‘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!

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!

How to Holiday Party Your Way into a Career Job!

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Mark Buzan came to me at age 22 and about to receive his political science
degree and wanted to work on Parliament Hill.

He wasn’t really clear about what he wanted to do. “It was pretty scary,” he
told me. The only thing he knew for sure was that he wanted to do something in
politics or journalism.

During our first conversation it became apparent that he wanted to work for a
Member of Parliament (MP), but he had no idea on how to get a job, on Parliament
Hill.

As far as he was concerned, thousands of people graduate with a degree in
political science every year and they all want a job on Parliament Hill and the
ones who get them are people who are very active in politics, or who’s families
have political connections. So what chance did he have?

But he had a problem that was bigger than no political connections. He sort of
knew what he wanted, but he didn’t have a target. If you want to hit the bull’s
eye you have to have a target. You can shoot an arrow, but it isn’t going to hit
the bull’s eye unless you have a target.

So we had a very important target to find. I did an assessment of his talents
and determined that the best job fit for him was as an executive assistant.
Then, we set about taking action to hit the target. And, it worked.

He came to me in November and by the end of January he had a job offer as a aide
to an MP.

Our plan to hit the bull’s eye began with some big parties. All the political
parties in Canada have Christmas parties on Parliament Hill. And they’re open to
the public. So I told him to go to the Christmas parties of the political
parties in which he was interested and mix with them. At a party, people are
more relaxed, more likely to interact on a social level, and more likely to be
open to hearing your story.

At one of the parties he met the senior member of the staff of Jason Kenney and
eventually got a job as an executive assistant in that office.

But obviously there’s more to getting the right job than just going to parties.
So our plan was very specific.

Mark had some special training in tax policy and tax law and had some ideas on
changing tax laws. First I told him to find out which MPs had the tax reform
portfolios for their parties. Then we put together a letter summarizing Mark’s
research and ideas about tax reform and sent it to those MPs requesting a
meeting. Then I provided him with a script of what to say to get into those
offices for a meeting.

Mark spent about 20 minutes with each MP and talked to about 6. He then
debriefed me on all his meetings.

One of those MPs set up a meeting with his legislative assistant–his right-hand
person–which turned out to be one of the people Mark had schmoozed with at the
Christmas party, so they already had a rapport. Mark had several more meetings
with that legislative assistant, eventually leading to a job offer.

Mark loved what he was doing, but after a while decided that he needed more
challenges. He wanted to become a lobbyist.

We put together a portfolio and then he created his own company called Action
Strategies. He received a couple of small assignments and built up a track
record. Then at 29, he got hired as lobbyist. His official title was Public
Affairs Coordinator for the Canadian Hydropower Association. Several other
positions followed and, today, Mark is an Executive Director of a national
organization for health care professionals.

All of that was very deliberate and intentional. It wasn’t luck. It was
intentional, having a clearly defined target, a vision of what he wanted, then
taking specific actions to move him closer to his vision until—bingo! He hit the
target.

Sometimes you have to take some risks to get what you want. Some people wouldn’t go to a Christmas party uninvited. You have to do unconventional things to get noticed. Not all of the time. But it increases your chances of getting hired.

How to Network into a Job during the Festive Season

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An MBA client told me this past week that she has sent out 200 resumes since August and received no callbacks for interviews. Believe it or not…this is a normal result in this kind of job market!

If she had done the same thing 20, or 15, or even 10 years ago, she would’ve received a good number of calls from internal and external recruiters because the economy was still hot and expanding, and there was strong demand from employers for skilled labor. Not anymore, not now, unless you’re in one of the few hot job categories.

Instead, this MBA client, as well as most other individuals, need to move from a passive job search to a pro-active job search. Some 80 percent of jobs are now found through networking. I explain this pro-active job search in detail in my free webinar ‘Secrets to a Successful Job Search.’

The principles outlined in my webinar are especially effective during the holiday season. Why? Because this is the time of year when goodwill towards all men and women is real, doors are open, and people want to chat. The timing for meaningful contacts related to job search and career advancement couldn’t be better.

Hiring managers and decision-makers attend office parties, social events and community celebrations. They take their hiring needs with them wherever they go. Problems, challenges, impact issues, pressure points continue to get in the way of managers leading their organizations to successful goals and objectives. They are always scouting for new talent, for people who can make their lives easier, and help them succeed.

Remember, this is the season for giving. So give people will give you time and attention. Listen to their stories. Politely ask questions that probe their concerns. Find out where you can help.

If you can, offer to help. People will appreciate and remember your generous offers to assist and support. This is how you build rapport, deepen relationships, foster trust—and generate job offers!

Productive networking is about building relationships not performing transactions. Leave a positive impression, strengthen ties, share ideas, give people a reason to remember you. Face time is quality time. Stay focused, be alert and don’t overindulge in food or beverages. Conduct yourself professionally at all times. Dress conservatively (unless the job sector rewards non-conformity!).

The ROI is simple–just one meaningful dialogue can create measurable value from every networking event.

* Avoid situations where you might be stressed, rushed or distracted from your networking mission.
* Seek out meaningful conversations that leave a strongly positive impression.
* Be ready to pick up insider-only knowledge.
* Try connecting those you know to each other.

I spoke recently with a client who received a generous job offer from a contact he had worked with on a committee related to a local branch of their professional association. He gave generously of his time and energy over the past two years, and his efforts did not escape notice by this hiring manager.

These holiday encounters could be your big break to chat with current or former employees at your target companies; exchange business cards with an industry leader; or, arrange a future meeting with someone difficult to reach. Brief interactions can be springboards to great relationships if you find ways to provide support and thereby sustain the connection.

If you want to optimize your networking efficiency, be prepared:

- Have specific job targets in mind
- Be ready to make clear, compelling points to attract attention.
- Have a set of probing questions that uncover job opportunities.
- Think about what you can give in terms of time and energy
- Listen actively so you are apt to pick up on a need you can address and keep up your end of the discussion.

In addition, have a ready supply of business cards that have your contact information as well as a few bullet points on the reverse depicting your interests, areas of expertise, or other memorable data. Make your card easy to read, and make sure your phone number is large. Ask others for their cards, and make a few notes on the back to remind you why the card may be important.

Remember, it’s the quality not the quantity of relationships developed, pursued or renewed. It’s not just what you know and who you know, but who knows what you know that produces new opportunities in today’s job market.

Happy holidays, happy giving and happy networking!

Five Critical Ingredients For Successful Job Change

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Current social and economic trends are forcing an increasing number of workers into job changes.

Many professional jobs, for example, that involve tasks that can be routinized or automated–including IT as well as accounting, even law–are being outsourced to firms in Asia, especially India and China, but also Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines. In North America, the number one workplace disability is depression and related mental/mood disorders, which forces many workers to voluntary seek a job change to protect their well-being.

Job change is the new workplace reality. Whether its voluntary or involuntary, most of us will have to learn to make effective job changes quickly in order to protect and promote our careers.

I’ve noticed in my own field of career management, I am increasingly learning new online technologies to increase my ability to provide high concept, high touch services to my clients. Providing personalized, customized reports on job matches for my clients is not something that can be easily routinized or automated.

Recent careers research, based on results employing 7725 participants and 62 career intervention studies (Brown, Ryan & Krane 2000), concluded that FIVE CRITICAL TREATMENT INGREDIENTS improve the effectiveness of career choice outcomes and decision-making.

1. Workbooks and written exercises. A JobJoy client usually writes out 8 stories about times in their life when they are doing what they enjoy most and do well, preferably stories about events/activities outside of work! This short 3 min video explains how, as does this short blog entry.

2. Individualized interpretations and feedback. Individualized feedback on test results, goals, future plans, etc. regardless of intervention format. I provide my clients with a personalized, customized JobJoy Report, a complete, accurate and reliable picture of their motivational pattern.

3. World of work information. My JobJoy Report matches a client’s motivational pattern to specific jobs in specific work settings. They are also given a strategy to move from where they are now into a better jobfit. I also use written materials that require clients to do their due diligence on job change, to write their goals, future plans, occupational analyses, etc.

4. Modeling. I insist that anyone can make a successful job change and earn more with better work-life balance. Yes, a job change is challenging…that is why I put a lot of emphasis on helping my clients conenct to other clients who have made successful job changes.

5. Attention to building support. This e-jobjoy newsletter is just one way that I provide ongoing support to clients but I try to help each client develop activities that will build support for their career choices or plans.

I use these five critical ingredients because they are proven tools and techniques for successful job change. Clients deserve not just any ol’ tool but proven effective tools. I take my responsibility, seriously, to facilitate proven methods that will match their strengths and motivations to specific jobs, in order to help them earn more and live a better story.

Job Search: “It’s Not About Me!”

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The fall hiring season is upon us, and I’m spending a good deal of time each day coaching clients on a few basic principles to increase their chances of getting hired sooner rather than later.

As a job searcher, it is essential to understand the nature of your relationship with a hiring manager, whether you are meeting him or her in a formal job interview or speaking to them informally in their office, at a conference, at a networking event, or any other venue.

1. The most important person in the hiring process

Unless you start your own business and hire yourself, you will always be dependent on someone else to hire you. That person is the most important person in the hiring process. We call that person a “hiring manager,” not because they spend all their time hiring—far from it!—but because they have the power to hire you. The person you report to in any organization is your hiring manager.

2. Hiring managers are human beings too

When you go looking for a job, you are preoccupied, naturally and rightfully, with your own needs and priorities– you want a solid ROI on all that education and experience you’ve already invested in your career. You want a job that is fun, or lucrative, or easy, or challenging, or close to home, or any combination thereof.

In the same way, a hiring manager is interested, first and foremost, in protecting and promoting their own career. And, s/he is not going to make a decision or take an action that might jeopardize their career. Remember, too, that in many cases, managers are not trained to hire (they are trained to manage plans, priorities, programs, projects, budgets, schedules, and so on), or they don’t enjoy hiring, or they are not very good at it. As human beings, they are looking for an easier way to do things, including hiring.

3. Hiring is a risk assessment exercise

Put yourself in their shoes: they don’t know you. It is human nature to fear what we don’t know. To increase your chances of getting hired, it is important to understand the hiring process from their pov. And, from their pov, the hiring process is a risk assessment exercise.

There is a lot of truth to the old cliche that ‘people hire who they know.’ Managers know that nobody is perfect; everyone has shortcomings, weaknesses, faults, biases, and prejudices–-things that pose a potential threat to the safety of his or her career. Everyone has a downside. It is easier to hire somebody you know because it is easier to assess their downside : “I know Bob, Janet and Ricardo, each has strengths and weaknesses, but when I look at their shortcomings, can I still manage them? Are they a threat to my career?”

Think about formal interviews, and how many questions are designed to uncover weaknesses and shortcomings: What is your greatest weakness? Describe a situation in which you were unsuccessful achieving a goal, and how did you respond? How would you rate your ability to resolve conflict on a scale of 1 to 10, from low to high, then give me an example?

Sure, managers want employees who are competent in terms of knowledge and skills but those employees aren’t much good to them unless they can manage them easily. Above all, a hiring decision for a manager is about feeling “safe” with them, safe in terms of protecting and promoting their own career as a manager.

4. “Why should I hire you?”

Every job search campaign is a response to this simple question. It’s one that may be simple to ask, but it’s difficult to answer, especially when you focus your answer on the “you” part of the question. Your first inclination is to start your sales pitch, to convince a manager that you are a good choice. You want to highlight your features and benefits, such as “I’m reliable, dependable and hard-working.”

But, the truth is, you will do better in any interview when your focus on this question is on the “why” not the “you.”

5. Tapping into pain points

I realize that this approach is counter-intuitive. In fact, I ask my clients to write down the phrase, “It’s not about me!”…to remind them of this fundamental principle, since our inclination is almost always to focus on our needs and priorities first; or, our lack of experience, education, or credentials; or, our accomplishments. These things may be relevant to a successful job search but they should not the primary element of your job search strategy.

Let’s step back for a moment and consider the priorities of a hiring manager again. Managers are not focused on you when they are thinking of hiring. They are thinking about their needs and priorities. Managers are responsible for achieving the goals and objectives of their organizations…that’s why they get paid big bucks, have fancy job titles, and get perks. However, it is not easy to attain those goals. If it was easy, they could do all the work themselves and wouldn’t need employees!

But the nature of reality is adversity : things get in the way of corporate goals and objectives, such as problems, challenges, issues and pressures. To a sales professional, these “things” are known as “pain points.”

In sales, it is important to understand the goals of your prospects and their pain points in order to determine how your product or service can make their pain go away and reach their goals. The only difference between sales and job search is that you are the product or service for pain relief!

This is the agenda behind every hiring decision, i.e. the manager is looking for help around specific pain points. Your job in a formal or informal interview is to uncover that agenda. Once you are in the door, it is important to get a hiring manager talking. Listen for clues to their pain points. Respond not with the features of your value proposition (i.e. your education, experience, personal traits) but with benefits (i.e. how you can help them with their pain points).

Obviously, we cannot cover here every possible scenario. I am outlining a strategic approach. The implementation of this strategy is up to you. That is why I strongly suggest that job searchers get professional help. There is a lot at stake in terms of your career. You want to optimize your time and energy.

Summary

Establish rapport with a manager by focusing on their needs and priorities. What is their agenda? What challenges, issues, problems, pressure points are driving this hiring decision? Flush out concerns. Find out what red flags the employer may have about hiring somebody they don’t know. Listen carefully for “sensitive” questions.

Many times informal interactions with a hiring manager can turn into formal interviews because a manager has a genuine need to hire. They warm up to you as the person asking the questions, and they want to make the most out of their time with you.

The truth is this : there are always jobs and managers are always hiring. Be prepared!

Lesson from Las Vegas

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I just got back from Sin City, the one that never sleeps, where all vices are on display and easily procured!

Las Vegas is an oasis in the desert built years ago by the Mob. That’s quite a story in itself (with its own museum and a whole show at one of the casinos on The Strip).

If you’ve been to Vegas, then you know that every major casino/hotel/resort is constructed around some kind of myth or story. The Mirage takes you into the jungle; the Excalibur into medieval England; the Luxor into ancient Egypt; Caesar’s Place into ancient Rome; the Venetian into romantic Italy; Planet Hollywood…well, that’s obvious.

Walking the Strip reminded me how much we are immersed in story 24/7 wherever we are whether we know it or not. Story is the universal glue that holds civilizations together.

I managed to see a show and pull a few slots, but I was there primarily to make several presentations to other career professionals at the annual conference of the Career Management Alliance.

I was delighted to participate in the Storytelling track at the conference. During the opening panel of this track, we were asked : Why does storytelling deserve this much attention for the careers of our clients?

I thought I’d share with you some of the more compelling answers because just one piece of information can sometimes help to solve the puzzle we call life!

Our personal story is a bit like traveling our road to work each day—we stop noticing the details. We are so enmeshed in our life pattern, that we don’t realize that we construct a thread to our life story with each passing day. We are narrative in action. Our story is our identity and our destiny. I focused on the importance of story in assessment : determining where to work and what to do.

All the panelists focused on the importance of living and telling our stories with more clarity and consciousness. Story can lead us out of dark places and into living with greater freedom and fullness of life in our careers.

Are you living the story you want to tell? What are the stories you are telling yourself about yourself? Are you separating facts from feelings? Are you naming your weaknesses and fears? Are you focusing on your strengths?

Telling your story in a compelling manner is not optional in this age of communications crowded with so many stories competing for attention in the job marketplace!

We discussed the importance of crafting and communicating your story in resumes and interviews. A great career story will be a resume differentiator. Storytelling in resumes doesn’t mean you are writing a novel. As a storyteller, we need to think strategically about what to include and what to exclude; we must select stories relevant to the position.

When telling compelling stories at interviews, you will transition from candidate to individual in the eyes of the interviewer. Do you know that old saying, “the devil’s in the details?” The reverse is true in interviews—sharing “the right details” can tip the scales of a hiring decision in your favor.

In both resumes and interviews, it is important to isolate strengths and accomplishments that fit with requirements.

In an interview with one or more interviewers, engage the audience! Don’t forget that storytelling involves an audience. Listen to them. Get them talking about their needs and preferences.

But don’t try to influence the judges. Tell what can be seen with the five senses, or better yet, a camera. Give them a picture of you in action doing things that demonstrate your capacity to perform in the job.

The tools for telling stories for career development and job search might change—e.g. building an online presence through Linked In, or YouTube, and so on—but the basic principles of effective storytelling remain the same. Know your audience. Frame your story for impact. Give examples with details. Leave them hungry for more.

You are a storyteller. You can learn to tell a better story. Keep the end goal in site. Your storytelling will improve with practice, rehearsal, and focus.

Telling a better story is the beginning of living a better story!

Beating the Peter Principle

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If you watch the popular TV comedy The Office, you may find it hard to believe that Michael Scott–branch manager of paper company Dunder Mifflin in Scranton, PA–was ever competent at anything!  He appears to have no talent whatsoever for managing others.

He is the embodiment of the Peter Principle, first formulated in a 1969 book of the same name,  by Dr. Laurence Peter, who famously said: “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”  Employees will be promoted so long as they work competently; until they reach a position where they are no longer competent; and, there they stay, stuck, unable to earn further promotions.  Hello, Michael Scott!

In the real world of work, individuals are usually promoted because they are competent, and they are competent because they have a particular flair, or talent, or strength for performing certain job duties.  Their work is valued enough by their employers that they are often rewarded with a promotion to supervisory positions.

The Peter Principle then becomes active when a managerial position requires a set of skills that do not come easily or naturally to the person who has been promoted into it.

For example, I have worked with a good number of engineers who excelled at troubleshooting technical problems, especially when they were left alone to work in their own way at their own speed to analyze a particular problem and design a solution, often building the solution with special tools & equipment.

They are masters of the physical world of structures, machinery, and processes.  Then they are promoted into a managerial position where they are required to collaborate with others on committees and make decisions through long discussions at meetings that must be submitted up the hierarchy for approvals, involving frequent delays, postponements, or rejections.

In the meantime, they must resolve disputes between employees who disagree on how to proceed; or,  plan years in advance for potential scenarios; or, compete with their colleagues for scarce organizational resources; or, fight about money and budgets—none of which they have a genuine interest in or a knack for dealing with.

Why do they put up with it?  Perhaps, for the sake of a better compensation package, or the admiration of their peers, or the expectations of power, prestige, and status for someone their age; or, because, they don’t know what else to do.

What is true for engineers promoted to managers, is also true for front-line social service workers promoted to policy positions; or customer service reps promoted to supervisors; or teachers promoted to principals, and so on.  Often, I will hear from such people a desperate confession.  “I feel like an Impostor at work, pretending that I know what I’m doing.  I keep wondering when they’ll find out.  In the meantime, I try to fake it ‘til I make it, but I just dread Monday morning. “

This is a short term coping strategy that may backfire in the long term.  If someone is not motivated by their core job duties, their performance will degrade, so that when the inevitable downturns of an economy occur, they may be laid off when their performance is compared to others who are suited to managerial duties and feel motivated by their work.  Or, their level of job dissatisfaction fosters dis-ease that leads to physical illness, anxiety, depression, or any number of stress-related disorders.

Sure, we can learn managerial skills by taking courses; but, just because we know how to do something doesn’t mean we will do it.  For example, we can learn how to do conflict resolution because our job requires it. But if are natural inclination is to avoid conflicting situations or highly charged emotional encounters in favour of working alone on a task in a concentrated manner, then we will develop coping mechanisms to avoid using our newly acquired conflict resolution skills unless forced to do so.  Motivation is the key to performance on the job, whether we are managers, supervisors, or subordinates.

You don’t have live like an Impostor, pretending you are something you are not.  You can get a clear picture of your natural talents and motivations and learn how to leverage them into your career plans in a way that will recognize and reward you for what you do naturally and effortlessly, rather than for what you have to do in a job misfit.

Here at JobJoy, we are in the business of mapping your motivational pattern and matching it with the work you are best suited to do so that you can excel in your right work.

When Job Change is not like a Diet

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I recently lost 16 lbs in the space of 6 weeks. We live in a sit down culture
and much of my work is performed in a chair in front of clients and computers.

The middle-age pot belly is an inevitable result for many modern workers.
Because I am not an exercise machine or gym membership or fad diet kind of guy,
I looked for over a year before I finally found a belly fat burning program I
could live with.

I was conscious of the fact that most weight loss programs result in failure,
with a majority of individuals putting the weight back on and then some within
12 months!

I believe this happens because most people approach weight loss as a problem to
be solved : `I want to lose weight but I don’t want to change my lifestyle
habits.’

I meet many individuals who approach their career issues with the same
problem-solving attitude : `I’ve got a job I hate but it pays my bills and
provides a good salary and benefits, so how do I replace my income and benefits
if I quit my job?’

I’ve lost weight and I’ve changed careers, so I can speak personally to both
problems. Like most people, I try to solve a problem in order to avoid negative
consequences. So, when I read recently how excessive belly fat contributes to a
wide range of health issues during middle age and beyond, I decided to lose
weight in order to avoid those problems.

Similarly, many people come to me for career advice on how to avoid the negative
consequences of a bad jobfit. Often, they feel drained by their job, and want
to avoid the inevitable burnout or depression (now the #1 workplace
disability). Or, they have read the economic tea leaves and anticipate a
forthcoming layoff. Or, new technology being introduced into their workplace is
going to change their job duties in a negative way. Or, they don’t like their
boss or the people they work with. Or, their life situation has changed and
they need to move on.

Naturally, negative job conditions foster bad feelings, even intense emotional
conflict . Just by taking the action to visit with me and talk about these
issues can reduce the emotional conflict they feel. In the same way, once
people see they can lose weight by taking some kind of effective action, it
reduces the emotional conflict they feel about their weight issues.

To start the process of losing weight, we can join a gym, or buy a food portion
meal replacement program, or start a diet. Similarly, we can change careers by
going back to school, reconnecting with our LinkedIn network, or writing a
business plan.

However, we are all human beings, and once we experience relief from bad
feelings, our motivation to change weakens and we feel less need to act.

It is very easy to backslide then into old eating habits. Or, it is easier to
go back to the same job or something similar thinking that something fundamental
has changed.

But it hasn’t. If we keep eating the way we have always eaten, we put the
weight back on. If we go back to a job misfit, it’s only a matter of time
before the same issues rear their ugly heads once again.

To keep the weight off, we need to make some real lifestyle changes. To really
change careers, we have to make some hard choices and trade-offs for a new
career.

When tougher choices are needed, when actions get harder to take, we think we
can make things happen by exerting self-control. We try to manipulate the
conflict to go away–with self-imposed incentives, rewards, punishments. If I
lose 5 lbs this week, I’ll go shopping for a new outfit. If I send out 3
resumes this week, I’ll buy a flat screen tv to force myself to send out another
3 next week because I’m going to need a new job to make the payments on my
credit card.

Studies clearly show that this strategy of conflict manipulation does not
deliver long term success. When are motivation is driven by solving intense
emotional conflict, the relief is always temporary.

Emotional conflict leads us to act. Because we’ve acted, we feel better–even
if the situation hasn’t changed very much. Feeling better takes the pressure
off, which in turn reduces the emotional pressure we feel. Less emotional
conflict means there is less motivation to continue doing the things that
reduced the conflict in the first place. Since we feel better, there is no
pressing need to follow through with more actions. And the original behavior
returns.

This is why as many as 95% of dieters have put the weight back on within 12
months. And, while 95% of workers think about changing careers at least once a
week, only 5% ever act on that thought.

The only way off this merry-go-round of problem solving and conflict
manipulation is to create a clear picture–a vision if you will–for the outcome
you truly desire.

What I say to my clients is : Instead of trying to fix your bad job situation
(a problem orientation), let’s shift your focus to creating job joy (an outcome
orientation).

Yes, it is important is to find a short term solution to a problem but
understand that nothing really changes…until it actually does. Lasting change
is the result of effective and efficient actions organized around what really
matters to you over the long term.

You can make the best short term choices in the world but if your motivation is
to fix a career problem you have now or might have in the near future, you’ll be
back to your old tricks within a few years.

No wonder so many people give up on losing weight or changing careers! They
don’t know why they can’t pull it off. They’re sincere about it. They know the
stakes are high. But each time they try, their short term success is scuttled
by circumstances beyond their control…or so it seems.

I’ve reached a plateau in my weight loss. To reach my ideal weight, I need to
make more changes in my eating and exercise habits. What motivates me to do so
is the picture I carry in my head of things I will do with my optimal health.
What really matters to me is being very healthy as I move through middle age.
Weight loss is just one part of that bigger vision.

Similarly, I carry around a written Vision statement of my career 20 years or so
down the road. What keeps me going today–taking what are often small, mundane,
routine actions–is focusing on what really, really matters to me further down
the career path.

That is why I wrote my new eBook, JobJoy : Finding Your Right Work Through the
Power of Your Personal Story. You already have everything you need to get out
of yhour career trap and into a better jobfit, one that combines vitality and
security for a better life.

It’s not rocket science. But it does take time, energy and money. However, the
Return on that Investment is priceless! Get started today!

dieting0130

Blow Your Horn

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Job search studies regularly show that it is not the best qualified candidate who gets the job most of the time. Instead, it is the strongest communicator. Why?

We live in a storytelling culture. We learn about each other and the world around us through story. Think of all the time you spend reading newspapers, magazine, blogs, or watching tv, DVDs, movies, or listening to radio, audiobooks, or podcasts. We are immersed in story.

A resume, a job search, an interview, a negotiation are each just another narrative, a chance to tell your story. Strong communicators have a gift for storytelling. Who is the most popular person at a party, wedding, dinner, or special event.? The one who tells the best jokes, the most interesting stories, the fascinating anecdotes. We are storytellers and listeners first and foremost.

A successful career transition or a job search requires some storytelling competence, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the listener, i.e. your next employer or client. A story does not exist in a vacuum. It is part of a social or cultural context. Here is how story fits into your job search.

Every organization has goals and objectives. They hire managers to achieve those goals. Managers, in turn, hire staff to do the work under their direction and guidance. These managers have the power to hire (and fire) individuals. In fact, over 40% of jobs are created for individuals who meet face-to-face with a manager outside of a formal job interview process. When you understand why, you can dramatically increase your chances of getting job offers.

Does the universe line up to facilitate the achievement of those organizational goals quickly and easily? Not likely. We live in a world of adversity. Defensemen seemed to be strategically positioned to knock down our best efforts to score a goal. In the world of work, these defensemen often show up as serious problems, formidable challenges, impact issues, pressure points, and a range of other social and economic variables difficult to control.

Just when a manager thinks they have everything stabilized and under control, life throws another spanner into the works. For example, employees die, retire, go on stress leave, go back to school, go on the mommy track, go to court, or go to another part of the country. There is a regular churn rate among staff in every organization. That is why there are always jobs; any good manager is always looking for good people because they always need new employees to cover the regular turnover of about 25% per year.

The key is to listen first to a manager, listen for the problems, challenges, and other obstacles getting in the way of their organization’s goals and objectives. Understanding their story is the first step to telling your own story with power and purpose. As every good storyteller knows, first know your audience.

If you take the time to listen, then orient your story for the needs of your audience, you will build rapport and establish top of the mind awareness in the manager. He or she will not soon forget you. And, when they need you, they will hire you.

Let me illustrate with a story about Tony. I helped him transition from a hi-tech career as a product manager to a new career working with NGOs. As part of his transition, he visited different organizations and spoke with managers, including the CEO at the Digital Opportunity Trust. They had a good discussion but she did not respond to a follow up. Tony moved on with further education and landed a job with another NGO.

As a result of some volunteer work, one of Tony’s colleagues crossed paths with that CEO, and mentioned Tony’s achievements. The CEO remembered their previous meeting, and requested another. They met again and had an engaging discussion about international development. There was no job opportunities at the time with DOT but Tony asked her to keep him in mind if things should change.

Well, a few years later, things did change, as the Trust grew and expanded its core executive team. They called Tony, he applied, was interviewed, and hired into his “dream job“ as Senior Director, Global Operations.

One of the reasons I put so much emphasis on having my clients write out their stories about enjoyable events and achievements is to help them build a vocabulary of success, a portfolio of stories. Communicating your stories with clarity and confidence is one of the best things you can do in a job search situation.

Tony changed his career by revisiting his personal story, mining it for his authentic talents and motivations, so that he had a new story to tell, one that communicated a new message.

He did not blow his horn in a loud or obnoxious fashion to gain attention; he listened to the music playing around him and added his own voice to the melody. Now, he will travel the world with job joy, doing what he loves and matters most to him.