Tag Archives: Education

Humility Required…not Desired!

humility

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”.

 

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Connect The Dots

connect the dots

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.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help, job search and career advice come back again to; “Connectthedotblog”.

Pay Attention to What You’re Applying For…Please?

dos and donts

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.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help, job search and career advice come back again to; “Connectthedotblog”.

All Soft Skills Boil Down to Customer Service

soft skills

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”.

Kids and Interviews Don’t Mix

imagesCA6A53GG

As parents, talking about our children comes as naturally to us as walking and breathing. I do it all the time, and if given a little rope will completely consume the conversation with anecdotal stories of my fabulous four’s antics. Having four children at home, I have a story for just about every situation and trust me when I say reality is much stranger than fiction. See, there I went, point made. There are instances however, where going off on ‘kid tales’ is not appropriate and can actually be detrimental; the Interview.

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing a delightful woman for a position. She was professionally dressed, articulate and well informed. She asked thoughtful questions and her resume was quite impressive, however her children dominated the conversation from the very beginning.

She took a very clever approach to her interview, wherein she tried to tie each of her previously held positions and their duties to the position she was interviewing for. A good strategy to show that you have the skill set, direct or transferable, and experience necessary to be successful in the new role. Her mistake was that each of her positions was related through her children in some manner or other.

When asked how she would approach managing a divers staff with somewhat differing approaches to their daily activities, her answer was about recruiting volunteers for her children’s PTA. When asked to discuss her experience with coaching and mentoring students to achieve career success she noted a program she work on with elementary children with regards to drug use.

Now I do want to point out that both of these endeavors are important, difficult and have intrinsic value to our society; however they did not clearly connect the dots between her skill sets and the needs of the position for which she was applying.

With her management and human resource background, she should have been able to easily make connections and share examples from her work experience to the job at hand. I wasn’t sure if her answers were due to a lack of understanding of the job she was applying for or her parental instinct to share stories about her children. Either way, she talked herself out of the job.

She was nervous, she was not observing the non-verbal cues of her interviewers, and she was not answering the questions in a manner that befitted a professional with her experience.

Kids and interviews don’t mix. Even when you feel the interview is informal and the interviewer is sharing stories of their children, stay away from the subject. It’s too easy to fall into the storytelling parent and lose sight of what the conversation is really about.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Why Do They Ask That?

imagesCAZDDIOR

Yesterday I received an instant message from a student who was asked a question during an interview she wasn’t sure how to answer. She was interviewing for a Medical Billing position and the hiring manager asked “What would you do if the computer system went down?” She was confused by the question and after the interview called to ask me why they asked that question and what the right answer should have been.

I asked her how she responded and she told me that she said “I would do other activities like filing and returning calls.” they asked the follow up question, “So you wouldn’t do any billing the whole day?” Ouch!

Ok let’s think about this. No this wasn’t a question designed to catch you off guard, although that was probably how it felt. This was a question to get to the root of your critical thinking skills, how would you behave under pressure, or if you had to improvise to still achieve your goal. In other words can you call an audible at the line of scrimmage?

Ok you’re at the line and you can read the defense is going to blitz to your left and your play is leaving you vulnerable on that side. So you have to call an audible, make a play change on the line to still move the ball toward the goal. Are you decisive enough to change direction when you see the line collapsing in?

Once she understood the reason for the question, she then asked me what I would have said. I would have asked if they have resources in place for a paper only process in the event this happens. If they do not, I would probably make it a priority to help devise a process to accomplish the daily tasks with a manual or paper process in the event of a power outage or computer crisis. What I would want to make sure is that all my daily tasks were able to be completed in a timely manner regardless of computer issues.

Understanding the question goes a long way to making sure you’re providing the best answer. The questions hiring managers ask are purposeful, to see if you are a good fit culturally, skillfully, experientially and professionally. A good way to think of those, not so obvious questions, is to just think what would you want to hear as an employer? You would want to know that the individual you are hiring will be dependable (there on time for their scheduled shift), professional (able to express to your customers the image you want), adaptable (able to change priorities as needed by the organization), and decisive (able to make decisions for the benefit of the organization). This is not an all-encompassing list; but you can’t just come out and as a candidate, so will you be here every day, on time? You know what that answer would be, true or not.

Think about what kind of employee you would want to hire, what would you want to know about them and answer the question accordingly.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Help A Shark Ate My Resume!

interview etiquett

I had to put a catchy title out to get your attention. The truth is, everyone has an opinion about interviewing etiquette, which do you follow. I had an extraordinary high school social studies teacher and my junior year he gave me a great piece of advice. “Betsy”, he said, “the world is full of people with opinions. One thing you have to understand, opinions are like butt holes (sorry couldn’t use the real word), everyone has one and they usually all stink.” Dressing for an interview is not rocket science, nor is behaving like a professional. However several of my colleagues felt this was an area that may need further discussion so here we go.

  • Always arrive 15 minutes early.
  • Always leave your cell phone in the car not in your purse/pocket/portfolio.
  • Only 1 in 4 job seekers bring a portfolio to an interview. If you don’t’ have one, get one.
  • Smile!
  • Look everyone you meet in the eye, shake their hands firmly and speak clearly.
  • You have never had a bad boss, co-worker, customer, company or experience with a previous employer.

If you have spent more time figuring out your outfit than you’ve spent researching the company, you’re already in trouble. Make sure you google the organization, look up their mission and vision and any recent news about them. Never go into an interview with out at least three very thoughtful questions to ask the hiring manager that aren’t, salary, schedule or vacation centric. Always, always have a way to relate a personal connection you have to their organization.

  • There is a difference between interview shoes and Friday night shoes. Please differentiate!
  • When you look in the mirror after you’ve dressed for the interview and think, “dang I look cute”, it’s probably not the right outfit.
  • Sensible shoes, minimal jewelry and make up, hair out of your face, teeth brushed, deodorant on and no perfume.
  • If you think your skirt may be too short, it is.
  • If you think your shirt may be too low cut, it is.
  • If you question any part of your ensemble, there is a reason, listen to your inner self and make the right decision.

An interview is a time to shine. You want the hiring manager to see you for the diamond that you are; you also want them to be able to visualize you actually doing the job. If any part of what you say or what you wear makes them question how you will fit into their world, game over. No matter how casual the interview may feel, never let your guard down for a minute. Reframe all questions in a positive way. Only wear an outfit your mother would approve of and don’t say anything you wouldn’t want your father to hear come out of your mouth.

Again, it’s not rocket science, its common sense. Say please, and thank you, yes ma’am and yes sir. Shake hands, smile and follow up with a thank you note within 3-days. If you can take just these few tips with you to the interview, then you will be playing head and shoulders above your competition.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Finding A Leader Not A Manager

Finding Nemo

What do you believe are the key characteristics of a successful leader? How important are these characteristics to you as you look to move into a new position? Will having a manage or supervisor with these characteristics help you to be more successful? Do you want to work for someone who inspires you to do better, to grow and reach for higher goals?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I have one more for you. How do you identify these characteristics during an interview or hiring process? Better yet, how do you know the person you may be working for in the position you’re considering demonstrates these characteristics?

There is so much more to the work experience than schedule, salary, benefits and environment. There is the big ‘C’. Culture is often created and defined by the leaders in an organization; so how do you find out if you will be working for a leader or for a manager, because there is a big difference.

Navigating these waters can make you feel like Dory trying to find Nemo in the middle of the Ocean. Needle in a haystack doesn’t quite cut it. Where do you start? Who should you ask for help? Or do you, just keep swimming just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, swimming, hoping you don’t run into sharks, jellyfish or worse, humans!

Seeking a little assistance is never a bad thing. Here are a few questions you should stop and ask yourself and your interviewer/hiring manager before saying accepting any offer.

  • What is the management style of the person this position reports to?
  • What is their communication style?
  • What training and development programs are available to help someone new to this position be successful?
  • What does your new hire orientation consist of?
  • How does this position play a part in overall mission of the organization?
  • How frequently do individual reviews take place?

Yes this is a long list of questions and I could actually add a few more, but for the sake of brevity let me make my point.

  • Does the company care about your success?
  • Are they investing in human capital?
  • Do they value ongoing training and performance management?
  • Do you personally identify with the mission/vision of the organization?
  • Can you see yourself spending 70% of your waking hours working with and for these individuals?

If you can positively answer those questions, then you can feel confident you are making an informed decision. If you find that they either don’t know the answers to the above questions or are unwilling to answer them; then I say again you can feel confident you are making an informed decision.

An interview is a two way street. It has to be a good fit for everyone, that’s when the magic really happens. When it’s a one sided relationship or when you are unclear as to the value of your role, expectations or performance, then back away slowly and carefully consider the steps you are about to take and if they will align with your longer term goals.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

DIY is Cool, Except in Your Job Search.

to do list

You inevitably can’t do a complete channel surf these days without hitting on some kind of DIY program. From rennovating your kitchen or bath to upgrading your dating life or turning your simple idea to a money making landslide. DIY is the trend that keeps on giving, except in your job search. This is one area of your life where having a little professional help can go a long, long way.

We’ve all been there filling out endless applications online and in person. Dressing up and prepping up for interview after interview only to not hear back. Face it, finding a job is a full time job; but at work, you have direction and structure. At work you have someone at the very minimum telling you where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. However when you are looking for work, there isn’t that person there helping, coaching, mentoring and motivating you to keep going.

DIY is not the way to go in a job search!

Now is the time to do a good hard review of the resources available to you. That means you need to step away from your computer and make a list of people you know that can help.

Who do you know in the industry?

  • Do the people that can help you, know you are looking for a new position?
  • Do they have an updated copy of your resume?
  • Have you reached out to industry professionals for an informational interview?
  • What networking opportunities are available in your area/industry?
  • Have you asked your network to critique your resume?
  • Friends, family, teachers, past co-workers, etc. you never know who may know someone you need to know.

I think the picture is getting clearer. You don’t have to go out and hire professional resume writer, although it may help. You don’t have to hire a career coach, however there are resources available that can assist you. Contact your local government job help organization, if you’re in school frequent your Career Services department. The point is, there is no reason to Do It Yourself! We aren’t talking a 2-day make over in your home; we’re talking about your future. This is not the time to try and go it alone, and the great thing is you don’t have to.

If anything good has come out of our recent recession it’s the recognition that job search skills and resources are a necessary part of every day life. Everyone needs a little assistance and direction sometimes.

That help can come in many forms:

  • Your local Department of Economic Security or Workforce Development
  • Educational assistance
  • Local staffing agencies
  • Reputable resume writing and career assistance organizations

Between your network of friends, family and associates and the availablity of public and private resources; you can turn this project from a to do into a done.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Who is Your Hero?

batkid

I am going to take a different turn with my blog this week. I was reading the newspaper this weekend and was struck by an article. There was a young boy, Miles, who was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 18 months old. Now at the ripe old age of 5, and in remission, he was given an incredible gift by the “ Make-A-Wish Foundation ”. Do you know what his wish was? This 5-year old was asked; if you could be anyone, go anywhere, do anything or meet anyone; what would you want? He wanted to be superhero. He wanted to be someone who saved other people. WOW this child, presented with the option of getting almost anything he wanted, chose to be someone who helped others.

Being the parent of a child who lost her battle to leukemia and who also had a wish granted by this amazing organization. Realizes first-hand what these children go through, endure and sometimes overcome. My daughter, who lost her battle to leukemia at 13, fought a good fight for 2 years. Never once did she ask why me, or did she say it’s not fair. She looked at each day as a gift and touched more lives in her 13-years than I could ever hope to touch in my lifetime. She, along with little 5-year old Miles are my heroes.

We face challenges of all kinds every day. Those challenges can range from finding affordable housing, sustainable employment, finishing or starting our education, and how to pay for it. These children are faced with the ultimate challenge of life and death, and they embrace it. They get up and face every day as if it were their last. They feel weak but they want to play, they experience pain we can’t imagine but they still smile, laugh and continue to move forward.

I know what you’re thinking, what does this have to do with my job search? How is this going to help me? It’s actually quite simple, you can’t give up. No matter what you face, no matter how hard it seems, when you just don’t think you can face it for one more day. That is when you have to dig deep within yourself and find the last bit of strength and plow forward. If you think you can’t move forward, if you think you can’t achieve the outcome you want. You’re right! The minute you make the decision you can’t do it, you won’t. The minute you decide it’s too hard, you’re done.

The people who succeed in this world, truly succeed are those that never gave up. They never assumed that their dreams/ideas were too big or too hard. When the challenges surmounted they looked deep within themselves to find the strength and courage to continue on. Just like little Miles.
Here is the other part that so many people don’t realize. The world loves a hero. They love a success story. They want to stand behind someone who faces down seemingly insurmountable challenges with a courage that is almost superhuman. The point is, when you face down your challenges, whatever they are, people will be there to support you, cheer you on, and help you find a way to make your dreams come true.

I read a quote and forgive me I’m not sure where it came from. “Greatness is coded deep inside each of us if we dare to look for it.” Miles got to be Batkid for the city of San Francisco. He spent the day foiling crimes, rescuing damsels and saving the city. Riding alongside Batman in a black Lamborghini, receiving the keys to the city from the Mayor and being a hero. Over 7,000 people took part in granting his wish. Yes I said 7,000! “At one point organizers struggled to keep a path open for the motorcade, which drove past onlookers lining the streets six deep for several blocks”, according to the associated press.

There are resources available to help you, if you look for them. There are people who will help you, if you let them. There are people who will cheer you on to success. Sometimes the very best thing we can do is simply, not give up.

Miles, thank you for allowing us to participate in your wish. Thank you for reminding us of the importance of never giving up, not matter what the obstacle. Thank you for showing us that at the end of the struggle are rewards and opportunities better than we could ever have imagined.

To see more about this amazing story browse to: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/11/15/batkid-san-francisco/3588173/

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