Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Making a Career Change: Step 10 Applying for Jobs

Previously: Step 9: Informational Interviews

Step 10: Applying for Jobs
While you are networking you should also be searching for jobs in the traditional way and applying for those that seem right. Remember, if 70% of jobs are found using networking that leaves 30% to be found by other means and one of those means is applying. It is important to remember, however, that the way our parents applied for jobs is no where even close to the way we are applying for them. Electronic submissions and job boards have become the norm and to do otherwise feels like you might as well be using a typewriter to prepare your resume. So hit the boards and scour the company websites for open positions. When you come across one that looks right, get your materials in order and send them in.

In an ideal world you are able to apply to those same companies where you have networked or you can find some connection to the company using your network. LinkedIn does a great job of showing you whether or not you are connected to people at the companies that use it. If you can, start contacting people to try and get to the hiring manager of the positions you want. Perhaps your resume and cover letter can be handed to the hiring manager personally. At the very least if you can lean on your network to get to the hiring manager your materials will rise to the top of the pile and you will have some degree of certainty that they were at least looked at.

Again, the ideal here is to network if at all possible. But if you have to, apply cold. It's completely fine to do so. At least, it's cold at the start. Once your materials are in, try to contact the hiring manager personally. It's not always easy to figure out who this person is. Companies often guard their names to protect the hiring manager from being contacted by too may people. Other times you won't get past HR, which is actually fine because it will mean you have made contact with someone who is often the first line of defense. Maybe you can reach the person through email and send them a message or find them on LinkedIn. Maybe it's obviously stated in the job post and you can call him/her.

This is another instance where it doesn't really matter how you reach the people as long as you are reaching them.When contact is made, break out a quick 30 second speech. Don't get too worked up about it either. Your goal here is to be at the top of the person's mind as someone with a voice rather than a name on a two dimensional piece of paper.

"My name is...I am supremely talented in the following ways...I am very interested in the opening you have for...because it very much matches my interests and experiences. I recently applied and want to make sure you have my materials and to see if there is anything else you need..."

Refer back to your notebook for the key buzz words and phrases to fill in the blanks. Then thank them for their time. The conversation will be quick. Rehearse what you are going to say. Write it out, them memorize it, then practice speaking it. Then practice it again. Don't read it because the person on the other end will know you are reading. Just say it very calmly and clearly. Chances are they will let you know that everything is all set and then the conversation will be over. If you end up emailing the person, treat the email as you would any other written communication and make sure it's meticulously written.

Because you never know what actions will reap the greatest reward it's important to proceed on several fronts. So keep looking for openings and keep meeting people. Right now those are the two most important jobs you have to do.

Up Next: Step 11: Your Job Right Now is Getting a Job

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Making a Career Change: Step 9 Informational Interviews

Previously: Step 8: Looking at Your Network

Now that you've been meeting people and have a list of your network it's time to start making contact with them in a more meaningful way.  Shaking a hands at an event and chatting is one thing. Actually getting something of value out of your network is something entirely different. In a business setting you'll want to set up informational interviews. If you want to reach out to someone in a more informal manner the informational interview may not necessarily be needed. Regardless of how you engage the person, your end goals are the same.

Step 9: Informational Interviews
This step will largely focus on the use of your network in a formal setting. If you are engaging a person in an informal setting because you already know the person or that is what makes the most sense, adapt what follows to suite your needs but don't lose sight of the two goals of this step:
  1. Gathering Information
  2. Extending Your Network
Let's face it, asking someone for a job can be awkward. Luckily, however, you don't even have to think about doing that. In fact, I recommend you get that part of this process out of your head completely and not think about it because it'll only get in the way and make you uncomfortable. Instead, focus only on these two goals.

The first goal of an informational interview is to gather information about your target industry. In almost all cases, the person you are talking to will not have a job for you nor will you want to ask that person for a job. The key is focusing on making contact with people, telling them about yourself, learning about them, what they do and the companies for whom they do it.  The second goal of the interview is to come away with the name of at least one additional person with whom you can make contact to set up another interview. If you keep these two goals in sight you will eventually make contact with the person who will lead directly to your next job and the best part is you likely won't even have had to ask for it. Eventually, the people you meet are going learn of job openings and you want to be the first person that comes to mind. So don't worry if they don't know of any openings right now because that's not what you want. The only things you need to focus on are gathering information and meeting more people.

First you need to ask for the interview. So who do you ask? Well, take a look at your network. If there are people in your network that you know who work in your target industry then it should be easy. Just ask the person if they wouldn't mind sparing a few minutes speaking with you because you are interested in learning more about what they do. If you don't know the person it takes a little more finesse. You may need to ask someone in your network to help you meet the person you actually want to interview. If they are an alumni from your college, call or email and start by saying that you are a fellow alumni. I am more than confident that you will find this person more than receptive to the idea of helping you out for a little while. If you don't have that connection, it gets even more formal because you have to name drop the person who referred you to them and then ask for their time. Linked In helps a lot with this process because it will identify the people you know who are connected to the people you want to talk to.

Conducting the actual interview should be a lot easier than setting it up because there is a very specific bit of advice you can live by. The #1 tip of informational interviews and networking as a whole is:

People LOVE to talk about themselves.

Yes, you need to communicate in a very clear and concise manner who you are, your experiences, what skills you have to offer, and what you hope to accomplish in the interview so start there in a very well constructed, rehearsed speech. Then transition to the person you are interviewing and let them do most of the talking. Simply ask the person to tell you about what they do, how they got where they are and what they think of the industry/company/job. Then your job is to just listen and take notes. The ensuing conversation should take up most of the rest of your time and provide you with some great insight from inside your target industry.

End the interview by asking the person 2 things:
  1. Do they have any advice for you as you make this transition?
  2. Is there is anyone else they know who would be a good person for you to talk to next?
#2 is actually the most important part of the interview. You want to walk out of there with another name so that you can extend your network. Finally, thank them for their time and you are done.  Then you can repeat the process with the person that was just mentioned. The more you do this the more you learn, the more people you meet, and the closer you get to finding your next job, the right job!

It should go without saying that you send a thank you note immediately after the interview. Feel free to do this by email or snail mail. In fact, you need to literally thank every person who helps you in anyway so it's best to make thank you notes a part of your muscle memory from the get go.

Up Next: Step 10: Applying For Jobs

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Making a Career Change: Step 8 Looking to Your Network

Previously: Step 7: Putting It All Together

Step 7 might actually be the hardest step in this process because there's no way for anyone to tell you what you want to do or what you should be doing. You need to tell yourself that and it takes a lot of thinking to come up with the right answer.  Once you find the answer, it's time for action.

Step 8: Looking to Your Network
Let's start with the basics. What is networking? Simply put, networking is making connections with people. That's all. It is really not a very complicated process and is very easy to do.

Most people don't understand that they are already networking everyday, all the time. They don't think of the people with whom they interact in the right way.  The fact is that each of us already has a network. If you think you don't have a network, then you literaly must not know a single person on the face of the planet. If you know even one person, then you have a network because that person knows people.

So, your network is the people you know and the people they know. The act of networking is simply meeting people. You don't actually have to start networking because you are already doing it. You just have to realize that you are doing it and that your network already exists. 

See how easy networking really is!

The actual task of networking is twofold. First you need to figure out how to leverage your network to your benefit. Second you need to constantly grow your network. The bigger your network the more opportunity that lies therein. As your network grows, the net you are casting becomes wider and wider. You may call on people in your network to help you and eventually others will call on you to help them.

The statistics for the number of job seekers who get a job as a direct result of their networking efforts are overwhelming. I've read that the number is 60%, 60%-80%, 75%. No matter what the actual number is, their is no denying that the #1 most effective way to find a job is through networking. If you want, go ahead and try to prove me wrong, I'll wait...

...couldn't do it could you?

So step 8 is all about a networking blitz. This is the point in the process where the actual job searching begins. Since there's certainly no limit to the number of ways to meet people I can't possibly list all of the ways you can network. So here are some suggestions to get you started:
  1. Turn to your college alumni association. Ask them for a list of people in your area who work in your target industry.
  2. Are you on Linked In? If you aren't, get on it now.
  3. Look at your Facebook friends and see who works in your target industry.
  4. Look for local organizations or associations and join them. Attend their networking events.
  5. Ask your friends and family for contacts in your target industry.
  6. Volunteer in your area, especially in your target field if possible, and start meeting people.
  7. Make a list in your notebook of all of the people you are coming up with.
The whole point of this step and networking in general is to find and meet people. The next step is about contacting them. Someone you know knows someone who knows someone and you need to find and meet that person. It doesn't matter how you do it. Just find them. They are out there. Every day they're going to work just like you. They are going to the gym. They attend social events in the evening and on weekends. They go to book clubs and are invovled in churches. Every day they'd be glad to stop and spend a few minutes talking to you.

Networking doesn't need to be done in a business or professional setting. It can and will happen everywhere, anywhere, and at anytime.  It happens in line waiting to pick up your kid at preschool. It happens standing on the sideline at soccer games chit chatting with other parents. It happens in line at the deli waiting for your lunch. As you go through your days and weeks and meet and interact with people, think of every single person with whom you interact as someone in your network and consider how they might be able to help you in this process. Keep meeting people and making lists of their names in your notebook because you're about to learn how to use them.

Up Next: Step 9: Using Your Network

Monday, December 5, 2011

Making a Career Change: Step 7 Putting It All Together

Previously: Step 6: Looking to Others

Let's review. Thus far you've looked back into your past and examined previous jobs, your interests and influences, and generally the important factors that have shaped your professional life. Next you looked at your current job and examined what it is you like and dislike. Then you looked inside yourself and examined your skills, values and what you have to offer. Finally, you spoke to others who know you to see how you are perceived in the work place and to learn what areas you need to improve. Inbetween you have hopefully interspersed some physical activity and are feeling energized by the stress relief benefits.

Now what?

You may remember this is the part of my career change where the build up of all the work I did lead to the career counselor telling me that I should look for marketing jobs. You know that sound when a contestant loses on The Price Is Right? That's what I felt like when she said that.

Step 7: Putting It All Together
Grab your notebook.
  1. Spend time some flipping though your notebook and relfecting on what you read. Are there any  common themes?
  2. Use the information in your notebook to write your own job description. If there was a job that no other person in the world could do but you, what would the advertisement for that job opening say?
  3. Make a list of careers and industries that you've been thinking you might like to explore.
  4. Start reading job descriptions in these industries. Look at the skills they are asking for and the level of education required. Notice the years of expereince needed. If the number of years exceeds the number you currently have, find a job description in that industry that asks for the number of years you have. The job you want may be a down the road and you may need to take a different one in the new industry first.
  5. Start researching those industries. Look at the companies. Go online and read blogs and articles about those industries. Learn about their trends and innovations. Learn about hiring trends taking place within these industires. Find conferences you can attend and journals you can read.
  6. Considered any gaps you find in the skills and education needed for these industries and think about filling those gaps. Will you need to go back to school? Can you assume new responsibilities in your current job to help fill those gaps? Can you volunteer in your area to gain experience that will help fill the gaps?
I learned the hard way that there is no magic formula or computer program that can spit out exactly what it is you should be doing. Even if there was, how would it know what you want to do? This is where career cousellors step out and you step in and take over. You need to answser the tough questions.

Your notebook is now a resource filled with many pieces that together constitue the whole of who you are, what you have to offer and how you can get where you want to go. So don't rush this step. Take time to review it, consider what you see in that notebook and what you see yourself doing next. Remember, the best thing that can come out of this step in the process is an understanding of what you want to do. What you REALLY want to do. Once you determine that, you can start your research using the questions above and other resources like the internet, conferences and journals to begin to see how you match  what you want to do next and if you don't what you can do to become a match.

Up Next: Step 8: Looking to Your Nework

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Making a Career Change: Step 6 Looking to Others

Previously: Step 5: Looking in the Mirror

It's amazing how good an exercise routine can make you feel isn't it? Especially after Thanksgiving!!

Making a career change is very much about putting yourself out there. In order to do so effectively you need to know how others see you and the best way to do that is to ask those around you.  Your colleagues are your best resource when it comes to understanding who you are and how you present yourself because they are the ones who see your personal and professional interactions from the outside.

Step 6: Looking to Others
Pick 3-5 people whose input and feedback you trust. Be sure not to pick all of your friends. It's OK to pick one friend but it will be infinitely more helpful if you are able to get the objective feedback of colleagues, supervisors, clients, customers and other people who have no vested personal interest.

Set up a time when you can have a conversation. Perhaps it's over lunch, coffee, after hours, or before work during breakfast. Just pick a time outside of the craziness of the work day so you won't feel rushed. When it comes time to have these conversations thank the person for joining you and then provide the framework for the conversation to take place by saying something like:

"I am trying to learn how others perceive me in the work place so that I can get a better understanding of what I do well and what areas I need to work on and I thought you might be able to help me."

From here you do not want to steer the conversation too much by asking specific questions. Just allow the conversation to happen and see where it goes. You want to hear the person's initial response and then perhaps ask followup questions for clarification. If they only speak to your strengths, after a while thank them and then ask for a few things you might be able to improve. Same goes for the reverse. Remember, this is just a conversation and not an interview. You are trying to learn how others perceive you so you need to allow them to communicate that perception.

It is likely that you will find that the hardest part about this process is to strip it of emotional and objectively listen to what the person is saying . You may need to fight the urge to rebut "I am NOT like that!" Remember, you've asked someone you trust for honest feedback. There are reasons they are saying what they are saying and it is up to you to figure out why. If you don't like what you hear, now is the time to change it but first you need to learn what "it" is and the person speaking to you is doing you a favor so don't argue with them.

After the meeting, write the person a thank you note (email is fine but I prefer hand written) and then head to your notebook and document the conversation. Note what strengths and areas for improvement came up. After you have had a few of these conversations look for trends and patterns.

Up Next: Step 7: Putting It All Together

Friday, November 18, 2011

Making a Career Change: Step 5 Looking in the Mirror

Previous: Step 4: Looking Inside

Hey! How's it going? Are you still with me? I hope so. You are doing some terrific work that is really going to pay off so keep it up!

Step 5: Looking in the Mirror
It's time for some you time. At this point I recommend integrating into your life a system of personal health and wellness if you don't have one already. If you do already have one, then you ROCK!

I am solely interested in your ability to stay positive and focused through this process. Your physical health is directly connected to your mental health whether you know it or not. Stress suppresses the positive energy you need to do your best and I have found that the #1 way to relieve that stress is to exercise. You will see that the power of exercise to keep you energized through this process is truly profound. Obviously there are other health benefits to exercising and those are well documented. But as I am sure you can tell, executing a career change is hard work and stressful. You may not be sleeping well. Your diet may have slipped a bit. You could be carrying more tension and anxiety making you more irritable. Goodness knows this process can get you down and keep you there, which is completely counter productive to your mission. You need to be up and energized to turn things around. I try to emphasize staying positive and repeating positive phrases to yourself and those help but if you really want to release all of the tension and negativity this process can bring then the best way to do it is by exercising.

I'm not going to advocate for one exercise regime over another because I believe it's a personal choice. Nor do I have any idea when you might be able to squeeze it into your day. You can do yoga in the morning or go for a run in the evening. You can lift weights or use a stairmaster. I happen to be able to fit it in on my lunch break, which works really well for me. Just get it in there. 30 minutes 3-4 times a week will do wonders.

One last thing, you should always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise routine. You're working too hard to let anything jeopardize your success so be sure that you and your doctor are on the same page regarding what you can and can't handle.

Ok, now back to work...

Up Next: Step 6: Looking to Others

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Making a Career Change: Step 4 Looking Inside

Previously: Step 3: Looking at the Now

Phew! In a lot of ways it helps to get all the frustration about your current job out on paper and see it sitting there doesn't it? Now the real work begins. You're no longer holding on to that negativity so you are free to focus on you and what makes you awesome! Take a deep and cleansing breath.

Tip #2: For this next step it may help to use Google or another preferred search engine. Look at question #4 regarding your core values. Start by making your own list of the ones you can think of but then try looking at a long list of values that you find online and pick the ones from it that apply. This will make the end result more robust and thorough since you won't have to think of all of them off the top of your head. So feel free to use the Internet to search for pre-made lists. Just make sure you are being honest when you start picking from them.

Tip #3: I believe there is a difference between your dream job and your ideal job. Some may argue this, which is fine. But to me, a dream job is what you would do if you could literally do anything in the world regardless of time, talent, skill and money. Like, say, own a stable of elite thoroughbred raceshorse for example. An ideal job, is the perfect job for you taking into consideration the realities of your life such as your education, skills, talents, geograghy and other factors that very much have a bearing on your life. The ideal job may be quite far off like a CEO, CIO, or CFO position which is totally fine because it gives you a realistic direction in which you can head.

Tip #4: Notice questions #2 & #3. Classic interview questions. Think long and hard about them now. Knowing the answers to these questions at this stage will serve you well in your self-assessment. Then remember that they are in your notebook so that when you are interview prepping you can refer back to them. You'll never have to struggle with these as interview questions again!

Step 4: Looking Inside
In your notebook, answer the following:
  1. What are your personal interests? What are you passionate about?
  2. What are your strengths?
  3. What are your weaknesses?
  4. What are your core values?
  5. Rank your core values in order from most important to least important.
  6. What do you do better than anyone you know?
  7. What is your dream job? Why?
  8. What is your idea job? Why?
  9. Do you prefer working alone? As a member of team? Why? 
  10. Do you prefer a supervisor who watches you closely or relies on you to keep him/her updated periodically?
  11. List your "Must Haves" for your next job. (i.e. I must have a flexible schedule...I must have a boss who trusts me...) Don't hold back. List as many as you can think of.
  12. Rank your answers to question #11 in order of most important to least important.
  13. Using your answers from Step 2 Question #7, list the top 2-3 accomplishments from your most recent job.
If you would like to continue along this path of discovery there is no shortage of assessment tools you can use. For starters, look at: Strength Finder 2.0, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and CareerLeader. If you do turn to those resoures be sure to record the results in your notebook so that you have them handy where and when you need them. Many of them will give you a print out of the results which you can then (literally) cut and paste into your notebook (yes, using actual scissors and glue).

Up Next: Step 5: Looking in the Mirror

Monday, November 14, 2011

Making a Career Change: Step 3 Looking at the Now

Previously: Step 2: Looking Back

Now that you have a sense of where you were and how you got here, it's time to think about the here and now. Obviously something is not right so let's see if we can pinpoint what that is.

Tip #1: It may help you to get a copy of your current job description and have it handy during this step so that you can refer to it.

Step 3: Looking at the Now
In your notebook, answer the following questions:
  1. What about your current job isn't working?
  2. Make a list of the things you like about your current job.
  3. Make a list of the things you don't like about your job.
  4. Make a list of the people you work with followed by the first 3-5 characteristics that come to mind when you think of those people.
  5. What are your main responsibilities in this job? Which of these do you enjoy? Which do you not enjoy?
  6. Make a list of things about this job you would like to change and indicate how you would change them.
Anything else you want to say about your current position? Write it down. Try and get to the root of what is going on now and why it's not working out. Hopefully at this point you are developing an understanding for where you were, where you are and how you got here. Next we are going to examine all that is wonderful about you to see if we can unlock what it is you should do next.

Up Next: Step 3: Looking Inside

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Making a Career Change: Step 2 Looking Back

Previously: Step 1: Get a Handy Dandy Notebook

Wasn't step 1 easy?! Now that you have your notebook it's time to fill it by embarking on a journey of self-exploration to fully assess where you have been, where you are, where you are going and most importantly where you WANT to go in your professional life. I used to think careers were not about what we wanted but I have since learned otherwise. It's all about what we want and what will make us happy. You know the old Confucius saying "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."

Because this process is intensely personal with no wrong answers, it is what you make of it. You will get back what you put in. It is important that you uncensor yourself as much as possible. To help you get started I will lay down some ground rules:
  • Don't worry about anyone ever reading what you are writing, unless you want them to of course.
  • Be honest. The more brutally honest the better.
  • Write now and think later. Tap into your stream of consciousness and let your pen do all the work. Don't think too hard about what you are writing and just write. Often your initial response is the best one so write it down before you can censor yourself.
  • Complete each step in full to the best of your ability.
If you can do those things you're going to get through this just fine! I'm so psyched you're doing this. Let's get started!

Step 2: Looking Back
In your notebook, answer the following questions:
  1. When you were younger what did you want to do for a living? What did you dream of being?
  2. What activities interested you when you were a child? Teenager?
  3. Where did you go to school and what was your major? Why did you pick that as a major?
  4. Who are the major influential figures in your past?  What characteristics about those people appealed to you?
  5. How did you get where you are now? Who helped you get here? What interested you initially about getting to this particular place? Did you get here by accident or on purpose? What skills helped you get here?
  6. List all of the jobs you have ever had in your life.
  7. For each job in question #6, list your most significant accomplishments noting the ones of which you are most proud.
As you can see, this is just a quick check-in to make sure you keep sight of from whence you came. You need to know where you were in order to understand where you are going and how to get there.

Up Next: Step 3: Looking Inside

Monday, November 7, 2011

Making a Career Change: Step 1 Get a Handy Dandy Notebook

I have a friend who works in real estate. He started his own business in New York City and just recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Specifically, he handles corporate relocation (i.e. an employee gets money to move to a new city, the employee gives the money to my friend who helps the employee find an apartment). Obviously, this industry has fallen on some shaky times lately. Not only did the market crash but companies slowed down their employee relocation programs. Thus, my friend's business struggled and he decided that it was in his best interest to pursue something else. So he enrolled in a graduate program to become an elementary school teacher. During this program he realized that teaching wasn't for him and that he actually liked the freedom and exhilaration he got from being his own boss and working as hard as he could to help his business stay alive.

What my friend did was assess his career path in order to confirm that he was happy with where he was going, challenged on the job, utilizing his strengths, and emotionally and financially pleased with what he was doing. He found something amiss in his assessment (the crashing market and decreased business) and saw how that put his family at risk so he developed a plan to fix it. He spent time and money on a graduate program but ended up not using the degree right away.  That degree is certainly in his pocket in case something goes wrong down the road.  For now, though, his business is operating better than it ever has. (By the way, if you need NYC Real Estate services let me know. I'll connect you to him.)

When I was making the decision to leave the theatre and pursue a different career I was the complete opposite of my friend. I too assessed my situation and came up with something, many things actually, amiss. But it was difficult to make a plan. It was hard to get over the idea that I had spent so much time, energy and money earning a degree I wouldn't end up needing whereas he went out and got a degree just in case he needed it.  My long term goals always involved a lengthy and prosperous theatre career, first working professionally and then teaching. All of my training, my network, my application materials, and my career experiences were focused in theatre and I hadn't a clue as to how to use any of them to find a job in another industry. I was fairly certain that I could and would be successful doing other things, I just didn't know what those thing were nor how I was going to find them. It was intimidating, humbling and scary to say the least. 

Yet, here we both are on the other side and doing just fine. He stayed where he was and made it, realizing he was doing what he wanted to do. I executed a change because I was burnt out and defeated, and I made it. You will make it too.

If you find yourself with disillusionment about your career choice, if you flat out don't like what you are doing, if you are intimidated and scared about making a career change, if you feel like you need a change because something has happened in your industry, or if you just feel like it's time to move on but don't know how, then repeat after me "I can and will do this." Say it over and over. Believe it. Say it again! Once you believe it, you are ready to get started:

Step 1: Get a Handy Dandy Notebook (Yes my boys watch Blue's Clues!)
You need a place to write things down because there's going to be a lot of list making and brainstorming and being able to have it all in one organized place will make the process easier for you. It can be spiral bound, a three ring binder, a trapper keeper, a journal with rainbows and unicorns or even a computer file (although I recommend using actual pen and paper). Just make sure you get something. Down the road, when you are actually in the midst of making the change this notebook is going to be the best resource you could have because we're going to fill it with information about you which you'll then be able to utilize in networking, cover letters and interviews.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Being a Leader had a fantastic article today. Take a look: Top 10 Ways to Be a Leader.

I look at the list and say "I do that. And I do that. And I do that..." But really, do I? I mean do I really embrace those things to the best of my ability? Think of the best leader you have ever had the pleasure of working with. I bet they possessed all of these skills. Personally I believe I possess many of these to varying degrees but without a doubt there are ones I need to work on.

Of them all #4 Be Unstoppable jumps off the page. There are definitely times when I feel unstoppable, everything is going right, I'm crushing my to-do lists, helping others and putting it all together and that's all just before lunch!

But then there are other times, like just moments after a challenge or obstacle has arisen, that I feel defeated, unqualified and like a fraud. Someone who is unstoppable doesn't let those feelings set in because they know that no matter what happens they can overcome it. It's like I was saying yesterday about using a positive attitude to help me get through the week with now power. That positive attitude has an amazing ability to vault us to success if we are able to employ it from the get go before any kind of negativity sets it. (Hello? Right Brain vs. Left Brain anyone?) I'm going to set my mind to working on becoming unstoppable... better all watch out!...

So what about you and your assessment of your leadership skills? Reaction to this list? Things you do well? Others you need to work on? Remember, it's up to us to get better at these things because no one is going to do it for us.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Have The Power!!!!

Finally! Our electricity was restored last night at 7:00pm. It was a long 4 days to say the least. When it came back on I felt like He-Man! It was great! I was starting to see my breath inside my house last night and was getting a little nervous so thank goodness it's been restored and we can start getting life back to normal.

This week has been a living testament that we can overcome adversity when we set our minds to it by adapting to the circumstances with which we are faced and by putting faith in the notion that someone or something will step in to help when we need it most (just like here: Hitting the Wall).

I reworked my routine by showering at the gym at work and by taking up friends and neighbors on their offers to have me over for dinner. I added extra blankets to the bed and sent my wife and kids to my in-laws where they had a generator providing heat and electricity. I also kept a positive attitude, something I will readily admit is not always easy to do and sometimes down right impossible. I understood that every minute, hour, and day that passed brought me that much closer to the resolution of the crisis. Remember, every second we spend worrying and fretting about the situation in which we find ourselves is a second we are not spending devising a solution to get through it.

So what's your adversity? Feel like you are in a dead end at work? Conflict with your boss? Want to make a career change but afraid to get started? Trust me, you can overcome that and anything else that comes your way.

"The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists."
Japanese Proverb

"Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth."
Susan Taylor

"In adversity, remember to keep an even mind."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Career Management Is a Personal Journey

No one is going to just hand us what we need to succeed on a silver platter so it is up to us to seek out those things. I am very much interested in the personal career journey we are all on and providing thoughts, resources and inspiration to support that journey and thus the needs that arise from it. 

Shortly (probably when my power is restored and I can take the time to think about it instead of worrying about staying warm) I will turn my attention towards finding our niche, which can be the impetus for turning everything around.  Until then, I've summed up the topics I've addressed thus far to give you a one stop shop for finding the spark you need to get through the day, week and month. 

5:15 Is The Crack of Dawn
Getting it all started.

7 Career Obstacles and How to Overcome Them
Advice to keep you and your career on track.

Get In the Game
Career Changes can be hard and are a great starting point for a discussion. I went through a very difficult one.

Road Map for the Blog
Laying out some future topics.

My Left Brain vs. My Right Brain: An Epic Battle
Our internal dialogue is often the single most important factor in our personal and professional lives. Learn to listen to yours..

What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?
The career and professional landscape has changed dramatically and you don't want to be left behind because you've failed to find your niche.

To Be or Not To Be...Motivated During a Career Change
Having the proper support network underneath you makes all the difference.

Hitting the Wall
Just when you think you can't go any further, have faith that something or someone will intervene.

Responsibility to Yourself and Your Employer
Being unhappy on the job can leave you in a bad place. Don't let it happen to you.

It's Been a Week
What I've learned in the social media universe.

When Your Responsibilities Conflict
An example of how to tell when you or someone else is unhappy on the job.

Failure is not something that is often talked about yet is is something that is constantly thought about. I decided to talk about it!

Yesterday Failure...Today Risk
If I'm talking about failure I'd be doing a disservice to not address risk.

Avoiding Social Media Errors
Putting yourself out there requires an awareness. Don't be the one who makes mistakes.

Failure and Risk
Doesn't success play a role in there somewhere? See how.

7 Steps For Dealing With Crisis On The Job
Whether you are playing it safe or taking risks it is important to be prepared when problems arise.

Still no power...still reflecting on adversity...
Inspirational words from others regarding adversity.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Still no power...still reflecting on adversity...

In honor of the ongoing storm recovery in the Northeast and my thusly inspired 7 steps for dealing with crisis on the job, I'm going to stick with the theme of adversity and look for inspiration to get through it.

Here's to a warm house with lights when I get home tonight!

Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters.

Victor Hugo

Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it.

Do not fear the winds of adversity. Remember: A kite rises against the wind rather than with it.
Unknown Author

Adversity precedes growth.
Rosemarie Rossetti 

Sweet are the uses of adversity.
William Shakespeare
Duke Senior, As You Like It, Act 2 Scene 1 

All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
Walt Disney

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.
Anne Bradstreet 

Monday, October 31, 2011

7 Steps For Dealing With Crisis On The Job

The freak October snow storm has left 86% of my town without power. The temperature in my house when I woke up this morning was 54.8 degrees. Outside it was 26. Halloween has been cancelled. There are trees and power lines down everywhere. To say the least, this week is going to be filled with a fair amount of adversity for me, my family and my neighbors as we try to get through this crisis. Seems like an opportune time to think about how adversity and crisis relate to our careers if you ask me...

How do you respond to adversity? When it gets tough on the job, do you step up? Do you adopt a "Do whatever it takes" attitude to get the job done? Or do you find yourself struggling to cope with the pressure? My coworker referred to in this post did not deal well when things didn't go right and her reputation reflected as much.

Granted, no one likes it when things go wrong. We don't go looking for trouble at work. By nature, we actually plan in ways that avoid disaster and crisis rather than invite them.  But at the same time it's bound to happen eventually and how we deal with it makes all the difference in the world. A few simple steps may help you get through the storm and its aftermath while also helping you build a reputation as someone who can be counted on to rise to the occasion when things don't go right.

Control Your Emotions
Allowing your emotions to take over, especially in the early stages of a crisis, can be detrimental. Be prepared at all times. Know that as problems arise your emotional response may be to overact or panic and get out in front of that so you can...

Maintain a Clear Head at All Times
Being able to think clearly is imperative and you won't be able to do that if your emotions have gotten the best of you. You don't want to say something you will regret later. So step back, take a breath and...

Fully Assess the Situation
Gather the facts and listen carefully to people even if they are upset to the point that they are yelling at you. Many a time in the theatre was I confronted by an artist who had allowed his/her emotions to take over to the point of yelling. Sometimes we get yelled at even when the problems aren't our fault. If you get upset and start yelling at people too, then there are two upset yelling people, which will never allow a solution to be reached because you won't be able to stop and...

If people, no matter how upset they are, know that you are listening to them you are going to build credibility. Listening allows the upset people to vent their frustrations and allows you to hear what they believe the problems to be. It might also help to repeat what you are hearing just to make sure you understand the situation and prove that you hear what is being said. So instead of responding when emotions are high, listen and...

Gather the Facts
In order for any solution to be reached we must first get all of the available information so that a course of action can be reached. In some cases, it may be a good idea to...

Ask for Help
Getting through a crisis situation as a team or at least with one other person is much better than doing it by yourself.  Even if they aren't involved, bending the ear of someone you trust can help. The other people will help think of things you might miss. They can also lend their experience to the situation and help you be sure that everything is being thought of.  After all, isn't the ultimate goal to...

Decide On the Best Course of Action
You need to do the best you can with the resources and knowledge you have available to you at the time. In the end, your course of action may prove to be the wrong one but you will at least know that you did everything you could to make the right choices.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Avoiding Social Media Errors

I went an entire day without linking to!...and then they posted this, which is worthy of sharing.

If you still don't know that you need to remove or hide certain content from your Facebook page then I have very little sympathy for you. The tips for LinkedIn and Twitter are valuable so have a look and let me know what you think.

Social Media Errors

Failure and Risk

If you don't fail now and again, it's a sign you're playing it safe.
Woody Allen

I've enjoyed contemplating failure and risk over the last 48 hours. Not my favorite subjects for sure. But they happen to fit nicely into my life right now so why not reflect on them to really understand their influence on what we do. Life certainly would be a lot easier if we never had to take risks or risk failure. With one comes the possibility of the other but to not risk is to never succeed. So really what choice do we have right?

I'd love to hear from you regarding failure and risk. Maybe I will drum up a tale or two from my past where I've taken risks. Have you taken recent risks? Was it hard to do? Did you not take a risk because you were afraid of failing? Is anyone out there contemplating a career risk right now?

It's easy to focus on the failure part of the equation isn't it? I've been doing it for two days now. But guess might actually succeed (GASP! BLASPHEMY!)...In fact, you probably will. A lot of the fear we have is actually fear of the unknown outcome more than it is fear of the actual repercussions of the failure itself. The failure probably won't be that bad anyway. What, you don't get the job? The client chooses another company? The lime green in the kitchen looks terrible and you have to paint over it? So why not? Take the risk. Embrace it. Live it. In the end, as the few quotes I've posted suggest along with the thousands out there I haven't posted, you'll be a better person for it regardless of your success or failure.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Yesterday Failure...Today Risk

Felt like I should follow up yesterday's thoughts on Failure with some on Risk. Their link is undeniable: Being afraid of one will certainly prevent you from ever reaping the rewards of the other.

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.
Muhammad Ali

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.
Leo F. Buscaglia 

Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.
Ray Bradbury

The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.

Every day, you'll have opportunities to take chances and to work outside your safety net. Sure, it's a lot easier to stay in your comfort my case, business suits and real estate...but sometimes you have to take risks. When the risks pay off, that's when you reap the biggest rewards.
Donald Trump
(Posting this one for @advantagrelo)

 Risk -- If one has to jump a stream and knows how wide it is, he will not jump. If he doesn't know how wide it is, he'll jump and six times out of ten he'll make it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Today's a good day to reflect on failure. It's Wednesday. Half the week is behind us and half is ahead. It's what we're going to do inbetween that matters.
Here are some quotes:

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
Wayne Gretzky

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”  Colin Powell

“I didn't fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong”  Benjamin Franklin

“Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.” Chinese Proverbs

"You never make a putt by leaving it short"
My friend Rob says this to me on the golf course.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

When Your Responsibilities Conflict

How can you tell when the synergy between your two career management responsibilities (referred to here: Responsibility to Yourself and Your Employer) are in conflict with each other? (Hey wait a second! Did you see how I did that? I linked to myself!)

Right out of grad school I worked for a theatre company in the Midwest.  My closest colleague was a woman who was by any measure old. Not just at-the-end-of-her-career old, but actually elderly, much closer to being an octogenarian than anyone else I will ever work with. She had spent more than 30 years working a desk job for a major airline, retired, started drawing her pension, and then for reasons I don't think I will ever understand she went back to work fulltime in an environment fraught with temperamental artists and last minute scrambling to get the job done. Our desks actually touched. Our phones were inches apart. She wore a heap of makeup the likes of which clowns don't even know.

It was like working with my grandmother every day and was every bit the struggle you would imagine working with someone who was born before the Great Depression would be. Her status quo was complaining about everything. The job was fast paced, entailed a lot of night and weekend hours, and had a fair amount of crisis management involved. We'd go 2-3 weeks straight with no days off and were often on call at all hours. (Theatre sounds great doesn't it?!) By nature this person was cranky and when things got tough she was downright unbearable. 

The problem was her unbearableness was a secret to nobody. Actors, directors, stage managers, and other staff members all could see it plain as day. People would often pull me aside privately to talk about what could be done. The only one who didn't realize this, besides her that is, was our boss who was obviously the one who kept her around. It made no sense.

There was a conflict somewhere between her responsibility to herself and to the company. In some way she was not getting what she needed on a personal level from the job and she took it out on everyone from the company to her coworkers. Mind you, this is someone who had retired before and could do so again but she chose to work and thus chose to be seemingly miserable.

To answer the question above, you should be able to tell when there's a conflict between your responsibilities. You can probably look at some of your coworkers and see this happening, although hopefully it isn't as bad as I experienced. If you have to, ask someone how they and others perceive you. Ask yourself if you dread going to work every day, doing certain parts of your job or seeing and interacting with certain coworkers. If you do find a conflict then for the sake of your own happiness and the happpiness of those around you, seriously consider making a change.

It's Been a Week

I've been involved in social media for a week now. It started with this blog last Wednesday and then went to Twitter a few days ago. I've actually been on LinkedIn for about 4 years now. I thought it'd be interesting to check in to see how I am doing and what I have learned.

Blog Page Views: 351
Page Views Today: 102 thus far (have't quite figured out what I did today to get it that high)
Page Views Yesterday: 13
Blog Posts: 14 including this one
Blog Comments: 3 (come on people! talk to me over here...)
Blog Followers: 9 (ahem...looking over at you, you-know-who)
Twitter Followers: 11 (for the uninitiated that's people following me)
Following on Twitter: 48 (people I follow)
Tweets: 14

What have I learned this far?...
  • The higher these numbers the better but for one week, not too shabby.
  • It takes a lot of time, effort and energy to manage your social media. I think this might actually be why I had never done it before. The scary thing is that it's not like I've all of the sudden found myself with extra free time.
  • I've read a few times that you need to schedule social meeting into your day like a meeting. I'll be doing this.
  • Learning the game of social media is complicated, especially Twitter. That was like a different universe. All of them have a different language: supporters, followers, friends, pages, posts, connections, tweeting, retweeting, backlinking...and on and on...
  • Not a lot of my friends and coworkers are on Twitter, that I've found anyway. (Hey, where you at?)
  • There are some serious social media users out there. They mean business. It seems that for a lot of them social media is their business.
  • Writing something and having no idea who, if anyone, is reading it is a little first. Clearly I've gotten over it.
  • Thus far, there has been no measurable change in value to my personal or professional life based on the social media with which I have partaken. Hopefully that changes.
  • Blogging is infinitely easier for me than Tweeting. I could go one forever in this blog.
Thinking about stepping into the social media arena?  So far is has been fun. More fun than overwhelming. Connecting to people and knowing they are out there listening is exhilarating. Go for it. I'll follow, connect, friend, retweet and backlink you...kinds sounds creepy though doesn't it?

Motivational Quote for Today

"Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives."

William James, 1842 - 1910

Felt particularly poignant for the kind of day I've been having.

Responsibility to Yourself and Your Employer

We pause this blog for a public service announcement regarding on the job, day to day career management.

If I have struck a nerve with you and drawn you back to keep reading I suspect it may be because you are thinking about making a career change or changing jobs. That or it's my striking good looks and incredible wit. Probably a fair mix of both now that I think about it.

For a second, instead of thinking about what's next, think about what's now. Whether you realize it or not, you've got duel responsibilities when it comes to managing your career. Obviously, you are responsible to yourself and your family to make sure your career is pointed in the right direction, to make sure you are happy, and to make sure you are being true to your needs, both emotional and financial. If you find that this responsibility is in anyway not being met, you and only you have to take steps to change it. No one will do it for you. Ask the tough questions. Figure it out and steer yourself in the right direction.

At the same time, you're responsible for the management of yourself on a day to day basis on the job, the one you are actually doing now. You need to make sure that you continue to add value to the company by doing the job you were hired to do and doing it well.

Sometimes, these responsibilities come in conflict with each other. You find your personal needs are not being met. You become unhappy. Disillusionment sets in. Discontent takes over. Resentment creeps up. If you feel any or all of these about your current job and find that your career isn't headed in the right direction and that you aren't being true to yourself and your needs, it is easy to let the second responsibility to your company slip. But it's crucial that you not let this happen. Even if you have your eye elsewhere. Remember, it's not your current job's or employer's fault that you've reassessed your needs and now feel that you must make a change. So don't take it out on them. They are paying you good money, which they can easily decide not to pay you if you become a malcontent. Don't let that happen.

Again, I turn to for some advice: How to Be More Likeable: 10 Things to Do Today. In case you can't tell I like this site a lot. Haven't found one better than it yet. They have a wealth of daily resources that can give you the kick start you need.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Follow me on Twitter!


I'll say this, it is MUCH easier to write a 400-500 word blog post than it is to write a 140 character tweet!

Hitting the Wall

Regarding the ability to stay motivated during a career change and how important it is to have the proper support network in place, I am reminded of hitting the wall during the 2003 NYC Marathon.

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, about my physique that suggests marathon runner. I had heard a lot about athletes hitting the wall but had never hit it myself and I certainly wasn't prepared for it. It was miles 18-22. Jeff Galloway suggested putting your first name on your shirt so that the spectators could shout your name. I must have heard my name 1,000 times or more that day, which helped a lot. But it wasn't any of those people that actually made the biggest impact. Turns out, it was one person way up First Ave., standing alone on a corner, holding a white poster board with "You Can Do It" written in black marker. If I heard my name 1,000 times, I saw 10,000 signs many of which were very well done. Yet, the one sign that meant the  most couldn't have taken more than 60 seconds to make.

I had seen my family and friends on First Ave. at about mile 16 and I was doing OK. Within 2 miles, however, it all fell apart. My body started to ache, knees especially, my emotions sunk, and I was in a lot of pain. The wall came upon me very suddenly. I didn't realize what was happening. All I knew was that I could barely take another step. Thanks again to Jeff Galloway's book I had $20 for a cab in my pocket in case I needed it and boy did I ever. I almost quit.

And I started to reach for the money, deciding that I couldn't possibly continue, I saw this person and that sign. "You Can Do It". 4 words. I don't even think they were capitalized!  I said it to myself. I took the next step. And the next one. Moments after that I looked to the sidewalk and saw my bother-in-law and sister-in-law who I didn't even know were going to be there. Somehow they had found me in the back of a sea of 33,000 people. I think I may have broken down and cried and for a few minutes they ran with me, again providing the support I needed at the right time just like the sign. I was still in pain but I knew I could continue.

As much as you train, plan and prepare by getting yourself ready and putting your support network in place, sometimes you just can't predict from where that one key thing will come. Just get started and put your faith in yourself, and others will be there when you need them. There's a picture of me at mile 23 and I am smiling. Somehow I had made it over the wall and was running again and smiling. If the person holding that sign is out there, thanks so much. You have no idea how important your presence was that day. Had I not seen you I wouldn't have made it to see my bother-in-law and sister-in-law and I wouldn't have finished. Crazy the way things happen isn't it?

To Be or Not To Be...Motivated During a Career Change

(Wow! Was that a cliche title or what??!?) Make no mistake about it, the career change I went through when I left the theatre was an incredibly hard and humbling process: admitting that I needed to make the change was excruciating, figuring out if and how my skills were transferrable, being intimidated by the wide expanse of the unknown, hiring the career counselor and then ultimately putting myself out there. Today's post How To Know When a Career Shift is in Your Future by Lisa Lambert Snodgrass does a terrific job of succinctly distilling the nuts and bolts of determining if such a change is right for you.

There's a lot in there to digest. Each one of those bullets might take you hours to address so don't think this is a made for TV reality show makeover kind of process because it's not. It's going to take a lot of time, courage and perseverance.  Part of you is going to have to embrace the unknown because you never know if, when or how your next break is going to materialize.

Speaking from experience, the most important point Ms. Snodgrass makes comes in the second to last paragraph: you shouldn't go at it alone. Luckily I didn't have to. The most instrumental person involved in my career change was not me, the career counselor nor the knight in shining armor Associate Director of Human Resources who ended up finding me my next job. It was my wife. She kept me from getting down and picked me up when I was. This is particularly true of her in general but even more so during this process.  She held me accountable and made me focus. She made sure I stayed on task and redirected me when I wasn't. She used to leave little slips of paper around our house with inspirational notes, quotes and sayings. I'd open my underwear drawer be greeted by a quote from Shakespeare, open a cabinet and find words from Martin Luther King Jr., reach under my pillow and find a note reminding me that she believes in me.  These little notes kept me going. All of the other things about this process were under my control from the decision making to the question answering to the hand shaking to the email writing and interviewing, but the will and drive to persevere and stay motivated when times got tough was not. (cue Joe Cocker..."Love Lifts Up Where We Belong"...) Thanks to her though, I always had the support to keep my head up and my focus on the ultimate goal. (..."Where eagles cry, on a mountain high"...)

The best advice I can give to you is to of course seek out the necessary "How To" career change resources and get started. But even more important than that is to make sure you are not even contemplate going through this process alone. Use your friends, use your network, use your family or heck you can even use me (!) to pick you up and keep you there because even though you may not know it you are going to need it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?

My Grandfather was a barber.

My other Grandfather was a doctor.

My Father took the bar exam in the 1960's, spent many years working as a lawyer with his own practice, as the town attorney and in the DA's office (all at the same time!) and was eventually elected County Court Judge, a post he's held for roughly 16 years.

My Father-in-Law spent about 35 or so years working for UPS, from package handler to all the way up to an executive.

My Mother was a teacher and then worked in the hotel industry for just about the remainder of her career.

My Mother-in-Law sold real estate, was a teacher before that and eventually became a guidance counselor for the rest of her career.

My Brother-in-Law and Sister-in-Law are Physical Therapists.

My Wife is currently staying home with our two sons and before that she was a teacher.

I asked my 5 year old last night what he wants to be when he grows up. His answer: a chef in an Italian restaurant.

I also asked my 2 year old what he wants to be when he grows up. His answer: a cow (FYI, he's going to be a cow for Halloween so I think he may have been a little confused by my question!).

What do all of these people have in common? A clearly defined notion of what they want(ed) to be when they grow up. Much to my wife's chagrin I unfortunately do not possess such a notion. At least I don't right now. For a while, during my theatre career, I definitely did. But since leaving the theatre industry it's been very hard to pin down and articulate. She and I both agree our lives would be a lot easier if I did.

Make no mistake, this can be a serious handicap to success and I know it. Knowing exactly what you are, what you have to offer and being able to clearly articulate those things is a significant key to successful career management and no one is going to do it for us. It's your brand and for some of us it comes easily and for some of us it doesn't (oh if I could just grow up to be a cow there'd be nothing to worry about!). If you are like me, it's not too late to brand yourself. If you aren't happy with your current brand, it's not too late to change it.

Everywhere you turn for career management you'll be confronted with this notion so you might as well address it now. Finding and defining your niche, what you have to offer that others don't is imperative. posted about it today:  Relevance: A Branding Essential to Finding a Job. As this post says, it is important to remember that it's not 1965, 1985, 1995, or even 2005 any more. The rules are changing and it's up to us to change with them or we will risk losing out.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Left Brain vs. My Right Brain: An Epic Battle

In 2003 I completed the NYC Marathon in an epic 5:13, yes hours! At one point I am pretty sure a grandmother with a walker passed me followed shortly thereafter by a turtle. But I finished and that's truly all that matters. I was living and working in Kansas City at the time and had the luxury of not having to be at work until 9:00am.  I would train in the morning before work with shorter runs and then do longer ones on the weekend. Even then, I still didn't get up as early as I do now.

I utilized Jeff Galloway's training model and it was during this time that I first realized there was a battle going on inside my head between the left and right sides of my brain. The left side would hijack my workouts and suggest every possible logical reason I could think of for why I should not train that day, why I could slow down, or heck even just stop running altogether. And that assumes my left brain even let me get out of bed to begin with. Had Jeff's book not warned me about this I probably never would have completed the race (if you can even call it that, I was going so slow).

Since then, I've rekindled the left vs. right battle mostly when training for sprint triathlons but I've also realized it actually creeps into other parts of my life and especially into my career. I constantly hear me telling myself things like "You don't have the skills for that job," "Don't put yourself out there," "It's a waste of  time to try and network," "You'll never get that job." There's a battle of logical negativity rattling around my head and all the while my right brain is seemily wandering around with thoughts about any number of inconsequential topics. It takes a concerted effort to rise up above the logical left side of your brain and without that effort you run the risk of letting the left win.

Luckily the solution is actually very simple. At least the one I use is simple. I can't even remember how I came up with it. I've created a catch phrase, a catch word actually, that I repeat to myself over and over when I feel the left rising up. It's simply: "Yes." I say it over and over, sometimes adding things like "Yes I can" or "You can do it". I use it heading into interviews, preparing for presentations, even sitting alone at my desk. You would be shocked at the sheer power this positive suggestion has to overcome my logical left brain negativity.

If you don't already, start paying attention to the messages your left side is sending. If you find that those messages are counterproductive, start a war and stop them. It will help you get things done and get you closer to reaching your goals.

Trust me.

You can do it.

A Roadmap for Career Managment

I want to give you a sense of where I am headed in this blog. I plan to focus largely on the tough career management lessons I've learned these last few years in hopes that it will make your life a little easier moving forward.

For some time now I haven't been able to shake the notion that my time in the theatre was wasted time, wasted resources and wasted energy. I feel like it set me back 6-7 years in my career and I've struggled to catch up with my peers who headed out of college with a purpose and direction on which they are still focused. If I can help just one person avoid the pitfalls I've encountered, I will consider my efforts a glorious success.

To that end, future topics will include:
  • Networking
  • Interviewing
  • Negotiating Your Salary (and other things in life)
  • Managing Up
  • The Power of Staying Positive
  • Branding Yourself (this will be talked about down the road as I still have a lot to learn)
  • Facebook: Yeah or Nay
  • Surviving Your Performance Evaluation

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Get In The Game

Perhaps some background will help. In general I plan to keep my posts short and sweet because I am well aware that no one reading this has copious amounts of free time to be reading my loquacious musings. But in this case, I figure it's best to expound on a few detail so you know who you are talking to.

At the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008 I went through a difficult career change thus beginning my relationship with this subject matter. I had worked in professional theatre for 7 year after I earned my Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree, the last three of which were marked by a serious and depressing level of burnout. The problem is that I was much too young for burnout. Perhaps I'll get into my theatre career later but for now let's just leave it at the notion that low pay, terrible benefits, working nights, weekends, holidays and the transient nature of the industry had all driven me down to the point that I was desperate to escape. It was evident that my career path was headed in the right directions had I wanted to stay, but there was no way I could.

With nowhere else to turn I hired a (very expensive) career counselor who worked with me for a few months and pointed me in the right direction. Having come from the theatre I had absolutely no clue how to get a job outside the industry. My resume, my network (a term I didn't even know at the time) and my life were theatre focused and it was overwhelming to think about how I was going to find my next job.

The experience working with this career counselor was both good and bad. First the bad, in the end after assessing my background and skills through various conversations and exercises she recommended that I pursue a career in marketing. Um, marketing? Huh? I didn't know a single thing about marketing nor did I want to pursue that as a career. Unfortunately, this process did not yield any answers regarding what I would do next but it did teach me how to find whatever it was and that is where counselor earned her money.

Onto the good. The career counselor taught me how to play the game, the job searching game that is. It is this game that I plan to expound upon in this blog. She worked with me to prepare my materials and outlined the exact process I would need to take in order to use these materials to make the move, where ever that was going to be. This as you may or may not know begins and ends with one thing and one thing only: (cue the bells and whistles, ding, ring, dong, ding, ding, ding) NETWORKING. If there's a golden rule in the game of job searching and career management, that is it. Everything you read and everywhere you turn will lead you right back to Networking. In order to Network you have to do a fair amount of research and leg work, so that's part of the process too but it will all lead you back to who you know and who they know. Can you find a job without Networking? Yes, of course. But it has been proven over and again that it'll be a lot harder and take a lot longer. We'll get into the nitty gritty of Networking later.

In my case, what the career counselor told me to do was spot on. She recommended starting with my alumni networks from my college and graduate school. I received an email invitation for the local chapter of my college alumni association to attend a networking event and I went. At that event, I met the then-president of the alumni association who was also the Associate Director of Human Resources at a place I was very interested in working. Following the instructions of the counselor virtually to the letter, I sought him out after the event, introduced myself, gave him my elevator speech and told him I would follow up in a few days, which of course I did. A few weeks later I got a call to interview for a job for which I had never applied and frankly hadn't even heard of and a few weeks after that I was hired.

It feels like I got lucky. But really, I didn't. I played the game, a game I had no idea existed, and it worked.

Career Obstacles

So as to be sure I deliver on my promise to make this solely career focused I thought it made sense to start with some thoughts about career obstacles. This link to a article seems like a good places to start:

7 Career Obstacles and How to Overcome Them

5:15 Is The Crack Of Dawn

1,000,000 years. That's how long it will take me to get used to waking up at 5:15am. When I tell people that I wake up at that hour without fail the first response I hear falls somewhere within the spectrum of "Ouch", "Oh", "Ugh" and "That sucks!" Why, you ask, do I get up that early? Getting up that early on the front end of my day allows me to get to work early and get home early so that I can have a couple hours with my two young sons before they head off to bed at 7:00pm. It's pretty simple really.
My first thoughts this morning when the alarm went off were how trapped I felt in my workweek to be waking up so incredibly early day after day and how completely exhausted it leaves me to attack each day and accomplish everything I need to get done. It's like I am starting my day with 2 strikes against me. It feels like a relentless handicap to success and it reaffirmed that I need to make a change and break this cycle.

So the change I decided to make today was to create this forum in which I will go on the offensive. Attack by speaking out about all things career, networking and job related because starting my day behind in the count leaves me with barely enough internal resources to be successful in my current job much less gives me what I need to do what it takes to find the next one. It occurred to me at 5:18am this morning that there are others out there who may feel the same way I do about this and other parts of their career.

So welcome to my blog! If you're interested like I am in participating in a career based forum, whether it be to learn or teach or just stay current in the dialogue that is out there, then you've found the right place because there's a lot to talk about.