Take A Moment. Do Some Good

When I say “someone is active on social media”, what do you think? I suspect your initial thought is not necessarily a positive one. It probably is something like:

  • They are reading their Facebook feed
  • They are posting pictures on Instagram
  • They are watching the latest dancing animal video on YouTube

At best, we think of social media as a distraction, some fun time away from the pressures of life. At worst, we think of it being a waste of time. For those of us old enough to remember, TV was characterized as a “vast wasteland” or the “boob tube”. Social media, for many people, is a vast wasteland. It is where time gets lost.

But what if you used social media for career good? Wouldn’t that be novel?

I have a recommendation. Find a few people who regularly write, video or podcast on social media about interesting topics. The topics could be about work, learning about something or self help. Preferably, make it someone local who you know. Read their material regularly. Comment on and forward their material to others.

Why do that? Because you are doing good

First, you are helping the writer (or the content producer) spread their content, which you thought was worthy of sharing. Helping others, especially when there is almost no way for them to help you back directly, is among life’s greatest treasures. You will probably make their day a lot better just by acknowledging their work. Why not be a positive force for someone?

Second, your posting is helping your connections in ways you cannot imagine. The item you comment on may be just the stimulus a friend or acquaintance needed for action. Perhaps you are linking them to someone they need to know, but did not know how to find. Maybe the posting is the first step in a long journey toward change. Even if you simply challenge your connections to think a little deeper, you are paying forward a dividend.

Third, you are helping others you might not be connected to. If one of your connections decides to forward the post to someone else, your circle of influence got much bigger. How cool would it be to help someone you don’t know, even if it was done indirectly? Isn’t that what you do when you give to a charity? If you believe in karma, doing good will come back to you. Maybe most importantly, you are doing good for the general good without any expectation of reward.

Fourth, you are helping yourself. You learn something by reading, listening or watching the post. You can have the satisfaction of knowing you helped someone even when that was not your motivation.

Fifth, you are helping your career. You show potential employers that you are actively engaged in a dialogue about relevant content. I read where only 20% of LinkedIn users are “active” on LinkedIn. Posting and commenting on articles is a great way to be active. Why not stand out in the crowd through a relatively simple gesture?

“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention”

Find an hour is your week. Pick a few people, preferably local, to follow. Face it, everyone reads popular people’s (Elon Musk, Simon Sinek, Warren Buffet) material and passes it on. Go for a local connection to maximize your uniqueness and your value. Read their stuff regularly. Pass it on – with a comment – to your connections. You will never know the exact good you did, but you will know you did some good.

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Adding, by Subtracting

That’s a crazy title, isn’t it? But that’s the point. And having a point made all the difference. Let me explain.

First, what does that title mean?

There is an old saying that acknowledges sometimes the only way to make something better is to eliminate some things. Ever been on a team where someone drags the team down? Their ego, their demeanor or their attitude has a negative effect. They may be talented. They may be doing a lot of work. But subtracting them – getting them out of the team – actually adds to the team, making it better. Everyone may have to do more work, but they don’t have to put up with that person’s debilitating demeanor. Thus you add (to the group’s productivity or achievement) by subtracting (a negative force).

I needed to subtract in order to add. I have been struggling to write a blog post lately. That is odd for me. I have been writing weekly for over six years. It usually comes easily to me . But I have four blog posts I have worked on this month alone sitting there. I am not happy with any of them. I have spent hours writing and rewriting them. I let them sit and come back to them the next day. Try again to rewrite a piece of them. The end result? No acceptable post.

What’s the problem?

These posts did not have a point to them. They started out as a good idea. They were something I read or something I experienced that had an impact on me. I felt strongly that these experiences could be of value to others. So I worked with them. And worked. And worked. Got Nowhere.

I finally figured out that I need to throw them away. They were clutter in my mind and in my blog space. Getting them out of my way freed me to write this post. Once I acknowledged that my original work did not have a point to it, I knew it needed to be discarded. Yes there was a lot of effort in those posts. Yes, deleting them would be admitting failure. But holding on to them was an even bigger failure, a failure of ego.

What’s this got to do with you?

Are you stuck in your career? Do you have some mental or physical clutter in the way? Perhaps you are clinging to a job you do not enjoy. Why do that to yourself? It might have been a good job at one time, but it is not now. Maybe you have an idea for a new job or business you have been thinking about for a long time. Either do something with that idea, NOW. Or throw it away. There needs to be a point to what you are doing.

Often, a promising new career beginning is hidden behind clutter. I have worked with a lot of people who become much better at articulating what work they wanted to do. They could clearly explain the value they bring to an organization. This realization led to change. Good change. Change that was adding by subtracting. It took some time and effort to talk through these subjects. But this effort had a point to it – “I want a better job”. The end result is worth it.

Is something like that happening to you? Do you need to subtract something in order to add to your career and life?

I’d love to talk with you about your career.

One more thing. I wrote this blog post at 4:30 in the morning. It took me less than 30 minutes to do it. Two good lessons there. Once I had a purpose to my work, the time investment became much less than all of the work I did on pointless posts. Two, those old posts were having a negative effect on me. I could not sleep until I wrote a “good” post. The weight of those old blog posts was churning around in my mind, getting in the way of sleep. That is not good.

“Easier Said than Done”

It is so much easier to say what you do than it is to say what sets you apart from others.

This is the conundrum that every business faces. Why is my car dealership better than yours, even though we sell the same models? Why should you choose my house painting business over someone else’s?

I think it is especially true for businesses that you use only on occasion. Any kind of insurance. Household appliances. House repairs. Tree trimming. It is every few years between when we have to think about purchasing something from these businesses. The distance in time between transactions makes it hard to keep you as memorable.

Job seekers, and people looking to stay employed, face the same problem. Normally it is a long time between searching for jobs. We talk with friends and acquaintances about what we do (I am in marketing) or where we work (I work at the Base). But we rarely talk about (or think about) what sets us apart from others.

Why?

  • It sounds like bragging or self-promotion
  • We don’t want to make it seem like a competition where we must “win”
  • It is not a natural way for us to think about work

But the consequences can be devastating. According to the Small Business Administration, 50% of small businesses fail within the first five years of operation. There are probably a lot of reasons for that. It might be a lack of business knowledge. Or they were underfunded to begin with. Some businesses are not good ideas. But almost all of those reasons go back to the point that the business does not set itself apart in the consumer’s mind. If I don’t know what your business can do for me, how can I utilize you?

It is the same for your work life. It is a long time between job searches usually. For long-time employees, especially those catching up or passing the 50 year old mark, the chances of losing your job increase. It is the nature of today’s business world. I have seen it too many times.

“Opportunity does not knock, it presents itself when you beat down the door” Kyle Chandler, American actor

Do you think it is a good idea for a business to leave its livelihood solely on reputation or word of mouth? Why would we, trying to keep our career going, being any different? We are putting our lcareers in control of others, not us. We have to hope others find us. We have to dream that an employer will hear about our skills and we will be brought together.

In a blog post by the Outplacement Services Company Lee Hecht Harrison, I read the following:

“So, why is it, that while your career is one of your most valuable assets, most people are still reluctant to take control of it and expect it to be managed by someone else?  They believe their dedication and accomplishments will speak for themselves. Their managers will see what they’ve contributed and they will be recognized and rewarded without any self-promotion.  They’ll just sit back and wait. And then they’ll wait a little longer.”

It is time to stop waiting.

How do I go about “setting myself apart”?

With most of my clients, I ask a simple question to get an answer to that question started:

“What are the three skills you bring to a job?”

More times than not, the first answer is not very good because it comes from the top of the person’s mind. The answers tend to be really general or superficial (“I am a team player” or “I am analytical”). Fear not! After some deeper probing and talking, we get to much stronger answers.

Once you have a great answer, you need to practice saying it to close friends. You need to be able to articulate it clearly. It needs to be natural. People that know you will help you refine the story. Like a business advertising themselves to stay in the public eye, you need to do the same thing, in moderation.

The choice is not easy, but I think it is clear. Sit back and wait. Leave your money-making potential to chance. Or . . . Get a little uncomfortable thinking and talking about your value as a worker. Be in control of your destiny.

Why Your Resume Might Have Mistakes You Don’t See

Resumes. Most people dread having to write them. But everybody realizes they need one to be in the job hunting game. I like to tell people that resumes are a “beauty in the eye of a beholder” document. What looks great to one person looks average to another. In the end, a resume is YOUR document. You are telling people about yourself, so you need to be comfortable with it.

I recently read a blog post (see link below) with four reasons why your resume does not get you an interview.

I absolutely agree with the writer’s first reason: “Your resume doesn’t indicate that you’ll excel at the job”. So many resumes are about what the person did, but not what the person accomplished. Let me give you an example. Which of these two people would you be more interested in hiring to fix your roof?

  • Person #1 – “Strip old roofing off, apply new roofing and ensure roof is sealed”
  • Person #2 – “Completed ten roofing projects last month with all of them done ahead of schedule and on average 10% below budgeted cost.”

They both performed the same tasks. But one of them provides a narrative on results (what they accomplished). Isn’t that more powerful? It is the same with your resume. Yes, you probably “worked across the organization to complete documentation”, “managed projects to deploy technology” or “performed financial analysis”. But to what end? If you truly believe you are a person worthy of hiring, tell the results of your work.

Think you did not “accomplish” anything at your job? You are wrong. You must have done something to justify your work existence. Take the time to really think about work results.

I’d add a couple thoughts to her list.

Your resume has typos. Not everyone is good at grammar. Not everyone is good at spotting a mistake in your writing.  Unless you spend a lot of time looking at the written word, you miss common errors (like “form” instead of “from” or “pots” instead of “post”). Another common error I run into is when someone uses all capital letters for a job title, company name or header in their resume. For instance “WORK EXPERIENCE” is typed as “WORK EXPEREINCE”. For some reason, all capital letters throws off our sense that a word is spelled wrong. And spell checker does not always flag words in all capital letters. (If you missed it, “experience” is spelled incorrectly in the second example.)

Confusing personal attributes with your brand for an intended job. There is a very big difference between personal attributes and what an employer is looking for in a job candidate. A hiring manager does not care if you think you’re “hard working”. They are not looking for someone whose colleagues think is “reliable”. The hiring manager needs a problem fixed or a need fulfilled. Your attributes help you decide where you want to work. But they don’t necessarily translate into a brand. You need to tell why these attributes or strengths matter to an employer. Better yet, write down how your attributes matter- the results you created. It’s not “I am quality-focused”. It’s “Reduced errors 15% by creating a new way to do sampling”.

Getting Help for your Resume

The article also talks about another common error people make on their resume: “You haven’t asked for feedback from the right people.” She notes:

First, in a crowded job market, “fine” isn’t enough; it (your resume) needs to be great. But secondly, if the wrong people are reviewing your resume, their feedback doesn’t matter.

She goes on to use this example. You wouldn’t ask a friend, or someone who volunteers to help, to diagnose a problem with your car. You would go to a mechanic. Why do that with a resume?

For all of the reasons above, you really should get help writing your resume. There are lots of places to go (and many will charge you a lot of money). Let me keep it simple. You will get good resume help if:

(1) The person is good at writing

(2) The person has a resume template that will be attractive, simple and concise. You have to get past computer programs (ATS) and catch the attention of hiring managers who are in a hurry

(3) The person is willing to have numerous in-depth conversations with you. You need someone who can help you tell your story. That only happens when you have conversations

Make sure your resume is great. If you would like some help, feel free to reach out.

Here is Natalie’s original post. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-arent-you-getting-interviews-natalie-roo/

“I was totally qualified”

“. . . But didn’t get the job”

How many of us have said that same sentence, or heard a friend say that? The job posting sounds like it was written for you. You are able to “check off” all of the things the employer says they are looking for. It feels like the perfect fit.

But you do not get the job offer. How does that happen? For most of us, we immediately blame ourselves. We did something wrong. We messed up somewhere in the process. Maybe I am not as good as I think I am.

Maybe one of those is true.  But probably not.

So, what happened?

I have some theories.

“You are overqualified”. People hear this all the time. Often that is the perception of the person doing the interviewing. You might be “too experienced” for the job. That doesn’t sound logical, but it can be the other person’s perception. If you ever have this concern, find a way to address it. Interviewers make assumptions all of the time. You HAVE to understand that (guess what, you make assumptions all the time, too!). So you must face that fact and explain how you are not overqualified. Tell them how you are looking for a new challenge in a new industry. Explain that the company culture is what you are seeking because you believe it will allow you to flourish. Sell them on the fact that you will learn more quickly and can be a mentor to others who are new to the organization.

Sometimes it may be true that you are overqualified. If so, the other person saved you from a position you would have hated. And they would have worried about you.

The position was not real. This happens more often than any of us know. Some companies are on “fishing trips” looking for talent. The job does not really exist, they want a stable of names they can turn to, someday. An organization is looking to “upgrade their talent” (whatever that means) so they post something to see if they find a gem. But in the end, they do not have a budget to hire someone.

The job description did not match the real need. It just may be that the position description was written incorrectly. Perhaps someone copied another position description and slightly modified it for their position. They did not take the time to clearly look at what their need was for the job and write that on the posting. This happens. People are in a hurry or too busy to bother. An alternative is as they talked to candidates, they realized what they needed was something different than they original thought they needed.

In the interview, you came across as . . 

too desperate

too anxious

too confident

too focused on yourself

Pick the phrase from above that might have been you. I hate to say it, but sometimes we inadvertently blow it in the interview. Desperation does not look good. Anxiety makes the other person nervous also. Supreme confidence can be interpreted as “arrogant”.

Check yourself at the door. It is proper to be pumped up for an interview. You do want to be excited. However, overdoing anything is not going to reflect well on you. Think about grounding yourself before you start. Look for that balance between the “day-to-day” you and the “on your best game” you. After all, you want the interviewer to get to know the real you.

The last phrase, “too focused on me”, could be that you are so psyched to show how you fit. You forget to focus on the interviewer. You might be thinking of your answers before truly understanding the question. Occasionally you will be so thorough that your answers are too long and comprehensive. Sometimes you have to step back and discern the interviewer’s need. After all, the interview is more about how you can help the interviewer, not solely about telling them who you are.

It is really disappointing to interview for a position that looks like a great fit but does not pan out. There can be a multitude of reasons, as I mentioned above, for the disappointment. The best you can do is ask for input from the interviewer. Then you need to self reflect on how you presented yourself. Learn from the experience. Think about how you might change your approach. Or not. Then it is time to move on. Because that job you are totally qualified for and a good fit does exist.

 

35 years and counting

I am stepping away a little bit from careers this week in my post, for a good reason. Today, August 6, 2018, is Rose and my 35th wedding anniversary (*32 more to go!). Anybody that has met or been around Rose for any length of time knows I won big time by finding her. Lucky man.

A recent article in Time Magazine (yes, it still exists) was titled:”The 5 Things Your Kids will Remember About You”. http://time.com/4097995/parenting-kids-remember/

As I generally like to do, I wanted to create my own list. So I did. Here is what I hope my children get from Rose and I:

Family Traditions I do agree with the fifth item on Times’ list.

Family is important. We did a lot of things with extended family throughout the years as the kids grew up. Going on vacation every year to Emerald Isle, NC with my side of the family. Annual July birthday get together. Silver Lake family reunion. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Visiting cousins is Louisiana. Doing stuff as a family. We are all close. But we are also close with a lot of the family.

Be Yourself. Rose and I wanted our kids to be whatever they wanted to be – not our vision for what they ought to be. They need to create their legacy, not some legacy we devise for them. For example, we let each of our children pick the high school they wanted to go to based on what was important to them. So, despite living in the same house the whole time, we had four children go to three different high schools. The kids each have their love of different types of music (but we can still get them all to agree to listen to some James Taylor or some Chicago).

Be present. Reading children’s books together was big for us. The kids know that they can come to us with questions when they need us (that’s why I get the sports, history and finance questions and Rose gets the health and food questions). We coached our kids in multiple sports and academic activities through middle school (and into high school in a couple cases). Why? Because we wanted to be part of their lives. But we also noticed very early that people coaching them had too much focus on winning. We wanted the events, the joy of teamwork, the struggle to learn how to do a sport to be part of their journey. We also got to know a lot of their friends this way.

Decision-making and critical thinking. I had originally titled this one “Everything is a competition or a comparison”. But I decide I needed a better title so it sounds more profound. Makes us sound like better parents! In our family, everything is a competition. It was a big deal to be the family champion in the football pool, the March Madness Pool, the Annual Easter Croquet Championship, today’s Ticket to Ride game or whatever else we dreamed up. The winner of a board or card game is sure to let everyone else know they won the last time we played this. We also like to ask someone to think and defend a comparison. Asking questions like “which vacation spot was better, Mesa Verde or Grand Canyon?” was common. Or, “what are the top five movies we have ever seen?” You had to have an answer (unless you are Rose, she HATES these things). And you had to back it up with facts (which were going to be disputed anyhow) or at least some statistics (real or made up). It’s all about making a decision and defending it (ha ha).

Have a sense of humor and thick skin. They have grown up seeing Rose and I laugh together, all of the time. Sometimes it is my teasing Rose. Okay, OFTEN it is me teasing Rose. But it is also crazy, fun things we might say to each other. Part of the fun of the games mentioned above required you to be a good trash talker or at least a color commentator. You might be commenting on what the other people were doing (for example, “Dad, as usual, is losing his mind” or “What is Nate thinking with that move?”). Or you might do color commentary on what you imagine someone else is thinking (“Mom is getting prepared to play these cards here. I believe she thinks she has a winner”). Be prepared to give and to take.

That is my list. Now the disputing from the kids starts! That’s half the fun. But seriously, if you have kids, or close friends, what would your list look like? It might be a great way to understand a little bit more about yourself and your legacy.

I was thinking of one thing we learned from kids. I believe the most meaningful to me was this: “We are huggers“. I believe Luke is the one who I first heard say this (and even if he wasn’t, by me putting in writing, it will create a family controversy. Ha ha). When we meet someone in a social setting, we hug, not just shake hands. Hugging creates a bond. It is warm. It tells someone about who the Waggenspacks are.

One last clarification. Perhaps you were wondering what the “(*32 more to go!)” at the start of this post meant. When we got married, I told Rose I was agreeing to be married to her for “67 years”. At the end  of that time, we could renew. So, we have 32 more years to go. See what I mean about a sense of humor and thick skin?

Put Away the Watch

I am a runner. It is my way of staying healthy. It is a way for me to relax and recharge. I am competitive enough with myself that I don’t like the reality that I am getting slower. I feel like there is some formula out there that will help me attain some stretch goals.

I have been following a self-created plan that focused on timing my runs for speed. The watch gives unassailable feedback, “you ran this fast”. I can set a goal time, run and then see how I did against that goal immediately. I like the feedback. It allows me to track progress. Since a race is also timed, using the watch on a practice run simulates race conditions. There is a lot of good behind the clear feedback. After some initial positive results, I have found that I have been stagnating lately.

So I decided to put away the watch for a while and do something different. Run for fun. Switch up my normal routes. I am not going to make this next run have a time per mile goal. I am not going to make sure I run for a specific amount of time. It was time to put away the watch.

How did that go? Did I run faster? Probably not. Was it a magical formula for attain my goal? Nope. Did I really enjoy my run? Yes. In fact, on two consecutive days, I wrote a full blog post in my mind while I was running. That is my weird definition of success – getting out and running and writing a blog!

Putting Away the Watch in Your Job Search

So what does this have to do with jobs, careers and job search?

Ever find yourself in a rut? Feel like you are not making progress? In fact, feel like you are going backwards? Getting tired of looking at e-mails and LinkedIn for job postings that fit you and then applying for all of the ones that fit?

For a job seeker, the rut might be that you have not had any interviews for a while. It might be not hearing anything from that company you applied for a job when you KNOW that job was a great fit. It might mean dreading having to go to ANOTHER networking meeting.

Perhaps you are the kind of person who has been doing the same thing for a few months. It has led to some partial successes. You feel like you have accomplished a few things. But now you are going nowhere.

Sometimes we need to step to the side and do something different. Stop measuring every thing you do. Set aside your routine for something different. That is what it means to put away the watch.

What might you do differently?

Look at some part of the job search you have neglected for a while. For example, have you been sharing comments on LinkedIn? Have you reached out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while? Maybe you need to volunteer for something you care about to get you into a different mind frame. All of these are job-search related activities but they seem to be neglected. They don’t seem as concrete as applying for one more job or attending one more after-hours event. But they are different. They may be the change you need temporarily.

Step away from the computer. Just like my watch with me, the computer can be a great tool. It is where many jobs are. Companies can be researched. But it can be all consuming. And lonely. Let’s face it,a lot of the jobs you get information on are not real openings. Spend some of that computer time elsewhere such as meeting with someone else or attending a presentation. Take a class to learn a new skill.

Work with a coach. Sometimes a different set of ears and a different voice can be enlightening. We get so accustomed to the same feedback (“the watch says”) that we miss other feedback. Perhaps your self-imposed measures need to be changed for a short while.

Get away from job search for a few days. I know, job search is supposed to be your full-time job. But just like when you are working, occasionally you need a small vacation to recharge and regroup. Take your mind of the search. Go to a new location for a couple days. Perhaps the change of venue will stimulate different thoughts. If nothing else, it may recharge you.

Is it time for you to “put away the watch” in some part of your life?