Harder than it looks.

Harder than it looks.

My son is 7 months old and is trying to crawl.  His ultimate goal is to cross the carpet the requisite 3 feet to reach the remote control that is currently on the floor.  It is a noble goal and one that he is very motivated to achieve. He has learned how to situate himself in the proper position – on his stomach and his head and chest off the ground – appearing to be ready to accomplish the task.  And then he tries to propel himself forward by using his arms.  His clumsy effort results in him pushing his body even further away from the desired goal.  He tries again…with the same result.  Frustration sets in.

This scene is a metaphor for many of us in our job search. We have a goal of a particular job with a certain employer and we are very motivated to accomplish this goal.  We appear to put ourselves in the correct position by tailoring our application materials, conducting research about the role and employer, and even networking with key individuals who may be able to put in a good word with decision makers.  We are ready to go.  But failure comes – we are not offered an interview or are told, “We appreciate your interest but at this time cannot offer you the position.”  Frustration sets in.

The next day my son sees the remote again on the floor.  Not letting yesterday’s failure affect him, he proceeds to try again.  On his stomach, head and shoulders propped off the floor, and go. He propels himself…backwards. Again.  Just as frustration is about to take hold, he kicks his arms and rolls over a couple of times.  When he stops he sees that he is closer to the remote.  He continues to roll – only to roll past the remote.  He shifts his body and rolls back, again missing the remote but missing by a lesser margin.  Finally, he shifts his body again, rolls toward the remote, and is rewarded with the sweet taste of molded plastic in his mouth.

What does this have to do with your job search?  Consider the example – you set yourself up for success only to fail.  You attempt again using the same approach, and fail.  You can give up or try to find new techniques to reach your goal.  And like my son, it may take multiple efforts with course corrections along the way in order to reach your goal.  I just hope the success tastes better than a remote control.

Today, my son now just shy of nine months old.  If a remote control is left on the floor he does his best Seal Team Six impersonation as he crawls across the floor quickly and quietly.  He operates in complete stealth mode and before I can react, he is changing the television from ESPN to Disney by way of chewing on the remote.  Just as my son has become adept, possibly an expert, at achieving his goal so will you with time and effort.  Keep your eyes on the prize and don’t let setbacks derail your efforts.

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‘Tis the Season…

Holiday Party

How will you be remembered the day after a holiday party?

With the completion of Thanksgiving weekend, the holiday party season will kick into high gear.  Time for wine and cheese gatherings at the neighbors, a dinner with your spouse’s office, or celebration events with an alumni club/nonprofit/professional group. These gatherings are great opportunities to reconnect with past contacts or develop new relationships…so how does one use the holiday party season if career advancement is at the top of the Christmas wish-list?

  • Meet People: If you want to use the holiday party scene to help you build your network of contacts, get out of the apartment/house and go to the event.  Once there, go up and introduce yourself to new people as opposed to hanging out with the same old crowd.  Hint: If possible, try to find out who are some of the expected attendees and conduct some research/prep before the gathering to increase your chances of making an insightful contributions to conversations.
  • Listen: We have two ears and one mouth…this means we should listen twice as much as we speak.  When at a gathering, get the other person talking by asking questions and listening to what he/she has to say.  With your research/prep completed and listening to what the person has to say, you increase your chances of positively adding to the conversation…and thus making a good impression.  Don’t be the person who dominates the conversation by talking about himself for 90% of the time as it sends a bad message.
  • Timing: Have you ever been involved in a conversation where the other person would not let the topic come to a close?  You really want to move to another spot in the room but the individual will not let you leave.  When talking business during a party, be mindful of time – if you feel that you have spending too much time on work related topics or the conversation is getting to a point where it is no longer appropriate for such a public setting, ask, “I don’t want to take your time from the party, would I be able to set up a meeting with you in the coming weeks to continue our discussion?”
  • Boundaries: Remember, it is a party – no one wants to talk shop all evening.  Also, the content of the discussions should be appropriate for the public nature of a party setting.  Going into personal issues such as salary, why you were laid off from your last job, etc. are not appropriate for a public venue.  Be sure your questions are appropriate and would not put someone in an uncomfortable position.  You can make a good impression without having to talk business – listen to the other person for clues about their interests and find common ground to build upon.
  • Assist: One of the best ways to receive help is to offer your assistance first.  By focusing on how you can help someone else (need the name of a good plumber? good daycare for their kids?) you begin a relationship on a good first step.  This elevates the impression you create with the contact and increases the willingness of the individual to reciprocate in the future.
  • Follow-Up: Send a note within 1-2 business days of the party to follow-up with the contact.  Stating you enjoyed the conversation, wishing the person well for the holiday season, arrange the meeting you asked for, etc. are all good reasons to send a follow-up note to the individual.  Also, if you don’t the person is sure to forget you by the next party he/she attends!

When using holiday parties for career networking, always be sure to put yourself in the other person’s place.  Would you want someone to corner you for 2 hours, talking your ear off about what is going wrong at your company and asking you about your compensation package?  Remember the focus of the event is to celebrate the holidays, be sure to keep that in mind and use these helpful hints when talking shop at the next party.

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Comfortable or Complacent?

With 2013 beginning to wind down, many people will use this time of year to take stock in their lives.  One part of that introspection will often include one’s career.  Individuals who have been doing the same job for multiple years will begin to question whether they have become complacent in their career…or are they comfortable where they are?

Being comfortable in your career is a good thing.  understanding what is expected from clients/co-workers, being able to achieve solid results, people knowing who you are and what you can do, and having well established relationships that can help you be productive are all signs of a healthy career and one where someone is most likely ‘comfortable’ in his/her role.  Being ‘comfortable’ is healthy.

The danger is when one moves from being comfortable to being ‘complacent’ in a career.  Spending 8+ hours a day feeling unmotivated/unchallenged is not the way one should spend his/her life.  As I began crafting this entry, I came across an article by Charles Scott, whose friend described complacency as when we “continue to unconsciously participate in the herd.”  Does your career still challenge you?  Do you feel as though you are growing/developing skills/evolving in your profession? Do you experience a feeling of satisfaction? Are you going through the motions?

Breaking out of the rut that we may find ourselves in from time to time can be accomplished a number of ways.  For example:

    • New Projects: Meet with your supervisor and propose new projects you could take on for the organization.  This will usually mean more on your work plate as bosses will usually want to see results from the new projects before they will move your old responsibilities to others.
    • Courses: Can you take courses at a local college to grow your skill sets?  How about through HR? Develop needed skills so you will be ready to take on new projects, move to new roles within or outside of the organization, perform your role more efficiently, or just feel intellectually challenged.
    • Network & Benchmark: Meet with others within and outside of your organization to see what new processes, trends, ideas, technology, programs, etc. are being implemented.  Bring back these ideas to your workplace for consideration and possible implementation.  This could give you the spark you have been looking for in your role.
    • Career Break:  Does your employer offer a sabbatical (don’t laugh, Intel and Accenture offer sabbatical/leaves for staff who are at a certain level and with a certain number of years experience)?  If not, would you consider taking a career break to pursue your personal interests?

Being complacent in one’s career is a dangerous place to be.  One the one hand, you are probably performing at an acceptable level in your role, but in reality you are on the edge of a slippery slope.  As you slow, or stop, your career growth and development, others will pass you by and soon you will be in the “low performers” group.  By then, it could be too late to save your job.  Don’t let complacency undo your previous years’ hard work, consider trying some of the ideas mentioned above to keep you challenged and motivated in your career.

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Tips from Employers for Recent Grads

Last month, I had the fortune to sit down with a handful of recruiters and hiring managers to discuss recruiting entry-level talent.  Through the course of the discussion, many opinions were shared about a variety of recruiting topics, some of which I would like to share with my readers.  Please know these are opinions of a handful of individuals, and while their insights are helpful, there may be situations when their advice is not applicable.

Objective Statements on Resumes:

Overwhelmingly, the group did not recommend including objective statements on resumes. One hiring manager recommended one use the extra lines to add additional information about oneself.  Another offered that a poorly written or generic objective statement will have a greater effect (negative) than a well written statement in his evaluation of a candidate.  Another shared the insight that since most employers of a certain size require applicants to apply online, the resume is already flagged for a specific role within the company.  Thus, the hiring manager know the applicant is applying for a specific role within the company.

There was one recruiter at the meeting who offered a slightly different perspective on objective statements.  She felt that an objective statement could be useful if passing along a resume through a networking contact to a third individual.  Since the final recipient has not interacted with the candidate, it would help the recipient to better understand the focus of the candidate.  This is particularly helpful when resumes of humanities and liberal arts students come across her desk.  For example, a chemical engineering resume will be routed to the engineering recruiters but she needs direction where to route the philosophy major’s resume.  In this situation, it helps her to have an objective statement to help guide the resume to the appropriate hiring manager.

Relevant Experience: 

Having relevant experience is the most sought after piece of information on a resume.  Knowing this desire, candidates were encouraged to move relevant experience as high up on the resume as possible and draw attention to this information.  Recruiters mentioned that relevant experience is not limited to only full-time jobs or internships – class projects, extra-curricular activities, and volunteer efforts could also be seen as relevant experience.

While discussing the topic of resumes, employers agreed that it is okay for a recent grad to go onto a second page of a resume as long as the experiences and entries listed on the resume are relevant to the position to which the person is applying.  Hiring managers do not want to read three entries about your band at various clubs if one is applying to a civil engineering job.  Showing diversity of experiences is encouraged but having multiple unrelated entries or having unrelated entries causing your resume to be multiple pages is not recommended.  As one recruiter put it, “If you cannot convince me you are qualified on page one, I am not flipping to page two.”

As more tips become available, I will be sure to share.

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Thank you Mick Jagger

“Remember that not getting what you want 

is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” 

– Dalai Lama

I read the above quote and it reminded me of the many happenstance times in my life that I was convinced I knew what was best for me, my career, or my family only to feel the sting of disappointment when what I wanted did not come to fruition.  Sometimes the disappointment stemmed from not being selected for a program, a job, or other path that forced me to take a journey down a different road.  In hindsight, I have been blessed that many of the disappointments have become life defining, positive events.

In 1997, I thought all signs pointed to me working for a particular non-profit organization.  I had just worked a retreat weekend with the director of the program and two days later discovered they were looking to hire an assistant director.  My qualifications were a strong match, I was a former member of the organizations, and I had just “helped out” the director in a time of need – so, of course, he would remember me fondly and think I was the right fit for the position.  Alas, I was not even in the running for the position as the organization announced their hire one day after the position vacancy announcement.

Although bit dejected, I still took a part-time role with the non-profit over a summer break when I was not teaching in the classroom.  That was the summer I met my wife, Jenny, who happened to be employed with the non-profit.  If I had been offered and accepted the position within the organization, I would have supervised Jenny and thus not been permitted to begin a dating relationship with her.  Because I did not win the job I thought I would be a perfect fit for, I ended up with a soul mate instead.

There are many times in my life where I can look back and see choices/decisions/two roads diverged in a yellow wood – and I have been forced to journey on roads I would not have chosen for myself.  In the end, I choose to focus on the positive consequences that resulted instead of “what might have been.”

Career seekers who can rebound from disappointments and focus on the positive outcomes from rejection tend to fare better in the long run.  While difficult to do and requiring time for the ‘sting’ to lessen, letting go of the pain of rejection and moving forward with one’s efforts allows one to enjoy the positives instead of focusing on the ‘what-ifs?’ of life. In the words of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes you get what you need.”

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Networking Tips from the Godfather II

A month ago, I wrote a piece about networking tips one could take from the movie, The Godfather.  In the piece, I focused on the scene where Marlon Brando’s character, the Godfather, assists the undertaker, who is in need, and states that he may ask for the undertaker for a favor in the future.  “Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me.”

Many readers wrote to me to share other examples of movie scenes that contain networking and job search advice.  One of my favorites came from one of my co-workers who pointed out a shining example in the movie, Godfather II.

In the second installment of the Godfather series, the viewer is taken back to the time when Don Corleone is new to America and working at a grocery store.  The grocery store is owned by the father of a friend of Corleone, Genco Abbandando.  However, when the evil Don Fanucci forces the grocer to hire nephew as an employee, Vito is let go.  Abbandando tries to give Vito a crate of food, but Vito politely turns him down, mentions how good the grocer has been to him, and points to his temple in a demonstration that he will not forget the kindness Abbandando has extended him.

godfather-iiLater on in the movie, when Vito is asking for a favor from a local merchant, he states, “Do me this favor. I won’t forget it.”  This is a great lesson in networking. When a contact is kind enough to offer you assistance, be sure to remember and try to find ways to help out the contact or, at a minimum, stay in contact and let the individual know the outcome of your search efforts.  You want to be known by the second half of the quote I shared above, “Do me this favor. I won’t forget it. Ask your friends in the neighborhood about me. They’ll tell you I know how to return a favor.

Be the networker who knows how to return a favor.

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Networking Tips from The Godfather

GodfatherIn the opening scene of the 1972 classic, The Godfather,  Don Corleone (The Godfather) and Bonasera (the undertaker) engage in a conversation around favors.  Bonasera desires justice to be served on the young men who assaulted his daughter.  After some discussion, Don Corleone agrees to punish the guilty and in return, he informs Bonasera, “Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me.”

This famous scene delivers a powerful lesson about networking etiquette.  Ignore the type of ‘service’ that Don Corleone is willing to provide – instead, focus on the foundation of the agreement.  One individual is willing to assist another who is in need, and in return an offer is made to reciprocate in the future.  This willingness to reciprocate is vitally important to one’s success in networking.

In my networking efforts, I always offer at the end of the conversation or email, “If I can be of assistance to you, I would be happy to repay the kindness you have extended me.”  Most of the time, as the Godfather indicated, “…that day may never come”, though I know individuals appreciated the offer of assistance should they need me.

Some unemployed individuals, young alumni, or current students will often question what they can offer to a networking contact.  The most common requests I have heard made by a networking contact to a mentee, are:

  1. Helping in staffing an alumni club/charity event
  2. Meeting with someone in the future who is in the job search to relay strategies/advice
  3. Speaking with a son/daughter about college (especially true for students who are networking with alumni)

Two years ago I met with a young man who was on the swim team at the university where I worked.  I helped him with a resume, gave him tips on networking, provided access to online resources, etc. – and at the end of the meeting, I asked him for tips on swimming as I swim as part of an exercise routine.  He was able to assist me with a need (improving my swimming technique) in an area where he had expertise.

You never know how you may be able to provide a “service” for someone in need – as long as you are willing to reciprocate with an offer of assistance in the future, it is an offer that even Don Corleone couldn’t refuse!

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