August 14, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
If you’re willing to think through your answers and select the responses most likely to lead where you want to go, you can turn a potentially difficult interview into an honest, open exchange of relevant information.
When you’re asked, “why were you fired?” don’t play victim or blame the person who fired you. Accept accountability for your role in the outcome and connect your strengths to what employers want and say they need.
Why did your boss fire you?
He fired me because I intimidated him. I was smarter than he was and he was worried I’d take his job away from him.
Instead of assuming what your boss thought, tell me what you knew and what you did. Try it again.
I knew I was underemployed. I accepted a job that wasn’t challenging. I was frustrated because I wanted to do more and make more decisions. I was second-guessing my boss in front of his boss. I know why he let me go.
That’s the ticket and that’s accepting accountability. Next, move the conversation from the past to the future by connecting your strengths to the job opportunity:
I’m at my best when I’m doing work that’s mentally challenging and I’m part of the decision making process.
That’s more like it.
Here’s a question for someone returning to the workforce:
Your resume indicates you haven’t worked for a few years. What have you been doing?
I’ve been a stay at home mom with two small kids. My husband left me with little financial help and it was up to me to get it all done.
It’s a compelling truth but it’s not a compelling reason to hire you. Why should the employer hire you? Try it again.
I’ve been a single parent stay at home mom. During that time I’ve had a variety of experiences leading, managing, supervising, training, and developing others, sustaining relationships under sometimes adverse conditions, while remaining positive, encouraging and flexible. I’ve worked under pressure, under budget, coming up with creative solutions to complex problems, for groups of all ages, all while maintaining my balance and sense of humor. I am more than ready to take on this job!
You nailed it. Now, answer this one:
Describe the worst boss you’ve ever had.
My worst boss acted like I couldn’t please him.
My worst boss was also my best: He could be demanding and impossible to please but he caused me to learn more, try harder, and improve my work product.
Here’s a question that, if you’re not careful, can derail a good interview:
What are your biggest weaknesses?
I have trouble getting places on time, I’m impatient with stupid people, and I bite my nails.
Remember, when you answer, keep the employer top of mind. Why should she hire you? Try again.
I get very focused on my work and as a result I can run late to my next appointment. I’m demanding of myself and that can come across as being demanding of others, and I do get impatient with others when deadlines are looming and they’re not as responsive as I’d like them to be.
Here’s a question you can count on being asked:
Tell me about yourself.
I was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan and I have two brothers and a sister and went to…
Whoa. The interviewer wants to know why he should hire you. Try it again.
I’m at my best when I’m working with people who focus on objectives, and teams that work together to get the job done. I’m a strong communicator, a listener and leader, who believes in combining guidance with empowerment and alignment with intention.
Go get ‘em, Tiger.
July 31, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Job applicants seem to complain a lot when they describe how they feel they’re treated during and after their interviews. I thought it only fair to get some candid perspective from prospective employers and the applicant situations that bother them. Here are just a few:
Our interview committee was so impressed with a job candidate we wanted to make him an offer on the spot. The hiring manager insisted that we check references first and although the rest of us didn’t think it necessary, we went along and made a few calls. I called the first name listed and the so-called reference never heard of the applicant. I called the second on the list and was told the reference died several years ago. The third person on the list knew the applicant but didn’t have anything good to say about him. We not only didn’t make the offer, we decided that we won’t hire anyone unless we check references thoroughly, no matter how impressive the applicants are in person or on paper.
On the subject of decorum:
Too many young applicants treat our waiting area like it’s their personal break room. They bring in food, drinks and cell phones; they’re loud and use disrespecting language. We’re not interested in hiring them if they don’t know how to show consideration for our workplace and the people who work here.
These comments were addressed to ”seasoned employees who ought to know better”…
We continue to be distressed at the number of job candidates who walk into interviews while talking on their cell phones, who check text messages and take calls in mid-interview, and those who ask us (with a polite gesture) to wait while they complete their conversations. Tell them to leave their blasted cell phones in the car.
This employer described job applicants who shoot themselves in the foot by demonstrating their total lack of self-awareness:
Save me from applicants who explain why they’re late by telling me about their sick children, cars they can’t count on, and clocks that don’t work. Shield me from applicants who wear seductive clothing, overpowering perfume, and exhale stale tobacco breath all over me and my office. Protect me from applicants who describe their depression, confess their addiction, and describe their predilection for things I just don’t want to know. Tell them to limit their comments to skills, strengths and abilities that would cause me to hire them, so neither they nor we are compromised in the process.
This employer weighed in on resumes filled to the brim with fabrication:
According to the applicant’s resume he went to the best schools and worked for the best companies. His problem was that the document looked like a bad cut and paste job; different fonts, different formats, like it was lifted from different sources. Because it looked suspect I checked it out and found out that none of it was true. I don’t know what other companies do, but if we hire someone and later find out his or her resume is a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts, we terminate that person, immediately.
And then there’s this story about an applicant so rehearsed she sounds like she’s memorized a script:
I knew the minute she walked through the door she was too tense for her own good. Whatever question I asked she responded with something that sounded memorized. There wasn’t anything spontaneous about her, so naturally I questioned her about flexibility and her ability to work under changing conditions. She stared at me blankly, then looked like she was going through her mental Rolodex of responses and finally said, “I haven’t practiced that one yet. What do you think would be a good answer?”
July 11, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
“I’m intimidating. I know it. I don’t like it. I’ve never known what to do about it. Believe me, I’ve tried. It’s my personality. My whole family’s like that. My mom’s direct and my father more so. My brothers and sisters are all competitive go-getters. We earned our stripes around the kitchen table. Every meal was a potluck of competing voices and spirited debates. We argued about everything you shouldn’t; from politics and religion, to obscure factoids and just plain nonsense. We loved it. No surprise that everyone who grew up in our house is candid, opinionated, and brutally honest. The problem we’ve all encountered is that no one seems to like our opinions as much as we do.”
The caller had been terminated from a job she enjoyed and thought she was doing well. Her boss had consistently rated her as “exceeding expectations” and “high achieving”. She recalled being told that her overbearing style was “difficult” but it didn’t seem to be a big deal. She assumed that achievement outweighed style; that despite her argumentative nature, she actually cared what people thought.
She remembered another occasion when her boss had taken her aside and asked that she hold back in meetings and let others take the lead; that her colleagues were less apt to talk after she stated her opinion. When that happened she thought it best to say less and keep a respectful distance. In her exit interview she was stunned to learn that her efforts at humility were interpreted as having “a demanding style and negative attitude that was punctuated by moodiness and thinly veiled hostility.”
She was frustrated, angry, hurt and confused.
“I don’t know how to fix this or if I can. I’m afraid to take another job for fear of it happening again. Do other people have this problem? What can I do about it?
You’re not the only one. You have more company than you might imagine. And yes, you can you keep it from happening again if , and that’s a big, heavy-lifting if, you’re willing to 1) search for employment opportunities in organizational cultures that reward your strengths and value your personality style; 2) seek on-going objective, constructive feedback and coaching from a limited number of trusted sources so you can understand when and why your behaviors net negative reactions; 3) learn alternative responses that net positive outcomes.
In the meantime, consider the following, reevaluate your past actions, and choose more effective ways to relate and react to others.
Communicators who are as forceful, direct, and uncompromising as you describe yourself, should work with employees equally comfortable with that combative style. Therefore, stay away from jobs that require you to be a team player or a team leader. That’s not you. Stay away from jobs that require you to develop and learn from others. That’s not you either. You want a job that gives you the right to always be right, a trait as unpleasant to employers and co-workers as it is to prospective customers, clients, and vendors.
You can change your behavior without changing your character. You can be honest, open, and direct and bring out the best in others if you focus on them instead of yourself. You can learn patience, develop empathy, and demonstrate compassion without compromising quality, performance, or outcomes. You can learn to give others time and space to make their points without challenging or ridiculing them. You can learn to question perspective, not judge it. You can learn to invite expansive thinking and not limit or diminish creative response.
You have the makings of a leader and the style of a bully. Develop the former, forgo the latter and you have great potential for career success.
July 4, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Moms, Dads, your grown kids are home for the holidays. Some of them are gainfully employed, making tons of money. They’re beautifully groomed, happy, healthy, generous, and kind to small animals. They’ve not only met your expectations, they’ve exceeded them.
Others have returned home, not for the holidays, but for the duration. As kind, good, well groomed, respectful and generous they may (or may not) have been in the past, what’s been leeching out lately hasn’t been so pleasant. They’re touchy, defensive, withdrawn, depressed and you’re at a loss to know what to do or how to react.
Your beloved grown children are out of work. Scared. Alone. And they want to be under your roof with you. And your cooking. Cleaning. Car. And hopefully, charge card. That’s not quite what you had in mind when you thought you launched them several years ago.
What’s a well- meaning parent to do?
“Why can I do? I can’t close my door to them. I feel stuck. I want to help, but don’t know how or if I should. None of my friends’ children have done this so I’m a little embarrassed to talk about it. Help!”
There’s no shame for them or for you that your children have come home. These are tough times. Life is expensive. It takes two salaries to do what one salary did and when one salary is the only salary and it goes away, the person impacted needs time to regroup and rethink. It’s natural to want to go home, literally and figuratively, to the emotional support and hot meals of memory. It’s natural for parents to want to embrace that need or feel that they should. It’s unnatural to expect parents to embrace the memory of piles of dirty clothes, dirty dishes, and a disrupted life.
There are mixed emotions on both sides of the equation. Grown children don’t want to live at their parents’ home. They see their return as a public admission of failure and a private act of defeat. They want to retain the independence that time and effort have earned them They don’t want to return to a time and place where they were children, and they don’t want to compare notes with childhood friends who are now successful. They don’t know what else to do.
How can adult children and their parents weather this unexpected and unplanned passage with maturity, grace and humor? By setting boundaries, clarifying expectations, establishing agreements, and demonstrating respect for each other.
For parents, setting boundaries can include hours for coming and going, and meal times Clarifying expectations can range from charging room and board to bartering food and lodging for lawn and home care and maintenance, cooking and cleaning, etc. Establishing agreements requires open and honest communication and keeps flawed assumptions from derailing family relationships.
If you’re at a loss as to how to approach these vexing problems, what would you do if you were renting a room to someone you didn’t know.
Returning grown-kids need to set expectations and boundaries for their parents as well as well as understand the ones they’ll need to heed. Before moving in, establish financial obligations: how much is room? and if board is included, what are the hours? If there’s no charge, barter your services in exchange for what you are so graciously offered. And keep your word.
Advise your parents on the best way to discuss your unemployment. Say with you and with others. Sound tough? It’s the best bargain you can get while protecting your relationship with the people you always want to be there, in word and deed.
June 27, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Many of you struggle with your job search because you don’t know the career direction that’s best for you. If you’d like to stop spinning and start mapping, pay attention to your interests and hobbies. Do you love music and hiking? You probably want jobs that enable you to work in harmonious places and open spaces. Do you like acknowledging others and organizing social events? You’re likely to enjoy coordinating projects and activities for the common good. Do you like to work on the car, fix the plumbing, work on puzzles? Check out jobs that involve hands-on investigating, trouble-shooting, and problem solving.
Are you having trouble getting a job, an increase, or a promotion because you’re not willing to toot your own horn? Get over yourself and just tell the truth: describe what you do best, when you’ve done it, and provide evidence that supports it. Did you work with a team? Was it a team win? Were you the team lead? Say so.
If you’re still uncomfortable, refer to yourself in the third person. Instead of saying “I did thus and so…” say “John Jones has demonstrated significant inroads in identifying and developing new product ideas.” Or, “John Jones has improved bottom line results by leveraging existing materials and ideas into new and innovative opportunities.”
Are you having trouble explaining why you left a job before securing a new one? Focus on the future, not on the past. For example, if you left because you could no longer tolerate a micromanaging, controlling boss, say something like, “I want to work in an organization that values and develops team players who are independent self starters.” If your former boss was a foul-mouthed, abrasive lout, you could say something like, “I’m interested in working in a mutually respectful, professional setting that values and rewards diverse thinking and problem solving.”
Are you having trouble differentiating yourself from the competition? Pretend you’re in sales or marketing and position yourself as you would a great product: prepare a feature-benefit statement that succinctly describes what you do and how your talents drive top line sales or protect bottom line results.
Are you having trouble asking questions when you’re on an interview?
It’s an old story: You want a job, the opening’s right, and you want to seal the deal. The interviewer sells and you’re ready to buy. You lean in for the handshake and the interviewer asks if you have any questions.
Your mind races through empty file drawers and you respond with a hurried, “No, I’m good to go.”
Silence. You may be ready, now they’re not so sure. If you’ve done your homework, researched the company, and listened to what you were told, the interviewer expects you to have questions. If you’re stumped, try some of these: “What’s the most pressing and important challenge I’m sure to confront? What are the company’s greatest long- term concerns? “How do your best employees prove their worth?” “What does your company value most in its employees?”
Do you have trouble holding your own in an interview? Would a deer in the headlights have a better chance of getting the job? You may be suffering from over- worry and under-preparation. A sure cure comes from practicing with people willing to role play as well as provide candid constructive feedback.
Do you have trouble knowing what to say and what to keep to yourself? Follow this simple rule: If it’s business-related and you can prove it, say it. If it’s personal, don’t. For example: interviewers want to know about what you do and have done that relates to their work. They don’t want to know about your personal demons or family problems no matter how interesting or important they are to you.
June 20, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
What does job search and foreign travel have in common? Having recently returned from a business trip abroad, I’m not only brimming with fresh perspective and chock full of new learning, I see connections I’d earlier have missed.
The learning: Airline personnel, flight cancellations, impatient travelers. When the few are assigned the work of the many and there’s a critical intersection of the few, complicated by a critical interruption of the many, chaos reigns. The ensuring struggle becomes emblematic of any business or organization in the throes of downsizing, limited supply, and crushing demand. The fragile system that supports a tentative network breaks down.
The lesson for job seekers: Do your homework before you even think of
accepting a job offer, however attractive it appears to be. If the company you want to join has been laying off employees instead of hiring them, you’re walking into a structure that has been stressed and surviving personnel who have been stretched. Can they and their systems react quickly and appropriately to change that is predictable, yet not of their choosing? Are they planning for the long term or struggling to survive the world of “what’s happening now”?
The learning: It helps to speak the same language. When issues are simple and time ample, the gulf created by cultural and language difference is negotiated with relative ease (“How charming” we say. “How American” they reply, as we each smile, nod, and cautiously make our way around the other). However, when time is currency, and there’s too little of it to enjoy the impasse, minor gaffes create major blunders, cultural customs create corporate inefficiencies.
The lesson for job seekers: When interviewing, realize that what you say (or think you’ve said) isn’t necessarily what they hear (or thought they’ve heard). What are priorities for you, may not be priorities for them; what they value most may be what you value least. Clarify understanding, yours and theirs, while you both have time to adjust your thinking, alter your plans, negotiate your differences, and work for a common and desired outcome.
The learning: It’s important to be well rested. Travel can be tiring. International travel can be exhausting. You’ll change sleep cycles, social contacts, and meal times to meet the calendar and clock of the location and people with whom you interact. Change your circadian rhythm and you affect your blood pressure, body temperature, sleep patterns, and ability to digest the food you’re not used to eating. No wonder you feel as though your brains and your batteries have been popped in backwards.
To look and behave as though you know what you’re doing, to have your words leave your mouth in the order in which you conceived them, you’ll have to pace yourself, and get the rest you need.
The lesson for job seekers: You don’t need to travel abroad to realize the benefits of good, sound, uninterrupted sleep. The better your rest, the more productive you’re likely to be. Each of us are different, some of us requiring more, some fewer hours of sleep to be at our best. Whatever you rest you need, be sure you get it and recognize that when stressed you might need more sleep than ordinarily would be enough. (How do you know? If you’re easily distracted, forgetful, moody, clumsy, and nodding off instead of networking and knocking on doors, get some sleep).
Whether you’re traveling to the coast or to Costa Rica, eyeing a job in IT or in Italy, plan ahead. Think strategically and behave tactically. What’s your goal? How will you measure your progress toward achieving it? What do you want, why do you want it, and how will accomplishing it align with your priorities, values, and longer- term objectives?
June 5, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
If you were getting ready to selling your home, and to buy one, instead of leaving a job and looking for onea job, I bet you’d do whatever you could , that was affordable and within reason., to be successful.
If you were buying a home, you’d do the same.
You’d begin wby doing a ith a full house inspection, eyeballing the interior and exterior of your space to figure out what works and what doesn’t, what needs to go, what needs to stay, and what’s appealing to the greatest possible number of buyers. You’d highlight its special features and downplay its least attractive characteristics. what’s least attractive about it.
You’d consult with a trusted financial advisor, and ask advice from savvy professionals with a positive track record in home sales.
Job seeking isn’t much different, so, here’s your short list of things to do and get done before you put yourself on the job market.
If you’re serious about your search looking for a job, commit yourself fully to it the search. If you’re ambivalent, not sure that you’re ready to make the change to something different, and better, you haven’t done the challenging work of assessing your personal, professional, and financial situation. That assessment involves more than knowing you’re miserable where you are and that you want out. It requires your knowing, without doubt, what you do best and the ecircumstancesnvironments inunder which you are most likely to succeed. Those are the strengths you want to utilize, develop, and grow, and the circumstances that will allow you to do just that.
If you were selling your home you’d want to do more than ask advice from savvy insiders, you’d want them to play a proactive role in your preparation. You’d ask them to do a homea house inspection, along with you. You’d invite them to open the drawers and the closets, and point out the clutter that you’ve overlooked or the eccentricities you’ve come to loveonly you could love. You’d ask for answer their pointed questions, despite your discomfort, and stumblecourageously ask when asking a few of your own.
So it is with your job search. You need input from people who live outside your head and your perspective. You need their objective opinion regarding aspects of your style that you might think endearing and they see as difficultoppositional. If you were selling one home to move to another, you’d need to know the questions that are essential to choosing wisely, well, and once. You’d getneed a professional’s take on your strengths and skill-sets; what’s competitive, what needs upgrading and what is best overlooked. And you’d need to know how to sell what you do best by first finding out what the prospective buyer is looking for and why.
Since you’re selling one home to move into another, you’d need to know the questions that are essential to choosing wisely, well, and once.
If you were selling your home and the carpet was shot, the paint peeling and the roof leaking, you’d make the necessary upgrades and required repairs or suffer the consequences of having to lower your price and expectations regarding the less return on your original and sizable investment.
So it is with your job search. If your wardrobe is in serious need of repair, and your general physical appearance issadly lacking in energy and spirit, you’ll you’d make the appropriate changes. You’d gYou’ll get in shape, emotionally and physically, and you’ll buy clothes that indicate you know how to dress for the workplace and the levepositionl to which you aspire.
If you were to sell your home before buying another, you’d need to know where to find affordable and available and affordable temporary housing.
And Sso it is in your career search.
If you, were you to lose your job or leave it, intentionally or otherwise, before you have another, you’d. You’d have planned ahead by knowing how and where to for the unwanted yet possible to feel in control were it to happen. You’d arrange for short term and part-time jobs or consulting opportunities that could see you through the tough times..
If you were selling your home, you’d do it right. If you’re looking for a job, you’ll do the same.
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.
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?
March 31, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Do you remember the story about the fellow whose cat led him to the right job? It went like this…
Apprehensive young man desperate for career and already late for interview has a runaway house cat. After frenzied search, skirmish and surrender, young man and reluctant cat arrive at company’s formidable front entrance. Young man opens resistant door by clamping resume between teeth and wedging cat between sandaled feet. In time it takes to yell, “stop biting my toe”, cat escapes, dashes after delivery truck and leaps aboard. Stowaway cat, unaware driver, and yet to be delivered packages head for highway. After lengthy pursuit young man flags driver to stop. While exchanging cat and pleasantries, young man describes aborted interview. Delivery driver, impressed with young man’s dogged desire to recoup recalcitrant cat suggests career with animal rescue. Young man turns suggestion into opportunity and works happily ever after.
What’s the moral of the story? To get a great job all you need is a coincidental intersection of people and events?
If that were so there’s little you can do to influence your job search other than stand around intersections, waiting for the coincidence of good fortune to strike you instead of the person standing next to you. I don’t believe that. I do believe that life can be more challenging for some than for others.
Bad things can happen to good people and the best intentions can go ignored; hard working, honest, talented employees can be laid off and the misunderstood can be fired; that some people are born to wealth and privilege and others to misery and despair; that there are many things about which we have no choice but to choose again. It’s in that gap, that place between what was chosen for you and what you choose for yourself that I would hope you would focus.
I’ve worked with a wide variety of clients having to deal with a broad range of job challenges and career issues. Despite their age or circumstance, education or economics, the majority struggle to answer the question, “what should I be when I grow up?”
Some are locked into the belief that careers should be hard and unforgiving. “That’s why it’s called work”, they say. Others, intellectually quick and hungry for mental stimulation are drawn to what is difficult or unusual, only to find that their learning curve is as short as their interest is brief. “When will I find something that sustains me?” they say. “I’m tired of this endless search.”
Some believe they should set aside the playthings of their youth, that whatever dreams they had as children, of fun, fame and fortune were just dreams, and not to be considered as career possibilities.
I’ve worked with grown children who espouse economic independence from their deep pocket parents even as they accept their co-dependent reality; with young adults who struggle to find an identity that’s not subordinated by a parent’s power or influence.
I’ve worked with not so young adults who’ve overcome poverty and jeopardy to make it on their own and in their own terms; with people who’ve left their jobs and people whose jobs left them; with people for whom English is a second language and want a chance to prove themselves as they are, not as others would wish them to be.
They all have this in common: A desire to enjoy what they do, to be respected, treated fairly, and paid equitably for their effort. It takes courage, not coincidence. It requires stepping into the space between what has happened to them and what they choose to happen next. That’s the place where they improve their self-awareness; increase their self-confidence, and where they take action.
What’s the moral to your story?