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Tending your career garden

Yesterday, I spent a good deal of my day working in the garden. 

This may seem like an odd thing to do to many. After all, it’s the end of December; nearly everything is in hibernation awaiting the longer days and warmer temperatures of Spring (and has been for over a month now). What possibly would there be to do?

Here’s a short list of things that I accomplished:

  • Pruning a number of plants that are dormant
  • Cleaning out flowerbeds of leaf debris
  • Getting rid of Winter weeds that had started to take over a couple of flowerbeds
  • Cutting back perennials that had died off in the hard freeze we had a couple of weeks ago

What’s the end result look like? To the untrained eye, not much:

Image

 

But thanks to my investment of effort, this garden bed is ready for its next big growing season. Could I have waited until Spring was upon us? Yes. But that would have meant I was well behind the curve–and things might have suffered for it. 

As I was working in the yard yesterday, it struck me how the work I was doing is similar to that which we all need to do in managing our careers. 

  • Do you belong to a professional association for your field? Do you make time to attend the chapter meetings to learn from key professionals in your industry?
  • When’s the last time you’ve done a webinar on a new trend or technique in your industry?
  • Have you gone to a regional/national conference in the past year?
  • When’s the last time you spent a weekend afternoon updating your LinkedIn profile?
  • How about when you last reached out to people in your network to have coffee?

We often think of doing these things only when they are forced upon us: We get a new manager who quickly exposes themselves as the Manager From Hell. Our company is acquired. We are laid off. 

How much more effective would you be in being able to quickly make a move thanks to your up-to-date knowledge, strong network, and solid LinkedIn profile?

Something to think about the next time you find yourself out raking leaves or pulling weeds…

A very merry Christmas

Happy Christmas Day! I hope that you all are having a great holiday.

We spent last night at the house of my oldest friend, celebrating with his family and eating the biggest Prime Rib roast I have ever seen, expertly roasted in his Big Green Egg. I’m not necessarily one for large hunks of red meat (I almost never cook it at home), but it’s hard to say no to something as beautifully done as this.

Today is going to be quiet. I’m making Yeasted Brown Butter Waffles for breakfast with a few things alongside–some nice fruit, good bacon, eggs. Dinner will be a bit different since we had Prime Rib last night. Dungeness Crab served with drawn deviled butter, good garlic bread, and Roasted Mushroom Salad with Hazelnuts. Roasting the Oyster mushrooms gives them a meaty depth of flavor that is beautifully complimented by the Manchego and hazelnuts.

After all of that, perhaps a nice walk…or just collapsing on the couch to watch “A Christmas Story” over and over again?

Whatever holiday you celebrate this season, I hope that it is filled with great people, food, stories, laughter, and happiness.

Know someone looking for a job? Here’s how you can help this holiday season

We all know that holiday season can be stressful. Financial concerns over gift-giving, travel costs, or hosting events/parties are ever-present. Anyone that’s been in an airport during the week of Christmas is likely to suffer mild PTSD; even those of us trying to travel by car/bus/train can get caught out by traffic or unexpected Winter storms. And let’s not forget the family gatherings..

As tough as all of that can be, it’s much more difficult when you’ve lost your job.

the_right_candidate_unemployed_santa

How to tell your family that you can’t afford the plane ticket home? Or stressing out about buying gifts for family and friends when your unemployment just ran out? Declining yet another invitation to a holiday dinner out because you can’t afford it?

Making things worse is that available job opportunities often start drying up around December 10th and don’t return until early-mid January. Many companies go through fiscal year-end in December which often includes a freeze on hiring until the new fiscal year starts. A lot of hiring managers take the last two weeks of the year off, meaning interview loops don’t happen and hiring decisions aren’t made.

Know someone out of work this holiday season? Here are a few possible gifts to give them:

  • Read a book that really helped you in your career search? Buy them a copy.
  • Going to a holiday or NYE party? Invite them along. These events are great ways to meet people and network. I made two networking connections at a party I attended last night.
  • Give them a gift card to Starbucks… If they are managing their job search well, a job seeker will likely be spending a fair amount of each week meeting people for coffee. That cost can add up.
  • …or to a decent department store. Someone who is looking for a job may end up going to the same company multiple times for interviews, and hence need multiple outfits; but if they’ve been out of work for awhile they aren’t likely to spend money on new clothes. A new shirt, sweater, or blouse doesn’t have to be expensive–but it can be both a great addition to their professional wardrobe as well as a nice boost of confidence.
  • Take them to do something you know they enjoy but aren’t doing due to the cost. Go tour the new art museum exhibit and get lunch–your treat. Get a massage or mani/pedis; take them to see a football or soccer game. Go see a holiday concert or show together.
  • Get them out of the house. It’s easy to self-isolate this time of year when it seems like doing things with friends always = spending $ you don’t have. It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way, though. How much does it cost to walk through a neighborhood that has great holiday light displays? Or (in many communities) to watch the holiday ships parade past? To go to a church and listen to a holiday music program? Or even just invite them over to watch a classic holiday movie with a big bowl of popcorn and some ‘adult’ hot cocoa?

Tis the season for giving. A little bit of thought on your part will be viewed with immense gratitude and appreciation by your out of work friend. Even more when they get a great new job thanks to your help.

Who are your champions?

At a point in my recent past, I was talking with someone in my professional network. We had been introduced by a third party (a candidate we had both tried to recruit, actually) many years ago. We’ve stayed in touch, sharing information/resources/networking assistance. Over time, we’ve become friends.

I reached out to this person to let them know I was starting to look for a new opportunity and wanted to expand my network.

His reply: “Who can I connect you to? How else can I help?”

This isn’t someone who was looking for something in return. Taking time to help me didn’t offer an immediate, direct benefit to them. They had a deep network of key leaders–and were willing to make connections through that network on my behalf.

That’s someone I call a career search champion. And there are many people in your network who might be worthy of that title…if you’ve made the appropriate investment.

Think carefully about the people in your network. How do you know them? Did you work together? Is it someone for whom you consistently delivered excellent work? Did you make the time to invest in that relationship, getting to know them beyond the transactional nature of your work? If you no longer work together, what have you done to maintain that relationship?

If it’s someone like the professional colleague in the example above, what have you done to build and perpetuate that relationship? How have you offered to share your expertise with them? What about helping them out when they need a networking connection, a reference, or are trying to hire that key member of their team? What value do you offer to them?

Your professional relationships need to be valued, respected, and invested in. When you do this consistently, you might be lucky enough to call upon one of them and be humbled by their offer of assistance–to be your champion by representing you to people in their network who they know and respect.

How do you build and invest in your professional relationships? And how have they been champions for you?

November Jobs Report: 4 key trends

The U.S. economy added 203,000 jobs in November, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported Friday. The overall unemployment rate has dropped to 7.0%, down from 7.3% in October.

Overall, this is good news. However, there are some factors worth considering:

  • Online shopping is clearly having an impact on hiring. Transportation and Warehousing sectors gained 31,000 in November, with gains of 8,000 in truck transport and 5,000 in warehousing and storage. Contrast that total to a total of 23,000 jobs added in the Retail sector. Amazon alone planned to 20,000 employees for the holiday season this year. Want a temp job for the holiday? Check out Amazon’s virtual customer service center or distribution center jobs instead of heading to your local mall.
  • Manufacturing isn’t dead. The Manufacturing sector was one of the biggest gainers in November, adding 27,000 jobs.
  • The quality of added jobs are mixed. Nearly a third of private-sector jobs were from retailers, hotels, and temp agencies. These often are not high wage jobs.
  • The number of long-term unemployed was essentially unchanged, remaining at 4.1 Million. This is a disquieting trend, because it indicates that while companies are increasing overall hiring, the long-term unemployed (6 months or more) either being overlooked due to their long break in employment or have stopped looking altogether.
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