From Doormat to Driver’s Seat—Career Change in the New Economy

From Doormat to Driver's Seat

Entering the world of work is like walking through a door.  Previously, we could follow a simple formula—go to school, get good grades, go to college or university, get good grades, which gets you a good job, then live a good life.  We all knew which door to walk through.  This was the “grand narrative” or post-WWII social contract that characterized the working lives of people lucky enough to be born and raised in the Western world.

Not anymore.  The new millennium ushered in a new social arrangement of work, a post-industrial order, fuelled by information technologies, global economics, cultural diversity, and postmodern ideas.

Uncertainty.  That’s the new buzzword for the workplace of 2014 and beyond.  How we respond to these profound changes is crucial to our physical, mental, and social well-being.  In the words of William Arthur Ward “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

We can be doormats and let these new social realities walk all over us (or hope, unrealistically, they never show up at our door).

Instead of being passive, we can be pro-active and cross the threshold of despair or denial by putting ourselves into the driver’s seat to navigate successfully through obstacles.

The cradle-to-grave job security of the Industrial Age still exists but, paradoxically, only in the most non-industrialized sector—the public service at all levels of government, and that security will be challenged by demands for harmonization with less stable private sector working conditions.

For an increasing number of individuals, then, this new reality of work in the Information Age involves job prospects that are far less definable, predictable, or stable…especially for young adults who are finding it increasingly difficult to break into good jobs.

Unfortunately, this is increasingly true for mid-lifers too!  Midlife is a normal developmental life stage that occurs usually between 35-55 years of age.  I’m seeing a growing number of layoffs in this age group.  Take the newspaper industry as one example.  The chances of finding a similar job in the same sector for a senior journalist, editor, manager is very difficult–almost impossible– as online news sources replace the traditional business model of print ads supporting news.  The same goes for many other sectors of the economy that are facing significant changes due to de-industrialization, organizational mergers, downsizing, economic restructuring, and other factors.

While the wider world of work is changing as we speak, what has not changed is the importance of work in the lives of individuals, as a means for survival, power, self-worth, social connection, or self-determination.  The meaning and purpose of work for many of us as will be severely challenged in the next decade. 

Since we can’t count on that simple formula or grand narrative anymore for guiding our career decisions, we need to focus on our individual narratives or stories to help us navigate through this grave new world of work.  For the past 20 years, I have helped young adults find a career job and helped mid-lifers make effective career changes. I do it by constructing a new story for my clients, one that empowers them to see the road ahead and make decisions that put them in charge of their career.  How I do so is explained in this short video and at this link.

Understanding who and what you are in terms of work—not a narrowly-defined job description but the kind of work you are suited for and needs doing in the world—is needed to survive and thrive in today ’s uncertain labor market. Current labor-market realities are changing.  For example, there is a big shift in North America from a manufacturing to a service economy, whether we like it or not.  Having clarity about your career identity—who and what you are in terms of a work-based value proposition—gives you more ability and flexibility to adapt to the changing labor market.  Your story holds the key to your adaptability, your prospects of making a successful change when the time comes…and it will come!

Career transitions are now and will continue to be more frequent and, perhaps, more difficult here in North America.   Are you ready?

From Doormat to Driver's Seat

Hope Springs Eternal for Career Change

Hope Springs Eternal for Career Change

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

– Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

What do you hope for in 2014?

Empirical studies indicate that most episodes of hope involve achievement-related goals, e.g. success in some academic, artistic, athletic, career, relationship, and so on. “Hope is the passion for the possible.”

When it is allied with our highest aspirations and deepest values, it can give us a general orientation to life that motivates us to take actions…and propel us towards our desires.

Hope is grounded in desire

In the quote above, Pope refers to the desire to be blessed. Do you know someone with the first name, Hope? Ask them why their parents gave them that name.

One friend told me she was born prematurely at 1.5 lbs in a place and time where there were no medical facilities to treat her. Her mother and father put her in an incubator—where she stayed for 4 months—and prayed, then hoped for the best. They were elderly parents and Hope turned out to be their only child—a true blessing in their lives! She felt truly loved by her parents, deeply cared for, and relishes the time she had with them. She feels blessed as their child.

Caring about our future

Hope belongs to a constellation of feelings and attitudes related to caring about our future. On the positive side it is related to optimism, confidence, courage, faith, gratitude, and contrasts with fear, pessimism, resignation, despair. Usually, it is felt less intensely than fear, more like a sentiment that has a positive moral value.

One function of hope is to give goals far away from us their due importance. For example, making a career change usually takes time. Hope rouses feelings necessary to influence our conduct, to motivate us to take actions towards future goals. It helps us to overcome everyday difficulties by looking beyond them to a better future.

Hope motivates us to plan

Having made several career transitions myself, and helped hundreds of individuals make significant career changes during the past 20 years, I have learned that hope—as a general orientation towards achieving future goals—increases the effectiveness of career change tools and techniques, such as visioning, goal setting, planning, implementing, adapting actions, prospecting opportunities.

In the quote above, Pope uses the word expatiates, which means to speak or write at length or in detail. I guide my clients through a process of speaking and writing to uncover their hopes and desires.

I strive to help my clients develop clarity about their strengths, particularly their talents and motivations, in order to foster realistic hope. Clarity feeds confidence and increases self-understanding, both necessary for taking effective actions to realize goals. But hope provides the framework for action.

Hope is the well spring of desire and we deserve to be in a state of desire!

After all, if we have no hope for a better future, why take any actions?

I will leave you with some words of hope from the wise…may they nurture and sustain and help you persevere through the difficult times of the year ahead.

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all. (Dale Carnegie)

Hope is the companion of power, and mother of success; for who so hopes strongly has within him the gift of miracles. (Samuel Smiles)

Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” (Pope John XXIII)

3 Steps to a Grand Ol’Time at Work

Grand piano

1. Find out what specific jobs are a good fit for you, and which specific work settings offer such jobs.

You probably have some ideas already about what you want to be doing, what you’re good at, what you liked and didn’t like about previous jobs, and what you like or don’t like in the cultures of those organizations.

But these ideas need to be supported with evidence. That is the purpose of a career assessment—to provide you with proof and clarity about what really works for you. Proof builds the confidence that you need to take actions that will move you from where you are now into that better fit through efficient and effective job change.

2. The faster and cheaper you validate this career hypothesis, the sooner you will find the right fit and start earning more with it. You can validate through first-hand experience by trying something (including bite-sized projects), or second-hand by visiting people already working in similar jobs and asking them specific questions that will help you evaluate a fit for yourself:

• How did you get into your field? Is that still a good way?
• What are the major responsibilities of your position?
• What is a typical workday or week like for you?
• What do you like and dislike about your position?
• What are the critical skills and personal characteristics needed in this kind of work?
• What are some of the major problems or issues that someone in your position faces?
• What are the prospects for someone entering your field today?
• What are the career paths of this profession? With experience in this field where can a person move?

If you get into a discussion about your background, you can ask:-

• Given my background, what do you think I need to do to become competitive for a job in this field?
• Can you suggest anyone else I might talk to?

3. Focus on a target or goal and use proven, effective actions to reach it. Your work is a sizeable chunk of your human experience—you are likely to spend 80,000+ hours in jobs, so finding and securing work should be a “grand” adventure.

I use the word “grand” in every sense of the word. Your work should tap into your highest aspirations and deepest values with a rank and appearance that announces who you are to the world and what you will do for it.

But we shouldn’t take it so seriously that we lose sight of living…when we say we had a grand day, we are using the world informally to indicate we had an enjoyable day…so we should also have a grand ol’time with the work we do.

And, like a grand piano, or a couple grand in your pocket, our work should have weight, or gravitas, something that adds value to us personally and to those around us…our work should enrich the world!

Job Change Advice: Your Values and your Job don’t have to Conflict

Christine Ouellette

Christine Ouellette came to me because she wasn’t too clear on what she wanted to do and sought objective insight from someone else.

She was a vice-president of an international development consulting firm and really didn’t want to continue in that position because her responsibilities were changing and leaning towards business development, whereas her interest was more on the technical side.

Her passion was transferring skills, particularly around making transparent decisions grounded in democratic and participatory processes, to government and non-governmental organizations in developing countries. She specialized in good governance, poverty reduction and social responsibility. Christine was particularly concerned with the links between violence against women, human rights, and development and had carved a niche for herself as a specialist in gender equality and ending violence against women.

The first thing we did was an exercise identifying the most fulfilling experiences that she considered successful but wouldn’t necessarily be considered successful by other people.

By identifying her professional passions and innate strengths, she was able to refocus. She was in the right field, but by the time she met me, she had outgrown the organization where she was employed. She felt her employer was doing fabulous work in social development, but too much of her time was spent managing instead of doing. She was de-motivated by having to focus on the bottom line and managing priorities defined by others.

Christine needed work where she could set her own priorities in line with her values.

She had owned her own firm in the past, but it was freelancing, “an in-between thing” that she did between jobs.

She decided to restart her business and make it very focused. This time she was serious. She developed a mission statement, corporate image and concept for a web site and a brochure for the organization.

Now Christine works with associations that she chooses to work with – private sector, not-for- profit, and government organizations. She works exclusively on issues that she cares about. “It’s not about billing. It’s about values.”

Nowadays there is coherence between her values, her principles and the work she does. She’s making as much money as she did working in a formal setting and it’s much more gratifying and stimulating because she doesn’t have to reach financial goals set by someone else.

Since she’s been working for herself, Christine has been doing the types of projects she’s most interested in, both in Canada and overseas. For example, she developed a proposal with CARE Canada giving voice to marginalized people in South East Asia.

Christine made a heavy-duty commitment to her values. She understands the value of having a vision and sticking to it. She checks in with me once a month to help clarify that vision and come closer to the manifestation and obtainment of that vision.

She said she finds it valuable to have a third party objective point of view of her decisions. I’m not her husband, I’m not a coworker, I’m a third-party objective observer.

Christine needed to have a clearly defined vision to enable her to take actions that moved her closer to that obtainment. Ironically, this clarity made her more attractive to employers. Her vision and values harmonize so well with CARE Canada that they recently offered her a position as a specialist in Governance and Capacity Building.

After 2.5 years as country director in Cameroon for CARE, last summer she took on a new challenge as senor advisor gender equality, seconded by CIDA to the Pakistan Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority. Now, she’s recently returned to Canada to take on the role of VP-Porgrams at the Canadian Hunger Foundation to foster food security for the world’s poorest communities.

Her vision manifests love – something that she wanted to see in the world so much that she was willing to take action to see it happen. It was easy to take action after she confronted her fears.

“Oh, what a feeling…what a career change rush!”

What a feeling, what a career change

Everyone’s heard a story about some successful businessperson who dumped a 20-year career to pursue something completely different and is happier for it.

The famous Impressionist painter, Paul Gauguin, for example, ditched a lucrative banking career and bourgeois life in Paris to paint full-time in the Polynesian islands.

Most people who want to make a midlife career change never take such drastic action because they fear change and don’t want to make sacrifices—at least that’s the common job change advice. I suggest this is incorrect.

I’m sure Gauguin feared change and didn’t want to make sacrifices but did so anyway. What motivated him to do so, and why do so many people who feel stuck in a career, unable to take action to get unstuck?

Like most people, Gauguin got an education that led to a particular career path. His vocation was fixed but some years later he decided he wasn’t a banker anymore. Like others, he probably said to himself, “If I don’t make a move now, I never will, and I’ll live to regret it.” But the truth is Gauguin didn’t know how to make a career change.

A successful transition requires effective actions

Gauguin’s first action was not to jump on a boat and sail to the South Pacific. He didn’t start with an “aha!” experience then go out and try to find it. No, he spent years painting.

He learned to paint, hung out with other artists, and explored the art world, learning not only his craft but the business of art. Transition is a process based on actions. As a job change expert, I know that the motivation underlaying those actions is the key to a successful transition.

Gauguin knew what he wanted to do—paint. But that’s not enough for change. Many people figure out what they want to do but nothing comes of it. Why?

Gauguin remolded his deepest values and highest aspirations. Instead of producing wealth, he decided it was more important for him to produce beauty, his deepest value. In order to produce beauty, he decided to paint full-time, his deepest aspiration.

Changing careers means redefining our working identity—who and what we are in terms of our right work, what we communicate about ourselves to others and, ultimately, how we live our working lives.

Who we are and what we do—our BEING and our DOING–are closely connected, the result of years of certain actions. And to change that connection, we must first resort to other actions that align with our deepest values and highest aspirations. This is the source of motivation for a midlife change.

As a painter, Gauguin didn’t make much money but loved his new life. The feeling—the intrinsic reward, the emotional value–that he gained from painting aligned with his deepest values and highest aspirations, a feeling he couldn’t get from banking.

A picture of a future that feels better

In other words, change occurs when we have a picture of a better alternative to our current identity, one that feels better. My clients who have made successful changes know this feeling well.

That is the purpose of my JobJoy Report — to give you a picture of a new working identity, one that aligns with your BEING. It will help you visualize a specific outcome, something different than the one you are now stuck in.

My JobJoy Report will start you moving in a new direction because you will be motivated to make a change, by DOING new things that feel better.

Once you experience those positive feelings, by taking different actions, you will make a successful career change and live a better story. Oh, what a feeling…what a rush!

How Click Moments lead to Successful Career Changes

Click moments for job change

New services and products are being created daily. They seem to come out of nowhere and rocket to almost instant popularity, like Pinterest. Ben Silbermann and Evan Sharp met for a beer in 2009 and discovered they both loved collecting. Click.

Talking further they thought, “Why not develop a way to digitally display your collections?” Click. That interest grew into a shared passion to create a service that looked obvious — after it was created. Despite a lack of programming expertise, they managed to pull in others to create one of the web’s fastest growing social networks.

When you honour your passions and interests, things you really enjoy doing and do well, you are more likely to have click moments, enabling you to pivot more than once into new, more successful directions, no matter how unique or unusual your interest.

Looking back, haven’t there been unexpected time in your life where you met someone or heard an idea that positively changed the course of your life? Light bulb goes off…click! That is a click moment.

While we are so willing to accept randomness in falling in love, the unexpected way it happens, we resist believing that unexpected factors can help us define and develop a career. Planning has its place but many successful entrepreneurs have pointed out that the most important goal of a business plan is to show that a team is moving in some coordinated fashion toward a goal but the plan itself will be outdated within the month.

Same thing with careers. We plan but it is often serendipitous moments that send us down a particular path. On the one hand we want control over events that determine our careers, but on the other we are steered in certain directions when unexpected things happen.

In my JobJoy For Life home study program, I help my clients prepare and plan for such click moments. We create a Vision chart that structures creative tension between our current reality and what we really want for our careers and lives. Then we plan certain actions that will move us closer to our goal.

What is always amazing to me is how serendipity shows up between those planned actions. It’s almost like the universe has its own plans for each of us. It’s important is to recognize those click moments and nurture them into real opportunities. This makes life more of an adventure than a grind.

Consequently staying open to serendipitous events increases the chances you’ll meet the right people and learn the apt information, to stay relevant and, better yet, keep opening adventuresome chapters to the life you are truly meant to live with others. My JobJoy For Life program helps my clients turn click moments into successful career changes.

Like Silbermann and Sharp, who continued with their regular jobs, they took actions that moved them towards their vision for Pinterest, a vision now realized, a new career for each!

This is not magic. It is a process of creativity and available to anyone. We can all create what really matters to us and new opportunities to change jobs, earn more, and live a better story!

Choosing a values-rich career

Natalie Zend

When I first met her in 2005, Natalie Zend was on sick leave due to severe back pain and had some big decisions to make. She had a permanent position as a Senior Policy Analyst in the Children’s Rights and Protection Unit at a federal agency. She was weighing the pros and cons of a career change.

She was considering several options: promotion within the agency; or, a field posting; or an exchange with an NGO, university or international organization abroad; or, work as an independent consultant. In her early thirties, she wanted more work-life balance, a better integration between her personal and professional interests. And, she wanted more clarity about what would be the best choice over the long term.

She wrote detailed stories about times in her life when she was doing what she enjoyed most. Also, I provided her with a set of questions to help her reflect on her deepest values and highest aspirations. She was at a significant career crossroads. Ultimately, she would have to choose between being practical, realistic and staying the course of stability; or, determining what she valued most and seek a career that honoured those values.

As she wrestled with the implications of her JobJoy Report and the choices confronting her, she realized with increasing conviction that she wanted more direct contact with others and more meaningful open dialogue. She formulated a vision statement based on her deepest values. “My vision for my work in the world is to foster personal and social transformation for a life-sustaining society, by supporting social justice and environmental change agents in their work.”

Wrestling with transition fears

In the summer of 2006, Natalie took a one year unpaid leave from her job. She wanted to travel, as she had the agency, and to continue to help others through her work, but also have more time to pursue her goals in accordance with her values. “I wanted to centre myself and determine what I wanted with one-on-one support and guidance. I wanted to make my next move based on a sense of direction and priorities.”

Natalie said she “spent many months during her sabbatical looking at her fears of leaving her job: ending up on the streets, penniless, without respect or professional identity.” It takes courage to confront our fears and to take responsibility for what we really want. Natalie realized that returning to her job would have been “out of fear of doing something different.”

This is a fear of negative consequences. As individuals, we spend a lot of time and energy trying to avoid the negative consequences of decisions. But, truthfully, we cannot read the future; we don’t know what will happen. Without that certainty of what will happen, many of us “choose the devil we know, rather than what we don’t know.”

Fear to change is natural and normal. To get out of a reactive mode of living, we need, I suggest, to move into a creative mode of thinking, by focusing on what it is we really want to create for our lives.

Based on her JobJoy Report, Natalie had a clear picture of who and what she is in terms of her right work, and how she operates naturally and effortlessly when she is doing what she enjoys most. But she needed time and space to think about how the what connects to the why. Why do I want to do that, i.e. change my life to align with my motivational pattern?

Organizing principle for successful change

Answers to the WHY questions of life give us the organizing principles for the WHAT we do. Once we have the WHY questions answered (at least in part) then it’s a question of figuring out HOW to manifest our values and priorities–what really matters to us–how do I make a living? How do I decide what to do with my time and energy? How do I increase my chances of being successful at what I want to do? That is the challenge of every adult, and that was exactly the challenge Natalie faced with courage and conviction.

She “longed for freedom, authenticity, and growth in the direction of greater connection to spirit, self and others.” She felt exhilarated and inspired that the needs she had met through her work at the agency could be met through other means and strategies. At the conclusion of her sabbatical, Natalie was at a decision point: return to the safety and security of a full-time government position; or, go out on her own. In one giant leap of faith, Natalie determined to follow her spirit and disavow the “safe and reasonable” judgment born from her upbringing.

“George helped me see the gift in what has been a lifelong source of anxiety and insecurity for me—my tendency to try to live up to what I perceive as others’ expectations of me. He helped me understand that my natural talents—rather than the job market, perceived societal or family expectations—could be a primary basis for choosing or creating my work. “

Taking effective actions to make change real

Natalie gave notice to her employer, and packaged her skills and vision as an independent consultant, specializing in training, facilitation, analysis and children’s rights. She would build on the relationships and experience she had accumulated working 10 years in international development and refugee policy and programming, primarily in children’s rights, human rights approaches to development, conflict resolution, peace building and gender equality.

“George helped me recognize that I am a ‘visionary’ who instills people with enthusiasm and that I thrive in situations where I can act as a coach, trainer, facilitator or coordinator. I eventually saw that playing those roles as an internal or external consultant—a third-party neutral—could be a valid and effective way to exercise leadership for positive social change.”

In order to attain her highest aspirations, Natalie decided to build on her BA in History and her Master’s in International Affairs with further education. In 2010, she was designated a CTDP (Certified Training and Development Professional) and received a Certificate in Adult Training and Development. The certifications, Natalie says, “increased my credibility and competence and have enabled me to increase my skillfulness, presence, confidence and personal impact.”

Much of her consulting work has focused on helping organizations in Canada and around the world to design, implement and report on rights-and-results-based programs that more effectively implement positive change for children. She has also supported diverse stakeholders in an organization or project to reach shared understanding and commitment through events that offer an unprecedented space for mutual learning and dialogue.

Finally, she helps leaders who are overwhelmed with the state of our world to connect to a greater sense of hope and contribution through workshops drawing on deep ecology, systems theory, and other transformational tools.
Natalie has also continued her personal growth through education, travel and daily practice. She has studied and practiced facilitation, monitoring and evaluation, leadership and communication. She is fulfilling her goal for a more balanced life with greater connection to self, spirit and others.

She also has studied and applied a variety of group methodologies: The Work that Reconnects, Awakening the Dreamer, Open Space Technology, NonViolent Communication, Appreciative Inquiry, Participatory Learning and Action, and Process Work, as well as practiced and facilitated improvisational voice and movement and mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness and spiritual practice have led Natalie to retreats in France with Thich Nhat Hanh and to India where she studied with the Dalai Lama.

“George helped me realize I could contribute to life and make a living through a career path that is a unique expression of my calling and talents. He helped me to recognize, accept and build on my natural gifts and inclinations rather than trying to be someone else.Becoming a consultant has given me the time and flexibility to integrate spiritual practice into my daily routine, and to do spiritual community support and leadership work that does not always pay. In my paid work, I have been able to share my values and practices openly and authentically with colleagues and partners. Embodying my values in my work is very important to me. My primarily goal in work is to contribute to life and well-being of people and the planet.”

Contact Natalie at andizend@yahoo.ca or 647-300-6102 for more information about her work and workshops.

Forever Young Through Work that Energizes You!

Fountain of Youth

Ray Crist retired at age 104. He was a scientist who worked in a lab. At age
82, he started researching how plants might remove toxic poisons from polluted
soil, such as mine tailing’s. He didn’t do it for money—he donated his dollar a
day salary to charity—but for love. He loved doing science! Why retire from
something you love doing, something that harmonizes with your deepest values and highest aspirations?

Individuals who experience deep job satisfaction live longer. In fact, work
satisfaction is the #1 determinant of longevity, more than genes, diet, or
exercise, according to one study[i].

Consider all the successful people who continue to create long after retirement
age when they clearly don’t need the money. Paul and Mick, both 70 now, still
rock. Octogenarian Clint Eastwood still directs movies, Willie Nelson still
tours, and Betty White & Cloris Leachman still make us laugh. Their vitality is
admirable and enviable!

According to the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5.4% of Americans aged 75+
still work, most of them for pleasure not money, as illustrated in a recent
LA Times article. Studies show that staying intellectually challenged,
either through paid work or some other pursuit, improves a person’s quality of
life in his or her later years. In fact, when people are “engaged” in their
work, at any age, they visibly demonstrate competency, vitality and high
performance.

When your work energizes you, instead of drains you, why would you stop doing
it…especially as you age? When work harmonizes with our authentic self, then we
are “creating” something worthwhile—not necessarily art or
entertainment–something “good” in the world that is rewarded, whether it is a
scientific discovery or excellent customer service.

We are meant for this creating, and the reward is a by-product that is clearly
visible in the vitality of these engaged older workers. It is a joy to behold
such a person, and it is a joy to be such a person whose being matches their
doing—they are full of life, vitality, joy, energy!

age_progression1_opt

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young. (Lyrics by Bob Dylan)

ageprogression2_opt

Of course, as we get older, our physical powers slowly or quickly waste away.
We lose physical strength, or eyesight, or hearing, or whatever, but we lose
such things whether we are wasting away in front of the television as a couch
potato or engaged in some worthwhile work that energizes us and keeps us
connected to others.

My goal is to help others find or create the kind of work that will last a
lifetime, work that engages and energizes. As Ray Crist and the others
demonstrate, if you are interested in your work, really energized by what you do
day in and day out, life is interesting. If you don’t have work that engages
you, life is boring as hell.

Most people either settle for or seek the extrinsic reward of making enough
money to survive and save for a pension…to stop doing what they don’t truly
enjoy..and live with the consequences, both good and bad. But, it is possible
to have a different kind of life, one with work that engages and energizes for a
lifetime, one that stimulates you to be a truly interesting person with a song
always sung.

The real fountain of youth is not found in plastic surgery, or magic pills or
superannuated pensions or supernatural formulas. It is found within your
“creating” self, in which each new day offers an opportunity to express your
authentic self and give it through work to others for intrinsic rewards.

[i] Brown, Mark G. (1996). Keeping Score: Using the Right Metrics to Drive
World-Class Performance
. New York: Quality Resources.

Getting to first base with a hiring manager means getting them to feel “safe” with you

I provide recent MBA grads with job search advice. Many of them are keen to leverage their degree into a related job or advance their career. For example, Chandra is trying to leverage her MBA-Human Resources concentration into an HR Specialist role.

She recently applied for such a job with her current employer but it was given instead to another employee with no HR education who had filled that role temporarily. The HR Manager asked Chandra to take the internal Recruiter role left vacant by that employee.

Naturally, Chandra was a bit miffed at being passed over for someone who had not invested their own time, energy and money in higher education. Feeling unappreciated by her employer, she redoubled her online search to find a job elsewhere, only to run into a brick wall—-she has not received any callbacks for interviews.

Like so many others, Chandra feels she has done everything right by being a good employee adding value to her employer, taking the initiative to go back to school to upgrade her skills, and now deserves her just reward–a better job in line with her degree. And, when you look at it from her point of view…she’s right!

I understand her frustration but I asked her to look at the hiring process from the HR Manager’s point of view. He was simply doing the most natural thing in the world!

Getting that job was important to Chandra, but I pointed out that she is not the most important person in the hiring process because she doesn’t get to hire herself; that task is still in the hands of the HR Manager. And his priority, naturally, is to protect and promote his own career first and foremost.

Chandra admits that she had never met that manager prior to applying for the position of HR Specialist—that’s a major reason she didn’t get the job! He doesn’t know her, and he’s not going to risk his career on hiring someone that could jeopardize it. Instead, he hired someone that had worked for him for several years, and someone who had performed that role temporarily without “relevant” education.

It is “safer” for him to hire someone he knows as reliable, dependable, and competent, over Chandra, who is “qualified” but unknown to him; in short, she is too much of a risk for him. What if she has a personality flaw and can’t get along with him and they end up in a dispute, or litigation? Not to mention the many other possibilities that could lead to some kind of workplace conflict that could jeopardize his career. I’ve written about this in more detail in another post, but suffice to say here that few managers will take that kind of risk if they don’t have to.

By offering Chandra a lower level position as an internal Recruiter in his department, he is saying in effect, “Thank you for applying for this position. I like what I see so far. But I really don’t know you well enough at this point to take such a big risk with my career. Please accept this other position so that I can get to know you better. Once I feel safe with you, I will feel confident about promoting you into an HR Specialist role.”

I recommend that she take the internal recruiter position, and use it as an opportunity to deepen rapport with her HR Manager. This makes his job easier when it comes to hiring in the future.

If she wants to prospect externally for opportunities, I suggest that she focus on a pro-active job search strategy, by identifying preferred employers, getting the names of HR directors, using her contacts to get face-to-face with them to establish the same kind of rapport that is a pre-requisite of any hiring situation (except desperate ones!) . I have outlined this process in my free webinar ‘Secrets to a Successful Job Search.’

Your job, as a job seeker, is to reduce that risk for a hiring manager, by giving them a chance to get to know you. The purpose of these meetings is not to get a job but to build rapport with a manager so that they feel “safe” with you.

Talking Your Way Into a Job

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Jerry (due to the security nature of his job we are not using his real name) came to my office a victim of the high tech bubble burst in 2003 with an interesting problem. He was a middle manager in his middle 40s and didn’t know how to look for a job. He really never had to look for a job in the past. He had a good reputation and as long as things were going well with high tech start-ups, employers were coming to him.

However, things were no longer going well. He had spent most of his career in aerospace and telecom research and development. By time he came to me, he had spent most of his summer sending out resumes without success.

What Jerry needed from me was coaching on how to target companies and tell his story in a compelling manner–concepts that he’d had no reason to think about very much in the past. He also had to learn where he best fit and what kinds of jobs to avoid. He was quite willing to do all three.

The first thing we did was work on “the fit.” The opportunity of “making a killing” was the main draw to his previous jobs. In retrospect, he realizes they were not good situations because he didn’t ask enough questions. He even described his last job as a “toxic work environment.”

What he really needed was an opportunity to use broad organizational and leadership skills to manage technical projects with some high risks and exciting challenges. He also wanted to work with a “reasonably-sized group,” which he defined as “over 10 people.”

Our next step was to have Jerry increase his networking skills so he could make contacts to find his hidden opportunities–positions he would fit that might not even exist. He did this by creating a spreadsheet of 20 target companies, who the principal players were at each company, if he knew any of them and how to contact someone if he didn’t know somebody at the company.

Next he called each company and wrote into the spreadsheet what they talked about, when to check back and how he had left off the conversation.

Then he would meet with me every two to three weeks and go through what he did. If he was called for an interview, we would go through typical questions and the methodology of answering those questions the day before the interview. We also went through a debriefing during our next meeting after each interview.

Most people go into an interview with the assumption the employers know what they’re doing. Employers are just human beings, too, and they’re subject to all kinds of flaws and weaknesses.

So instead of just answering questions, Jerry had to learn to tell “his story” in a compelling way. People think that when they are being interviewed, they are being interviewed for a job vacancy. If they can communicate their value–Here’s what I bring to the table; here’s what I bring to the company–more than a third of the time, the employer will create a job for them.

It certainly worked for Jerry. After two interviews at major defense contractor for a posted vacancy, the senior managers created another job, one that is a perfect fit for him. He’s in charge of the research for designing most of the surveillance equipment used to protect Canada.

Jerry got the job because he had a coach that helped him stay focused on what he really wanted and then Jerry did the work.