Be True to You

When do you stop doing what you do because you feel you have? When will you start doing what fulfills you and uses your talents? When will you stop chasing the paycheck and start pursuing your dreams?

We are getting into the final days of the year, a natural time to reflect on the past and plan for success. If you are feeling the tension, the dissonance of not spending your days doing what you are best at, what are you going to do differently next year?

Are you living for the weekend, or doing what you love?

This is an important question. So many people are slogging through daily drudgery, living for the weekend. We come alive Friday afternoon and spend Sunday anticipating Monday with dread.

There are many reasons why people do not like their jobs. A bad boss, low pay, limited advancement opportunities, and lack of recognition all contribute. For many, though, the stress, often rising to despair, comes from being in the wrong kind of job. Our work does not align with our interests, skills and values. In an article concerning the drivers of job satisfaction, SHRM reports that the opportunity to do work maximizing our skills and interests is a top consideration for both women and men.

If you are going to make a change, consider satisfaction, purpose and fulfillment before making the move. Here are some ideas on how to start.

Interests: What do you like to do? Do you work well with your hands? Do you like spending time with people? Do you enjoy managing projects? Take time, ideally over days or weeks, to think about this. Jot down ideas as they come. Maybe you will think of additional interests as you go through your current work. The idea is simple; you want to generate a list of interests that can give you insight for your next step.

Skills: For many people, this is easier. We know from experience, performance feedback received, our reputation, and other input what we do well. Many of us also know what we don’t do so well. Note these too. Be aware of what to avoid when you are considering options.

Values: Values can include many things. Your faith might inform you. Your politics could be important. How you are perceived by friends, family and community members could be important to you. These ideas could steer you toward or away from options. Industries or companies could be added to or removed from your search list. Ask yourself this question: “I can bring my skills almost anywhere, so why would I want to bring them there?”

Assessment: You can probably generate a long list of interests and skills on your own, but there is help online. For a free assessment, visit mynextmove.org. Answer a series of questions to generate possible career options.

If a new job is part of your plan for the new year, do the hard work of considering all this. The effort will be worth it, and could keep you from jumping from a job you dislike into a job you hate.

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Do you need help considering your next career move? Contact Bill Florin at Resu-mazing Services Company for comprehensive career coaching and development services.

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A Tale of Two Searches

Learn from the experiences of two of my clients who accepted job offers from Fortune 50 companies this week. The stories are remarkably similar and offer the job seeker in today’s economy a few lessons.

My first client has invested his entire career into business analysis, helping companies understand what’s happening and how they can use systems to optimize business processes and results. Based on the stories he told me of saving money, improving productivity, enhancing customer service, and continually finding new ways to work smarter, he has been a great employee. Certainly, he has earned more than his paycheck in the contributions he made over the years.

The second client has a technology focus, making devices communicate with each other in complex environments and helping clients get the most from their IT investments. Again, his career has been focused on this work, he is good at what he does, and he has the awards and performance reviews to prove it.

Though their career paths are different, their experiences were similar. Whatever you do in your life’s work, you can probably expect to face the same. Here are the key points I took from both.

Be Patient. These two clients interviewed with household-name companies, and both faced multiple rounds of interviews: one four, the other five. Not only was patience important due to the number of interviews, it was important because it took time. “You’ve done well, and I want to have you meet with the director. He’s out of town next week, so we’ll see what we can do to get you back in about two weeks.” Two, three or four delays like this makes for a long hiring process. The seeker is anxious to move along in the process; the employer is rarely so eager.

There Will be a Test. Maybe more than one. Both companies used online assessments to aid in the hiring decision. These personality and work style assessments are becoming more common, so take a little time to understand their purpose and what you can expect. They can measure emotional factors, your ability to work well under stress and with others, technical aptitude, and any number of other criteria the employer views as relevant. The cost of a bad hire is high, so the effort and expense are worth it to them. For you, it means more work and the potential for elimination.

Keep Your Search Active. While both clients felt early on that they were doing well, neither was willing to assume the hiring process would end in their favor. It can be tempting to slow down when a potential job looks likely. Don’t do it. I have seen people go three, four or five rounds only to be told, “We are holding off on filling this position,” or, “We went with an internal candidate.” It happens. A lot.

Blocking and Tackling. Or, more appropriately, follow up and thank you notes are important. Most people do a pretty good job interviewing, at least if they are qualified for the position. Many, though, fall short when it comes to post-interview communication. Be sure to keep employer contacts warm and active with solid, timely, error-free notes, emails or cards. When appropriate, try to add value at each touch point. Show you want the job. You might refer to an article you read or an idea you’ve had. Both did this and felt better about being active at keeping the conversation going.

The difficult truth is that job searching is a challenging, thankless task until you get the job. Realize you aren’t alone, though. If you need to connect with others, find a networking group or job search work team. Check with your state’s employment services office for ideas. Having a friend who is facing the same challenges can make a big difference in a months-long search campaign.

As for our two clients, both have offers in hand. They both start their new positions around New Year’s and are looking forward to getting back to work. Keep at your search, and you will soon be doing the same.

Career Change? 7 Tips to Sell Transferable Skills

new career directionCareer and industry changes require work. Your job as the changer and job seeker is to help potential employers understand how the work you have done before is relevant in your next industry or profession. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible, either.

We have already seen some dramatic changes in the economic landscape in early 2014. Multiple retailers have announced closings, changes in direction, bankruptcy filings and acquisitions. All of these changes, which include consolidations and job losses, could have you thinking about making a move to another industry. Retail isn’t the only example, but it makes the point.

Here are some tips to make your marketing message more effective.

Scrub your message of old-industry language. If you are making a move from one industry to another, spend some time translating for your new focus. This will change from industry to industry, but there are likely a few words and phrases in your résumé, LinkedIn profile, letters and other messages that need to be tweaked. For example, “inventory shrink” in retail might be more understandable as “inventory control” or “physical inventory integrity” or “inventory loss prevention.” Do your research and make the changes. Speak the buyer’s (i.e., future employer’s) language.

Focus on results. Every business needs people who can drive strong financial performances. Dollars are dollars. Use some space to explain how you increased sales, operating profit, and profit margins. This plays well in any industry.

People are everywhere. Talent development is a universally appreciated skill. Have you worked to develop and promote people in your old gig? If so, talk about it. Coaching and mentoring skills, along with training ability, are also in demand everywhere.

Productivity and process improvement can’t hurt. Every organization has standard processes that it follows, and many have tremendous opportunities to improve for enhanced productivity and efficiency. If you have done it, talk about it. Efficiency, doing more with less, is vital everywhere.

Can you lead? What stories do you have about influencing others to follow you to achieve a common goal? How have you turned a business unit with your leadership skills? How have you created empowering, engaging environments? Employee engagement is viewed as a key productivity driver, so a compelling case in this area will help.

Can you bounce back? The word is “resilience.” Have you ever overcome a huge challenge that defeated others? Did you ever do something that you thought you and your team couldn’t do? Have you failed, learned and applied what you learned to excel? Again, these are great points that will be valuable anywhere.

Everyone has a customer. They might be called clients, and they might be internal or external, but every professional has someone depending on him or her to produce and deliver as promised. If you can make a compelling case of your ability to create an excellent customer service environment, you will be that much closer to a job offer.

Winners win. If you have succeeded before, you will do it again. If you can help a recruiter or hiring manager understand the significance of your accomplishments and how they will apply and add value at the new job, you win. Help them overcome the obstacle of fear associated with a career changer, and make them want you because you are too good to refuse.

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Bill Florin is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut. Bill is a Certified Employment Interview Professional (CEIP) and Certified Professional Résumé Writer.

 

Volunteerism: 6 Thoughts to get You to Yes!

Volunteering can do a lot more than fill the time (and your résumé) while you search for a paying gig. Here are six considerations to make volunteerism work better for everyone. As I write this, I also hope that it inspires you to help now.

Get into it. If you decide to volunteer, work hard to make a difference. Non-profits that give you the chance to contribute have very limited resources, including time. They don’t need someone who is not committed. They need help.

Match your volunteerism to your skills. If you are an accountant, look for opportunities to use your accounting skills. Are you a marketing person? That non-profit could probably use you to improve its social media program. The idea is this: you can make a large impact by doing what you do best. Someone needs to work the serving line at the soup kitchen – and that role is very important – but many can do that job, while few can audit the 2013 financials. What is the opportunity cost of a certified project manager cleaning pots in the kitchen while she could be managing an important initiative?

TIP: Check www.Catchafire.org for skills-based pro bono opportunities (I have done two projects through them, and they are great!). www.Volunteermatch.org is another resource for skills-based volunteer opportunities. Are you a member of a faith community? Check there, too. LinkedIn offers a new volunteerism page. Finally, some towns and cities have local volunteer opportunity directories. There is a lot you can do!

Getting out of the house will help you. One of the bigger problems of unemployment and under-employment is the isolation and feelings of inadequacy that come with it. Find a role that gets you out into a professional setting where you can interact with other people. The contact will help you and the organization, and it will give others the chance to learn more about you. Obviously, you will build your network, too.

Positive feedback fuels motivation. Think about it, who doesn’t like some recognition for a job well done? Here is a not-so-secret: non-profits can’t give you money, but they are very appreciative of all volunteers. They will tell you how much they value you, and that will make you feel great, and that will make you want to do more – and do it better – in every area of your life.

You will have fresh stories. Good stories are the secret to a great résumé and interviewing experience. When you can tell about an accomplishment in a compelling, convincing, high-energy way in an interview, the hiring manager will sense your genuineness and credibility. That can only help. Won’t it be better to have a fresh 2014 experience, rather than a stale story from a few years ago, when you sit and answer the questions?

Treat your volunteerism like a job. Your professionalism and skills use will make a difference in how you see yourself and how you sell yourself for a paying job. If you are using all of your professional skills to benefit the non-profit organization and its constituents, you will feel much better about selling the experience as valid and relevant when you market yourself for a paid position.

This could be #7, but I thought it too obvious to treat it that way. No matter how tough your situation , there are others in much tighter spots. They need your help. Go do it, and get ready to make your own list about the value of volunteerism.

Will You Keep Working?

When are you going to retire? When can you retire? NPR is running a series called Working Late on its Morning Edition program, and today’s profile of 73-year old personal trainer John David offers valuable ideas based on this motivated man’s experience. If you haven’t listened to it, click on this story link and then come back.

The story series is profiling Americans who are working past traditional retirement age. Whether they are doing it because they have to, want to or just because they can, many are working into their 70’s and beyond. Even for those not close to retirement, three points stand out.

First, find work that you really enjoy. David was working in television production when, in his 50’s, he became a personal trainer. As he states in the story, it turned out to be his true calling, something that he will be doing as long as he can and as long as anyone is willing to be trained by him.

Second, he had to take a long, financially challenging route into this later-life career. He couldn’t get a paid position as a trainer in LA, so he started volunteering. That volunteer work gave him the material that he needed to build a résumé that enabled his search after his move to New York. Career changes can often mean one, two, or more steps back to enter that new vocation. He did it. Anyone can.

Finally, we all need a purpose. There is important work to be done that will allow you and me and all of us to do our best. John David found it as a personal trainer. I believe that I have found it in helping clients market themselves for meaningful careers. Have you found yours?

When the time comes to make the retirement decision, will you be able to? If not, will it be because you want to keep working, or because you must just to survive? Start planning and working towards a future that will give you two great choices, not an unpleasant one based on dire circumstances.

Read more about motivation and purpose here: Would You Sleep with the Elephants?Quit It!Do What You Can

For some ideas on volunteering to build your résumé: CatchafireUnplug.Live.Volunteer Matching

Follow “Work” to stay up to date with the latest in career development and management.

Bill Florin is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Employment Interview Professional and is President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut, USA.

Question 6: Where Will You be in Five Years?

Five Years From Now?
Five Years From Now?

Who doesn’t love to hate this question? I have heard from two clients recently that they have been asked this question very recently. Both are in different parts of the country and in different industries. If you haven’t prepared for it, you should. Here are some ideas to help.

This question is not about you predicting the future. It is about you doing some research about the company and understanding enough about your career and the industry to give a reasonable answer that makes sense in the environment you are trying to enter.

The Goal: Make a reasonable case for your career path with your new company.

Here are three things that you must know.

First, what does advancement look like for people in your profession? If you are an entry-level staff accountant, where have other people been after five years? If you are a new registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree, where have other people with the same education and experience been in that time?

Second, what is the structure and what are the titles within the targeted company? Many organizations have particular job titles. It will benefit you if you can weave these titles into your answer. It will have you speaking the company language and seeming like you belong.

Finally, discover what the company is working on and write yourself into the story. If the company has been in the news because it is launching a new long-term initiative, describe how you can contribute to the success of that program over the coming years. Paint a picture that links your success to that of the company in a tangible way.

Nobody expects you to nail your forecast. They do expect you to have clear thoughts about what you want to accomplish in the context of your (hopefully) new employer’s world.

Be sure to check out the “Questions” series:

Question 5, Question 4, Question 3, Question 2, Question 1, What Are You Good At?

Follow “Work” to stay up to date with the latest in career development and management.

Bill Florin is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Employment Interview Professional and is President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut, USA.

You Are Not Your Job

“I thought when I lost my job, I had lost my lifeline.”

This thought was shared by a person in a social media group that I visit once in a while. Fortunately, the person who said it went on to say, “No way!” She realized that there was much more to her life than her job. It was a refreshing to witness her resilience.

As I work with people at all stages in their careers, including recent and long-term unemployed, I hear this concern. People say, “I thought I was going to retire from there. Then I got laid off” Or, “It was so devastating to be let go. My whole life was wrapped up in my job.” It’s understandable, especially as we work so hard and are asked to do more with less. Because we don’t have time to consider alternatives, we don’t. That can lead to soul-crushing experiences as these people described.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Work is just one part of our lives. It is also temporary and subject to rapid, disorienting change. What seemed like a secure position in a great company can become history after a bad year or quarter. A big customer leaves and headcount (that’s you) gets reduced. Do you want to be defined by something that can be taken away so easily, or by more lasting things?

Only you can define you, and there is so much more that makes you who you are besides where you get your paycheck. Yes, we all want to contribute and do our best for our employers, but that should not come at the expense of all else.

Our families, friends, activities, community involvement, and faith practices are all important. The way we treat each other and the good that we do to improve our world need to be in the mix, too. Those two in particular should fall higher in our priorities than our job titles and the name on the paycheck.

You job is something you do, not who you are. It’s something worth remembering on the tough days.