job search

How Do I Know If I Am In Love?

Like when you are in the Maserati dealership, if you have to ask you are in the wrong place!
 
Had the great fortune of hearing this question from numerous younger people. Am I in love? How do you know? Love
 
I recently talked to a young man who asked me these questions. He then blurted out that he spent the last five years with this woman and he was going to marry her because he doesn't think he has another five years in him to meet someone else. Yikes
 
And I hear this same sentiment pertaining to career choices. 
 
Years ago, I was asked to address 500 PhDs at a career conference who no longer want to work in their fields of research.
 
I conducted a workshop called "Running from the Law" for 350 lawyers.
 
I think the analogies between love and life, dating and working are closely related. We seek companionship, trust, belonging, meaning, and mutuality in our lives. In everything. Not just for a soul mate or life partner but in our careers.We want our work to feed our insatiable desire for connection, emotional connection connection that matters and give us a deep sense of pride, security, confidence and meaning. We are lying to ourselves if we deny this.
 
Virtually none of us remember being in the sandbox as a toddler telling our friends and parents that we would be doing what we are doing now. Because life is a crazy journey of twists and turns, some say fate, others know its more about choices and chances. But I digress. 
 
Our jobs and internships, are our forays into our work /love life. We are "courting careers", we are scouring the match.coms of jobs, we are asking friends to set us up, we are constantly comparing our unrealistic list of needs/wants and even demands to our "dates". Is this what I want? Is this where I am supposed to be? Is this all there is? Is this how I am supposed to feel? 
 
We want to be in love and to be loved. 
 
In the hundreds of conversations I have had, it is the lover not the object of love who is the most challenged. We don't know what we want and therefore  our search is always one more of questioning than satisfying. We fall into things. We settle. We rationalize. Most of all we defer and wait.  Not sure for what.
 
Last week I talked to a newish non-profit leader who is questioning his career "date". Are you passionate about your work?, I queried. "No but I am working hard.", she said. Wonderful answer avoidance! Read: Not in a serious relationship yet.
 
Dating is not serious if there is not the possibility of marriage.
 
Met an executive in business and I asked him to tell me about his work. He looks at his shoes and says, "Just run a PR firm." Whoa, pride alert! Then he added, "I am not able to do good things like you." Major guilt exposed! Why not? Why does he think he is stuck in this bad relationship? Why does he accept not being in love?
 

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu

We need strength and courage in our professional lives. We get it from our engagement intellectually and emotionally from what we do--paid and unpaid. 

But John, do you know how hard it is to find what you are talking about? Yeah I do. So when did you give up on things that were hard or even impossible? When did you push the auto-pilot button to give the controls of your life to "whatever"?

Some wake up and make changes. They are no longer in love and they get a divorce from their jobs. Some get dumped. because they waited too long. Still others stay in toxic, abusive relationships. 
  
Do we seek practical love? Or convenient love? Or do we pursue head over heels in love? Do we want love we rationalize or love we can brag about?

Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love. - Rumi

Time is not slowing down. Time is ticking. Like the maternal biological clock--When will you give birth to your dreams?
 
I am not saying to quit, divorce or bail, I am saying investing in the opportunity to make it work. A great and enduring relationship takes work. It doesn't just glide on the energy of puppy love. 
 
Are you in love with what you are doing, who you are becoming? Are you in love with the potential, the chance to grow?
 
Yes? Then, you understand. Keep working at it. If No, then you need to take control of the helm and get your little boat pointed in the right direction. Your compass is your heart.
 
Only you have formed the rules and boundaries of the current world. Only you can change it up and make it what you want.
 
Use your network of mentors and advisors to help you evaluate your choices. 
 
Last week I met a woman about her career. She said, " I am so overwhelmed. I am almost drowning. But it has been a long time since I felt this challenged, so connected to my work, forcing me to use my brain and everything I have. I am so grateful to be here!
 
It's a beautiful thing when people are in love.
 
You know if you are love. Only you do.
 
Thanks for reading. John 

I Am Generic to Keep My Options Open

I am seeing a rise in generic humans. I am meeting them at events, they are connecting with me on Linkedin, they read my blog --they are everywhere. I used to spot this species mostly at undergraduate institutions where undeclared majors evolved into generics. But today I meet them in all stages of life. Apparently the current brutal  job search world squeezes out any differentiating attributes, any passion from their personalities. They are like walking dead who are indiscrimnate about their employment. And they are multiplying! 

Sorry let me back up and describe this human who is proliferating among us. 

Generic humans are brandless, non-commital, dispassionate, and directionless bags of protoplasm that are doing everything possible to be open to any and all jobs opportunities. It is FOMO for jobs. So they have become Spock like creatures devoid of their emotions, dreams, and passions. They are the cowardly lion on the yellow brick road of life. They are mercenaries who will work for any army. Free agents who just want dental benefits. Generic

Last week a thirty-something year-old guy, well dressed, well spoken was referred to me by a former colleague. He wanted an informational interview to understand my world. I always say yes to my former colleagues requests! Anyway, this guy has a good resume and is looking for a job. Unclear where he is going on his resume, but that doesn't bother me (especially if you look at my resume!) I learn a lot about him and his quirks in the first 90 seconds.

He started off like this: "So glad I am meeting with you because I really want to work for a non-profit. I want to help other people and when I have volunteered I have been the most fulfilled, so I decided that choosing non-profit work would center my life around what matters to me. But everyone keeps telling me that I have to have a cause or a specific issue to focus on. But I tell them that doesn't matter. I have decided to work for a non-profit--a good non-profit that is making a difference. With good leadership and management. A stable non-profit, not too big not too small. I have a lot to offer in terms of skills and experiences. The right non-profit would be lucky to get me. So am I wrong? Am I doing something wrong? Do you think I need a cause or an issue? What do you think?" Whew!

He is Generic with diarrhea of the mouth! It is like putting "non-profit job" in the Google search bar to find employment. So you have narrowed your search to 1.6 million non-profits in the US! 40,000 in LA!

I said, are you single? He said, "Yes, what of it?" Is this how you date?, I said. No preferences, no dimensions of compatibility, no emotions? 

He said "No way!" Okay, then why don't you look for a job the same way?! You have to express what you want and you have to have causes or issues that matter to you more than others!

If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything. 

ColaA 28 year old woman recently told me that the industry, the product, the service of her future employer was irrelevant. She winked and told me, "Well I wouldn't work for a firearms manufacturer." We laughed and laughed, as I screamed inside. 

These Generics think they are being smart and clever. Everyone except them knows that their pitch, elevator speech, or BIT leads nowhere. "If you do not know where you are going, every path will lead you there." And mostly in vicious circles where you end up at the beginning again. And no one can help a Generic because their search is undefined. 

Generics would not buy clothes, pick a restaurant, or buy a car this way. They would research what they WANT, what they PREFER, and what they DESIRE. They would shop and compare before they buy. They would have lists of prospective employers without regard to openings. In short, their search would be informed by their values, needs and wants. 

Generics say, "I just want to keep my options open." Like the open sea or deep space. Open becomes infinite. Yeah yeah we want options. But it makes you sound indifferent to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness! We have to link to things we care about. We always have preferred industries, preferred jobs, and preferred employers in mind. Then others can help you!

Today's job market actually requires the opposite. People who care about the product, service and or purpose are a better fit than generics. Competence and adaptability, and energy are a dime a gross. With fewer open positions , the new filters from the employer side is FIT. And FIT is directly linked with an emotional and intellectual connection with the organization's purpose. Someone who loves the work will be more engaged, more loyal, stay longer, and work harder. Non-profits, for-profits, public sector, private sector--doesn't matter.

As a Generic, you should be fired as your own brand manager!

Stop keeping your options open. Stop saying that. Start expressing what you want, what you care about, who you are and what you need. Stop being generic! And friends don't let their friends become generic.

If you were hiring wouldn't you always prefer an employee who cares about the work and the mission? Be that candidate!

 Thanks for reading. John

 


Resume Reboot

Nobody should be the victim of their own resume. 

Odds are you have neglected your resume. It is a poor reflection of who you are, what you have done and where you are going. I see so many horrific resumes! This is your key marketing and networking document whether you like it or not. Once you come to grips with the fact that this document will probably determine how your career path goes, hopefully you will spend more time updating it than the few seconds it takes to read it. Yes, the average resume is read for just 8-10 seconds. However updating your resume will take hours. But it has been my experience that few people update their resumes regularly and then slap one together when they need it.

I have joked that I send my resume to my mother for mother's day because it makes her beam with pride.

We all know that a resume is not whole truth, but it can't contain lies. Big difference! Resume

Every resume should be re-booted and renovated. For if you have not learned anything, accomplished anything, or done anything over the last x years since you updated your resume, you should go straight to the unemployment office and not collect $200. Every resume needs to be updated.

How do you differentiate yourself? How do you tell YOUR story? How are you interesting?

Here are 10 easy basic steps to evaluate and tune up your resume:

  1. No Career Objective--Save your customized language for the cover letter. Listing a generic job goal hurts you.
  2. Chronological Only!--No functional resumes! These look like you are trying to hide something! No one can read these and figure out what you did and when. Use months to show employment periods. 
  3. Lead with Education If You are Young--New grads have to tout their degrees. But people out for 5 years or so put education at the end.
  4. One Page for New Grads Only--If you have no substantive work/professional experience, then use a single sheet. But if you have accumulated real and relevant experience then you can go to two or more. After three, you better have cured cancer!
  5. Describe Your Employer--If the reader does know the company/organization they assume the worst. Add a couple of sentences that describe the unique qualities and mission of your employer. You can take it off their website. Some employers are well known, but most are mysteries.
  6. What Did you Do with your Job  Responsibilities?-- List the duties of what anyone would do in your job, but add bullets that relect the accomplishments you achieved. What did you do with the job that was beyond the average occupant of this position? Did you bring in money, save money, create innovations, solve problems.....? How did you add value?
  7. Nothing Fancy--No special fonts, no colored paper, no images/logos or photos of you! Remember most resumes are input into systems and fancy formatting gets re-arranged and makes your resume look really bad. 
  8. Add Internships, Volunteer Work, and Other Activities can be Integrated--When relevant to a particular job, you should include the substantive roles in and amongst your work history. If you chaired a major board or a committee of the company, then list it as a "job". 
  9. Remove References Upon Request--Never list your references at the end. You will want to give the hiring organization a customized list of names that reflect their interests and requests. Taking off the obvious statement "References Upon Request" will give your more space. 
  10. Great Cover Letter--Very important that this never is a generic note that feels like a mass mailing form letter. This is a great canvas where you will paint a picture of yourself that you want the reader to get. What is your story? Tell it so the reader does not have to guess. Plus you can mention who referred you to this job/organization. Being referred is the most powerful thing you can do. That referring name differentiates your resume/application from the others. Plus, they have to remember what they did with you in case there is follow-up!

Time Gaps--You were laid off 8 months ago. You been on maternity/mommy leave for a couple years. Unless you were just on the couch, you were doing something besides applying for jobs online, right? Any consulting, volunteer work, internships become more relevant especially at the top of your resume. Recent studies show you will get way fewer call backs when there is an extended gap at the top of your resume. Duh!

Proof Readers--Have your confidantes read your stuff for readability, typos, grammar, formatand to help you present the best case. They know you and they will also push you to brag appropriately. 

Resume Resources--Many online free resources. I like Rileyguide.

Please reboot your resume. Get it into to shape to represent you well! Impossible to network without one.

Thanks for reading. John 

 


Sell Yourself

I was on a career panel this week with Tim Harris Executive VP of the Lakers. We were presenting to a bunch of students at UCLA who want to know what they are going to do with their Sociology degrees. Tim and I were both Sociology majors.

Sociology, like a lot of social science or liberal arts educations truly enables graduates to do whatever they want to do. And we discussed these virtues. These are hollow words to those who expected a clear career decision to come out of their classes (including those nagging parents). Those with educations understand well that an undergrad degree is the platform, the foundation on which a career is built. But I digress....

Tim and I tried to share some thoughts, and suggestions about life after the degree and how to approach the choices and chances ahead.

Tim did something brilliant. He asked, "How many of you want to go into sales, cold calling, and marketing a product?" Predictably, there was an awkward pause and one hand shot up and another one sheepishly raised her hand halfway. Then Tim, said, "You all have to go into sales and cold call, because that is what you have to do to get a job!" He went on to say that marketing oneself is your number one product and if you can't do that you won't be successful. You could feel the regret rush into the room. The regret of not answering the question correctly. But also the regret of being ill-prepared to "sell" oneself.Selling

We know that there is a big difference between passive marketing and selling. When supply exceeds demand you have to separate yourself by actively pursuing the opportunities. Waiting for a response or hoping you get one is plain ole lazy and ineffective.

Real selling and marketing require  great messaging, preparation, networking, research, and courage---fearlessness. Many younger job/career seekers think the job search is a video game. Apply online, fill out apps, send e-mails. They avoid human contact and the effort it takes to talk to people, to get feedback and help. Surprise! The interview requires you to log off and literally face your future!

The basic elements of your sales strategy:

  1. Your job and career goals. What are your targeted industries, employers, and missions without regard to job openings? Where do you want to work?
  2. A great resume and cover letter. Is your resume ready for primetime?
  3. A confident story about who you are and where you are going.
  4. A kitchen cabinet, your personal board of directors or advisors. Who is mentoring and or guiding you on a regular basis?

Real sales people develop relationships. They do their homework. They research their prospects to see if and how there is a fit. They talk to people at all levels to get a read on the company and in this case the potential supervisor. They even mystery shop these employers to see how the company does things. And they get referred by influential and trusted colleagues so the candidate gets the attention in the screening process,  a shot at an interview and gets hired.

The most effective selling starts way before the job search and lasts well after. Keeping your brand fresh and in demand is critical. Makes your selling during a job search so much easier.

In truth, there is little if any cold calling--that is contacting total strangers for jobs. Yes your interview may be with "strangers" but the process of getting the interview is alot more warm calling. Engaging your network in your search, referrals, references, and insights will be invaluable. Getting people you know to help you.

Yes, there are always those who over sell and take things to the extreme.  Like anything, use your judgment and discretion on how aggressive you want to be. But the vast majority of candidates are under sold, under marketed, and the employer is under-whelmed.

This is Tim's point. Of course you need to have the gumption and guts to sell yourself, but you have to be smart about your approach. Selling isn't just about the ASK. It is about the the preparation for the ASK--your preparation and preparing the employer for your candidacy.

If you really want a job or to work at a particular place, you have to differentiate your candidacy from the masses. We assume you have the skills and competencies. But how will you differentiate yourself? Your passion. Your knowledge of the position and company--most people don't do any homework. Who refers you and your references-- who you know and who knows you. Outside validation is comforting to the employer. All of this has to be part of your sales package and approach.

If you aren't willing to sell by putting in the effort and time, then don't bother applying. Those that sell will shine and those who think that their specialness will ooze out of their online app or resume have a rude awakening.

Tim Harris is absloutely correct. Prepare and psych yourself up to sell! Push yourself to embrace the  part of your job search that gets you out from behind the computer. Selling will increase your chances that new doors will open and opportunities will present themselves.

 Thanks for reading. John


Endurance Networking: 10 Tips for the Longer Term Job Search

Labor Day is the time to consider and help those without jobs. Regrettably that is a huge percentage of people around us. People we know and people we don't know. More and more frequently I am encountering people from my former lives and people who are in my extended network who have endured an interminable and for some, brutal process of looking for a job. The time and effort to get a job from a layoff, termination, or job transition can be a marathon of frustration and exasperation. The toll this process takes on ones psyche, confidence, and self dignity can not be exaggerated.This is where doing the same thing over and over is insanity. Let's be honest, most people have never been taught or know how to conduct a job search in good times. So looking for work when competition is furious requires a much different mindset and approach.Distance 

Many approach this like a video game. They are under the hypnotic trance that the internet will find them a job. They are seat belted to their home computer and go through the maze of job sites over and over and over, and impulsively lob resumes at them. It has become a game of numbers where quantity matters and you want instant gratification. These same people send out FB and Linked in requests without personalizing the invites. Because amassing more impersonal connections will help you win the game but not a job.

I remember a friend who had developed a condominium project for a specific price point and target market. It was not working, people were not buying. As we know, people look at certain price bands that they can afford and avoid other bands as "too low" and "too high". We sat around and discussed discounting strategies, promotional tactics and other ways to essentially lower the price point and move into a lower band. Then someone suggested that the product was positioned poorly and would have less competition if we RAISED the price and re-positioned. We decided before we discounted we would try to retain the value proposition and move into a different band of buying. The condos sold out quickly and the lesson is one of human myopia on both the buy side and the sell side. We operate in narrow bands of behavior based on what everyone else is doing. And in doing so we have forgotten the most important principle of marketing oneself--differentiation. How do we stand out of the pack, the pile of resumes, and separate ourselves from the sea of candidates?

I see this in the job market today where for some reason we gravitate to the common denominator strategies where the great majority of the candidates are operating and competing. See the same thing in college applications. People follow a formula that others told them, they read on the web, or they got a tip at a workshop--and then become the unattractive average. Surveys always tells us that more than 75% of us are above average! So why would we adopt a job search process that your competitors employ? This behavior is proof of the gravitational pull of conformity and the centripetal force of mediocrity that leads to an insurance policy that your job search may never end.

If it works, it is obsolete. (attributed to Marshall McLuhan)

If we agree this market is different then you have to be, think and act differently.

Economic disruptions like this cause irrational behavior. Job seekers who start to second guess the market where they adjust their resumes and their job search process may or may not work. They can lose their way going down the rabbit hole of confusing self-talk and behavior that can distract them from their strengths. Simply put, straying from who you are and what your competences are is risky. Not saying you should not traverse sectors or make major job shifts.  But if you are a finance, marketing, or human resources professional with years of experience, you have to play those cards. Otherwise you are reduced to a new grad with a liberal arts education---you can do anything! And how does that differentiate you in the pile of resumes?

The following assumes your resume, your basic understanding of your story (including gaps, challenges and transitions), and your goals are fairly well established. So here are 10 tips to keep you on a pace to to survive the long distance job search:

  1. Stay positive. Put any semblance of embarrassment, shame, self consciousness and self doubt in a box and lock it in the attic. These demons keep you in a mode that is less willing to ask for help, less able to show your vulnerability, and less of the authentic you.
  2. Every day is a work day. Your search has to consume the equivalent of a full time position. This is not just playing the job boards, it is the process of getting leads and networking. Energize yourself to go at it every morning.
  3. Think about your "band of behavior". What types of jobs/opportunities are you willing to take? Remain open and pursue opportunities that make sense but you have never considered. How big of a pay cut are you willing to take? Will you relocate? If you are making a sector transition, are you willing to essentially start over? Expand your band with specificity.  In other words, describe all of the attributes of your minimums (we know you want more!) What are your true minimums? 
  4. Stay active. Pursue or maintain volunteer, consulting, pro-bono and/or part time gigs to keep your juices going and to keep a warm place on your resume. Substantive charitable or non-profit volunteer work can be part of your story that fills the time and the gap in your work history.
  5. Continuous education. Take a class to sharpen your skills and find another networking platform.
  6. Apply early and often. Apply for everything that interests you AND where you have a real chance to add value. You need the practice interviewing. When in doubt apply. Focused on your goals, you do need leads and options. Even if you are "over-qualified" give the resume reader pause by considering someone who can do the job easily.
  7. Differentiate, differentiate, differentiate. How will you make your resume, your candidacy stand out? The key is who you know. Who you know and who they know.
  8. Go Face to face. Devote more than half of your search time to meetings or telephone conversations. Get out of your house and talk to people. You have to be able to push yourself and those around you to get out from behind their computers and literally and figuratively "pound the pavement" and "knock on doors". Hopefully you have gone beyond the basic networking and have a good inner circle of supporters. People who know you and you have a trusting relationship with. Have you met with all of them? No you haven't?! Connect and reconnect with your existing network--your relatives, your friends, your former colleagues, and your former bosses.
  9. Get on the insider track  As you expand your connections, you will begin to become aware of positions that are open and not posted. This happens when your focus is also on employers not openings. The biggest mistake is ONLY talking about positions that are posted. Most jobs are like houses in the most coveted neighborhoods, they are not listed, they all start out with private processes that are not made public unless they did not work. The word about a good job is put out to the employer's inner network to talk to the "best" candidates. The only way your name comes up in these searches is if someone you know is aware of it.
  10. Be introduced and referred This is the most powerful networking and the biggest differentiator. Having influential people you know or meet introduce you to prospective employers is enormously helpful. Instant credibility, good brand management, access to information, and an expansion of your network. Clearly, the ability to drop a name on the cover note of your resume when applying/inquiring for a job may be the biggest differentiator. The bigger the name the hotter your resume becomes. That resume has to be separated from the pile, people have to track it and you get a better chance to get to the next level of consideration. Please don't misunderstand me, you don't need referrals from the C Suite, you need to be referred by an insider. That implied endorsement is big, regardless of the level.

Jobs are opening up everyday behind the curtain and posted on Monster. So persistence and vigilance are essential partners for the longer term job search.

Networking is ALWAYS a long term if not a life time process. A process of staying in touch and exploring opportunities. It is a marathon lifestyle where the tortoise beats the hare every time. Meeting people to appreciate who you know and who you are will energize you. To learn of new opportunities and ways to approach old ones. To keep the mind sharp, the blood pumping and keep the finish line in sight.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Lessons and reminders from reality

Congresswoman Judy Chu's office called me and asked me to offer my workshop to her Job Hunter's Job Boot Camp last week. I commend Judy and her team for their leadership in helping people get their careers and lives on track.

I got there early, as I always do presentations to get the lay of the land. I attended a "Hot Jobs" workshop that was sparsely attended. There were three panelists who gave a wide range of advice on jobs from IT to construction. One thing that struck me is that there ARE jobs. Unfilled positions with futures. They all require more certification and training just to apply and get to the entry level. I am talking about answering the phone and laying cement certifications! But between the three presenters they had hundreds of openings. Looking around the room there was limited interest in these new fields. You can see the questions in people's faces---Should I re-tool for a new career? Shall I invest in a change at this stage of my life? Only a few seemed encouraged.Unemployment  

Even though the focus of this session was entry level, the lessons and advice apply to all. Just a few of the words of wisdom I heard:

  • "No longer are we "break and fix" guys. Help desk staff have to have deeper knowledge, be great communicators, and work collaboratively."
  • "Don't burn any bridges so you have good references--we check them all."
  • "If you are not arriving to work early, then you are late. If you arrive at work one minute late, we send you home. It shows you are not serious."
  • "We fire people who say "that's not in my job classification!"

My session was filled with a very diverse array of human beings from 20 to 60 years old. I introduced some fundamental career change and networking essentials. I pushed them through a few exercises to get them to understand. It was one of the most energized groups I have encountered in years. One thought seemed to perplex  people the most. The contradictory notion of openness to opportunity and the specificity of a job search.

I always introduce the seemingly conflicting concepts of defining your goals with specificity and being open to discovery and serendipity. I make fun of people who are open to anything to not eliminate any possibilities They usually have such general job/career goals that no one can help them. What I call the Rose Parade Theme goal. Here are few of my favorites from the last week: "I want to work with people." "I can't be stuck behind a desk." "I want to do something I believe in."  Huh?

Here's the rub. What you want has to be honed down to reflect your personal needs and interests. If you can't articulate what you want no one can help you find it. Networking is impossible and mentoring is frustrating. When you say you can do anything, most people hear nothing and they do the same.

Once you focus on what you want and say things people can understand, they can provide assistance and support. And, here's the kicker when you get focused and are pursuing and doing what you want--it shows in your energy, effort and passion. This is when others offer you new opportunities. People see you in another sector or field. People see your talent transferring into something else.

New offers and opportunities don't arise when the people around you have no idea what you want.

So specificity breeds success and success enables new opportunity. Get it?

I am constantly inspired by the people that are trying to make changes to get a job and find a new career to be fulfilled. My goal is to just try and give people a little different perspective to get them to accelerate the changes they know they have to make. In the end I get re-charged by their desire to advance their lives.

Every encounter and experience provides lessons, so......

Be specific. Get to work early. Adapt faster. See your job as bigger than the job description. And don't burn your bridges. Some real lessons from real people looking for and offering work.

Thanks for reading. John


Parents guide to your kids career development

"Would you mind talking to my kid?", maybe the number one question I get today. Responsible and/or doting parents want to help their children make the connection to find a job. I become an attractive resource when people find out I was an average student and a rebellious teen and young adult! And of course because I am free :) These parents perceive their kids to be stuck and need a bit of outside encouragement and motivation (every self respecting parent knows that advice from outside the family, even if it is exactly the same, has more truth and brilliance!) That's what parents want. That is not what the kids want. Although a few more doses of encouragement and positivity are welcomed, the new gen wants a safe place to discuss their often very mal-formed thoughts about their futures (that do not seem to be going over with the older people) As I have advised hundreds of times and in every speech I give, always and enthusiastically agree to help your close network"s family members in their search for life, liberty and the pursuit of a career. Why? because you will always, always, always, get more out of it than you deliver!Helicopter parents  
 
Back on parent front. This job of trying to steer our heirs into the "right careers", the "right jobs" and our obsession to make them happy (if they just knew what was good for them) is extremely challenging. Why? The whole parenting thing is based on how we were parented, good or bad. And we pass down whatever our notions of career development, job and life values, by what we do not we say. Your kids have watched you, idolized you (until they are 14), mimicked you, whether you like it or not. So now your offspring are facing the worst job market in memory and anxiety and stress are running high. Both parents and their kids are going a little crazy, maybe the parents a tad more! 

You have to invoke mentoring and networking to help your kids.

All of our kids need guidance from us to maximize their options and to realize their potentials. To be honest, we are over bearing as parents. We hover, we nudge, we complain, we want them to be like us OR avoid the mistakes we made. The nurture thing is really important but the nature thing is so much more powerful. Their chromosones give them choices. Their DNA give them decisions. What young people need after they get the basics from Maslow's hierarchy is to be loved and to be supported for who they are and what they were meant to do. There is a wonderful Nigerian word amachi, loosely translated to, "Only God knows what each child brings."

  1. Help your kids find themselves. What are their passions and interests? Not what you want them to know and experience. This applies to pre-teens, teenagers, picking a college major and even later. Met a guy in Baltimore last week, he was bragging about his two sons. The "genius" older son was admitted to Annapolis on a scholarship, but his mom forbid him to go into the military. So his son went to Cornell against his wishes, quit and joined the Navy! Spent 4 years in officer training and returned to Penn St to study nuclear engineering. Once he graduates he returns to the Navy. Mom is proud now. The book Hand Me Down Dreams by Mary Jacobson, describes how we try to control our kids. After I read that book, I became more conscious of my kids strengths. The other day, I advised my daughter to drop her initial major of biology and consider the classics or greek mythology, because she loves those subjects. She was surprised and said sarcastically, "What kind of Dad are you?! How am I going to get a job?" We discussed the merits of picking a major based upon a future job that may not exist or be of interest. We concluded that a college education is much more than a major. I meet dozens of kids who lie to their parents to keep them off their back. They aren't lying about drugs or their sexual escapades. The lie about their career interests so that mom and dad aren't mad and worse, disappointed. These bright and talented young people are so frustrated and anxiety ridden by the dreams that are being forced upon them by their parents. Such a shame.
  2. Help you kids become well-lopsided. I have written here several times about how top schools are now rejecting the "well-balanced" students. Students with good grades and scores and a couple years of community service, couple years of leadership/student govt, a couple years of art or music, a couple years of work experience etc. These applicants have become parent created "commodities" and are being rejected for students with deeper personal interests and passions.
  3. Help your kids meet other people and express themselves. Other people's parents, uncles or aunts, people who care about your kids can be wonderful sounding boards. Help them network, for college choices, for career decisions, for narrowing and focusing their job search. They need other people's opinions and perspectives to shape their search for meaning and a job. These are not necessarily interviews for an opening, these are informational interviews. People to review the resume and to hear the strategy. I never liked it when my Dad and Mom arranged these meetings in my life, but it always helped me see the possibilities. More important it helped me understand how I could discover things on my own and I know it made me a better parent.
  4. Sponsor a career tour. If your kids are younger, this is more important than the college tour-- the exposure to jobs, industries and employers. Meeting people in your network to see and hear what people do. It is amazing who you know and what they do. All of it is interesting. Sure not all of the jobs are super cool, but all offer insights into worlds they don't know. Again, if these jobs involve any of your kids interests that will make a big difference. It may be a product, or a service that your kids love. Meeting an exec, a manager, or another young person at the bottom of the org will be insightful and open their minds to new avenues.

Some of your kids are preparing for college, others will get their college degree soon, still others have returned to the nest to re-tool and find employment. While you can find a lot of things on the intenet, you have to use the power of mentoring and networking to make new connections. Frankly it gets much more difficult after your kids are in their late 20's. But before then, there is so much you can do. First back off your dreams and get tuned into theirs. Second, open up your network for introductions to opportunities. Lastly, connect your son or daughter to trusted members of your network to provide "external" advice and counsel.  

Being a parent is so tough. The tension between pushing and pulling is ever present. Once you start to fully appreciate the extraordinary and unique talents and gifts of your kids, the sooner you will be able to help them fulfill their dreams and find gainful employment. 

Thanks for reading. John. 

 


Amazing who you know, but you don't know

For the last 20 years, I have been teaching that the primary step in networking is:

First strengthen existing relationships and then expand your circles of friends

Brushstroke circle There is an obsession with meeting new people. That new people will unlock our potential, teach us new things, and create new opportunities. And that the people we know, have met, are surrounded by, are inadequate. Even as I write this again, it sounds stupid, doesn't it?

What comes into focus is how poorly we know and explore what we have. There is an irresistible allure of the new. It's why products offer new versions. Why car makers roll out their new line-ups. It also causes many divorces. We like shiny things and our consumerism world reinforces it. But often the new is irrational and riskier. And often it is more expensive.

I am not telling you not to meet new people. You gotta get out of your comfort zones and diversify your human portfolios. You have to inject new into everything you do. But it is not your first step. It is not a step to overlook. Meeting the new, will always be more challenging, more time consuming, and less comfortable.

Why ignore the network you have and the people you know?

People I meet always underestimate their own networks. According to them, their "rolodex" is always weak and does not contain the expertise they need. After I ask a series of questions, they "discover" that someone they know well could be a great connection. It never fails. Had lunch will a former colleague this week, and he is exploring a career change. He wanted me to connect him with new people. During our meal, he admitted knowing a senior executive at a very attractive employer. I added real value to the session by saying, "Please contact him." :)Rolodex

You may be able to recall or remember things about people from your glorious present or past. And making an effort to make these recollections is a start. However, it is more likely you don't even know these people in your network. You don't know their resumes and their backgrounds. And therefore you have no idea what their networking potential is. But this is just the beginning of what you don't know about your network and how you undervalue it.

The big deal here is that your current network knows you and in most cases you have established a level of trust through common experiences. Your current network cares about you. And that creates opportunities to get authentic feedback and ideas beyond their contacts. People who know you can move quickly to the questions you want to discuss. Chemistry and comfort exist. It provides a warm platform to now get to know them better. I guarantee this process will reveal a new constellation of connections and contacts for you to explore. The other super added value here is your network can refer you to these connections, because they know you!

Now here is an ugly truth. If you have been negligent about maintaining your relationships. Reconnecting with "old friends" or former colleagues can be awkward. And the sirens of the new network beckon. But c'mon, most people want to connect and reconnect. I get asked this question all the time, "How do I reconnect with former colleagues and friends?" My answer is always the same, "Call them, e-mail them." Just make the connection and if necessary, apologize for being out of touch.They will understand. Plus you will enjoy it!

A new world of connections and opportunities awaits and many of them reside in the past. Don't leap over your exisiting network just to meet new people. It is amazing who you know but don't know. Reach out and connect!

Thanks for reading. John 


Your path to the future is paved with questions

One of the most powerful resources in your career and networking toolbox is curiosity. Yeah, the insatiable desire to try to understand how things work or don't work, what is success or failure and how is it measured?; what are the best practices?; who is considered the best or the leader?; what are the trends and therefore the scenarios of the future?

Questions shape our understanding and define our thoughts, opinions, and our preferences. Good questions lead to better conversations. And great conversations generate important relationships. Questions matter. Questions

Question authority. Did he pop the question?

Yet, there seems to be a dearth of well formed questions. You would think that learning would motivate our questions, wouldn't you?

We all evaluate dozens of organizations and individuals every week. Vendors, partners, colleagues, friends, restaurants, product providers, etc. We accept and tolerate many issues and challenges in our daily experiences. Often they trigger questions about how to improve something, somebody. Questions about the goals or expectations of a service, a project, or an organization.

There are the profound questions we have to ask ourselves everyday, every month, every year:

  • Who am I?
  • Where am I going?
  • Am I on track?
  • What is meaningful to me?
  • What do I want?

Questions are the lifeblood of the conversations that make mentoring and networking relationships work and thrive. What you want to know, what perplexes and stymies you, where you think there are gaps or weaknesses--this is the fuel that powers the engines of personal and professional change. But they can not be questions just about you and what you want.

We seem to be more interested in using our questions to purchase a car or a new computer than to choose our next job or career? We invest more time and energy into the quality of our material possessions than the due diligence of the work we do and how it will help us grow and advance.

Not having answers should motivate us instead of depress us.

I meet a lot of people. People who want to find jobs, people who want something, people who are searching, people who are lost, and people who want to partner. And overall, the quality or in some cases the absence of questions is surprising.

I look at resumes the same way I review business plans, or grant application. Where have you been, where are you going, why did you make changes, where have you succeeded, where have you failed, what makes you unique, why should I affiliate with you?

I could not make up the stuff I hear and see in interviews. Sometimes it is a reality show of outtakes from American Idol or America's Got Talent. Once in awhile it is invigorating and inspiring but that is the exception.

Here are my top five favorite meaningless questions that I have been asked by job candidates in the first interview?

  1. How many days off will I get?
  2. How much do you love working here?
  3. Are the dental benefits any good?
  4. How soon would I be promoted?
  5. Do you have a strategic plan?

It's like, "Did you just say that out loud?" There is zero interest in how the employer is doing or what is going on? Are you so self absorbed and ill-prepared that you have no genuine interest in the business, the challenges, and the results?

The most irritating sound outside of the vuvezelas at the World Cup is the worst radio station in the world, WII-FM. What's In It For Me. When this radio station plays so loudly that it drowns out even the semblance of what others want, then failure and rejection will be your listening mates. WII-FM makes one's questions seem self-absorbed and selfish.

We all know that asking questions has to be accompanied by thoughts on the answers. You can't just verbalize queries without ideas. Otherwise you are just another whiny solution-less member of the chorus of complainers. And there is little room in our crowded lives for this irritating irrelevant noise.

All of us have an exaggerated level of confidence in our ability to ad-lib, address impromptu situations, think on our feet. In general, when we rely on this non-existent skill, we look stupid. The only way to avoid this embarrassment is to prepare questions. Writing down questions. Thinking about what questions you would ask yourself if you were hiring you.

Our quest is looking for special people, special opportunities, special moments, and ulimately a greater sense of fulfillment--the diamonds in the rough, the needles in the haystack. We find these things by following our hearts, our intuition and our questions. We discover these things by being insatiably curious.

What are your questions?

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. Albert Einstein

Thanks for reading. John


Re-inventing Yourself to Get Back to Work--The 360 Degree Job Search

More than ever I am having conversations with former execs, managers, and senior professionals who are in protracted searches for the same level positions they held. They are using their existing resumes and applying for the same titles, same/similar industry, and certainly the same compensation. They are exasperated but undaunted despite the lack of results. The overused quotation from Einstein is apropos here, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Albert

I hear many focused and definitive statements like these:

"I will not accept a position below Sr VP." I have to make more than $100,000 to live." "I have never been paid below this level. "I will never apply for a position below this level/salary."

But it is basic marketing 101 to evaluate your strategy when things are not working. Focus can become myopia. You have to change it up. You have to expand your search to jobs and industries and sector outside of your current world and where there are more prospects. You have to start looking 360, sideways and down instead of just in the same places. This inevitably starts the conversation about position, title and compensation. What is a lateral move? What is beneath me? What will compromise my entire career?

Settling for something lesser is not preferred but may be necessary. It may require huge changes in your lifestyle. Downsizing or rightsizing your life is probably smart now. Just like the entire business community that has cut back jobs, maybe one of yours, and is now prudently hiring at a very slow pace.

Looking for a new job is a brutal experience, especially if the search yields few leads and fewer interviews. It can be frustrating and discouraging. It triggers all of the worst feelings about your competence and confidence. Been there and it is no fun. The sooner you can get back to work the better.

Ladders When I was laid off I had to re-think my career and my life. I took a serious pay cut to re-build my experience in a new world--non-profits. So far, I have taken three pay cuts, two demotions, and 1 lateral move to make career changes. You have to go down the ladder to climb up another. It is just the law of nature. It is the method of surviving and sustaining your professional career.

You have to swallow your pride and your irrational ego and find a path that makes sense. Not working is the worst strategy. A big and growing gap between your impressive position and nothing raises more questions than not filling the void.

Piecing together a new career after a set back is one that all employers will sympathize with. When you show your desire by doing what is necessary, your story is more compelling.

You say you are creative and innovative. Then re-invent yourself!

The candidates that are having success are using a combination of volunteer work, consulting, related but "lower level"jobs , and education to fill in their resumes---to stay fresh and to keep the rent paid.

Hard to even get a look or a call back if your time between jobs is approaching a year and you have nothing on your resume.

Customizing your resume and your cover letter may be more important when you shift directions in your job search. I have advised many people to remove items from their resume to make them more aligned with a new industry/sector and/or lower level position, so they don't receive the dreaded "overqualified" response.

  • Align duties and achievements with the job requirements
  • Remove degrees or additional information that give you "too much" experience or education
  • Shorten your work experience to the last 10 years or so

In times like these you have to reach down and unplug your vanity and get back into the game. Demonstrate your resolve, your creativity, and your resilience and you will look and sound like a candidate worth hiring. With your new resume and targets, connect to your network to get new leads and feedback. Seek advice from your mentor. Hopefully, this re-energizes your search and opens up your eyes to opportunities and optimism.

Thanks for reading. John