Archive for the ‘Career Counseling’ Category

  • Artist or Biologist: Career Switching Made Easier

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    Courtesy www.stuffintheair.com

    Whether you are looking for a new line of work because the old stand-by has become boring and meaningless or because you’ve been laid off and can’t find work in your “field,” a new career may need new strategies to find and secure it. You may be attuned to approach a recruiter or to diligently scour job titles in the want-ads with unrestrained vigor, but we respectfully recommend you redirect your energy. If you’re eager to use your existing skills in different ways and are not sure where to begin, go to an online job board such as CareerBuilder.com – not to find the job of your dreams but rather how to translate your experience and job skills into new career options. Skip the job titles and go directly to the “key word” search engine. (This by the way is the same way any employer or recruiter worth his or her salt, will scan online resumes.) Using CareerBuilder.com’s “key word” search engine, type in “Art” and just look at the variety of companies that pop up: insurance, banking and financial services, healthcare, retail, auto companies, and even the Art Institute!

    Type in “Biomedical Research” and, among the zillions of medical hits, you’ll find the A & E Television Network! You get the picture. Your skills may fit in places you never dreamed of – or maybe you have thought of them but figured you were not a good fit.

    Next you can “narrow your search” via Category, Company, City and State. Narrow is the operable word if you are looking for the same old same old kind of job, but since you’re not, skip the actual job postings they offer and take some time to scroll through all the options under “Category” and “Company.” Don’t jump in to the “City” and “State” options yet, even if you think you’d like to relocate in New Mexico. You’ll be amazed to discover how some of your finely honed skills can be applied to unique and exciting new careers.

    Still flummoxed… Stop and read Studs Terkel’s classic book, “Working.” Terkel interviewed hundreds of American workers. Men and women from every walk of life spoke with him, telling him of their likes and dislikes, fears, problems, and happinesses on the job. The book is a manifestation of Terkel’s belief that our work is a search for “daily meaning as well as our daily bread.”

  • Why Hunting for a “Great” Job Will Hurt Your Career

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    Courtesy, iStockPhoto.com

    Notice the emphasis on “Great” as you read this interesting twist on searching for meaningful work at Bnet.com, CBS’s interactive business network.

    The article was written by one of our favorite bloggers, Penelope Trunk. She advocates taking a job – any job – if you are unemployed because, “lucky people create their own luck… For the unemployed, that means taking almost any job. People get lucky at work – someone mentors them, a big project lands in your lap, you catch a huge error and save a lot of money. But no one gets lucky in a job without actually being in a job.”

    Her five reasons why you should immediately stop searching for that “great” job and take almost anything that comes along sound reasonable, but can you really count on any old job? And that “almost any” trips me up. I’d like to hear what would qualify as an absolutely no way job. Would you want to begin bagging at the supermarket, for example, if you were not interested in working your way up that food chain? But then, I suppose we should not discount the possibility of hearing about a great opportunity more akin to your aspirations while bagging the broccoli. And the chances of that are??? Food for thought!

  • When “You Are Special” Is Not Enough

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    The advice about the “Intersection of Life and Work” is often rich on Penelope Trunk’s “Brazen Careerist” blog, but this week’s posting, “Time Management Is Not About Tasks,” is particularly insightful and practical.

    It’s all about the art of time well spent and constructive criticism vs vapid compliments.

    And don’t miss her reference to Get Rid of the Performance Review!: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing — and Focus on What Really Matters, a fascinating book by Samuel Culbert, professor at the UCLA school of business.

    Trunk does not blog on a fixed schedule. She says, “I post when I have something to say that may be of value to my readers.” I feel much the same about my blog and appreciate your patience through my sometimes lengthy gaps in publication and the fact that you do come back to read what I have to say.

  • The Minimalist’s Guide to Cultivating Passion

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    Today, one of my favorite blogs, Zen Habits, hosted a guest blogger, Cal Newport, who posted a fun and informative “Guide to Cultivating Passion.”

    No airy-fairy passion potion, this is a nitty-gritty, how-to find and nurture passionate pursuits in our own lives.

    Newport’s piece begins with a nod to comedian Steve Martin. He quotes from Martin’s 2007 memoir, Born Standing Up, where Martin says: “I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success.”

    “If you do the math,” notes Newport, “this sums to fourteen years of hard work before Martin saw returns on his investment. That’s a long time to remain focused on a goal without reward, especially when the path is ambiguous (‘The course was more plodding than heroic,’ Martin recalls).  But as he makes clear in his book, Martin found a Zen peace in the simplicity of his pursuit. He describes with relish, for example, the importance of ‘diligence’ in becoming a star — a term he redefines to mean the ability to not work on unrelated projects — and he labels ‘loss of focus’ as an ‘indulgence’ that success cannot afford.”

    But Martin’s example is just the beginning of this great post. Newport goes on to say, “Even if we agree on their value, how do we find these passionate pursuits in our own lives? This is the thorny question I address in this post.”

    Whether you are lost in the wildernesss searching for your passion or, having identified it, are frozen in passion paralysis over the life-changing implications of this discovery, you need to read Newport’s analysis of the “thorny issues.”

    One tip, I particularly love is that, “You need to be exposed to many things…. You should expose yourself even though you might not know if you’ll be interested.”

    “Put another way,” says Newport: “take a step back; relax; then open your eyes to patiently take in all that’s out there.”

  • Beware When Your Resumé Looks Like Your Passport: the Date Stamps Cover Where You’ve Been But Not Where You Want to Go or Why?

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    Courtesy of Mark Ashley at www.upgradetravelbetter.com

    Resumés do a great job telling people where you worked and what you have accomplished.  Like passports, they play a role as you venture forward. In some jobs where the HR department rules, they are required. But – and this is a big BUT – they are all about your past. One career consultant, Joshua Waldman, even calls them “obituaries!”

    As we’ve discussed before, traditional resumés need to be replaced by “working resumés.” You need to create a document that captures the value you bring to the future. How will you solve the organization’s problems in ways that are unique, innovative, practical and sustainable?

    Employers – just look at BP, for example – are not looking for a temporary fix. Equally important to how is the why you wish to solve the problem.  Perfection without passion is not going to get you very far. Again, using BP as an example, Tony Hayward, CEO at the time of rig explosion and subsequent horrific oil leak had stellar credentials. His past accomplishments looked great on paper but a critical component was missing: compassion.  Without a sense of empathy for the victims or the environment, all his skills came to naught. His replacement, Bob Dudley, is equally talented and has that extra dose of compassion that allows him to express not only how he is going to solve the problem but why and that makes him far more valuable to BP today than the former CEO.

    But passion is also a critical factor in non-Fortune 500 boardrooms. Last month, Alastair Macaulay published a dance review in the NY Times in which he  critiqued Canadian choreographer-dancer Paul-André Fortier ‘s 30-minute solo, “30 x 30,” performed at noon each day for 30 consecutive days in the open air at 1 New York Plaza.

    Macaulay writes,

    “His dancing is site-specific and multidirectional. He faces, by turns, up past the surrounding buildings to the sky, across to New York Harbor on the horizon, down to the ground, and out to the more immediate vicinity, which now and then includes members of the audience, with whom he makes brief eye contact.

    “There’s a constant contrast between the sleek lines of the shapes and lines he demonstrates and the gaunt, severe tension of his face and hands. His energy is always contained; he performs with the distanced air of a mime artist or a teacher; and there’s no particular pleasure to be had from his physical tone.

    “Coolly he shows us one movement idea after another. Most of them are fairly interesting or agreeable. …Frequently he implies some kind of mime content, so that I found myself labeling one section ‘Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses,’ which made the next passage, in which he seemed to hurl a few curses at the financial district, slightly more interesting. But the carefully measured tone of Mr. Fortier’s movements stopped any of this from having any force or from being absorbing. His quality of teacherly reserve places a curious distance between his solo and himself. It’s as if he were presenting something in which he didn’t quite believe but feels ought to impress us anyway.”

    That last line, “presenting something in which he didn’t quite believe but feels ought to impress us anyway,” is devastating!  According to this trusted dance critic, Fortier has the skill required but not the passion necessary to transport audiences to other realms – real and imaginary. Does this sound like your resumé? We hope not.

    Meshing our work and our passions is key to making our lives works of art.

    Courtesy of z_zozole

  • “When Generations Collide:” Understanding Why and How Generations Clash in the Work Arena

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    One of the best parts of living in a small town in Maine is that people actually walk from place to place. Even more remarkable, perhaps, we walkers stop and greet one another when we meet. Sometimes, it’s just to say “Good Morning;” other times nuggets of wisdom are shared.

    Today, was a nugget of wisdom morning. Walking on our neighborhood beach, I bumped into a friend whom I had not seen for some time. Aged 60, she has been looking for work for more than a few months. She has a stellar resumé and has had many interviews but the ideal offer has not materialized. She said, “I kept asking myself what I might be doing wrong. I knew something was missing in the interviews but I could not put my finger on the problem until I read a book called When Generations Collide. Suddenly, I realized that my interviewers, most of whom were quite young, do not understand why I am pursuing another job. More than a language barrier it is a giant generational barrier, and I knew I had to overcome it to find the work that I wanted.”

    The full title of the book she recommended – and I do too – is, When Generations Collide: Who They Are. Why They Clash. How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work, by Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman.

    The authors, founding partners of BridgeWorks consulting firm, describe four generations as: “Traditionalists” (1900-45), “Baby Boomers” (1946-64), “Generation Xers” (1965-80) and “Millennials” (1981-99). They explore the problems each might encounter in work settings, but, of course, as with my neighbor the problems can arise long before one is actually in the work setting.

    This is a book you’ll want to keep, to refer to over and over again. It is not full of jargon, or dry data and analysis. It is an easy read, but don’t be deceived by the facility with which you can breeze through their anecdotes. The stories are real and poignant and may even enlighten as they did my neighbor and me on this fine Maine morning.

    Local Sculpture, Willard Beach, photo by Elizabeth

  • How Positioning Yourself for a Spot on Oprah Is Remarkably Similar to Positioning Yourself for the Job of Your Dreams

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    When I read Charlotte Jensen’s five great tips about how to get on a talk show – even Oprah’s – I was struck by how these strategies could just as easily apply to a job search.

    As Jensen says: “Admit it: You’ve dreamed of sitting across from Oprah and watching your sales skyrocket after the world’s most influential talk show host gives you her seal of approval in front of millions. … Even though your chances are undeniably slim, it actually is possible to get on Oprah — or any of the other popular talk shows, including The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Rachael Ray, Good Morning America and The Martha Stewart Show. Plenty of entrepreneurs just like you have landed in front of cameras on TV’s hottest talk shows. How’d they do it – and what can you learn from their successes? Here are five things you need to know.”

    Here’s an abbreviated version of Jensen’s tips. See what you think:

    1. Start local. Become an expert in your field and find ways to inspire media coverage, even if it’s just your hometown papers, blogs and local news shows. Building a foundation of media coverage not only boosts your credibility, but also spreads the word, leads to new opportunities and prepares you for, hopefully, what will be your big break.

    2. Find a newsworthy angle. Your idea is more likely to get noticed if it ties in with current events or trends, and if you’ve established yourself as the go-to person on that specific topic. “Work to develop stories and angles that will resonate with the media and get them interested in an interview with you,”

    3. Pitch with finesse. Ready to pitch your business to producers? Keep in mind their goal is to entertain and inform viewers — not promote your company. Reaching the right person is essential, and timing is very important, as is the quality of the pitch itself.

    4. Be patient. Laying the groundwork is a process, and it doesn’t guarantee a seat on Ellen’s couch. If your efforts at getting noticed aren’t working, you might want to consider hiring a well-connected PR firm – but even then, there’s no guarantee.

    5. And when the spotlight comes, be ready to shine. This is one of those times you can’t just show up and wing it.

    Start Local; Become an Expert in Your Field – Someone They Want to Interview; Pitch [market] Yourself with Finesse; Be Patient; and Be Prepared to Shine when Your Moment Comes – each step is key. And, who knows, if you’re truly creative you could land the job and be on Oprah!

    Oprah, Courtesy of Babble.com

  • You Have to Step Out of the Batting Cage to Hit A Home Run!

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    Art courtesy of www.wizardofdraws.com

    You can become competent – even very good – at something if you’re diligent about practicing. Remember Jack Benny’s old joke about the tourist, lost in NYC, asking: “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” And the somewhat acerbic New Yorker answers: “Practice!”

    In today’s job market, you can practice resumé writing, branding, self-marketing, networking and interview skills to the cows come home and you’ll never land the job. (Could that be because you’re waiting for the cows to come home in NYC where there are no farms for them to come home to?)

    Seriously, you have to focus on hitting a home run to secure the job you want. Yes, you have to practice. You must be extremely good – if not an expert – at what you do. But once your credentials are solid, you must be prepared to take a risk, to step out of the batting box and take a swing.

    The irony is that, while we’re suggesting you take risks, it’s a luxury today’s employers cannot afford to take themselves (as in a mediocre candidate) in this economy. They have problems that need to be solved now, and too many of the tried and true “expert” tactics and strategies have failed.

    Innovation is the big word today. Employers are looking for candidates with new solutions. The ideal candidate understands their challenge, has innovative strategies to address that challenge, has the know-how to implement the strategies, solve the problem, measure results and communicate lessons learned.

    You need to demonstrate that you are that “Innovator Par Excellence!” Research – or dare we say – ask what that employer’s priorities are. Don’t leave it to him or her to imagine what you might do. Rather, take one of their most urgent priorities and create a mini-plan to tackle the challenge: create a solution-based strategy to accomplish the task, etc, including measuring impact.

    Take risks: not off-the-cuff risks but well reasoned risks that you passionately believe in. Never underestimate the power of passion as your ultimate productivity tool. Don’t let fear of failure circumscribe your creative thinking. The worst thing that could happen is that you don’t get the job – but do you really want to work with someone who does not see the value in your ideas? The best thing that could happen is that you get the job and – even better – with mini-plan in hand, you’ve already begun to do the job.

    Art courtesy of www.buzzle.com

    Moreover, you will learn in the process. Look at Thomas Alva Edison. Beth Kanter in her blog, “How Nonprofit Organizations Can Use Social Media to Power Social Networks for Change,” mentioned Edison and his belief in the importance of experiments and not to frame them as success or failure but as learning. “Edison,” Kanter says, “held 1,093 patents for different inventions.  Many of them, like the lightbulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera, were brilliant creations that have a huge influence on our everyday life. However, not everything he created was a success; he also had many failures.  He also did not find the successful inventions with his first experiment.  In his question to create the storage battery, he conducted 10,000 experiments before arriving at a method that worked.”

    And she quotes Edison, “Results! I have gotten a lot of results. I know what doesn’t work and won’t have to be tried again.”

    So, our advice is to get out of the batting cage and start swinging. You’ll get many strikes and hit more than a few foul balls but, eventually, you will connect with a zinger and knock that ball out of the park. That’s what’s called a home run!

  • The Halo or Stepford Effect: Are Your Valuable Skills and Experience Really Being Trumped By Your Appearance?

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    To begin, let’s put this highly over-used concept, the “Halo Effect,” in context. The phenomenon was first studied in the early 1900s by psychologist E.L.Thorndike, who noticed that when an individual is found to possess one desirable trait, that individual is assumed to have many other desirable traits too.

    The matter achieved further prominence in 2007 with the publication of The Halo Effect, a book by business academic Phil Rosenzweig, in which he criticizes “pseudoscientific tendencies in the explanation of business performance.”

    Excellent though Rosenzweig’s critique is, it does not seem to have tamped down the corruption of the concept – rhetorically or scientifically.

    The “Halo Effect” was alive and thriving in Laura Sinberg’s  Forbes article, “Dress for Interview Success” where she asks us to:

    “Remember that Tide-to-Go commercial, the one where an interview candidate tries to explain why he’s the best choice for the job. But the interviewer is so distracted by a stain on the man’s shirt that he imagines the stain talking to him? The message is obvious: One tiny detail can have a big impact when it comes to getting the job. And what you wear has a lot to do with it.

    Although job-related skills an experience rank high in importance in whether or not you land the position, during the initial hiring process they have less power than most of us think. That’s because the first thing we notice about someone is their appearance, and more specifically, the way they are dressed.

    According to a study by Frank Bernieri, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Oregon State University, within the first 10 seconds of meeting your interviewer – otherwise known as the meet-and-greet – that person has decided whether or not you’re right for the job. Those who come across as polished and pulled together are quite simply more likely to be hired than those who are seen as putting in less effort.”

    Sinberg goes on to delineate just what an individual should and should not wear, adding it’s not just sartorial style but those flashy cuff links or run in your hose that can tarnish your halo.

    The article also notes how one woman, Kim Zoller, created a business, Image Dynamics, to advise companies like Moet Hennessy and Louis Vuitton on image and communication skills. Zoller, who used to work at a staffing agency, started her business because “I saw women coming in to this agency, and they had great résumés, but they weren’t getting jobs because they didn’t know how to dress.”

    “If you’re not dressed well, you can say all the right things … but you won’t get the job when you’re being compared with a lot of other capable people who are dressed better,” explains Zoller.

    Sounds a little like Frank Oz’s “Stepford” to me… and isn’t that sci-fi?

    You must decide, but I tend to side with Rosenzweig and his critique of pseudo-scientific theories. To me, dressing well means dressing appropriately – in a manner that befits the organization where you’d like to work and in a manner that reflects the authenticity of your persona. Would you really want to work in an office that “required” suits and ties and conservative shoes when you’re truly a peacock? Do you think you could perform well under those sartorial restraints?

    Wouldn’t it be better to take one of your splendid feathers, dust off your halo and walk out in your own (unreflected) light?

  • Newsweek Magazine Metaphors and Gladiators in Northern England!

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    This morning, as I read David Carr’s article, “How to Save Newsweek,” in the New York Times, I realized that Carr’s 8 steps to salvation are equally applicable to anyone striving to achieve a unique brand and strategically position themselves in today’s job market – which is in just as much trouble as the legacy, print-on-paper media world.

    I highly recommend you read the entire article, but three of Carr’s steps which I find especially relevant are:

    “1. IT’S A MAGAZINE

    Yes, it’s a brand. But mainly, it’s a magazine.

    Whatever revenue Newsweek attracts comes overwhelmingly from the printed product. So while many savants have suggested it is as easy as dumping the print brand and its associated costs, the Web footprint of something called “Newsweek” is small and represents a tiny fraction of the revenue. The name may become more meaningful on the Web, but to make Newsweek work, someone has to figure out how to put out a magazine.

    4. DO THE SMALL STUFF WELL

    When editorial types rave about Adam Moss’s version of New York magazine, part of what they are reacting to is not the big booming features, but what the magazine does at either end — the provocative small display type, playful infographics, and bits of service journalism smartly and elegantly delivered.

    By comparison, Newsweek’s vocabulary draws on a previous century, reflecting none of the Web’s influence on print design. There is no texture: no big and little on the same page, no funny bits mixed with issues of civic moment, no jewel boxes of unexpected finds, nothing that doesn’t fit on a grid. Weeklies are murder to produce, but ragged and risky is better than rote.

    8. THROW A HAIL MARY

    …In magazines, time is both your enemy and your friend. Yes, the 24/7 cycle will run you over, but the opportunity to take a breath can sometimes provide a much needed respite. A section of look-backs could be called “Wait a Minute,” and could aggressively use the second look to deconstruct events we thought we already knew. (Was the blown call in Detroit a huge pratfall for Major League Baseball, or perhaps one of its crowning moments?)”

    Carr has mixed his metaphors here but we’ll let that slide…

    Meanwhile, the three parallel job-hunting related strategies I mentioned would be:

    RE # 1, “You’re a Magazine” – Focus on what you are and promote those assets. Don’t try to be a Chief Financial Officer or even an accountant, if you cannot balance your checkbook without the aid of three calculators. It’s up to you to identify your authentic strengths and sell them; don’t leave it up to hoping the hiring manager “will see” the strengths you bring to the table. They do not have the time for second guessing, nor do they want to take the risk. Show them what you can do!

    RE # 4, “Do the Small Stuff Well” – Details, details, details. Do the small things well and they will hold the big picture together. All good storytellers know that the heart of a story is in the details: each and every word, image, every character counts. It’s your story, your brand, your career and your life. No one is better equipped to capture the essential details than you.

    RE # 8, “Throw a Hail Mary” – Don’t be afraid to step back and take a well-calculated risk. If you think strategically, have researched the top challenges facing the organization for which you’d like to work, and have identified what you think are a few good solutions – don’t be afraid to speak up. If they are way off the mark, the worse that could happen is that you may not get the job. But is that so bad? Perhaps it is not a good fit and better to find out before you’ve been in the position a month or two. On the other hand, your ideas may be perceived as brilliant and you land the job. Now you have to be sure you can deliver on what you’ve promised. It’s those blasted details again!

    Last but not least I mentioned Gladiators. I had one of those “park in my driveway moments” today as I listed to an NPR story about the possible discovery in northern England, of  “the world’s only well-preserved Roman gladiator cemetery.” A key clue was that the teeth marks found on some of the remains could only have been made by a lion or tiger (in northern England?). Now that’s what I call a telling detail!

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