Archives for TED Talk

5 Must Do’s for a Successful Job Search Week

Job Searching by NJLA of Flickr

Job Searching by NJLA of Flickr

 

I have received a lot of feedback and many of you found the sample schedule to be very helpful. As a result, I decided to outline five major components of a successful job search activity that you can integrate into your schedule every day or, at least, every week. This will help build competencies toward your expertise in job searching.

Why would you want to be an expert in job searching? I know most people find it rather dreadful. However, when job searching is done right you can feel as much like a rock star in the flow, or in a groove, as you did when you were on top of your game in your job. The major benefit of gaining this critical life skill is reclaiming power over your destiny.

 

1. Research

The research you will be conducting every day or every week will be to identify new target companies, find out what major initiatives, challenges, and potential setbacks your target companies are experiencing. Discover how you can add direct value, and identify people who can either be internal sponsors for you or be your next potential boss. If you are really adept at research, you can even find out some personal things about these people that will enable you to build rapport and hit their hot buttons.

The resources that you will use to conduct this research include the obvious search engines like Google or Bing, as well as local business journals and newspapers, niche authority sites, business directories and databases such as leadferret.com and zoominfo.com, and your network.

If you are really bold and adventurous, you will try feet-on-the-street research. This means that you attend events or “stake out” the location of various popular breakfast, lunch or dinner spots in the vicinity with the intention of procuring intelligence from strangers.

2. Bold Action/Experimentation

The above can be considered bold action. I encourage you to experiment with this approach, if not for the adrenaline rush, for the fact that it can get you further faster than waiting for friends and acquaintances to take action on your behalf.

The activities that fall in this category very well might be outside your comfort zone, and thinking about them as experiments may help you detach from an investment in the outcome. I encourage you to celebrate everything that you try, whether it turns into an opportunity or not. Do keep track of your results so that you can repeat the experiments that produce great results such as pivotal introductions and interviews.

Everyone has a different comfort zone threshold. You know yourself best. If incremental progress works best for you, then take baby steps. A good example is trying out a new social media platform that you recognize some of your potential bosses are using and sending them a direct message. Some of you may thrive on taking a big leap and testing your limits. This could look like a creative gesture such as sending an unusual gift with a hidden meaning.

An example of a successful gift attempt that led to an interview and a job offer was a candidate who was demonstrating his attention to detail by creating and sending intricate origami eagles. I heard a story once about a candidate who sent a shoe with a note that he was hoping to get a “foot in the door.” I’m not sure how that went over, but the results of any of these attempts are going to vary from person to person. This is where it is critical to know your audience.

Being bold can also look like attending a keynote where an executive leader is speaking and asking the best question. The key, really, is to garner POSITIVE attention that you can use as an opening to create intrigue, build rapport, discover needs, and promote yourself as a solution.

3. Network Nurturing

I saw Ellen Weber of Robin Hood Ventures speak at a TedX event in Philadelphia and she forever changed the way I advise my clients to offer help to their networks. The eye-opening insight she shared was that when we ask someone generally, “How can I help you?” we put a burden on them to figure out how we can help them. She talked about a very personally challenging time in her life, and how her closest friends made that time easier simply by taking the initiative to find ways to help, as opposed to waiting for her to direct them, which felt uncomfortable. One friend would drop off meals, the other would help fold and put away laundry, and another even cleaned her bathroom while some friends whisked her away to get a pedicure.

Think of consultative sales, where you are not pushing a product, but asking really great questions and listening earnestly to what the client’s actual needs are so that the solution that you propose sells itself. In a podcast interview between Larry Benet, CEO of the Speakers and Authors Networking Group (SANG), and Vishen Lakhiani of MindValley, I learned some really great questions that are simple to ask and easily uncover some of these needs, such as, “What is the project you are working on right now that excites you the most?” followed up by “What would help you complete it sooner or better?” Another question, which can be quite personal, is “What keeps you up at night?” or “What wakes you up in the morning?” Vishen actually starts all of his interviews with this question, and, of course, he already has a good rapport with guests and relates to them on a personal level prior to the interview.

Once you know what you can do to help, the next thing to do is to follow through. If you cannot identify a need, the next best thing you can do is to share some relevant news, resources, or tools that you think may be of assistance. If you have ever wondered when and how to follow up, now you know.

 

4. Self Nurturing/Wellness

I considered putting this before network nurturing, as we have all heard the analogy of putting the oxygen mask on yourself before you assist others. What good are we unconscious? Well, similarly, as we have written before, science has proven that you are at your best when you are taking care of yourself. Do not skip the workout, but get at least a couple minutes in to increase your oxygen levels. You will actually work faster and more productively. What you produce will be better with fewer errors, meaning you won’t have to re-do that work. Have a cover letter to write? Go for a brisk 10-minute walk or do some jumping jacks. Eat a diet rich in the healthy fats your brain needs to be at its best. Cut out the carbs that cause brain fog and sluggishness. Once you start to treat yourself better, you will perceive yourself as more valuable and be better able to promote yourself as such.

 

5. FUN!

There is a lot more to these start-ups with their ping pong tables and video games than just hoping to attract elusive millennials. Fun is known for increasing creativity, building more cohesive teams, making employees more receptive to bad news or constructive criticism, and, if you believe in the law of attraction, it is apparently responsible for bringing good things into our lives.

You can leverage fun activities for your job search such as organizing a happy hour or bowling night with your friends so that you can catch them up on how they can help you. Moreover, you can also just have a good old-fashioned good time and still reap the benefits in your job search. As we wrote last week, happy people tend to achieve higher levels of success than people who simply work hard. Really! Harvard says so.

 

If you are in a full-time job search mode, I recommend doing each of these daily. If you are working full-time while searching, I recommend that you designate a day of the week for each of these activities.

As an experiment, try these activities for four weeks. Then share with us how intentionally integrating these critical components into your transition helps you build momentum and opens new doors of opportunity.

 

The 6 Best Time Hacks to Create More Fun and Success in Your Life

Procrastination by Ffaalumni of Flickr

Procrastination by Ffaalumni of Flickr

Wouldn’t it be marvelous if you had more time in the day to accomplish all of your tasks so you could enjoy life more often? Procrastination is one major roadblock to completing tasks. About 20% of adults reported being chronic procrastinators, while 95% of people admit to being occasional procrastinators. The causes of procrastination are complex and numerous. The time hacks shared here are a way to overcome procrastination and will allow you to accomplish the important tasks in your life, so you can spend more time doing the things you love. The weight of putting off important tasks robs you of energy as you stress over the inability to focus on completing those tasks.

  1. Micro-movements: Author Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, better known as SARK, coined the term in her book Make Your Creative Dreams Real. According to SARK, micro-movements are a way to break down overwhelming tasks into much smaller tasks that take as little as five seconds or up to five minutes. Breaking down a daunting task into smaller steps makes it easier to accomplish.

Author Allyson Lewis suggests a similar approach in her book, The Seven Minute Difference. Lewis argues that spending seven minutes on small actions, or micro-actions, can lead to amazing changes. In short, small movements serve as a way to accomplish large tasks bit by bit and to build momentum.

  1. Activation energy: Activation energy is a term Mel Robbins, an author and motivational speaker, described in her TED Talk. It is the force or effort required to switch from auto-pilot, driven by your habits, to doing something new so that you can create something new in your life. According to Robbins, change does not come naturally, so you must force yourself to change. It is taking action within five seconds of an impulse. If you do not act within five seconds, your mind ultimately “screws you,” and the motivation to do something is lost. By practicing the five-second rule and tapping into activation energy, you will discover the motivation to accomplish more tasks.
  1. Time expansion: Time expansion is completing the things that weigh on your mind, recur in your thoughts, and rob you of energy first. Many experts talk about the benefits of doing this first in order to raise your energy to complete the rest of your daily list. Completing unwanted tasks first make you more effective because this “energy vampire” will no longer intrude on your thoughts. Mark Twain famously referred to this action as “eating a frog.”
  1. Batching time: When you batch tasks together, you to get into a grove and accomplish more in less time. Batching time is a favorite method of author Tim Ferriss (The 4-Hour Work Week). Ferris also proposes that when we allocate less time to a task, we take less time to complete the task. The reverse is also true. An effective strategy is to give yourself an early deadline. For example, if you have a project due on Friday, make Thursday your personal deadline. Bill Walsh, America’s Small Business Coach, recommends you make a list of the ten things that will move you forward faster toward your goal every night to complete the next morning before 10 AM. This list consists of strategic (important, non-urgent) items. Then wake up as early as needed to complete these ten items before 10 AM.
  1. The Four Quadrants of Time Management: Stephen Covey, a self-help and business literature author, famous for his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, introduced the idea of using four quadrants to determine the priority of a task. The tasks within the quadrant allow you to determine if a task needs to be completed immediately or scheduled for later. The quadrants allow you to question if doing an activity will bring you closer to your goals and how to prioritize your time.
Stephen Covey's Four Quadrants of Time Management

Stephen Covey’s Four Quadrants of Time Management

  1. Our Time and Resource Allocation Tool: There is a saying in corporate America—you can’t manage what you can’t measure; you can’t measure what you don’t track. You might have heard to treat your job search like your job, which some people interpret to mean wake up at the same time as your work day and search for 40 hours per week, but that is not really the best application of that advice. How we advise you to apply that advice it is to make sure that your performance is producing results. Manage your time to become increasingly efficient because once you start to build momentum, you are busy meeting with more people who are able to open doors of opportunity. There are a lot of people and follow up actions you will want to stay on top of to maintain and leverage that momentum.

The Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule) is a theory maintaining that 80% of the output from a given system is determined by 20% of the input. This principle is always at work, and we have found it true with job searches as well. 80% of job seekers are spending 80% of their time on the resources that produce 20% of the results, IF THAT! Our tool helps you flip the results so that you spend 80% of your time on the resources that produce 80% of the results. Not only are job seekers who use our tool producing better momentum, they are cutting their “job search work week” down, enjoying more of their time, which as a by-product actually helps steamroll momentum even further. Within two weeks of learning how to use the tool, they are realizing much better time management and starting to form better habits. Their confidence soars, they feel more in control of their destiny, they perform better in interviews, they can afford to hold out for the RIGHT offer, and feel bold enough to negotiate an even higher offer.

 

Just imagine what overcoming procrastination and effectively managing your time looks like. It is a sense of accomplishment, a feeling that you have done enough, that you are successful enough to allow yourself to REALLY enjoy your life. The truth is we are never really DONE with our to-dos. However, time hacks help manage the most significant tasks, so they do not completely absorb your time and energy, allowing you more room for joy and fun.

 

Is Work Killing You?

If-you-are-depressed-you

Sound words of advice from Lao Tzu

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Practice mindfulness

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

 

Find ways to lighten your workload

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

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

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

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

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

 

Leave work at work

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

 

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

 

The Weirdos Will Inherit the Earth

Sometimes-by-Keith-Davenport-of-Flickr

Sometimes… by Keith Davenport of Flickr

 

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

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

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

 

Surviving, not thriving

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

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

 

Strive for engagement

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

How Hobbies Can Advance Your Career

Meghan Played Guitar by Emily Mills of Flickr

Meghan Played Guitar by Emily Mills of Flickr

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

 

Impress employers

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

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

 

Networking interests

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

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

 

Learning skills and transitioning to new careers

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

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

 

Relaxation and mental well-being

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

 

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

 

 

Save Time, Effort and Money by Starting Strong on Your Career Transition

"Time Flies" Photo courtesy of h.koppdelaney of Flickr creative commons. http://bit.ly/16TSfDb Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

“Time Flies” Photo courtesy of h.koppdelaney of Flickr creative commons. http://bit.ly/16TSfDb Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

 

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” John Wooden was one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time, and was well known for his motivational quotes. In this particular quote, Wooden relayed to his players that time is precious and of the essence, we may not always have a second change to optimize our efforts. The world of job-hunting is filled with missed opportunity, but taking the time to start the search  in a smarter-not-harder way can go a long way in finding success. Recognizing the ways in which opportunity can be missed means you won’t waste your time on job search efforts that yield poor results. The cost of searching for a job can be expensive. Depending on your needs and the services you opt for (resume writing, traveling to events, a career coach, etc.) could cost you at least $2,000. If you are currently employed and make $100K per year, your gross income per day could be around $260. A prolonged job hunt could easily burn through much of your daily income, especially if you spend more than 5% of your time searching and applying for jobs online. Think of the hours you waste per day by filling out impersonal job applications, when you could spend the time creating meaningful connections with people through networking and researching target companies. Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker said it best: “Days are expensive. When you spend a day you have one less day to spend. So make sure you spend each one wisely”.

The conclusion I’ve come to is many job seekers skip out on the activities that get them the best results because they perceive that they require more time and their efforts have a questionable pay off. Networking and personalizing your search also requires facing people, and for some reason we find the thought of facing people to be scary at times. The best jobs and the best opportunities to find those jobs can’t be obtained by the simple press of an “easy” button. Developing relationships with people isn’t the difficult part of a job search. It takes a couple of weeks to generate momentum before you can powerfully articulate your value and the contribution you want to employers with straightforward requests. The TIME is the part that requires some patience, perseverance, and self-assessment to arrive at the clarity necessary to develop those messages. People are the EASY part, as long as we can hurdle our fears; many people have been in the similar position of seeking a foot in the door and are willing to give advice. The work may be time-consuming at first, but the payoff means more job leads, references, interviews, and even landing the job. Furthermore, once these connections are established, it will become much easier to utilize your network to help find your next opportunity.

 

Growing the Network:

Establishing or growing your personal and professional network is the first step in generation the momentum you need to articulate your value to employers. It is a necessary step because very few job seekers land a position without networking. In fact, about 80% of jobs are landed through networking. This is true for most positions where personality is just as important as skills and qualifications. This means connecting with former friends and colleagues you might not have talked to since your previous job, or even since college. Don’t count these people out just because you didn’t keep in touch. That IS the purpose of social media. It is completely acceptable, if not expected, to reconnect with people with whom you lost touch through social media. Friends and family may be able to provide you with valuable leads, or they may connect you to someone who can provide you with these leads. A quote from Sesame Street defines personal connections perfectly: “The people in your neighborhood, the people that you meet each day.” These connections can be anyone with whom you are on a first name basis—dentists, mail carriers, hair dressers, clerks at the bakery or deli are just a few examples. Your professional connections can consist of alumni, co-workers, hiring managers, recruiters, and even former bosses. Through these connections you can discover job openings, and obtain referrals.

If you have yet to tap into your personal and professional networks, or if you have, but have not been able to gain any traction with your network I cover these topics in two vlogs. The first vlog is “How Does Your Garden, uh, Network Grow?”. The second vlog is “Job Help for the Discouraged Job Seeker”. All of your connections are important because they could lead you to your next career opportunity. You can also optimize your network by prioritizing contacts, and by creating lists sorted by relevance. Have meaningful interactions with contacts in your field. The quality of the interaction is important. You won’t get far by reconnecting with someone just to ask them for job leads. Make it about a genuine interest in finding out more about them, how they’ve been doing, and what you can do to help THEM. For some, this will feel like less pressure than making it about asking for favors. Don’t ask for favors. Watch my vlog, “Get Interviews Through Your Network” for a better way of obtaining an interview. For others who have been experiencing an emotional tailspin, facing people means having to show how vulnerable you have become. Facing people when you feel embarrassed or less than is the LAST thing you want to do. I recommend you watch Brene Brown’s TED Talk on the power of vulnerability. Relationships are a give-and-take. If you help someone out in your network, it demonstrates how valuable you are, and they will naturally want to extend help to you.

 

Attending Networking Events:

Networking events are a great way to further expand your network. Professional conferences, job club meetings, community service groups and career fairs provide opportunities for job seekers to meet employers, hiring managers, and recruiters at local events here: U.S. News & World Report Money has compiled a list of common professional networking events. Obtain a list of employers prior to attending the event, so you can research the companies beforehand. Doing this will allow you to narrow down the employers in your field, or the companies you’d really like to work for in the future. You will be able to tailor your conversation and questions to the individual company, which will leave a lasting impression on recruiters. Even if they’re not hiring, they could remember you when positions do open.

Often I have heard from people who have landed exactly the job that they wanted, that it was all due to one event that turned into several meetings, which generated several more meetings. In this way, JoMo (job momentum) can build VERY quickly. The key is making sure that all of your conversations cover a small agenda:

  1. Find out what the other person needs.
  1. Offer to help (and do so within a week).
  1. Let them know what contribution you want to make for your next employer.
  1. What qualifies you to make the contribution.
  1. Who your ideal employer is, either as a profile or name specific companies, then explicitly ask if they know anyone who works in a company like this.
  1. Ask them to make an introduction within a week.
  1. Schedule a follow-up.

Networking events are about creating and maintaining connections. Take some time to talk about your background and find shared experiences. If you have any great work-related stories to tell, share them. It could be about the time you saved a major project or exceeded your company’s goals. Some of these stories may seem like another day at the office to you, but they can illustrate your best qualities as a person and employee. On the flipside, take time to learn about the recruiters you meet at networking events, and ask them what they like best about working for their company. Don’t linger with one recruiter for too long, as they are eager to meet other job seekers. This can be a balancing act. While you don’t want to monopolize someone’s time, it can be awkward to cut a conversation short when there is evident synergy. If you find this is true, offer to meet up with someone after the event. When the event is over, take the time to write a “Thank You” note to the recruiter to demonstrate you’re interested in their company. The stronger the impression you leave on recruiters, the more likely they are to remember you.

 

Make LinkedIn Work for you:

A 2014 Jobvite survey discovered that 73% of recruiters plan to increase their investment in social media recruiting. LinkedIn is the social network of choice to help find and recruit job seekers. In other words, LinkedIn is one of the best places to find and establish a relationship with recruiters, HR managers, co-workers and others in your professional network. If you haven’t used the social network in a while, give your profile a nice cleaning. Differentiate your LinkedIn profile from your résumé, customize your default headline, and carefully craft your keywords. Taking the time to make these adjustments to your LinkedIn profile will ensure that you stand out from the crowd and that you grab the attention of people who you want to create a connection.

Once your profile is spruced up, take the time to join a few industry groups. These groups will allow you to show off your industry knowledge, and you’ll expand your network with new connections. If you find articles or blog entries relevant to your industry, comment on them and engage in meaningful discussions. You can also add to discussions by writing your own articles, or sharing the articles of others within your industry. You’re an authority in your field, and you want to be a go-to person for knowledge. Putting a few hours of work into your LinkedIn presence each week will demonstrate your passion for your industry, and make it easier for you to connect with others. If you need or want help strengthening your LinkedIn profile, we’re here for you.

 

Keep Track of your Goals:

Creating a list of measurable goals can help you maintain your career transition effort by staying focused and disciplined. More importantly, you’ll be able to keep your momentum going. Some examples of goals to set and meet are: making three calls to contacts per week, scheduling two meetings per week, and helping two people in your network per week. Do small things such as spending an hour each day engaging with industry groups on LinkedIn. Do bigger things such as reaching out to two or three contacts a week, and taking a day out to network with at least one of them. Go even bigger by attending two industry events per week. Start with one per month and work your way up! Ease yourself into these events by starting small, and increasing the number of events you attend each month. If you find yourself losing a lot of money every day you spend searching and not landing a job, you may want to go big from the get go. In my article, “Break Out of Your Comfort Zone and Accelerate Your Job Transition,” I wrote about the strategies for trying new things in your career transition. Having goals and sticking to them will help you get out of your comfort zone and out of the house to network with people. Don’t stop networking just because you had a great interview and you expect to be offered your dream job. ANYTHING can happen, and it usually does. Plus, having a great job offer is a great position to be in, but an even better position is having two or three great job offers and having the employers compete for you. This can make a $20K+ difference in your salary.

 

Starting off your job search by networking is the most effective way to begin your career transition. Think about it. Spending your time applying online is time-consuming and expensive. You spend your time searching without a payoff. Networking can land you a job faster by leveraging your personal and professional connections. Making connections through social networking sites liked LinkedIn is a great start, but attending networking events is also important. You can learn about your local employers and meet local professionals in person. You can add them to your network by connecting with them on a personal level. It is through your network that you will learn about job openings before they’re ever posted to job boards (if they are ever posted), and gain important referrals that get you to recruiters, and ultimately interviews with hiring managers. Taking the time to do it right means building your network and creating goals for yourself. Doing these steps will save you time and effort. The money you save is by landing sooner and by making more! The larger and more relevant your network is, the easier it is to utilize it when you start a career transition.

 

 

So you think you’ll wait until tomorrow…

Frankie with Daisy - FerryFest 8

Frankie with Daisy – FerryFest 8

(Considering my current state of duress, please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors.)

 

I’m finding it hard to accept the news that I received last night. No one should die that young. No one should have to bury their child, whether they are eight or 28.

 

I have this blog prepared to finish on infographics, and if you’re really interested in how infographics can be used to distinguish yourself, stay tuned.

 

I’m not waiting to say this: If you think that someday you’ll make yourself happy and find a job that fulfills you, well, you should know someday doesn’t happen for everyone.

 

If you think that it doesn’t matter what you do with 40 hours of your week as long as you get to pursue your passion outside of work, you need to think about how much 40 hours is really worth.

 

This week had actually been extraordinary. I had so many inspiring conversations with new network contacts, potential partners, fascinating clients, and industry thought leaders. My family and I had been out celebrating a new high volume partner when I received the text that I was to call my brother-in-law immediately. I still find it hard to believe what I heard.

 

Of the three nephews that live in Florida, Frankie was the last one I would’ve thought we would lose. It was his 28th birthday. He just moved in with his girlfriend two months ago, with whom he seemed to be deeply in love. His flooring company was doing well. He had his act together. Everyone loved Frankie. He was kind, funny, and very loving. It makes no sense and it will probably be a while before we have answers, not that any answers will bring us much peace.

 

I had never gotten to meet his current girlfriend, but I stalked her on Facebook. We all fell in love with his last girlfriend and it was tough when they broke up. It was like losing a family member and it broke our heart almost as much as his heart. I wanted to make sure that this new girlfriend was a good thing for him, and so did he, which is why he hadn’t proposed yet. I’m so sad that we will never get to go to that wedding, or meet their kids, who would have been the first members of the next generation of our family.

 

Before the bomb dropped, I had two equally enjoyable conversations. One of which was with someone who has had a lot of success coaching people in their careers, with the focus of landing over landing job that makes you happy. I highly respect him, his success, and his opinion, though I do disagree. His opinion was, as long as people accept it, it’s okay to not be inspired by your job as an accountant, for example, as long as on the weekends and vacations you get to do what you really love – playing golf. He didn’t say this, but it made me believe he never actually met anybody who was passionate about accounting. I’m certainly not, but I’m very glad that I have met many individuals who really love spending their time around numbers and reports. These are the people who should be taking that job.

 

Fast-forward several hours later, and I speak with an individual who shares my vision of people getting as much out of their work as they give.

 

Just that morning I was shaking my head in agreement, thinking to myself, sure – it is okay if someone is willing to accept that they’re not a professional golfer if their passion is golf, and that they spend 40 hours per week at their 9-to-5 job, which enables them to afford and spend the remaining hours on their passion – golf. Makes sense.

 

My later conversation, however, reminded me of what’s possible when everyone is spending their invaluable time using their God-given talents and applying their passion.

 

I’m now feeling sorry for that golfer who chooses to spend 40 hours in an office in an uninspired job. That person probably is under the delusion that they’ll get to retire someday and that’s when they’ll get to spend time on their passion.

 

Losing Frankie so suddenly, so young reinforces to me that we don’t have all this time to wait to enjoy our precious time. This could be your last day.

 

Do you want to know what the regrets of the dying are? Watch this Jane McGonigal Ted talk video. If there is anything that is in your power to do today that will prevent you from sharing these regrets, and I know there is, do not wait until tomorrow.

 

Notice, no one says, “I wish I had worked more.” We all need money to live, and most of the things we enjoy require money, too. When and why did you decide that you could not make money doing something you love? Is that the truth? Or does it just seem too good to be true, so it must not be.

 

What if it was, though? What if you start today to make the life you really want possible, and die two months from now? Would that do anything to ease your regrets?

 

If you don’t know what your passions are, I have plenty of resources that can help you identify them. I know it can be daunting, but it’s worth it.

 

If you know what your passions are, but you think working closely to them would require a lot of work and time, perhaps even money and training, you may be right. Start today and do it anyway.

If you don’t know where to start, ask us! info@epiccareering.com.

 

Executives: Downgrading your career? Consider…

Will your former executive title keep you from landing jobs with less responsibility?

 

Shelf Road Climbing by AMagill on Flickr

Shelf Road Climbing by AMagill on Flickr

In my winter newsletter one of the myths that I asked you to leave in 2013 was that you can accelerate your job transition by pursuing positions with requirements beneath your qualifications. (Subscribe below to receive our newsletter). The truth is…

  

…you can likely prolong your transition and create challenges that need not exist.

 

For some executives, however the pressure, travel, and hours of an executive position are no longer viable for their well-being. Genuinely, they would like to take a step back and just be a cog in the machine and maintain some value to a company, or for monetary reasons they must continue to work. In either case, they are not be ready to hang their hat and be put out to pasture, which does seem like a morbid way of looking at retirement. There are certainly better ways to look at retirement. However, people derive a lot of their self-worth from their job. It can be very difficult to define yourself after the prospect of any future potential career growth is eliminated. You might have good reasons to take the position that is beneath your qualifications, but you will face the same challenges in landing these jobs as the individuals who are pursuing jobs beneath their qualifications because I think it’s the faster way to get hired. Either of these types of candidates are huge potential risks for the employer.

 

Yes, age discrimination does happen, and many people assume that it has to do mostly with health care costs or the risk of short or long-term disability or a company doesn’t want to pay top dollar for experience when they can hire someone young and cheap.  Often, there is a lot more to it than that. Besides the fact that great companies want to give new employees positions that enable them to grow, the morale of a company can be depleted when you have a senior professional reporting to a more junior professional. You may expect that you will be okay with this, but too often senior folks do find themselves at odds with a supervisor they perceive as making rookie mistakes. Let’s face it; your years of experience certainly taught you things that this junior person has yet to learn. How do you NOT voice your opinion and can you possibly accept the wrong decision of your supervisor? This is another stressor in and of itself.

 

From a risk perspective, if an employer has been down that road before and experienced the repercussions of reverse generational reporting firsthand, they will be hard-pressed to be convinced that the reward is worth the risk, though it is possible. To do this, however, your brand and every encounter that you have has to consistently ooze humility. We all know that actions speak louder than words, so what is more humble than volunteering? Volunteering to help out a young company, not strategically, but with the administrative, customer service and execution details that sometimes get overlooked when a company is small and has few resources, is way to prove that you can simply do rather than lead, if in fact you can.

If, however, you have spent the majority of your career honing your leadership skills, it can be difficult to stifle. In fact, it can be so against the grain of your being that it, too, can cause more stress than it alleviates. You may want to consider lending your leadership or business acumen through an SBA, venture capital or startup incubation program instead where you are not accountable for results, but, rather, can enjoy being the impetus for a young company’s success. This, too, has a caveat that many consultants and coaches have to broach – when the client doesn’t follow through. You may be so accustomed to making things happen that it can be difficult to be compassionate to a young leader who has not yet found a way to change old habits, put in the effort, and deliver results. In fact, it can be frustrating.

 

A mistake people often make when they want to downgrade their careers is underestimating the amount of stress associated with a job. People often turn to retail or customer service positions, which really can require a lot of conflict resolution.  Stress is inherent in conflict. Sometimes they land in companies with high attrition, where stress is part of the culture. Another mistake is forgetting how under-appreciated these jobs can be. When you are the top, you are visible and your accomplishments are lauded. At the bottom, you can be practically invisible, and that can be a hard difference to reconcile.

 

At this time I really should introduce you to a new way of looking at stress as helpful. Kelly McGonigal, a Ted speaker and psychologist, has made a confession in a recent TED talk. She admitted that she might have been causing more harm than good by making stress the enemy. As it turns out, the belief that stress is harmful is more harmful than stress itself. She shares a way to look at stress that can save or prolong your life. This actually could mean that you can continue to work in the same capacity of your professional experience and talents, but with a more helpful, healthful perspective. It also suggests that extending compassion and comfort to others will make you healthier. So, perhaps if you were hesitant to end your career because of the self-worth you derived from your work, you can find new ways to be of service to others.

 

If you really need or want retire your brain but not your whole self, data entry, assembly line and inventory jobs still exist. It’s best for your well-being to be around things you love and enjoy. Look for companies aligned with your hobbies and interests in your favorite local trade magazine or niche publication. Check out what meetups exist to mingle among people who share your interests and can point you to companies associated with them. Of course, you can search trusty Google and enter the name of your town + the interest. Those sponsored ads are good for something!  Also, there are some niche recruiting firms that specialize in baby boomer placement. One such local (Philly) organization is The Carney Group. And, now more than ever before, there are legitimate remote, work-at-home positions where you can make your own hours.

 

Nothing you decide you want is wrong. That being said, we sometimes decide we want something without fully evaluating the reality of it. Hopefully with this insight you can make a fully educated decision that leads to greater fulfillment and quality of life, whether you chose to make this decision now or conditions outside of your control necessitated it.

 

Epic Careering Internship

Fireworks streak

My internship with Epic Careering re-framed my future.  I have new goals, new contacts, and new skills that melded with my previous knowledge in ways that continue to provide me with ideas and excitement.

Karen introduced me to her company in early June.  When I found out that she crafted her company from the bottom up according to her interest in helping people in a way she knew how, I lit up.  Immediately, I became fascinated by the idea of entrepreneurship.  It has become a seed in my head that has been pleasantly haunting me as I start my senior year.

As the weeks went on, I learned about Karen’s suite of services and watched her processes of building a résumé from start to finish.  I acquired many new skills not only by observing her, but by participating in the social media sites on behalf of Epic Careering.  I learned how to use Hootsuite, search engine optimize, and spin articles among many other social media practices.  Karen also let my creativity flourish in creating my own projects. One such project being that I created youtube playlists for motivation, doubt, success, leadership, and beginnings by compiling music videos, TED talks, and other inspirational content on youtube. My hope is that anyone who uses Epic Careering’s free resources on the web can view them and be inspired to action somehow in their lives.

As I take the first few steps into my last year at Ursinus College, I am grateful for my internship at Epic Careering.  It taught me a lot about my own career goals.  It made me realize that everything starts at a basic level and grows according to how you nurture it.  That includes entities in the professional and personal realms.  As I turn into the real world, I will try to nurture the entrepreneurial seed that Epic Careering put in my head as well as the professional relationships I made this summer.  Here’s to the future!