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The Language of Career Search

By on June 24, 2014

Does your job search feel like it’s happening in a different language?

Every field of endeavor has its own unique language, or jargon. The business of career search is no different, especially when certain information is conveyed by company representatives.

The Language of the Career Search

Let’s first examine the anatomy of the interview process itself. For example, the word interview, in my opinion, has dual meaning. It may be the interviewer’s intent to conduct a fair and impartial fact-finding meeting, but the interviewee should realize that it is actually a sales presentation. You are the product and the mission is to get the prospective employer to buy! I have long advocated this approach and Jeffrey Fox, the best selling author of the re-titled “How to Land Your Dream Job” concurs. Mr. Fox extols the virtues of this technique and believes strongly that all that applies to a sales call for a professional salesperson can be translated to the career seeker attempting to gain the favor of a Hiring Executive.

The sales professional will routinely present the features and benefits of a particular product and then try and close the sale. Beginning with your resume, the process of securing the interview, subsequently scoring the offer, and negotiating for the desired compensation arrangement is similar.

I recommend phoning Hiring Executives directly using a feature, accomplishment and benefit (FAB) presentation including a brief introduction and ending with a trial close. You will inevitably meet with the challenge of trying to get through to the person who can pull the trigger on a hiring decision. That’s right, the dreaded voice mail! By the way does anyone really believe that when the message finishes with the words “and I will return the call as soon as possible” that it is the intention of the deliverer to actually do it? Perhaps it’s just a force of habit, or worse, just empty rhetoric.

In career search terminology, features are defined as where you have been and which positions you have held, nothing more. Accomplishments must articulate your successes and triumphs in bottom line dollars. And the benefits need to relate specifically to how your previous achievements can improve the company’s business outlook. Note: depending on the manager’s specific needs, you may also appeal to the individual wants of the boss. For example; reducing the stress in one’s life, helping to get one promoted or affecting one’s compensation scenario can be reasons to hire also.

While closing for an interview you will undoubtedly encounter opposition with statements such as “send a resume” or “why don’t you call Human Resources”? What do they really mean? Rarely, if ever, are they meant to encourage you. And as Mr. Fox states so eloquently in his book, certainly do not waste your time and actually send your resume. If you believe a Hiring Executive instructs you to call HR with the intention of scheduling a meeting, I have some swamp land in Florida I’d like to sell you. Have you heard “but, we have no openings?” I submit this translates to “you haven’t convinced me I should see you” and probably that you need to do a better job of portraying how exactly it is you can help.

How about on your resume where it says Summary or Objective? If they don’t, I suggest what they should mean is “the next paragraph describes why exactly you should hire me” or at the very least “this is what I can do for you.”

Have you heard the title HR Recruiter? With respect, this is a conflict of terms. Human Resource professionals deal with employee relations or organizational development and possibly compensation or benefits. They are not trained professional recruiters. Their mission is to interview and screen out candidates. They are gatekeepers. A recruiter directly sources talent.

Often times you’ll hear an HR representative say they “hired” someone. Translation; they interviewed and forwarded the information to the hiring manager and maybe did the paperwork. A recruiter will sometimes say they “hired” someone. Translation; they sourced the person, closed the manager on scheduling the interview and that person did the hiring.

“Hiring Manager” could mean that they really are, or that the decision will be made by committee. In larger corporations with their many layers this is often the reality. Be innately aware of who actually makes the call.

During the “close” portion of the interview and after you’ve summarized your accomplishments and made your case for how the company will benefit by hiring you, you shake the hand of the interviewer. You may hear “we’ll get back to you.” I’m not sure you should hold your breath. It likely didn’t go all that well.

If someone does call back with a turn-down, you may hear that “your just not a fit” for this particular position. I’m not really sure exactly what this means. However most likely it refers to your being too old, too strong; in other words more competent than the interviewer or that your style won’t work there. That could be the fact!

One of my favorites is the often used “overqualified.” What business professional wouldn’t hire someone more qualified than the job specifications require? Assuming the candidate understands the compensation level of the position and pursues the opportunity aggressively, I contend overqualified is significantly better than under qualified and certainly more desired than minimally qualified. Read between the lines. Overqualified means either too old, you’re making too much money or you’re a threat to the boss. Sure signs of a weak manager, one who is afraid of the consequences of hiring a star or lacks self confidence.

“We’re Not Hiring” – Facing Rejection

By on June 20, 2014

Not Hiring

Does the phrase “jobless recovery” ring true for you as you search for that next logical career opportunity?  Allow me to share my perspective on this topic and perhaps catapult you toward the rewarding and purposeful career/life that you deserve.

Unfortunately given the current state of the economy this statement is closer to fact than fiction. However, it doesn’t always tell the whole story. As one Executive said recently “even the companies that are downsizing are hiring selectively.” If one doesn’t market himself or herself directly to the individual that can make those decisions one will never know for sure.

So why not go Beyond Networking™ directly to the decision maker in order to secure the interview? This approach is certainly challenging these days but if done professionally and in earnest, can prove very beneficial.

Reconciling Rejection

Rejection abounds when undertaking the task of making “cold calls” on one’s own behalf just as it does in professional sales. But, put in perspective you are selling your most qualified candidate (you) to those who would benefit greatly from you particular skills. Working with a Career Coach can help re-enforce those strengths and can instill a certain confidence that otherwise may not be so evident. The concept of believing in oneself is probably understating the obvious, but when encountering overwhelming rejection one has a tendency to question his or her own self worth. That’s why a support mechanism such as a Career Professional may be the way to go. Still, be prepared for it and don’t take it personally.

Hidden Agenda

Let’s examine the many possible underlying themes of the “there are no openings” objection.  Of course it could mean literally that there are no openings. But you probably already knew that if you did your homework and perused the company’s web site. They posted no opportunities in your field of expertise.

But could it really mean that there are no openings unless you convince me to create one. That’s right; create one! Why would they do that? I contend that if you persuade a hiring Executive that you can drastically improve the company’s bottom line, the rest could logically follow; they get promoted because of your initiative therefore improving their lot in life, they reap the obvious financial benefits and their work lives would be made much simpler. While it takes a well constructed effort to sell your way into a position, if coached properly, it can happen.

Perhaps what they mean is that there are no vacant positions for someone who is “looking for a job.” Although reality; the perception in the marketplace of one who is out of work and looking is detrimental. It becomes a matter of semantics. There is “looking for a job” and there is “seeking an opportunity to contribute to the bottom line success of a business entity.” Again perception!

Maybe the person on the other end of the phone is busy at the time of your call and tells you there are no openings. It’s entirely possible what they really mean is that at the moment they can’t deal with this intrusion and you should get off the phone. Think about it!

Why Persist?

Should you pursue what could be considered a dead end? Conventional wisdom suggests you may spend your time more wisely. Don’t chase ghosts! Well, how will you ever know if the interview is worthwhile unless you go?

Let’s explore the potential outcome of a powerful presentation of your qualifications. Could the interviewer refer you to a colleague or friend that may need your talent at his or her place of employ? Assuming “there are no openings,” might there be turnover on the horizon? Things change quickly in today’s competitive environment. If you impressed, your name catapults to the top of the Hiring Executive’s list. Sending a resume or giving up on securing an interview will not produce the desired outcome.

How about practice? If you’ve been gainfully employed for a number of years and haven’t had to seek a new career, you may want to hone your interviewing skills. It’s not a natural occurrence in everyday life.

Worst case scenario, after a successful interview that goes nowhere you’ll need to ask; “with your knowledge and experience in the industry, surely you could point me in the right direction.” In my professional opinion, it’s a win.

Remember also if someone is willing to see you, chances are something you said via the phone triggered a positive impulse.

How to Respond

The onus is on you to secure the interview by emphasizing your impact on the bottom line at your previous place of employment. Even doing so may prompt the “no openings objection.” I recommend that even before making the call, you take for granted that there are no opportunities available. But try “I understand, while doing my homework I found nothing posted on your web site. However, the reason for the call is to introduce myself as someone who can, if given the opportunity; increase salesreduce project turnaround timeimprove customer satisfaction… save money… etc.”

Close, Close, Close

As I’ve said before the three most important aspects of an interview are; 1. Close, 2. Close, 3. Close.  On the interview for all of the reasons outlined. I’m afraid if you truly believe that there are no openings and surrender to that mind set, you may be omitting that next logical career opportunity.

What to Bring to an Interview

By on June 13, 2014

Business Suit

While the topic of what to bring to an interview seems relatively basic, I thought I would provide my take on some not so typically thought of inclusions for when meeting a hiring manager from a prospective employer.

With fear of overstating the obvious there is the “dress for success” piece of the agenda. In this day and time with a preponderance of businesses allowing their employees to dress “business casual” the question arises about the interview dress code. It seems I’m often asked how to handle it when the decision maker suggests that because he / she will be dressed business casually it would be OK for the interviewee to do the same. Well I don’t think so! The day-to-day attire of the employees and/or hiring executive should be noted but I recommend when being told of the option to do so a candidate should mention his or her intention to be “dressed for an interview.”

This may seem contrary to the traditional tact taken by other professional coaches, but I contend the interview is about you and not necessarily the desire of the interviewer to conduct business as usual. It has to do with the mind set of you controlling the interview and determining whether or not you wish to offer your unique talents to the company in question. I suggest to my clients that when discussing the appropriate dress for the meeting that they mention there may be other meetings during the day that require the wearing of a business suit.

What To Bring With You To The Interview

As for accessories I recommend a professional looking business portfolio or folder. Interestingly enough the question about this seemingly simple detail comes up frequently. While there are many options from which to choose I prefer something in black…black for business, and if one can afford it go for leather.   Of course putting your best foot forward during the interview process is important, but after landing that next logical career opportunity one can put that business portfolio to good use as you navigate the very choppy waters of the ocean that is corporate America.

So what should one include in their business portfolio? Copies of your resume anticipating several meetings even if you are expecting to see only one person…you just never know! It probably goes without saying but a quality resume paper is recommended.

Often overlooked is the need for including your references, letters of recommendation, or endorsements. I’m not referring to a list with names, phone numbers and E-mail addresses, but actual letters. There is a method to my madness here that depending on the situation one just might expedite matters and drive an offer. I have absolutely had clients that have been offered jobs during the very first interview. If the hiring executive has done his or her homework, prides him or herself on being a decision-maker and is under pressure to fill the position and it so happens your credentials match those of the job description…be prepared to accept on the spot!

Sometimes it goes like this; “I’m convinced you’re qualifications are impeccable and I would like to offer you the position pending references.” Strike while the iron’s hot and produce the written endorsements right then and there. If the hiring manager feels the need to speak with the individuals be sure to have included the contact information in the content of the letter.

What else should be in the portfolio?  Make sure to have your list of questions to ask the interviewer.  The interrogator type of interviewer rarely allows you to pursue a line of questioning, but it’s your prerogative and you need to be ready.

So compile a list of questions and I suggest you print them with a large font so as to make that person aware that you mean business and are totally prepared. Know that questions about your potential salary and/or vacation time are not appropriate but inquiring about the integral inner workings of the company is. Ask what keeps the hiring executive awake at night or if Wall Street gyrations affect the day-to-day business climate. If you’ll be working in a team environment, inquire about the make-up. The point is to learn as much about the opportunity as possible and skillfully make an impact on the individual who would be your boss.

I very often use the phrase “deliver the goods” when given a chance to interview for a rewarding and purposeful career possibility. At speaking engagements I reward people in the audience for coming up with correct answers to questions I ask pertaining to the content. One very basic question I pose has to do with the overall or ultimate question the hiring manager is asking when conducting an interview. It’s not about what you will do for them or how well you’ll fit into the culture of the organization and has little to do with how you believe you’ll impact the bottom line of the business. It is simply “Why should I hire you?” You must convince the person behind the desk that they should hire you because…

So bring your very best sales presentation and in closing make sure to tell the hiring executive why it is they should hire you. The interview signals the fact that its game-on…why not bring your “A Game”?

 

 

USING THE TWO-WAY STREET PHILOSOPHY IN INTERVIEWS

By on June 3, 2014

Two-Way Street

It seems as though I’m hearing more and more of hiring managers “grilling” candidates in what amounts to a “one-way” interview. Why do they do this? Because they can!  Most career seekers allow themselves to be throttled into answering a barrage of difficult questions which often have little to do with the task at hand. This is not a two-way street!

The state of the economy continues to reflect a buyers market. And thus companies believe that candidates need consider themselves lucky to get an audience with an employer and privileged to receive an offer. What about the needs of the person applying for the job?

In order for one to begin any new assignment with the proper attitude, there needs to be a give and take during the process. From a management standpoint a new employee should feel as though they can make a difference. At the very least the new hire should be given the impression that their future efforts will contribute to the overall success of the business endeavor. A positive sign can be displayed initially by an interviewer allowing the prospective employee the opportunity to pursue a particular line of questioning during the meeting. In other words utilize a sort of “two-way street” philosophy. Sadly however this is a rare occurrence.

What is the Two-Way Street Philosophy?

While it’s true though that the company representative is obliged, at least for the first half of the session, to derive the competency of an individual with his or her line of questioning, it just doesn’t have to be an interrogation.

If positioned correctly your value-add to an organization must become evident during that portion of the interview. But in order to determine if you would care to pursue discussions with the company, you’ll need to get your questions in during the second half.

How can this objective be achieved while being pasted with unanswerable questions or worse a potentially unskilled interviewer who relishes listening to him or herself talk?

Fear not career seekers – I have the solution! At the perceived halfway point in the proceedings subtly open your business folder. Stay with me on this. While preparing to meet a hiring manager, print a list of questions that you need answered to your satisfaction in order to consider that company the next stop in your career. (I know a novel concept!)  Make sure the font is large enough for them to notice and also leave ample room for notes just beneath.

Unless the person is totally oblivious to the circumstances, he or she should observe your action and, recognizing the bold print, hopefully apologize for monopolizing the time and turn it over to you for questions. Now you’ve got them!

Having done ones homework, an astute planner will probe to determine needs and ultimately, if taking copious notes, address those needs while summarizing past accomplishments and closing for the next interview.

Now what about those hiring authorities that don’t return phone calls? You know the ones that live on a one-way street. Understanding that in my practice I coach individuals BEYOND NETWORKING™ directly through to decision makers; it is a staple of my regimen that phone contact and not the sending of a resume is a precursor to finding that next logical career opportunity sooner rather than later. But increasingly, people in the position of hiring show very little in the way of common courtesy with reciprocating the effort. Sign of the times…maybe. Discourteous…absolutely!

Career seekers must endure the discomfort of following up relentlessly until reaching the goal of actually speaking to “the boss.” But as my colleague Jeffrey J. Fox, who penned the best-seller “Don’t Send a Resume: And Other Contrarian Rules to Help Land a Great Job” states; “average job seekers do what other average job seekers do…that is send resumes and hope someone calls. Above average job seekers get to decision makers and convey what it is they can do to make an impact on their business.”

As a component of my two-way street philosophy, it is my intention to coach clients that it is common courtesy, not even professional courtesy, to return a focused business call. And that’s what it needs to be…focused on returning on the investment of hiring them. I ask my clients if they truly wish to work for someone who ignores their calls. It suggests a lack of respect. Again if the caller explains the reason for the call and sells the listener on the attributes he or she can bring to the table and it makes good business sense, then why would they not return the call?

It’s a given that when intelligent professionals are confronted with a well thought out business presentation, he or she will more often than not return the courtesy and possibly grant you an audience. It’s hoped that recognizing a potentially sound offering has something to do with how they got where they are.  So it goes a long way to determining if you want to be employed by someone who doesn’t reciprocate the courtesy.

I submit that even if one is at the desperation stage, they should not waste their time with discourteous individuals. Cross them of your list…they’re not a prospect!

In summary don’t allow someone to drive the bus on the way to your next logical opportunity. Take control and steer your own course to a rewarding new career. Refuse to take that one-way street. Take the extra effort and map a plan to travel only those roads that provide for two-way traffic…that highway will be paved with success and you’ll be much the better off for doing so.

Photo Credit: PedroJPerez

JUST HOW ADAPTABLE ARE YOU?

By on May 27, 2014

Lizard - Adaptable

One of the realities associated with today’s fast-paced workday world is the necessity to multi-task in order to maintain ones edge in the workplace. Yes and I did say necessity! As I continue with my series on Competency Modeling and Behavioral Interviewing related to Performance Evaluation on the job, I wish to elaborate on what is becoming a very valuable commodity in Corporate America.

I’ll define Adaptability as it pertains to the day-to-day routine and comment on just how a skilled interviewer will attempt to rate your past performance in this category. I’ll provide examples of some pointed questions used to determine that rating. Then offer responses that will assure high marks, and assuming success in the form of landing the career you really want, present game plan suggestions to improve your quest to score all “fives” in your next official performance evaluation.

If you consider the many challenges facing the landscape of today’s business with tremendous competition and the demand for “A” players in such an environment you can understand just how critical the competency is.

The Importance of Being Adaptable

To define it then becomes integral to an interviewer and interviewee alike. What are company’s looking for in an adaptable individual? One who can cope with the daily challenges positively; possess an optimistic attitude about reaction to many demands, shifting agendas, ambiguity and constant change. And someone who displays resilience in the face of constraints, frustrations or adversity is optimal.

Be alert for questions like; “chronicle a time when you were confronted with numerous demands and shifting priorities. And just how did you adjust and tackle these demands?”

A winning response might be; “while finalizing plans for the 2013 million dollar club meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico the CEO decided to switch the venue to another location on the island which prompted me to rearrange several activities and negotiate the change with minimal damage to the bottom line. Due to my resources and experience in the field I was able to redirect my efforts toward upgrading the quality and actually reducing the cost of the event resulting in what the CEO called “the most successful Club the company has ever sponsored.”

“Describe a scenario where you learned from and overcame adversity.” Try “while supporting the New York sales division as the Human Resources Manager I was asked to conduct interview training for all District and Area Managers by the Vice President. I sent an e-mail to all concerned asking what they would care to learn at the meeting…oops big mistake! You see they already had all the answers because, well after all they were sales managers in the largest division of an $8 Billion company and there was nothing I could teach them about interviewing…they responded pounding their collective chests! The solution was in the numbers. Once I researched the attrition rate and ran a “cost of attrition” number by the VP, I was warmly greeted to the session and eventually credited with improving retention significantly.” That’s being succinct and on-point addressing the question.

“Discuss a situation when a deadline caused you to reassess the time and resources needed to complete the task. And realizing you didn’t have enough of either how did you reconcile and ultimately fix it?” Over-committing in this day and time is commonplace. Competitors occasionally sign on for the impossible in order to climb the corporate ladder. This one is simple to me. “I approached my boss behind close doors and we concluded that to meet the deadline we needed more resources. We found them and successfully completed the project on-time and under budget. Result…a TEAM win!”

“Ever feel out of control? You just have too many things going on at once. How did you deal with that and what was the result? “Seems like an every day occurrence. I realize I need to respond to all stimuli in my role as Endoscopy Nurse Manager. But I’ve learned to focus and prioritize, delegate if possible and manage the critical needs in the department. Certainly the patient care piece is paramount, sometimes ahead of the Doctor’s whims, and receives my full attention. The result is a service oriented department dedicated to customer satisfaction.”

So how can one perform on the job and receive the highest score possible (5) on a yearly evaluation? Foremost is the ability to accept criticism and refrain from acting defensively. We can all benefit from this tactic.

Again in this supersonic age one needs to overcome adversity immediately, rebound from failure quickly and rise to the occasion in swift fashion the more challenging the situation. I find the more competitive the individual the more likely they are to bounce back. The football analogy here is to get up immediately after being knocked down and get back to the huddle ready to reverse fortunes on the next play.

As comfortably and effortlessly you can shift gears and recommit while responding to changes will bode well for you.

“Never let ‘em see you sweat.” Act calmly in the face of vague commands and circumstances. When taking direction from a person to whom you report, but realize the error in their ways, stay cool and focus on the end game.

Hard to do but continue to toil usefully through the stresses and pressures of the work flow. Extremely difficult to pull off especially when it is common to be faced with accomplishing two or three jobs due to downsizing.

And of course adapt smoothly to change. Easier said than done, but if you can just fathom that sometimes businesses change for the sake of change and can rationalize that attempting to stem the tide could get you sunk, you’re more than half way there.

Photo Credit: Tacluda

COMPETENCY MODELING AND BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEWING

By on May 20, 2014

stockvault-dollar-sign115173

For the next several blogs I intend to discuss the higher priority competencies that businesses in general decide will result in success within their particular environments. And I shall also provide some of the more common interview questions related to those competencies in order to be better prepared for each circumstance. More and more corporations are requiring their management hierarchy to become skilled in the area of behavioral interviewing.

As part of the series I shall also weigh in on how one should model their performance after these particular competencies as they pertain to yearly evaluations.

So what has prompted this phenomenon in the workplace? Simple – the cost of attrition and its devastating effects on the bottom line have spawned a whole new philosophy when it comes to choosing talent. For the company, it’s all about retention, for you the interviewee the challenge is to prepare yourself for this line of questioning and execute a strategy that will ensure winning the interview game.

This week I have chosen initiative as it relates to an individual contributor. Remember every company places value on specific needs and traits geared to help it win in the marketplace. It is also worth noting that some positions will require a higher level of competence in the chosen category. For example a sales professional in a new business environment will need to score well in this area in order to be considered a potential high performer. Conversely someone in sales at a well-established company selling a marketplace standard may not need to grade as highly in this competency as much as in relationship building.

In as much as each organization may define the category differently, I shall provide a sort of general industry standard description of initiative. Hence some traits attributed to initiative are; the ability to conceive new ideas, taking said idea above and beyond  the generally acceptable, finding a more efficient way to attack existing challenges, combining ideas with plan and creating resourceful alternatives.

How Behavioral Interviewing Works

So an interviewer will try to determine with a line of questioning whether or not the candidate takes instantaneous and independent action when the circumstance calls for it. As a follow up, one might ask if the interviewee is willing to go the extra mile, as it were, to accomplish the task. This should lead to a “how” question having to do with the creative method implemented to get the job done. Does the recruit take the task to the next level? In other words, does he or she look to improve the routine constantly? And finally can the individual be relied upon to strive for greater performance for one’s self and for the good of the team in order to surpass intended objectives?

Now for the questions; “discuss a time when you intervened for the good of a project when you were not asked?” “When have you inquired about what else may be necessary to accomplish your team’s goal?” Describe an innovative thought you’ve had to improve the existing routine in your discipline and comment on the results” “Depict a specific instance where you went out of your way to develop an alternative method to improving the task at hand?” “You’re human and I’m sure there have been times your suggestions failed to attain the desired outcome. Why? And how did you apply the knowledge to your next project?” “Finally please comment on a time when you surpassed goals and encouraged teammates toward bigger and better things?”

So as you can see there is a method to the madness. Each question is geared to gauge the behavior necessary to complete the task by the individual being interviewed.

Business executives and managers for the most part appreciate concise answers to these kinds of questions and will rate the candidate accordingly.

To the first question one might respond; “because of my prior experience in a similar situation I suggested the team outsource a portion of the project in order to save time and money. The project came in two weeks ahead of schedule saving $25K in man-hours.”

As for the second inquiry; “while receiving a vote of confidence from my boss on instituting a new concept I inquired if there were other areas of concern and was assigned more responsibility.”

Per number three; “I had encouraged my boss to explore a new plan of attack to sell a desired prospect. After receiving the go-ahead to implement the plan we scored a meeting with the buying authority and sealed a new deal worth $2M of very profitable business.”

Number four; “in order to win a bid from a competitor we had to build a better solution. I felt it necessary to research a particular aspect of the assignment. It required a Saturday and part of a Sunday to complete the study. We won that bid and the client referred two other projects to our firm.”

Responding to the fifth question; “I am human and miscalculated one scenario. The cause was my being over analytical. It was a great learning experience and now understand that sometimes simple is better.”

Lastly; “we had hit a home run with a client, but I believed it to be scratching the surface of a greater involvement for the firm. I encouraged my team to keep digging and scored several more opportunities.”

So you can see there can also be a method to the madness on behalf of the interviewee. And careful attention to the behavioral aspects of the situation will increase your ability to score.

Photo credit: renjith

 

TURNING ADVERSITY INTO TRIUMPH Part 2: Treatment and Cure

By on May 13, 2014

Rx

The unthinkable has occurred. Your strategy of remaining the TOTAL Corporate Team Player could not save you from the inevitable. Downsizing! Oh, the stigma of being laid off. Only you and some 3 million others! I know you’ve heard it many times, but most likely it’s not your fault.

What better time to adopt a football-type mentality toward your career search? That is, in football as in life, you’re never really tested until you’ve been knocked down. Everybody loses at one time or another. The true test is how you choose to respond to the adversity or get back up.

Triumph! The Treatment & Cure

First, the psychological! Easier said than done, but you must “flush it.” I realize its human nature to review in your mind the many things you could have done to alter the outcome. I submit that the energy spent will yield a negligible return on investment (ROI). Grieving over what was is part of the healing process. Take that time and move on. While doing so reflect on lessons to be learned from the past, both positive and negative, and you’ll be better equipped to handle the future.

So ask yourself is this really all that bad? The chance to wipe the slate clean and begin again! Coming back smarter and stronger! It’s been said that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. I happen to believe it and have lived it. Convince yourself the next move will be better and get after it. Commit growing from the experience and don’t settle. Just think! The ability to re-create yourself!

Now, check on a letter of recommendation. Assuming it was literally the elimination of the position due to downsizing, there should be no problem securing a positive reference. Be conscious though of hidden agenda, reluctance to write such a letter should trigger your concern.

As always I recommend seeking the professional guidance of a Career Coach. A Coach can help you define your strengths, recognize your weaknesses and prepare you to focus on the positives. During a recent consultation a client mentioned he thought he was a “jack of all trades and master of none” regarding his career and that it probably surfaced often while interviewing. He believed this to be an obstacle to being invited back for successive interviews. He’s right! This is an extremely well-educated individual who happens to know himself well. And I believed him to be a very good “Jack.” However, in this marketplace especially, it would behoove him to be portrayed as a master of something. We are now and have been since I can remember in an age of specialization. Employers need their charges focused on being the very best they can be at the skill they were hired to perform. That’s just good business. But it leaves little or no time to explore other internal endeavors that may broaden one’s horizon.

Beginning with a well conceived game plan, strategize with your Coach and proceed to execute.  Said plan should consist of a correspondence initiative – a measured response to each required communication. A brief but to the point cover letter is a good start. Follow with a document of accomplishments (resume), a one-page overview listing target companies and a FAB Presentation (Resume Trilogy). Prepare grammatically correct thank you Emails and follow up accordingly.

Then go “Beyond Networking,” identify and overcome objections directly through to Hiring Executives and secure the interview. The direct approach pays dividends.

Interview secured, train to become a better closer by perfecting the behavioral interview to score an offer. And, rather than just settling for any offer due to a diminished job market, structure your future by negotiating artfully and seal the deal!

A word here about opportunity – the reality is that this is absolutely the most challenging job market I can remember. You must get beyond the “no openings” objection albeit true that there just aren’t as many official opportunities as there were during a better economy; focus on creating the need if you must. Express your accomplishments and talents in dollars and sell it! If you can drastically affect a company’s bottom line, they’ll buy. Sometimes this can be a more rewarding experience because you will have composed your optimal career situation. It goes without saying there is also a great sense of pride and accomplishment accompanying this victory.

Ah the cure! Well this lies somewhere in the numbers. X amount of calls to Hiring Executives will yield X amount of face to face interviews and ultimately X amount of offers. Enough quality offers puts you in the optimal position to choose the career opportunity that suits you best. Alas, this strategy portends hard work and taking an amount of rejection. I honestly know of no other way. But the rewards will outweigh the alternative. Good hunting!

Photo Credit: Sarah Harris

Turning Adversity Into Triumph Part 1: Preventive Measures

By on May 6, 2014

Steps in Rock

So, you’re gainfully employed, but concerned about your company’s viability in today’s challenging business environment. I’m sure you’re aware the condition is widespread and tantamount to an epidemic. Corporate loyalty…where has it gone? Well, I’m not sure it ever really existed. Need drives most corporate ventures and I suppose without the benefit of a crystal ball even the savviest of strategic planning executives couldn’t have foreseen the recent economic malaise.

As history will recount, over-hiring is a common occurrence in a thriving economy. The halcyon days of the mid-nineties forced companies to recruit and hire to support the demand. Overly optimistic executives spent numerous hours devising plans to secure greater market share. Hence the aggressive recruiting strategy to take advantage of perceived opportunities. For the most part these schemes bore fruit. However, we are now witness to what transpires when Corporate America’s concept of reality is tainted by the euphoria of windfall profits.

I’m not sure if this condition could have been avoided, but traditionally there has only been one cure…layoffs. The solution to a withering bottom line, sad to say, has been to let people go. The dreaded reduction in force (RIF) is on a short list of remedies touted to address the issue. I’ve heard colleagues hypothesize that with careful strategic (in this case referencing both long term and integral) planning the current economic landscape would appear much different. Well it makes for good meeting fodder, but rarely, if ever, can business pundits predict the ebb and flow of a global economy. So, I don’t believe it to be their fault and you’ll find the majority of successful CEOs are compensated for their ability to make the hard decisions after the fact rather than for predicting the future.

It seems in the new millennium long term has become what most industry gurus of twenty years ago would consider short term today. All corporations can do to avoid this circumstance is to learn from their mistakes and hire more intelligently based on sound cost-justified principles. So, here in part 1 of “Turning Adversity into Triumph, Preventive Measures” let’s examine what you can do now to prepare for the unforeseen.

Turning Adversity into Triumph

Consider the likely challenges of a company downsizing and leaving you to perform the tasks of those who have left. You find yourself doing the work of two or more. Remember downsizing is not personal…it’s business! But, while most accept the fact that added responsibilities are a fact of life, they tend to spawn adversity. The danger here lies in the complacency. And, career complacency can be career ending! You need to understand that you can’t control the downsizing, but you can perform in an exemplary fashion and explore growth opportunities while doing so.

Another suggestion is to avoid lengthy business day conversations with those who whine. Besides being extremely unproductive, the word always seems to get out and the next thing you know…you’re out!

Although the right strategy is to remain the TOTAL Corporate Team Player, understand it’s really about you and the career that happens to support your family and your lifestyle.

How about the adversity accompanying corporate politics? I submit they are woven into the fabric of every business structure small or large and are unavoidable. Do you report to someone who you do not trust and respect? I have no statistics to support my hypothesis, but I suspect this to be a common occurrence. These are adverse circumstances at best.

You may rightfully consider yourself more knowledgeable and experienced within your scope of responsibility than your boss. What to do? You will rarely survive this scenario; so I advise you to look to move. It’s incumbent upon you to do it to them before they do it to you!

A coaching point here; no matter how adverse the conditions, you can go to school on how not to do things. By that I mean study the negative behavior of those around you and take mental notes that will bode well for you down the road.

Preventive measures should also include an exit strategy, the so called “what if” in case the grim reaper shows up at your doorstep. Being pro-active means keeping abreast of industry trends, taking time to build relationships with other professionals in your field. Pursuing educational opportunities while employed can open many doors, but mostly enhance your knowledge and broaden your horizon. If you’re familiar with the abundance of information available regarding techniques for the unemployed you may surmise that my preventive strategies mirror them. Very perceptive! Why wait for the unthinkable? I realize these activities are difficult to incorporate into an already hectic schedule; however they are worthwhile endeavors that provide a certain psychological well-being along with improvement of skills.

In part 2, “Treatment and Cure” I shall discuss how to deal with the stark reality of being caught in a reduction and offer suggestions for the comeback.

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PREPARE YOUR SALES PRESENTATION IF IN SEARCH MODE

By on April 29, 2014

Cell Phone

The pundits indicate that signals here at the beginning of 2014 point toward an uptick in job market. Good news for those of you seeking to become employed. With an improving outlook comes the necessity to sharpen your sales skills. That’s right, sales skills! I understand you may not be a professional that earns his or her living selling a product or service, but if you’re in the market for that next logical career opportunity it would be wise to fine-tune your closing techniques.

I like to break down the process to its simplest form. You are the product and you must sell yourself past gatekeepers and into an interview with a decision maker. It sounds simple but certainly not easy. Once there, can you justify being hired ahead of the masses? Think of the competition for openings – if a position is posted, it prompts hundreds, if not thousands, of interested parties to submit résumés to a career site on the Web.  What sets you apart? Think about it; how does the professional sales person beat the competition to get their product sold?

There are hours of training and preparation involved even before one presentation is made. It helps, first of all, to believe in the goods being sold. Do you believe in yourself the product?  If so, have you prepared to sell yourself into an opportunity? Have you researched the opportunity in order to convey how you can best accomplish the objectives of the hiring manager? That is, after all what really matters. Have you rehearsed your presentation time and time again? Will you recognize objections when you hear them, and can you overcome them with a degree of aplomb?

All of these items should  be addressed prior to beginning a marketing campaign. Assuming the prep work is underway, let’s focus on the cover letter and/or phone presentation including follow up.

I’ll mention here that I am an advocate of a direct approach or cold-calling the hiring executive, the only person who can pull the trigger on a decision. That said; my employed clients begin with a Letter of Professional Purpose™ announcing their intention to secure a meeting. Target the hiring manager with research. Just as a salesperson sends an E-mail or some product literature promoting their product; the career seeker forwards a letter of introduction asking for the interview. And accordingly, it should close telegraphing a follow-up phone call. “I have targeted your company as having an environment conducive to growing my own expertise for the good of the team. In an interview I shall detail my ability to contribute to your organization and project how my exceptionally strong desire to make a difference will prove valuable to your company’s sustainability effort. I will call to arrange a mutually agreeable time to meet.”

Making The Sales Call

Next is the phone call to the decision maker and the subtle nuances of reaching that person. If you have the hiring manager’s name, the receptionist will put the call through directly, however, you may get the hiring manager’s administrator (gatekeeper). At this point the game is on! “Will Mr. Jones know you?” I coach my clients to be truthful if they don’t, but you will then likely hear; “may I tell Mr. Jones about the nature of the call?” Now the “BUZZ WORD” becomes important. The “buzz word” is a word or phrase that you have discovered to be critical to the company. This can usually be found on the Web site, in literature or even in the news. Recently a client attempting to secure a meeting in the Bio-Tech industry found the new product roll-out of “FUSION™” to be instrumental in getting past the boss’ gatekeeper. When asked what the call was regarding she responded simply; “Fusion” and she got right through.

The more accomplished administrative professionals will take it one step further. They will ask; “and what is it about Fusion™ that you need to convey to Mr. Jones?” Obviously in this very challenging job market, the well prepared gatekeeper is asked not only to screen out the job seekers, but to determine the nature of a call that is being forwarded to an extremely busy executive. At this point the well coached individual should respond as one of my other clients has; “the governmental Regulatory Compliance regarding its hazardous waste, would you be kind enough to put me through?”  Polite, professional yet persistent and assertive!

Be it the Sales Professional or the career seeker, nothing of very much consequence happens until you get through to the decision maker. I realize the road traveled just to make your pitch can be uncomfortable, but the better prepared, the easier it proves to be.

Now here is where the rubber meets the road. My clients have spent two 90 minute sessions honing their 45 second phone “Feature, Accomplishment and Benefits (FAB)” presentation emphasizing their value-add to the company’s bottom line and overcoming objections.

The introduction of any sales presentation needs to articulate exactly why you’re calling. There isn’t a busy executive out there who has the time to try and figure it out the reason for your contact, be direct:. “Hello (name of hiring executive) I’m John Smith, currently the Environmental Manager at X,Y,Z company. I’m calling to introduce myself as somebody who, if given the opportunity, would improve Regulatory Compliance and Health and Safety performance, therefore reducing costs significantly with an eye toward applying the concepts of sustainability.”

Photo Credit: frhuynh

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OVERCOMING THE FEAR OF CHANGE IN 2014

By on April 15, 2014

Change

A constant with the clients I coach is the fact that they are entrenched in their own version of a “comfort zone.” These people choose to engage me as their coach with the belief that I will assist them with their objective of emerging from that state…much easier said than done!

During our initial consultation I make eminently clear that I shall empower them to change if they’re willing to commit to the concept.

I’ve often commented in this forum that I really don’t help people find jobs but instead coach individuals to score a rewarding and purposeful new career/life opportunity. In order to do so one must allow me to help them conquer the fear of change.

 I begin by stating that the quality of life is the quality of emotions. It’s how you feel about things that truly matters.

Next I mention that there are no good or bad emotions, again both are real and of course how they affect your life depends on how you react to them.  

Emotions either create or destroy; subsequently the fear of change has been known to derail even the best planned career search.

Understanding that emotions are created by only two (2) triggers; 1) Signature Values – those things that are most important in your life and 2) Conditioned Beliefs – the everyday things that you do in order to feel better about your values goes a long way to shaping a life.

A well documented obstacle to one’s objective or the major culprit (emotion) that impedes success is FEAR.

Reviewing the Law of Ignoring which simply states that whatever we ignore will undoubtedly get worse helps crystallize the importance of change in the minds of my charges.

Without sounding too cliché-ish courage is the antidote to fear – to become “fearless” is a state of mind. Suffice to say triumphing over the fear of change needs to be reinforced constantly. For the many that are averse to change it becomes critical for the coach to continuously encourage the client and assure that they are overcoming the fear together. Often times just knowing that you’re there for them will spawn success.

A couple of axioms that apply:   to change how you feel – you must change how you think and if success is that easy – why isn’t everyone successful and happy? Think about it, what’s easy to do is also easy NOT to do.

Hence I have compiled a five step approach to attaining the goal of overcoming the fear, busting out of your comfort zone and learning to accept the realities of moving on toward a meaningful and fulfilling new career/life opportunity.

The 5 musts in a journey toward fearless living and embracing change:

1.            You must want to change 

You must make the conscious decision to change and have a deep-rooted desire to be in total control of your emotional state at all times. (I do realize the enormity of asking one to be in “total” control, but those of us in the coaching profession, be it in the realm of sports or career/life need to strive for perfection with regard to coaching points).

2.            You must be committed to change

Commitment means you’ll pay any price and do anything to attain your goals and improve the quality of your life.  Commitment means that you will do whatever it takes to succeed; and you’ll do it with a positive, healing-focused outlook. In other words and you’ve heard it numerous times from athletic coaches…quitting or failure is not an option.

3.            You must employ massive discipline in order to change

You must be constantly aware of how you feel.  Based on this disciplined awareness, know that when you experience an emotional shift or mood swing, you have powerful techniques at your disposal to stay cool, calm, and in control – no matter what the situation.  Discipline creates miracles.

4.            You must embrace discomfort to ensure change

Here is one of the most profound statements I’ll make: dis-comfort cures dis-ease.  Physical therapy might be uncomfortable, but it will cure the dis-ease of a possible relapse.  Chemotherapy creates massive discomfort for sure, but can eliminate the dis-ease of cancer.  Changing your nutritional regimen to a vegetarian plan might be discomforting at first, but will cure the dis-ease of continued poor health.  Discomfort is a gift and you should never shy away from it.  On the contrary, it is complacency and comfort that induces poverty of the mind, atrophy of the spirit, and robs you of any chance of making a full recovery.  Complacency significantly impairs the healing process.  But discomfort is a healing friend, so embrace it rather than avoid it.

5.            You must condition new techniques so that change becomes lasting

Once you have learned the disciplines of managing your emotions and approach your challenges with a positive attitude and empowered spirit, you must condition and master the techniques so they become second nature. Repetition is the mother of mastery.  If you start to walk an hour a day to regain your strength and energy, you must condition this activity so it becomes routine – like brushing your teeth or taking a shower.  Fearless living requires that you change how you think so you can condition and master new techniques in order to heal, recover, rejuvenate, and live the best quality of life possible.

So to change one must commit. It just so happens to be one of the most difficult concepts to grasp. It separates the 90 per centers from the 10 per centers…those who achieve greatness and live life on their own terms. Wouldn’t we all be happier living a rewarding and purposeful life?

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Image Credit: Vicbuster