimulation.

If you’re an introvert, you may prefer to keep to yourself or spend time with small crowds of people. The idea of meeting strangers at a networking event may strike you as an incredibly dreadful task. It’s a departure from your comfort zone as you set out into the unknown. On top of being nervous, the pressure to make meaningful connections can cause knots to form in your stomach. There are times when it’s easy to make friends, and other times when it’s a monumental task. I just sent my daughter to kindergarten on Monday. The first day of school is like the first time my clients go to a networking event after I have coached and prepped them. Ultimately, I know they’re brilliant, have a lot to offer, and they will eventually meet the right people. I’ve given them the tools they need to convert these connections into job momentum. However, I still fear someone will break their heart or spirit. It’s hard enough putting yourself out there, and I want their networking experience to be validating and uplifting.

Recognizing your own strengths as an introvert can make networking enjoyable. There are a variety of tactics you can use to make connections and gain momentum in your job search.

 

Preparation makes perfect

Do your homework before attending any networking event. Plan out an agenda for the day and focus on who you want to talk to, how many people you’re comfortable meeting, and what outcomes you want from each conversation. Take a moment to mentally rehearse your conversations. To make starting conversations easier, write out your thoughts and questions ahead of time. Also, consider a few ice breakers, such as asking about current events that are relevant to event attendees. Asking about current events is a great way to learn, in addition to establishing yourself as an industry leader with whom people will want to keep in touch. (Keep the topics neutral and steer clear of political or religious events.) Prepare a list of questions on professional topics and trends for industry events. If you’re nervous, it may be difficult to remember what you want to say, you can maintain focus by putting your thoughts on paper, or in your phone’s notes app.

If possible, obtain a list of attendees and research them prior to the event. You may find some people to be more interesting than others. Make a note of the people who interest you and spend time with them during the event.

You can make approaching people easier by:

  • Hanging out by the refreshment area and meeting people there. It is an area where most people will naturally gravitate to and it takes less effort to approach them.
  • Meeting people while in the bathroom allows you to escape from the crowds and have a (mostly) private conversation. One caveat: You don’t want to get stuck having an entire conversation in the bathroom or make the other person feel cornered. If a conversation starts in the bathroom, keep it brief, or move it elsewhere.
  • Look for lone attendees and strike up a conversation with them. Without having to complete with attention from other attendees it may be easier to connect. Break the ice by opening with how difficult it can be to start a conversation. Then steer the conversation toward industry-related events.
  • It may even be possible to connect online with a person of interest you researched before the event to let them know ahead of time that you would like to meet.

 

Get to know others

Ask people about themselves, as this can open multiple conversational doors. Try talking about any mutual interests. If you’ve researched a person ahead of time and are now seeking them out, you can learn about their interests through their social media profiles. Let them know you’ve read about them online and how your interests align. For example, you both may be avid fans of a particular sport, a music group, a book series, or you both may feel exceptionally passionate about your work. If you’re just meeting a person for the first time, ask about their interests and share whatever you have in common. As you start conversations, don’t forget to be a good listener. Also, ask others for their advice and opinions.

 

Don’t go alone

Consider bringing a friend along to a networking event. Attending events in pairs enables both parties to promote each other rather than having to promote yourself. If your friend is more extroverted, he or she may be able to take the lead and aid you in making introductions. This feels more comfortable to a lot of people, and by enabling other people to build excitement about your value, you’ll be able to prepare for the meat of the conversation. That is, how you can demonstrate your value to others, discover any problems a person may have by asking questions and offering a solution. Your friend also can discuss how you have helped them and vice versa.

 

Asking about employment is expected

If you’re actively looking for a job, ask others what you can do for them. Find out what projects they’re working on and if you’re able to assist them. The point is to learn about others and to demonstrate your value, which is a key part of building your network and obtaining interviews. It’s okay to mention that you’re looking for a job and asking for support, resources, and introductions. These types of requests are what people expect from networking events. Pinpoint exactly what you need so others can help you, and make requests as a standard part of your agenda for all networking conversations after you’ve offered to help someone.

 

Keep it brief

Hans Eysenck, a German psychologist theorized that the brains of introverts process more information per second than extroverts and high simulation environments can overwhelm and exhaust an introvert. Arrive early, so you can stay ahead of the crowd and leave early or take a break before feeling exhausted. Introverts can feel like they’re expending a lot of energy at networking situations or even at parties. In contrast, extroverts often feel their energy rising in large crowds. Introverts need to recharge once they feel a drop in energy, or they risk not putting their best self forward.

Lingering too long with one person can bring on boredom and a sense of discomfort, but you also want to create a worthwhile connection. Only you can determine the length of time that feels appropriate. Focus on having meaningful conversations with people you feel synergy with and stay with them until you feel comfortable moving on to the next person. After you make your connection, schedule a follow-up. Try to commit to a date on the calendar. If this isn’t possible, then give a commitment about when the follow-up will occur. This may be as simple as e-mailing a few dates on good times to connect during the week. If you’re responsible for initiating the follow-up, make note of the commitment before moving to the next person. Also, take notes to keep track of each new person you meet and jot down a few points from your discussion. This will make the process of following up easier.

 

Think outside the usual networking box

Try networking at smaller venues if large crowds make you extremely uncomfortable. I often gradually introduce networking to my introverted clients. Their comfort zones are continually expanded until they feel more comfortable in a large group setting. Some clients have so much success with small groups that they never have to subject themselves to larger groups. (There are benefits to networking with larger groups that I’ll get to in a moment.) Networking doesn’t always look like a lot of people gathering for professional reasons. Gatherings to engage in hobbies can enable faster rapport and deeper relationships. The difference between networking and hanging out is that these relationships are leveraged for professional gains. That is, nourishing and nurturing your network in order to reap the by-product of a bountiful harvest that comes in the form of leads for new opportunities. There’s is nothing wrong with this type of networking, as many people love to help, especially people they like.

In order to help your network grow, you can create a powerfully branded value statement.  A value statement informs others about your priorities, professional beliefs, and goals. This statement helps people quickly understand what you do, for whom you do it, and how they can present a great opportunity for you.

Small crowds and one-on-one meet-ups still count as networking. You can network without ever having to be in a large group of strangers, but by avoiding large crowds, you risk limiting your expansion and exposure to opportunities. I encourage you to try meeting with a large group of people twice, then practice twice more and by the fifth time you’ll feel a lot more confident, as long as you are approaching it from the perspective of meeting and making new friends. I have some clients start small and work their way up to larger events.

 

By playing to your strengths, networking can become manageable and even enjoyable for introverts. Can you imagine the joy of connecting with new people who share similar interests to you and are a part of your industry? Can you imagine mastering networking in your own way? New doors can open and those open doors can bring job momentum and the ability to land faster. When people become skilled, avid networkers, they achieve what we call “Career Autopilot,” or the ability to be sought out by employers and quickly land the job of their choice.

How to Effectively Work with Recruiters

M11 Junction 8-9 Scheme by Highwaysengland on Flickr

M11 Junction 8-9 Scheme by Highwaysengland on Flickr

Under the right circumstances working with a recruiter to land your next job can be extremely beneficial. If you have a position or ideal firm in mind and meet the requirements, a recruiter can aid your job search. In my previous article “Why Recruiters Won’t Get You a Job” I wrote about the pros and cons of working with recruiters. While it is true that recruiters work for the employer, not the job seeker, I fear I may have scared some people away from ever working with recruiters. Recruiters are like any other tool in your job-search arsenal.

There are times when you’ll need the help of a recruiter, such as needing to place your résumé directly in front of a hiring manager. In this case, building a relationship with a recruiter can be highly beneficial. Other times, you may need advice on making a transition into a completely different industry, or résumé advice. In these situations recruiters aren’t in a great position to help you. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t hang a picture using a hacksaw, you would use a hammer. In the same manner, recruiters can’t meet all of your job search needs, but can vouch for you when you’re a good fit for a certain job.

 

Just to be clear, I’m focusing exclusively on external recruiters. External recruiters are third-party firms who submit candidates to hiring companies and compete against other firms to place candidates. They work with employers, but aren’t part of the staff. Their placement fees are paid by the hiring company.

 

Do your research

Before consulting with a recruiter, have a clear idea of what you want from a position, including your compensation/salary. Evaluate a company and if you determine it meets 80% of your criteria, move forward. Make sure you’re also a good match for a job description. If you don’t have 80% of the skills required for the job, don’t make a recruiter try to pass you off with more skills than you actually have. The 80% rule comes straight from the employer’s rules-of-thumb. For example, a job may require 10 years of experience as an IT project manager and someone applies knowing they only have 5 years of experience as a retail manager. Recruiters are expected to find candidates that match a position’s requirements as closely as possible. In most cases, they’re competing against other recruiters who will also be sending candidates to employers who closely match the requirements. Recruiters remain competitive by finding job seekers who match as many requirements as possible. This isn’t to say that the job always goes to the candidate who best fits a job description and requirements.

Recruiters also want you to be as marketable for as many positions as possible, as they are sales people. They may even advise you to be presented for an opportunity outside of what you have decided to consider, if you have the needed skills and qualifications. A recruiter can give you advice about how to get placed, but they are not career management advisors or career coaches. Use your discretion when making these types of decisions and maintain control of your career direction. Don’t waste your time if you know a position outside of your comfort zone will be a lifestyle burden or a huge step backward. However, be open-minded about everything else and remain truthful about what you ultimately want throughout interview process. Sometimes, you can’t see the path to what you want from what’s being offered, but once you get in the door and establish your value and inspire excitement, you may be able to create the path you want.

If you’re working with a third-party recruiter, be honest about your compensation. External recruiters are compensated for a successfully-placed candidate and their fee is usually 20% to 30% of a candidate’s first year salary. The higher your starting salary is, the more a recruiter is paid. That said, the process of negotiation with a recruiter is very different from negotiating with a potential employer. In the employer’s case, the process involves a direct discussion. An external recruiter is the advocate who will negotiate in your best interest to land a position at the highest rate possible. There are times when an employer will give the job to the cheapest candidate. However, better employers understand the value of greater experience that a potential hire can bring. A higher salary is a justifiable business expense, but it must be ultimately approved by finance. The sky isn’t the limit when it comes to company budgets.

 

Be courteous

Recruiters are people too. This is a golden rule that some professionals overlook. When I was just starting out in recruiting I spoke with professionals who treated me as though I was a peon. They insulted me for not knowing enough about what they did. If I asked them about their skills, they would tell me my questions didn’t really matter. I should have known they possessed particular skills because they were experienced experts. They did not enable me to validate the depth of their knowledge by providing answers to my questions.  They were the type of candidates who, in their show of bravado, failed to impress me! As I gained more experience, I would continue to ask questions about their technical skills to validate them, especially after I learned (the hard way) that some candidates are very good at pretending they are skilled. A lack of respect and an over-exaggeration of skills make these types of candidates very difficult to place and risky to present. If they were condescending toward a recruiter, imagine how they might treat a potential employer.

Take a recruiter’s unsolicited calls even when you’re not looking. I often hear many people complaining about how recruiters only want you when they need you. However, I can say the same was mirrored back to me when I was a recruiter. Certainly, I made hundreds of calls per day and some days only received 10 return calls. Granted, if I’m a recruiter and I’m trying to fill a position, talking on the phone with a candidate who’s not actively looking doesn’t seem like the best investment of my time. Nevertheless, building a relationship is a very wise investment of time for both sides. Even if you’re not actively seeking a position, hear what a recruiter has to say, learn about the open position and refer a friend. Someday, if that friend is placed, they could be your internal sponsor for a position you’re interested in. Chances are, you’ll be looking for a new position in three to five years. Plus, some recruiters have a referral program and you could earn a one-time bonus when a friend is placed.

Perhaps you are sick of getting calls from screeners who seem to be very far removed from the recruiting process. Refute your bias, as my old vice president used to say. You don’t really know as much as you think you know about people on the other side. You certainly don’t know who they might be some day. A recruiter could someday become a valued ally, an industry leader, or even your next boss. A screener may seem like an extra gatekeeper, but if the gate opens for you, it’s one step closer to your potential next job.

 

Follow-up after an interview and keep in touch

Follow-up with your recruiter after a company interview and let them know how it went. Be honest, relay anything concerning that may have occurred during the interview. Recruiters can sometimes go to bat for you and can make all the difference. For example, if you had a rough morning and when you walked into the interview, you may have been flustered and nervous. Let your recruiter know about difficulties you had and he or she may be able to talk to HR and keep your name in the candidate pool.

Keep in touch with your recruiter by using patient persistence. This means sending e-mails and phone calls if you don’t hear back from them immediately. Ask about any relevant information regarding the position. Start your follow-up within a week of submitting your résumé and within a few days of an interview. Weekly check-ins are reasonable if your recruiter has submitted you. Always confirm the submission; they do owe it to you to let you know whether or not they have submitted you for the open position. If you haven’t been submitted, ask why. You may not have been a good match or a better candidate may have received the job.

In fact, most recruiters don’t mind you following up because they’re busy. They work on job requirements that are hot and tend to let follow-ups fall through the cracks. “Hot” is the sense of an urgent need, where the chances of getting a placement are high and the fees are desirable. That doesn’t mean recruiters don’t want to give you an update. If you take it upon yourself to ask for an update, and practice persistence, you can receive the information you need relatively painlessly.

 

Build a relationship

A steady flow of talent is the lifeblood of a recruiter and referrals can help immensely. If you don’t fit a position, refer someone who does. Better yet, refer a client to a recruiter. You may know a company with a particular problem that a friend or colleague may be able to solve. In this case, your colleague has new work and a company can resolve an issue. Not all recruiters work on business development, but you can imagine how great a recruiter looks when they’re able to place candidates AND bring in new business. Additionally, share news and resources. Recruiters are often so busy with work that they may have missed hearing about the latest trend. Candidates can be their eyes and ears, and help them keep abreast of new trends. A little information can go a long way in building a relationship.

Take your relationship with a recruiter to a new level by engaging them through social media. Try connecting with them through LinkedIn using customized invitations. Additionally, Twitter and Google+ are great places to connect, follow and keep in touch. Many recruiters have also mentioned through Tweet Chats that Google+ is a resource they use to find IT professionals. Tweet Chats are a good way to learn directly about hiring from employment thought leaders. (You can participate with me and other experts in a Tweet Chat this Friday at 3PM ET under #epicjobsearch.) Being connected on social media is also a great way to demonstrate your passion and expertise in an industry. Your résumé may state your skills and interests, but social media is a great way to illustrate those interests.

 

Working with a recruiter can help you land at a new job faster. If you’re a match for a position, a recruiter will do everything in his or her power to make sure you’re hired. A recruiter can bring momentum to your job search. Imagine being able to find open doors at a company because you took the time to establish a relationship with a recruiter. This relationship can enhance your own ability to create job security in the future.

 

Quickly Land Your Next Job in September

Life's Paradox by Stefano Corso of Flickr

Life’s Paradox by Stefano Corso of Flickr

Summer traditionally means slow days at work and vacation time. As the days lengthen and heat up, fun and sun beckon like the call of a siren. The last thing a majority of people are thinking about is the job search. But as summer winds down, companies ramp up their efforts to fill open vacancies and achieve fourth-quarter goals. This is the perfect opportunity to land a new position.

Hiring may appear to slow down in the summertime, but our economy is in a state of recovery, and job growth continues.  It can appear to be deceiving that there are fewer opportunities during the summer because open positions take longer to fill. Human resources and hiring managers have increased challenges bringing stakeholders together to make decisions as people go on vacation. This delays the hiring process because there are fewer managers to conduct face-to-face interviews. Additionally, companies fill a large number of positions during the beginning of the year, so they don’t have as many positions available summer months.

According to ERE.net, the average time for an employer to fill a position is at its highest at 27 business days. This costs companies money. You can save the company money by being ready to promote yourself effectively for an open position. The candidates who are ready to strike with effective branding, a smart strategic plan to be visible, and the ability to articulate how their value presents a solution will get interviews and offers.

Perhaps you’ve put your job search on hold for the summer. Maybe you’re just jumping into the search. You may dread spending another day in your current office. Or you may want to secure your financial future by landing the right job as soon as possible. Starting your job search with effective tactics can accelerate your transition. Wouldn’t it be great to land at your next employer before the fall chill hits the air? It’s not too late pull ahead of other job seekers. As recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, September is a month where hiring typically surges. With some preparation, you can capitalize on employers’ needs to land your next job.

 

Aid your job search with these seven stages to landing

The seven stages to landing can help greatly aid in your job search. Instead of starting your job search by hitting job boards or filling out applications, you can take a methodical approach to your search. This introspective approach can help you identify your strengths, skills and the value you can offer potential employers. Mastering these seven stages can take a long time, but you can also accelerate these steps in order to land your next position faster. Visualize attracting your next employer instead of hoping they notice you.

As you explore the list, rate yourself in each area from one to seven, with seven being the highest number. Keep those numbers in mind for now, we will revisit them later.

 

  1. Job Discovery

Think about your ideal career or position. Do you have a target position or employer? Think about aligning your career with contributions you are passionate about. For example, if someone is concerned about sustainability they can align themselves with an employer that has the same concerns. How can you use your talents to make these contributions? What opportunities will the job market present? What are the logical steps you’ll take in order to get there?

If you are going for the right target, you may be a little scared, but overall you’re very excited. You find yourself becoming enthusiastic about developing your plan, and you have confidence that you want the position enough that you’ll be able to overcome challenges as they present themselves.

 

  1. Branding Development

Think about the four to six things that uniquely qualify you for a position. It could be your worldview or perspective on problems, a certain approach to providing solutions, the way you go about working with other people, insights from other industries, an unconventional education, life skills, or even your attitude. Then use these qualities to form your branding points and connect the dots between your qualities and the value that can be realized by an employer. By having these branding points before you start the development process, you can ensure the content you create has meaning for your audience. These materials communicate your strengths and advantages to potential employers, people in your network, and everyone else. Each target requires a different approach:

 

  • Corporate targets require a résumé or biography.
  • Academic, scientific or international targets need a CV. A CV is more comprehensive than a résumé.
  • Create a one-page networking infographic for network contacts.
  • Wow your prospective clients with a website brochure or advertising copy. This isn’t just replicating your CV or résumé, it is powerfully branded, reader-friendly and is filled with effective content that inspires action.

 

  1. Networking/Social Networking

Occasionally, the hardest part of this step is actually recognizing your network. A lot of clients tell me they don’t have networks, but it’s usually because they aren’t thinking about all of the people who would really want to help them. The ideal networking process can be fun. Think of finding ways to be around people you enjoy and inspire them to help you be a solution for your next company. When your network is properly trained in how to develop leads for you, your momentum becomes exponential. It’s like having a sales force you don’t have to pay. Have you effectively trained your network to develop leads for you?

 

  1. Prospecting

Do you have a plan of action to reach your ideal position? Have you sourced hiring managers from potential employers? Are you in position to uncover advertised and unadvertised opportunities? While some information can be easily obtained from the internet, most likely more of the critical criteria for your next position and company will be better divulged by someone who is or has been on the inside. Prospecting is also tied to our next step because what you learn about your target company will help you get noticed, be memorable, and market yourself as exactly what they need. This step is critical to helping you land at a desirable position and location (as opposed to just obtaining any job), and beating out the competition by pursuing jobs that may not even be posted, also known as the hidden job market. Most people skip this step and spend more time getting fewer results. These actions, along with the next step are the most self-affirming stages because once you master them you will have generated job security.

 

  1. Distribution/Follow-up

You’ve met people with whom you had quality interactions. Are you prepared to follow up? This means being prepared to track your contacts and consistently keeping in touch without being overbearing. A great outcome is to deepen relationships with your contacts. Many job seekers fear they are imposing, when actually this is where more meaningful relationships are revealed, though some relationships may end. In this part of the process, the time you invest in people starts to payoff in more ways than just job leads. These are relationships that will withstand a job transition, as well as future job transitions. You can consider these relationships like money in a high-yield account. Sometimes just one meaningful strategic relationship can alter the course of your life.

 

  1. Interviewing

You’ve made it far enough in the hiring process for an interview. Being ready looks like thoroughly researching a potential employer, knowing the qualifications for the job, and how your skills and abilities are a match for an employer. Ideally, you’ll be excited to meet with prospective employers and know how to authentically address the hard questions. If the fit is right, you’ll start with an open and comfortable conversation about what’s possible for both parties, although it’s always about the employer first. The best outcome would be an offer that you are excited to accept and knowing it is what’s best for your career and life. Have you reinforced the values you bring and why you’re qualified for the opportunity? Are you ready to close the “deal?”

 

  1. Compensation Negotiation

Have you researched the market value of your position? How much are perks and benefits worth to you? Are you prepared to consider a counter-offer from your current employer, or another potential employer? Are you ready to accept an offer letter? Part of compensation negotiation is also knowing when to ask about salary and benefits. This process ideally looks like two parties who appreciate the value the other has to offer, and they respect each other enough not to enter into a power struggle. The outcome is determining a win-win package where both parties feel like they are receiving a good deal.

 

Remember the scale I mentioned at the start of this list? Rate yourself in each area of the list. If you are less than a seven in any of these areas, you may risk prolonging your job search. Think of this process like climbing a set of stairs. If any of the steps are loose or broken, placing your weight on them can send you tumbling down, forcing you to start over again and delaying time as you repair the broken step.

 

Take advantage of just-in-time training

If you want an edge in your job search, consider our “7 Stages to Landing in September” webinar. It is a free online event that will teach you the best way to start your job search, entice employers, maintain job search progress, and make sure your conversations lead to inspired action. These steps can cut the average job search in half. We’ve had clients fix their “broken step” and land within a month. A small time investment can yield tremendous job search results.

 

September is traditionally the second busiest hiring month of the year and is only surpassed by January. By using better methods to entice employers, you can get out ahead of the crowd and land faster. Imagine what an ideal change in your career would look like. Share your ideal change in comments and then join us on Thursday evening for our free webinar!

 

Career Change Tips for Midlife Workers

"Drive" by Timo Newton Syms of Flickr

“Drive” by Timo Newton Syms of Flickr

 

For decades you have been driving the same road to work and going to the same destination. At first you enjoyed the drive, but after decades of doing the same thing you yearn for new scenery. You’re ready to take new roads to new destinations, regardless of the challenges ahead.

In the same way that driving new roads can bring challenge, so can reinventing yourself by changing careers. There’s the fear of entering a new industry, and of not getting the position because of employer preconceptions about age. Of course, those are just fears. A career transition is possible whether you’re 40, 50, or older. As long as the desire and passion to change is present, new adventures and success are within your grasp.

 

With experience comes value

A person who has been in the workforce for decades has experience and wisdom. With their experience, they know how to get the job done and have leadership abilities. They have also seen things done wrong and have seen things done right, through their own and others’ trials and errors. Their skills have been well-honed and this can give them an edge over younger workers. If new skills are needed for a reinvention, it is possible to return to school, apprentice, take on new tasks, hire a coach, or volunteer in order to acquire them.

Take the case of Karen Love: She worked in the news media for decades at various major newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. At age 65, Karen decided it was time for a change. She went back to school and earned a master’s degree in Gerontology, the study of aging, and landed a position as an Outreach Coordinator at a community center helping senior citizens. This career change allowed Karen to fulfill a long-time desire to help senior citizens get involved with their community, to help them stay active, and to help them remain connected after retirement.

 

Assess yourself and target your next employer

Mentally prepare by assessing yourself and your next employer. These actions can make a career transition easier. A few questions to consider when performing a self-assessment are:

Why do you want to change careers? Are you bored with your line of work? Or is a greater purpose calling you? After you determine what you DON’T want, think about what you DO want. Is it the opposite of what you don’t want? Or is it a completely new experience? If you find yourself struggling with this topic, try focusing on your passions and your purpose, as opposed to the viability for what you think you can be hired.

What qualities can you transfer to a new career? This goes beyond your skills and can include your perspective, approach, and methodologies.

What value can you bring to a new employer? How can your decades of experience be an asset?

Once you have the answers to these questions, it’s time to consider what you’re looking for from your next employer. As a general rule-of-thumb, an employer should meet about 80% of your personal criteria. Developing a list of criteria will help determine what you want and need from a potential employer. Do you prefer flexible hours? What are the personal values you possess that are most important to you, that you want to share with your future employer? These are factors that can aid you in your job search. Once you have your criteria, your next step is to create a target company list. It allows you to hone in on a potential employer and laser target them, as opposed to spreading a wide search net.

 

Résumé re-examination

Reevaluate your resume. If you haven’t changed jobs lately, it may be time to reformat and bring your résumé up to current standards. Not only have résumés changed in the past few decades, but they’ve changed in the past few years. The one-size-fits-all approach no longer works and many companies use applicant tracking software to scan résumés for industry-relevant keywords. If those keywords aren’t present, the résumé is eliminated from the system. If your résumé lands in front of a hiring manager, they will only spend a few seconds scanning it before they either contact you, or toss your résumé. Including keywords in a customized résumé helps you to better stand out from the crowd.

Unfortunately, some employers do have a bias against age. When it comes to this, sometimes you can change someone’s mind and sometimes you can’t. Age discrimination does happen and it’s not worth anyone’s effort or energy to fight. It’s just like one of my favorite sayings I learned doing door-to-door sales: “Some will, some won’t. So what? Next!” By optimizing your ability to articulate and promote the value you can bring to an employer, and by having a relatively youthful attitude and lifestyle this particular challenge can be overcome. Some employers will always have a closed mind when it comes to age. Your confidence and optimism will attract open-minded employers.

 

Use technology in the job search

Being visible to potential employers online is an excellent way to give yourself an edge by showing how youthful and in-touch you are. Your top qualities are best demonstrated through your actions. Having an online presence on social media can show how savvy you are by making technology part of your career campaign. Social media allows you to expand the network you’ve built over the years and allows potential employers to easily discover you. A well-maintained presence on LinkedIn can help accelerate your discoverability, as 95% of recruiters use this social network to discover talent and research potential employees. Furthermore, using LinkedIn’s Pulse, Tweet chats, and attending Meetups allow you to stay on top of the latest technology. If you anticipate working among or competing against millennials, create and maintain a presence in the same spaces as millennials. This means being active on Instagram, trying out Snapchat, and even experimenting with Periscope. Knowing about the latest technology and having years of experience can make you a formidable job candidate.

 

Stay fit and active

Staying fit and active can help combat the idea that midlife workers don’t have the energy or stamina to get the job done. Not only does being physically fit give your mind and body a boost, but it also increases your vibrancy and energy. Your can-do attitude can only go so far if you lack the energy to get the job done.

 

Imagine overcoming the hurdle of leaving the industry you’ve been part of for decades and the joy of discovering a new career. Are you fulfilling a long-time desire in your life? Are you seeking new adventures? Or do you just want to leave for greener pastures before retirement? Changing careers during or after your midlife may seem like a challenge. It doesn’t have to be. You have the skills, experience, wisdom and knowledge you spent decades acquiring. Those qualities can help you move beyond your current position and into career change you’ve always wanted.

 

10 Creative Ways to Choose Your Next Employer

Day 291_the Big List by Ana C. on Flickr

Day 291_the Big List by Ana C. on Flickr

 

Alex loves being a Software Engineer, but he has been grumpy about work. The idea of going into work no longer excites him and the passion he once had is nearly gone. Deep inside of himself, Alex knew it was time for a career change. Logically, his current employer looked great on paper: but, he didn’t have a good gut feeling about the job. The work at Alex’s current company wasn’t what he expected based on the interview and he didn’t look well enough into the company before accepting the job. So, he approached his job search from a different angle. Instead of only looking at salary and benefits, Alex wrote down a list of criteria his new employer had to satisfy before he would accept the job. Much of his list focused on the workplace environment, workplace culture, his enthusiasm for the company, and his values. Using the criteria he developed, Alex found an employer that satisfied him. He landed a job with the company and his passion for work was rekindled.

You may be like Alex, dissatisfied with your current employer and ready to make a transition. Or, you may be looking for work, but you don’t want to choose just any employer. Which is wise, even if your are in need of a job, as per our last article. You want an employer that will pay you well, but your job is more than a source of income. You want flexibility, satisfaction, a culture that reflects your personal values, and to be fully engaged on the job. We all intuitively have a list of criteria that we want an employer to fulfill. Sometimes we dismiss our ability to land a job that meets these criteria, but this is seldom based on truth. We use a logical approach when we take a set of facts and form our reasoning based on those facts. An intuitive approach is based on our perception of facts and/or truth and isn’t always based on reasoning. Think your intuition as a split-second “gut feeling”, as opposed to a longer and more reasoned approach with logic. When you don’t use a logical and intuitive approach you wind up in the wrong jobs, which sets us up for failure, ultimately, and wastes your time when you could be fast-tracking your career and income.

When searching for their next job, people often fail to develop a list of criteria. In my article “The Correct Response to a Job Lead” I wrote about how a company needs to meet about 80% of your criteria before you create a connection with them. In that article, I also discussed how to research a company after asking a few practical questions such as company size, location, employee happiness, and how well you could fit a potential position. It is important to develop a criteria list because it will aid you in your development of a target company list.

 

Criteria to consider:

 

  1. Workplace environment:

A workplace environment encompasses everything related to the location of an employer. This includes a geographical location, immediate surroundings (an office park in the suburbs, office building in the city, being near a construction site or surrounded by a small forest), noise levels and even air quality. Would you prefer to work amid the hustle and bustle of a large city, or do you prefer the quieter life in the suburbs? Would a location with very few windows and lots of re-circulated air bother you? Or do you need constant access to fresh air?

 

  1. Management:

Will you like your boss? This is the person you will report to on a daily or weekly basis. If his or her attitude or demeanor is concerning to you, you may eventually clash with their personality. You will have to weigh the benefits of their leadership against their personality. By that, I mean that your potential boss could be difficult to like, but might be an amazing leader. Think of Steve Jobs or Jeff Bozos.

 

  1. Passion and interest:

Will your next job excite you? You may have the skills and qualifications to do a job, but will you feel passionate about your work with a new employer? If you only go through the motions with your job, it won’t be long before dissatisfaction catches up with you. If you don’t care about the work you’re doing it will become evident for everyone to see. Clients, co-workers and subordinates will notice the lack of interest in your work. A job you feel passionate and interested in can challenge you in new ways and provide you with the opportunity to expand your skill set. Will your next employer enable you to be exposed to the areas of interest that you want to further explore? If you find yourself at a job that doesn’t incorporate your abilities, you’ll eventually yearn for a new employer that will put your skills to use.

 

  1. Flexibility:

Will you have the ability to work remotely when needed? Can you take time off when needed? Balance between personal-life and work-life is important. If you have the freedom to create flexible work arrangements, you’ll find yourself less stressed out at home and on the job. Conversely, some people feel that working in a remote and flexible workplace is more challenging and need people there physically to complete the job with a certain quality. If you would be bothered by your co-workers taking advantage of flexible work arrangements, don’t torture yourself by working for a company where these freedoms are extended.

 

5. Job Structure:

How much freedom do you want at work? Are you fearful of micromanagers who are constantly looking over your shoulder? This boils down to what type of worker you are. If you like constant input and feedback, you should consider an employer that works closely with employees. If you prefer to do things on your own terms, you may want a more laid-back management style.

 

6. Public perception of the company:

Will your next employer be a high-profile company? Will you work for a household name, or would you prefer a company very few people know about? If your company is a household name, do they have a positive or negative image? For example, are they a well-loved hardware and software maker? Or are they a notorious monopoly in constant litigation? You may have to ask yourself if the perks and benefits at the company outweigh a negative public perception.

 

7. Force for change:

Will your new employer be a force for good in the world? Do you want your future employer to give back to local communities, donate to charity and place an emphasis on people and profits? And if so, with what non-profit organizations do you align with and that you also want your employer to align?

 

8. Workplace Culture:

A workplace culture is a big factor to take into consideration. A company may have a flexible management style, a causal dress code, and may be geared toward younger workers. Or the workplace could be traditional, with a business professional dress code and workers may be accustomed to greeting each other formally. If you scream for tradition, a culture that embraces a causal style may not be for you. Just as you would consider a company’s culture and if it matches your personal values, a potential employer is just as interested in making sure you’re fit for their culture.

 

9. Values:

Will your job align with your values? Do you care if your employer or your immediate bosses have strong religious beliefs? For example, your employer may insist on adhering to Christian values, especially if they are a smaller company. Does that idea excite or horrify you?  Are you okay with an employer who has different religious beliefs from your own? Or do you prefer an employer not to embrace any religious beliefs? There are also other values to consider, such as political alignment. Many of my clients scratch their heads when I ask them what they believe in, because they wonder why that would be relevant to a job search. However, if you hold your beliefs close to you, and it causes you conflict and stress to be around people who are staunchly opposed to the things you believe strongly, it can impact your quality of work and life. Even if you don’t talk much about these things, if other people do, conflict will be hard to avoid, and while differing views can be a source of growth, it is not always welcomed in the workplace.

 

10. Co-Worker Relationships:

How will you get along with your new co-workers? Unless you’re working remotely, your co-workers are going to be a major influence at your workplace. Will you socialize with them inside and outside of the office? Or do you believe that business and pleasure should not mix? Does your personal life stay at home or do you engage others about life outside of work? You’ll have to consider if your next employer will sponsor activities such as a softball or bowling team and whether you want to attend those events. Would you be comfortable working for a company that believes in team-building retreats and workshops?

 

Tapping into the subconscious to know what’s right for you:

 

Once you have idea of what criteria you want your employer to fulfill, you can use physical and mental exercises to help reflect on your list.

Muscle testing (also known as Applied Kinesiology) is great way to diagnose specific nervous system problem or nutritional deficiencies, and restore energy. Dr. Jeff Echols has a great video that demonstrates how muscle testing is done and its benefits. Some new age career coaches promote muscle testing as a way to help determine if a decision is in alignment with your inner wisdom. This practice can help calm your mind in order to better focus on an important decision. You can use muscle testing to help elicit a true “yes” or “no” answer on whether you should pursue a career opportunity. A sound body helps form a sound mind, and a sound mind helps make important decisions.

Meditation is great way to tap into your subconscious mind, reduce stress and improve concentration. By sitting and concentrating on your breath, you can keep your attention focused. It allows you concentrate on one thing and to block out other distracting thoughts. Once you’re able to sit quietly, focus on your breathing or even chant a mantra (a phrase to help you focus), you can tap into your subconscious mind to reflect on your work-related criteria. It may take some practice but your subconscious mind can help guide you that “yes” or “no” job-related decision.

 

Creating a list of job criteria is one step that far too many job seekers skip. Yes, good pay and benefits are extremely important, but a satisfying career consists of more than pay. Do you love what you do at your job or are you just there to draw a paycheck? Can you imagine waking up each morning and being excited by the work you do? How about the pride that comes with working for an employer who makes a difference in your community? Are you willing to take less pay for a more personally fulfilling job? For example, choosing employment at a non-profit company that directly works with a disadvantaged population, versus employment at a larger for-profit company in the tech sector that may only donate to charity. Your need to make a difference in the lives of others may outweigh superior compensation and benefits. Or you may strive to work at an organization that can provide you with a great salary and the ability to directly help others. We all intuitively know what we want from our lives and how our professional choices will reflect our desires. By developing a list of criteria and tapping in your subconscious, you can choose an employer that will personally satisfy you.

 

If you need or want more help developing a list of criteria, we’re here for you. Our Criteria Identifier and Target Company Evaluator is a tool to help you with your employer research.