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

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.

To People Who Want To trade in the career treadmill for traction towards a meaningful life! But Can’t Get Started…

Another year has started…do you feel as if you are still stuck on a treadmill?

On the one hand, our life goals are pretty simple: to survive, get a decent job with some stability and security, develop loving relationships–even raise a family–pursue some enjoyable activities, and do it all with a certain amount of comfort and dignity.

On the other hand, to achieve these simple goals, we must subject ourselves to a range of social controls, such as work, which requires us to behave in certain ways and respond predictably to a prescribed system of rewards and punishments. For example, if we adhere to a lifetime of work, save money, follow the rules, then we will be rewarded with a pension and security in our old age.

But, at the same time, we are constantly harangued by advertisers to spend our earnings on products that will produce the most profits for merchants, not to mention the whole system of legal and illegal pleasures run by gamblers, drug dealers, and sex trade entrepreneurs.

The good and bad of social controls

Some social critics insist that this treadmill of modern life molds us into “helpless” consumers who are socialized to respond predictably to what feels good and what feels bad so that others can exploit our preferences for their own ends.

And, let’s face it, most of us find it is easy to accept this system of social controls—after all, what kind of world would it be without them?

Furthermore, staying on the treadmill has some advantages, otherwise we’d jump off in a flash. There is genuine pleasure in the competitive struggle for “success”—winning is fun! Without any viable alternatives, most of us resort to striving even harder to pursue the “good life” with more ‘goods’ like a bigger house, new car, more toys, more power on the job, a more glamorous lifestyle and so on. Happiness is about feeling good, and acquiring the tokens of success makes us feel good. But studies clearly show that such happiness is fleeting, temporary, shallow at best…so we respond by striving for even more!

And yet, while this striving helps us avoid the question, “Is that all there is?”, the consequences for doing so are proving to be increasingly negative for both individuals and societyl. For example, the city of Ottawa, where I live, is the capital of a G-8 country, and has the highest rate of per capital income in the nation, but it has also been diagnosed as the “depression capital of Canada,” by the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health.

Disability claims for mental health by federal public servants spiked to an all-time high in the past 3 years (even though workers on the public payroll enjoy excellent wages and benefits and have little to worry about in terms of surviving). Depression and mental health issues are now the #1 workplace disability in North America costing our economy billions of dollars in lost productivity. In addition, there has been a dramatic increase in social pathologies over the last generation, including more organized crime, family breakdowns, ecological degradation, a widening gap between the rich and the rest, and so on.

What is the remedy?

How do we, as individuals, get off the treadmill, cast off these social controls that inhibit our freedom, and find meaning and purpose in life? These are big questions…but studies show that trying to answer them does, in itself, seem to help solve the problem.

While a happy and meaningful life overlap in certain ways, they are also very different. Money is clearly a factor in happiness because it can reduce stress and worry about surviving and enhances our opportunities for “feeling good.” We can more easily “take” from life what we need. If anything, pure happiness seems to be linked to not helping others in need, according to recent research.

What separates human beings from other species is not “feeling good” but the pursuit of meaning, which is unique to humans. Psychologists have discovered what many world religions have taught for centuries—humans derive meaning from giving a part of themselves away to others and making a sacrifice on behalf of their community. Any parent knows this because having children is associated with a meaningful life and requires self-sacrifice, but research shows that parents often exhibit low levels of happiness because having kids is worrisome and stressful!

Some studies indicate that another remedy to overcoming helplessness and meaningless-ness is to gain control over our consciousness or, more specifically, the content of our experience. Instead of submitting to the treadmill of social expectations and rewards, each of us can decide what is important to us and act accordingly. But, after decades of developing habits and desires that serve those social controls, it is not easy to (1) know what to do, or (2) actually do it.

You are not trapped in your job or career.

Having meaning and money are not mutually exclusive. You can learn how to combine the two, and you can take efficient and effective actions to do so. You can change your job or career. Research clearly shows that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction.

At JobJoy, we are committed to helping our clients connect their work to a clearly-defined purpose that harmonizes with what is meaningful for them, and still make money, as demonstrated in this free how-to webinar.

If you feel stuck on a treadmill, or suspect that your life is being controlled by external forces that don’t have your best interests at heart, then maybe this is the year that you determine to do something about it.

You can start, I suggest, by focusing (with our help if you like) on what really matters to you, by thinking about what you really want from life…then taking a few simple effective actions to move towards it. This gives you traction for a meaningful life.

How networking in the short term paid off in the long term with dream job!

It took much courage to undertake the professional transition that Tony Vetter successfully completed recently.

Tony had worked more than 10 years in the telecommunications sector, having served as Senior Product Manager (Ciena), Director of Technical Marketing (Roshnee Corporation) and in advisor and managerial roles at Nortel.

Tony came to see me because he felt it was time to leave high tech. He needed a career that better matched his core values and where he could contribute meaningfully to making the world a better place.

He had a lot of energy but no real clarity regarding careers that matched his ambition for “values-rich” work. And he was skeptical about replacing his considerable income earned in the hi-tech sector for fulfilling but less financially rewarding work in the nonprofit sector.

“I realized that if I wanted to follow my heart I would eventually have to leave my career in high tech,” said Tony. “I felt that if I continued in high tech I would only be contributing to a development process driven by the pursuit of profit and technological advancement for its own sake. I found myself questioning whether the rapidly evolving trends I was seeing in the development of our global communications infrastructure would actually lead to a net benefit for the global community.”

Tony was particularly interested in how he could use his proven high tech skills to foster sustainable development through Information & Communication Technologies (ICT). However, he needed to be convinced that there were real opportunities for his skill set in a values-rich workplace. We completed a JobJoy Report to identify and define all his Key Success Factors.

I guided him through a systematic and deliberate process designed to successfully transition him from high-tech into International Development within four years. This involved the full range of transition services: assessment, targeting and marketing. We spent several years positioning him for ideal opportunities: rewriting his resume; identifying and meeting with prospective employers; and completing his Master’s Degree in International Affairs from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) in April, 2008.

His career transition was jump-started by a desire to demonstrate to others his proficiency in new skills, techniques and knowledge related to international development. He organizes around a drive for proficiency and is motivated by acquiring and using that proficiency in an accurate and timely manner.

Tony is motivated to comprehensively understand a subject and searches for underlying principles, logic or philosophical background. He has a strong desire to master fundamental skills and techniques of craft. Tony is not an academic working only with ideas: he strives to implement ideas in practical, day-to-day ways to make a difference in the lives of others.

“I have always instinctively felt that following my heart would lead me to making my best possible contribution to the world,” says Tony. “George helped me to identify the kind of work I most valued through the telling of my life stories for which I felt a sense of consistent satisfaction or events I particularly enjoyed.”

I provided Tony with contacts in his field of interest which led to face-to-face dialogue with people who had already made transitions from purely technical environments to international development. He also prospected with CIDA, IDRC, Industry Canada and other agencies with international development mandates. We used an Approach Letter strategy to help secure meetings with key people. This gave him a vocabulary to speak to others about himself in an accurate and forthcoming way independent of the jargon spoken in the high-tech industry.

Through the Norman Patterson Institute, Tony was placed on a cooperative placing with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), a Canadian-based not-for-profit organization located in more than 30 countries. IISD engages decision-makers in government, business, NGOs and other sectors in the development and implementation of policies that benefit the global economy, global environment and promote social well-being. The placement met Tony’s criteria of “values-rich” work and in July, 2007, Tony joined IISD on a permanent basis as Project Officer, Knowledge Communications. He has since moved on as an expert in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Sustainable Development.

About the same time, one of Tony’s colleagues crossed paths with the CEO of the Digital Opportunity Trust, and she subsequently met with Tony again to discuss 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.

“The most powerful aspect of George’s coaching for me was his process for opening doors to potential new career opportunities by making contact and interviewing people doing the kind of work I was interested in,” Tony said. “Post transition, I have ended up working with or having contact with many of the people I interviewed as part of my career transition. George has helped me successfully establish a solid network of contacts for growing my new career direction.

He is charged with researching and analyzing the efficacy of ICT for development initiatives and governmental ICT policy in developing countries in context of how they contribute to achieving sustainable economic and social development while respecting the limitations of the environment. Using the findings of research and analysis, he formulates recommendations for policy coherence with sustainable development strategies, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, Millennium Development Goals and other development frameworks and agendas.

Despite taking almost a 50% cut in pay in carrying out this transition, Tony has satisfied his need for values-rich work. Long term, he aspires to work on projects aimed at achieving sustainable development objectives using appropriate technologies in emerging markets, and to apply his ideas on development in practical, day-to-day ways to make a difference in the lives of others.

He will get the chance to do this very shortly. Remember the CEO of the Digital Opportunity Trust he met several times during the past five years? The DOT has experienced rapid growth, and late last year they decided they needed to expand their core executive team.

“Apparently she had been bringing my name up every few months, particularly when things got busy. So they gave me a call and asked if I would apply. I did, and they quickly had me interview with each member of the executive team. I was offered a package within 24 hours of my final interview that literally left me speechless.“

Tony deserves a lot of credit for the risks he took to have work that was meaningful for him. Although we desire certainty and safety, a career transition requires some tolerance for risk. Tony invested in what matters most to him. He connected with others who shared his values and had the power to hire him. He established and maintained rapport with the CEO of a targeted organization even though no job was readily available.

In the meantime, he continued building credibility and experience in his chosen field. When that NGO grew and the CEO needed somebody, she offered the opportunity to Tony, a person she knew professionally as competent, capable,and qualifed (and the rest of her team agreed). Tony’s short term sacrifices resulted in a return to his previous salary level in a field that harmonizes with his values and priorities.

Today, Tony is the Senior Director, Global Operations at Digital Opportunity Trust (http://dotrust.org/), with 8 national programs in Africa, operations in 3 middle eastern counties, and expanding operations to focus on Southern and Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus region, as well as operating in the USA, Mexico, and China. He is looking forward to taking his job joy around the world!

~ with Harry Gallon

How to Network into a Job during the Festive Season

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!

Is it money or meaningful work?

Work-life balance is one of those buzz words that characterizes the zeitgeist of our times. We live busy, hectic lives and, in order to control all this activity, we often separate our different spheres of activity into compartments of work, family, socializing, romancing, education, politics, religion, and so on.

This compartmentalizing also extends to our mental and emotional lives, to what we do and believe, to what we value. Work-life balance is about aligning our being with our doing.

Easier said than done, right? In fact, there is strong evidence to support the conclusion that there is very little work-life balance in our lives. We might want it…but we can’t get it!

Highest levels of job stress

One major study commissioned by Health Canada[1] found that the highest levels of job stress and depression in Canadian public servants were found in Ontario public employees at municipal, provincial and federal levels:

“While they may earn the nation’s highest average salaries, Ontario workers reported the lowest levels of job satisfaction and the highest intention to leave.”

Reducing work-life conflicts is not a high priority for most employers even though doing so is proven to be a major factor in better job performance, according to Paul Fairlie[2], a researcher that I spoke with recently. He designs and conducts surveys related to meaningful work. He says that the same 9-10 dimensions keep coming up in research.

Is it money or is it meaningful work?

It’s both. It’s a two-stage motivational process. People need a certain amount of money to be comfortable and to feel appreciated at a level similar to others doing the same job. Beyond these few extrinsic drivers, the vast majority of people pursue intrinsic rewards, e.g. meaning-based goals and values.

Some people can be cynical about these kinds of results, and prefer to pursue extrinsic goals, such as money, prestige, status, power; rather than intrinsic goals, such as meaning or socially useful work. But the research clearly shows that money rarely shows up as a major influence on motivation and behaviour once basic needs are met.

Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Rewards

Instead, studies are consistent in showing that most people are, in fact, more intrinsically-motivated. If they become more extrinsically-motivated, it’s because of negative work experiences. Let’s face it, work can be a pretty harsh environment, involving layoffs, unfair dismissals, nepotism, corruption, and so on. It’s no wonder that many individuals acquire a cynical attitude: “Fool me once, shame on me…try to fool me twice, forget it, just pay me!”

As Paul learned from surveys, it is understandable that many people are more likely to choose a raise over more meaningful work, but that doesn’t stop them from wanting more interesting work. His research demonstrates that most employees still want self-actualizing work; they want to make a social impact; they want personal goals/values alignment with jobs/work/employers; they truly want a sense of personal accomplishment.

When they get it, they are more likely to stay with their employer and report higher levels of satisfaction, commitment, engagement, and discretionary effort.

Meaningful Work Index

Furthermore, the higher they score on his Meaningful Work Index (MWI), the more likely they are to experience fewer physical and mental health symptoms. He reviewed 2 national studies in 50 states and found that employees with a high MWI score measured low burnout, low depression, low stress, and low anxiety.

However, when employees don’t find meaningful work with their employers, they disengage–the rate of days lost to sickness and loss of productivity rises dramatically. Indeed, the stats suggest that a growing fringe of Americans and Europeans are withdrawing from work as a meaningful life pursuit.

Work-life balance enables individuals to become self-reliant, make informed choices and find satisfying and fulfilling work and lifestyles in today’s rapidly changing labor markets.

Leaving large orgs for lifestyles business

Many of them are leaving the world of institutionalized work and creating a lifestyles business, which is a small enterprise that shares the following characteristics:

– Set up and run by its founders
– Aim of sustaining a particular income level from which to enjoy a particular lifestyle
– Does not require extensive capital to launch or sustain (limited scalability or potential for growth)
– Suitable for sole practitioners, husband-and-wife-teams, or small groups in “creative industries”
– Dependent on founder skills, personality, energy, and contacts
– Founders create them to exercise personal talent or skills, achieve a flexible schedule, work with other family members, remain in a desired geographic area, or simply to express themselves

Creating such a business isn’t for everybody but more people than ever are leaving their corporate jobs to try it for themselves.
———————
[1] “Where to Work in Canada: An examination of regional differences in Work-Life Practices,” Health Canada survey, Linda Duxbury & Chris Higgins, Ottawa’s Sprott School of Business, 2001
[2] Paul Fairlie, Ph.D., President & CEO, Paul Fairlie Consulting, Advancing the Science & Meaning of Work

Career Change Advice for Talented Women with predictable, boring, mundane jobs

Taba Cookey is an extremely talented woman who had immigrated to Canada from Nigeria to go to work in high level finance. She had earned her first degree in England and had got  a Masters degree in Canada some years later before returning to Nigeria to continue her banking career.

She said that while she was in Ottawa looking to move from her job in financial sector research, she thought she should “take advantage of the kind of career consulting (that I offer) that doesn’t exist in Nigeria,” and explore her options for career change.
I had Taba write “her story”–eight examples of experiences that had been very satisfying for her throughout her life. They didn’t have to be job related.

What came up again and again is that she thrives with new competitive challenges that force her to stretch herself beyond anything she had ever done before. She also needs those challenges defined with deadlines and guidelines for measuring success. For example, she was usually one of the best student in her schools and was the only student in her graduate school class to complete her master’s thesis in time to graduate on schedule.

When she moved from Nigeria to London at age 9, she quickly established herself as one of the star sprinters in her elementary school. Before long, having run out of female competition, talk in the playground was that she should take on the fastest boy runner in the school.

“Finally, a date and hour was set. It was close…but there was no doubt about the result: I won, and that was the end of John’s bragging about how fast he was,” Taba said.

At some point during this career audit, she accepted an offer as Standards and Insurance Manager for a Canadian government agency that was charged with protecting consumers’ deposits in event of the failure of federally regulated banks and trust companies. She didn’t understand why at the time, but found herself so bored and frustrated with her job.

We figured out that even though her position at the government regulatory agency might be the perfect job for someone else, it was “just pushing papers” for her. Many jobs, including the one she was in at the agency, organized to be predictable and mundane and often become simple and boring for talented people like Taba.

Using “her story,” we determined:

* The work environment she would thrive in.

* The type of work she would thrive in.

* The way she likes to be managed.

* The way she likes to be rewarded.

* What motivates her.

* And how she likes to approach tasks.

“My work with George made me realize this sort of work was thoroughly unsuited to me” says Taba.

She began to seriously consider returning to Nigeria and we talked about the need for African ex-patriates to return home and use their knowledge and expertise in developing Africa.  She decided to go back to Nigeria without any prospects for a job. I told her that she had lots of talents and people would recognize and reward her for that.

I think that one of the reasons ex-patriates don’t go back to their home countries after being educated abroad is because they’re worried they won’t get challenging jobs. I knew it wouldn’t be a problem for Taba because she has talents that transfer across borders. It was just a question of packaging her talents to be recognized and rewarded in different cultural contexts.

So we had to put her talents into a resume to show what this person could do for an employer anywhere–a dramatic example of how her talents transfer across cultures and borders.

She sent me an email saying, “An amazing opportunity opened up in Ghana. I am a Program Manager with the African Finance Corporation (http://www.africafc.org), based in Accra, responsible for overseeing all IFC leasing development programs in Africa. IFC is the private sector arm of the World Bank, promoting development through loans, equity and technical assistance to the private sector.”

A lot of businesses in Africa have difficulty in accessing traditional bank financing, and leasing provides an attractive alternative to such companies. The program aims to promote the role of leasing through training, public awareness, attracting new investment into the industry and working with the authorities in specific African countries to improve the legislative and regulatory environment for leasing.

This job is challenging for her because it is so varied and really stretches her capabilities. Also, she travels all over Africa and has to deal with different personalities in differing cultures. She needs to be in circumstances that stretch her, like beating the fastest boy in school.

“The other day I went through the life stories I had written and the analysis you had done four years ago now, and was amazed at the way it has all come together in my present job,” said Taba. “It is really quite uncanny. But then again perhaps not, since you had so accurately identified the kind of work and environment that would give me ‘jobjoy’ and I have finally found it. It is not surprising that I can now say without hesitation that I have never enjoyed work so much, and…yes, feel fortunate that I am actually getting paid for it. I come to work every day with a sense of anticipation, and hardly know where the time has gone at the end of the day. I actually have to tear myself away! This is such a change from so much of my previous life spent clock watching and day dreaming at work.”

When we get into a jobfit, other parts of our lives often fall into place.  After a few years in this job, Taba returned to Nigeria in 2008 .  “It is great to be back home, I think age is finally taming my itchy feet!”  She was recently married, and took a new position with the Nigerian Stock Exchange.  Congratulations, Taba, in  putting down roots!

–with Nick Isenberg

Imagine working for a great boss every time!

Today is National Boss Day. 3 out of 4 employees report that their boss is the most stressful part of their job! More employees would prefer a new boss over a pay rise when it comes to improving their satisfaction at work. Ouch!

If you have a great boss, show your appreciation. Good or bad, bosses are a fact of life, and have been since ancient economies established master-slave relationships—the Pyramids were not built with collective agreements!

While workplaces today are (perhaps?) a little more humane, most of us have to navigate the power dynamics that go with any employer-employee relationship.

Some individuals are very flexible and can adapt to the operating style any boss. The rest of us actually have a preference for being managed. In fact, certain management styles bring out the best in us.

Operating Style of your boss can lead to conflict

I’m not talking about personalities here—whether your boss is warm, cold, two-faced, compassionate, analytical, judgmental, whatever. I’m referring to their operating style and the way that you, as an employee, best relate to authority.

For example, some employees need a hands-off relationship with a boss who allows them to exercise independent control over their specific area of responsibility. If they end up with a boss with a ‘directorial’ style—one who wants them to operate and perform in the manner the boss identifies as correct, appropriate, or most effective—then conflict is inevitable.

Without a clear understanding of this dynamic, we can get ourselves into a lot of hot water with bosses. As a career expert for the past 20 years, I have seen employer-employee conflicts played out in all kinds of scenarios…many of which could’ve been avoided or minimized if the individual—whether they were a boss or subordinate—had clarity about their preferred management style.

How do you prefer to be managed?

Most of us have never been taught or shown how to interview a potential boss for their preferred operating style, or how to negotiate with a boss in order to help them manage us in a way that brings out the best in us.

For example, if you function most effectively under a manager who provides you with initial support and direction at the outset of a new assignment of responsibility, then leaves you pretty much alone to carry it out…you probably need to learn how to tactfully help them do so.

But, if you get stuck with a micro-manager, you’ll have to grin and bear it, wait them out (the average tenure of a middle level manager is 2.5 years), or find another job–because this is a clash of styles that cannot be resolved through negotiation.

Many clients have described to me “a great boss” who provides intermittent support and direction at key points in a task, assignment, or responsibility. For them, the right manager offers assistance in making critical decisions. These individuals work best when they can count on their boss to have their back when unforeseen difficulties arise.

Others actually work most effectively with a micro-manager, a boss who provides continuous support throughout—touching base frequently and offering direction and advice when needed. But, if they end of up with a boss with a leader style, who prefers to paint the big picture and inspire others to follow him/her (or their program, cause, or mission) and leave the details to others, then they might dismiss this manager as inept or ‘political.’

Collaborate means to co-labor

In some cases, I have met clients who remember a single ‘great boss’ experience, followed by a series of bad bosses. A deeper analysis of their motivating situations reveals that they function most effectively under a manager who treats them as an equal, who works with them as though you were involved in a joint effort. In order to thrive at work, these individuals need an open-minded manager who has a genuine interest in their ideas and suggestions, as well as one who offers suggestions and advice when they ask for it or need it. When they don’t get it, they blame the boss.

Some even quit their jobs and go solo, only to discover they hate working on their own and need the dynamic of a workplace to bring out the best in them but they don’t know what that is until we do a deep analysis of their enjoyable experiences at work and outside of work. Then we discover they thrive in situations where they collaborated with others towards a goal.

Collaborate comes from ‘co-labour,’ or working together, and this kind of dynamic between employer and employee does not occur often, although when it does occur, interestingly enough, it tends to be a female boss who prefers to interact with subordinates in a participatory rather than authoritative fashion, preferring not to rely on administrative policies but on keeping others involved and keeping the momentum going.

There are bad bosses and good bosses in the world of work. But each of us can learn to better manage our relationships with authority by understanding what operating style used by a boss brings out the best in us. Then we can help create that at work or, at the very least, look for a manager who prefers to work with our preferred style.

Too Creative For Tech?

During the past 20 years as a job change expert, I have met dozens of men and women in hi-tech careers with a passion for a creative activity.

The computer programmer who builds customized electric guitars. The senior network specialist who travels the country to compete in paintball. The ITIL specialist who hosts folk music concerts in his home. The software designer who provides black belt martial arts instruction to hundreds of students. The systems development manager who studies astronomy. I can go on and on.

But in every case, none of these individuals developed a new career, or even
a second career, around that particular passion. Everyone is creative, everyone
has passions. But not everyone can create a job out of their passions. Why?

Because it’s not about taking one particular activity/passion and building a
new career around it, like someone having a passion for sewing, and saying, “I
love sewing so I’m going to work as a tailor or a seamstress.”

The software programmer does not usually give up a lucrative job to eke out a
living customizing electric guitars, unless they had FaceBook shares they cashed
in during the IPO, or their parents die and leave them a fortune, or they win
the lottery….it happens, sure, but rarely.

The simple fact is that the earnings of hi-tech professionals are much
greater than what they could make with their hobby passion. That’s what holds
them back, the trade-off between having fun and having financial security. They
believe the two are mutually exclusive.

For years, they’ve been molded by what they do, and paid extremely well for
doing it. Even if they come to hate their work, they believe there only option
is to stick to their hi-tech job box. They want to bust out of the box but fear
negative consequences. It’s called a rut, which is sometimes described as a
coffin with the ends knocked out.

stuck-in-a-rut_opt

In the same way that the rut is linear, stretched out in one direction, they
think of their options in terms of the same left-brain, cause-and-effect
relationship. They see a line between what they do now and what they are
passionate about, and the connection does not compute.

They are focusing on the component parts of their lives, instead of looking
at the relationships between the parts. When they are doing what they enjoy
most—whether it’s building guitars, devising winning paintball strategies,
hosting folk music concerts, teaching martial arts, or studying astronomy—they
are engaged in a motivational pattern, one that is organized around their key
success factors.

It’s all about the pattern, the relationships between those factors that
energize them. Those factors can be defined, the pattern can be mapped. When
they see how their passion simply reveals certain aspects of their pattern, they
see how their talents and motivations match many kinds of jobs or careers in
specific work settings.

Instead of having one rather risky option organized around their passion,
they now have a dozen or more financially viable options organized around their
motivational pattern.

Busting out of the box is then possible. The dead end rut gives way to
shining path of real opportunity for a new kind of life, one that offers
financial security and job joy!