Archive for the ‘Career Counseling’ Category

  • Your Originality: How to Capture and Market It

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    We are – each and everyone of us – original. No two people are exactly alike. That originality is our brand and our selling point. The author, CS Lewis, once said,  “No man [or woman] who bothers about originality will be original: simply tell the truth and you’ll become original without noticing it.”

    Ahhh, but the challenge for many is how to capture and communicate what makes us unique and then how to position that as value to the person with whom we would like to work.

    I found two blog posts this week to help overcome the challenges of defining and marketing originality.

    Joanna Maxwell’s workincolour.com blog  post, What Are Your Talents? is a gem of a working tool. Maxwell says, “It’s not currently fashionable to talk about talents: we focus on skills and experience, or describe someone as ‘gifted’ without getting too specific. But talents are part of our essential make-up – the gifts, passions, interests and natural aptitudes we are born with.”

    These talents are an inherent part of our original make-up, and Maxwell takes readers through an exercise, based on Howard Gardner’s “Eight Core Intelligences” to help us identify those talents we have and those we do not. She then goes on to suggest we investigate our other non-Gardner talents and work the whole batch up into a profile (sample provided) that we and others can understand.

    Now for an original way to market your originality, read Take the Employer’s-Eye View by Liz Ryan on the Glassdoor.com Blog.

    Ryan says, “We are trained (badly!) to talk about ourselves in our job search overtures to employers. We are taught to say that we’ve done this and that and worked in X, Y and Z industries. We are schooled in telling employers what we think of our own skills: ‘I’m strategic and savvy and a good communicator.’ This old-school job search approach is dangerous garbage, because it keeps us from focusing on the one thing an employer cares about: namely, him- or herself, and his or her own problems.”

    Lots of information in each of these blogs to help make you clear, relevant and valuable.

    And speaking of relevant, this weekend we should try to remember the real meaning of Memorial Day and that it is not – as most holidays have become – a car, mattress, coat or cashmere mega sale day.

    Happy Holiday and thank you to all of those who gave their lives so that we might enjoy it!

  • The Joys of “Jumpology” and the Art of Letting Go

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    I love Roberta Smith’s New York Times‘ article, “The Joys of Jumpology.”

    She writes, “When the photographer Philippe Halsman said, ‘Jump,’ no one asked how high. People simply pushed off or leapt up to the extent that physical ability and personal decorum allowed. In that airborne instant Mr. Halsman clicked the shutter. He called his method jumpology.”

    “Halsman, who died in 1979, said, ‘When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping, and the mask falls, so that the real person appears.’”

    “A wonderful exhibition of nearly 50 jumps that Halsman captured on film from the late 1940s through the ’50s – sometimes on commission for Life magazine – can be seen in New York City at the Laurence Miller Gallery at 20 West 57th Street, through Friday. The photographs feature stars of stage, screen and television; national leaders; a prima ballerina; writers; and other creative types. Except for a few earthbound choreographers, nearly everyone cooperates.”

    The exhibition includes this 1954 photo of the photographer Philippe Halsman with Marilyn Monroe.

    The Estate of Philippe Halsman/Laurence Miller Gallery

    I think “Jumpology,” especially as depicted in Halsman’s  photographs, is a brilliant example of the art of letting go. Once job seekers have documented their remarkably qualified persona to apply for a job, it is absolutely critical for them to let go. If you have presented yourself – not just your qualifications and your CV – but your real self and communicated the value you will bring to the job, you cannot whine or wallow in self pity because the people to whom you have applied don’t see it or take such a long time to get back to you.

    This is an extraordinarily competitive job market. A colleague recently told me that two years ago he would have never had the caliber of candidates that have applied for his job today. And, just as he is overwhelmed with the quality of candidates, he feels inundated by the sheer number of applicants.

    Soooo, once you have put your best foot forward and jumped through all the job application loops, pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and let go. Maybe even allow yourself a wee jump for joy!

  • “Brandraising!” How to Cultivate and Communicate Your Logo

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    Elizabeth's Garden Tulip

    To paraphrase William Blake who saw “the world in a grain of sand,” let’s examine your world as a single flower. The flower or logo representation is organic. It is the who, what, where, when and how of you.

    I love the term “Brandraising,” which I first encountered in Sarah Durham’s book “Brandraising: How to Raise Money and Increase Visibility through Smart Communications.”

    The book, while directed at organizations, is also an excellent tool for defining, developing, cultivating and communicating your own personal flower or brand.

    "Brandraising: One Organization, Many Channels," by Sarah Durham

    Think of the top, “Organizational Level,” of the triangle as your personal core components: your vision, mission, values, objectives, positioning and personality, which make you who you are. List each of your unique attributes, including your strengths and qualifications.

    Then, for the middle, “Identity Level,” be creative. What does your “visual identity” look like.  Are you a flower or a thorn? Are you people focused or technology focused? Do you see yourself in a global arena or in a local niche? Be sure the visual identity or logo you create best conveys the message of who you are. You would not, for example select a field of wildflowers for your logo if you wanted to develop weed killers or even sell weed wackers. If you want to convey high energy and cutting-edge think tank skills, a sand chair and beach umbrella would not do the trick.

    Last, but far from least, for the “Experiential Level,” you should maximize all the channels and tools available to connect with your audience and to let your audience connect with you. Communication is a two-way street. You sell yourself and your brand not just by broadcast advertising but more effectively by listening to your audience. Listen and take time to analyze their challenges so you can contribute realistic solutions designed to best meet their needs. Seize the opportunity to present yourself as the individual most qualified to resolve their problems.

    “Brandraising” takes time and nurturing, and it must be authentic. It is not easy but the long-term benefits are enormous. You will be able to do what you like to do and work with those who understand and share your vision and values. The flower that is your world will become a garden – ideally a community garden.

  • Color Your Way to Success: Learn What Colors Reveal About You and The Organization Where You Think You’d Like to Work

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    I’ve just been studying David McCandless’ amazingly informative “Infographic of the Day: What Colors Mean Across 10 Cultures,” in an article by Cliff Kuang, published in Fast Company Magazine online, Apr 26, 2010.

    "Colours in Cultures," by David McCandless

    “The chart encompasses 10 different cultures, and 62 emotions (!!!). The cultures are represented by concentric rings, and the emotions are represented by slices of the circle. Thus, if you want to understand about Japanese color sensibilities, you read around the graph. And if you want to learn what colors mean “danger” across cultures, you just read vertically, down section 15.”

    Kuang says, “Colors are probably the most obvious way that design varies across cultures … But the funny thing is that for most designers and companies, those color sensibilities often don’t rise past ‘Red is lucky in China; blue is soothing in the West.’ That’s naive.”

    Consider, for example that # 66, Personal Power is represented by purple in Western /American cultures; yellow in Hindi; and green in Native American.

    # 77, Success = red in Native American, Chinese, Asian and South American; and green in African cultures.

    # 46, Intelligence = blue in Western/American; white in Hindi and black in Asian.

    This is not to say that you have to wear certain colors, but you need to be aware of what they represent to the organizations where you are trying to present yourself as the best candidate.  Do you wish to leave the impression that you are powerful, or maybe intelligence is key to who you are and what you can contribute?

    In the same light, be aware of the colors the organization has chosen to represent itself. Is it a cool calm blue, a peaceful green or a powerful, highly energetic red/orange environment?

    It’s not that your colors have to coordinate with the organization’s decor but they should not clash. Would your calm, introspective demeanor thrive in hot pink?

    Most important: be authentic. Do not dress in flamboyant, flashy colors if your brightest hue is traditionally moss green. Be true to yourself and your colors – that is always the best path to long-term success!

  • Ingenuity Is Essential: Could Tech Tools Have Helped Hansel and Gretel?

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    Would text messages have been more effective than their trail of breadcrumbs? Not really. Sure the birds gobbled up their tasty breadcrumbs, but their cell phone’s battery could have died just as easily or, deep in the forest as they were, they could have lost their signal. Far better to rely on your own ingenuity than any ancillary tools…

    Abandoned by their parents and lost in the woods, Hansel and Gretel soon learned they had to draw on their own resources to survive. Today, many of us have been abandoned by our employers – hopefully not as perniciously as the old woodcutter but still leaving us alone in the “bleak forest” of the job market wilderness.

    Arthur Rackham

    Several parallel lessons for today’s job seekers jump right off the pages of this cautionary fairytale.

    First, of course, don’t trust your parents – or more to the point, don’t trust that your current job is going to be there forever. Even if everything seems peachy in your office, external elements (for H&G it was the wicked step-mother) can quickly turn your life upside-down.

    Second, don’t be mislead by gingerbread houses. Some jobs may look luscious from the outside but once inside you may find you’re the tasty morsel.

    Third, while you may – in your desperation to secure any job – have been lured into the wrong situation, you can still escape.

    Gretel, pretending thermal ignorance, cleverly tricks the witch into popping her own head into the over to test the heat. Whereupon, Gretel shoves the witch all the way in and seals the oven door.

    Gretel then frees Hansel from the cage where the witch had kept him while he “fattened up,” and together they cavort about in joy.

    Alas, the story then begins to fall apart as a “little luck in the form of a white duck” escorts them safely home, where they discover their nasty stepmother has conveniently died.  Then, too, their instant forgiveness of their irresponsible father seems more than a bit of a stretch, but that’s fodder for a whole other story.

    In a more positive light, let’s reflect back on how Gretel’s ingenuity caused the witch’s demise…

    The good news is that such ingenuity is not only the provenance of youth or limited to fairytales. Last week, the NY Times published Tara Parker-Pope’s very reassuring interview with Barbara Strauch about her new book, “The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind.”

    Strauch defines the new middle age as 40-65, and she says research has shown that during this time, “if we’re relatively healthy our brains may have a few issues, but on balance they’re better than ever during that period.” In fact, during this period, “the new modern middle age, we’re better at all sorts of things than we were at 20.”

    When Parker-Pope asks, “what kinds of things does a middle-aged brain do better than a younger brain?” Strauch replies, “Inductive reasoning and problem solving — the logical use of your brain and actually getting to solutions. We get the gist of an argument better. We’re better at sizing up a situation and reaching a creative solution. They found social expertise peaks in middle age. That’s basically sorting out the world: are you a good guy or a bad guy?”

    “Good Guys and Bad Guys” – Good Jobs and Bad Jobs.” Sounds like we still have the mettle and ingenuity to avoid the gingerbread, identify the witch and nip her culinary aspirations in the bud. And that’s without a “lucky white duck!”

  • Thanks Be To Shakespeare: Those Telling Details in the Story Behind Your Resumé Really Do Matter

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    Renown scholar, Harold Bloom, in his book, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, declared, “before Shakespeare, there was characterization; after Shakespeare, there was character, men and women with highly individual personalities.”

    “Our highly individual personalities” are what set us apart in today’s highly competitive job market.  Those individual details transform the nitty gritty skills and experience data in our resumés into a living picture of who we are and what motivates us.  With so many highly qualified (skills and experience) candidates applying for so few positions, it is more important than ever to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the pack.

    We need to stop dreading the “interview” and look at it as a real opportunity to breathe some life into our experience. That being said, particularly if you have a lot of experience, the interview is not a moment to ramble through your work history. Remember: less is more! Your details need to focus on specific experience that is strategically related to the job for which you are applying. For example, if you are applying for a job that involves creating networks of people and organizations which can be leveraged to collectively address a need, you should be prepared to share stories about the ways in which you have brought parties together, engaged and motivated them to act, and what results were achieved. Be brief and succinct but provide details that “tell” how you made it happen. You could describe how you identified key players and any challenges you faced bringing traditionally non-team players to the table. Hopefully, this involves gentle persuasion and not knocking heads together. Anyone can knock heads together, gentle persuasion where everyone feels part of a win-win solution is an art. And don’t be afraid to include a little humor. The person with whom you are interviewing wants to be assured you are committed but also that you do not consider work a forced march.

    Listen to the ways in which you describe yourself. Are they relevant to the job at hand? Ask yourself if this sounds like a person with whom you would like to work? As you share your stories, your values, energy and enthusiasm will rise to the surface. These are not things you can manufacture. Greek characters were shaped and driven by their circumstances. Our personalities reflect choices we have made and provide a blueprint for choices we will make in the future. Those choices add meaning to our work and make our contributions meaningful – a compelling asset.

  • No fainting goats… and no sheep!

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    This fascinating “White” paper, Take Charge in Changing Times: Ten Career Tips from Australian, Joanna Maxwell is a must read. I rarely use “must,” preferring to let readers make their own choices, but there are so many valuable insights here, it is a must! The insights are grounded in reality – the kind of tips that first seem so obvious we cannot understand why we had not noticed them before. These “Ten Career Tips” are just as applicable for any aspect of our lives – not just our business genes. Even better – the words and the colourful art are incredibly good fun!

    workincolour.com.au

    Joanna’s highly creative website WorkInColour: Work.Think.Live.In Colour is a feast for your eyes, mind, body and soul. Enjoy!

  • Diamond Dewdrops and Dragonflies: Would You Fare as Well under the Scrutiny of a Macro Lens?

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    Copyright: Miroslaw Swietek

    Glistening in the early morning, dragonflies, flies and beetles take on an unearthly quality as the dew gathers on their sleeping bodies. Captured in extreme close-up, one moth appears to be totally encrusted in diamonds as it rests on a twig. These remarkable photographs, published in the UK’s Daily Mail online were taken by physiotherapist Miroslaw Swietek, an amateur photographer, at around 3am in the forest next to his home.

    Writers espouse that “God is in the details,” but the same is true for job seekers. Appearances do matter, and it’s not just the obvious details such the shine on your shoes, the length of your skirt or when your trousers last saw a decent crease. You must also consider the less obvious and what they reveal.

    If, for example, you are anxious about your age, did you ever think that the employer may be more worried about your obsessing over it: that, if you are overly concerned about what others think of your age, you could become distracted from the job at hand? This scenario (pointed out to me by “Ask the Hunter” guru, Nick Corcodilos) is a lot different than the employer’s seeing your age as a serious drawback. Yes, age bias does exist but you need to stop obsessing, take control and get ahead of the story.

    Try to reframe the years. Repurpose that chronological statistic in age-positive words such as experience and wisdom. Even more important don’t hide your passion. Show that you care, you have a tremendous amount of energy and you are highly motivated to lead a purposeful life.

    Provide specific examples of ways you have applied your experience to business or community challenges. Your research should have uncovered problems the future employer needs resolved. Build your insights into a mini solution-based plan.  Keep it mini; don’t try to blow their socks off with a full-fledged strategic plan. Remember you are trying to engage not overpower, and often the best solutions are organic and collaborative so leave plenty of room for teamwork. Enthusiasm is contagious. Before you know it, your age and experience will be perceived as assets – like the dewdrop diamonds on the wing of Swietek’s dragonfly.

  • Seniors Who Rest on Their Laurels Don’t Stand a Chance in Today’s Job Market

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    Yes, 25 years of solid accomplishments add gravitas to your resume, but you could also sink like a stone under the weight of that gravitas if you do not convert past accomplishments into present-day assets.

    Maybe you were a brilliant analyst, but do you know that Google Analytics is not about the company’s earning ratio?

    Perhaps you were a direct marketing mogul. That’s wonderful but do you know how to optimize social media marketing today?

    If you are serious about working in your 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s, we know you’re interesting, courageous, eager to continue learning and contributing to the world around you. The good news is that there are lots of resources to help you bring your skills up-to-speed so you can find a good home for that passion.

    Check out adult education or community college programs.

    Here in Maine, the MCED (Maine Center for Enterprise Development) is an entrepreneur-centric resource for simplifying the process of launching a successful start-up. Other states have similar programs.

    The Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes are another great resource. Use this map to find an OLLI in your state.

    Your passion – your desire to find meaningful work – is only as good as your plan. And that plan requires a tremendous amount of due diligence.  That research begins long before the interview. It involves finding out as much as you can about the company where you think you’d like to work.

    What are their goals? Are they in line with yours? Check out their marketing materials. Then, find customer feedback.  Is the company accomplishing what it says it will do? Are its customers happy, apathetic, dissatisfied or extremely dissastisfied?

    What is the company culture and work environment? It’s easy for the company to project whatever image it wants in a marketing campaign; you need to find out what people are saying about the company, its management team and its employees. This is where your networking pays off. Talk to someone or someone who knows someone who can give you the inside scoop.

    Once you’re satisfied that this could be a good place to work, you need to learn who are the company’s biggest competitors? What challenges is the company facing in the next 6 months, next year and next two years. This information is key so you can tailor your working resume to meet those needs.

    First, make sure your resume prominently conveys that you have the skills (which you’ve so diligently brought up-to-speed) to do the job. You must write with the reader in mind. If the reader/hiring manager isn’t interested, your resume will hit the reject pile in seconds.

    Also – and this is critical – you must make a compelling case that your skills, background and experience make you the best candidate to do the job profitably for the company.  Provide meaningful data to document your assertions.

    All of this is necessary to actually get the interview. Once you are in the interview, you can make a much better case by asking the hiring manager what he or she sees as the biggest challenge facing the company. Then present a mini-plan (informed by your earlier research) describing how you would address the challenge if you were in the job.  This is where all your due diligence pays off. Your plan contains specifics garnered from your research which demonstrate your knowledge of the company and also your genuine interest in working there to help them solve the problems they face.  Your plan is not a generic blueprint that you could apply to any scenario.

    Yes, this is a lot of work and if you’re not prepared to do it perhaps you really do not want that job as much as you thought you did.

  • Body Language Counts! Beef Up Your Nonverbal Communication Skills!

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    There’s a reason Elmo got the big nod from the White House to be the spokesperson “stressing healthy habits to prevent H1N1 (aka swine) flu,” and the sultry porker, Miss Piggy, did not.

    Who would you believe: Elmo, with his childlike innocence and perennial optimism, singing, “Come on! Wash your hands with Elmo! Wash, wash, wash!” or the Divine “Miss P” trying to stifle a sneeze with her poofy pink boa?

    Body language does count. Certainly, it’s not a panacea for lack of skills or experience but, if the hiring manager has to choose between two equally qualified candidates, your wet-fish handshake may seal the deal – and not in your favor.

    Your body language mirrors your confidence or lack thereof. Don’t think the interviewer won’t notice if you’re slouching in a chair, open briefcase at your feet and looking like a deer in caught in headlights, while you’re in the waiting room. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to spring out of a chair (as you must to greet the interviewer) with any degree of grace. Even if you could master it, you’d then have to bend over and collect your papers – assuming you have not tripped over them – while the interviewer discreetly tries to dry the residue of moisture from your fishy handshake. It’s much easier and more effective to stand while you are waiting and keep your eyes on the door to the room. That way, when the interviewer walks in the door, you  need only take a step or two forward, reach out your dry hand, look the interviewer in the eye and execute a firm handshake while saying hello like you mean it.

    Maintain eye contact throughout the interview. Don’t let your eyes wander about the room as if you were sizing it up for your office.

    Engage in the discussion, and it is a discussion not an interrogation. If you appear bored, your interviewer will be also.

    Do not swing your legs over one another and keep swinging. Avoid tapping your feet or your fingers. There’s no need to be nervous. This interview is as much for your sake as it is for the hiring manager’s. It is your opportunity to learn if you like this organization, this job and if it is a good fit.

    Try to keep your hands calm. Naturally you’d avoid wild gesticulating to express enthusiasm, but also try to refrain from tugging at your tie or picking at the lint on your dress. There should not be any lint on your dress!

    At the end of the interview, stand, shake the manager’s hand again and say thank you – even if you don’t mean it.

    You may think this is just a lot of common sense which anyone would know and do, but you’d be amazed at how fast some of the simplest social etiquette flies out the door when you are nervous because you really want this job and are afraid of doing or saying anything that might blow it.

    The best way to remain calm and confident is to try and imagine that you are interviewing the hiring manager to learn if this really is the job you want. This should not be too much of a stretch because that is exactly what you are doing!

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