May 29, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
There’s something about the sights, smells, and start of fall and the school year that can get the kid in you revved up for what’s to come. You have to repress that urge to run out and buy a new lunch box, backpack and notebooks, because you’d look a little silly, given your age and station in life.
If you’re a job seeker, your search can feel more like the first day of school in a new town, where you don’t know the kids, the teachers, or how to find your homeroom. You’re lost in a maze of ambiguity, separated from your confidence and hidden from your self-esteem.
If you want to change your feelings and adjust your attitude, you’ll need to map the territory you’re searching. I have some suggestions for you but you’ll need the commitment to do your part and the courage to stay the course until you’ve accomplished your goal.
Plan before your push. You have to be able to describe your strengths and the contributions you can make to an organization, or to name the job you want and why you’re capable of excelling in it. If you don’t know what’s right for you because there are too many options or just too few, you can benefit from the help that professional career counselors can provide. You can find them in private practice and the public sector; working in libraries, community colleges, and universities. They want to assist you in aligning your strengths to the jobs that are out there that need to get done.
If you would rather figure it out on your own that’s doable, and why self-help career search books and related websites are in demand. Whatever route you find to the answers you need, take advantage of who and what’s available and start taking action. Just do yourself a favor. From time to time, ask someone who’s in a position to know, for some feedback on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.
Network when you know. Too many job seekers start networking without knowing why they should, when they ought, who can help, and who gives a rip. Why network? To open doors to where hidden opportunities exist. When’s the best time? As soon as you know what you want, why you want it and how you can clearly, succinctly, and accurately describe the position that enables you to make the greatest contribution to an organization. If you’re not ready for prime time, you’re not ready to network.
Who should you call? Contact people you’d describe as “connectors”. Don’t worry, you not apt to find them leading companies and they’re usually not the most important or powerful people in their communities. Connectors are accessible, outgoing, social, organizationally savvy individuals who know lots of people and enjoy connecting acknowledged and unrecognized talent, one to the other. You can find them meeting and greeting people wherever there’s a formal or informal gathering of individuals who represent a cross section of interests, perspectives, and personalities.
And who gives a rip? People who have a sincere interest in other people, who enjoy maximizing the potential they find in others, who see benefit in helping those they perceive as deserving of their assistance. Their assistance is considerable and valuable.
Bottom line, don’t waste your time, energy, or talent trying to network with self serving wannabees who may have contacts, but limited interest as well as perspective. Nothing worthwhile will come from your efforts.
If you want to play the game, practice for it. That takes envisioning your goal, evaluating its long and short term value, assessing your strengths, developing your talent, creating your strategy, and organizing the support and resources you’ll need to sustain your drive to accomplish it.
May 22, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
I’m at the beach. It’s raining. Not sprinkling. Showering. Misting. Or any of the displays that suggest wait-a-minute and the sun’s bound to come out. This is a rain that’s going to stay for a while. I better get used to it.
It came advertised. I saw it on the weather channel, read it in the paper, I heard it from forecasters who added their personal and chipper “don’t bother going to the beach this week, it’s going to rain.”
I didn’t listen. I wouldn’t. I had a plan and was working it. I told my calendar, told my clients, packed my bags, put gas in the car, checked the spare and made sure I had enough air in the tires. With that kind of dogged determination, I was heading for the beach with my sun screen and slightly shaken optimism that sheer will was sufficient to ward off all storms.
Rats. It’s raining.
There’s a large needlepoint that hangs above the bed in the condo where I’m staying. It reads, “If you’re lucky enough to be at the beach, you’re lucky enough.” I repeat it several times daily, reminding myself of its basic truth. Meanwhile, I read a book, watch the Olympics, celebrate victories and stories of success and almosts, and watch the rain. I follow the news and interviews with hurricane survivors picking their way through the scattered debris of their lives and repeat the mantra of the needlepoint. “If you’re lucky enough to be at the beach, you’re lucky enough.”
What has this to do with career challenge and job search strategy? It may be a stretch, but here it is: No matter how much you plan, organize, and grit your teeth you might not get all that you want. You might get close, you might get most, and you might fall short of the best that you had in mind. “If you’re lucky enough to be at the beach, you’re lucky enough.”
Ten thousand athletes from 202 countries compete in Athens. A fraction of those attending will get everything they work for and want. But they all go to the beach. They’re lucky enough.
Thousands of Floridians survived a horrific weather experience, suffering the loss of loved ones and the destruction of their earthly possessions. Their beach reminds us, dramatically so, that good fortune is relative, and if you’re whole and have your health, home, food, water and clothing, you’re lucky enough.
And as they heal from an event they attended but didn’t invite, they come to grips with what’s next. Medallists and their medal-less colleagues return home and evaluate what’s next. And job hunters who’ve yet to win the one they want struggle with what’s next.
If you’re that frustrated job seeker, you can spend your time blaming the economy, the competition, or yourself. And if that gets you going, great. But if blaming others takes the pressure off you to do anything more or anything differently, you’ve missed the lesson that’s usually imbedded in our “almost’s”.
In reality and despite your worthiness and willingness to try harder and do more than the next person, you may not get everything you want. But if you refuse to settle for less, and instead strive for more, you’ll get something better than what you have.
Take stock. Check your inventory.
What’s important to you? When all is said and done, and the cheering subsides and you’re left with your story and its footprint, is it enough? Have you done what you wanted, have you surrounded yourself with the people or things that matter, have you a life well lived?
There’s something about a little rain that makes you realize, if you’re lucky enough to be at the beach, you’re lucky enough.
May 15, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Last week I described a job candidate I’ll call Sam, who was flabbergasted to find he’d been eliminated from competition because the interviewer viewed his behavior as unacceptable.
This is Sam’s version of what happened: Sam had a busy morning and as a result, was late getting to his interview. When he arrived, the receptionist asked him to wait for an escort to Human Resources. Several minutes passed before he was accompanied to the interviewer’s office where again he was asked to wait. The interviewer had an emergency that he needed to address.
Sam had scheduled another interview with a company across town and he had one hour remaining to get there on time. As the minutes ticked by Sam grew increasingly concerned that he’d miss it. As his anxiety mounted, so did the edgy attitude he displayed to the HR admin, who was making an effort to placate him. Out of frustration, he tried and failed to gain entrance to the interviewer’s office. Finally, the interviewer agreed to see him, but didn’t give Sam an opportunity to present anything but his resume, indicating that “he had seen enough”, and over Sam’s heated objections and adamant refusal to leave, had him escorted to the parking lot.
What can you learn from Sam’s debacle? Plenty.
Manage your time wisely. Late arrivals and anxious attitudes are noted by everyone including the interviewer and take the interaction in the wrong direction.
Don’t schedule other appointments within three to four hours of your interview. You need to be available in case your meeting is delayed or the interviewer would like you to meet others on the screening team.
Don’t like to be kept waiting? Occupy yourself by reading company related materials that are typically provided, or read a business magazine or newspaper.
Don’t cop an attitude and think you can later defend or explain your bad behavior.
It’s understandable that you’re frustrated when you arrive at your scheduled interview, on time, only to find that the interviewer isn’t ready for you. If you want the interview, if you believe you’re a good match to the opportunity, if you believe the company is one where you want to work, let go of your frustration. Let it go or it will reveal itself to those who observe you, even casually, and it can hurt your chances for success.
How you react to a negative situation begins with what you think about it. If you want to respond as someone calm and steady, you’ll need to think yourself that way. Change your perspective by envisioning how you want to (respectfully) treat others, how you want to (candidly) answer tough questions, and how you want to (politely/courageously) ask questions of others. Envision how you want to begin the meeting and how you want it to end.
Throughout this mental exercise, you’re neither irritated by, nor fixated on, how others are treating you badly. If you were to be, you’d lose personal power, energy, and control by turning it over to “them” and they win.
You’re right. Life isn’t fair. Good health, wealth, luck, and happiness aren’t equally distributed. It is what it is. We don’t know what demons those who would appear to have it all, struggle with, and we don’t need to know. It’s enough that we struggle with our own.
Given that, we can only make the best choices we can, realizing that there are consequences for the ones that we make. The next time you’re interviewing and you’re ticked off by a company representative’s actions or lack of them, and you’re itching to say something that will show them how wrong they are, take a deep breath and do something far more constructive: show them how a class act behaves.
May 8, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Bummer. You’ve spent weeks practicing answers to the toughest questions, days improving your resume, hours finding the right thing to wear, only to learn you weren’t made a job offer because the interviewer said you had bad manners.
“Bad manners! Can you believe it?” slumped the client.
“Tell me what happened”, I said politely, while correcting my posture and rejecting an overwhelming urge to remove a piece of celery from a niche somewhere between my teeth and gums.
“I don’t know for sure”, he responded, “ the interviewer didn’t say, but it must have been pretty bad to disqualify me.”
I asked him to recall the order of events so we could tag the behavioral culprit. Here’s what he said.
“I got there a little late, gave my name to the receptionist, and took a seat. As the minutes ticked by I started getting concerned and asked the receptionist what was taking so long. She said the interviewer would be with me momentarily. Well, momentarily changed to many momentarilies, and I was getting really worried. I had another interview across town, starting in just over an hour.”
I asked if he had considered that when agreeing to both appointments.
“No, not really. I figured if everything broke just right I could do it. Anyhow, an admin walked up, introduced herself and escorted me to the office where the interview was to take place. When we got there, the interviewer stepped outside his door and asked if I could wait just a few more minutes. He said he had a mini-emergency he had to deal with, and needed to take care of it before we could begin our conversation.
“Sure”, I told him, “ and I have a mini-emergency myself. I have an interview across town that starts in just under an hour. Could you hurry this up please? I said, “please”. I distinctly remember being courteous when stating my request. He looked at me pleasantly enough, went into his office without me, closed the door and I guess he took care of his ‘emergency’.
“I asked the admin if this was his typical behavior, and she smiled and said that he had a lot going on that day.
“Like I don’t,” I said. “Apparently I was a little edgier in my response than I had intended, since she immediately went into her boss’s office, and closed the door before I could squeeze through. In less than a minute the interviewer thrust open the door, invited me in, closed the door, a little sharply, I thought, and asked me to take a seat.
“He oughtn’t to have bothered, since I grabbed for the first chair I could find. Regrettably, it was his.
“He apologized for the delay, but didn’t seem very sincere, and proceeded to review my resume. He told me that it looked ‘in order’, whatever that means, and thanked me for stopping by.
“Don’t you have any questions for me?” I asked.
“No,” he responded. “You’ve given me all I need.”
”Come on!” I begged. “Ask me something.”
“That’s when he stood. I guess he wanted me to go but I wanted to press my case. Which I did, emphatically.
He opened the door, gesturing for me to leave. When I didn’t, he said something to his admin, and before I knew it, a security guard showed up and escorted me, politely but persuasively, to the parking lot and my car.”
“Wow”, I said, so amazed at his story that I had forgotten about the celery that lurked between my molars.
“Yep”, he sighed, “some people are so rude you wonder how they ever manage to get hired.”
With that, he put his sox back on, laced up his shoes, and left.
May 1, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
“I read your column and wonder if you get people like me out of a jam.”
That prompted my curiosity and I asked her to describe, “people like me”.
“People who are so lost they don’t know where to start. I’m a college graduate and I can’t believe I’m earning minimum wage in a dead-end job. I’m stuck, and I want to know if you can get me out of this mess.”
Her tone was strident, and as she punched each word though the telephone, she continued.
“I have a liberal arts degree that didn’t prepare me for work, parents who keep saying ‘I told you so’, and a dog that just ruined the sofa that I borrowed from my aunt, who will probably disown me when she finds out. Can you get me out of this mess?”
I explained that career counselors ask questions, provide assessments, clarify issues, offer perspective, give counsel, discuss strategy, and outline tactical approaches for job and career search. It’s up to their clients to decide which, if any, behaviors they’re willing to change, and actions they’re willing to take. Bottom line, she’d have to doing things differently if she wanted a better outcome.
I offer her lament, with her permission, as description of one that you or someone you know may be experiencing as well.
The issue: You feel lost and don’t know where to begin in your search for something better than the place you find yourself.
The goal: To know what you want, where you’d want to work, and what you have capacity for doing best.
The rules: Be flexible, proactive, and responsive; know your goal, set your objectives, readjust as you go, and keep your eye on the prize.
The process: If you don’t know what you do best, get help, now. If you prefer to kick- start your thinking by reading, you can find books and career interest/vocational surveys on line, in bookstores and libraries. If you’re overwhelmed by the number and variety and don’t know where to direct your attention, get free, human assistance: ask librarians to direct you toward the appropriate titles and sources.
Once you’ve gotten a handle on what makes sense for you, based on your innate strengths, learned skills, and potential for development, you’re either ready to launch your search or ready to talk to someone about how to launch it. You can find those folks in private practice (look for Career Coaches/Counselors), and if you’re a student, in the career or guidance office of your respective schools.
If you’re more extraverted and want to think by talking, find the right people for the right reasons. To maximize your time and that of others, and the probability that your discussion will yield a positive outcome, talk and listen to people who know you, are willing and interested in knowing more about you, who are savvy to the world of work and the necessities and intricacies of job search and willing to offer you their candid perspective.
Network, network, network. Once you understand what you do well, or have aptitude for but limited experience doing, find people who currently have the job you’d want. If you don’t know who they are, network your way toward them and when you get there, make the most of the time you have together by asking their advice for making the transition.
Changing career direction or finding the right job after a string of wrong ones may require additional schooling, apprenticeships, and working your way up from ground level. It’s not the stuff of miracles, chance meetings, or sheer luck. It takes hard work and daring to meet the right people to ask the right questions to take the right actions. And it’s worth it.