April 24, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Everyone has an attitude. How you project that attitude has enormous influence on how you are perceived. Those perceptions and interpretations by prospective employers make the difference between a winning interview, and one that doesn’t quite get it.
Attitudes are influenced by events and your reactions to them. You may be a great communicator, a motivating team builder, and an all around wonderful catch, but if you’re stuck in a bad place, all those attributes go up in smoke, replaced by behaviors that aren’t nearly as appealing. Under stress and duress you can act withdrawn, impatient, easily distracted, irritable, and cynical, second- guessing the motives of people you typically trust and value. Or you can take on the attitudes of the (pseudonyms) Ted, Chris, Janet, or Jake:
After twenty- five years with the same company, Ted was laid off. He had depended on the job for an income, insurance, retirement, friendships, and identity. Now it’s all gone. He says he doesn’t blame the company, they did what they had to do, that’s he’s moved on with his life. Has he?
“No, to tell the truth, I’m not over it. They could have done a lot of things differently. Lots of folks saw problems up ahead and no one seemed to be addressing them. Their answer to the economy, the competition, outdated equipment and outmoded strategy was ‘work harder’. Well, that didn’t work.
Maybe nothing could have saved us. The owners were good people. I know they didn’t want to let us go, and they didn’t want to lose a business they had worked all their adult lives to maintain. So, I don’t blame them. But I’m frustrated, angry and scared.”
How has your attitude impacted your interviews?
“I’m tentative. Cautious. I’m careful about what I say, careful about
how I act, careful about asking questions. The interviewer doesn’t get much of a read on me because I don’t let him.”
He’s right. And wrong. The interviewer does get a read and interprets Ted’s caution as not having the courage to make a decision, or the courage to question one. Ted comes across as a follower in need of strong direction. He won’t make the cut.
Chris has a different attitude. She believes that practice makes perfect so she practices for interviews the way she prepped for piano recitals, plays, and exams: Exhaustively.
“I’m ready. I’ve researched countless web sites for questions commonly asked and I’ve prepared my answers. I’ve visited the company’s website and I’ve memorized every fact on it. I know what to say, where to pause for emphasis, when to smile to show that I have a sense of humor, and when to look serious so that I’m perceived as, you know, serious. I am so prepared. I can’t lose!”
Sorry. Chris’s canned- do attitude won’t win this job. She’s so tightly wrapped the interviewer is turned off by her lack of spontaneity and her “too rehearsed” style. The interviewer wants someone who can work on matrixed teams that are as well oiled as they are well-integrated. The interviewer wants someone intellectually nimble, able to juggle tasks along with ideas, and when needed, change directions, without memorizing the how, what, and why of the playbook.
Janet is a battle toughened, hard worker with a victim’s attitude. Her strengths are obscured by a long-suffering, woe-is-me, nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen personality. Her affect is so depressing, the interviewer closes out the meeting before it even gets started.
Then there’s Jake:
He’s intolerant, temperamental, sarcastic, assumes the worst, and gets it. He’s smart but not savvy. He’s focused, but not on the right things. He answers questions with disdain, presuming the interviewer won’t understand his value, which is true, and he can’t provide the employer a track record of consistent contribution, because he doesn’t have one.
“My attitude is, why bother?” he says. “I’d be better off working for myself.”
That’s probably what he’ll end up doing.
Vitality. Social savvy, emotional health and physical well being. Intellectual dexterity, internal calm, and external energy. Positive attitudes that combine to project an image of someone we all want to have on our teams, and in our companies.
What’s your attitude?
April 17, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Wake up sleepy heads, today’s the first day of the rest of your young working lives, and you need to walk out the door with your best foot forward.
Speaking of your best foot…fellas, if you’re working with the public, wear socks and serious shoes; big hairy toes or shoe-string draggin’ sneakers just don’t do it for employers or their customers. Gals, if your job requires heavy loading, lifting, cooking or cleaning, chances are you can drop, slop, or slip, so you want those serious shoes to have tread and reinforced toes.
If you want to keep your job, get there on time. If you want to impress your employer, get there early. If you want to be alert and early, it helps to be awake, so get the sleep you need to be at your best.
If you want to keep your job, be polite. It’s a sign of respect to those who pay you at the end of the week, who know more about your job than you do, and have the power and authority to return you to the ranks of the unemployed.
If you want to keep your job, act as pleasant as you are responsible. Managers want to supervise employees who want to be there and want to make a difference while they’re there. Act responsible because no matter what job you have, your safety and security and the safety and security of others are part of the business of being there.
If you want to keep your job, be fully present. Do your work and jump in when someone needs your help. If you prefer talking on your cell-phone, to your work buddies, or to the voice in your head that says you’d rather be somewhere else, count on it, you’re going to be.
If you want to keep your job, respond immediately and energetically when you’re asked a question, and answer it in complete sentences. If you don’t know the answer, say so, and find out what it is.
If you want to keep your job, don’t gossip. Tell the truth. Accept responsibility for your mistakes and learn from them.
If you want to keep your job, anticipate what you can do without having to be told. Balance initiative with common sense.
If you want to keep your job, be a team player. If you’re in a jam you’ll
want your co-workers to help you out. They will if you demonstrate your willingness to do the same.
If you want to keep your job, make work a priority. You’ll be faced with all
kinds of temptations this summer, fall, winter, and spring. Everything from a trip to the beach, to sleeping in late after a late night out. When deciding what matters most, honor your obligations to those who pay and trust you to do the right thing.
If you want to keep your job, learn to do more than your job. If you work
with new technologies, processes, and procedures, you’ll increase your income potential and improve your job longevity.
If your parents shoved this column in your face while twisting your nose and pulling your ear, they have a reason. They may have noticed that you’re not a rule follower, and do the opposite of what you’re told. They’re afraid that you’ll push the boundaries and lose your job.
If your parents gently set this column in front of you, and you obediently picked it up and began reading, they may be concerned that you’re not as assertive as they’d like, and are afraid you’ll be overlooked in favor of those who are more forceful, extraverted, and risk taking.
If your parents got your attention by poking you with the newspaper, plastering want-ads on the bathroom mirror, and wrapping your breakfast in this column, they’re afraid you’re in no hurry to get a job and will be hanging around the house for the foreseeable future.
Surprise them. Surprise all of them. Wash your face, brush your teeth, comb your hair, and get out there and make it happen. Let your parents know through your actions, that you have what it takes to get a job and keep a job.
April 10, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
You can repeat your mistakes or learn from them. That’s up to you. Life’s lessons are many and varied. Some are easier to understand than others.
When it comes to interviewing it’s hard to know what comment, question, response, smile, frown, or explanation got in the way of your winning first prize. There are too many X’s and Y’s, too many unknowns, and too little opportunity to find out what worked and what didn’t.
To be or not to be: Interviewers base their hiring decisions on a variety of technical and interpersonal statements and impressions that emanate from the applicants’ ability to present skills, strengths, and contributions in cogent, convincing, compelling sound bites. Those who are selected come across as open, goal focused and confident while not appearing assumptive, arrogant, or overly ambitious.
Hiring decisions can be imprecise and difficult to justify, which is why even the most objective interviewers would rather not get into extended discussions about the finer points of their process with applicants who didn’t make the grade.
So what can you do to improve on your ability to make favorable impressions? Practice with individuals you trust that are willing and able to provide you objective and subjective, constructive, honest, direct feedback and insight regarding how you can improve the style and substance of your interview.
Before you involve appropriate acquaintances, friends or family in your pursuit, assess your level of openness to different perspectives and your willingness to do something with what you hear. If you’re not prepared, don’t start.
If you’re ready and so are they, establish the ground rules: when you’ll meet and how often, what’s fair game and what isn’t, and if compensation is involved, how much? Establish an exit strategy. A great idea can sour quickly if either or both participants aren’t as enamored with the process as they thought they’d be.
What’s your starting point? Your ability to describe the job you want and the experience, strengths and abilities you have that enable you to be successful doing it. If you haven’t figured that out you’re not ready for prime time.
What’s the responsibility of the feedback provider? To play the role of interviewer, asking direct and probing questions about your current expectations, perceived value and future aspirations, asking you to describe your setbacks as well as your successes.
What’s the process? Feedback providers ask the questions, listen to your responses and feed back to you the variety of impressions they derive from what you say. If their impressions are positive, you keep going; if their reactions are mixed or negative, brainstorm and experiment with better ways to respond to the question. Practice your changes, don’t memorize them, and when your interviewer-coach gives you the thumbs up, move to the next set of questions.
For feedback to be helpful it should be specific, behavior based, and descriptive. In other words, you want to see and hear yourself as you are seen and heard. Here’s an example:
When I asked you to describe your worst boss this is what you said:
“He made me angry”; “he made me feel badly”; “there was nothing I could do”.
As you spoke, you slumped in your chair, looked fatigued, and your face crumpled as though you might cry. I had the impression that in that circumstance you saw yourself as a victim; that you felt helpless and unable to choose differently.
If I were an employer I’d want to hire someone with the experience and capability of making mature choices in difficult situations. Try again: how would you describe your worst boss in a way that illustrates your ability to deal effectively under adverse conditions?
If you want to learn from your mistakes, ask for honest feedback.
April 3, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I think I have a great looking resume and impressive experience; that I’m reasonably attractive, smart, and have an outgoing personality. I’ve mailed hundreds of resumes and haven’t had one interview! I’m frustrated and losing confidence. I’m enclosing my resume for your review. I need help so don’t hold back.
I’ve looked it over and here’s what I see that’s working in your favor: You have an impressive education, a competitive major, a strong GPA, and what appears to be a strong work ethic. That indicates you’re focused on what’s important to you and you’re willing to work hard to get it. Your resume looks professional, the spelling’s correct, and there aren’t gaps in your employment. Your track record shows wide-ranging experience: that you’ve worked in a variety of positions for several different organizations in a relatively short period of time.
What’s working against you? Wide- ranging experiences working for several organizations in a relatively short period of time can be a turn off to many employers. Your four- page resume is too long and the tiny type, narrow margins, and all those italics make it hard to read. Your best information is buried inside dense paragraphs, written in technical jargon that’s known to a precious few, and you’ve used too many words to describe too many things. Ouch.
What can you do? Rethink, regroup, redesign, refocus, and refill your coffee cup. This may take a while:
Rethink: Be concise; convincing without hype; and immediately understandable. Include information that reinforces your objective; delete information that detracts from it.
Regroup: What job you want? If you don’t know (your current objective is ambiguous) the employer won’t either, and won’t figure it out for you. If you want to be competitive, you’ll need to spell out what you’re competing for. Once you have it, write a one- sentence objective that describes it. That’s your lead.
Redesign: You went to a top tier school, received a business degree, graduated with honors, worked your way through school while maintaining a 4.0 and hid that information on the bottom of page four. You have an important, impressive selling point. It needs to be on page one, right after your objective.
Use a reverse chronological format because that’s what the overwhelming majority of potential employers want to see. A functional format reads well but looks like you’re trying to cover up something (too many jobs in too few years? terminations? poor choices?) and is likely to get tossed.
Widen those margins, increase that typeface to 12 point, and select a font that’s easy to read. The typical reader scans your resume in about 20 seconds so if you want your best stuff to get noticed, get it on page one, front and center and get the job done inside two pages, max.
Refocus: For each company you’ve worked, include the name of the organization, location, your title, and start and end dates of your employment. Indicate your promotions with title changes, and briefly outline your broadened authority and accountability. Use bullet points to highlight accomplishments and validate each accomplishment in quantifiable terms that are easily understood and verified. When briefly describing your responsibilities, lead with what you enjoyed most and were most successful doing and minimize or eliminate what you no longer want to do.
Ask objective outside readers (who aren’t friends or family) to proof your resume for correct spelling and syntax and to give you feedback by answering a few questions: To what extent am I: Clearly and succinctly describing the job I want? Making my case by providing the information necessary to obtain it? Coming across as someone who’s made a difference for the companies I’ve worked?