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.

 

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Six Crucial Job Search Tactics

With so many job search options, where do you start? That was a question I received from a client yesterday, and one that’s worth a few lines of digital ink. After all, with the many job search sites showing duplicate content, often the same jobs scraped from other sites, it can be confusing and frustrating. Here is what I offered him, and I hope it helps you.

First, start with people you know. If you have a new résumé, you have a terrific reason to contact everyone in your network. Try this: “Hi Mary! I just reworked my résumé and I was hoping that you could take a moment to look at it. I respect your opinion and will appreciate any feedback you have. Thanks!” You can do that by email or phone. If your contact in your network is real, she probably won’t mind doing this for you. Follow up with a thank you and ask her to keep you in mind or pass your résumé along to anyone she thinks would be appropriate.

Identify target companies. Pick some companies that you want to work for. Make a list. Follow them through LinkedIn, Twitter and their corporate sites. Work your LinkedIn network to find someone inside the company you know, or a 2nd level connection to whom you could be introduced. Use Glassdoor and news searches to learn as much about the company as possible. Expand your list as you consider similar companies that you come to learn about in your research.

Pick a single search site, and work it. This is probably going to be your least productive tool, but an effective job search is like our national energy policy: All of the above. Decide which site you like best (See Resu-mazing’s useful sites: http://www.resu-mazing.com/Useful_Sites.html) and get to know it well. Set up search agents. If you are not currently employed, consider posting your résumé to make it searchable and findable by recruiters.

Don’t forget your LinkedIn profile. When your résumé is fresh and new, use it to update your LinkedIn profile. Set your privacy settings to allow you to be found by recruiters.

[See my LinkedIn e-booklet for tons of useful information to create a better profile.]

Remember keywords. As you search and read job postings, you will see the same words and phrases in the descriptions and qualifications. Do your LI profile and résumé reflect what employers need? If not, tune it up. Find different ways to describe your work and results, incorporating the key words that you identify.

Identify recruiters in your field. Remember that recruiters are paid by the employers, not by the candidates, so they are not going to work hard to find you a job. It is up to you to monitor their web sites and establish relationships so that you can present your résumé when they are working on a placement for which you are a credible candidate.

Here’s the straight story. Jobs can come from any of the channels described above. While it is true that personal connections and networking (social recruiting) will produce the best results, companies still find and hire people coming to them from advertising. If they didn’t, why would they spend the time and money doing it? I see good things happen all the time.

Work hard at your search, keep your activities going in each of the areas and stay positive. The interviews and opportunities will come.

Bill Florin, CPRW, is President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut USA.

10 Year End Tweaks & Tips

Reindeer GuyWhat would the end of the year be without lists? Best books, worst movies, most dramatic failures, the most influential people; the list of lists goes on. In that spirit, but hopefully much more useful, are some quick tips and tweaks that you can complete in a few minutes each.

  1. How is your profile photo? If you aren’t happy with your headshot that you use for LinkedIn, Twitter and other sites, take a moment during the holidays to take a new one. You will probably be dressed nicely and with other people, and everyone has a camera, so do it. Don’t wear the reindeer sweater!
  2. Scroll through your LI contacts with this question in mind: “What good work do I remember about this person doing on which I can base a LinkedIn recommendation?” Start at Z in your contacts for a change, and work your way from the bottom. Write the recommendation. It will be a wonderful holiday gift that will be appreciated much more than the Scooby Doo Chia Pet from Walgreen’s.
  3. Review just your current job’s block in your LinkedIn profile. What have you done this year that isn’t included. Update this and your résumé with your 2012 accomplishments.
  4. Again, review your contacts. Whom have you not spoken with in a long time? Send a note or make a call. Check in. Keep your network alive. A “Happy Holidays!” wish is always a great reason call.
  5. Invest some of your downtime (New Year’s Day, perhaps) taking inventory of your volunteer work. You haven’t done any? Check Catchafire or VolunteerMatch for ideas, or look close to home. The Rotary, Lions, faith communities, and the Boys & Girls Clubs are great places to start.
  6. Start that blog you have been thinking about. WordPress and other sites couldn’t be easier to use. You have great ideas to share. What are you waiting for?
  7. Check your privacy settings in your social media accounts. Are they still appropriately set for your needs? While you’re at it, change your passwords to something more secure than 123456.
  8. Update your signature block in your email account. Be sure that it reflects your professional brand as it should and that all information is current.
  9. Actively participate in a different LinkedIn or Quora conversation once a day for a week. See what it does for your thinking, creativity and networking.
  10. Drop the cash for a box of personal business cards. 123Print and Vista Print are good, cheap sources to get your personal networking cards printed.

What are you working on? Do you have other ideas for quick-hit tweaks for the final days of the year? Please share them.

Do you want to know more about Catchafire? Read about my experience here.

Bill Florin, CPRW is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, CT.

How’s Your Lead

All writers know that stories that are going to be read need to start with a great lead. Those first few sentences, the first paragraph, must grab the reader’s attention. It’s true for newspaper articles, online stories and longer work. It’s also true for résumés.

In On Writing Well, the classic on non-fiction writing by William Zinsser, the author says this: “The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead” (p. 9).

How is the first sentence of your résumé relative to this high standard? Go ahead, read it. Read it out loud. Does it say anything about you that will make the reader want to continue? Is it a true description of you and your accomplishments, or is it vague, generic hash?

Recruiters will make a decision to continue reading based on the first half of the first page. You have only a handful of words and a small number of lines to make your case and keep yourself in the hunt for consideration.

Try this: print a copy of your resume without your name at the top. Give it to a close friend or family member who knows you well. Ask that person to read it. What’s the reaction? Is it what you expected?

The first 100 words or so are some of the most important in your job search. Are they as influential and hard-working as you would like? Does sentence one flow and encourage the reader to move to number two and three? If not, get the red pen, eliminate the goo and make it sharp. Every word counts!

Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. If you do any writing, get Zinsser’s book!

3 Military to Civilian Career Tips

Army soldiers run computer networks. Airmen lead people to maintain complex aircraft. Marines lead communications efforts in the military and with civilian populations. Every job in the military has characteristics that translate to the civilian workplace. Clearly identifying them and being able to tell the story will be a big part of any successful military to civilian transition. Here are a few pointers to make that easier.

Keep records. A military service person will always be able to get copies of service records. I am talking about these but more detailed records of the work that has been done. I recently spent time working with a client who served in the Army in Iraq, where he was responsible for running his company’s computer network and ensuring that it was secure and available. We spent time discussing the size of the network, the number of users, any special configurations used and other details. Without sharing anything classified, I was able to get a good picture of what he did and described it in his résumé. He has had success in his civilian search.

Think about the next step. The sailor who has a goal for civilian employment can be thinking about the work that she is doing in the Navy and how it is similar to jobs outside of the service. The military is full of jargon and abbreviations that need to be translated into civilian-speak. Read civilian job postings and understand their descriptions, qualifications and requirements. Connect the dots in your résumé, describing how what you did on that destroyer is exactly what the ABC Company in Scranton is looking for.

Start building a network. It is easy to get caught up in the insulated world of the military, only to come out at the other end without connections in the outside world. Start working on it right away. There are many people and civic organizations that want to help you and get to know service members. Many are veterans themselves and they will help when the enlistment is over.

Thanks for your service, veterans! Feel free to ask questions or share other tips in the comments below.

Bill Florin is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company and served in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Busyness and a Better Tomorrow

“Busyness that moves you towards a goal and a better place is a good busy.”

All right, this is not the most profound thing ever spoken, but it worked for a client yesterday. I started working with a new person and she is in a tough place. She left her employer of eight years in the spring for what she thought was a step up. It turned out the she signed on with a maniac for a boss, someone not opposed to micro-management and public humiliation. The boss seems to enjoy it.

What is an employee to do?

In this case, my client has endured so much abuse after so much previous success that she seemed paralyzed and felt trapped. Unable to think and afraid to say the wrong thing, she has become physically ill from the environment. Finally, she did something about it and called me.

As we walked through the steps of how I could help her, I learned more and made some suggestions for her to move her search forward. After the conversation she commented, “I’m going to be busy this afternoon.” That’s when I came out with the line at the top, and she liked it. Here’s why.

When we are faced with a difficult situation, one that seems limiting and hopeless, even a small step can make a big difference. One or two activities that lead away from today’s pain and towards a better tomorrow get the mind realizing that all is not lost. The abusive boss is not a permanent fixture. The employee is one day closer to firing that monster.

If you feel like my client, like your situation is terrible and you don’t know what to do, think and act. What do you have to do to improve your situation? What small step can you take today and tomorrow and the next day? If your goal is to find a new job, break it down into smaller pieces, including things that you can do now. Here are a few examples:

“Tonight I am going to take one hour to write down my accomplishments from the last year and the things that make me marketable.”

“This weekend I am going to update my résumé with my accomplishments.”

“Today I am going to reconnect with two colleagues from my last job to strengthen my network.”

Every action will make you feel better and more able to tolerate today’s situation while you lay the foundation for tomorrow’s change. Activity leads to options, options to hope, and hope to change. Plan your escape and get busy on those goals!

Do What You Can

“10 Things You Can Do Today to Master the Universe.” “Do These Three Things to Live to 100.” Those are headlines that social media and content marketers would recommend. I get it. Suggesting that you should do what you can isn’t as sexy. Maybe it’s even dull, but let me explain.

I had a conversation with a person who was very down about her circumstances and her chances to improve her situation. Listening to her, you would believe that everything was wrong in her life. She had no skills that anyone would want. Her options were bad and none.

What I was seeing – an articulate, professional person – and what I was hearing did not match, leading me to ask, “So what things have you done well in your life? What have you done that people have praised and thanked you for?” Surprise! This same person who moments later had nothing positive to say was telling me about how she was so good at her last job that clients asked for her specifically and her boss publicly commented that she was “her best person.” She was the firefighter, sent in to fix problems created by other far less competent coworkers.

Where did the disconnect come from? How did she come to see herself as having so little to offer when others felt otherwise and had told her so? Here are two possibilities.

Sometimes our immediate circumstances and recent defeats cause us to think that we have changed for the worse. Maybe I’ve lost it, or maybe the world has changed around me and I have not kept up. There could be some truth to that, especially if you are talking about a technical skill in a fast moving industry, but there are some talents that we all have that don’t just disappear. Things like critical thinking, communication and relationship building skills are examples.

It could also be that some people just give up too easily or need some encouragement. If you need that encouragement, connect with the people in your life who can give it. If you see someone doing something well or know that someone needs a boost, offer those positive words. You can’t know how important they will be to someone who so desperately needs them.

We all hit rough spots, but we also have plenty to offer. We may never be a CEO of a top company or an inductee into a Hall of Fame, but we are all good at something. Figure out what that thing is and work at it. Forget about the things that you can’t and will never do. You are more likely to find success and satisfaction in doing what you can than wasting time and emotional energy dwelling on what you can’t.

Try this: 1)Set an achievable, realistic goal. 2)Do it. 3)Celebrate. 4)Repeat.

Before you know it, your negativity will be in the past and your self-esteem will be giving you the fuel to win.

Some thoughts on encouragement: 100% Sustainable

Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company