Archives for “job seeker”

Unemployment is NOT Easy Money

Unemployment Office by Bytemarks of Flickr

Unemployment Office by Bytemarks of Flickr

If you are on unemployment and doing contracting for temp work, you need to know this…

Honesty is always the best policy. Sometimes being honest can hurt you financially in the short-term, but being dishonest can certainly hurt you worse in the long-term. Learn from my experience.

I have received unemployment benefits from two states throughout my career, in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. My first career was in radio, and I tried to make a go at a full-time career, but also needed to afford living on my own. I discovered that a better financial decision was to work long-term temp assignments full-time while working nights and weekends in radio.

A company that I had worked at for 10 months was reorganizing and laying off people, and I was relieved from my assignment. It was usually no more than two weeks in between long-term temp assignments, but this particular gap was longer than normal. I had no idea that I could receive partial unemployment benefits until a co-worker at the radio station informed me.

So, I filed for partial unemployment, which enabled me to pay my bills. I picked up extra hours at the radio station doing voiceover projects, and continued to lobby for a full-time position there while pursuing other full-time jobs in broadcasting, sales and marketing both in New Jersey and back home in Pennsylvania.

The temp agency was fully aware of my intentions to find a full-time, permanent position, but that I was willing to work another long-term assignment. After all, it was really a great way to test out different companies, different industries, and different roles. This is how I discovered recruiting and decided to pursue it eventually. The assignment they offered me, however, were one to two week stints. There was also a critical need for augmented staff and because of that, I would not have been permitted to take any time off to have an interview for a full-time position, so I turned it down. That’s when I realized that unemployment is not easy money.

The temp agency reported I had turned down work to the state of New Jersey. I received notification that, not only would my unemployment benefits halt immediately, but they were billing me for all of the unemployment benefits I had already received– the money I had already spent on bills.

Thankfully, there were a couple of opportunities that were in progress. One was door-to-door sales, which was very outside of my comfort zone, but I knew I would gain great training and skills that I would apply to my eventual recruiting career. It was commission only, and was back in Pennsylvania, so I had to move. The other opportunity was advertising sales for a newspaper, and it required that I work six days a week including holidays, and didn’t pay as well as most of the temp jobs that I had worked. Additionally, it offered very little room for growth (I doubt if this newspaper is even still around).

While I relocated myself back home to live with my bachelor father, I complied with the appeals process for the state of New Jersey. If you have ever moved you know how chaotic that time can be. Imagine the additional administrative burden of dealing with state government, learning and starting a new job where income is only earned if you make a sale, and I was wrapping up a nearly two-year relationship that had gone south.

I am so thankful that I kept great records of every company to which I applied and every follow-up action that I took, because I was attempting to prove to the state that I was only denying short-term work because it inhibited my ability to look for long-term work. Being able to show the state all of my efforts proved my case.

I was about a month into my new job already when a trial-by-phone with a judge finally occurred. I was very straightforward. “Yes, I did deny work with X Staffing Company.” I was able to show them that I had an interview already scheduled with an employer for a full-time permanent position. I empathized with the judge, stating that I know many people take advantage of the system. However, I had taken on extra hours at the radio station whenever possible, had documented very well how actively I was seeking full-time permanent positions, and had eventually landed so that I was no longer a burden to the system. I was no longer dependent on unemployment benefits. The judge found in my favor. I was not required to pay back the unemployment compensation.

Fast forward years later, I was recruiting for an IT consulting firm. Consultants in between assignments sometimes filed for unemployment compensation, and we kept records of when a consultant receiving benefits “on us” turned down “reasonable” work.

What I have learned from both this experience and two other experiences with unemployment, is that not only is honesty the best policy, but also keep great records of all of your activities (we offer our Epic Careering Tool Kit for just this purpose) and make sure you do not have to rely on unemployment benefits for very long.

I know a lot of out of work job seekers perceive that investing in services like ours is like spending money that might be needed to pay bills. In reality, and all too often, the investment isn’t made, and money runs out because a job is not landed, and I hear, “I should’ve engaged you last year.” I literally heard these very words twice this month.

I will not let you invest your money in our branding services if it is not going to pay off in a job; it is why we offer free consultations. You get to try us out, but we also make sure that the challenges that you have are ones we can help you overcome. Download, complete and send us your needs assessment and résumé to receive an invitation to schedule yours.

 

3 Ways to Overcome Having Been Overpaid

All in a Day's Work by Damian Gadal of Flickr.jpg

All in a Day’s Work by Damian Gadal of Flickr.jpg

 

While research shows and some politicians feel that most workers, particularly women and federal employees, have been underpaid for far too long, some have been blessed to be very well paid. If this is you, I hope that you are taking full advantage of it and, rather than increasing your standard of living, are using the money to pay off debts and saving for the future. Experience has proven that being paid above market value puts you on the chopping block if your company ever decides that the money is better spent elsewhere.

To boot, if you are separated from your company it can be that much harder to find a job above market pay or even to convince employers that you are willing to take a pay cut.

Employers have justifiable concerns hiring somebody above market range. You could be asking for more than your boss is earning, which usually does not produce strong rapport to build a good relationship.

As with most situations, this poses a challenge, but is not necessarily an obstacle. There are ways that you can conduct your search and mitigate any potential perceived risk you pose by being someone paid above market.

 

  1. Know your numbers

If you are someone who excels at managing personal finances, you probably have strong accounts of what your monthly expenses are, and you also probably have very clear-cut savings goals for retirement. Evaluate whether there are areas of your living expenses or entertainment expenses that can be downsized.

If you have not been keeping very clear records of your monthly expenses and do not have clear-cut retirement, or other savings goals, now is the time to meet with a financial advisor.  (I know a few great ones, if you need a referral!)

If this task seems daunting to you, I can relate, and it can be tempting to guesstimate, but this is potentially very dangerous for you. If there is something you do not account for, like if you own a home and you are not accounting for an emergency fund for all the unexpected, very expensive repairs that come along with owning a home, you could be underinsured for some acts of God. Another example could be that you need to increase in your life insurance coverage if your standard of living has increased over the years. If you had a 401(k) with your previous company, a financial advisor will help you determine the best way to reinvest that to match your desired level of growth, risk, and future life needs. This is something you want to expert help on. Even if you are an expert at these things, it is wise to obtain a second opinion. Just make sure that, whatever decisions are made and whoever makes them, you are fully educated on the options and apprised of the ongoing status. Always maintain control and awareness.

If you genuinely are able to take a pay cut because you are earning above your means, coming in with specific substantiation of that will show an employer that you are fully prepared, and not guessing. Many employers have personal experience with this that they will trust over your word. You can convince them that you are not a flight risk by taking a salary cut if you write or say something specific, such as, “My house is paid off, my kids’ college is paid for, I have no debt, and I can afford to take a $43,000 pay cut.” You can do this from the get-go in an approach or cover letter, you can empower your recruiter to negotiate this on your behalf, or you can state it upfront in conversation when you have a chance to speak one-on-one with your next potential boss.

By the way, just because you are willing to take a pay cut does not mean you should not try to negotiate your package, especially if in your role you are expected to be a strong negotiator. Focus on some of the perks of a package, like a corporate car or car expenses. Perhaps you already have health care through your spouse. You can either negotiate for them to replace some of the perks they would have offered you with compensation, or where they cannot provide you with compensation, ask for perks. Come in knowing which perks have a monetary value to you.

 

  1. Know the market

Indeed, Glassdoor, and Salary.com are all places that will give you some good numbers around what the market is paying for particular roles in particular geographies. However, you may bring with you some niche skills or experience that has additional value in the market. A niche recruiter can be a very good resource in these situations. If you are going to ask for a higher salary than what the market seems to be paying generally, you need to bring with you some substantiation of your requests, and know that even if you are able to educate an employer on why you are worth more than the average candidate and are offered what you ask, ultimately if they have not budgeted for such things,  you risk the chance of being the first to go should the financial constraints of hiring you prohibit their strategic plans to invest or spend in other areas. You are also going to be held to a higher standard and had better not only deliver the goods, but continue your campaign to promote that you are delivering the goods; do not assume it will be acknowledged. People are usually very skeptical of an “overpaid suit.” You will have the stigma to combat until you earn people’s trust.

 

  1. Have a Plan B

If you really cannot afford to take a pay cut, or you really do not want to lower your standards of living, you can find other ways to make up the difference in your salary, such as investing in real estate, businesses or other financial products. You could do some consulting or coaching on the side, pending it will not be a conflict of interest with your employer. You could write a book or develop an online course. You could become a paid speaker. Let’s face it: you have managed to earn more than your professional counterparts, others will want to learn how you did it – you have something very valuable to teach.

 

You might not have thought being well-paid was such a detriment until you find yourself justifying it, defending it, or even wanting to hide your pay. (I do not recommend hiding your pay. People have their ways of finding out and you pose an even bigger risk as someone who is not forthcoming or even deceitful.) Keep in mind the employer’s perspective. Chances are if you have been on the hiring side you can completely empathize with their concerns, and, if this is so, definitely express that.

You may have to address your salary upfront, which is contrary to other negotiation advice, to get the chance to interview and establish your value, and then, once you have them interested in your value, you will have to address it again when it comes time to design a compensation package that works for all parties. Keep in mind that most employers want you to be a creative problem solver, so think of this as one of the things that you can creatively resolve in partnership with your employer to further demonstrate that you are exactly who they want.

 

Does Your Company Play Offense or Defense with their LinkedIn Policies?

The-best-defense-is-a

Last night during Super Bowl 50, there was a two-point conversion which put the Broncos two touchdowns ahead of the Panthers. My father at first did not understand why they would risk not getting the extra point, but it paid off. The Broncos got the two-point conversion and kept their two touchdown lead. They did not need that lead in the end to win, but knowing what a fierce team the Panthers have been all season, going for the extra point was their best shot at insuring the win.

Is your company playing offense or defense when it comes to their LinkedIn policy?

Do you think your company is spending too much time and resources trolling the LinkedIn profiles of employees? Does your boss check his or her alerts whenever an employee is active on the service?

Do you know anyone who was fired from their job for using LinkedIn? If an employer were to be suspicious, either justifiably or not, what do you think of someone being fired as a result?

There are risks and rewards for the employees who use LinkedIn to job hunt while they are still employed. For example, someone actively looking while still employed may pose a data risk to their employer. However, we cannot assume just because someone is looking for a new job that they would be immoral or unethical. (Of course, job searching while on the job is a big no-no.) What if more employers adopted a comprehensive and offensive approach to LinkedIn to engage and ultimately retain employees?

 

Defensive LinkedIn policies inhibit employee growth

Many employees may imagine their employers are regularly checking their LinkedIn profiles to make sure they are not getting ready to leave. There are two reasons why a company might routinely check the LinkedIn profiles of employees. This is to either fire them first (if job search activity is found), or to convince them to stay. Restrictive LinkedIn policies are defensive. If LinkedIn policies are too restrictive and intrusive, the company demonstrates a lack of trust and respect for the employee, which may cause an employee to seek a new job. Restrictive policies may inhibit an employee’s ability to generate leads, partners, vendors, and to recruit.

Defensive LinkedIn policies also damage employment brands and recruitment efforts

Restrictive LinkedIn policies also have an effect on potential employees. Let us examine a scenario. A job seeker sees a job opening and wants to know more about the company because they care about where they work. They know they have options and are a highly valuable employee. They research the company’s LinkedIn page and evaluate the employee profiles. The savvy job seeker and wants to know how they are connected, but the employee profiles leave everything to be desired. Many employee profiles have minimal content. The employees strike the job seeker as dull and uninterested. They did not even take a moment to write a few words about themselves, or perhaps they are hiding something. It is as if the profiles are under lock down. The job seeker is unimpressed and says “No thanks! Next!” If companies are not strategically using LinkedIn to promote their employment brand, they are failing to attract savvy employees, and perhaps even potential customers.

 

Playing offense on LinkedIn engages employees

By playing offense and being proactive, a company keeps their employees engaged professionally through LinkedIn instead of having to fear if the next update could land them in trouble.  Kevin Wheeler, a consultant and public speaker, has listed the ways a company can play offense to engage and retain their employees. Some key aspects are to excite employees, and to give them a sense of freedom and opportunity.

One of the biggest reasons employees seek opportunities elsewhere is because they cannot easily grow or find promotion within their own companies. Career development or opportunities to move up within a company are appealing.  Advancement is not always tied to a higher salary, and employees (especially younger employees), seek to grow and develop their skills. If they feel stagnant they may seek growth elsewhere.

Companies that reward their employees with recognition create good will and loyalty. This is especially true for millennial workers who crave frequent feedback on their contributions.

Employers who care about employees by offering growth opportunity and ample recognition can extend that good will to their LinkedIn policies. These policies encourage employees to use LinkedIn to the fullest to promote themselves, share their knowledge and to promote the company.

These LinkedIn policies include encouraging employees to optimize and brand their profiles. We have been hired by companies to write powerfully-branded profiles for their customer facing front line and executive teams with great results. Powerful employee profiles mention work accomplishments in status updates, publish industry-related articles and company content, connect to a company page and group, endorse and network with co-workers, and expand their network to include customers, prospects, and partners. A proactive approach also engages employees by forming policies around using work hours to connect with others, and even having a marketing team or third-party like us create promotional content that can be disseminated on employees’ status updates. A company can better utilize the complete workforce to share news and job openings. Companies like Seer Interactive and Accolade consider every employee as a part of their recruiting effort.

 

A comprehensive and offensive LinkedIn policy can play a huge role in employee engagement. Remember the scenario I talked about earlier? Now imagine a job seeker comes across a company’s LinkedIn page. Instead of lackluster profiles with minimal content, that job seeker sees powerfully-branded profiles, frequent status updates about their job and industry, and well-connected employees. These employees are happy to talk about their employer and the company seems like a great place to work. They are interested and reach out to make a connection. Now this employee can have a conversation with a candidate that can easily serve as a first interview. This is what LinkedIn can offer the companies who are willing to play offense to engage and retain their employees, rather than play defense to troll them, fearful that they may jump ship. Which LinkedIn policy appeals to you?

 

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.”

 

 

A Real-Life Job Search Jedi Shares How YOU Can Awaken The Force in Your Job Search

Luke Skywalker and his first lightsaber by Tom Simpson of Flickr

Luke Skywalker and his first lightsaber by Tom Simpson of Flickr

Jack Shipley is a real-life Job Search Jedi. In my interview, he shares how he was able to master The Force and land not one, but three dream jobs. Jack often compares himself to Luke Skywalker. Perhaps you are like Luke, a young Jedi in your job search who is ready to master The Force. The Force is energy that is accessed depending on how we perceive the world and ourselves. There is negative energy and positive energy. By using positive energy, you are capable of doing superhuman feats and accomplishing things you never thought possible. According to Wikipedia, The Force is a metaphysical and ubiquitous power in a fictional universe. There are quantum physicists who purport an equally powerful, equally accessible force, coined “The Field,” by Lynne McTaggart. It is an evolution of Einstein’s “Theory of Everything,” or unified field theory. Your attitude can change how you view the world, setbacks, and how others view you. By mastering The Force, you will gain inner wisdom (intuition), strength, resilience, faith, and confidence. The Force has the power to MAKE SOMETHING GOOD happen for you and for others.

How do you view your most recent or current job search? Are you confident that you will land quickly? Do you feel like you have power over your fate?  In Star Wars: A New Hope, Luke has lost his entire family to the Empire. He could have stayed home and wallowed in his sorrow. Instead he chose to go with Obi-Wan and master The Force to create positive change in his life and those around him. By mastering The Force, Luke was able to save the rebels from the Empire and ultimately saved the galaxy. By using The Force in your own job search, you will completely alter your outcome. Instead of settling for the first opportunity that comes your way, you will have several hiring managers eager to interview you, and even have multiple job offers in play. As I mentioned earlier, Jack is our own Job Search Jedi. He mastered The Force and completely turned around his job search.

Jack is a former client and then consultant to Epic Careering, and advisor for Accelerfate, a job search mobile game being developed by JoMo Rising, Karen’s other company. He was also a guest on our podcast, Tales from the Flipside, real-life accounts of successful job transitions in spite of tremendous challenges. Jack is a long-time gamer who currently works as a producer and game designer for Terrorweed! Games, a video games design studio. Jack and the studio are currently working on Fallout: Lonestar, a standalone story based on the game engine from Fallout 4.

Jack was a lot like Luke in A New Hope. He was unfamiliar with The Force and was afraid to master the power within. He knew had to master The Force if he was going to be a full-fledged Job Search Jedi, but it took guidance and coaching from Karen, his Obi-Wan, to help him discover the new way of thinking he needed to adopt access to The Force. Jack imparted a few nuggets of job search wisdom and mastering The Force in my interview with him.

 

Angela: How Has tapping into “The Force” changed your life?

Jack: Once you feel that positive energy for the first time… that success brought about by personal momentum and simply trying something scary and new… it’s extremely comforting, not only because you realize, “I can do this,” but also because what was once unfamiliar has now been experienced. It’s not unknown anymore and the fear all humans associate with that starts to subside.

As I find myself ready to enter a new transition, I find myself far more confident. I already know what to expect. I know the challenges ahead and I am aware they can be met and overcome. I am empowered and prepared, and that’s self-confidence gained through “The Force.”

 

Angela: How did you view your job search before you tapped into “The Force”?

Jack: It was scary.

Searching for a job was like Luke trying to understand The Force without a blast helmet over his eyes. (Star Wars: A New Hope) My understanding of how to look for a job was woefully out-of-date. I tried to use old methods that, frankly, made my search far more complicated than it had to be.

 

Angela: How did your view change AFTER using “The Force”?

Jack: To continue the metaphor; Obi-Wan puts a blast helmet over Luke’s head and tells him to “use The Force” to block the blaster bolts. That’s what Karen did for me. She took away all the “noise” from my old way of doing things and let me try things with a new perspective.

I may have just suggested that Karen was my Obi-Wan…

 

Angela: What were your initial thoughts when you made the decision to implement Karen’s advice? For example, you had constant difficulties in your job search and someone tells you it is possible to land offers with their help. Were you initially skeptical? Or did you take her advice without reservations?

Jack [Referencing Luke’s first use of The Force]:

Luke:

”But with the blast shield down, I can’t even see! How am I supposed to fight?”

Obi-Wan:

“Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them. Stretch out with your feelings!”

I was Luke. Karen gave me all these new ideas and initially I rebelled. I wasn’t comfortable with some of the things she wanted me to do (like calling my network). She asked me to trust her, to try and put aside my old way of thinking and to make an attempt. When I succeeded, that’s when I could really feel “The Force.”

 

Angela: What advice would you give others job-seekers who want to tap into their own “Force”?

Jack: If this is new to you, if you’ve never done a job search quite like this before, I would urge you to put aside your fears and give it a try.  It’s remarkably easy to do and once you have your first success you’ll see it’s actually rather fun!

“Let go, Luke!”

 

Mastering The Force to become a Job Search Jedi

1. Build your self-confidence and enthusiasm. If you believe you’re going to succeed you will succeed. The reverse is true. If you believe you’re going to fail, you will fail. As Jack said, once he mastered The Force and found his self-confidence, he was able to make major changes to how he approached his job search. He was no longer afraid to reach out to his network, and he went from an outdated way of approaching his job search to landing multiple jobs. After being out of work for a while, he was able to resume his career in full force.

2.  Step out of your comfort zone. Stepping out of your comfort zone is directly related to self-confidence and positive energy. Saying you’re going to make a change isn’t enough without commitment. To quote best-selling author Gretchen Rubin from her speech at the PA Women’s Conference, “Every choice is an opportunity to make the wrong choice. Choose once and put it on autopilot.” Making that first decision and committing is taking a step out of your comfort zone. You may initially scoff at the advice, but getting uncomfortable is the only way you will grow. A large part of you may feel like Han Solo, who didn’t believe and merely called The Force luck. After some initial fear, Jack chose to master The Force and found great success.

3. Mastering The Force as a Job Search Jedi will open multiple doors. It is the ability to have several job offers in play, being called in for multiple interviews, and landing quickly. We refer to this as job momentum, or JoMo. Believing it is possible to achieve JoMo requires having faith in your abilities. Much like when Luke heard Obi-Wan telling him to “use The Force,” and stopped relying on what he could immediately see. He shut off the guiding system for the lasers on his fighter craft, and used The Force to guide the missiles into the Death Star’s weak point, saving the day.

 

Are you ready to start or continue your job-seeking adventure? Are you ready to master The Force as a Job Search Jedi? Perhaps you are like Luke at the beginning of A New Hope. Your heroic journey is starting and you are learning to use The Force. By mastering The Force you will become the master of your fate and save the world. This means landing the job you really want and being a hero to yourself, your family, and your community.

 

The #1 Most Critical Thing You Can Do After an Interview

Thank You Notes Greeting Card Set - LilyWhitesParty of Flickr

Thank You Notes Greeting Card Set – LilyWhitesParty of Flickr

 

Your last interview seemed to flow really well. You were at the top of your game, knew all about your potential employer, and you asked plenty of questions. Still, there is a little bit of doubt eating away at you. Perhaps you should have asked more questions, or you forgot to mention one of your better achievements. It does not matter how well you performed, or did not perform during your interview. Send your interviewer a follow-up within 24 hours of the meeting, regardless of your performance. A follow-up is your chance to stand out from other applicants, and to remind your interviewer why YOU are the best candidate for the position.

 

Why the follow-up counts

A follow-up after an interview can convey three major points:

  1. Your follow-up informs interviewers that you are thankful for the interview and are serious about the position. Thank them for not just the interview, but the opportunity to learn more about the company culture, the people, and the initiatives.
  1. You can reiterate why you feel you are the right candidate for the position. Use your follow-up to remind them how your experience and skills are a good fit for the company.
  1. A great follow-up demonstrates your interest in the company. Often the hours of reflection after an interview can bubble up really good ideas as to how you can add value to a company. Capitalize on those ideas and send an interviewer what you envision to be your best approach at helping them achieve the objectives you now better understand.
  1. All of those things you wish afterward you could have said, you can now say. Sometimes you do not know where you missed the mark, or afterward you might feel as if you forgot to mention an experience that was directly applicable to what a potential employer is trying to achieve. Use this opportunity to turn things around if the interview did not go as well as you think. Make an employer want to know even more!

 

A follow-up can become a later opportunity

Intriguing an employer may be enough to keep you in the running as a candidate. A follow-up is also your opportunity to remind an interviewer about an important topic you discussed during the interview. You may feel as if you made a great impression by describing a particular problem you solved, or an interviewer might have been impressed by your professional achievements. This allows you to stand out among the many applicants applying for the same position, especially those who may not follow-up. Format also counts. E-mail is more than sufficient for your follow-up. A hand-written note is an extra step, but may remain with an interviewer longer, if he or she keeps a copy of it on their desk. If you are going to send a handwritten note, send an e-mail to be prompt AND a handwritten note. If you know a position needs to be urgently filled, go with e-mail. An actual letter could be too much. Send a note and an addendum if you have extensive information to relay.

If you weren’t right for the position, you can keep your name in the mind of the interviewer with a follow-up. The point of this follow-up isn’t to ask for reconsideration, but to keep your options open, in case another opportunity with the company should arise. Do not just send a simple “thank you,” but also send articles, whitepapers, and other resources. Not all at once- drip the content on them over time to maintain the relationship and let the employer know you’ve been thinking about them, their needs, and their goals. This demonstrates that you really took to heart what an interviewer said, and that you want to add value to a company.

In case you were wondering if following up might seem desperate: taking a moment to thank an interviewer is NOT desperate! You may be tempted to address any concerns you had during the interview in your follow-up. Proceed with caution here. Make sure an interviewer is interested before you start addressing any concerns such as a period of unemployment that you could not easily explain. In fact, if you are working with an outside recruiter, address your concerns with them. With an inside recruiter or the hiring manager, wait for the second interview to bring up any issues with your prospective employer.

 

Customize your follow-up for multiple interviews

You may have been interviewed by a panel for a position, instead of a single interviewer. Take a few moments to follow-up with all of them. Each person involved in the panel of interviewers represents a different area of the company, such as a department manager, an HR manager, and team leaders. Send each of your interviewers a customized note, not a template, to avoid embarrassment should they compare their follow-up notes.

 

If there is silence after an interview

At the end of your interview ask “If I don’t hear from you by X-date (next week, perhaps), how would you like me to follow-up with you?” A phone call is the best method, but some interviewers may have their own preferences. If you have not heard back from your interviewer within a few days, take the time to follow-up by phone, unless they have indicated otherwise. Silence can mean it is possible that you may have lost out to another candidate, but were not informed. People spend too much time contemplating why they aren’t getting a response when they could be taking it upon themselves to check in.

If you did not get the job, ask them why, this is valuable information for your next interview. That said, do not be surprised if you are not given the opportunity to receive feedback, or if you do not receive an answer. In my experience as a recruiter, as much as I thought this was valuable information for any job seeker to have, not every person was truly open to hearing or accepting constructive criticism. If an interviewer or recruiter takes the time to offer you feedback, be open to accepting that constructive criticism and thank them genuinely. When the time arrives for your next interview, you will be better prepared.

 

Following up after an interview can be the difference between landing the job, or being the runner up. It may not guarantee that you will land, but it can leave a good impression that could lead to future opportunity. Just imagine if there are two equally qualified candidates in the running for a position. One candidate sends out a thoughtful follow-up, where he or she thanks the interviewer for their time, reiterates why they are perfect for the position, and provides ideas on how they can offer value to the company- all within 24 hours of the interview. The other candidate is completely silent. Which scenario leaves a better impression on an interviewer? You want to be the candidate that leaves a positive and lasting impression on a potential employer. The time you spend on a follow-up can greatly increase your chances of landing.

 

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

Working Hard by Thomas Heylen of Flickr

Working Hard by Thomas Heylen of Flickr

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

 

Optimize your contract-to-hire role

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

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

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

 

Will this job translate into full-time work?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Considerations to keep in mind BEFORE you accept a contract position

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

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

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

 

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

 

5 Reasons Why Most Job Searches Take 2X Too Long

Sails Aback by Don McCullough

Sails Aback by Don McCullough

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

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

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

 

Lack of Clarity

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

 

Stray Bullet Résumés

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

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

 

Negligent Networking

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

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

 

Unprepared Interviews

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

 

The Shoo-in Trap

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

 

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

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

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

Time is money. Land ho!

The Weirdos Will Inherit the Earth

Sometimes-by-Keith-Davenport-of-Flickr

Sometimes… by Keith Davenport of Flickr

 

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

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

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

 

Surviving, not thriving

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

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

 

Strive for engagement

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Networking for the Introvert

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Preparation makes perfect

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

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

You can make approaching people easier by:

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

 

Get to know others

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

 

Don’t go alone

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

 

Asking about employment is expected

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

 

Keep it brief

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

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

 

Think outside the usual networking box

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

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

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

 

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