Archive for the ‘Job Search Tips’ Category

  • Confidence – in the Eye of the Beholder and Captain America

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    Confidence – it’s a critical, if not the, ingredient you need whether you’re looking for a new job, trying to be more creative in your current job, or thinking of launching a business of your own.

    Just a few weeks ago, as I was in Washington, DC, driving to Capitol Hill for an important meeting, my radio suddenly announced a traffic alert, “Avoid the downtown area. Streets are closed because Captain America is filming on the mall.”

    I thought, “That’s me!” Not that I am Captain America, but I felt that my tackling a meeting on Capitol Hill required a Captain America dose of confidence.

    Real confidence – not just some superficial braggadocio – can be difficult to achieve. It comes from deep within, and, while we may be confident in certain areas of our lives where we have a lot of experience, new situations and opportunities can challenge.

    How to Be Confident, Even When You’re Not  is a great article by Kevin Daum at Inc.com. Daum has three terrific tips on how to build on the strengths you have to help you deal with the unfamiliar confidently.

    Another valuable online confidence-boosting resource is Linda Descanos, Mastering the Three V’s to Project Confidence and Presence where she provides tools to help us identify and polish our strengths.

    Anne Fisher’s article,  Shy at Work? Seven Ways to Speak Up, at Fortune online shares excellent and actionable tips on how to overcome lack of confidence.

    Lack of confidence does not have to be an insurmountable hurdle. Believe in yourself and, with just a little practice, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy in your eyes and everyone else’s, including Captain America’s.

  • Pitch – Is Yours Perfect or Are You Tone Deaf?

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    Pitch is both a verb and a noun.

    Verb:  One can pitch an idea, a story, a song, a ball – one’s self.

    Noun:  The pitch is an idea, story, song – your self.

    They are two distinct art forms. One can have perfect pitch, as in singing the true sound of any note in a piece of music, and still not understand the song.

    Others can have a profound connection with a song and miss the true notes. If you’ve watched “The Voice” more than once on TV, you’ll have heard the ultimate criticism, “Pitchy!”   When one of the judges declares a singer’s voice “pitchy” – not true, nor flat nor sharp but all over the place, it’s the kiss of death.

    Don’t be tone deaf. When pitching yourself for a job you need to nail both the notes and the story. You must focus on your content, delivery, and above all – your value. The perfect pitch is so much more than what you know; it has to be about what you can do with what you know for the organization where you’d like to work. (See our earlier post on Leonardo Da Vinci’s radical working resumé.)

    Three tips to get you off on the right note:

    1. Create a compelling story: Put your best foot forward. The competition is fierce and you need to be able to demonstrate you are the best of the best.  Focus on what you have to offer and why it will be of value – what’s in it for the organization. You know all about using active verbs but do not forget the blockbuster nouns – key words – that capture you, your strengths and your industry savvy.

    2. Do your research: Know what problems/challenges your company-to-be needs to address and position yourself as key to delivering a distinctive, pro-active, sustainable solution.

    3. Data: Don’t forget to include real evidence: metrics to quantify your successes and specific examples to qualify your accomplishments. You want to demonstrate the impact – outcomes and not just outputs – you can achieve to make a real difference.

    It’s time to reclaim the positive aspects of pitching. You’re not a used car salesman trying to off-load a wreck. Nor are you a fickle, pie-in-the-sky visionary. As Yann Martel’s character, Pi, says in his book, Life of Pi,

    and the spectacular new movie, “I had to stop hoping so much that a ship would rescue me. I should not count on outside help. Survival had to start with me. In my experience, a castaway’s worst mistake is to hope too much and do too little. Survival starts by paying attention to what is close at hand and immediate. To look out with idle hope is tantamount to dreaming one’s life away.”

    Ludwig van Beethoven said, “Music is the soil in which the spirit lives, thinks, and invents.”

    Soooo, warm up your vocal chords and pitch the music of your life and work!

     

  • The Power of Knowing How to Ask the Right Questions

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    Author and teacher, Angela Maiers, is a passionate advocate of life-long learning, and this lesson she shared with a group of first graders is just as valuable for us with 50+ more years down the road. Angela and the first graders talked about power of curiosity, and more specifically the power we hold as learners when we know how to ask the right question.

    She says, “Being in charge of the questions we ask matters. Successful thinking and learning require questions to be framed in a wide variety of ways. The ‘framing’ of our questions dramatically influences what we can and are able to understand. Just teaching students to question is not enough. It is critical to explore where different questions take us as learners.”

    We have become skilled at answering questions. Think about the experience you have in test prep. Think about all your interview prep sessions. How many sites do you Google for sample questions before an interview, to minimize any surprise questions? That’s a great way for the interviewer to learn about you, but what have you learned in the process?

    I remember telling my own children, when they were stressing over the questions a college admissions’ officer would ask them, that it was even more important for them to ask questions about the college – courses, professors, culture etc.  Gradually, they understood that they were signing up for four years of living and learning – at an, even then, pretty steep cost – and it would behoove them to ask a few questions. They had a moment of enlightenment as they realized they, too, had something special to offer, and their questions about the institution where they wanted to invest their hearts, minds, time, and money also let the interviewer see and understand the assets they were bringing to the table.

    The same experience applies to you, whether you are interviewing for a job or for a loan to start your own business. Let your interviewer know the assets you bring and ask the questions that will prompt them to sell that job or loan to you.

    Maiers says, “It is important for us to know how the types of questions we ask impact and influence the answers we are capable of getting.”

    Different kinds of questions she describes are:

    ·  Clarifying Questions

    ·  Sorting and Sifting Out Questions

    ·  Strategic Questions

    ·  Planning Questions

    ·  Elaboration Questions

    ·  Comparing Questions

     

    Blogger Jesse Stanchak offers more insights as he writes, “Questions are easily the best tools you have at your disposal for priming the pump of creativity.”

    Specific cues he offers to stimulate questions are:

    • Take a cue from the Jewish Seder. A traditional Passover Seder involves the ritual asking of questions, the most famous of which is, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” That question is at the heart of all story telling…
    • Take a cue from Reddit… Two of their best-loved boards are Ask Me Anything and Explain Like I’m Five
    • Take a cue from the reporter of your dreams… Sit down and interview yourself. Ask yourself all the questions you wish real reporters would take the time to consider…
    • Take a cue from your readers. What are your fans always asking you?…

     

    Once you have some answers, test them by taking a few steps forward. You may have to back-up and try again, but first, ask yourself why these initial steps did or did not work? The answers will put you in an even stronger position to take those next steps.

    Just Start Asking!

  • There Are Only 3 True Job Interview Questions!

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    George Bradt, writing in Forbes magazine, says that top executive recruiters agree that there are just 3 true job interview questions:

    1. Can you do the job?
    2. Will you love the job?
    3. Can we tolerate working with you?

    “That’s it,” says Bradt. “Those three. Think back, every question you’ve ever had asked of you in a job interview is a subset of a deeper in-depth follow-up to one of these three key questions. Each question potentially may be asked using different words, but every question, however it is phrased, is just a variation on one of these topics: Strengths, Motivation, and Fit.”

    1. Can you do the job? is all about Strengths – both technical and interpersonal skills. Do you have the skills required and can you work well with and even inspire others?
    2. Will you love the job? is about Motivation. Bradt quotes Cornerstone International Group CEO, Bill Guy, who emphasizes the changing nature of motivation, “employees do not wish to get paid merely for working hard—just the reverse: they will work hard because they enjoy their environment and the challenges associated with their work.”
    3. Can we tolerate working with you? is about Fit.  Bradt quotes an interview with Executive Search firm Heidrick & Struggles CEO, Kevin Kelly who explained the importance of cultural fit: “40 percent of senior executives leave organizations or are fired or pushed out within 18 months. It’s not because they’re dumb; it’s because a lot of times culturally they may not fit in with the organization or it’s not clearly articulated to them as they joined.”

    Bradt says, “if you’re the one being interviewed, prepare by thinking through examples that illustrate your strengths, what motivates you about the organization and role you’re interviewing for, and the fit between your own preferences and the organization’s Behaviors, Relationships, Attitudes, Values, and Environment (BRAVE).

    But remember that interviews are exercises in solution selling. They are not about you.

    “Think of the interview process as a chance for you to show your ability to solve the organization and interviewer’s problem. That’s why you need to highlight strengths in the areas most important to the interviewers, talk about how you would be motivated by the role’s challenges, and discuss why you would be a BRAVE fit with the organization’s culture.”

     

     

  • 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 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!

  • 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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