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Want a new job? Talk with people.

A friend (let’s call her Julie) asked me to help her put together a nice, simple stereo system for her living room. She knows I’m both a vintage audio enthusiast and a bargain hunter. I’ve been trolling Craigslist for deals on a receiver and speakers. I found her a great receiver, but the speakers have proven a bit more challenging; the right ones at the right price have yet to surface.

Yesterday, I was sitting at our local coffee shop having breakfast and talking with a few of the regulars. One of the guys (a mutual friend of Julie’s) mentioned he had a garage sale yesterday, and that he had a pair of speakers for sale. My ears perked up and I asked for more details. Turns out they were the brand I’d been searching for…and he sold them to the first person who showed up.

I winced, realizing I’d made a serious tactical error. I’d seen this person repeatedly since my search began a couple of weeks ago…but I’d never thought to mention it to him.

If I had? Our mutual friend would have a great pair of speakers in her living room right now for a very reasonable price. And that’s my mistake.

What does this have to do with job search, you ask? Well, apply the above scenario to your current or most recent job search. How many people did you think to talk with about what you are/were searching for?

All too often, people feel shamed that they are out of work.  Or they don’t want to burden others with horror stories of how badly their current job is going. So they don’t speak up in situations where they may not realize someone could have a connection that could prove extremely useful.

I’ll give you another example:

The reason I’m in my current role was because I mentioned to another member of a board on which I sit that I’d changed my email as I had left my previous employer. She immediately responded, asking if I’d be interested in having lunch with her and their VP. I realized that I hadn’t mentioned my search to her previously. Why? Too focused on making new network connections, other interviews, etc. But I’d missed communicating with a major strategic networking asset–that could have cost me a fantastic job.

So. Who haven’t you talked with that you should?

Authenticity and interviews: why it’s important

Anyone who really knows me will tell you that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. (This saddens many who come to my house for dinner only to find I forgot to make dessert.)

So I was surprised today when I was buying a bottle of water at the airport and found myself suddenly craving a Snickers.

As I was considering this purchase, I noted that there was a candy bar much like a Snickers but was all-natural, organic, etc. My ego and id had a quick summit meeting and decided that if I was to give into this temptation, I would get the more expensive but potentially healthier choice.

I just broke into it, and–it’s fine. But it’s not the thing it’s pretending it is: a Snickers. It isn’t authentic.

Authenticity is often easy to achieve in our personal lives. With work, it can be a bit more difficult. I know many people that assume a slightly different persona, a different way of communicating, when they are in a work context.

This extends to interviews as well. Interviews are not scenarios in which we often find ourselves. The interviewer is frequently not trained in how to effectively interview and evaluate talent. The interviewee often feels anxious, nervous, uncertain. In many cases, there is a lot on the line for them if they don’t nail this interview.

This sets the stage for a very inauthentic interaction–especially on the part of the interviewee, who probably doesn’t have as much experience in interviewing as the interviewer.

Unfortunately, perceptive interviewers pick up on the fact that they aren’t seeing the ‘real you’. There is a lot riding on making this hire for them; they need someone they know they and their team can effectively work with. If they can’t see that through the interview, they will hesitate to make an offer.

How can a candidate address this? Practice. Ensure that you work with an interview coach and do mock interviews that are videoed. Watch the video–do you see the real you? Ask for feedback from the mock interviewer; did they feel like you were your genuine self, or did they sense a shift as soon as you moved from breaking the ice to the formal interview questions?

This can be a tough process, but it’s immensely valuable in preparing to be your most authentic self in the interview for your dream job.

Voluntary resignations are on the rise—and that’s good news.

This is the week of employment stats.

Balancing out the not terribly positive news I posted on Monday: Millions of people are quitting their jobs every month. Nearly 2.4 Million people resigned their jobs in November 2013—over a Million more than at the height of the recession. 

At face value, this might not be viewed as positive. Here’s why it is: The number of people voluntarily resigning their positions is a positively correlated sign of consumer confidence. People resigning their jobs signals they have confidence in the economy (they have found another job or are confident they will quickly) and in their own financial situation that they are willing to take a risk on moving to a new role.

People are being more proactive rather than reactive with their career decisions—and that’s a very good thing.

“Do what you love” is dangerous–especially for younger workers.

“Do what you love, love what you do.”

It’s been a common phrase for a number of years now, first brought to public attention by Steve Jobs in his oft-quoted 2005 Stanford commencement address.

There has been a lot written about why you should do what you love; that if you identify and pursue your passions, success will follow. That if you align your interests, strengths, and desires you will unlock the door to a career path that ensures making a living never seems like work.

I think is this not only a grossly entitled concept, but that it’s dangerous–especially for students and recent graduates. 16.3% of 18-29 year olds are unemployed or have given up looking for work. That’s over 1.7 Million young adults.

Over a third of recent college graduates (36.7%) are working in jobs that don’t require a degree. That’s a pretty bleak reality check, especially when the cost of a 4 year degree is averaging $91,304 for an in-state public university and $179,000 for a private university. (That’s very near the national average transaction price for a condominium , by the way.)

So, burdened with debt and unable to find a position that values–or monetarily rewards–their degree, new grads are bombarded with this concept that they should pursue careers that only embody the thing they love. Is that realistic in our current economy?

It’s a privilege to have the education, finances, and familial/relational support where you have the freedom to pursue your passions.

Let’s look back at Steve Jobs. Jobs dropped out of a very expensive private liberal arts college and spent time bumming around Portland, OR, sleeping on the floors of friends’ dorm rooms, returning Coke bottles for pocket money, and taking a calligraphy course. After a brief stint at Atari, he went to India to study Eastern philosophy. If Jobs had continued on the ‘do what you love’ course, he would have probably ended up a Zen master.

Instead, his undeniable intelligence in product design and marketing led him back to technology and to be the product, design, and marketing leader that transformed personal technology as we know it (some would say three times: once with the Apple II, again with the Macintosh, and a third time with the iMac/iPod/iPhone/iPad).

It’s important to understand your strengths (what are you best at?), your technical skills (what have you studied?), your values (what is the code you live by? what do you want to do for others?), and what you want to learn/continue learning. Once you understand that fully, you can pursue work that will hopefully engage and fulfill you. But focusing only on that which you love–but which may not be a viable career path–can be disastrous.

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.

August 2017
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