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”.
In your last interview were you asked any of the following questions?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Tell me about the worst supervisor you ever had?
- Why do you want to leave your current position?
- Tell me about the most challenging co-worker you’ve ever delt with?
- Have you ever delt with a difficult customer, what did you do and what was the result?
Do you know why hiring managers ask these questions? Well let me tell you. They want to see if you are a positive or negative person. Yes it really is that simple, and yes we ask those questions on purpose. We know if you are going to talk bad about a previous, supervisor, co-worker or company; you’ll talk bad about us as well. If you speak about yourself in negative terms, it’ likely you’ll do the same about the people around you.
These questions, for the most part, are not about finding out if you had a bad boss or co-worker so we can find out how to manage you better. These are questions designed to see how you will communicate with and about the organization you desire to join. These are questions designed to see if you are going to be a positive or negative force with our organizational culture.
So to answer your question, yes they are trick questions; however they are not tricky to answer in a way that will make you shine.
- When asked about your weaknesses, your response should be about your greatest areas of opportunity. After all a weakness is just an area in our life we have not developed as fully as we would like. It’s not a weakness, is an opportunity for us to grow in areas we are not as strong.
- When asked about your worst supervisor/boss or co-worker or customer; again you need to reframe the answer. You haven’t had bad anything; you may have had challenges with communication, direction or understanding but in each case you were able to overcome these challenges to create a satisfactory work environment or experience.
It’s not rocket science! It does however, take practice. Reframing comments to maintain a positive style of communication is a skill that must be honed. Hiring managers will continually throw questions at you to coax you into a feigned level of comfort to get you to provide them with a negative response. Don’t fall for it! Organizations are drowning with applicants and they are looking for reasons to disqualify candidates and get down to the gems. This is one of the ways they will accomplish their goal.
If you want to stand out; be smart, thoughtful, professional, and always, positive. I can’t stress this enough! Hiring managers want to bring productive, professional and positive individuals to their organization. It’s up to you to show them you are the best choice.
For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog”
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/
I’ve never really been a fan of war movies or Clint Eastwood (I know that’s almost un-American), however his 1986 Heartbreak Ridge became one of my all-time favorites and not just because both my father and older brother are Marines. I’m something of a student of human nature and the dynamics of Gunny Highway (Clint Eastwood) and his ragtag band of Marine misfits (Oxymoron isn’t it) is remarkable. Why you ask, because of three words; improvise, adapt, overcome.
This group of United States Marines weren’t the smartest, strongest, most skilled or highly motivated group of young men, but these three words made them the most successful group of soldiers in their unit; improvise, adapt, overcome.
You may be out there looking for your new career. You’ve been through an uncountable number of interviews with little to no success and your beginning to wonder, “Is it me?”. No it’s not and yes it is. So many of us go out thinking, “I’ve got this.” When in actuality we are not nearly as prepared as we think we are.
The best thing you can do is to take an inventory; in other words Check Yourself before you Wreck Yourself
The days of walking into an interview, introducing yourself and handing in a resume are LONG since gone.
You have to:
- Know your audience.
- Understand their business.
- Demonstrate your ability to communicate.
- Show them you understand their company culture.
- Impress them with thoughtful and relevant questions.
- Put their minds at ease regarding the chance they are taking on you.
- Exhibit your exceptional customer service skills through appropriate follow up and follow through.
Yes it sounds like a lot; however getting a job is a full-time job and anything less than your best effort will yield less than the best results. Interviewing is hard. Pardon me for a moment while I channel my mom, “If it wasn’t hard to get, is it really worth having?” I don’t normally quote her but, in this instance mom was right on.
If you have doubts regarding your interviewing skills, how to research the company you’re interviewing with, and any other interview tips and tricks; ask an expert. There are tons of great resources like A Better Interview . Ask a friend working in the field you are trying to get into. Ask your preferred employers for an informational interview to find out more about their business. Exceptional rewards take exceptional efforts. You can do this and you can be successful, it’s all up to you and what you are willing to put into it.
For more information on interviewing, resume writing and career changes, check back often. I look forward to reading your comments and hearing your feedback and suggestions for future series.
How much time do you spend getting ready for an interview? When I ask my students this question, the normal answer is a tirade upon how long it took for them to pick out an outfit (the winner thus far is two weeks), picking the right hair style and make up, and coordinating shoes and lip gloss. For my male students, it’s the Shakespearian, “To iron or not to iron” conundrum.
What many people fail to realize is that an interview, believe it or not, is a smorgasbord of sensory experiences. The interview encompasses all of your senses and after taking a minute to review them, you may be surprised how missing just one can cost you the job.
This is the first part of a series regarding the five senses of an interview.
Let’s take these one at a time…
Sight – This, of course, is the most obvious; it takes into consideration… your clothes, shoes, jewelry, make up, hair, etc. It also takes into consideration your walk, your smile, your cell phone, your watch, eye contact, etc. One of the things that novice and professional job candidates alike fail to recognize is that sight encompasses ALOT!
- Are you talking on your cell phone when you walk in the door? BAD
- Do you keep checking your cell phone or watch? BAD
- Are you standing up straight and presenting a professional confident demeanor? GOOD
- Do you look people in the eye when you introduce yourself and shake their hand? GOOD
- When you are sitting waiting for the interview to begin, are you sitting up straight? GOOD
When I’m working with students to hone in on their soft skills, especially their interview skills, I tell them the purpose of the interview is to make sure that the hiring manager can actually visualize them doing the job. You never know what kind of prejudices the employer may have, so you want to present a clean, professional slate that they can see fitting into their culture. If you have tattoos, facial piercings, stiletto heels, low cut tops, high cut skirts, wrinkled clothes, and messy hair…what does that say about you and the image their organization is trying to present? Yes you may look great, for Friday night, but not for Monday morning.
Remember to think of the job you want and dress for it: not too much, not too little, but just right. Give yourself the best foot forward to get the job, and then let YOU shine through. An interview is not the time to make a social political statement; it’s the time to show the employer you are the best fit in skills, culture, and professionalism.
- When in doubt, look in the mirror. If you think your skirt may be too short or your top too low…it probably is. Change it.
- If you’re wondering, “Iron or not to iron,” throw it in the dryer till it’s flat.
- Is your make up Friday night fresh or Monday morning professional? Fix it.
- Can you hear your shoes or jewelry coming down the hall? Change them.
- If you are expecting a call that’s so important you have to take your cell in with you…Reschedule the interview.
- Take a look in the mirror, and ask one simple question: “Would I hire me?”
Take a deep breath, walk into the office, smile, introduce yourself with confidence, look them in the eye, and let them know you are the best person for the job.
Check back on Tuesday, August 13th where I’ll discuss how it’s not your nose but theirs that matters.
Believe it or not my friends, the days of your degree or the mere mention of your Ivy League education landing you a job are over or at the very least in extreme jeopardy. Stanford, Columbia, Harvard, and many more of the Elite Tier 1 schools have been announcing the expansion (and at some creation) of their Career Services centers. “Why?” you ask. Because employers are becoming less and less concerned about where you went to school, your GPA, or how you landed the most sought after internship. They are concerned with how you will perform in the career they have to offer; are you dedicated, determined, and innovative? Do you have integrity and reliability? How have you performed in your past positions, and how likely are you to be successful in your future endeavors, lending your personal skills to add value to their organization? Those questions can rarely be accurately described on your resume.
I know it may sound corny, but “times they are a changing;” the days of no muss, no fuss job searching are quickly coming to a close, and those individuals who don’t have the skill set to master an interview, regardless of education, background, and work history, are going to be left in the cold.
Recently, while meeting with a group of employers regarding our graduate performance, one of the employers made the comment, “Technical skills may get graduates hired, but a lack of soft skills will get them fired.”
The purpose of an interview isn’t to reiterate the information on your resume (although some of that may happen for the purposes of clarification); it is to uncover the real YOU and to discover if that YOU is going to be a good match for the position, department, and organization.
Why do you need to interview? Because your education does not entitle you to a job! Employers are looking for candidates who want to work, bring all their cards to the table, and add value to their organization. They are not looking for a faceless name with a long list of accomplishments. You need to bring the whole package to the table, and an interview is the only way (for now) to showcase what and who you really are.
For more information on interviewing and resume skills check out A Better Interview
June is the end of most educational institutions fiscal year. Graduates are pouring out the doors of academe and jumping in full force to their job searches…NOT! I can’t tell you how many graduates I speak with in June, July and August who tell me that they are going to take the summer off from their job search; “no one is hiring anyway”. Wrong! The summer months may seem like a good time to slow down or stop your career search, but it’s not.
According to a recent article on mashable.com “8 Reasons Why Summer Is a Great Time to Job Hunt” there is a myth out there…much too prevalent, that summertime is a bad time to job search. If you just do a quick monster or CareerBuilder search you’ll see that contrary to popular believe there is as much, if not more hiring going on during the summer. That research does not bring into account the up to 80% of hidden job market jobs that are out there looming as well.
Summer is not the time to slow down your job search but to heat it up. Take advantage of the fact that so many other job seekers are falling into the “no one’s hiring right now” mind set and get a step ahead.
1. People do more entertaining in the summer months; use these opportunities to network your network. Who do you know? Who do they know?
2. Family obligations can be reduced during the summer months. Use this time wisely, get up earlier, look at the job boards, make some phone calls, go to networking events. You’ll see the competition you had two months ago…has gone on vacation.
3. Most of your fellow graduates are headed to the beach so the competition for the jobs out there will be greatly decreased. It’s much easier to stand out as one of 10 then one of 100 or 1000.
4. Employers will be impressed by the fact you are diligently working to find your career not the best new hang out.
Summer has traditionally been the time to relax, have fun and enjoy the weather. A time to slow down and smell the roses; however, remember what your professors, career services advisor and parents told you…getting a job is a full-time job. The longer you wait to start your career, the harder you will find it. Literally tens of thousands of graduates are pouring into the job market at the same time as you. Most will wait to start looking, taking a break to kick up their heels and enjoy some summertime fun. If you take the opportunity to beat them to the punch, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank as you begin your Christmas shopping while they are still wondering how to pay the next month’s rent.
I’m sure that during the course of your career, day, week, month, fiscal year…you have had one coworker make this comment. They don’t feel fulfilled in their current role, for many different kinds of reasons. They want to make a change but don’t know where to start. I have a colleague in this dilemma currently. She is a very energetic, talented, educated and highly skilled young woman with great work experience. But like many of us her career has taken some turns and her work history is more like the Great Wall of China than the I10 from AZ to CA. It took some turns and at times seemed to have little direction. However she is where she is and would like to have some direction before she sets off on her next road trip.
In one of our many conversations I began to ask her some very basic questions. And after she answered I had to respond, “No even more basic than that”.
1. What do you like to do?
2. What makes you really happy?
3. What are your strengths?
4. What do you feel are your greatest opportunities for development (fancy way of asking what are your weaknesses)?
5. Where do you want to live?
6. Is there a particular field or industry that inspires or intrigues you?
7. Do you have friends, family that you really look up to and what do they do?
8. When you think of people that really inspire you, what about them do you admire?
9. When you chose your major in college, why did you chose it and how do you feel about it now?
10.(Here’s the kicker) When you think of your life 5-10 years down the road…how do you see yourself?
Yes these questions are basic inventory questions. Some of which you may get asked in an interview, there is a reason for that! Many of us aren’t born with the innate desire to do just one thing in life. Some are, some aren’t…for those of us who are in the latter category, we have a tendency to follow our career path like The Great Wall with all its twists and turns. We make decisions as they come along, not giving a whole lot of thought to the Plan.
Working with college students, especially those who are just getting started, I have a very standard speech. I ask lots of questions, many I’ve listed above. Mostly I tell them that choosing a major is not dissimilar to purchasing a home. A house is not a piece of disposable property. It’s something you are going to spend a lot of time in, money on and energy with. If it isn’t going to last you through your 5-year plan (unless you’re a house flipper) you may want to keep looking. We need to think of our educational/career choices the same way. We need to look down the road to where we want to be. Why do we admire the people we do, what they have we don’t, how we get there, what really makes us happy and drives us to perform. If you can’t really answer these questions honestly, well honestly it’s not the best time for you to be looking for a new opportunity.
There are literally hundreds of articles being written and published on the risks involved with making a career change; especially in the face of high unemployment and a recent recession. There are some very common threads with the advice given; and believe it or not they are pretty much in line with the questions I asked my coworker. In addition to your employment inventory; make an assessment of the possible risks that may be involved with making a career change.
I think what my coworker discovered through this exercise is that it isn’t a new career she needs; it’s direction. Her job isn’t the challenge; her lack of a real plan for her future, where she wants to be not only professionally but personally is the issue. Now, that may mean a change for her in the future, but it will be one born of a plan and for a purpose.
Yes there are times when a career change is what’s needed to achieve that plan. I have made a couple myself; one born of frustration without real purpose and one made with intent, thought and commitment to my future. I am where I am today because of the latter, despite the first.
So the next time someone you know asks you the “I need to do something but I’m not sure what to do” question…remember, location, location, location. Don’t make the investment without the inventory, without real thought of the effect on the future. My mom once told me, “when you don’t know what to do…don’t do anything”. Made no sense at the time but now I live by it. How often do we have the desire to do something, when the best course of action is to sit tight, evaluate, plan and when appropriate, execute.
“When you don’t know what to do…don’t do anything.” Thanks Mom!