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!

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Confidence & The Casting Call

Anytime job seekers are thrown into a non-traditional interviewing environment, stress levels rise and anything can happen. If the experience isn’t one-on-one, heart palpitations and sweaty palms result. I heard from a client this past week who participated as a candidate in a group interview, and he did very well, winning an individual interview and the job. Here are some things we can learn from his success.

If you are faced with a casting call experience like this, where it is you and a crowd, be prepared to tell your story quickly. Those who rise to the challenge in this setting and make a strong positive impression are the candidates most likely to make it to round two.

Second, know your material and your success stories well. If a question is thrown to the group about results, accomplishments or anything else that you should be able to talk about, be ready to respond without hesitation. You want to get your story out. Be alert! Be sharp!

Third, and most important, be confident. Your confidence will come across in both your verbal and non-verbal communication. Speak clearly, with energy, and make eye contact at some point with all of the interviewers. Sit up in your chair, smile and show some enthusiasm. Be the person that the interview panel will notice.

These sessions are designed to do two things. They allow for efficiency and an easy way to eliminate people from consideration. The quiet person in the back of the room is going to get cut. They are also designed to get you to show your personality and confidence (or lack of both).

You have a lot to tell and accomplishments to be proud of or you wouldn’t have been invited to interview. Turn the confidence up, get your stories ready and shine. Make the impression that will want the panel to bring you back for more.

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

LI: Recommend or Endorse?

The LinkedIn universe has been buzzing lately about the endorsement feature. Is this a good thing? How is it different than recommendations? Should I do it? Here are some quick answers to clear up the confusion.

Endorsements allow a first-level connection to acknowledge that a person has the skills that s/he says she does. For example, Amee adds “customer service” and “project management” to the skills section of her profile. Jim, who worked with Amee, knows that she has these skills and clicks the endorse button next to the corresponding skills on Amee’s profile. Jim can’t endorse skills that Amee hasn’t indicated that she has.

Endorsements are a quick and easy way to add more credibility to a colleague’s profile. The endorser just taps the button and moves along.

Recommendations require more work and can be more valuable. Amee could either ask Jim for a recommendation, or Jim could write one without being asked. Either way, Amee can review the recommendation and choose to show it on her profile or not. Recommendations have the added value of being free form; their effectiveness is limited only be the recommender’s writing ability.

If you ask for a recommendation, be specific as to what it should say. If Amee thinks that Jim can say great things about her project management skills, she should ask for a recommendation focusing on that quality, maybe even offering an example to help jog Jim’s memory. Example: “Jim – Remember when we worked on the Alpha Project. Would you please write a recommendation for me about how I brought the project in 10 days early and $50,000 under budget?”

Both options, of course, allow LinkedIn users to validate what a person is already saying about him or herself. Plus, they help you build your network’s strength by helping others, a foundational concept of LinkedIn. Have some fun, brighten some else’s day and get going with your recommendations and endorsement.

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

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!

Volunteer Matching: A Firsthand Report

Much has been said recently about the value of volunteering. Job seekers, including those in my seminars and classes, ask the questions, “Should I volunteer and can I include it in my résumé and LinkedIn profile?” Yes, you should. Yes, you can. The harder advice to give has been how and where to look for volunteer opportunities. Here is one option that I share not as an interested observer, but as a participant in the process. I hope that it helps and informs your thoughts on what you can and should do.

A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a long-time friend. We were catching up on each other’s career stories when he mentioned a website called Catchafire. Had I heard of it? No. Henry explained that it was like a Monster job board for matching professionals interested in volunteer opportunities with social-good organizations needing help. It sounded interesting and I investigated.

Catchafire allows volunteers (PBPs : pro bono professionals) to identify causes in which they are interested (e.g. childhood education, women’s rights, etc.) and their skills (e.g. accounting, web design, copywriting). The site then offers open assignments that it thinks are good matches. The PBP browses the assistance requests and, if interested, applies for the job. I decided to try it.

Here are a few observations from having gone through the process. First, if you are going to do this yourself, be prepared to spend some time to set up your Catchafire profile. The fastest and easiest way is to import your LinkedIn profile. Second, be prepared for a screening and selection process that is not unlike applying for a paying position. When a PBP applies for a job, the requesting organization and Catchafire’s team will ask questions and request work samples. This is more than just raising your hand and getting the gig.

Catchafire is able to pay its staff and keep the computers running by earning a fee from the organization requesting the services of the PBP. It’s easy to understand why they want good people who can and will fulfill their commitments. The non-profit gets professional services at a greatly reduced rate, far below market value. The volunteer gets the satisfaction of working on a project that best matches her or his skills while doing something that matters, and maybe has earned another résumé bullet. Plus, there is the intangible benefit of making new connections and getting your name and work more widely known.

I have been accepted for my first assignment. The writing work begins in October. I will be sure to share an update, including information about the organization for which I am working, as the effort gets going. Check it out for yourself and maybe you can Catchafire, too.

Check out these two blog posts for a little more about volunteering: Energized by Work and Ready or Not. Enjoy!

Awareness & Adaptability

Here is the tough truth about interviewing: every interviewer, company and day is different. The personalities of the people in the interview – whether in person, on the phone, or by video conference – will sway the encounter. You may have done all of your research and feel that you know the questions you are going to face, only to be disappointed and surprised by an unanticipated angle or a completely different line of questions. That’s where your awareness and adaptability become critical.

Awareness of Your History. Having a detailed awareness of your career history and accomplishments is mandatory. Only you know your story. If you have carefully reviewed your history as you wrote or refined your resume and have updated your LinkedIn profile with your best stuff, you have made a tremendous step in the right direction. By thinking about and reflecting on your accomplishments for these career marketing activities, you will help yourself to have the awareness, memories and stories ready to go for an interview.

Awareness of the Organization’s Culture. This important step is one that is often overlooked by job seekers. Most companies share a lot about their culture and priorities in very open and public ways. Read everything on the company’s career/employment web sites. If possible, get to know people in the organization and learn from them. Then take the step of thinking about how you can best craft your stories in a way that will resonate with your interviewer. Here is an example. Target Corporation lives by the motto “Fast, Fun & Friendly.” If you know this, you could consider how your career stories could be told in a way that show your quick and determined action to resolve a business problem or to exploit an opportunity while staying focused on customer service or employee engagement.

Adapting to the Question. You will have to take your stories and adapt them quickly during an interview. For example, you may be prepared with three stories of accomplishments and you might even have some thoughts of the order in which you would like to tell them. Your interviewer may ask a situational question that changes the order of your stories and the angle you take. Only by knowing your stories well will you be able to adapt. Your interviewer may ask, “Tell me about a time that you saved your company money and please be specific.” If you have a story that fits the question, you can tell the interviewer about the situation, your specific actions and the outcome. If you don’t have the stories memorized and ready, you may stumble through this question and give a weak or poorly told example.

Adapting to the Atmosphere. As mentioned earlier, every interview will be different, and you need to be ready. You could face a one-on-one interview, a small group or a large panel. The interview may be conversational or very formal. It might even include numerous introductions and short interactions. Your emotional intelligence receptors must be on full alert to understand the dynamic and to adapt as needed. By knowing your material and your stories very well, you can devote more of your energy to this critical element and less to the hard work of recalling your stories.

You need to know your stories and must be ready to share them in detail and in a way that addresses the question you face and in a way that is appropriate for the environment. Make the effort to review and reflect on your performance so that you will be ready to adapt as needed. The work that you do will be worth it.

Other articles to help you prepare to interview:

Question 5: Why did you leave?

Question 4: When have you failed?

Question 3: Your greatest accomplishment?

Bill Florin, CPRW is the President of Resu-mazing Service Company.

Saying Goodbye

Don’t be a jerk. That’s about 98% of what you need to know about leaving your job before taking the next step in your career. The objective is to go out with class, respect for others – even if you don’t like someone – and respect for yourself. You should know most of this, but here are some quick reminders.

Intellectual Property. Remember that stack of paperwork you signed – either actual paper or electronic forms – that talked about the company’s property and secrets. They meant all that stuff. Avoid the temptation to copy and swipe information. An ethical employer is not going to be interested in facilitating or encouraging thievery, anyway. Plus, it’s just wrong.

Contacts. In our hyper-connected age of social media, you should have all of your contacts already, but you should take time before giving notice to have everything that you will need. Names, email addresses and phone numbers at a minimum. You may never see your desk again after resigning.

Proper Notice. Give at least two weeks for your employer to react, but be ready to see the door from the minute you say goodbye. Some companies will have you stick around; others want you gone ASAP.

Coworkers. Everyone has friends at work, and probably one or two that you won’t miss. Fight the urge to tell people how you feel, no matter how satisfying that may be. Chances are great that you will come to regret what you said, and it comes back to doing what’s right. Be respectful.

Be Thankful. Whether you have been with your current employer for six months or 16 years, your run there began with excitement and optimism. Chances are that you learned a lot and your company invested some time and money into developing you. Say thank you to everyone who has helped you. You will all feel great and you burnish your reputation as a professional. Win – win!

Go out with a smile and help others come to miss you and your positive professionalism. Congratulations on your new job!

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