“I could while away the hours conferring with the flowers consulting with the rain, I could dance and be merry life would be a dingle darry…if I only had a brain.” C’mon y’all know the song. Dorothy Gale’s best friend from OZ who guides, protects and consistently places himself in harms way to keep her safe..and constantly claims he knows nothing because his maker did not invest him with a brain. What we come to discover, rather quickly, is our friend the Scarecrow has common sense oozing through every pore of his being. No, he does not have a formal education or as the Wizard himself bestows a diploma; however when the going got tough it was the Scarecrow who had the answers, the plans and the gumption to get Dorothy’s rag tag band of compatriots through the tough times.
Ok Betsy get to the point! Well here goes, I was talking recently with the CEO of a mid-sized company that I work with (yes he has a brain and no he is not a scarecrow). We somehow got into a long discussion about how to break out of the rut so many similar businesses seem to be stuck in (unable to address challenges or move at all). I asked what he’s been doing to encourage staff to innovate and push the limits of current business practices. First he looked at me like I had a third eye then he informed me that he’d hired a business consultant to come and observe, research and provide feedback into what he could do differently to move his business ahead.
Now for the record, this is a very intelligent and successful business man who has worked hard to grow his enterprise into what it is. That being said I wanted to scream “Please Use Your Brain!”. He is overlooking his single most valuable asset to experience incredible innovation and growth… his current employee brain trust. They may not have a formal education or be Bill Gates, Nikola Tesla or Thomas Edison; however they know your business, sometimes better than you do. Why wouldn’t you engage them?
As leaders we are constantly looking for the next big idea, what can we do differently that will catapult us ahead of the competition? So we read books, articles and blog posts on the next big idea, industry trends and we chase unicorns across rainbows only to end up in OZ with no idea how to get back. Do you know where most great new ideas come from? They come from the last place most managers look, your current employees… your employee brain trust. Remember Dorothy’s famous line, “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home“. She didn’t need to go looking any further than her own back yard to find all the answers.
If you are looking for industry trends, talk to the people who live it every day. If you want customer feedback, talk to the people who talk to your customers. If you want to tap into institutional knowledge and find out what is possible, impossible, too hard, too easy or will have a real impact ask the people who live it every day. Inside of your current organization are your disruptors, game changers, and generally brilliant people. Talk to them, pose the questions to them…you may just be surprised at what you find.
yes change is scary and hard and often expensive however, never as expensive as staying still while everyone else passes you by. Not as scary as watching your hard built dreams unraveling before your eyes cause you didn’t anticipate future trends and certainly not as hard as telling your entire workforce that your business is closing and they are losing their jobs.
Really, what do you have to lose by engaging those who already work for you and have a vested interest in your success? I’ll tell you…nothing, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.
This has been one of those weeks that leaves me thinking about a lot. Now thinking generally is not something I have trouble with, unfortunately I’m one of those people who has a very difficult time turning off my brain…even when I want to.
This week I hosted a luncheon of women leaders who’ve I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with. I wanted to give us an opportunity to hear an incredible speaker, enjoy a healthy lunch and forge a deeper understanding of one another. Yes it was quite the women’s power hour and I LOVED it! Hearing their stories of adversity, challenges, struggles, success and set-backs inspired me; however, there was one question that I’m still pondering? What is my purpose and am I happy where I am right now?
I spent a good part of the evening and the next day with those questions still in my head. What IS my purpose and AM I happy where I am right now? My answer at the time was, “Yes I’m happy with where I am right now however, I’m not done yet.” As for my purpose, well that’s a harder one. I have always been an incredibly mission driven person, I want to make the world better. How I have lived that out through the years has morphed; whether its working in education, non-profit organizations of all sizes, employment services or in the media; if I don’t feel like I’m making a difference I am not happy.
Today I attended a panel discussion composed of female leaders from across different industries. They shared their trials, tribulations and successes, what got them there, what lessons they’ve learned and the pitfalls they wished they had avoided. Again the topic came up…live your purpose. I was sitting with a friend of mine who is a source of inspiration, she lives her purpose every day. She knows exactly what impact she wants to make and how she’s going to make it, she has laser focus in her career choices.
Now I am the first to admit that my career path has not be planned. In each of my career moves, I was scared to death that I might not be able to do the job, which is ultimately what inspired me to make the jump, I LOVE a challenge.
The BIG question is, what do I want to do now? Is it time to have a more purposeful direction? Is it time for me to pick a career field and stick to it? Do I finally need to decide what I want to do when I grow up? Answer: NO! Not just no but heck NO!
I’ve had a wonderful roller coaster ride of a career path. In each of my fields I learned new skills, honed my talents and grew exponentially. I grew in ways needed to take my next leap. Not only that, but as I have been promoted, I look to hire people with similar paths. Individuals who have a varied background that bring new perspectives to what we do, challenge the norms and me. I love where I am and what I’ve become both personally and professionally, which wouldn’t have happened without my roller coaster career path. No I’m not done, I have LOTS left to do and I’m not the type of person to confine myself to one box, one purpose or one direction, where’s the fun in that?
My mother and father both worked for the same employer for 35+ years. I’ve seen their ups and downs and I’ll admit there were times that I actually thought, “that will not be me.” Don’t get me wrong they loved what they did, my parents taught me professional & familial responsibility, extremely high work ethic and integrity. All of which are incredibly important but, you don’t need to stay in the same job to exemplify those traits.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is, I don’t have to decide what I want to do when I grow up. Only time, opportunity, bravery and passion will tell. One thing I know for sure, it’s going to be fun and I will make the world better in whatever way i’m able.
I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.
For a highly motivated and driven individual, not hitting a goal hard and leaving it dying in the dust is never an option. However, sometimes it is a very painful reality. Finding a way through the complex range of emotions can be difficult…the key is not to be defeated. Yes, this sounds like the opening few sentences of the next “How To” business book or motivational “You Can Do Anything” article. Well it’s not. I missed a goal for the very first time in my professional career and it totally SUCKS.
I have felt defeated, bruised, my confidence is shaken and I have a hard time looking people in the face when they ask me how work is going. Especially those who have been friends for years and often talk of our various professional successes as if they are badges of honor. No, we don’t ever compare our successes like others do their cars, kids or paychecks. Believe it or not we do revel in each other’s triumphs.
Over the past weeks, it became painfully clear that although we had a bang-up year (in the best sense), my team was not going to achieve what we set out to achieve. I have been uncertain how to accept my defeat. In my mountaintop moments I often looked to my mentors, heroes and idols; could that be me some day? I want to make that kind of impact. How can I follow in their footsteps? Well the truth of the matter…I am.
Before Nelson Mandela united a nation, he was in prison for over two decades. How many setbacks did Abraham Lincoln suffer before he achieved the level of success that captures our imagination over one hundred and fifty years later. Did Steve Jobs achieve total world domination after building his first Mac…NO! Our leaders, heroes and idols are so often defined by their successes, it is after all, what they are remembered for. We strive to be like them, read books and articles about them listen to endless TED Talks and quote them whenever we can. We don’t sit around thinking, “gosh I sure hope that I have to suffer the failures, humiliation, and persecution that they did“. GET REAL!!! Who wants to go through that, isn’t there a fast track, a short cut, a pill or “Get Out of Jail Free Card“, that can alleviate all that nastiness? No, my friend, there is not.
Yes, thinking through this, I do have a slightly better perspective. No, I am not back on my mountaintop, I’m still frustrated and a bit disillusioned. What I can say is this, knowing that the incredible people that I have looked up to all these years are indeed human and have also suffered failures and defeat does give me hope. I choose to move forward, learn where I need to adjust, how can I approach differently, rethink my box (not that I ever really worked in one) and go at it again.
We are not defined by our circumstances or what happens to us, anything that happens to us. We are defined by how we respond to, and through those circumstances. I may never change the world in the way some of my heroes have, but I will change it, and I will change it for the better. I will change it because I know I can and I will get up each day, no matter how difficult it may be, and go at it again.
Humility is a key characteristic of successful people. They have been knocked down, walked in others shoes and chosen to lead through that experience. Without humility, we can never truly understand or appreciate what we have and how hard we had to work to get there.
I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.
Recently a friend of mine (Kris) from the Recruitment industry decided it was time to make a career change. It didn’t come as a surprise as she had risen through the ranks of her current organization as high as she could and was looking for a new challenge. She came to me for some assistance with revising her resume, updating her social media profiles and as a sounding board to talk about potential new opportunities. Needless to say as a Recruitment professional her resume was perfect (I made a few little tweaks), and her social media was up to date and professional (we added a few recent achievements). Kris was set and no sooner had she started to network and apply for positions, then her phone ringing off the hook with potential opportunities.
Slowly we began the process of weeding through the sea of potential opportunities to winnow the list down to those which she found truly intriguing. Truth be told she was in the best possible position. She is currently employed and for the most part enjoys her work. She doesn’t need to jump at the first offer or even apply for every opportunity that comes along. I think this mind set of being “selective” was where the process began to go a little awry.
It is great when you are in the position to take your time and be selective; however don’t let that make you cocky! You still have to jump through the same hoops as everyone else.
We narrowed the field down to two contenders. Both are global organizations with unlimited potential and currently in a high growth mode. Both had more of a start-up feel than that of longstanding solid organizations; which appealed to Kris’ desire for challenge and growth opportunity.
Kris soared through the first round of phone interviews, completely nailed the second round of leadership assessments and in both instances was asked to come in for a formal interview with the hiring managers. Things seemed to be going swimmingly…isn’t that always how things seem before they go south?
Kris, confident in her skills and experience opted to very superficially prepare for her interviews. She is a professional when it comes to behavioral interviewing so she thought, “I got this, what can they possibly ask I don’t have a response for?” These are large well known global organizations so she assumed, “I know what questions to ask.” In her head, all her years of experience, knowledge, and training would help her easily sail through this last round of interviews and on to the decision of which offer to accept.
Bad, bad, bad…never, ever assume!
I’m sure by now you are guessing what happened. Her lack of preparedness showed through the whole process. Oh, don’t get me wrong, she answered the questions asked…more like fumbled through because she didn’t identify the experiences she wanted to highlight before the interview. She hadn’t prepared her introduction of who she is, her professional background, and why the company should hire her. If that wasn’t bad enough, when asked why she wanted to work for their organization, she went blank.
She knows who she is, she knows her strengths, and the value she would bring. She knew why she chose those organizations and why she was looking for a change; but because she didn’t spend time thinking through how she wanted to highlight and express those thoughts, she sounded more like an amateur than an executive.
You know the old Spanish proverb “ The Cobbler’s children have no shoes”? It’s roughly the same as “doctor’s make the worst patients”. Often we are so wrapped up in helping others with our highly honed skills; prescribing remedies, and repairing damage done, that when it’s our turn to take advice, direction, and apply fixes we can’t see the forest for the trees.
When it comes to your job search, preparation and research is not a maybe…it’s a MUST! Take the time to think about how you want to be viewed, what skills and accomplishments you want to highlight, why you want to work for this organization and why they should hire you.
Prepare, prepare, prepare and then execute. Don’t start counting your offers before they hatch.
Ok I know what you’re thinking; Betsy has finally gone off her rocker. No not yet. But I will confide that “ Fried Green Tomatoes” is one of my favorite movies and dishes. I love when I get to travel south and imbibe on of my favorite delicacies, Fried Green Tomatoes. However, hard as I try I can’t seem to ever find them as good as my best friend makes, (well actually it’s her husband so credit where credit is due). I always ask how they are made and what they feel is the secret to their delectable delight. The answer inevitably, “the secret’s in the sauce”.
It’s not really all that different when you talk to individuals who’ve had a successful job search. They mixed it up good.
- They reached out to their network of friends, colleagues, connections and let them know what they were looking.
- They carefully targeted the companies and organizations they wanted to work for and reached out to them.
- They used the internet as A tool to source potential job leads and applied online. They then followed up on those applications.
- They attended networking events and career fairs.
- They work with recruiters and/or headhunters to help them find additional opportunities.
- Finally they sent thank you notes to all the hiring managers they interviewed with.
It’s incredibly rare (I mean really really rare) for an individual to send one application, make one phone call or drop off one resume and they get a job. For those rare few that do hit a grand slam on the first swing, they probably were very well connected and sought after in the first place so their success is based on their reputation, which just means they had the connections to engage most if not all of the above, without really trying.
Time after time in conversations with my graduates I hear:
- “I’ve sent out like 30 online applications a day with no luck.”
- My response, “Who have you applied to? Did you follow up with a phone call or note?”
- Their response is usually “no”.
- “Have you reched out to your network, a recruiter or your Career Services department?
- “It’s unlikely you’ll find the career your looking for just by sending out applications like everyone else. You need to mix it up.”
- “I don’t have time to do that”
- “How much time did you spend sending out all those applications.”
- “It took all day.”
- “Try spending at least half that time talking to people>”
- “If I do that how will I get all those applications done?”
They have spent so much of their job seeking time online, sending out applications into the black hole of the internet that they can’t even remember who they’ve applied to or for what positions. Wasted time! That’s like making fried green tomatoes with just cornmeal or flour. It won’t stick and as soon as you put it into the grease it all floats away until you have a mushy mess. You need the egg in the batter and the seasonings; you need to make sure the grease is hot so you get a quick bonding of the mixture to the vegetable. And without the secret sauce, it will just taste like everyone else’s, and you’ll be lost in the unmemorable sea of forgetfulness.
Just like cooking your job search has several ingredients that need to be used in proper proportion. You need to create the environment where your ingredients will be received and you must have a secret sauce, for those who haven’t caught onto the analogy…the sauce is your resume. Your resume is what makes you uniquely you, it’s what helps you stand out from the sea of other applicants. It’s what makes you memorable and keeps your customers coming back for more.
Mix your ingredients carefully, the majority should be made up of actual interpersonal contact; your network, your phone calls, dropping off your resume in person, your follow up. Too many folks use the internet as the base of their recipe; and just like using too much salt, the flavor of your batter will be ruined and you’ll have to start all over again.
I’ve gotten a few questions as to why my blog and my other endeavors have been titled Connect the Dot? It’s an honest question, with an equally honest and simple answer, it’s who I am.
I am a connector. I love it when someone approaches me with a question, concern, challenge or request for help and I happen to know just the person who can either assist them directly or introduce them to someone who can.
I recently read a book by “ Malcom Gladwell” called “ The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference”. This book illustrates the point very clearly. It’s very often not the big ideas that you have or even in the large scale implementaion of those ideas. It’s the small everyday things that you do, reaching out through your interconnected network that can bring about the change you desire. Whether it’s a job, a new program or commodity, it’s often the small things that you make happen that produce the biggest results.
Connecting people to eachother can have a huge impact, you never know who they know or who they know and on and on. Somewhere down the line there is somone you can help make a difference and by doing so, there is also someone down the line who can help you accomplish great things.
I learned very early on that the larger my network, the easier my work. Don’t misunderstand me, I have no aversion to working hard, quite the contrary, however the more people I know the more I can get done. I don’t have a compunction (any more) to do everything myself. In fact I’ve learned, often painfully, that I’m not the best at everything. HA! There are people smarter, more creative, more innovative, and more determined that I. By surrounding myself with these people, there is no end to what can be accomplished.
This concept of a connected network is never more relevant than in your job search. I didn’t start out looking to create some kind of mega network web that even Spiderman would be proud of. I just started out getting to know people. I listened to them; their needs, desired, dreams. I didn’t get to know them because I wanted something, it was actually quite the opposite. I wanted to be the person that helped them achieve their goals. The unexpected outcome was what happened next. Inevitably when I did have a challenge, need or issue they wanted to help.
Real people haveing real conversations about real issues, seem to simple, thats the beauty of it. It is simple and it does work.
Pay It Forward, the Golden Rule, call it what you want, people helping people achieve their goals is the only way to do business and the best way to approach your job search. Let people in your network; personal and professional know what you’re doing. If you’ve created a genuine relationship, they will want to help. With that kind of support, there is nothing that can stop you.
How many online applications have you filled out and submitted recently? Of those how many have you heard back from?
Is it rocket science?
Do you get a higher return rate from:
- Online applications?
- Applying in person?
- Your personal network?
- Your professional network?
Yes, I placed them in that order for a reason. Most folks spend the majority of their time performing activities from the top of this list, when in fact, you get the best return off the activities from the bottom. In your jo search as well as in business, in general, it really is often who you know.
In my world of finding jobs for graduates, the simple fact is, having someone in your corner ALWAYS get you better results than going it alone. Submitting 100 online applications will take longer and yeild fewer results than walking in and dropping off 20 applications in person. Even networking through friends and colleagues; vendors and clients can yield you 50% higher results, (aka interviews) than just dropping off applications/resumes.
Do the math, should you spend your time submitting appications into the black hole of the internet hoping they may reach a nameless, faceless person or should you spend your time leveraging the people you know?
The answer is clear; companies and organizations have yet to find the silver bullet of successful online recruitment. Yet more and more companies pop up each day clamining they have the answer, but they don’t. Nothing beats personal contact. Why do you think organizations spend literally billions each year on retention, recruitmet and onboarding programs? Because finding the right fit is hard, doing it over the internet is even harder. They may have a greater number of applicants, but are they the right applicants? No one has found an effective way to measure this.
If you leave this article with one pearl of wisdom, I hope it’s this; make it personal! Get others to speak on your behalf, let your personality shine, be memorable and don’t expect the internet to care about your job search results, because it won’t. Your friends, your connections, your network will care.
So to answer my initial question, yes modality matters. The internet is wonderful modality for making initial connections, however it won’t be as effective with your job search as will as a few connections and a sprinkle of personal contact.
Yes I am on a hiring frenzy again and can I just say, I really wish people would just pay attention. There is a reason that we list required skills, required education and required experience. If you don’t even come close, don’t waste your time or the employer’s time. Yes there is something to be said for stretching yourself and looking to make a career change. I would never want to discourage that, however sending through an application that looks like you applied by mistake it not the way to accomplish that goal. Call the employer ask about the experience required, what they are looking for and how you skills may or may not transfer, yes I’m telling you to conduct an informational interview.
Here are some simple Do’s and Do Not’s when applying for jobs:
- Do customize your application, resume, objective statement (if you use one) and cover letter for each job.
- Do Not assume they’ll overlook it when your cover letter is for a teaching position and you are applying for a Management role.
- Do take the time to fill out the application completely.
- Do Not put “see resume” in the application sections asking for your duties and skills.
- Do have an objective party review your resume for edits and errors you may have overlooked (a second pair of eyes is always good).
- Do not rush through your resume and just send it to get it in. You may as well not have sent it at all.
You will hear lots of people say that finding a job is a full-time job. This is absolutely correct. It takes time, effort, creativity, determination and a dash of gumption (yes I just used that word). To land the interview, let alone the job. If you aren’t willing to put your best foot forward during the research and application process, you might as well forget getting the interview.
Working with students and graduates I make the analogy, if you aren’t willing to put in at least as much time into your resume and application process as you put into figuring out your interview outfit; then you are wasting your time. You may as well be sending your applications/resumes out into the dark hole of the internet, because no one is going to see it. You will not get a phone interview, you will not get an in person interview, you will not pass go and you will not collect $200.
A little time and effort on the front end, is going to make your job search so much more productive. Take the time, personalize, preview and perform.
We all know those folks who seem to feel the need to let others know they know more than they should, or at least more than you. In an effort to seem important or in the know, they have to tell someone around them. Here’s the problem, they never know the whole truth. The whole truth never gets spread cause the whole truth is never as interesting as their interpretation of it.
Yes lots of big ambiguous words, I did that on purpose to prove a point. Interpretation, perception, misdirection, confusion and chaos this is what happens when folks decide to share what they shouldn’t.
According to an article by Mary Abbajay of the “ The CareerStone Group”, “ The Danger of Workplace Gossip” “Gossip is the death of teamwork as the group breaks up into cliques and employees start refusing to work with others.” What may seem like harmless sharing, posturing or chit chat; can quickly turn into a culture killing disease.
Recently, I experienced a situation where a colleague felt they had information about an individual that was ‘juicy’. They also felt they had the right to share this ‘factual’ nugget of information with everyone and anyone who would listen. Truth be told this tid bit was no more than an observation made by someone else and their personal interpretation of the events, having nothing to do with fact. The results were so damaging that the individual felt that leaving the organization was a better option than staying and trying to overcome the damage done to their reputation.
Yes this is an extreme case, but not that uncommon. So for just a minute I’m going to get on my soap box. My Mom, who is one of the most amazing women I know, raised me to “Do No Harm”. Seems simple enough, I know, but so often not observed. So instead I’ll bring it in a bit closer. Remember the movie “Bambi”, yes the animated Disney version! There is a line in the movie stated by my favorite character. Thumper is scolded by his mother for something he said. She asks a simple question, “What did your father say?” To which Thumper humbly replies, “ If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Very good advice.
In the professional world you will always encounter people you don’t enjoy working with. There will be cliques, mean girls, Heathers and people who just rub you the wrong way. Don’t become one of them. Put a smile on your face, try not to misinterpret what you hear, see, experience and keep your observations to yourself. Don’t go to a co-worker with the, “I saw something and I just don’t know what to do”, comment excusing your gossipy behavior. If you see something legitimately not right, follow the chain of command, be objective and state the facts. When all else fails seek out your HR professional and talk with them. Do no harm.
If you are the person with integrity, you don’t start those conversations, you don’t participate in those conversations, and you don’t even allow them to happen around you, then it won’t take long before your behavior is not only noticed but emulated.
There is a quote by Gandhi which is often truncated, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” You frequently see this as “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Truer words have never been spoken. He is proof that one man, one person can make a difference.
I arrived at the airport on Wednesday for a very long flight home only to find that my flight was over an hour delayed, this meant I would miss my cutoff for my final leg of my journey home. It was the last flight out and I was going to have to spend an additional night where I was. For those of you who are frequent travelers, this is not that uncommon an occurence. I received great service at the airport that night as they set me back up in my original hotel and provided for a taxi to take me to the hotel and return me to the airport the next morning. Again, not an unusual story.
The next morning once I made it to my first desitnation I went to check in on my upgrade and was met with complete disregard, as if going to the customer service desk was the biggest inconvenience in the world. I was bothering this woman who was there to assist me, how dare I! It occured to me at that moment what the practical application of ‘soft skills’ is and why employers spend so much time and money tring to identify employess that have it.
All soft skills, at their very basic level boil down to some form of customer service. While doing some research this morning on soft skills I came across an article titled Top 10 Soft Skills for Job Hunters . This is by no means an all inclusive list but I think it’s pretty close.
- Strong work ethic. Will you arrive on time and do your job to the best of your ability with honesty and integrity?
- Positive attitude. Will you approach your job with a smile and genuine joy for what you are doing?
- Good communication skills. Will you interact with internal and external customers in a manner that best befits the organizations image?
- Time management abilities. Will you treat others time (including your organization’s time) with the same respect you would like others to give you?
- Problem solving skills. Will you approach challenges in a way that provides objective judgement focused on the needs of our customers and organization?
- Acting as a team player. Will you work collaboratively with members of your group to provide superior results?
- Self confidence. Will you lead by example and provide assistance where and when needed?
- Abiliy to accept and learn from criticism. Will you listen and heed the counsel of those around you in a professional and positive manner?
- Flexibility/Adaptability. Will you accept that sometimes objectives change with little to no warning and it is your job to continue to provide the best support of those objectives?
- Working well under pressure. In times of difficulty will you continue to act in the manner above to smile, be positive and approach the task at hand?
At the most base level all soft skills are your ability to put the needs of your internal and external customers first, provide service with a smile, regardless of the task at hand, and the desire (it is a choice) to enjoy what you are doing. If you can master these few things then the list above will be taken care of. Soft skills, cultural fit, customer service are the same thing.
Your challenge is to be able to demonstrate that you possess these traits in your resume and in the interview. Make sure to tell stories about your experience that demonstrate your willingness to go out of your way to help your customers, co-workers, department and organization. Doing that will put you head and shoulders above the rest.
For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog”.