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The Process of Career Reinvention

Stuck?  Unemployed?  Ready to follow your passion?
Learn the process to transform your career: an interview with Linda Sollars

Linda Sollars, is President of Creating Purpose (www.creatingpurpose.com) and is one of Denver’s most well know job-seeking consultants. She will be leading the career reinvention seminar at next week’s AH Jobs List Reinvent Event which will be held on Wed., November 9 at the Denver Athletic Club in downtown Denver.   Two of Linda’s clients who have successfully reinvented themselves will sit on a panel to discuss their career reinvention process.

Linda provides her inspiring, heartfelt and common-sense approach to job development and has transformed jobs seekers in defining their personal brand and aligning their strengths with a solid foundation of purpose, quality and success. She provides individual sessions and workshops designed to recognize core visions and values and to develop solid networking and job search strategies.

She spent 20 years in senior level marketing positions before transitioning into career coaching and consulting several years ago after discovering her purpose in empowering others. She has been a featured panelist on CBS, Channel 4, Beating the Recession, featured expert on ABC, Channel 9, Get Me A Job! and the national forum, Careerwell. She is also the keynote speaker at many conferences and events regionally and nationally.

Linda holds a master’s degree in Adult Development, with an emphasis in Leadership and Coaching, as well as an advanced certification from University of Denver in Training and Development.  She is also an Affiliate Professor at Regis University and is on the UCOL Alumni Board of the University of Denver.

Recently, I sat down with Linda to discuss the process she takes job seekers through and some of the common challenges as well as successful habits of professionals who have reinvented their careers.

Linda can you talk a bit about the career reinvention process you take job seekers through?

Most of my clients, when they first come to see me, are either stuck in a job they don’t like and want to get out of, are recently unemployed, or want to follow a passion and don’t know how. Most of the people who reach this stage simply don’t know what to do; they are stuck.

The first thing we work on is determining who they are before they decide what it us they want to be.

To do that, I take them through a very specific three step process.

First, we work on recognizing and owning their unique strengths and values.  How would they describe themselves?  What would their co-workers say about them?  What do they care about at their core?  I ask my clients to talk about the strengths that characterize who they are and also ask them to give specific examples of how they have used these strengths in the past.  We go through assessments and exercises I’ve designed in order to come up with a personal statement of strengths that teaches people how to talk about themselves in terms of WHO they are as opposed to their skill sets.

Second, we work on motivational style.  What gets them up in the morning?  What is it that sends them out there every day with aspirations to accomplish something and be successful?  How they motivate themselves is critical in determining the type of position that is successful and satisfying.

Third, we work on a process I call career design – a very specific, personal and powerful format that answers questions about what they want their ideal work situation to be.

We look at where you want to work, how far do you want to go, how much travel do you prefer, how much money do you want to make, what kinds of benefits do you expect, what kind of vacation schedule do you prefer, how many people do you want to work with, do you want to work from home?

Reinventing or transforming your career seems overwhelming.  How do you manage someone’s anxiety about reinvention?

So many of the people who begin this process with me have a feeling that the world is controlling them and when we break it down into these three manageable areas, it switches their view so they feel as if they can manage and are in control of their situation and their aspirations.

Going through this three-step process, which is a very personal, specific and a very thoughtful introspection, also provides the basis for developing a resume and their LinkedIn profile in a way that that communicates their strengths, their motivations, their skills and the type of work that will match their values and the values and culture of an organization.

We then take a look at different companies and organizations that fit their career design.  They have already decided whether their strengths and skill sets are going to work for a large or mid-size company, a start-up or perhaps they want to follow a career path in the nonprofit world.

At this point, they have a clear vision and mission that is now aligned with their strengths, their motivation and their career design, communicated on their resumes, their cover letter, their networking pieces, and it is much easier for them to discuss their goals and expectations with prospective employers, either in informational interviews or at actual job interviews.

As a matter of fact, I’ve had several clients who were offered positions during informational interviews because they were so clear about expressing who they were, what their motivation style was, what their skill set was and what it is that they were really passionate about.

When people want to transform a part of their lives – whether it be their health, their finances, or in this case, their career – there are certain habits, beliefs and regular routines they need to begin to follow.  What are the habits of those who successfully transform and reinvent their careers?

The first thing is passion.  You have to have a passionate belief that you WANT to change.

If people come to me and say, “Anything is better than what I’m doing now,” I’m very clear that this is not enough, because they will immediately fall into the next thing that comes up.

Second, they need to own their passion as a unique, personal specific goal.

Finally, they connect their passion, strengths, skills, and motivation with specific careers.

Some of the things that people develop, in terms of habits and patterns, are the specific outcomes they design; they work on a specific item each week that leads to an outcome so that there is a very real sense of progress.

I also tell people – because it can be overwhelming – that this is a process and there needs to be a focus on each step. Trying to progress too quickly will not lead them to where they want to be; there needs to be a real sense of focus, along with quality time and effort put into each step.

Ultimately, they replace bad habits or patterns with good ones.  Over time, they begin to realize not only what was causing them to freeze when asked the question, “Tell me about yourself,” but they are comfortable, confident and passionate in expressing their skill sets, what makes them unique, what motivates them and what specific strengths they bring to the table.

The last thing I work with people on is job descriptions.  Does the job description match my career design, my motivation style, my strengths and my career design?  If not, we move on to the next job description and that’s okay.  This reinvention is about matching their goals to positions that meet their expectations and no longer trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. When we find a job description that does match, I teach them how to break it down, line by line – so that they can respond to almost all of the things in the description that they have either done or have a passion for.

What’s one of the biggest challenges for job seekers?

The biggest challenge is working with individuals to understand their strengths and their motivation and then have to express these to someone else.   It’s about developing that clarity – the confidence – about who they are.

This is difficult for a lot of reasons.

Many people feel they have lost their edge.  They’ve been beaten down at their current job.  They’ve faced overwhelming rejection looking for a job.  Regaining confidence and self-esteem is a process.  For most people, talking confidently about themselves seems unnatural – we’re told from an early age not to brag.

As I tell people: strengths are like the color of your eyes.  When I say “I have brown eyes,” no one is going to argue with me that I have brown eyes.  When I say that “I’m creative,” I’m creative!  That’s part of the strengths I have had since a very young child.  I know how to do creative things well and that’s a strength I bring to the table.  It’s not bragging – it’s the confidence of knowing this is who I am!  You may have known it your whole life but not acknowledged it, but it is still who you are!  Once you understand this, and own it, the confidence flows.

Too often, we run into this “imposter syndrome” – this voice that is sitting on our shoulders telling us “What are you thinking?  You really don’t know what you are doing.” Or we convince ourselves that someone is going to come in and say “We really don’t want you here anymore.”   It forces us to constantly feel as if we are being judged by others expectations.

Once you know that your strengths are owned by you and they are not measured by anyone else – just like you eye color – then you get to a point where you don’t compete against this voice and it is actually replaced with that red-hot confidence and courage to make a change.

For many job seekers, starting in their mid-30s, they begin to reflect on their current job or career path and pangs of regret seep in.  There’s a sense that they are stuck in a job or a career path that doesn’t reflect who they really are or what it is they really want to be doing.  Do you see that?

I work with a lot of people who struggle with this; they absolutely don’t want to be doing what they are doing. They’ve spent so much time and money on their educations, they’ve been working successfully for a number of years and progressing their careers, are making good money and in everyone else’s eyes, they’ve reached their pinnacle.  But, they absolutely hate their jobs to the point, sometimes, that it is mentally paralyzing to go into work.

Often this is the result of not having acknowledged their passion.

They might have recognized their passion in college, but they focused on careers that their parents thought they ought to be doing, or a career they thought was going to make them money, help them become financially stable, pay off their student loans, raise a family and buy a new house, a car and take a vacation every once in a while.

It’s clear that their passion doesn’t lie with what they are doing and when I talk with them about their passion, they have very different ideas about what kind of work they’d prefer to be doing.  But it is also a very scary situation for them because change is always challenging.

How do you resolve this fear?  

It’s probably the number one thing I hear from folks who are frustrated with their current jobs.  Through the career design process, we try to answer all of the questions that help people to resolve these fears.

How much money do you need to make?  What expenses do you have?  What’s the work-life balance you are seeking?  What can happen if you are out of a job for 4 months?  We ask all of those questions in the very beginning to assist the reality of their personal reinvention.  Many people simply say they can’t give up their jobs, no matter how much they hate going to work each day.

I tell them their career does not have to be an “either/or” scenario.  This can be about “and/both” so they can stay in the position they are in and start looking at the options out there following their passion.  Is it going to take some time?  Yes.  Will it take 15 years?  No.  It’s going to a few months of working on the process during the time they have available – in the evenings and on weekends for example.  I would never tell someone to quit their job tomorrow to pursue their passion unless they could afford to do so and have given serious thought to how they can realistically make this work for them.

Read more about Linda Sollars at www.creatingpurpose.com

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Filed under Andrew Hudson's Jobs List, Human Resources, Job advice, Job Interview, Job Posting, Job Recruiters, Job Seeker

Ace the Job Interview through Building Bridges


Let’s face it:  the job search process seems a little silly.

Your resume is supposed to spell out your years of experience, expertise and accomplishments using a dozen-or-so short, bulleted synopsis with the hope that someone ‘gets you’ and sees that your background, above everyone else, is the right fit for the position.

Now, saying that, resumes and cover letters are necessary and there are clearly effective ways to write impactful resumes and cover letters that help you to stand out.

Assuming your resume does open the door for you and you are now in the formal recruitment process, you are now faced with an even more daunting challenge: convincing the hiring manager at the interview that you are the right person for the job.

It’s during the interview where you not only must connect all of the relevance to the position they detected on your resume, but also where you must display a true passion and desire for the company and for the job for which you are applying.

I spoke with an HR manager at one of Denver’s biggest ad agencies last week and he told me that the thing that really stands out with him when interviewing someone is that the job seeker displays a level of self-assuredness not only about their skills, but how they can display how their skills translate to the specific job they are interviewing for.

“Often I see job seekers in interviews who are trying to convince me that their breadth of background would be a perfect fit for the company; I need you to connect your background to the specific job your are interviewing for – that is what I will be ultimately be judging you on.

“If someone appears desperate, then they will probably go overboard in describing how they can do anything we ask of them. Often, this also translates to long-winded answers which give us the impression you are boring.  If you are boring me, I’m left with the impression you will also bore our clients.

“Give me short, specific examples of how your background connects to the specific position.   Paint the picture in my head of how you will be the most effective person for this job.  Convince me that you are right for this job.”

Building Bridges

I’ve found that most job-seeking advice sounds good when you describe it, but in fact, is much more difficult in practice.  This is particularly true with advice about how to effectively interview.

The fact is that the end-goal for any job-seeking interview situation is to influence the perception of the person who is doing the interviewing in your favor; you want them to leave the interview believing you are the right person for the job.

One of the biggest mistakes people in interviews make is trying to quickly determine the answer you believe the interviewer wants to hear. There are a couple of things wrong with this approach.  The primary mistake is that you simply don’t know what the interviewer wants to hear; and secondly, you are giving up a great opportunity to display your true grasp of the issue.

When I was the Chief Spokesman for the Mayor of Denver, I perfected a few tricks that helped the Mayor to navigate through tricky media interview situations.

In any interview, we would prepare the Mayor to concentrate on 3-5 messages that HE wanted to get across in the interview – in other words, we worked with him to control weaving these messages into the interview.  So no matter the question, he would tailor his answers back to the points HE wanted to make.

This technique is called bridging and is completely applicable to the job-seeking interview process.

In bridging, the goal is to lead your answer to one of the 3-5 points you want to make – again these 3-5 points are going to be connected to your relevance to the job.  When you think about it this way, you can see that you are in much more control of the interview and can communicate with a much greater level of confidence and assuredness.

For example:

Q:  Our company is still coming to grips with using social media effectively.  What are the things that you would do broaden our reach using social media and how can we use a blog for our CEO to promote the company?

Wrong Answer:  Without question, you need to be on Twitter, Facebook and also we should create a CEO blog that will help promote your CEO.  I’m familiar with all social media and could really help this company promote itself using social media.

Right Answer:  My experience with social media tells me a couple of things.  Primarily, it requires a serious assessment of the need and as importantly the time, effort, and resources that are required to use social media effectively.  In my last position, we looked at all the tools we were using in our overall marketing efforts and developed a specific campaign that included social media to see how our customers would respond. Through Twitter alone we increased traffic to our point-of-sale website by 22% in the first 3 months.  But the blog we created was more difficult because of the lack of time and commitment from upper management. But the critical issue is this: before committing to using one social media tool over the other and to set realistic expectations about what social media can deliver, its important to test different social media tools.

As you can see, the second answer uses the bridging phrases ‘My experience…tells me a couple of things’ and ‘…the critical issue is this.’  Using these types of bridging phrases immediately sets up an expectation of an authoritative response.  Bridging gives you power – it allows you to use past experiences to demonstrate a point and it highlights your expertise and how it would apply to the job your applying.

Here are several other bridging phrases that can help you:

From my perspective…

I have heard that too, but the real focus should be on….

If I may, let me pick out another point that is equally as important….

Based on a similar project I was involved in, I might describe it differently…

Looking ahead, I believe…

Here’s a related point I’m even more familiar with…

That’s an important point, but here’s my view on the issue…

The question might also be…

Opinions might differ on this point, but here’s my bottom line…

Let’s use another perspective…

Some people might consider this is the most important issue, but my experience tells me that…

Bottom Line
Bridging works.  Remember, don’t always answer the question in the way you think the interviewer WANTS to hear the response, think about how you can get to the answer that is most helpful to demonstrate your 3-5 points you want to make in an interview.

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Filed under Andrew Hudson's Jobs List, college graduate, entry level, Human Resources, Interview Questions, Job advice, Job Boards, Job Interview, Job Posting, Job Recruiters, Job Seeker, older job seekers, Social Media Jobs, Uncategorized, Workplace culture

Older job seekers: challenges and issues – advantages and opportunities

Older job seekers face unique challenges and issues but also have tremendous advantages and opportunities.

Many older job seekers have left the work force in upper mid-senior level positions and with it, the higher salaries and benefits that come with those positions.

The fact is that there are fewer mid-senior level management positions available and as such, older job seekers are finding it more and more difficult to land a job.

According to June statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half a million people age 50 and older are unemployed and looking for work and the U.S. Department of Labor said that workers age 55 and up have an average duration of joblessness of 35.5 weeks, compared with 23.3 weeks for job seekers between 16 and 24 and 30.3 weeks for those between 25 and 54.

Looking for a job, under any circumstance at any age is still a hard thing and unfortunately, most people have no formal training in searching for a job which can be frustrating as you get older.  In addition is the reality of age discrimination: employers or HR recruiters who are basing their hiring decisions based on age.  In their minds, their first thought is that an older job seeker is over-qualified and will be demanding a higher salary.

While it is difficult for older job seekers to eliminate the stereotypes about their age, it is necessary to replace those thoughts with a rock-solid confidence that emphasizes skills and capabilities.  Savvy employers recognize that older job seekers offer the benefit of defined expertise as well as maturity, judgment and wisdom about industries and trends that comes from their past experience.

In addition to just understanding how to find the jobs that are available, I always suggest to older job-seekers to do a few critical things:

1.) Re-learn HOW to look for a job. Many older job seekers have not had to look for a job in a very long time.  Gone are the days in which you open the newspaper, scan through hundreds of jobs and blindly send out your one tailored resume to employers.  Today, looking for a job is very similar to crafting a strategic marketing campaign with laser-focused targets.   Each resume must be customized and needs to define the relevance of your capabilities and experience to the job you are applying.   Networking and cold-calling are critical tactics to open doors.   Selling yourself as a product might seem awkward, but in much the same way, you need to define the value you will bring to an organization and specifically explain how you can help the organization solve a problem.

2.) Create a jobs skill audit. A jobs skills audit will help you focus on what you want to do and identifies the skills that make you a viable candidate. Sit down with a pad of paper and list every skill that you have developed in a lifetime of work.  It could be anything from supervising employees to developing massive budgets to the skills associated specifically with your expertise. Just brainstorm all the skills you have and then go back and start to prioritize those skills into two columns – primary and secondary skills. You will be amazed at how much more you recognize about yourself than when you first began this exercise. In addition, you will begin to see opportunities in terms of how these skills may be transferable to different careers and jobs.

3.) Create a ‘personal brand statement’. Every interview will start with the question: “Tell me about yourself.”  Consider your ‘personal brand statement’ as the summary statement that describes who you are, how you differentiate yourself from others in terms of background, skills and expertise and why you are someone who should be hired. Your resume should back up your ‘brand’ in terms of prior experience, training, and expertise.

4.) Learn how to be a good job interviewer. Let’s face it – once you are being interviewed, it really is an audition. When you get to this point, you’ve already been ‘scrubbed’ and you (as well as others being interviewed) have been determined to have matched the criteria and are considered qualified for the job. You are now being judged on other things: can you think on your feet? Do you have a good personality that will fit the company culture? Are  you confident? Can you sell yourself? Can you make tough decisions?  Can you juggle several projects at once?  Are you friendly?  Creative?  Analytical?

Perhaps most importantly, can you talk passionately and enthusiastically about yourself, your qualifications, your experiences and about the prospect of working for a new employer?

There are a lot of common questions that get asked at an interview and you need to be prepared.

– Open ended questions (why do you want to work for us? Tell us why you’d be a good fit here?)
– Hypothetical questions (‘What if?’ questions. How would you handle the following situation?)
– Direct questions (What specific skills do you have for this….?)

5.) Research the company you are interviewing for. At the interview, you also need to have researched the company you are interviewing with and the industry in which they operate.  With the Internet, there is tons of access to information about companies, organizations and the people who run them.  Read their SEC filings.  Scan their annual reports. Research media clips.  Use ‘Linked In’ to research key individuals.  Understand the company’s goals and challenges.  Be able to ‘talk’ their language.  What key industry metrics does this company use to measure success?

6.) Consider becoming an independent consultant. You have a ton of knowledge that comes from years working in your career field and in your industry.  Revisit your former employer or reach out to former clients and other industry contacts and see if there are opportunities for you to provide them with short-term or temporary project-based consulting.  Often, companies who are on full-time employee hiring freezes allow departments to hire contract consultants to work as consultants.  Be prepared to offer ideas for how your expertise can help the company.    Also be prepared to discuss how much you would charge for your expertise.  Some consultants charge by the hour, while others charge a one-time project fee.  In either case, it’s important to calculate what you are worth.  Consider your hourly fee, all of your expenses and what you would likely make if you were a full-time employee with benefits.   I’d also suggest developing a simple agreement that specifies your work.  Click here for a step-by-step way to determine your consulting rate.

7.) Take advantage of free resources. The American Association for Retire Persons (AARP) offers free job seeking expertise for job seekers over the age of 50 including articles, surveys on the best employers for older employees, webinars and career fairs.  Click here for the AARP work website.  In addition, your local city and state offer resume building workshops and one-on-one job skills consulting to help you develop more confidence in your interview skills.  Connect with your local industry association to find out about networking groups, seminars and other opportunities to meet with employers who are hiring.

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Job Doctor: One recruiter’s five-step plan for job seekers to get noticed

Dear Job Doctor:

I’ve sent my resume in response to dozens of job postings but am not getting calls back.  What am I doing wrong?

Going Bonkers in Denver

Dear GBID:

This is a very common problem – probably the biggest frustration I hear from job seekers.

What are things that will get your resume noticed and help your resume land in the pile for consideration?

Think about it from a human resource recruiter’s perspective.

An HR recruiter at a company is typically what we call a ‘generalist.’  They are professionals who are trained to hire the best possible talent for their organization and, in fact, their own jobs depend on it.

When you think about it that way, you can understand how important it is to prove to them why you should be considered; they WANT you to prove to them that you are the best candidate for the position.

One HR recruiter from a mid-size IT company explained the five-step-process she goes through when sifting through a pile of resumes on her desk.

1.)  Impactful resumes and cover letters that show in clear and organized ways the chronology of a career progression.

“I have about 60 seconds to look at a resume and determine if  a job seeker is a stellar candidate for the position,” she said.  “First, I look for basic criteria like years and type of experience, college degree, and chronology of employment.  I don’t have a lot of time to search for these things, they need to be laid out in a simple and easy-to-read, organized fashion.  The longer I have to search for these things, the less likely its a resume that will be considered.”

2.) Red flags.  You’ve heard it before – typos, including misspelled words and grammatical mistakes, matter.  But there are other red flags recruiters are looking for.

“Typos are the easy red flags.  But I’m also looking for red-flags such as multiple jobs in a short period of time, gaps in employment,  confusing or inconsistent dates as well as other things that might give me pause.  If things are not clear and transparent and I have to spend an inordinate amount of time questioning a resume, chances are slim it will get through my filters.

“If you have a unique situation, explain it in the resume or cover letter.  Have you been a stay-at-home parent for five years?  Have you been on the unemployment lines for 6 months without a job?  People think these and other situations will automatically disqualify them and that’s not necessarily true.  What has a greater chance of disqualifying you is if we don’t understand the situation.  Don’t make us guess or assume.”

3.) Clearly identified skills, accomplishments and experiences that are relevant to the position that is being applied for.

“If the resume gets through this initial screen, I then determine if this candidate’s background – their experience, skills, expertise, career progression – is relevant to the job they are applying for.

“No matter what the position, in both the resume and the cover letter, the candidate has to show me why their background is relevant to the job.  I want to believe you are the best candidate and it is in my best interest that you are,  but you have to help prove that to me.

“Tell me specifically what you did and what you accomplished.  Don’t use weak language to describe your background!  Impress me! Show confidence in your skills.  Use specific examples of past job responsibilities that are tied to the job you are applying for.  Did you manage people?  Oversee large budgets?  Do you have specific projects that drove the bottom line?  Were you promoted?  Tell me your story!”

4.) The pre-interview

Often, recruiters will call candidates that make it through their initial screen before they invite them in for a formal interview.

“I want to have a conversation to see if the resume really matches with the person we are considering.  Remember, ultimately, the people I send forward are based on my recommendation…I want to make sure they are the right candidates.

“Based on the initial resume review, I’ll usually have several questions relating to their background and I also want to get a sense over the phone if they are really serious about going through the recruiting process.   I’ll probably also discuss initial salary range to gauge whether the salary is a fit.  There’s nothing worse than going through the whole recruitment process only to find at the job offer that salary expectations are inconsistent with what is being offered.  It is helpful for candidates to be clear at the beginning about their expectations.

“Job seekers should always be prepared to discuss their background.  The most effective interviewers are the ones that anticipate the questions that will be asked of them.  We try to outline the job description in great detail and it is helpful if job candidates are prepared to speak to how their background is relevant to the job.”

5.) Little things matter! Politeness.  Attitude.  Prompt return of phone calls.  Gratitude.

“I often find job candidates who carry a disrespectful attitude toward HR recruiters.  They think the HR recruiter is a barrier to their opportunity; they’d prefer to immediately talk to the hiring authority or their new boss.

“We are trained professionals who are committed to the best interests of our organizations. Through the recruiting process, we also become advocates of the top talent we think will make the best employees for the position we are trying to hire.

“Many times, our first impressions will be deciding factors.  Be polite and respectful of our time.  Recognize that while we understand your anxiety, we are probably recruiting for several positions at one time and only have limited time throughout the day.

“Thank you notes are essential.  It shows us you ‘get it’ and it is a simple, respectful and appreciated gesture.

“There can be a lot of moving pieces in the recruiting process and you can do yourself a favor by being as helpful as you can throughout this process.”

Bottom line? Help the recruiter become an advocate for you.  Prove how you are clearly the best candidate.  Your resume shouldn’t read like a crossword puzzle – it should clearly show that you meet the basic criteria and most importantly, demonstrate in an organized and detailed fashion how your background is relevant to the job you are applying for.  Show how your skills, your background, your experience and expertise are a fit for the position.  Be polite and respectful and be clear about your expectations.    Answer all questions and ask the recruiter what are things that you can do to be most helpful throughout the process.

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Six tips from successful professionals on how to manage your career

I meet regularly with people who are looking for work.  I’ve met with hundreds of professionals who are either entry level job seekers or mid-level managers who are looking to progress their careers to the next level.   I meet with senior VPs who are unsatisfied with their jobs or are looking to transition to other industries.

Managing your career means constantly preparing yourself for the next path in your career journey.  From the moment you begin your career as an entry level employee it is important to constantly assess, anticipate and analyze your next move.   What are your career goals and how can you achieve them? 

Preparing yourself is not only to fulfill the desire to be promoted or to transition, but it is also a huge insurance policy in the event that you lose your job. 

Probably the most important question you need to ask yourself:  In the event you lost your job, are you prepared and positioned to begin looking for a new job?   Are you comfortable that you’d be pretty well established and connected in your industry or career sector to easily find a new job at the same responsibility and salary level?

Here are six tips that successful professionals use to manage their careers. 

1.) Understand the opportunities that will help you fulfill your current career goals.

One of the first things to consider when researching a potential employer are the opportunities for promotion; does this company have a record of hiring from within, from training, encouraging and actively working with their employees to progress upwards?  Also consider the department within the company.  Is it a small group that offers few opportunities?  If so, is it possible to transfer your skills through a promotion to another department?  It’s a legitimate and reasonable question to ask about promotion opportunities when you are being interviewed for a new position. 

It is also reasonable to ask the question about education reimbursement benefits.  Many companies will reimburse all or a portion of classes, seminars, association dues, professional development activities and other education and training opportunities.  Your increased education should be a consideration for future promotions as well.

2.) Network, network, network!!!  Get out from behind your desk.  Join a professional association, volunteer and participate in your industry and your community.

All too often, professionals who are laid off find themselves without a robust network of contacts to help them with their new job search.  In our goals to be successful at work, we often find ourselves spending every waking moment behind our desks missing terrific opportunities to network in any meaningful way with our industry peers and our community.  Our lack of connections can also add to a perceived lack of value. 

Creating a robust rolodex of friends, associates and connectors helps job seekers in many ways.

How do you get more connected in your community and in your industry?

PARTICIPATE! 

Join an association, your local chamber of commerce, rotary club or another community or business organization.  Serve on the boards of these organizations, adopt a project and put your skills to use.

In the same way, use your skills to assist a local nonprofit or at the least, take on a pro-bono project for a local charity.  Your expertise will be welcome to a local nonprofit who views you as a third-party expert that can assist them on a variety of levels.  In addition, many high-profile and powerful community and business leaders are involved in local charity work and it expands your connections.

Bottom line – here’s what networking does:

  • Helps you to connect and meet peers, associates and movers and shakers.
  • Folks get to meet you face-to-face.
  • It helps you get noticed and gives your name familiarity in your profession.
  • It teaches you about different industries and organizations and new aspects of your chosen profession.
  • It helps you find different business opportunities for your current job.
  • It gives you speaking opportunities to show off your talents and skills.
  • It gives you new information about new trends in your chosen field.
  • You can become an expert in a different area.

3.) Always return phone calls and emails. 

There’s nothing more deafening than the sound of silence when, in your desperation to find a job, your phone calls are not returned or your emails go unanswered.

I know we all get consumed with the day-to-day stress of hundreds of emails, phone calls, etc., but everyone needs a system to return messages.  I try, at least 3 times per-week to designate at least 1.5 hours to go through my email box and my voicemail and return emails and phone calls. 

I’m not always perfect, but I had an employee who just figured it wasn’t necessary.  I’d get complaints from CEO’s of major company partners complaining that they were unable to reach this colleague!  Not even an acknowledgement or referring on a request or message to an underling to return.  Nothing!

It makes it very difficult when you are suddenly in a position of needing assistance and scratching your head as to why you are not taken seriously.

4.) Always promote your successes.  There’s no such thing as modesty when your hard work has created something noteworthy.

When you achieve something that is notable, it is critical to promote that achievement.  For example, most major professional associations have annual awards to recognize significant achievements.  Participating in these awards competitions, helps to create awareness amongst your peers, and it also adds another highlight to your resume/portfolio.

In addition, when a significant achievement is notable, promote it locally to your local business section or business publication and to national trade and industry media.  Your achievement can most likely be noted as trendsetting and your reputation for creativity will be noticed.

5.) Keep a regularly updated ‘career journal’.

In this journal, constantly keep notes of different skills and levels of expertise that you are utilizing in your job. 

Constantly keep notes on the major projects that you are involved and describe the four levels of a project’s success – development, strategy, execution and results.  This type of discipline will help you to think and analyze how your skills and talents are developing.  More importantly, you’ll be able to discuss in greater detail with future employers the level of energy and talent that it required to achieve success in your career.

6.) ALWAYS keep your resume and portfolio updated. 

Spend a dedicated amount of time each month reviewing your resume.  Keep a file that you can keep store your work product for your portfolio.  This is an important exercise that will benefit you in so many different ways now and in the future.

A resume is an important tool for your job search and you need to keep it current and make sure that you are revising it to match your skills and your career goals.  In addition, a robust portfolio of your work product will help you promote your career and makes sure that if you are laid off, you access to your work product.

There are a massive amount of websites and books that can help you best set up the ‘perfect’ resume and portfolio.  Take advantage of the advice and guidance that is currently available.

Bottom Line:

It’s human nature to reach a comfort level when you are in a job that seems to be stable.  However, its also human nature to want to progress, constantly learn and succeed in our professional lives.

Much like an insurance policy or a 401k, we need to constantly manage and invest in our careers through networking, promoting ourselves and keeping our resumes and portfolios up-to-date.

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Keys to Reinvention

I’m an example of a ‘reinvention’!   I spent the majority of my 20-year career in the marketing and communications profession.  But 10 years ago, I began PR Jobs List, a weekly email that provided job listings in Denver to a couple hundred public relations professionals.  A simple e-mail blast, this free service helped top PR professionals connect with some of the best jobs in the Denver metro area.   The list grew into Andrew Hudson’s Jobs List, an automated web site with several categories of jobs in Colorado and today, more than 20,000 subscribers have signed on to receive the weekly updates. 

About two years ago, I began the process of figuring out how to turn my ‘hobby’ (which had turned into a passion) into a full-time career.  I imagined life running my own business and helping others by dedicating all of my time to Andrew Hudson’s Jobs List.  I knew the job site was working; I’d heard from hundreds of employers and employees that it was one of the most effective job boards in Denver.  I also knew that if I could commit my life to building on this idea of a localized job board, that I could make it even MORE effective.

But turning my ‘hobby’ into a full-time business?  It was completely intimidating!

I had no experience in entrepreneurship!  How do I write a business plan?  What about licenses, IRS rules, business accounting, lines of credit, investors, how would I insure myself?   There were many times when my dream just seemed like – a dream!  Was I really handcuffed to the comforts and benefits of a full-time job?  What if it didn’t work out?  What if I couldn’t make it work?  Was I willing to put my reputation on the line?  I talked to a lot of people who encouraged me but I also spoke with others who warned me about of the risks of starting a business in a recession.

The thing that kept me pushing forward was imagining the life that I REALLY WANTED!  I imagined what it would be like and how much freedom I could have if I was doing what I REALLY wanted to do!

There were several keys that helped me overcome the common fears and anxieties of ‘reinvention,’ which I believe are critical to anyone wanting to do something different in their lives. 

Whether you want to start a business, transfer your skills into a new line of work, or learn a new set of skills to follow a new career path, here are some strategies I found helpful:

1.) Imagine and make a commitment to living the life you want to live.  Attitude is everything.  Friends tell me all the time, “Andrew, if you want to do something, you simply figure a way to get it done.”  They are right.  I’ve been inspired by this attitude in others throughout my life and luckily, it’s rubbed off.

If you have an idea of what it is you want to do, you need to first, make a commitment to yourself.  Start with the basic question, “What does that life look like?”  Does it fulfill a desire and a passion?  Is it something that you envision making you happy?  Is it a passion you can imagine doing as your life’s work?  Now is also the point where you change your attitude from “I’ve always wanted to…” and start thinking “I am committed to….”  You will see that this one shift in attitude is the first and most critical step of your reinvention journey.

2.) Make a plan.  Sit down with a pad and pen and start answering some critical questions.  What do you need to do to reinvent yourself?  What are the strategies and tactics you need to follow to make that life happen? Does your reinvention include additional education?  What financial investments will it require? Do you have to make modifications to your current life in order to make this happen and what do those modifications look like?   Realize that your reinvention journey is most likely not going to happen overnight, but is a process that will take time, effort and energy.  In order for your reinvention to not overwhelm you, try to address each issue in manageable bites. Then, draft a simple timeline that spells out achievable short and long-term goals. 

3.) Research.  Determine what is required to pursue your dream.  For example, if you are a human resources trainer but you want a career working in marketing, what additional skills will you need?  Inventory your current skills and talents to determine which skills transfer into the career you want to transition.  What are the types of jobs that are available?  There is a remarkable amount of information on the Internet and from professional associations that describe career path scenarios for many career sectors.  If you are starting a business, there are accessible resources available from organizations such as the Small Business Administration, local Chambers of Commerce, the Secretary of State’s office, local government economic development agencies and workforce development offices.  These include resources on how to write a business plan, low-interest loans, free workshops on career transitions and many other areas that will help you.

4.) Learn from others.  When I made a transition into entrepreneurship, I leaned on a lot of friends who had successfully started their own businesses.  They mentored me and gave me guidance about common issues and pitfalls I needed to avoid.  In the same vein, if you are looking to make a transition to a new career, talk to friends and colleagues that are currently in careers where you want to move.   Or if you know someone who has reinvented themselves, talk to them about their journey.  When you ask for advice, REALLY LISTEN.  While you may be reinventing yourself, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – or in other words, learn how to avoid making common mistakes.

5.) Educate yourself.  We all have the potential to be life-long students.  If you believe additional education is necessary in order to pursue your dream, then go back to school!  Scholarships and financial aid are available to students of ALL ages.  There are also a variety of non-traditional ways to further your education.  Some universities have programs that allow you to earn an MBA in only one year’s time!  There are many technical colleges as well as traditional universities that cater to professionals’ unique schedules and timelines.  In my case, I researched business plans online and bought reference books.  I attended seminars and listened to new business lectures on YouTube and took online tutorials to learn new software.  I learned the basics of small business accounting.  I also enhanced my marketing and public relations skills and learned savvy sales and pricing techniques.

Bottom line:

Making the committment to reinventing yourself is a major lifestyle change; it requires a huge dose of confidence and belief in your goal, it involves taking yourself out of your comfort level, it means you must be willing to take some risks and ultimately, it requires patience.  Most reinventions don’t happen overnight. 

But choosing and committing to live the life you want can also be one of life’s most richest journeys.

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“How do you feel about a monkey in the office?” The worst job interview questions ever

Today’s  job seekers try to prepare for everything.

They diligently research the background of companies to try to match their specific talents, experiences and expertise with what is required in the job posting.  They spend long hours customizing their resumes and cover letters.   They have incredible patience and perseverance, waiting by the phone and willing to jump at a moment’s notice for an interview.

And when they do get an interview, they rehearse their answers to the most commonly asked interview questions.

But even the most experienced job seeker would be at a loss when asked the questions below.

These are all real questions asked at real job interviews.  Perhaps the recruiter was trying to be cute or trying to see how the job seeker would handle an odd question, but these have got to be some of the worst questions asked at a job interview…..ever.

Some of these questions are illegal to ask.  At the very least many of them are inappropriate.  Others are just silly.   Some of these zingers are born from bizarre workplace  profile tests in which they are attempting to somehow judge whether your personality would fit in the corporate culture of the company.

Nevertheless, if you get asked an odd question, take a deep breath and don’t say the first thing that comes to mind.   Take a moment and decide the best response.  Granted, in some cases that best response might be standing up and walking out.

The Worst Interview Questions Ever

“If you were a salad, what kind of dressing would you want poured on you?”

“How do you define sexual harassment?”

“Pretend I am an Eskimo and sell me a freezer.”

“We’ve already made a hiring decision, but I’m required to ask you  some questions anyway.”

“It’s OK if you don’t know a lot about our industry.  Our CEO’s kind of an idiot about what we do as well.”

“How do you feel about a monkey in the office?”

“Are you sure you are Hispanic?  Your last name sure doesn’t sound Latin.”

I was asked “Why are pothole covers round?” while interviewing for a reception job years ago. WHAT? Luckily I got it right (so they don’t fall in), and still didn’t get the job.

“You’re not the type that would sue your employer, are you?”

“When was the last time you did something illegal?”

“What is the airspeed of an unladen swallow?”

“We don’t allow personal calls at work.  Would your children ever call you?”

“You’d be the fourth person in this position in the last six months.  What traits do you think will help you stay in this position?”

“Are you dating anyone? Well don’t date anyone here.”

“If you were to pick the theme song that would be played when you stepped out onto home plate at Coors Field – what would it be?”

“Do you care if your boss reads your email?”

“If we don’t hire you, which of our competitors would you want to work for?” Followed by:  “If we finally offered the same wages as them, would you work for us?”

“If we hire you, do you promise not to quit?”

“How do you feel about working unpaid overtime?”

“Do you speak Japanese?”   Uhhh…shouldn’t they have put that in the ad??

“Are you pregnant, or going to get pregnant in the next 12 months?”

During a phone interview – “Are you as sexy as your voice?”

“Why do you want this job when you should be home having babies?”

“If you were a celebrity, who would you be?”

“If you could be a teacher, a jet pilot or an actor, which would you be and why?”

and lastly (after the interview) –

“We know we offered you the job, but our new CEO asked us to hire a friend of the Mayor’s instead.”

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