Archive for the 'performance' Category

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.

 

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Accountability Time: Maybe it is You

“I am working as hard as I can, and my goals stay just out of reach.”

“The economy is so tough. There just aren’t any jobs.”

“Everybody wants perfection, and they just won’t give me a chance.”

Have you ever found yourself saying these things, or something similar? I hear them a lot.

There can be truth in each of these statements. There is more competition for jobs than ever before. Employers are very picky and careful in their hiring processes. Sometimes working hard just isn’t enough. But is that all there is to it? As someone who is very self-critical, let me suggest that the problem could be you. Before you get mad at me, I am not suggesting that you or anyone else has some intrinsic defect that can’t be addressed. I am suggesting that there are things that you can examine and act upon that could make a difference in the trajectory of your life. Here are a few.

Your Work Quality. Whether you are employed or between jobs, the quality of your work is more important than ever. A single spelling mistake on a résumé or LinkedIn profile could mean the difference between an interview or rejection. The quality (and quantity) of your work on the job must be great. If you can’t or won’t do it well, there is someone else who will.

Your Relationships. As you network in professional settings and engage in relationships with those around you – in your home, with your friends, in your faith community and other organizations – are you giving more than you get? Are you willing to and actually giving everything you can to these relationships, creating bonds that will last, or something less? If you could be giving more, do it. Self-centeredness will lead to a very lonely place.

Your Goals. When you get up in the morning and head out the door, are you doing it for the right reasons? Is your work something that energizes and engages you, something that allows you to use your skills in a meaningful way? Do you look forward to seeing your co-workers and telling your friends and family about your accomplishments? If yes, it sounds like you are in a great place. If no, if your reason for going is just for the paycheck, it may be time to make a change.

Your Environment. What fills the world around you? Do you spend time on activities that build you up, or waste it in pass times that break you down? Some time spent in self-development, through reading, education, faith activities and other pursuits will pay dividends that won’t come from another hour of reality TV.

How Badly Do You Want It? In the end, nobody can want you to succeed more than you. Your family, friends and mentors certainly want you to do well, but you must want it more. You are responsible for yourself and your performance.

So, how badly do you want it? What does success look like in your life? What will you do in the next few minutes, hours and days to move towards that vision? You are accountable to yourself, like it or not. Think about these ideas, and give yourself that uncomfortable but crucial conversation that is a necessary part of change. Do it today!

Question 5: Why Did You Leave?

Chances are that this will be asked sooner rather than later in your next interview. It’s a natural and obvious query, especially if you left your last job without having a new one. Here are some pointers based on different situations.

Layoff. This is the easiest of the bunch, especially if the job loss happened because your employer failed or shrunk. I recently worked with a client who was caught in the 6,000 person layoff from BlackBerry maker Research in Motion. If this is your situation, no worries! Tell the story in a sentence or two. Then describe how you can apply what you learned in your last job to help your new employer. If it was a large layoff – either in absolute numbers or as a percentage of the company workforce – tell the numbers. 6,000 is a big number. 10 is a big number, too, if the company only had 18 people.

You Quit – Personal/Medical. People quit for many reasons. Family and medical issues, spouse’s job change, changes in family status (e.g. divorce) and other personal reasons are all drivers in the decision to leave. If this is your story, tell the truth, but be brief.

Here is an example of what to say: “I had to deal with some medical issues in my family that required full-time attention. That is now behind me and I am ready to focus my energies on my career once again.” Note how this positions your story. You are telling the interviewer that there was a medical (or family) issue, but you are not saying that it was you. A professional interviewer will take that answer and move on.

Here’s what not to say: “I was diagnosed with cancer and when through six months of radiation and chemo treatments.” Do not share these details! Your interviewer does not need to know and you do not need to share.

Be concise. Be brief. Keep it high-level. The more detail you are giving, the worse you are doing.

You Quit – It was the Job/Boss. This will require some creative thinking, with the requirement that you do not lie. Employers dig and dig, checking with your references and reviewing social media. Have you ever complained about your boss or job on Facebook, your blog, LinkedIn or in some other public forum? If so, you have to assume that the employer has already seen it. Deal with it.

Did you outgrow the position? Were you being challenged and allowed to contribute to your potential? If not, these are valid reasons for seeking other opportunities. Try this: “I realized that I had developed to the point that I needed to seek opportunities that were not available in that company. Rather than trying to find a new job while being employed there, something that would have distracted me and would have been unfair to the company, I decided to leave and launch a full-time search for my next position where I can contribute my best every day.” You will have to put this is your own words, of course, but this should give you a launching point for your thoughts.

Was your boss a jerk? Keep it to yourself. Never speak poorly of your past company or the people, no matter how much you may want to.

You Were Fired. If you were fired for performance, you are going to have to do some work. Is it possible that your performance suffered because of one of the issues above? If so, maybe you need to think about the experience, how your personal issues may have contributed to your termination, and what you learned from it. Guess what? People who have been fired find jobs. The trick is to learn from the negative experience, reflect upon the situation and what you did or didn’t do that led to that outcome, and what you can do differently in the future.

Here is one possible answer. “My performance was not what it should have been as I was dealing with some family/personal concerns. Frankly, I don’t blame the company for letting me go. I am happy to say that all of that is behind me, I learned a great deal from it, and I am excited to get back to work.”

Don’t forget that your whole career is much more than your most recent experience. If you had a solid history before, use that. “My most recent position was a stretch that didn’t end the way that I wanted, but I learned from it and have so much to offer from my entire career, including promotions and career advancement. Let’s talk about how I can contribute and make a difference here.

In the end, you have to decide on the story you will tell and the words that will sound best.

Finally, keep smiling and answer the questions honestly and directly. You can anticipate these questions, so you must prepare and practice your answers. Preparation will keep your stress under control and you will seem more confident to the interviewer. Be ready!

Here are other useful interview question articles. Good luck in your search!

Awareness & Adaptability: Be ready to pivot. Know your stories.

Question 1: Tell Me About Yourself

Question 2: Why Do You Want to Work Here?

Question 3: Tell Me About Your Greatest Accomplishment

Question 4: When Have You Failed?

What If There’s Just One Question?

Toxic Missile Boss

Almost everyone has a turn with a bad boss. Our careers include time with a bully, a blowhard or a borderline egomaniac, giving us all great material for cocktail party stories, but leaving us with acid reflux and shaking hands. I can think of one in my life (fortunately not a recent vintage), and maybe you can, too. The story of Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly that came out during the week of July 4th struck me, leaving me remembering my days with Godzilla. In case you missed it, here are some details about the general’s reign of terror in the US Missile Defense Agency.

O’Reilly, while considered brilliant and an expert in his field, also bullied and berated his people, at least according to the dozens of statements taken by investigators. His repertoire of supervisory torture tactics included yelling, screaming, threatening, berating, insulting and the creation of a toxic atmosphere that had subordinates either heading for the doors or shutting down in fear. O’Reilly, according to some, frequently killed the messenger.

Dealing with someone like this is one of the most challenging workplace issues, and the military command and control structure made this case that much more difficult for subordinates to navigate. In the private sector, we have more choices, but none of them are particularly easy to execute. Here are a few to consider.

Leave. Yes, this requires a job search and all of the pain that goes with it, but if your boss is that bad, it could be the best decision. The moment of resignation will be a personal victory.

Talk with the Boss. If you have the guts to do it – and we all need to find the nerve at some point – ask for a meeting and ask your boss this question: “How do you think it makes me feel when you yell and scream?” This may, of course, lead you back to option #1 above, but sometimes a direct approach is best.

Take it to HR. If your company has a functioning HR department that acts when complaints are made, this is an option. An important point to consider, though, is your performance before taking this action. You will be seen as more credible if you have good performance. If you don’t, the complaint could be seen as a smokescreen and an excuse for your own shortcomings.

Build Relationships. If you work for a larger organization, there may be opportunities to build relationships that are outside of your current boss’s area. Over time, this could lead to a job working for someone else. Or, it could give you support when the time comes to confront the bully. Finally, these relationships may give you insights about the company, your boss and the issues that you had not previously considered.

Of course, you can always read the articles about O’Reilly. Your boss probably isn’t that bad, right? That will make you feel better.

Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. Contact Bill for help with your job search, career management and personal brand questions.

Give the Grumps to the Competition

No More Grumpy Employees

Let your competition have the grumpy people that hurt your business with bad customer service.

American Public Media’s Marketplace ran a Freakonomics Radio piece this week about customer service. As is true for most of their work, it was entertaining and made a great point. This week I also spoke with a long-time friend who is working with Sheetz, the Pennsylvania-based convenience store chain, as they aggressively expand in North Carolina. Both experiences had a similar theme. When you’re talking about employee quality, you get what you pay for. Pay more to get rid of the grumps.

The Marketplace story makes a simple, really an intuitive point. If employers spend more to attract and retain quality employees, they will take better care of the customers, helping beat the competition with service that drives customer loyalty. Costco and Trader Joe’s are two examples. I would add Sheetz to the list.

As my friend was describing the Sheetz environment, he explained that all employees in the organization, right down to the part-time cashier working a few hours a week, earn a bonus based on the store’s performance. If the unit hits its goals, all share in the rewards. Performance above goal juices the bonus and all get more. Deliver the goods and get more green in your pocket. Simple! The plan has created a culture where the entire team cares about sales, service and profitability. My friend also shared that they have been able to attract great employees from their competitors, hurting the other business twice with people and market share victories.

Compare that to other companies that view payroll as a cost that should be reduced whenever possible. These are the places where people work when they have no other option, but quickly abandon when better opportunities arise.

If you own or manage a business, there is a lesson to be learned. If you care anything at all about your customer’s experience, better employees matter. They will stay longer, learn more, provide better service and build a loyal customer base. When viewed as a cost to be minimized, employees at the low-wage employers will deliver quality commensurate with their pay. Business leaders, make a decision. Do you want the grumps on your team, or your competitor’s?

Bill Florin writes on business and entrepreneurism when not busy helping clients with their career marketing needs at Resu-mazing Services Company.

Book Review: Linchpin

I picked up the latest Seth Godin paperback release at the airport bookstore last week and devoured it. After being inspired by The Dip and The Big Moo, I was excited to have the opportunity to grab five hours of flight time for a Seth pep talk. It was worth the 16 bucks.

As an entrepreneur and someone who is constantly working to do remarkable work for my clients, Godin’s focus on artistry resonated and validated what I and many of my clients do every day: Engage in “artistry” (Godin’s term), rising above the pack to add that which cannot be described in a policy manual or procedure, adding that special something – creativity, emotional energy, caring – that sets my work above the rest. You probably do that too, and are at your best and most energized when you are in that zone. Godin profiles people including coffee shop employees, CEOs and sales executives, creating opportunities to identify commonality between the reader and Godin’s subjects.

One of the reasons that I still prefer paper books over the Kindle for non-fiction with lasting value is that I like to scribble in the margins. Stars, checks, lines, comments and other visual reminders of, “Hey, this seemed important at 30,000 feet,” make up my system. This book is now filled with them.

Are you working for someone else? Become a linchpin. Be indispensable be doing more than is expected, by adding the qualities that are unique to you.

Are you an entrepreneur? Work hard, work fast and give you best as a gift to your clients and employees. You too will become indispensable.

Godin’s point is simple, but profound in its ramifications. If your job can be described in a training guide or a policy manual, if it can be automated or given to someone else willing to do it at a lower price, you are cooked. He challenges us to think and act, working to be remarkable, indispensable artists of our trades.

The Terrible T’s, Shortstops and Quarterbacks

Consider this a counterpoint to the Three R’s (relevant, recent, results). The Terrible T’s are something that should be very limited in your résumé, only appearing if needed to tell your story.

The Terrible T’s are tasks, those phrases and sentences that fill some résumés with what one is required to do on the job, rather than the results achieved. Here are two examples from sports to make the point.

A shortstop takes his position between second and third base, fielding balls that come his way. The shortstop is often the key to successful double play tries, covering second when a ball is it on the right side of the infield. He also bats, taking his turn at the plate.

A quarterback is the leader of a football team’s offensive unit, calling plays, keeping the team together and driving the ball down the field. He uses a combination of running and throwing plays to get the job done, making snap decisions on what to do with the ball all while being pursued by defensive players who want to tackle him and strip him of the ball.

These are boring explanations of the jobs of shortstop and quarterback. Every person who has played either position recognizes it, from kids in their earliest games to pros making millions to do it and do it well. The previous paragraphs are unnecessary in most cases. Here is what is necessary.

Tom Brady had a record setting performance on Sunday, January 15th when he led the New England Patriots with five touchdown passes in the first half of the game. This has never been done in NFL playoff football and sent the Denver Broncos into the off season with a resounding defeat.

Derek Jeter entered the record books in 2011 by surpassing the 3,000 career hits mark. This was just one more milestone in a career with the New York Yankees, one that has included multiple Golden Gloves awards, All Star Game appearances and World Series titles.

Do you see the difference? Is your résumé describing you as a Brady or a Jeter, or just another journeyman player with no accomplishments to share?

TIP: Get a red pen and a copy of your résumé. Underline every statement that describes a task. Then get a blue pen and underline everything that describes a result or accomplishment. If you are seeing more red than blue, you have some work to do. Write your history in blue and leave the red to the employee handbook and job description documents in the HR department.