‘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!

Fear is a paper tiger

paper-tiger

Most of the people I work with already have a job but they want to change careers. They often say to me, “I’d like to have job joy, but I have these fears.” What are they afraid of, exactly?

Usually, it’s the fear of negative consequences, i.e. if I quit my current job, even though I hate it, I will lose my regular paycheck, my comfortable lifestyle, and end up on the streets homeless and impoverished.

No one should quit a job until they have an accurate or reliable picture of specific jobs in specific work settings that suits them. That’s the first step in any career transition.

So, what exactly is there to be afraid of in putting together that picture?
You still have your job, so you’re not facing immanent poverty. You probably
aren’t afraid of succeeding, (although, the rare person might have some of
that). So, it must be that you are afraid of not succeeding.

Barry’s example

Let me illustrate with a hypothetical but typical example. Barry is a public
servant with a comfortable job, but keen to get out of this job and into
something more stimulating because “it’s way too bureaucratic, too boring, too
slow. One guy described it as a 30-year sentence. When I look at the big
picture, I don’t doubt him.”

Barry loves public speaking, and is a natural showman, using his physical
skills to impress people, e.g. he can hip-hop dance with backflips and other
gymnastic moves, and this from a 40-year-old man!

We craft a vision to get him started in public speaking, but he can’t take the
actions necessary to move forward with his plan. “When I think about the
speaking industry, I’m having trouble believing there’s an industry for it. ”
Clearly, there is a public speaking industry with professionals who make a
full-time living at it. That’s the reality, so it must be that Barry doesn’t
believe that he can make a living at it.

In order to overcome his fear of failure, Barry talks about how he wants to get
on the public speaking circuit, to do this or that with his life. And then he
says,

“But I am afraid of taking risks.”

“What’s the risk?” I ask.

“Losing my financial security.”

Fear and Ego

For folks who like talking about fear and risks, it’s hardly ever life and
death. They are not astronauts or surgeons or bounty hunters or demolition
experts where the word risk means something. They just don’t want to look like
a fool to themselves and others. This is called ego. They are making it about
themselves, not the creation they want to make.

Fear-based concepts are always tied up in ego, which is where we hold all kinds
of concepts about reality, most of which are not true, but are necessary to
maintaining our particular identity.

You can believe all kinds of things, but if they rob you of the motivation
necessary to take action that moves you towards what really matters to you,
then those beliefs are limitations to getting what you want out of life. In
reality, those limitations are usually paper tigers – things that seem as
threatening as a tiger, but are really harmless. As I already pointed out, when
you already have a job, there is no real risk in exploring other options.

If you act as if changing careers is a life or death issue, then you are not in
touch with reality. This is what happened to Barry: by assuming that public
speaking is so “risky” that he must guard against involvement, he limits his
choices, and cuts off his chances of realizing a new, exciting, and lucrative
career. By making it about his beliefs rather than what he wants to create, he
stops himself before he gets started. His future becomes a self-fulfilling
prophecy of failure.

What are the possibilities if you pursue what you want? There are two: you
accomplish the result you want; you don’t accomplish the result you want. Hard
to see what there is to be afraid of so far. The worst that can happen is that
you don’t make it.

Blowing over tigers

Everybody fails at something in life, that’s normal. In fact, psychologists
tell us that we fail more often than succeed. Our egos can take a hit and
survive. Conversely, we have all succeeded at things too. We can learn to
replicate success, to take effective actions to create a new career.

Fear is just another feeling, and a natural one that accompanies change of any
kind. So, if you are thinking about changing careers, then you will feel some
fear but your feelings, good, bad, or indifferent, are not the measurement of
how well you are doing at creating what matters to you.

Don’t focus on your feelings or beliefs, they might paralyze you. Recognize
the paper tiger that blocks your way forward. Just blow on it…and it topples.
Then you are free to move on and make choices.

What matters is not your beliefs or your feelings, but only whether or not your
next action moves you closer to your goal. If it does, you’re ready to take
another action; if it doesn’t then think about what you learned from it,
determine what might be a more effective action, then take it. This is how to
change careers successfully. This is how Barry, or anybody else, can move
towards what matters to them.

Dry Your Eyes

LongFace_opt

A client walked into my office recently saying that she needed a new career because her current one was making her sick; so sick, in fact, that she could not hold back the tears.

In this case, as in so many others, she got stuck in a toxic work environment with an abusive boss and/or co-workers.

Often a bad situation is made worse by a number of stressful factors, such as unreasonable workloads; or the prospect of an impending layoff due to a change in the economy; or the expectation that they be available 24/7; or a change of job conditions from flex-time at home to face-time in the office; or the fear of being squeezed out of competitive due to lack of educational credentials; or the unspoken pressure from family to maintain a high income at any price.

Whatever the circumstances, my client feels an overwhelming need to get out of her current job. Her short term goal is to avoid the pain. The long term goal is to find a better jobfit…if she only knew what it was! In the meantime, her priority is to maintain or improve her compensation package.

So, in fact, there are two contradictory goals at work here: my client wants a new job that will giver her more vitality and joy, but she also wants to avoid financial insecurity.

In order to avoid a future that might be financially insecure, she can’t take action to move out of her current job field because she doesn’t know what else to do; therefore, to move now means she might end up financially insecure. Damned if she does take action, damned if she doesn’t–this is the essence of being stuck.

She is likely to remain stuck for as long as she seeks a long term solution to a short term problem. What do I mean by that?

A career transition is not the solution to a short term problem. A transition takes time. It is best undertook during a period of stability without overwhelming financial or psychological pressures. A transition is oriented around creating the kind of life you want; it is not oriented around problem solving.

In order to solve her current problem, my client is learning to separate her contradictory goals. Her toxic work environment is a short term problem requiring a short term solution.

As distasteful as it is for her, she realizes that her best chance of getting out of her toxic environment, while maintaining her current pay check, is to do the same thing for another org; or, cross the street, and purchase the services (that she is now selling) for large orgs. Or, she can repackage her skills and market them for a related but different job target.

Sure, her current job is something she no longer wants to do. But she is not stuck there forever (it just feels like that right now). Feelings come and go: sometimes we are in love, sometimes not.

Most of us get angry, fearful, joyful, anxious, happy, sad, and so on, at different times in different circumstances. Why should feelings govern our commitment to taking actions to achieve our goals?

Some days I don’t feel like writing, or seeing my clients, or cooking dinner but I do them anyways, not because I have to but because these actions help me create what really matters to me. Feelings are temporary.

My client has dried her tears and realizes that the first thing she needs to do is take care of herself by getting out of her toxic environment. She needs to get into another job for the SHORT term in order to build up the capacity to make a transition over the LONG term.

Making progress towards a long term goal is about building the life you want. My client now understands that her long term goal to have a career that fits her deepest values and top priorities is possible but takes time and energy, two things that are in short supply when she is in crisis.

First, get out of the crisis, then take the time to transition.

Like the song says, ‘Dry your eyes and take your song out, it’s a newborn afternoon.’

Dry Your Eyes, Neil Diamond & The Band
(From my all time favorite concert movie The Last Waltz)

How high do you bounce?

bruins-adversity

Everybody gets knocked down in life, everybody. When you have a goal or objective in life, does the universe allow you to achieve it quickly or easily? Not likely. We live in a universe of adversity.

Our best laid plans, our deepest desires, our clearest objectives will run into opposition. Whatever path we are on, we will run into roadblocks and obstacles. The nature of reality is adversity.

This is a new year. And you can expect to get knocked down this year at some point. For example, I just got off the phone with a client who recently made a career change, one that has changed her life dramatically. “I feel like I can breathe again,” she says. “I’ve got my life back.” She loves her new job and is very happy she switched careers.

However, there is adversity in her situation. She has been parachuted into a key position with this company, and she is facing resentment from co-workers who undermine her enthusiasm with gossip and petty actions. The director of her division regularly criticizes her performance, sometimes with verbal abuse. On the worst days, she wants to quit.

Eric Hoffer, an American philosopher, wrote: “Our achievements speak for themselves. What we have to keep track of are our failures, discouragements, and doubts. We tend to forget the past difficulties, the many false starts, and the painful groping. We see our past achievements as the end result of a clean forward thrust, and our present difficulties as signs of failure and decay.”

Everybody fails, everybody. It is normal. You can expect to fail this year at some point. You will have a strong desire to do or get something and you will not attain it. You will set a goal and not achieve it. In fact, the year starts with resolutions, most of which are never fulfilled. But the odd setback here and there does not a year make.

Life goes on. The setback does not last. Don’t confuse failure with defeat. I love that quote from General George Patton, the WWII hero: “I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.” Failure is a temporary condition; defeat is an attitude.

Most of us play or watch sports because sports reflect the nature of reality—adversity. In each game or contest, every player is trying to score or win. In order to do so, the players and teams must overcome their adversaries. Every player gets knocked down. The key is to get up and focus on what really matters to you.

Life is not a game but it is a structured event, full of circumstances around which we have no control as individuals. Adversity is woven into the very fabric of life. Life owes us nothing. We are entitled to nothing. We are simply given the opportunity to face adversity head on.

We consciously or unconsciously do the things that make us successful or unsuccessful. For example, we are in control of our attitude, of how we respond to circumstances. You will encounter both good and bad circumstances throughout your life; how you respond to them is your choice.

You can choose to be passive, and simply accept whatever life sends your way. Or, you can choose to take actions that will move you closer to what really matters to you. Yes, there will be roadblocks, obstacles, and adversaries that get in the way. By we can choose to meet them head on. That takes courage and strength of mind. To quote General Patton again: “Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.”

Let me close by going back to my client who got a new job but inherited a bad boss and jealous co-workers. As bad as this might appear to be, it is nothing in comparison to the toxic work environment she left last year. I have seen this scenario hundreds of times over the past 20 years. A new year rolls around with a new set of challenges. We live in a universe of adversity; what does not break us makes us stronger.

She is learning to stand up for herself, setting boundaries, and focusing on priorities. Vitality is nurtured by overcoming adversity. We grow personally and professionally by confronting and overcoming challenges. May you bounce back all year long!
BounceBack

A Job Change Lesson from the Grinch

grinch-xmas

This is the time of year when various versions of ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ appear on television. He’s a mean one, Mr. Grinch—that ol’ sourpuss who had his heart broken as a young man (he lost his girl to his rival, the mayor of Who-ville.)

Misery loves company, and the Grinch tries to ruin Christmas for all the citizens of Who-ville by stealing all their presents and sabotaging their holiday celebrations.

I love that scene where he stares down at Who-ville listening to the men, women and children singing Christmas carols. He realizes he didn’t stop Christmas because the spirit of Christmas is not contained in presents or feasts.

“And what happened then…?
Well…in Who-ville they say
That the Grinch’s small heart
Grew three sizes that day!”

He restores the presents and food to Who-ville, and is welcomed back into the heart of village life.

One suspects that the author, Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel), had experienced his fair share of disappointment in life, in order to write such a compelling and convincing tale. In fact, we know that he tried to publish his first book, and was rejected by 27 publishers. Rejection is hard to take. Look what it did to the Grinch!

However, the initial rejection experienced by Dr. Seuss (and so many first time authors, I might add), is not the final word; unless, we let that rejection define our behavior, as was the case for the Grinch.

I have met many individuals of exceptional talent, each of whom had tremendous prospects for employment. They clearly identified a job target, and put together a plan of action that filled them with enthusiasm. But their initial efforts didn’t hit the mark. Instead, they experience rejection, and rejection is hard to take. If they let that rejection define their behavior, then their desire for a better jobfit, a better life, grows cold.

Obstacles to success should not be interpreted as stop signs. They are inevitable. Instead of pressing through them, I have seen many individuals give up and return to the same work that was driving them crazy in the first place! Better the devil you know….

However, the devil is a cold-hearted taskmaster, and submitting to a job misfit with all the stress and tension that accompanies it is enough to turn most people into a Grinch!

Like Dr. Seuss, there are some amazing stories of tenacity and perseverance that should inspire all of us with realistic hope. Here are some popular stories of failures suffered by some very successful people before they broke through into a better jobfit.

o Albert Einstein was four-years-old before he could speak.
o Isaac Newton did poorly in grade school.
o Ludwig Beethoven’s music teacher once said of him “as a composer he is hopeless.”
o Thomas Edison’ s teacher said of the boy, “He is too stupid to learn anything.”
o F.W.Woolworth got a job in a dry good store when he was 21, but his employer would not let him wait on customers because he “didn’t have enough sense.”
o Michael Jordan was dropped from his high school basketball team.
o A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney because he had “no good ideas.”
o Winston Churchill failed the 6th grade.
o Steven Spielberg dropped out of high school in his first year. He was persuaded to come back and placed in a learning disabled class. He lasted a month and dropped out of school, never to return, but went on to create some of the most memorable Hollywood movies ever made, and become one of its richest directors.

If you hate your job, you should be happy! As Benjamin Franklin said, “Those things that hurt, instruct.” The people listed above succeeded in life because they were wise enough to NOT organize their lives around their failures. Instead, like Dr. Seuss, they focused on what really mattered to them. They established goals and took effective actions to create positive results in their lives.

Eric Hoffer, an American philosopher and contemporary of Dr. Seuss, wrote: “Our achievements speak for themselves. What we have to keep track of are our failures, discouragements, and doubts. We tend to forget the past difficulties, the many false starts, and the painful groping. We see our past achievements as the end result of a clean forward thrust, and our present difficulties as signs of failure and decay.” Which is another way of saying, the road to success is a bumpy one. Or, every overnight success takes twenty years. Pick the cliché, adage, or proverb on the tip of your tongue.

Remember it took Dr. Seuss thousands of tears to produce the joy of Christmas in Who-ville! Never give up on what really, really matters to you.

May the spirit of Christmas reign in your heart this holiday season and throughout the coming year!