Your Life in a Circle

Most people would agree that a career transition is a daunting endeavor.

Yet one of the most challenging aspects of a career transition or a job search is something that most people don’t consider and plan for before I meet with them.

What am I referring to?

Carving out enough time in your life to devote to the process.

I have many clients who come to see me with a great deal of excitement about making a significant career change. They usually have been thinking about it for a while, and have finally made a commitment to themselves to make it happen.

A very important step.

Yet most clients have not yet given any thought to another very important element of the process. Finding and carving out enough time every week to actually devote to the process. (note: this is really crucial no matter what type of change in your life you are considering)

ImageUnfortunately, wanting a career transition doesn’t respond to magic wands. One needs to take many actions: Getting prepared with your career story, identifying potential paths, researching, talking and networking with people numerous times, re-assessing your potential paths, building new alliances, applying to various roles and practicing how you present yourself, etc. etc.

We can come to a decision about changing something about our lives and feel good about it – but nothing will actually change unless we take action. And those actions can’t exist in a vacuum.

Simply charting out your week in a pie-chart format can be very helpful.    Your Life in a Circle

Draw in all the pieces of pie that comprise your life every week.  Do you spend 60% of your time at your current job? 5% at church? 25% with family and friends? 10% at church or community activities?

That’s great – but where are you going to fit in the time to make a career transition (your pie already adds up to 100%+)?

You can’t expect that you will expand the universe and make each day have more than 24 hours. You can try but you will wind up just spinning your wheels and nothing will change. Which is even more frustrating.

That means something has got to go. You will need to make some decisions about what aspects of your daily life you are willing to forego in order to accomplish your goal.

What will you do differently?

  • Awaken an hour earlier each day to get in some morning time for networking
  • Use social media sites to strengthen your network
  • Use your lunchtimes to meet with networking contacts
  • Get to work 60 minutes earlier and use the extra time to research companies and associations online, etc.
  • Stay up an hour later each night to strategize and reach out to your online networks
  • Schedule Saturday mornings for career development activities

What is it?

What are you willing to change in your current daily activities to make room for the actions you must take to make a career transition?     Image

Everything Old Becomes New Again

Either the world is speeding up beyond belief or our brains were kidnapped by aliens and we now exist in a time warp machine  moving at the speed of light.

Once in a while, however,  things on earth circle back around and ‘everything old becomes new again’. It brings a little smile to  my face when the circle theory still shows up, albeit in subtle ways. Let’s take the job search process, for example.

We have all been forced to adjust to online applications, (along with the big black hole) and the difficulty of networking with  colleagues that are often working too many hours and are under a great deal of stress. It’s not easy.

Remember those books entitled Megatrends by authors John Naisbitt and Patricia Aburdene? The authors predicted (with uncanny foresight) the key trends for upcoming decades.  Note: The first was published in 1982, then 2000, and most recently Ms. Aburdene wrote another in 2010.

Well, here are my Retro-Trend predictions about the job search and workplace. This is just the beginning of an evolving list. If you have other ideas, please send them to me and I’ll write about them.

Prediction 1: Snail Mail Regains its Popularity

It wasn’t so long ago when mailing a resume and cover letter in an envelope with a stamp was the  norm. How many hard copy resumes do you think anyone receives now? Probably none.  Some might  even see it as an indication that the applicant is not computer savvy.

How would a recruiter or hiring manager react now if they received a high quality resume in the  mail? I’m betting that many would find it refreshing. (How often do you ignore anything with a  hand-written name and address?)

What is this professional textured paper and feels good to the touch? How unique. How creative.  How different.

On TheJobBored blog, the author of a post about this very subject believes that “sending a physical resume (nice paper stock, neatly printed, nice envelope) shows a certain touch of class…”

I, for one, would welcome the opportunity to read something on paper instead of another email with glazed eyes. And I certainly would remember the candidate’s name. I might even talk about her/him by the water cooler.

Prediction 2: Hand-Written Notes Become Cool Again

Okay, so most people know that they should send a follow up thank you note after interviewing. Yep – each candidate goes home and writes the obligatory thank you email and sends it right out.

The problem is that it doesn’t mean too much (but you still have to do it).  How much time does it take? Maybe 2 minutes, if that…especially for the cynics who think it’s a waste of time anyway.

The content goes something like this: “Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. You have a great company and I know I can do the job.” Done. And people feel good because they sent this note out on the SAME DAY as the interview.

How would a potential employer react if you actually took pen to paper and wrote a note that reflects a common sentiment or a business idea that you shared during the interview?  Hmmm, I wonder.

Prediction 3:  Pounding the Pavement Returns

Now this is a stretch – but I like to live on the edge. Most of you won’t even remember when one method of job searching was to literally walk into a company off the street – dressed appropriately, of course – to inquire about work opportunities. Well, some of us actually did that.

I had a client very recently who gave it a try. Believe it or not, the recruiting manager happened to be there and invited her in to talk for 20 minutes. Voila – the interview process had begun. Let me also say that this young woman was confident and prepared. She knew what she was going to say and was pleasant, engaging, positive and non-pushy.

I know it might seem very lame, but hey – is anything else working? What can you lose? The University of Phoenix seems to think this bold move could be a useful tool in the job search, particularly for young professionals.

So, who knows? Maybe it’s true what they say about everything old becomes new again.

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Just as an aside, I also predict that hand written notes and poems will come back as romantic gestures. Ever think about what the impact would be if you wrote a “real” letter to your loved one and left it under his/her pillow – or wrote a friend how you feel about them? Give it a try and let me know how it felt to rekindle something exciting.

Getting back to ideas about work and job search – What do you think?

Reluctant Harry: Networking Redefined – Part Three.

True story. (adapted for confidentiality)

One of my clients, Harry, is aspiring to be an academic editor for the latter part of his   successful career. He wants to start by getting his feet wet through freelance writing while he still holds his position as IT Director, and noticed a job posting for a temporary project editor at a book company specializing in textbooks.

Now, just for your information, Harry tends to undervalue his writing talent and underestimate the power of networking.

Harry is in sort of a rut. He has done a darn good job of convincing himself that editing cannot be a part of his future. At least not getting paid for it.

‘It’s too late’ is Harry’s favorite phrase.

Upon seeing the job posting, Harry’s inner critic immediately started mumbling

You’ll never get this job – they probably want editors who are experienced or at least have academic backgrounds.

So Harry didn’t take any action.

After talking about how unproductive it was to dismiss a potential opportunity just because of the negative chatter in his brain, I convinced Harry to apply.  He did.

Did he hear anything back in the ten days? No. The black hole of Internet applications is alive and well.

I suggested he look on LinkedIn to see if he found anyone who previously worked at the company or who works there now.  He reluctantly agreed to look, saying ‘I doubt if I’m connected to anyone in that world – it’s probably a waste of time’.

Lo and behold, there were dozens of people listed and even a few that were only 2 degrees of separation in his network.  I thought I might have seen a glimmer of hope in Harry’s eyes (not sure).

Harry immediately wanted to send a message to one of the HR people at the company, asking for the job. I suggested that he try taking a more subtle approach.

There was a person (Mike) listed that currently works in the department that he had applied to.  All Harry needed to do was ask one person (Sally) in his network if she would be willing to connect him to Mike.

Harry didn’t think that this would work, but agreed to give it a try. He clicked on the  “Request an Introduction” link and wrote his notes to both Mike and Sally. His note was friendly and professional, yet had the tone of a cover letter asking for the job.

“How about just asking to have a conversation so you could learn more about the company”? Good idea.

Harry heard back from Mike within 48 hours, and they scheduled a time to talk by phone. Mike thought Harry was very articulate and they discovered they both had a love for sailing. Harry learned a bit about the company as well as the name of the hiring director. (Mike was very generous in sharing this).

Harry contacted the hiring director, met with her the following week, and is now working on his very first part-time editing project. And yes, he is getting paid for it.

Harry is reluctant no more.

Go Harry.

Networking Redefined: Part Two

Over sixty years ago Dale Carnegie espoused fundamental principles of how to connect with other people in positive ways. Do you believe it’s true that every person has a deep desire to be appreciated and recognized for who they are and what they do well?

If you do, then the most important thing to remember when meeting someone is to take an interest in who they are and what they are trying to achieve. Dale Carnegie taught this in his book and training programs “How To Win Friends and Influence People“.

When we are in a career transition or trying to climb the ladder,we tend to get tangled up in our ego. We    become narcissistic. Everything is about us.  If we can train ourselves to get out of this mode and open our  hearts to others, we will make new connections more easily. Helping someone accomplish his/her goals or  fulfill his/her needs helps build loyalty. What could be more important to any relationship than loyalty?

I find that many clients, when in the grip of desperation (we all know that feeling), take a very short view on relationships. Again falling into the trap of narcissism, they focus on what the person in front of them can do for them right now. Mistake.

Relationships take time. It’s okay to start slowly. It’s a positive move to begin the relationship helping her/him instead of yourself. In fact, you may feel better about you in the meantime. Be interested, ask questions and listen, listen, listen. Really try to help. Follow up. Better yet, take action immediately to put that person in touch with another person or get helpful information. Send them an article or a book or a suggestion.

Let’s not forget Dale Carnegie’s key message. Everyone wants to feel important. Next time you meet a new person or reconnect with someone from the past, focus on making him/her feel important. The caveat in this is that it MUST be sincere. The worst thing you can do is patronize.

Give it time, and if  you approach all of  your relationships this way, I guarantee you will see a change in your career for the better.

If you click this link, you will go to the Dale Carnegie Training site where they are offering a free PDF download of Dale Carnegie’s Secrets to Success.  It’s great. There is nothing earth shattering in it; it’s simple, clear and easy to read. (I would venture to guess that we all need more simplicity in our lives) I’m sure that you will feel that it also rings true.

Dale Carnegie was ahead of his time. Let’s invite his spirit back into our lives – he has a lot of wisdom to share.

For some reason, we all need to hear this stuff over and over to get it through our heads and more importantly, to put it into practice.

Good night, and keep the faith.

Season of Kindness

Happened to come across a post by Steve Arneson talking about unemployment statistics. It’s scary.

But more importantly, I think we can all use a kick in the pants sometimes to put more energy into helping others (myself included). The irony is, the more we help others, the more it comes back around to us. It truly is better to give than receive. Steve says

Here’s what I want you to do – if you know someone who is looking for a job, call them up – today. Ask them how they’re doing, and what you can do to help. Get the story again on what they’re looking for, and reach out to your network to see if you can spark interest in their resume or maybe even arrange a meeting or interview.

You may not be able to put a dent in the larger unemployment numbers, but you can rededicate yourself to helping those in your own circles. Especially at this time of year, when hiring is light, spend some time with your colleagues who need your help; believe me, they’ll appreciate your call.

Enough said.  Happy Holidays to all and to all a good night.

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Making Space for Change

Some things are so simple that we overlook them. In the fifteen years that I have been working with clients who are working towards a Career Transition or Reinvention, one very simple issue comes up over and over again – the need to make space for change.

We tend to assume that if we want to change something, and we learn the tools to make progress, it will just happen. Nope.

Clients put lots of energy into learning techniques of self-marketing, repositioning themselves and gaining expertise in various areas and even forcing themselves to learn how to be comfortable network. It takes a lot of emotional and practical energy to build and polish all the skills necessary to make significant career change – even if the desired goal is another job in a similar role, it’s not easy, especially in the current job market.

Why do clients come to me every week and express frustration because they feel like they are spinning their wheels and not making enough progress to believe they can actually make this happen?

Simple. They don’t make make space for change.

If your days are already filled to 120% capacity of what one human being is capable of doing, what makes you think you can add more? You can’t.

If you work 10 hours per day, eat dinner and take care of the kids (or grandchildren), go to the board meeting, fix the doghouse, work on the budget spreadsheet before you go to bed and get up at 6:00am to start all over again, what makes you think that you can recreate your professional identity, and explore other career opportunities? You can’t.

That is, you CAN, but you must make space for change.

Probably the most important thing you need to do in order for your life to be different is to make space for change. That means you have to make some tough choices about what you are going to STOP doing, so that you can do something different. (make sense?)

What will you say “no” to? What are you willing to postpone? What do you have to communicate to your loved ones to help you make space for change? What will you give up in your life so that new good stuff can come in?

There are many good reasons for realizing that it’s time for change in your life. Dawn Rosenberg McKay lists several good reasons to consider a job change in her blog “Six Reasons To Make a Career Change“. In my opinion, the best test is if your gut keeps nagging you that it’s time.

I propose that the most important gift you will ever give yourself is to make space for change. Not only for career transition, but for just about anything you want your life to become.

Are you willing to make space for change?

On Becoming a Job Search Machine

Redwood trees blow my mind. They are awe-inspiring. I have a particular affinity towards Redwoods, and although I have never stood in their presence, I am certain that doing so will be a spiritual awakening.

In National Geographic’s current issue, there is a fascinating article entitled REDWOODS: The Super Trees,  about the Redwood Forests in California.

In the article, Evan Smith, vice president of forestland for the Conservation Fund says,

Redwoods are what’s known in biology as a very plastic species. [They’re] like machines. Once you get [them] going, you can’t stop [them].

This made me think of how difficult the job search process has become in  modern times. (okay, so my mind works in funny ways)

With advances in technology and the social media explosion, one would think that it would be easier to make connections and to land jobs in this day and age. Um, uh, hmm, well no – I’m afraid that’s not the case.

It is indeed counter-intuitive, but on the contrary, job seeker’s must be incredibly diligent and relentless simply to gain an opportunity to have a conversation with a hiring manager. Quite simply, it seems harder now than ever to apply for a job.

Of course, the current economic conditions don’t make the process easier, but even still…applying to a job now is never just a matter of forwarding your resume to a company that has a need for someone like you. You must always combine the tools of networking, online applications and personal branding to make headway. And even then, there is a good chance you will need some luck, too.

So – back to the Redwoods and Evan Smith’s statement.

It seems that career changers and job seekers, just like the Redwoods that have been around for thousands of years, need to become a “plastic species”. Mr. Smith says the trees are like machines – they never stop growing and replenishing themselves.

Job seekers & career changers also need to get positive momentum going and never let it stop. Momentum is the key to keeping your career alive.

Continuously expand your networking. Continue learning and keeping abreast of business and technological changes. This is even more important after you land a job.

Shift your paradigms if necessary – meeting new people can be interesting and fun with the right mindset. Pull back for a short time when you need to, but keep the energy going. Don’t let yourself fizzle.

One word of caution: Don’t become really plastic or really like a machine. Once you take the human element out of the equation, your uniqueness gets lost, you seem insincere and people get turned off.

Without authenticity and differentiation, you will definitely be placed on the endangered species list in the job market.

On a similar note – if you are interested in authenticity in a job search, you may find it interesting to read Cathy Keates’ blog “If I had a Hammer”.

What I like about her is that she is brave enough to introduce a novel idea – that perhaps we need a new approach to job search language; one that omits the idea of  ‘selling yourself’ or creating ‘commercials’ about your background.

QUESTION: Do you think her ideas are just about semantics, or do you think she’s hit on a good point here?

Check her out – Cathy Keates, author of Not For Sale! Why We Need a New Job Search Mindset