How our lazy brains block career goals & what to do about it

Our lazy brains

We are creatures of habit because our brains make us that way!

Neuroscience shows that we are motivated to achieve and maintain a comfort zone because our brains equate that state of equilibrium with survival.

It’s only natural to resist change because the brain is hard-wired to respond to any stimuli or situation that disturbs our equilibrium. That’s why every news broadcast starts off with a “bad news” story—to get our attention! Our brains become alert to this news of danger, crisis, or threat at a personal level.

Earthquake in Nepal! Should I take shelter? Tornado in Texas! Should I batten down the hatches? Murderous rampage in Colorado! Should I lock my doors? Unless you or a loved one is in close proximity to these events (very unlikely) then these stories do not really effect you in any practical way.

But we can’t help listening, our brains automatically tune it. Broadcasters know it, and they use it. Why do they want us to be alert for the news broadcast? Not because the news items really matter to us but because they want us to be alert for the advertising messages that pay for the news broadcasts! The news is not a public service but a commercial one. It is a very effective way to collect ears or eyes and sell them to advertisers.

For some of us, this is Communications 101. But, even knowing this, we still listen. So, think about how many tens of thousands of hours of conditioning we have been subject to through such messaging! Our brains, broadcasters, advertising messages—these are all powerful forces to contend with and should not be underestimated.

Is it any wonder then that the prospect of losing a job, or having to look for a job, or making a career change strikes fear into the heart of anyone? Talk about crisis! Alarm bells go off when that state of affairs is disturbed—our jobs and careers go to the very heart of personal safety and stability.

Our brains are naturally lazy and default to operations that require less energy. You’ve probably noticed this when driving a car: learning to drive takes a lot of concentration and energy but once learned we drive without really thinking about it.

While neuroscience research proves that we are meant to get in a groove and stay there, life does not cooperate. We now live in a ‘risk’ society characterized by characterized by high unemployment and a steady increase in contingent labour in volatile workplaces. Whether we like it not, more of us will have to change our jobs, our careers, our lives more often. Choosing or being forced to make a career change activates a fear response because the brain knows it’s going to have to expend a lot of energy to survive.

So, what’s the best way to deal with all this? Neuroscience and the psychology of motivation tell us to undo what we’ve learned and build a new habit. But, left on our own, we individually default back to our habits. Did you know, for example, that only 1 of 9 coronary bypass patients adopts healthier day-to-day habits after their surgery?

Changing our lives is not easy but it’s always easier when we do it with others. I focus on helping my clients build new career habits because our brains are also hard-wired to build new skills (aren’t we amazing!).

There is a concept in psychology called the Zeigarnik effect which is the ability of humans to finish a task once they’ve started—our brains resolve the tension between the present and a desired future of completion. That’s why somebody can learn to walk again after a stroke with months of rehab in small steps…literally!

Same thing with job search or career change, we can build new habits, new skills, that move us closer to a goal. It’s not rocket science, anyone can do it! The key is motivation, i.e. the desire to walk again.

That is the purpose of a JobJoy Report: to give you the desire to make a career change, to see with clarity the specific jobs and work settings that will recognize, reward and motivate you for what comes naturally and effortlessly.

Turning that desire into reality means working three major components to motivation: activation, persistence, and intensity. Once a new career is identified, we move into that space with deliberate, intentional, systematic and effective actions.
But start small, take an action, evaluate the result to see if it moves you closer to your goal or not. If it doesn’t move you closer, then look to see what is to be learned from that action, if anything, and adjust. If it does move you closer to your goal then what is the next action to take?

Unlearning old habits, learning new skills, this is the rhythm of successful change.

We persist through inevitable challenges and setbacks that are just part of life. Anyone who has ever had a goal (like wanting to lose ten pounds or run a marathon) probably immediately realizes that simply having the desire to accomplish something is not enough. Achieving such a goal requires the ability to persist through obstacles and endurance, to keep going in spite of difficulties. But there are certain times during the process where you turn up the heat, bear down on your goal, do your utmost to accomplish your goal.

Of course, finding another job or career is more complicated than that and depends on a lot of other things but the point is this: anyone can do it if they want to. The key is in your motivation.

George Dutch is the Founder and Chief Joy Officer at JobJoy. He has worked blue collar, white collar, private sector, public sector, and nonprofit. He has undertaken 3 major career transitions in his life, including two moves between continents with no prospect of a job, then landed lucrative positions. He knows of what he speaks because he's lived it. A certified career professional for the past 20 years, he has coached and consulted with thousands of individuals across North America and internationally. He can help you get ahead in both career and life with his proven services.

Career change as a halfway house experience

I am working this year with several clients who describe their work life as a prison sentence: five days in the big house with weekend parole (ankle monitor attached!)

Career change ankle monitor

About 95% of offenders are eventually released from prisons to be integrated back into civil society. Many spend the last year or two of their sentence in houses on a street near you. These residences are known as ‘halfway houses’ because they represent a re-entry point between incarceration and freedom.

A halfway house offers transition programs to help offenders ‘let go’ of their prison identity through counselling. They get job training and work and pay rent as they develop a ‘new’ identity and learn to function in the ‘real’ world.

Career change is a similar process for many individuals who spend years imprisoned in a particular job role that defines who and what they are. Getting out of that prison also involves a letting go of one identity and developing a new one, not an easy task for most people.

Recidivisim

Recidivism rates for halfway house occupants is 60%+ in many jurisdictions because convicts reoffend within 3 years of their release date and land back in prison. Successful integration back into society depends on a number of critical factors, including the motivation of offenders to change their lives and the quality of programs that support them to do so.

My research indicates that the same factors are often at work in successful career change. Individuals find that living in that “halfway” point of transition is very uncomfortable. It causes them to re-evaluate their past, think about their future, adjust their ideas and beliefs—a lot of inner work to find their motivation to make real change in their lives.

And, of course, they don’t live in a vaccum. Whether in prison or out, we have structure all around us–constraints, rules, limitations but also freedom, choices and new opportunities. Embracing freedom is not easy because it often requires new skills to navigate through an obstacle course of options.

Letting go of career pain

The biggest issue that I see for career changers is letting go of the past. If their previous work/life experiences were difficult or painful then it is a challenge to face their fears of the future. They might know rationally that the past is over and does not determine the future, but they don’t believe their future will be any different really because work for them has always been a disappointing or painful experience. So, in effect, what they believe is that the past is the best indicator of the future.

But all our thinking about the past doesn’t change the future. We have to change the channel on our experience.

We must focus on the present in order to create a better future—that is the purpose of the “halfway” transition. It is to accept reality for what it is, you can’t change the past, so focus on finding some hope in the present—life can be better! This fact can bring a new burst of creative energy and help us find some pleasure or joy in current experiences.

If you thought that the key to success was to have the right attitude, faith, or courage, then you will be disappointed when things don’t work out. I’m not saying that ideas, beliefs and attitudes aren’t important but nobody ever lost weight just by thinking so. If we don’t find more pleasure in our lower weight than we did in having too much weight, then we will lose the motivation to keep off the weight and start our emotional eating once again. That’s why losing weight usually requires a change in lifestyle—a more enjoyable one!—in order to keep off the weight.

Why do so many offenders go back to prison? It’s the same reason that so many people stay in a job they hate or, worse yet, go back to a similar situation—they ignore reality as it is. Instead, they have a better chance of making a successful transition if they look at their current reality with a clear eye, open mind, and truthful awareness.

For some offenders, changing their lifestyle or habits is so painful, they prefer to go back to jail, to a known future with a roof over the heads and three squares a day.

Freedom through action

But, the reality is that jail hurts too, it has its own kind of pain. They choose the pain of incarceration over the joy of freedom because their experience of ‘freedom’ was very negative (in truth, they never really experienced freedom but only some cheap imitation of it).

Freedom is not easily acquired. You don’t achieve it with mind tricks that are designed to hide reality by imposing a positive spin on it. It’s about looking at what you really want, where you really want to be, the kind of life you really want, and taking actions now that move you closer to that goal.

That takes work, effort, persistence, to get what you want. For some people, it’s just easier to let the institution provide them with a roof over their heads and three square a day. But that’s a lifestyle, not a life; that’s prison, not freedom.

George Dutch is the Founder and Chief Joy Officer at JobJoy. He has worked blue collar, white collar, private sector, public sector, and nonprofit. He has undertaken 3 major career transitions in his life, including two moves between continents with no prospect of a job, then landed lucrative positions. He knows of what he speaks because he's lived it. A certified career professional for the past 20 years, he has coached and consulted with thousands of individuals across North America and internationally. He can help you get ahead in both career and life with his proven services.

Are you ready for the new world of work?

New Career

It’s easy to manage your career when the world of work is stable and follows a set of rules that both employers and employees agree upon. This was the ‘cradle-to-grave’ job security that formed an unwritten social contract for decades since WWII. It allowed our society to move forward with political stability and economic affluence.

Hey! rub-a-dub-dub, three fools in a tub,

And who do you think were there?

The butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker,

And all of them gone to the fair.

This nursery rhyme captures the spirit of that social contract, the notion that a rising tide of GDP floated all boats and carried everyone along on a light-hearted trip to a future of fun.

That social contract has been torn to shreds in North America by changing social and economic conditions, such as the hollowing out of the manufacturing sector and the millions of high-paying unionized jobs that went with it; the outsourcing of other jobs to Asia; the shift to lower-paying service jobs; the pervasive 24/7 reach of cellphones and other technologies that make it harder to establish boundaries between work and home; and other social trends and issues.

Did you know that the top 10 in-demand occupations of 2015 had not been invented in 2000? Or, that more information will be created next year than was created in the last 5,000 years. Or, that the average person will make 7 to 14 occupational changes by age 38?

Yes, it is much more difficult to manage your career in this millennium than the last. Did you wake up this morning dreaming of a future as a:

• Gamification Specialist
• Social networking affiliate manager
• Nano-mechanic
• Old age wellness manager
• Memory augmentation surgeon
• Weather modification police
• Waste data handler
• Personal brander/communications advisor
• Parallel programmer?

Probably not. If you thought about the changing world of work at all, you probably asked yourself: “Where do I fit in this world? What is available to me? How do I achieve a balance between my needs and all of the forces and influences around me?”

Big business, big government, and big unions have shown quite clearly since 2000 that they cannot provide guaranteed careers for a lifetime of work because they cannot control external variables, such as financial markets, climate change, technological revolutions, terrorism, and other influences on the economy.

These questions are best answered, I suggest, by shifting our career management strategy from an objective perspective, one that uses linear thinking–such as go to a good school, get good grades, get a good job, and climb a ladder of promotions and income—because that job-for-life will not be there.

Instead, we need to prepare our selves and our children to think about work in terms of fluidity and flexibility to meet the challenge of much change in a short period of time.

In order to meet these challenges in the external world, we may need to better master our internal world, to get a better understanding of our talents, beliefs, motivations, and values in order to shift efficiently and effectively with the twists and turns of a global economy and social upheaval. We need to know what hard skills we are suited to acquire and sell in the marketplace, and we need to know what soft skills we are suited to developing to sell those skills. In short, we need to think more subjectively.

Prepare yourself and your children to adapt to this rapidly changing world. Moving from an objective way of thinking about career to a subjective way of thinking is not easy but it starts with understanding your “life story” and how it relates to the kind of work we are best suited for as individuals and where that connects to the social world.

In the coming months, I will write more about how you can build and sustain the energy, enthusiasm and skills to be continuous adapting to this changing world of work, and especially how to find the fun in doing so!

George Dutch is the Founder and Chief Joy Officer at JobJoy. He has worked blue collar, white collar, private sector, public sector, and nonprofit. He has undertaken 3 major career transitions in his life, including two moves between continents with no prospect of a job, then landed lucrative positions. He knows of what he speaks because he's lived it. A certified career professional for the past 20 years, he has coached and consulted with thousands of individuals across North America and internationally. He can help you get ahead in both career and life with his proven services.

Is job search a problem to be solved or part of your creative process? – Part 2

Problem Solving your career?

In my previous blog on this topic, I asked ‘Are your career goals organized around solving problems or creating what you want?” Whether you are pursuing a short term goal, like getting a new job in the next 90 days, or going after a longer term goal, such as changing your career completely—an important lesson to remember is this: you don’t get there all at once!

You build. You plan certain steps, and then you take certain actions. You start with something workable, and then you begin to develop it.

However, many people will simply react to their current circumstances. If they think their employer is downsizing, merging with another company, or going bankrupt, they will start looking for another job because losing a job is a problem to be solved. They do what they think they should do, i.e. go to job boards, look for postings, and apply online for their resume. They don’t usually think much about how the process works, why it functions they way it does, and so on.

Then, when they don’t get any callbacks for interviews, they start to panic and think something is wrong with them: “my resume is no good, I don’t have enough experience for that job, I’m getting too old, I don’t have enough education, I live in the wrong part of the country.” They start to blame themselves instead of understanding the dynamics of supply & demand at work in the job market and how job boards relate to those dynamics.

Problem solving is about reacting to circumstances.

Creating is about resolving the tension between where you want to be and where you are now. For example, if you want a new job, you can start by picking a job target. What is the job title that you are going to package/position yourself for? Is it the same one you have now, or slightly different, or very different? Where do you want to work? Do you have a list of 10-20 preferred employers? Getting clarity about where you want to be is a crucial step in creating your next job.

Next, make a list of where you’re at now. What personal strengths and professional assets do you have that will help you create your next opportunity. Do you have an up-to-date resume? Do you know how to use LinkedIn for job search? What about offline—do you know how to approach recruiters and agencies? Or prospect for opportunities through professional associations? Or network for referrals through your personal & professional contacts?

Are you introspective and like to plan, strategize and think? How can you leverage these strengths into your job search? Or, are you extroverted and like to meet with people and take actions? Do you know how to curb your impulsiveness and optimize your time & energy to get the biggest impact for your job search?

Creating your next job opportunity takes a little practice.

Start by using your strengths, your assets, and your preferences for how you like to do things. Taking actions that are based on your natural inclinations will build your confidence, something you need a lot of in a job search!

Not all of your actions will be efficient or effective but some will move you closer to your goal of a new job. You begin to get a clearer picture of what that job might look like. You begin to see where you are in current reality. Then, your mind begins to invent new ways to create that outcome.

This is the key to true job search, resolving the structural tension in favor of the desired outcome. Steadily and surely, you move from where you are now to a new job, building up your job search skills, and taking one action after another, learning as you go to take more effective actions until your goal is achieved!

Don’t get caught up or bummed out by a problem you can’t solve. Getting a new job is not a problem. It is part of a process with an outcome that you can create.

George Dutch is the Founder and Chief Joy Officer at JobJoy. He has worked blue collar, white collar, private sector, public sector, and nonprofit. He has undertaken 3 major career transitions in his life, including two moves between continents with no prospect of a job, then landed lucrative positions. He knows of what he speaks because he's lived it. A certified career professional for the past 20 years, he has coached and consulted with thousands of individuals across North America and internationally. He can help you get ahead in both career and life with his proven services.

It’s a New Year: Are your career goals organized around solving problems or creating what you want? – part 1

New Year 2015

You have a job now, right? And maybe you don’t like it. Or you’ve been thinking about a midlife career change but you don’t know what else you could do and still make money.

So, now your life is taken up with reacting to the circumstances of your situation. How can I work less and make more? I hate the office, how can I work 3 days at home, 2 days at the office? My colleagues annoy me, how can I transfer to another unit? I’m stressed out, how can I get leave with pay?

In short, these problems start to dominate your everyday life. You are trapped into reacting against the prevailing problems of your life–they suck up your time, energy, and money as you seek a way out.

Problem solving is one of the worst ways to try to build the life you want. Here is a simple truth: you can solve all of your problems and still not have what you want. For example, you get leave without pay only to find that the same position is not waiting for you when you return to work; instead, the new job is worse! Or, you transfer to another unit, only to find the work is boring or the workplace toxic. Or, you find no motivation for working by yourself at home, you can’t get the work done, and you get laid off.

When you are trapped into reacting against the prevailing problems of your life, you are led away from thinking in terms of desired outcomes. When you are in this problem orientation, you get ‘stuck’ in your career. You can’t create from that orientation.

Creating the career you want is certainly possible when you approach it as an orientation and a skill. A creative orientation is a process that involves proven steps that move you from where you are now to a state of being that doesn’t yet exist. If you were to create a painting, a sculpture, or a poem, you are creating a product that doesn’t yet exist. You can do the same thing with career change—you can create an outcome that doesn’t yet exist.

If your career is the subject matter of the creative process, then you need to have some idea of the outcome, what it might look like, feel like, knowing what you want. That might sound simple but it is where most people get stuck. Instead of working on what it is they want, they work on answering other questions: What will make me happy? How should I live my life? What is my purpose? What is meaningful to me? Important questions, to be sure, but the answers are not necessary for creating what you want in a career.

Most people get stuck in their career because they can’t “see” another option. They don’t think about what they want, but rather, what they think they should want from a limited menu of available items. The subtext is: find the proper response. For example, at this age, you should be in this kind of position earning this amount of money in your career. We are supposed to think there is a proper response. If your circumstances don’t match that “proper response” then your life becomes a problem, rather than what you truly want based on your natural inclinations. This is how problem-solving rather than creating becomes the organizing principle in your life.

This is an important part of the work I do as a job change expert—to create a ‘new’ picture, an accurate and reliable picture, of what that work or career might look like, based on a creative orientation, by focusing on your natural strengths, motivations, values and preferences.

Then, on the skill level, you create that new picture. Creating the career you want is not rocket science but it is a skill and like any skill needs to be learned and applied in an efficient and effective manner to get the outcome you want.

That will be the subject of my next post.

George Dutch is the Founder and Chief Joy Officer at JobJoy. He has worked blue collar, white collar, private sector, public sector, and nonprofit. He has undertaken 3 major career transitions in his life, including two moves between continents with no prospect of a job, then landed lucrative positions. He knows of what he speaks because he's lived it. A certified career professional for the past 20 years, he has coached and consulted with thousands of individuals across North America and internationally. He can help you get ahead in both career and life with his proven services.

Why does networking work? – Part 2

Networking

In my previous article, I provided job change advice and explained why the biggest source of external hiring for employers is not from resumes submitted online but from referrals. In short, networking works because it focuses on the needs and priorities not of you, the job searcher, but of the hiring manager.

As a certified job change expert who has been a hiring manager, I want to explain why referrals are so highly regarded by managers. If you’ve had to hire individuals, this will make a lot of sense to you. If you’ve never had to hire anyone, then try to put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager.

A manager’s job in any organization—public, private, or nonprofit—is to help that org reach its corporate goals and objectives. That’s why managers get paid the big bucks, have fancy job titles, and get lots of perks…they have a lot of responsibility to ensure their employer thrives. If they don’t succeed, their employer doesn’t succeed, and their career is in jeopardy!

So, managers are busy managing plans, priorities, projects, programs, schedules, budgets, people, equipment, machinery, and more! They spend little time hiring unless, of course, they experience high turnover of staff (which is usually symptomatic of deeper problems in the org), or they are in a high growth phase and need to staff up quickly.

In addition, most managers are not trained to hire, don’t enjoy it because of what’s at stake—one bad hire can make their life miserable or ruin their career!—and, while they may have some real talents for managing priorities or budgets, it doesn’t mean they have a knack for hiring.

The point is: hiring is problematic for managers! Hiring is stressful. Many managers are on the edge of burnout from performing their regular job duties, and the added stress of hiring puts a bigger load on their shoulders and can push them over that edge into serious health problems. What to do?

As human beings, when things are difficult, we find ways to make them easier by cutting corners, or shifting our efforts, or streamlining process. So, managers turn to each other for support. Let’s say I’m a manager suddenly faced with the prospect of hiring a half dozen new employees to service a new account. I’ll call up a friend and say, “Hey. Bill, I’ve got tickets to the next big game, let’s go blow off some steam!” So Bill and I end up hootin’ & hollerin’ & blowin’ off steam cheering for our Ottawa Sens hockey team…but my job is important to me. Pretty soon I start telling Bill: “I’ve got to do a bunch of hiring. I hate it. It’s so hard to find these technical specialists, so hard to hire them, so hard to keep them!”

And Bill responds: “Hey, shutup, I’m trying to enjoy the game! Listen, I know this guy, known him for years, he’s very competent, reliable, dependable, he might be just what you need. I’ll give him your phone number. Do yourself a favor when he calls next week, take his call!”

And, I go, “Phew! Thank goodness for Bill, he makes my life so much easier. I won’t have to spend a lot of time getting to know his referral because Bill knows him. And I like Bill, I respect him, I trust him. If he’s vouching for this guy, it’s as good as me knowing him myself. I can’t wait for him to call next week. I’m going to seriously consider hiring him.”

That’s why referrals work, not because of you and your resume. But because a hiring manager is getting a referral from a source he likes, respects and trusts. The hiring manager’s professional life is suddenly made easier, he can move one more item from the To Do list to the Done list.

How do you contact people in order to get in their pipeline? Click here.

George Dutch is the Founder and Chief Joy Officer at JobJoy. He has worked blue collar, white collar, private sector, public sector, and nonprofit. He has undertaken 3 major career transitions in his life, including two moves between continents with no prospect of a job, then landed lucrative positions. He knows of what he speaks because he's lived it. A certified career professional for the past 20 years, he has coached and consulted with thousands of individuals across North America and internationally. He can help you get ahead in both career and life with his proven services.

Why does networking work? – Part 1

Why networking works

A large recruiting company did a survey recently of about 250 of the largest companies in the U.S., mostly well-known brands of national and international scope that cover a range of major industries. They wanted to find out what were the major sources of hiring for these companies.

They found that most hires, about 45%, are done internally by promoting or transferring existing staff. The biggest source of hiring outside the company was from referrals, about 25% of hires. What is true for these huge companies is true for most companies of 500 employees or more in Ottawa or anywhere.

Moreover, a job seeker who is referred is conservatively 3-4 times more likely to be hired (some studies have found that a job seeker who is referred is 14 times more likely to be hired) than someone who applies for a position without a referral. This is essential information for anyone seeking a job or wanting to make a job change.

In a recent article, I explained how networking works, but WHY is it so effective?

The answer is simple: human nature.

The problem with human beings is that we are not perfect! We all have weaknesses, shortcomings, faults, biases, prejudices and vices. In short, there is a downside to every individual. Every potential employee is a risk to a manager… a risk that might jeopardize his or her career!

You are an unknown quantity. Human beings are full of rational and irrational fears when it comes to protecting their self-interests. You need to understand how hiring works from the employer’s point of view.

As a certified job change expert, I have also been in the position to hire others. Believe me, when a hiring manager looks at resumes from people whom they don’t know, they might be thinking: “This person looks good on paper but what if they have a personality flaw and can’t get along with anybody here, we get into a dispute, end up in a grievance or, worse, end up in court? What if they have a secret addiction and fall to pieces as soon as I give them a deadline or put them under pressure, and we lose our biggest account, millions of dollars in revenue, and the CEO fires me? What if they have a secret agenda to [insert your irrational fear of choice]?

We live in a litigious society, and managers must protect themselves from litigation, not to mention all the aggravation that comes with making a bad hire. One of the easiest ways to do that is to minimize risk. Since you, as a job seeker, are a potential risk, the easiest way to minimize that risk is to NOT hire you.

In other words, a manager will not hire you until they feel SAFE with you. And, they cannot feel safe with you, unless they meet you face-to-face. In most cases, managers are not going to jeopardize their careers by hiring candidates with whom they don’t feel safe.

As human beings, we fear what we don’t know. I’m not saying it’s right or equitable or fair; it’s human nature!

When you approach potential employers as a stranger, their automatic fear response kicks in because they don’t know you, and they fear what they don’t know.

Here is some key job change advice: networking is not first and foremost about you, about your needs and priorities for a job. It’s first and foremost about a manager’s need to protect his/her career, to ensure that they can proceed with developing their career without looking over their shoulder. They want you to cover their back.

This is why the old adage, “People hire who they know” is so true…not because of nepotism, cronyism, or corruption (all exist of course but rarely operate in a hiring situation which is governed by law and common sense)…but because of human nature, the desire for a sure thing, the desire to first, protect, then promote our own careers.

In this context, my next article will explain why referrals are so highly regarded by managers, why it helps make a hiring decision easier.

George Dutch is the Founder and Chief Joy Officer at JobJoy. He has worked blue collar, white collar, private sector, public sector, and nonprofit. He has undertaken 3 major career transitions in his life, including two moves between continents with no prospect of a job, then landed lucrative positions. He knows of what he speaks because he's lived it. A certified career professional for the past 20 years, he has coached and consulted with thousands of individuals across North America and internationally. He can help you get ahead in both career and life with his proven services.

‘Tis the season to be jolly…and get a better job!

'Tis the season to be jolly

As a certified job change expert, I am an advocate of a two-pronged approach to Job Search: be passive online and pro-active offline. During this holiday season in Ottawa and elsewhere, here’s 4 job change advice tips to increase your chances of landing a good job, changing to a better job, or advancing your career with your current employer.

1. Go to office parties, professional association year-ends, social club celebrations, neighborhood gatherings. People are almost always in a good mood during this festive season, more open to conversation, more relaxed about sharing their professional goals and corporate challenges. Use this time to build rapport with people who have the power to hire you or network for referrals to people who can. Networking is not rocket science but it is a skill. You’ve already learned many skills in your life, learn this one too! It has a great Return on Investment of your time and energy.

2. Get into conversations that can be converted to job offers. Keep the business talk light but focused, or make a date to talk in more depth after the holidays. Listen for cues, e.g. planned expansions, new projects, progress blockers, and all the issues that generate work in an organization. New business goals and priorities always face challenges, problems, issues and pressures–discussions around priorities vs challenges is where you next job offer will formulate. Gather information, take a few minutes to record notes on your phone, or write them down on a card. Then take some time over the holidays to think about what you’ve heard. Many organizations are preparing to hire in the New Year. You probably won’t start your new job during the holiday season, but it’s quite possible to receive an offer early the next year.

3. Follow up in a few weeks time. Don’t mix business with pleasure. Use the social gatherings at the end of the year to build rapport, then follow up in a business-like manner early in the New Year. Use the info you gathered during the social events to formulated some talking points, ideas that address some of the opportunities and challenges you heard about. The seeds you plant at parties can pay off big time by the time the next hiring season rolls around in Spring2015. Use social media not to establish rapport but to maintain the rapport you developed face-to-face at the holiday get-togethers. Send a message to these contacts inviting them to coffee or lunch reminding them what you talked about during the holiday season or raising an issue that you think might be interesting to talk about.

4. Be prepared. Luck favors those who prepare ahead of time, so learn to interview now before you go to parties because informal chitchats at parties can quickly convert into (in) formal interviews. Hiring is driven by the needs and priorities of a manager. Learn how to tap into those needs and leverage them into a job offer. Just this week I heard from a client in Florida who’d been seeking a position as an IT Project Manager. He’d sent out 50+ resumes and had 8 interviews but no job offers when he hired me to give him interview coaching. We reviewed his interviews, and I could clearly see what he needed to improve in his interview performance. After one session of coaching, his next interview resulted in an excellent job offer with a major telecom firm!

George Dutch is the Founder and Chief Joy Officer at JobJoy. He has worked blue collar, white collar, private sector, public sector, and nonprofit. He has undertaken 3 major career transitions in his life, including two moves between continents with no prospect of a job, then landed lucrative positions. He knows of what he speaks because he's lived it. A certified career professional for the past 20 years, he has coached and consulted with thousands of individuals across North America and internationally. He can help you get ahead in both career and life with his proven services.

The Peter-Out Principle

Peter-out Principle

As we get older, it is harder and harder to do work we don’t enjoy. Why? Because our energy gets drained by such work…leaving us less and less energy for what we really want to do. This is the Peter Out principle, not to be confused with the infamous Peter Principle.

I have written elsewhere about that one, the notion that people get promoted on the job because of their natural flair for doing certain kinds of work until they reach a level of incompetence because that new job doesn’t require any of their natural talents or motivations. Or, to put it in more simple terms, people advance in their career until they stop having fun.

Many others, of course, never find that fun to begin with. They fall into a job, or take a job because they needed to support their kids, or because they don’t know what else to do. Work, for them, often becomes a grind, a duty, or an obligation to pay bills, cover the mortgage, or take care of family. It’s our bargain with the devil of job security that leads to dissatisfaction or worse:

“I’m stuck. I’m shackled in the golden handcuffs. I have good leave benefits and look forward to a half decent pension, but I do not enjoy the work that I am doing. I crave that creative side that seems to be missing from my life and yet I never seem to get around to. I find that there needs to be a buffer of time to get the ‘creative juices’ flowing- time I don’t seem to have after-work commitments and commuting. I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall….” This is a complaint I hear again and again from men and women in mid-career or middle age. It is experienced by huge numbers of people.

This is the Peter-Out Principle in action. The origin of the phrase peter out is thought to be associated with the name St. Peter, which in medieval France may have morphed into slang for the male sex appendage. So, to peter out means to fall off in power, to dwindle away to…nothing.

As far back as 1962, psychologist Abraham Maslow discovered that one of the best–if not the best–way to achieve personal power is through work. “All human beings prefer meaningful work to meaningless work. If work is meaningless, then life comes close to being meaningless.” In his hierarchy of needs, Maslow was simply pointing out what we all know to be true: that work is not just about making money, it’s also about making meaning.

Doing our work well requires some competency, confidence, or power. When our enthusiasm for work fizzles out, fades away, we might say we are petering out. When we work just for money, our desire for meaning, for vitality, for life ebbs away, tapers off, melts away–it peters out!

When considering this truth, I can’t help but think of Hazel McCallion, the mayor of Mississauga, Canada’s 9th largest city, who first won office at age 57 and just retired at age 93. If she worked only for money, she’d have retired a long time ago. No one could accuse her of petering out! She is one example of many who prove it is never too late to find work that energizes you.

As a job change expert, my goal is to help you do so by identifying, defining and mobilizing your Aptitudes, Attitudes, and Appropriate Actions.

George Dutch is the Founder and Chief Joy Officer at JobJoy. He has worked blue collar, white collar, private sector, public sector, and nonprofit. He has undertaken 3 major career transitions in his life, including two moves between continents with no prospect of a job, then landed lucrative positions. He knows of what he speaks because he's lived it. A certified career professional for the past 20 years, he has coached and consulted with thousands of individuals across North America and internationally. He can help you get ahead in both career and life with his proven services.

Managers Control Timing of Hiring: Get in Their Pipeline

People Pipeline for Managers

This is one of the key principles that I use when helping my clients find permanent positions. Every hiring manager has a pipeline that they fill with prospective employees because (1) they are always looking for good people, and (2) they know they must hire them at some point. It’s not a question of IF but when.

A year ago, one of my clients got laid off after 25+ years with the same employer, a large defense contractor. My client was devastated but keen to get a similar job ASAP. He did what most people do, and sent out dozens of resumes to online postings with no positive results. He got extremely discouraged, even angry. He’d never needed to look for a job before, and it was a very negative experience for him.

I’m not saying he or anybody else shouldn’t look online but the U.S. Department of Labor reports that only 5% of people in the workforce are hired by submitting resumes to online postings. Therefore, I suggested to my client that he spend only 10-20% of his time & energy looking for a job that way, and to be more pro-active in his job search by networking for referrals to find job opportunities, not job vacancies.

I have written elsewhere on the difference between a job vacancy and a job opportunity, and how to find them. The key here is I coached my client on how to reconnect with former clients and brief them on his new employment priorities and preferences and ask, “Do you know anyone I can talk to?” One such approach resulted in a referral from a contact in Halifax to a hiring manager at a naval engineering firm in Montreal.

My client arranged a coffee meeting during one of the manager’s routine visits to Ottawa last November. That manager indicated there may be some job opportunities opening up in the near future. My client came to count on this vague verbal hint at a job. He followed up by email and phone for several months and heard nothing back…and got very discouraged again.

I reminded him that getting another job was his top priority but the hiring manager had other pressing concerns, another crisis to deal with, another fire to put out. And, he may be waiting for the conclusion to a very large deal that could take more time to come to fruition than he or anybody expects.

I encouraged my client to maintain the rapport he established with that manager by sending him an update every 2 months. In the meantime, I suggested to my client that he keep looking for other opportunities. He was able to land a few short-term contracts.

Then out of the blue this week, that hiring manager called this week to offer him a permanent job starting next month almost to the day of their coffee meeting a year ago!
You can’t control the timing of a job opportunity. It will materialize according to the needs and priorities of the employer.

Your job as a job seeker is to get in the pipeline, maintain a relationship with the hiring manager, keep your skills current, and persist with your job search.
In this stagnant economy, persistence pays off!

George Dutch is the Founder and Chief Joy Officer at JobJoy. He has worked blue collar, white collar, private sector, public sector, and nonprofit. He has undertaken 3 major career transitions in his life, including two moves between continents with no prospect of a job, then landed lucrative positions. He knows of what he speaks because he's lived it. A certified career professional for the past 20 years, he has coached and consulted with thousands of individuals across North America and internationally. He can help you get ahead in both career and life with his proven services.