Prepare to Win

Fair Warning: This is going to sound like a victory lap, or maybe an advertisement. It is not meant that way. There is a lesson to be learned from my experiences with a recent client that can be useful to everyone, and I just can’t let it go by without sharing.

Sam is a very smart and technically oriented guy with a career in a challenging field that requires current skills and continuous learning. Sam has had some interesting experiences, though none were create Facebook, imagine the iPad moments. He has just done a very good job working in his niche and he likes what he does.

Sam also was a pretty poor interviewer, something I know because I conducted Skype-based practice interviews with him. By working through some practice interview sessions guided by the accomplishments that we presented on his résumé, Sam got much better. Today, Sam landed a job, getting him off of the contractor merry-go-round and into a direct position with benefits in a city where he wants to live. He couldn’t be happier.

So what’s the lesson? Preparation pays. Sam recognized that his résumé was lacking and that he needed help to slam-dunk the interview. Then he took action and got help. His preparation and investments in time and effort – along with the self-awareness that drove him to get help – brought him to this happy day.

Good luck, Sam, and congratulations on your wisdom and humility that allowed you to prepare to win.

Lay Off? Move. Now!

If you or someone you know has gotten laid off, or expects it soon, get ready to work hard and fast to get back into the workforce right away. If that means working some 12 hours days and weekends during the first days and weeks of unemployment, so be it. A column in Bloomberg Business Week shares some sobering data, including the point that long-term unemployment does not help workers and likely hurts as job skills and professional networks get stale.

What should you do if that pink slip and cardboard box for your personal items comes your way? Here are a few ideas:

Get all of your career marketing materials refreshed. This includes your résumé, LinkedIn profile, executive biography and executive project summary/portfolios, as well as any online presence you may have.

Quickly move to contact people in your network. Let them know that you are available and open to discussing new opportunities. Don’t rely on an email. Pick up the phone and make a call. Buy coffee. Get out there!

Get creative in considering what you will do next. It may be that a less than perfect job now is better than hanging on hoping for just the right thing that may never come. Don’t forget the lessons of the long-term unemployed: it is a downward spiral that can be tough to overcome.

Build a routine to stay sharp. Get out of bed, get some exercise, get dressed and get ready for the opportunity to meet people. What if you pick up the phone – or someone calls you – and you have to get across town in 30 minutes for a cup at Starbucks? Will you be ready?

Plan your day and week like you would on the job. Check off your task list as you complete it. The accomplishments and record of achievement will give you a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day.

Rely on your support system. Friends and family are going to play an important role. Keep talking and sharing your wins and frustrations. Sometimes talking can make a huge difference as others can give you outsiders’ perspectives on your own blind spots.

Engage in professional groups. This can include on-ground physical groups or virtual groups on LinkedIn, Quora or other forums. This will keep you thinking about and staying current on your profession.

Work hard, work fast and get back to work.