Archives for job help

Four Experts Agree: Smart People Engage Coaches

Time is Money

Time is Money

 

If I had a nickel for every time a client told me…

“I would ask them what they think of my new resume, but I don’t want them to think I’m crazy for spending the money to have it professionally written.”

Or

“I don’t know if my spouse is going to go for this. I mean, I need a job, and what I’ve been doing isn’t working, and he/she definitely wants me back to work, but what if we need that money to pay bills if I wind up still looking for a job three months from now.”

Or…

“I would really love to give you a testimonial. You did a fantastic job, but I don’t know if they know I didn’t get here on my own.”

Of course, my clients have every right to keep our relationship confidential, and I completely respect that.

However, in response:

If you haven’t landed or come close to an offer three months after engaging me and you took advantage of everything that I proposed (through a formal proposal process), you get your money back. That is my guarantee.

Also, smart people engage experts, and the experts will tell you that they got where they are because they engaged other experts to help teach them.

Here are four experts who advise that if you want to achieve your goals, don’t spend eight hours doing adequately what an expert can do well in half the time.

 

“The only difference between a rich person and poor person is how they use their time” -Robert Kiyosaki, businessman and author of Rich Dad Poor Dad.

“Today is your day to take total control of your future! Everyone needs a great mentor!” -Bill Walsh, business coach, CEO and founder of Powerteam International.

“Time well spent results in more money to spend, more money to save, and more time to vacation.” – Zig Ziglar, motivational speaker, salesman and author of Better Than Good.

“Effectiveness is doing the things that get you closer to your goals.” -Tim Ferriss entrepreneur, public speaker and author of The 4-Hour Workweek.

 

Time is money, especially when you are in transition. Every week you spend unemployed or without a job is another week spent without optimal income. I know that it is scary to spend money when you do not know how long that money will last. But if the money you spend in transition is not increasing your chances of bringing in income in the future, then once it is spent, it is gone.

I really do not mind at all if a client wants to take all the credit and keeps me a secret. It is ultimately their wise decision to invest in their success and they were smart enough to choose me.

 

Did Your Job Break You?

Hands and Head by Timothy Actwell of Flickr

Hands and Head by Timothy Actwell of Flickr

When you are in an airplane far above the ground, you often consider that if anything were to go wrong you would most likely plummet to your death. It is very easy to see the risk. It is also easy to understand why some fear traveling by air and yet we know statistically we are far more likely to be hurt or die in a car accident. However, this is everyday life. We do not think about the risks as much, even though they are there all of the time.

Similarly, when we are faced with an offer for a less-than-ideal job while confronting mounting bills and not knowing where the money will come from, the decision seems obvious. Unfortunately, many are unaware of the risk of accepting a bad job. Therefore we do not mitigate the risk of having a job that breaks us.

What do we mean by this? There are two ways a job can break you and often times these ways coincide. One break is spiritual and the other is pragmatic.

If you have been working for a while, you might have had one of those days where you feel broken, where you have had a bad day. A bad day is not the same as having a job that breaks you down bit by bit psychologically and spiritually every day. It is much harder to notice when this happens because it usually happens gradually. Sadly, most people do not recognize how they have changed until they have reached a point of resignation.

Another way a job can break you is by breaking your path to prosperity. I understand that when faced with no income, accepting a lower income seems like a better choice, but please recognize that a setback in your income usually is not temporary; it impacts your trajectory for the rest of your life unless you know how to recover.

Spotting an employer who contributes to breaking you is not easy, even with sites like Glassdoor.com. It requires you to have the confidence to qualify them.

Furthermore, if you have not acquired the life skill of career transitioning, then you also lack the confidence to know that you can make something better happen. In turn, this makes you susceptible to being a victim of a bad employer.

If you do not think looking for a job sounds like fun or is something you would enjoy, I understand. It is like budgeting, not everyone enjoys it or finds it fun, but if you want to reach your financial goals it is worth doing. Additionally, there are many teachers and products to make the process less painful.

The same applies to your job search. Most people struggle to make something happen in their job search because they are unaware of the best ways to produce results. They make decisions based on fear and wind up in jobs that break them. However, everyone has the ability to learn and the capacity to apply better tools and techniques to produce greater momentum and better job offers. In fact, that is why we are here.

 

If you have found yourself broken by your job, or you balk at the process of job searching, check out our do-it-yourself tools or fill out a needs assessment form to have a free consultation and to explore one-on-one branding and coaching.

 

The #1 Mistake Job Seekers Make That Get Them Stuck

"You're only as good as your last at bat." Created with Pablo by Buffer

“You’re Only As Good as Your Last At Bat” Created with Pablo by Buffer

 

So you have decided that now is the time to start taking action to change your career circumstances. You sort through old files, dig up the old résumé, and realize that it has not been updated in years. You struggle to remember everything that you did. For a moment you doubt if you are hirable. Taking a look at your outdated résumé, you wonder if you would hire yourself. Conclusion: not with this résumé.

You wonder to yourself if you really have time to give this job search what it takes. You tell yourself that you have to do SOMETHING. You cannot stay where you are any longer. Something has got to give. Writer’s block sets in hard, though, as you look at job descriptions and say, “I could do that. I could do that, too. How do I put that in my résumé? What did I really spend all these years doing? Did the work I performed really matter?”

Dusting off and updating your résumé does seem like a logical place to start when you decide that you must take action. However, if this is where you start then you are making one of the most common mistakes that lead most jobseekers down a road of frustration, disappointment, and hopelessness.

I have found that a lot of people love to talk about themselves, especially when they are asked the right questions. It is not as enjoyable, however, to write about yourself, especially when it really matters.

If your résumé is not the best place to start your job search, what is the best first thing you can do?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about creating a vision that pulls you out of bed. I was certainly trying to speak to the people who find themselves in that state of frustration, depression, disappointment, and hopelessness, but do not wait until you are in that state of mind before designing your future. Save yourself NOW from that future torture.

Epic Careering outlines seven steps of the transition process, the first of which being Career Discovery. Questions you would ask yourself during this stage would be, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” and, “What is the next logical stage in my career if I am to meet my ultimate goals?”  Even if you think you know that you want something similar to what you have, but just with different circumstances, it is worth an investment of time and thought to decide exactly what improvements in circumstances look like.

Would you report to a manager who is much more open-minded about your ideas?

Would you want to work with people who you would hang out with socially?

Do you want to work for a company whose mission you support and believe?

If you have already reached the end of your rope with your job, you may believe that any change would be an improvement. Nevertheless, I have seen this type of thinking produce even worse conditions.

When writing a résumé and conducting the job search seem intimidating, it will be tempting to reach for the low hanging fruit and resort to doing whatever is easiest and seems to take the least amount of time. This usually means plopping in some new responsibilities that you assumed since you last updated your résumé, scouring job boards, and clicking apply.

This is exactly what leads to a cycle of frustration, disappointment, and hopelessness.

Take some time, and it doesn’t have to be much, to really think about what your next position and boss have to offer you in order to thrive and be successful. Maybe you do not change your role at all, but just the conditions under which you perform your next role. If you know you do not like your role, but you need to change and make an income, you might tend to think that you will do what is easiest. That is landing something you have the highest probability of getting because you did it already, and then take more time to search for something better while you are still working.

Hey, this is sometimes what you have to do, and recruiters will certainly tell you this is the most logical step (because you represent a placement fee). What I have seen happen more times than not is that people land, and they realize that they better perform if they want to keep their job. They put their efforts on hold for 90 days to obtain training in how to perform, and get to know the key players. That is 90 days wasted. They wind up miserable, and then have to try extra hard to seem motivated and engaged, when they are really already burned out. They come home, not only too tired to search job boards or attend networking meetings, but too tired to play card games with their kids or deal with the broken lawnmower. Not only do they feel like failures at their job, but they feel like failures at home. It bleeds into every area of their life, and they start to forget how brilliant and valuable they really are, which makes it that much harder to imagine interviewing. Essentially, they become “stuck.”

What you might not know is that you can land something you really like and would succeed in just as quickly with a clear vision of what you want. This includes a professionally branded résumé targeted to resonate with the employer who is able to offer you the conditions under which you will succeed, and an effective proactive campaign to find them and convince them that they need you.

You will not know if your résumé, however well-written and up-to-date, is effective until you know who’s reading it and what they need to know about you to identify you as the right fit. Furthermore, you will not know if your résumé is really a powerful tool in your success until the interviews that it garners are for jobs that you would really want and succeed in.

I think it is wise to have a plan A and a plan B. I challenge you, if you think that plan A is finding something lateral even though it will not make you happy, to invert which one is your plan A and which one is your plan B. Also, do not try to write your résumé until you know who you want to read it. (Then call us, because we will ask you all the right questions.)

Gary Vaynerchuk, Social Media and Business thought leader, believes strongly in meritocracy, where “you’re only as good as your last at bat.” If you don’t take the time to set yourself up for a successful next job by developing your criteria, you can lose value in the marketplace, decrease your competitive edge, and make it that much harder to find something that really suits you. This means a weakened career and income trajectory. It means a lesser quality of life.

We’ve certainly quoted Jim Carrey before, “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

It is not that it takes a lot of time to develop a good idea of what you really want; it is that you have to dig through layers and layers of untruths that you have come to believe about what is possible.

Remember, we have systems, services and tools to usher you through all of this – Career Development, Criteria Identification, Target Company Profiling, and Personal Branding.

Fill out and send us a needs assessment form and your most recent résumé and we will help you begin a career roadmap that actually helps you navigate to a happy place in your career.

 

 

“What Is Your Greatest Weakness?” – A Trick Question?

Job Interviews by World Relief Spokane of Flickr

Job Interviews by World Relief Spokane of Flickr

 

“What is your greatest weakness?” You could answer everything else right, but if you do not understand the purpose of this question and answer it powerfully, it can sink an otherwise fantastic interview. The real point of this question is to see how you have previously reacted in the face of difficulty as a consistent pattern. Recruiters believe past behavior is the best indication of future behavior. That is why there is an interview methodology coined “behavioral interviewing.” Think of this question as a probe to see how coachable you are—how willing you are to develop and grow. Are you honest with your interview? Are you honest with yourself? This question serves a lot of purposes for the employer, but their main agenda is to find the best candidate to fill the position, which costs the company money every day it remains unfilled.

Answering “what is your greatest weakness?” with a lie is unethical and could cost you the job, but answering too honestly could give a potential employer the impression that you don’t believe in yourself; and if you do not believe in yourself, the employer won’t either. An arrogant answer such as “I have no weaknesses,” or “I’m too perfect,” could also cost you the job. If you don’t volunteer a weakness, a potential employer won’t believe you. They will assume your weakness IS arrogance or that you are not coachable. In order to be coachable, you have to be able to acknowledge areas of development. Employers want to know if you will be an asset or a liability, in addition to making sure you will be a good fit and they MUST be able to believe you.

 

Determine your weaknesses

First, take stock of your weaknesses. We all have them and they are most likely areas of your professional life that you would like to improve. What currently challenges you? Is it a soft or a hard skill that you are lacking? Are you unfamiliar with technology? Do you shy away from public speaking? We are bound to have blind spots if we rely on our own perceptions of ourselves to identify our weaknesses. Part of our full-service branding includes a survey that is sent your trusted confidants, the people who know you best. It takes BRAVERY and HUMILITY to endure this process. It also demonstrates a dedication to growth. Imagine how impressed an employer will be, though, if you voluntarily participated in a 360 degree feedback. A 360 degree feedback is a process where employees receive confidential feedback from their managers and peers. This process allows employees to come to a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

 

Be honest with a potential employer

Be honest with your interviewer, but not too honest. Self-depreciation elicits sympathy, but not job offers. Once you find your weaknesses, neutralize any emotion (shame, guilt, etc.) from mentions of your weaknesses. The Sedona Method of releasing is one way to separate yourself from your weaknesses. There are also other methods, such as Christian Mickelsen’s Instant Miracle, and EFT, also known as tapping. The purpose of release is to free yourself from the emotional weight of your weaknesses. After you find and release your weaknesses, ask yourself a few questions. How has this challenge affected your work and what steps have you been taking to overcome the weakness? Are you taking classes? Are you reading books? Are you doing actively doing the task you dreaded? Have you engaged a coach? According to a 2009 ICF Global Coaching Client study, of the 2200 participants, over 99% of the professionals who used a career coach emerged either “somewhat satisfied” or “very satisfied” from the experience.

Tell the interviewer how you have overcome or are overcoming the weakness and how you came to realize its impact on your performance. Demonstrate to your employer how you added value by confronting your weakness. The Sedona methods and the other methods mentioned are ways to help resolve these kinds of emotional challenges. Perhaps you were terrified of interacting with customers, but recognized your weakness and strove to work with them. Soon you had fewer issues interacting with customers and improved sales at your company. Think about your own experiences and stick to the facts.

 

Is your weakness a strength?

Perhaps your weakness is actually a strength. (Conversely, some strengths can be weaknesses, so be careful with this line of reasoning. As I mentioned earlier, statements such as “I’m too organized” or “I’m a perfectionist” could come off as arrogant to an interviewer.) For example, you may not have the experience for the position for which you are interviewing, but you sell your experience in other industries as something that will offer new insights as to how to accomplish tasks. In other words, you offer a potential employer a fresh perspective. If you try to spin your weakness as a strength without a real solution, you may strike your interviewer as disingenuous. Like everything else, state the problem, your solution, how you have practically applied that solution to your work, and what the outcomes and impacts have been.

 

The “What is your greatest weakness?” question is designed to discover your response to challenges. The point is not to show a potential employer that you are flawless—no one believes you are without flaws. Rather, employers want to hire people who know they are not perfect (because no one is), but are willing to acknowledge areas that can be developed as needed in a position and proactively seek out ways to grow.

Think about some of your greatest achievements. Were you successful because you already knew the solution, or did that great achievement come from finding a solution in the midst of the problem?

 

7 Ways to Leave Your Current Job without Burning Bridges

Rusty Bridge by ThreePinner of Flickr

Rusty Bridge by ThreePinner of Flickr

Steven Slater, a JetBlue Airways flight attendant, was frustrated with his job. He had enough one day and quit on the spot. He cursed at the passenger he had been arguing with, grabbed a beer, and slid down the plane’s emergency chute. Slater was hailed as a hero by many, but quickly landed in trouble. His method of quitting burned a lot of bridges, to say the least. Workers who are unhappy deserve to find a better job, but how you quit affects your job search. If you leave your employer in a bind, you may jeopardize your professional future as a reputation for quitting suddenly may follow you. Exercising patience and leaving on good terms will make it easier to land future jobs.

 

  1. Keep your job search confidential

Revealing you are looking for work can cause you to be terminated immediately. Many employers fear that job seekers will depart and take confidential information with them, or they may not give the job their best effort. Ask former employers, co-workers, and clients for recommendations to avoid being discovered during your job search. Be aware that updating your LinkedIn profile may alert employers, but do not let that fear keep you from optimizing your profile. It is a small world and word of your search could travel. Explain to your trusted contacts and potential employers that your job search is confidential. When it comes to references, use previous supervisors. They may ask if your current employer will be a reference. The response to this question depends on how confident you feel that, in spite of your leaving, your employer will sing your praises. Let your prospective employer know that upon receipt of an offer, you will ask your current employer to be a reference. You can be honest if you are uncertain. All too often previous employers are spiteful, though there are laws in most states to protect employees from references that prevent them from landing viable new work.

 

  1. Do not make a dramatic exit

If you have a toxic work culture, or boss, it may be tempting to heed the siren call of gleeful abandonment once your next position is secured. There may be an urge to slap a letter of resignation on your boss’s desk, or to tell your co-workers what you really think of them as you make your exit. Keep your exit civil and classy regardless of your working conditions. You do not know when you may need someone at your company as a future reference. They may hesitate to help you depending on how you departed.

 

  1. Give ample notice

Turn in your notice at least two weeks before your departure. Two weeks is standard, but give a longer notice when possible to be considerate toward your employer. A sudden exit greatly inconveniences your boss, colleagues, and customers, and ensures you leave on bad terms as they scramble to find a replacement. Again, it is a small world and the reputation that you left your employer in a bind may follow you. While being considerate, you also want to protect yourself. Some employers may send you home that day when you give your notice, and you may even find yourself escorted by security. This is a policy sometimes borne out of concern that departing employers may take proprietary information, especially if you accept a job offer with a competitor. Still, give them the consideration of two weeks’ notice.

  1. Train your replacement

Training new employees is time-consuming for many employers. Make the transition easier for your boss by offering to work with your replacement, or to create a training manual. These actions create a win-win-win scenario for everyone involved. Your boss does not have to spend time training a new employee, your replacement is empowered to move into your position with minimal effort, and you leave a reputation of reliability.

  1. Finish your existing projects

Finish your existing projects and tie up loose ends. No one wants to be saddled with the burden of trying to complete someone else’s project. If it is not possible to complete a project, create and keep ample documentation. A finished project or detailed instructions makes it easier for your replacement to move into your role.

 

  1. Connect with co-workers

Let your co-workers know of your departure and offer to keep in touch. Informing your co-workers in advance gives them time to prepare for the transition, though you want to use discretion about who you can trust. Send a farewell message via mass e-mail and give co-workers your contact information, such as a personal e-mail address and a LinkedIn profile. Prepare it before you leave, as you may only have 30 minutes to pack up your belongings and leave the premises. Make sure your colleagues are in your LinkedIn network and stay in contact. You never know where a co-worker may end up, if he or she may be your next boss, or in a prime position to hire you at a future job.

 

counteroffer

  1. Do not accept a counteroffer

Your boss may make a counteroffer once they discover your intent to leave. There are good reasons to deny this offer. It is designed to stop you from leaving, but you may be fired within a few months as they devise a plan to replace you. Additionally, the dissatisfaction that caused you to seek a new job will remain, even with a pay raise. Remind yourself of the reasons you are leaving and stick to your decision.

 

If you work at a less-than-ideal employer, it may be tempting to burn bridges as you exit. We hope you are leaving your employer because you have big plans to become happy professionally. We encourage you to take control and plan your exit. If you really have days that are SO bad that you fantasize about going out in a blaze of glory, what you are really seeking is the ultimate feeling of empowerment. This does not come from that blaze of glory moment- that moment can burn you forever. It comes from intentionally and strategically planning your next move and exiting with class. Chances are there are others at your job having the same fantasy who will be inspired by and perhaps envious of your moving on to bigger and better. This is really the best revenge against employers who have proven undeserving of your talents, effort, and time.

 

How to Use Twitter and Facebook to Land Your Next Job Faster

Facebook Website Screenshot by Spencer E Holtaway of Flickr

Facebook Website Screenshot by Spencer E Holtaway of Flickr

According to the 2015 Jobvite Recruiter Nation survey, 92% of recruiters use social media for recruiting. While it is clear recruiters rely on LinkedIn, you might be surprised to know that 55% use Facebook and 47% use Twitter for recruiting. A strategic presence on multiple social media networks is a way to distinguish yourself from the competition and to land sooner. Social media can be used to catch a hiring manager in the flow of their day, and to grab their attention while your competition waits for their friend to forward an introduction request.

 

Generated by MemeGenerator

Generated by MemeGenerator

Adding Twitter and Facebook to your arsenal of job search tools can be thought of as visiting a secret fishing hole. Except, that hole is not so secret. In fact everyone knows about its location, much like a highway in plain sight. While everyone is using Facebook or Twitter for personal purposes, you can cast your line, attract, and reel in hiring managers and recruiters through these networks.

In Tales from the Flipside, Jack shared his skepticism, bordering on disdain for Twitter. Part of him becoming a Job Search Jedi was expanding his comfort zone, and trying Twitter was a big stretch for him. Much to his delight, and chagrin (because I was right), Jack made contact with an executive at his target company within minutes. This led to a job opportunity within days. This is after Jack tried Linkedin, e-mail, and the phone without success.

 

Complete your profiles and make them interesting

On Twitter show your profile by including professional information as well as nuggets of personal information that add intrigue to your persona. Ask yourself: What is it about me that would make someone stop and say, ‘Interesting! Let me find out more about this person?’ Consider the little things that make you unique. Do you have a secret obsession with bacon-flavored baked goods? Do you crochet tiny animals? Consider your overall uniqueness. What is your mission? What is extraordinary about you? Let people in and give them a sneak peek of who you are.

Facebook provides more characters to create your profile. Create a complete profile that includes your education, work, interests and hobbies. Add details of your work duties and your accomplishments to round out your profile.

On both sites, use an appropriate picture for your profile. Unlike your LinkedIn profile photo, these sites do not have to be professional, but make at least one of the pictures on each site of you (there are usually two- a profile photo and a banner photo). People trust you more if you are confident enough to put your face out there, and they will make a stronger connection with you and your voice. Of course, avoid using a profile picture that is blatantly offensive, something that would earn you a pink slip at work.

 

Engage with relevant industry people and reel them in

Search for relevant people in your industry and follow them on Twitter, especially if they are at a company where you want to work. Use search engines to find them and follow who Twitter suggests. Keep your ratio of following-to-followers close. If you follow many more people than are following you, you may be perceived as a spammer by others.

Add value to your Twitter followers by sharing content on interesting topics outside of your industry and profession; encourage and request input and start discussions. Many industry leaders post about their interests as well as their professional missions and the challenges they confront. Keep track of this by creating a file for each company and thought leader. Provide them with information they like or need in order to solve a pain point. If you are unsure of their pain point, ask them directly! Private message them or publicly @mention them. Go further by asking them what their clients’ pain points are, so you can refer clients to them. Nothing makes a great impression like solving a problem. Tweet Chats are another excellent way to engage with industry professionals or with others on various topics and to grow your network.

 

Organize your social networks

Organize those you follow on Twitter into categories by creating lists. Lists will allow you keep your industry contacts separate from friends, and will ensure that you can easily follow their tweets. In addition to people from your industry, add friends, family, people who amuse or excite you, companies, magazines, and people from other industries.

Tap into your existing network of friends in your industry on Facebook. Create a Friend List and add professional contacts from among your friends. You can add contacts to your list, but they must already be your friend. This will allow you to target your status updates, instead of sending them to everyone. Make sure your friends understand the value you are driven to contribute in your next job, who you want to meet, and where you would like to work.

Expand your network on Facebook by using the Follow option. Unlike Twitter, a person has to have the Follow option turned on in their profile. If this is option is not turned on, you will have to send that person a friend request. Like others’ posts and engage them with thoughtful comments, perhaps even directing them to other thought leaders and resources to keep the conversation going.

 

Create, share, and post interesting content

Update Twitter frequently with useful industry information and content from industry leaders. Three to five tweets are the ideal number to post, but anything over 50 tweets per day and you risk losing followers. If you write, tweet links to your articles or blog posts. Ask questions of others and start conversations. Try to avoid emotionally-charged debates, and stay away from political arguments, as they are a turn-off to potential employers and followers. 55% of recruiters have reconsidered a candidate (with 61% of those reconsiderations being negative) because of off-color posts. There are exceptions- if you are seeking a mission-based profession that requires raising awareness to be successful, you’ll need to prove that you are not afraid to be vocal and informative. This is while still being tactful, influential, and appealing enough to inspire people to action. Do not bash your employer or complain about your co-workers. Your future employer will envision being on the receiving end of those comments.

Update your Facebook status with career-related activities, industry information, and what you are looking to give to your next employer. Facebook status updates are less formal and longer than LinkedIn status updates, but briefer than LinkedIn published posts. Use humor whenever possible and include pictures, as they statistically increase views and engagement. The more you post, the more you appear in your friends’ newsfeeds. However, two posts per day will suffice. Strike a balance in your posting frequency. You can always save content for another day. Be responsive to those who do comment and share your posts, and make sure you are spending time doing the same for others.

 

Be consistent and reliable

Consistence on your social networks allows you to be reliable. Earn the loyalty of your followers by being loyal to them. Do not take ignored comments personally. People are busy and news feed algorithms change all the time. If you want a request urgently from someone, call or text them. Social media is regarded by most as a non-urgent venue of communication, and they may have a preference toward another social media platform.

Try finding them on another social network such as Google+, Tumblr, or Instagram. Engage them directly by commenting on an article they have written or in the comments section of a personal blog. Your persistence will pay off when they take notice of you and a virtual contact becomes a real-life contact, opening job opportunity doors. This does not happen all the time, but if one venue of connecting is not working, experimenting with other venues can pay off with personal attention. I have successfully used social media to engage with my favorite speakers, best-selling authors, and even celebrities.

Social media is where you can make a virtual connection with people, but you need to convert this conversation into a real-world exchange. Once you have the engagement (picture the fish on the hook) you have to real them in (this is the adding of value- asking them their pain points, what their most important initiatives are, and what their clients’ pain points are).

Adding Twitter and Facebook to your job search arsenal enables you to tap into a vast job search network hidden in plain sight. Build your tribe through two of the most popular social networks rather than just focusing on the professional networks, to add additional value and to make your network more dynamic. Instead of trolling the job boards where most find frustration and overcrowded avenues to job openings, you could be enjoying the exchanges you have. Even after you land, these networks will enrich your personal and professional life, enabling you to stay on top of new opportunities. You will be more aware of where new opportunities are as long as you stay visible and engaged. Use Twitter and Facebook as tools of the trade to bait potential employers, reel them in, and land your next job.

 

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.”

 

 

5 Ways to Develop Soft Skills Employers Love

Climbing to Success with Life Skills by Bunches and Bits of Flickr

Climbing to Success with Life Skills by Bunches and Bits of Flickr

Have you ever felt like soft skills such as communicating effectively, better managing your time, or building relationships was something you are gifted with, and can not be taught? The belief that soft skills can not be taught is a common misconception and Geek Manager Blogger Meri Williams refers to this belief as the “Soft Skills Fairy.” Many people feel some are blessed with soft skills, while others must languish in their inability to grasp them. The truth is that anyone can learn soft skills, much like learning to program code, cook, or fix a car. These skills can be obtained in a variety of ways including reading books, personal development courses, and life coaching. In “9 Soft Skills Every Employee Needs, Regardless of Technical Skill,” I discussed the skills employers want and how knowledge of these skills are not enough. Honing these skills are vital to your employability and professional growth.

 

  1. Setting Goals

Carli Lloyd, a professional soccer star, did not start out as a winner. She was physically unfit, was not mentally strong enough, and her character needed work. She doubled down and improved herself. Lloyd is now considered one of the most physically and mentally fit athletes in professional soccer, and she is lauded for her character. Carli Lloyd’s coach pointed out to her when she was aspiring to join the national soccer team that athletes at this level work hard to obtain results. They live, breathe, and sleep their big goal. They train mentally and physically from the time they wake up until the time they sleep. It takes extreme discipline, and learning which soft skills to develop also requires discipline. Soft skill development requires awareness at a conscious level, and then to become unconsciously competent requires extreme regimen and consistent awareness, for which external guidance can be pivotal. Becoming unconsciously competent takes place in stages.

Many people have blind spots when it comes to their own soft skills. A skills assessment quiz is one of the best ways to pinpoint where your skills are lacking. Setting goals allows you to track your development. One of your goals can be to identify all of the soft skills gaps that stand to threaten your professional success by either taking a quiz or working with a coach.

 

  1. Self-assessment

After completing the quiz and setting goals, take a moment to sit down and decide which skills you need to develop. Prioritize the skills you will develop first, and create a list reasons why you want to improve these soft skills. The list of reasons can range from “I am having trouble connecting to my co-workers,” to “I want to become a better leader.” Whatever your reasons are, they are personal and unique to you. After you have created your list, share it with a coach, mentor, or friend to help keep you accountable. An accountability partner can keep you on track and serve as support.

All of the planning in the universe is useless without a solid plan of action. Once you know where you need to improve, and you have a method of accountability, it is time to put the task of learning soft skills into motion.

 

  1. Work with a coach

The use of a life coach can be another method to identify the blind spots in your soft skills development. People often need someone else to angle the mirror correctly to see what they cannot see in themselves to improve various aspects of their lives. A coach can provide this mirror, a path to move forward, and the ability to push you harder on that path. The development of soft skills is similar to learning physical skills. Unless you exercise those skills, they will not grow. You can also think of a good coach as a captain helping you to navigate the waters of personal and professional development. You could complete these tasks on your own, but arriving at your destination will take much longer.

 

  1. Reading materials

Reading books on how to improve your soft skills can be a great source of encouragement and insight. Additionally, reading can provide a useful road map on your journey to develop your soft skills. Here are ten great books to help you start the journey:

 

  1. Dr. Travis Bradberry- Emotional Intelligence 2.0
  2. Stephen Covey- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
  3. Dale Carnegie- How to Win Friends and Influence People
  4. Dale Carnegie – How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
  5. Andrea Gardner – Change Your Words, Change Your World
  6. Dan Millman – Peaceful Warrior
  7. Daniel Kahneman – Thinking, Fast and Slow
  8. Allyson Lewis – The Seven Minute Difference
  9. Carol S. Dweck – Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
  10. Susan Cain- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

 

  1. Practice, practice, practice

Once you have begun to develop your soft skills, it is time to put them into practice. You would not expect an athlete to go into their first game without practicing, nor would you expect a programmer to release code without extensive testing. In the same manner, you can practice your soft skills. You can join associations or hobby-related clubs. If you really want to put your newly acquired skills to the test, attend a soft skills training workshop. Take and graciously accept feedback, as it will help you keep track of your development progress and help you target areas of weakness. Practicing your soft skills will allow you to sharpen them outside of the workplace. As you continue to put your soft skills to use, recalling them will become easier and will feel more natural.

 

We often think soft skills can not be improved, or are notoriously difficult to develop. In truth, like any area of your professional and personal life worth developing, the development of soft skills is not an easy path. The good news is that anyone can learn and improve these skills if they are willing. As I said in my previous article, technical skills are what employers notice, but soft skills are what help you land and keep you employed. Taking the time to commit to learning soft skills can improve your employment situation by making it easier to land, to constantly grow, and to take your career to new heights.

 

 

9 Soft Skills Every Employee Needs, Regardless of Technical Skill

Business Team by Penn State on Flickr

Business Team by Penn State on Flickr

A brilliant scientist was hired at a pharmaceutical company and was let go six months after landing. He was challenging throughout the qualification process, and I thoroughly coached him during the interview process. He ultimately lost the position because no one could work with him. His brilliance could not be properly leveraged to create value for the organization. Because of his failure to succeed, I was unable to place him anywhere else. Unfortunately, there are a lot of brilliant technically skilled people whose potential for creating value in this world is inhibited by their lack of ability to integrate and collaborate with others.

Soft skills such as time management, relationship building, and communication allow employees to effectively leverage their technical skills and knowledge. These skills are the unsung heroes of the working world and can make or break a job search. A lack of soft skills can cause an otherwise talented employee to lose a job. A good grasp of soft skills separates an above-average employee who constantly brings value to their company from an average employee who only performs their day-to-day tasks. There are numerous soft skills, but I’ve narrowed down the list to nine of the most important skills employers demand:

 

1. Time Management

Effectively managing time allows you to take other people’s busy schedules into consideration.

Demonstrating it in the interview: Give answers that stay within a reasonable limit of time for the details asked.

Demonstrating in your past experience: Promote your ability to deliver assignments or projects on time, even in challenging circumstances.

 

2. Communication

Communicating effectively allows you to connect interpersonally with others via written and verbal means.

Demonstrating it in the interview: Plan and practice what you will say before the interview. Speak clearly and concisely, and listen to your interviewer.

Demonstrating it in your past experience: Provide examples of written material you created, such as a memo.

 

3. Relationship Building

Good relationships are built on trust, positivity, and communication.

Demonstrating it in the interview: Listen and be respectful of your interviewer, and ask questions in order to build rapport.

Demonstrating it in your past experience: Talk positively about your previous employers and provide examples of teamwork.

 

4. Attitude

Your attitude consists of a positive frame of mind that exudes hopeful optimism, and is focused on creating solutions.

Demonstrating it in the interview: You are positive and upbeat throughout the interview.

Demonstrating it in your past experience: Discuss how your positive attitude raised morale, allowed you to easily participate in teamwork, and helped provide solutions.

 

5. Confidence

Confidence is the belief in your own skills and the ability to take on new tasks.

Demonstrating it in the interview: Give your interviewer a firm handshake, make eye contact, and maintain good posture.

Demonstrating it in your past experience: Promote your achievements, especially the successful completion of tasks that were new or difficult.

 

6. Leadership

A good leader is constantly motivated to improve and acts decisively, even if you are not managing others.

Demonstrating it in the interview: Provide examples of how you faced a challenge and acted decisively to create a resolution.

Demonstrating it in your past experience: Quantitatively speak about your accomplishments. How much money did you save the company with your actions?

 

7. Flexibility

Being flexible allows you to adapt to a variety of circumstances and people, and work through unexpected events.

Demonstrating it in the interview: Give your interviewer examples on how you quickly adapted to changing circumstances in the workplace.

Demonstrating it in your past experience: Discuss how you used your flexibility to step out of your comfort zone and to take on new tasks.

 

8. Creativity

A creative employee offers suggestions or ideas on how to improve workflow, or increase work value.

Demonstrating it in the interview: Explain how you solved a productivity problem and how your solution benefited the company.

Demonstrating it in your past experience: Promote the value you added to a company by introducing a more efficient work method.

 

9. Problem-solving

Effective problem-solving takes into account how you encountered a problem, and how you persisted until the solution was found.

Demonstrating it in the interview: Walk an interviewer through your problem solving processes.

Demonstrating it in your past experience: Discuss how you solved a particularly difficult problem and how it positively impacted your employer.

 

Why soft skills matter

Employers use hard skills as criteria to ensure a candidate meets a job’s technical requirements. The interview determines a candidate’s soft skills. I spoke to Guy Fardone about how Evolve IP, a cloud services company, primarily hires candidates based on their emotional intelligence and aptitude. Questions the employer asks are “Do they look me in the eyes, and are they able to listen and then respond appropriately?” “Can they build rapport?” People who come in the door already having a baseline understanding of how to build relationships with people are going to be that much more successful in their career.

 

Many employers rate the importance of soft skills just as highly as technical skills. Your technical skills may open the door to interviews, but your ability to manage time, problem-solve, build relationships, and your creativity are what enable you to land and keep the job. Emphasize how your use of soft skills has to led success in the workplace, and how they can help you bring value to a potential employer. Successfully leveraging your soft skills and your technical skills can set you apart from other job seekers, and enable you to land faster.

The Jetsons Predicted the Future of Work, it Never Came

The Jetsons on My Desk by Quasimime of Flickr

The Jetsons on My Desk by Quasimime of Flickr

 

Growing up I remember being inspired and intrigued by The Jetsons, which had an idealistic idea of the future American working culture. The Jetsons boldly proclaimed that in the 21st Century, Americans would work fewer hours and have more leisure time each week. In fact, the biggest crisis on the horizon would be the lack of working time and people not knowing what to do with all of their free time. The leisure-filled utopia predicted by those living in the 1950s and 60s never came to pass. Instead of a predicted 16-to-20 hour work week, Americans now work an average of 47 hours per week.

 

Working longer hours in America

When compared to other cultures, Americans tend to work longer hours and take shorter vacations. The US is also the most overworked developed nation in the world and has recently overtaken Japan in the number of hours worked per year. Working longer hours has had an interesting effect on the economy. The United States is much richer than Europe and has created more wealth because America has a higher population than Europe, and that population works longer hours. Individually, longer hours do not equal more productivity, especially if the number of hours worked extends beyond 50 hours per week. According to a CNBC article, employee output falls drastically after 55 hours per week, and around the 70-hour mark nothing more is produced. Additionally, many salaried employees putting in extra hours at work aren’t paid overtime: those extra hours are essentially “free” for the employer. The downside to employers is employee burnout, absenteeism, and higher turnover rates.

According to a DIT (Dublin Institute of Technology) research report, 1-in-6 US employees now work more than 60 hours per week. The number of American men who regularly work 48 hours per week or more has risen by 20% in the last 25 years. A study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development stated that Americans are working 20% longer than they did in 1970, while the numbers of hours worked per week has fallen in other industrialized countries. The United States is the only developed country in the world that is not required to provide families with mandatory paid maternity leave, and the Family and Medical Leave Act only covers employees if they’re eligible. When compared with other countries, the situation is so bad that even comedians such as Jon Stewart can’t help but mock it. The Newsroom also addressed the issue, among many others, in a stunning response that debunks the myth of America being the greatest country in the world.

President Obama commented on America’s working culture in late June. “Too many Americans are working long days for less pay than they deserve.” As a result, upcoming changes to federal overtime rules may curb the number of hours salaried employees can work if they make $50,440 or less per year. Either employers will have to pay overtime, or employees will work fewer hours. The changes are expected to affect 5 million workers. The Vanguard Group has already implemented these changes by reclassifying 2,100 of its salaried U.S. employees to hourly employees and the results have been mixed.

 

Americans and vacations

When it comes to days reserved for vacations, American culture falls behind the rest of the developed world. Compared to other countries, Americans receive an average of 14 paid vacation days per year, while France tops out at 39, the UK receives 24 days, and even Canada enjoys an average of 19 days. In some countries vacation days are mandated by law. So why do Americans work so hard and take so few vacations? The reasons are numerous and complex. A Wharton article points out that despite employees’ willingness to accept less pay for more vacation time, hours have been creeping higher for salaried workers. Employees are being asked to work longer hours because it’s cheaper than hiring new workers and unions aren’t instituted in many sectors to protest this practice. People also refuse vacations because they want to get ahead in the workplace and fear being replaced if they take all of their time off. Others fear that work won’t function without them.

The Wharton article also states that Americans’ self-worth is tied to being able to earn more and to spend more. This means bigger homes, more vacation homes, and bigger cars than European counterparts. Additionally, workaholism is a point of pride in our culture, and even while on vacation, workers still engage with the office thanks to technology.

In an attempt to retain a happier, more productive workforce, some companies have recognized the importance of making quality-of-life improvements. These employers have instituted unlimited vacation policies. As long as people are on top of their work schedules at these companies, they are able to take time off whenever they need. Seer Interactive and the Brownstein Group are two local companies with such policies. When voluntary vacation days don’t work, other employers have been known to either force or entice their employees to take time off. Some companies, such as Evernote, give employees $1000 or more to leave work for a week, while other companies require their employees to take at least two weeks of vacation a year.

 

 

Working culture in Europe

In comparison, Europeans tend to value the ability to take long vacations and disengaging from work. When a European goes on vacation, it is not uncommon for an employee to not answer phone calls or e-mail until they return. France is famous for shutting down every August as the majority of the country goes on vacation. The ability to take and enjoy leisure time is seen as a badge of pride. When I was honeymooning in New Zealand, all of the other couples on our excursions were Europeans and were on eight-week “holidays.”

Even as Americans are working longer hours, some employers have been experimenting with other ways to boost productivity. One such method is the inclusion of naps in the workplace. These employers see it as a way to counteract sleep deprivation, lost productivity, and to reduce sick time taken. Companies such as Google, Nike, and the Huffington Post are known for allowing employees to take naps when needed. In fact, Arianna Huffington had her own revelation about sleep and productivity when she collapsed after working long hours with very little sleep. Allowing for naps can also boost an employee’s productivity in the short-term with improved performance and alertness.

 

Working culture in Asia

There are countries with longer working hours than the United States, namely in Asia. In many Asian countries working long hours, sometimes 12 hours per day, is considered normal. In Japan, this type of workaholism is known as “karoshi” or “death by overwork.” It causes 1000 deaths per year. The country also has one of the highest suicide rates in the world as more than 25,000 people took their own lives due to stress from work, depression, isolation, and financial problems. (Fortunately, the rate of suicide has been on the decline in Japan.) In many Asian cultures, people are expected to live to work and to sacrifice their personal lives for the sake of a company. In terms of vacations, workers are reluctant to take time off. In China over 70% of workers don’t take their paid vacation time, and some workers haven’t taken a vacation in years.

 

Why time off matters

The implications for health and personal well-being are numerous. In my previous article, “Is Work Killing You?” I wrote about how not taking time off is detrimental to health and productivity. Long hours do not equal more productivity, and ultimately cost employers down the line with absenteeism, sick time, and high turnover. Workaholism and the fear of being seen as unproductive may have become normalized, but the quest for an ideal work-life balance is higher than ever. There are countless articles that offer advice on how to balance a working life with a personal life. If you have your own work-life struggles, these articles are great resources.

Even as forward-thinking employers seek to address the lack of vacation time in American culture with generous perks and benefits, nothing will change unless the culture changes from the top. Americans can look to other countries for ways to structure their own vacation time, but cultural issues around vacations are deep-seeded. As long as people see long work hours as a point of pride, and others fear getting behind in productivity, or being fired, change will remain sporadic and slow because leaders determine the culture and set the example. If more leaders are willing to take more vacations, it shows employees that it’s okay to take and enjoy vacation time.

 

In the 1950s and 60s, labor experts were certain that Americans would be working fewer hours by the 21st Century. The Jetsons, inspired by the sentiment of the time, had George Jetson working nine hours per week. The idea of working less than 20 hours a week may not have become reality (and probably never will), but a 40-hour work week is definitely a more realistic approach. After all, working more than 50 hours per week certainly doesn’t increase productivity and leads to future problems. The utopia promised by The Jetsons doesn’t have to be a nine-hour work week, but the promise of more leisure time is obtainable. Just imagine what work and leisure time would look like if more Americans worked closer to 40 hours per week and used their allotted vacation time.