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Don’t Stress Out about Stress…Yet

Photo courtesy of Sarah (https://www.flickr.com/photos/dm-set/). Some rights reserved.I have been trying all morning to find a Quartz article that other articles (Apost.com) have been referencing regarding bad bosses, why people don’t leave them, and how a bad boss can be as bad for your health as second-hand smoking. I couldn’t find this source article, so I won’t cite the statistics as truth – YES! I fact check!

So, I did a little bit more legwork to see if I could find the original research sources (The American Psychological Association, Harvard, and Stanford.) What I found was that a “recent” study being cited, isn’t very recent at all – 2015.

Further, people who cited the original Apost.com article said that the Quartz article quoted the American Psychological Association stated 75% of American workers said that their boss was a “major cause of stress.” I have not been able to validate this either.  It also says 59% of these people would not leave their job in spite of their bad bosses – I also found no validation of this statistic, and I was relieved for that!

Here is what I have been able to validate

An aggregation of 228 different studies found:

  • Those who face major stress at work are 35% more likely to be diagnosed with an illness.
  • People who work long hours are 20% more likely to die sooner.
  • The fear of losing your job increases your chance of having poor health by 50%.

I’ve had many clients over the years who had to leave their jobs because they believed it was making them sick – literally. They weren’t imagining it. Science has proven that stress can negatively impact our health. There are too many citations to reference on this. If you would like proof, go to pubmed.org and enter “stress and disease” in the search bar.  If you are in denial of this, it may even benefit your health, too.

Not all stress is bad. Eustress is the good kind, and further studies indicate that our perception of stress is the real determinant as to whether it will impact us negatively in the form of sickness and disease, or whether it will improve our performance, resilience, and sense of achievement.  Some people bring out their best in stressful situations.

You have to assess your beliefs about stress and know your own stress limits before worrying that your string of sicknesses is related to your job.  A report I found cited the theories and methodologies of some major I/O Psychology thought leaders (Kahn, et. al.,) which purported that a person’s fit to their environment determined whether the job would produce eustress or distress.

Now, how well do you fit your environment?

A bigger question is, if you recognize that your environment does not allow you to thrive and operate at your highest levels, are you going to do anything about it?

The Apost.com article was thought provoking, even if it wasn’t properly referenced. The author, who surmised that survival is why people stay, stated, “Given the present market conditions, it is not an easy decision to quit one’s job and start over entirely.”

I have two things to say:

#1 – Regardless of market conditions, changing jobs is not an easy decision.  For many, this decision impacts not just the individual, but also family members and logistics that may be working. This is the #1 reason I have found why people stay at jobs that cause them (dis)stress. They operate under the notion that the chances of finding something better that also works with their lifestyle is a fantasy.

I’m here to tell you – it’s NOT!  It still won’t be an easy decision, but once you make it, engaging a partner like me will help ensure that you land swiftly and safely in a position that aligns with your lifestyle, values, and professional ambitions.

#2 – There’s nothing at all wrong with today’s market conditions (as of this post, April 2018.) With unemployment at a 10-year-low and wage growth relatively steady since 2010, there’s no need to be scared of this market – as of now. That could change, of course. But I assure you, having coached through the great recession, people were still landing jobs, and companies still needed to hire people. It just became much more competitive, and all the more reason to engage a coach to help you distinguish yourself and leverage your time and visibility effectively.

If you suspect your job is out of alignment in some way and is causing stress that could eventually (or already is) impacting your health, don’t wait any longer to get help. The job market is ripe, and just being in action and having a partner and a plan can greatly reduce your stress.

You don’t have to jump ship; just take the first step and book your free consultation!

How to Stay on the Same Side when Negotiating Salary

Everyone’s only out for themselves.  It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Maybe that’s what you have been taught. And if you bought it, you will see evidence reinforcing it everywhere. You believe it, and so it is your reality.

If so, the techniques I share in this blog are not for you. If you struggle to give people the benefit of the doubt, you will use negotiation tactics that are defensive. And, if you feel like you are struggling for power and losing, your approach may even border on adversarial.

If you struggle to trust a company even though it seems to be on the up and up, you will assume they are hiding something, and it will reveal itself in due time. In the meantime, you cover all your bases and feel compelled to constantly cover your … butt. In your professional work, if you feel the need to be competitive with others for attention, credit, prominence, and pay, you will assume others go to great lengths to win and that justifies you doing the same.

You are the last person my clients want work with, work for, or hire.

Why? You will most likely insist on being the last one to reveal your ask, even when pressed. You will try to circumvent the people in the company who are expected to ensure policy is followed for fairness and consistency. You may not even realize your bias against human resources.

You won’t believe what I am about to advise, so you might as well stop reading here.

If you consider yourself to be a moral, ethical person who believes that people are generally good and fair, you have found yourself disgusted by some things you have experienced in cut-throat corporate America. Even if you know there are good people out there, you may not have a lot of faith they can stay good in a system that promotes gaining profit (corporate and personal) over all else.

That being said, you want and deserve to be paid fairly. And there are so many great things you want to do with excess income that would enhance your life, help your family, and perhaps serve many others.

I have a deep compulsion to help you earn as much as possible within your market value range.  The truth is everyone wants a fair deal. I want that for you. You want that for you. And I want that for your employer, too. Why? Because when a company gets ROI on its talent, and it is a conscious corporation, it will reinvest profits in its people. And that is what we are all about.

A lot of companies say their people are their number one asset, but how many of them demonstrate it consistently? Finding out if a company really means it is getting easier (and we are working in making it even easier). And these companies will do the right thing by their people – and that’s when everyone wins.

If you want to stay on the same side with your employer during compensation negotiations, the first thing to do is due diligence: qualify that employer as a conscious company. Glassdoor, Top Places To Work lists, and the tenure and growth of its people historically (information you may be able to assess on LinkedIn) are resources you can use to do this. Then, of course, reach out directly to people on the inside to see if what you gather is substantiated.

The second thing you must do is understand what the market pays for your skills, experiences and talents. You can do this through online research on bls.gov, the salary estimates on Indeed (in the left column), reports on salary.com, and Glassdoor data. I recommend that you always ask a local recruiter who niches in your field to validate what you find. Make sure your data is based on local positions, or you adjust them based on your local cost of living.

Next, determine how you uniquely add value to this. In the nearly 12 years I have been a career coach, I have always been able to identify unique qualifiers for my clients, which is the essence of branding. Often there are monetary values attributed to those unique qualifiers, which can be qualities or hard skills. These can either push you into the upper ranges of market value, or move you above market value. Either way, you must be prepared to justify these clearly in a business case for your employer.

Whether you want to make a fair ask that enables the company to get ROI on you, or you are a top performer and the company knows how to leverage and develop you, they will aim to make 1.75x your salary. You may have a role traditionally considered to be in a “cost center” for a company, such as customer or technical support, but make no mistake – each and every role in a company was designed to contribute to the balance sheet in some way. If you’re not directly generating revenue directly, you are making it more possible, or you are helping to reduce costs or avoid shut-down/fines.  When you understand how your role contributes in this way, you can ensure that your ask is fair and that your reasons for believing this can be clearly articulated.

If your research indicates that the market value for your current position won’t meet your quality of life standards, it’s time to re-evaluate your career. And if you are unsure if the market value will support your needed standard quality of life and also provide a retirement you desire with the future quality of life you want, it’s time to get with a financial advisor. I am happy to make a referral. Just private message me.

Notice I haven’t said anything about your prior compensation. In spite of some companies’ and recruiting firms’ practices of determining your future value by your current value, your past or current compensation is not an accurate determination of your future value at all. It may be a reflection, however, of your self-worth. The branding journey we take our clients on helps them feel in alignment with their true market value and overcome the mental mindset that can develop from being underpaid and undervalued.

Lastly, what do you ask for and how do you come to an agreement with your employer while still keeping things friendly? After all, this is the first big decision you will make together. How you come to an agreement sets the tone for the commencement of the partnership, and it will influence your impression of each other from that point forward. Don’t you want to feel like you’re on the same team?  You each have an agenda, but the negotiation is really about finding the overlap and understanding the other party.

I am not one to advise people to refuse to answer questions about desired or expected salary.  Some of my peers, and even mentors, would.  If you feel like you might be taken advantage of by divulging your ask too soon, then you don’t trust this company. Maybe you wouldn’t trust any company? Or perhaps you didn’t qualify them as a company worthy of your trust? If you are the former, you probably should have stopped reading very early on. If you are the latter, do NOT enter into negotiations until you learn that the company is trustworthy, conscious, and invests in its people.

Instead of “holding your cards close to your chest,” I recommend boldly coming out with a reasonable range, data to back it up, and a business case to explain if you are asking for more than what the position usually pays. Keep in mind, ethical or not, when a person hears a range, they focus on what they are inclined to focus on in order to achieve their agenda. An unconscious company will want to get talent for as little money as possible. And a conscious company will not want to overpay for talent, because it hurts the company and inhibits their ability to re-invest in their talent.

Both examples will hear the low end of your range. So right after giving the range, discuss what conditions would have to be met in order for you to accept the low end, then swiftly explain how the company will benefit from investing in you on the high end.  Your low end must still support your current standard of living. Don’t give a low end that will leave you feeling slighted if offered, even though a conscious corporation would offer you good reasons for doing so.

Collegial negotiations are not just dependent what you say, though. It’s really more about how you are being – are you expecting the company will find your ask reasonable and do what they can to bring about the best possible outcome for both parties? If not, you probably should have stopped reading much earlier. This method will not work if you are suspicious. Authenticity is key here.

Lastly, leave the door open for them to ask questions and counter-offer. If a counter-offer seems way off your ask, ask them to help you understand, while giving them the benefit of the doubt that they have their reasons.

True story: I was trained in negotiating with candidates and employers as a recruiter. In my annual review shortly after that I was expecting a raise since I had been promoted in title. As trained, I did my research. In this annual review situation, it’s not customary to make an ask, as you’ve probably experienced. I anticipated my raise to be 50% above what I was making and instead it was a 10% raise. I had been underpaid my whole career prior to that, and armed with this new training, I was ready to earn fair compensation.  My boss, the VP of Sales – a master negotiator, had trained us to engage clients and candidates in further discussion when agendas didn’t align with the request, “Help me understand.” It became an inside joke, but in all fairness, it works, and it worked on him, too. I don’t have a poker face and I’m sure my disappointment in the offer was all over my face, so I took a deep breath and earnestly said, “Help me understand. I did research and based on the data, my compensation should be X.” I pointed to recent successes and things I had done outside of the scope of my role. He wanted to take a closer look at the data himself, and discuss it with the finance department and CEO.  They came back with a raise that was in my range, and a bit above the median. I, thankfully, had a conscious boss and CEO who wanted to pay talent fairly. 

The training I had was not the same as what I see other negotiation coaches promoting. It was designed to help three parties get on the same page, the employer, the candidate and the recruiting firm.  Our agenda was to keep strong relations with the employer to supply future talent needs, and to help our candidates earn as much as possible so that they stick and so that our share increased.  I used this training to increase my own salary by 50% and finally earn market value, and now I’m sharing it with you so that you can earn your fair share too.

 

If you would like to have guidance and support in qualifying conscious employers, understanding your unique market value, formulating and making your ask at the right time, reverse-engineering your career to align with your desired quality of life, and/or crafting counter-offers, e-mail Karen@epiccareering.com with the subject line: Make My Career Epic.

 

The Searchers – Take Me For What I’m Worth 1965

The Searchers – Take Me For What I’m Worth 1965

Is the Dominant Emotion of Your Company’s Culture Fear? Here’s a Simple Quiz to Find Out.

Photo courtesy of Lesley Van Damme (https://bit.ly/2H9l9Wd). Some rights reserved.

Marketing psychology has taught me that people are motivated to make a change or a purchase in order to either move toward something desirable or away from something undesirable. And the latter tends to be a more powerful motivator for most. I predict in coming years this will shift as a natural evolutionary byproduct of the technological revolution, provided we use technology as a tool for solving our major problems.

It certainly has the potential to, yet it remains unclear how this will translate to effectively solving our people-based problems. For now, a companies’ major tools to address people-based problems are training, standard operating procedures, coaching, and culture.

Some companies manage this better than others. It appears to me, based on job seeker targeting, public stock prices and other evidence of growth, that companies focused on proactively moving in a positive direction culturally are doing better than companies merely trying to avoid major crises. One is driven by desire, while the other is driven by fear. You can liken it to playing offense versus defense.

A very powerful verse from Living the Wisdom of the Tao by Wayne Dyer [captured below and mentioned here] helped me realize that when you are focused on the highest good and being the best version of yourself, you no longer have a need to regulate bad behavior.

So, when a company is operating with integrity and effectively nurturing a culture of inclusion, empathy, mutual respect, optimized personal and professional development and acceptance, it rarely needs to focus on problems like harassment, bias, discrimination, disengagement, bullying, ethical violations, and high turnover.

Perhaps you feel I am oversimplifying this, and admittedly, there are other factors that need to be considered as well, such as employee compensation structures and hiring practices. If you follow me, you have certainly heard me stress the importance of self-awareness and how all transformations begin with that. Here again, it is definitely important to have the ability to recognize if this is a systemic issue in your organization.

If your company is adequately able to do this, at least you’re on the front end of what could be a positive evolutionary turn for your company. A company, just like a team, needs both a good offense and defense to win.

What stage of transformation has your company achieved? Are they instituting new policies, practices, procedures or tools based on avoiding problems? Or are they moving toward a more ideal corporate well-being?

As the technical evolution accelerates exponentially, I predict the latter companies are going to survive and the former companies will eventually die. And so, you too must go from playing defense to playing offense. I advise you to plan and manage your career accordingly.

Here is a quiz that will let you know which category your company falls into. If your company falls into the defense category, assess your company’s leadership. Do you feel it has the talent and support to transition into a company that plays offense? If not, that either has to be you, or it’s time to plan your exit.

Tally up how many answers are offense versus defense to see which is dominant.

  1. Does your company provide coaching on emotional intelligence or merely sexual harassment awareness training?

Emotional Intelligence training = Offense

Sexual Harassment training = Defense

Neither = Apathetic = RUN!

  1. Does your company have strict attendance policies or do they operate on an honor system?

Strict clocking in/out = Defense

Honor system = Offense

Nobody tracks attendance and everyone abuses it = The company is probably bleeding money – RUN!

  1. Do performance reviews incorporate goals you identify with or solely those of your boss/department?

Boss goals = Defense

Individual goals = Offense

We don’t have performance reviews = Who still does this? RUN!

  1. If there are conflicts between co-workers, is the focus of the resolution aimed at identifying and punishing the “offending” party, or is there a benefit of the doubt extended to all parties with an aim to arrive at a mutual understanding and compromise?

Punishment-oriented = Defense

Empathy-oriented = Offense

We fight it out and the loudest, bossiest person wins = RUN!

We experience no conflicts = Reflects either an authoritarian culture dominated by orders and compliance, possibly stifling creativity and originality RUN!

OR everyone is hired based on their agreeable nature = Be wary, as innovation most likely lags far behind.

  1. When it comes to social media policies, does your company forbid or restrict social media or do they encourage you and train you to leverage it as a promotional tool? (Exclude yourself from this question if your whole industry is regulated.)

Browsers block social media = Defense

Social media savvy is promoted = Offense

Most of my co-workers waste the majority of their day messing around on social media = Your company may be a front for illicit activities, because companies can’t survive like this RUN!

You may find that if your company is more defensive than offensive, much of the day feels tense and the moments of triumph are few and far between. If you would like to become an agent of transformation to coach your company to be more on the offensive, Epic Careering offers one-on-one leadership coaching as well as workshops. Or, if you now realize you would rather work for a company that is further down the evolutionary road, we can help you land there too.

On the other hand, if your answers indicate that your company is playing offense and doing it well, I anticipate you will be growing and hiring, and I would love to help more quality talent pursue your company as an employer. We should connect!

If any of the above apply to you, private message me or e-mail me at Karen@epiccareering.com.

Freddie Mercury – In My Defence (Official Video)

Freddie Mercury – In My Defence (1992) Click here to subscribe – http://smarturl.it/sub2FreddieMercuryYT Click here to buy Freddie Mercury – Messenger Of The Gods – The Singles: https://MessengerOfTheGods.lnk.to/FreddieStore Freddie Mercury was a man of many talents and many different sides.

5 Common Job Search Myths Debunked

Emma reading the newspaper by Diego Sevilla Ruiz of Flickr

Emma reading the newspaper by Diego Sevilla Ruiz of Flickr

 

Is it really possible to switch industries? Can anyone land at their dream job? As a career coach, I have seen many job seekers limit what is truly possible in their careers simply because they believed common misconceptions. Not only do common misperceptions or myths hold job seekers back, but they can be detrimental in the long run. Think of the prolonged job searches, feeling trapped at a job you are disengaged from, and how your health can suffer because of stress. By uncovering and debunking some of the most common job search myths, your job search can soar to heights you never imagined.

 

Myth #1: You do not need a cover letter

Are cover letters a requirement? Many employers require a cover letter, but think of them as the key to getting directly in front of a hiring manager. A cover letter demonstrates an interest in the company, explains your skills, and covers what is not included in your résumé. It is an introduction to a hiring manager that highlights your accomplishments, accompanies your résumé, and it is your chance to make your case for an interview. In fact, a cover letter is read before your résumé and often determines if a hiring manager will take the time to read your résumé. A well-written cover letter is tailored to a specific company, grabs the attention of a hiring manager, and beckons him or her to take immediate action.

 

Myth #2: Changing careers is impossible

Jennifer Ghazzouli was a bench chemist for the Philadelphia Police Department. She wanted more from her job and switched careers. She is now in recruiting and leads global hiring strategy for QVC. Jennifer was approached early in her career about becoming a recruiter and was told by others that recruiting is sales. She initially balked at the idea. However, Jennifer knew that she was not happy as a bench chemist. When she talked to her friends, they shared insights and ultimately the job lead.

Changing careers was one of the top frustrations of the many job seekers we asked. They find it is challenging to enter a new industry without the industry experience the job appears to require. A career change requires more work than changing employers, but it is not an impossible task. Like Jennifer, many of the people who successfully broke into a new industry do so through their network. In fact, I saw this happening as a recruiter. A position that called for a specific industry experience would go to someone who was able to promote transferable skills and experience as value-adds. Branding in these cases was just as responsible as networking. In terms of transitioning, research the new industry by looking at employers, asking questions of those already in the industry, and volunteering. Hard skills can be transferred from one career to another. Additionally, soft skills  also play a huge role in your career. Unlike hard skills, a good grasp of soft skills is required in any industry. Like changing an employer, consider what makes you happy in your career and why you want to transition to a new industry.

 

Myth #3: The job of your dreams is not viable

Jack Morrison of SAP America never doubted his chances of success. Unfortunately, most people somewhere along the way are told and believe that success is not possible for them; that they are not worthy to receive what they really want, and/or that it is better to be accepted, and to not rock the boat. So many people settle for a job that pays the bills. Settling for a job you are not passionate about is a recipe for disengagement. Employee disengagement is an epidemic at 70%, costing US companies $450 billion each year, and costing individuals the chance to thrive, be fulfilled and well-paid. Just like with changing careers, research is king when it comes to landing your dream job. Make a list of companies that fit 80% of your criteria and begin finding and reaching out to contacts within those companies. Brian Quinn dreamed of being a rock star from a very young age and never gave up on his dream career. The path was not easy, but he worked hard to fulfill his calling and found success.

 

Myth #4: Do not leave your job without having another one waiting

It is always better to have a new job waiting before you quit. Having a job makes it easier to negotiate for a higher salary and you avoid unemployment bias. However, you may not always have the luxury of searching for a job while employed. Also, consider your happiness if you are employed at a job you dislike. If the job is stressful enough that you want to leave immediately, take your financial situation into account. If you have savings to get by for a little while, plan your job search out, and even consider the help of a career coach. Evaluate the costs to your life and potentially to your wallet by staying stuck versus the investment you make in being able to take control of your life. Think about being able to land at a company where you can thrive and be paid well. That is what we help job seekers obtain!

 

Myth #5: Employment is a one-way street

The job seekers who feel that they are at an employer’s mercy may be stuck in a cycle of disappointment in their job search. Their confidence is gone and they start to believe something is wrong with them, and they must take whatever they can get. In these instances, it is their tools and tactics that need adjustment, not who they are or what they want. The end result of putting yourself at the mercy of an employer is landing an awful job. It does not have to be this way. Just as an employer is making sure you are a good fit at an interview, you are doing the same. You owe it to yourself and your happiness to accept a job at an employer who will keep you engaged and fulfilled. Ask questions at your interview, discover their mission, and research them beforehand. Additionally, your number one weapon against being at an employer’s mercy is momentum, which we help job seekers generate. Momentum is having several offers in play, while employers bid over you- much like an auction. Instead hoping that you are hired by an employer, the employer hopes that they can persuade you to work for them. That is the power of job momentum!

 

Job seeker misconceptions or myths can prolong a job search and frustrate employees who want to make major career changes. Worse, these mistaken beliefs can cause job seekers to doubt themselves, to give up on their job searches, and to reach a place of disappointment and desperation. Often job search methods and tools are the problem, not the job seeker. By clearing away these misconceptions we hope that job seekers will reject these self-limiting beliefs and realize what is possible in their job search.

What common job search myths would you add to this list?

 

 

Are You Too Picky in Your Job Search?

Job search by Aaron Gaines of Flickr

Job search by Aaron Gaines of Flickr

Is there such a thing as being too picky in your job search? Is it possible to have standards, expectations, or criteria so high that it becomes difficult to land?

When I was a recruiter, I had a consultant with a unique set of challenges, and very valuable niche clinical trial skills. She lived within five miles of a major pharmaceutical company for which she completed an 18-month contract, and then she was not allowed to return or extend her contract due to the company’s strict policy. The policy was designed to eliminate the risk of having any consultants misconstrue their employment relationship with the company and any claim to employee benefits. We wanted to place her again, because she was a very presentable candidate and her skill set was high in demand. However, her job criteria was to work for another pharmaceutical company within a five-mile radius of her house. This did not exist. In spite of her criteria, any time a position opened up in another company, we called her to try and convince her that she would not find what she was seeking.

She was also collecting unemployment compensation from my firm. As you can see, this became an issue that did not just impact the consultant’s ability to land something new, but it became costly to us. It was a lose-lose-lose situation. Our clients lost a good prospect. She lost her ability to make a great rate and to gain additional experience that could help further develop her skills; and we lost money on unemployment compensation and the margin we would make for placing her.

This brings up a good point about the other stakeholders in your career. Who else has an investment in whether you land and what you earn? Are you borrowing or living off of someone else while you search for something better? They will want to tell you to take anything, to be fair to them. However, taking anything could put you back on “their couch” within six months.  Many people perceive their challenges as being too great, and as a result, settle for less. Adjusting your criteria and your strategy will help you overcome a difficult job search.

It may take a little longer to find the right position that will return you to a good standard of living long-term, and then again, it may not take as much time as trying to market yourself for anything available. Those stakeholders want to make sure you are making an effort. If you need to educate them on why you are being more selective, you can show them this article, but make sure you are seeking something achievable. (If you have doubts, contact us for a consultation.)

It is possible to have standards and expectations that are so high that it may take longer to land at your next employer. The challenges may not be as specific as the consultant we tried to place, but a few common challenges do exist.

 

Challenge: Age

Age is one major example with its own unique set of challenges. Hiring managers may assume senior professionals are out-of-date when it comes to technology, or that they may command a higher salary than a younger worker. It is true that especially during the poor economy, some companies replaced experienced workforces with fresher, cheaper talent, but they also suffered from their staff not getting the benefit of experienced professionals’ wisdom, trial and error, and their ability to navigate VIP relationships. The value of experience can be sold!

Another perceived risk of hiring an older worker is more related to health and vitality. How many more years do they have in them? Are they half out the door into retirement? Do they have the stamina to keep up with younger staff? Are they “with it” enough to relate to the millennial workforce? These challenges and perceptions can be overcome by being the picture of health and energy. Take care of yourself- exercise and eat well. Promote activities outside of work on your LinkedIn profile that prove you are dynamic and have the stamina to maintain a full plate and thrive. Most importantly, keep up with technological trends by reading tech blogs, following tech authorities, and experimenting with new technologies and social media platforms.

 

Challenge: Lack of qualifications

You may not have all the qualifications needed for a position. Many great companies would RATHER hire someone who has the aptitude to learn the skills rather than someone who has the skills mastered. This is especially true if they already have a master of skills on their staff, and if that master is looking to move upward, and they want to create growth and development opportunities. One way to overcome being underqualified is to build rapport and establish a relationship with hiring managers, or employees at your companies of choice. It is not just about the relationship here, but more about the unique value you can bring to the table. Yes, a hiring manager wants to hire someone they like and feel comfortable with, but hiring is a business decision, and the hire is going to make the manager look good; so an applicant better bring something unique to the table.

An interesting statistic I learned at the PA Conference for Women is that women will apply if they have 7-out-of-10 qualifications, while men will apply if they have 3-out-of-10 qualifications. If it were true that the most qualified candidate obtains the job, women would be landing at these jobs, but only if they threw their hat into the ring. Does this make you rethink your applications?

 

Challenge: Being overqualified

Hiring managers may assume if your education and experience are more than what the position requires, you will command a higher salary as well. Or they may fear you will quickly become disengaged and will leave as soon as the next job opportunity arrives. However, some people legitimately want to take a step back. I have had many clients that for heath reasons no longer want the stress and responsibility of their executive jobs. They want to assemble widgets. They want to do something monotonous and cathartic. Yes, they can bring a certain something with them from their executive experience that could be very valuable in developing the team as a whole- this is where you have to be careful, though. If you want to assemble widgets now, sell your ability to make widgets, not your previous executive experience.

You cannot refute the personal experiences other people have had. Hiring managers and recruiters have already experienced more senior workers underestimating the challenge of NOT being the manager, not having input into how things are done, and not being able to mesh with a younger staff. You cannot easily overcome this perception by promoting your executive experience as a value-add, and you cannot just convince someone that it will not be a problem and that you will be satisfied with a lower position. Recruiters and hiring managers have heard these reassurances before and have lived to regret them. Before jumping into a major career shift, take a few moments to consider what you really want from that shift and your overall goals.

Too many others have sought lower opportunity because they had challenges looking for work at their level that they could not overcome because of their limited knowledge of job search strategy. Being more flexible is advice many people get, and it seems logical – if you cannot land something suitable, settle for something less. Seeking work at a lower level can be a good opportunity, but only if a company is willing to offer growth opportunities. It is similar to taking a position for which you are underqualified. That said, beware of not so great companies that only want to take advantage of desperate workers willing to accept lesser pay.

Do not underestimate the cost of working for a not so great company. You will have found employment, but consider the detrimental costs to your health, quality of life, and your self-esteem. These companies are often bullies who create a toxic work culture and make you feel and believe over time that you are somehow lucky to have work, fostering a fear of leaving. This is essentially mental abuse. No one has to ever settle for this!  Searching when overqualified often takes LONGER as you get invited for interviews, think you have better experience than other candidates, only to find out that you did not get the job. This cycle can affect your faith in yourself and in your chances of finding work, but there is nothing wrong with you- just your strategy and system. We can help!

 

Our take

Having high standards (within reason) may make it slightly more difficult to land, but it is possible. Know what you want, map a plan out to achieve it, and pursue your goals. If it is not viable as the next step, fill in the steps in between. What steps do you need to take to achieve what you want? More training? Acquiring new skills? Discovering how you can apply your existing skills, if you are not completely qualified? There are ways to overcome these challenges* and we have already helped our clients through many of them.

*There are challenges we are not adept at handling (see the FAQs on this page), but we do have resources and partners who do specialize in helping you overcome unique challenges.

Overcoming challenges sometimes requires shifting tracks or retraining. Grit, or your perseverance and passion for long-term goals, is a key ingredient in your job search, but you could also run the risk of spinning your wheels and burning out with the wrong strategy and job search system. We have devised the perfect system that will help you do this in 90 days or less, guaranteed, if you find that you are wasting valuable time (and potential income) figuring this out for yourself. We are here to be your partner.

 

Is your search filled with unique challenges that make it more difficult to land? Are you being too picky in your job search? It may be tempting to lower your standards and settle for less.  However, a shift in your criteria or a change in your mindset will help you overcome these challenges. If it is possible for someone else to land their desired job, you can certainly do the same. If you are having a difficult time creating a road map, we can help! Do not settle for less because your criteria and standards are higher than most. If you are hesitant with a difficult job search, here is some advice to consider from comedian Jim Carrey: “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance with what you do what.”

 

 

Create Your Best Year Yet, Part 2

Goal Setting by Angie Torres of Flickr

Goal Setting by Angie Torres of Flickr

Do you feel as if you lived up to your potential during the last year? Are you still playing catch-up from the hits you took during the economic slump? Are you ready to make big changes in your professional life? Your previous year may not have been the best in terms of job success, but now is your chance to make a rebound and create the breakthroughs you desire. You are no longer bound by the shortcomings of the previous year. New job search adventures that enable you to put your life on an upward track await you. Now is the time to create your best year yet!

Creating your best year starts with attainable goals that allow you to achieve your dreams. Take a moment to reflect on your highs and lows from the previous year. If any attachments from the previous year are holding you back, take the time to release them. Where have you been and where would you like to proceed? Remember, where you have been does NOT limit where you can go. What are your biggest career goals? What have you done to achieve them? If your biggest goal is to simply land a new job, it is time to dream and plan bigger. Now is your time! Now is your greatest year! However, you will not obtain your best year yet without planning, especially in your job search. What do you want from a future employer? What are your long-term career goals? How quickly do you want to land? How do you want your job to enhance your life? Once you have your goals in mind write them down and create a plan of action, and commit to that action.

 

1. What are your counter-desires?

Once you have decided what your career goals are, and what you do and do not want from your next job, it is time to consider your counter-desires. As Esther Hicks, an inspirational speaker, puts it, “Any time you decide what you don’t want, a counter-desire is born.” This is a logical place to decide what you want. Approach your counter-desires with the mindset that achieving your goals is possible, and that you deserve to complete them. Think about it in this manner- if anyone else has completed it, you do not need any further evidence that it is possible. Why not you? We know that plenty of people search for and land jobs. There are no reasons why you cannot do the same. Most people have challenges; all you need are solutions (we have those!). Look for inspiration from others who are already where you want to be.

 

2. Sit down and decide what your career goals are

Career goals are more than just settling for the first employer that will hire you, or finding a new position with a higher salary. Sitting down, figuring out what is best for you, and writing those goals down are critical first steps. Evaluate and reflect upon what you want from an employer in order to feel fulfilled. If you plunge head first into a job search without goals, or a plan of action, you risk being dissatisfied in the long-run. This could be in the form of a continued job search that extends for several more months, or landing a position with an employer you are not passionate about. Take the time to set goals to ensure that you have a solid vision of how your job search will flow and that you have a desired end-goal in mind, beyond landing.

Setting goals can consist of creating micromovements as a way to get started. Think about setting smaller goals that can be done in five minutes or less, as you move toward your larger goal. These goals will propel you forward in your job search, help you determine what you do and do not want, make a seemingly difficult task less difficult, and will help ignite your drive during your search as you build goal-achieving momentum. Who can’t find five minutes to move toward their goals?

 

3. Develop your S.M.A.R.T. goals to form a plan of action

I fully believe in the phrase, “work smarter, not harder.” S.M.A.R.T. goals are an excellent way to begin setting realistic goals that are achievable. I was impressed when I learned that Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business teaches their seniors how to develop S.M.A.R.T. goals for their job search in the mandatory Career Management course I teach. S.M.A.R.T. goals are defined as:

Specific: Do not be vague. Exactly what do you want?

Measurable: Quantify your goal. How will you know if you have achieved it or not?

Attainable: Be honest with yourself about what you can reasonably accomplish at this point in your life- along with taking your current responsibilities into consideration. It has to be doable, real, and practical.

Results-oriented: What is the ideal outcome? How will you know you achieved your goal?

Time: Associate a timeframe with each goal. When should you complete the goal and/or the steps associated with completing the goal?

S.M.A.R.T. goals, as opposed to common goals, enable you to be optimally effective in developing and achieving your goals.

For example:

A common job search goal may be to land a job soon.

A S.M.A.R.T. job search goal would be to land at one of your top five choices within two months, by contacting ten people each week, and setting up at least two meetings each week.

Goals2Go has an excellent tutorial video and worksheets on how to develop, set, and apply S.M.A.R.T. goals.

 

 

Goals-Theres-no-telling- Jim Rohn

 

 

Your previous year may not have been your best year. You may have felt as if you did not live up to your professional and economic potential. Or perhaps you are still recovering from the economic slump. Now is the best time to create your best year yet. Leave the difficulties of the previous year behind by starting the New Year with attainable career goals. These are goals you have taken the time to carefully develop in a  S.M.A.R.T. way, these goals are an obtainable plan of action, and they form a vision for what your job search will look like. You will dream big, land quickly, and obtain the position you want at an employer that excites and fulfills you. Can you feel it? This IS your best year yet!

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.