Tag Archives: Motivation

If I only had a Brain?

download“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”.

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What do I want to be when I grow up?

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”.

Humility Required…not Desired!

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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”.

 

Your Greatest Weapon…Your Smile

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You never know the effect a smile can have on those around you.
I was reminded this week of a time, early on in my career, where I was asked to fill in for a colleague with our CEO. He had a terrible reputation within the administrative pool. In fact it was not unusual for a newer admin or a temp to leave his office crying. Unfortunately, it was a regular occurrence.
When I was asked to fill in for a whole week while someone was on vacation, I was terrified… but determined. No one could be that mean…right?
I showed up my first day and was quickly (very quickly) shown the ropes and left on my own. I sat in my chair and thought…what do I do now? I stood up, put on my best smile and went to his door. I knocked and was quickly reprimanded with a “What?” Entering the room still wearing my smile, I asked if there was anything he needed or if I could do anything for him. Slowly, he looked up from his computer. I think the unfamiliar voice threw him, (he may have actually forgotten his assistant was out for the week). Looking at me he thanked me and stated he would let me know if he needed anything. I wished him a good morning and went back to my desk. I made sure to repeat this every time he called me on the intercom (which was VERY often), and asked me into his office to take his dictated communication.
When it was time for me to leave for the day, I smiled and asked if there was anything he needed before I left, wished him a good evening, and let him know I’d see him in the morning.
Here’s where it gets good. The next morning I was in the office before him and as he walked by my desk he stopped to wish me a good morning, politely asking if I would get his coffee.  I fixed it, per his request, brought it in along with his paper and periodicals, pages marked with tabs where I thought there was something that related to the business or might be of interest to him.
I spent the week exceeding expectations with my work, but more importantly, with my behavior. Yes he was old school, I mean taking dictation…who does that?! However, he started including me in conversations, meetings and asking my opinion. He joked with me and taught me. Within one week, his demeanor had changed to the point that others noticed.
I spent the next several years working for this organization and I can say that each time there was a life event, he noted it. When my daughter was diagnosed with Cancer, he gave me his personal guarantee that my job was secure no matter what and that I should reach out to him if my family needed anything.
You can be assured that each time he needed someone to fill in, it was my line he called. If there was a project, new initiative or opportunity, I was included. He helped to shape my young career in ways others could not. This brilliant, stern, dry humored, generous man passed this week. I am sad that the world lost him, perhaps without really knowing or understanding him. I am so grateful for the time I was able to spend with him.
I remember those years working for and with him with a smile on my face. The same smile I greeted him with each day. Do I think that this will always happen when we put our best selves forward? No. Unfortunately the world is still full of people who have to make others feel less, for them to feel more. However, there are also those who have goodness inside of them and might just need someone help them bring it back out.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at  “Connectthedotblog”.

 

All Soft Skills Boil Down to Customer Service

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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”.

One Size Does Not Fit All

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Should my resume have an objective statement? Should it be in chronological order or reverse chronological order? Does my education go at the top or the bottom? Should my skills section include bullet points or a paragraph? How long should my cover letter be, should it include my personal mission statement?

I could go on and on with a never ending list of questions regarding the content, format, flow and chronology of your resume. There was a time when resumes were expected to conform to a somewhat specific format; a formulaic (if not archaic) standard of content inclusion and order. That is no longer the case. Depending on the research, a hiring manager can take anywhere from 3-12 seconds to review your resume. I’m of the mind that the higher level the position the longer they’ll spend initially reviewing your resume. However that being said, you need to think of your resume as a piece of real estate; it’s all about location, location, location.

If the job description is heavy on the bulleted technical skills; then your bulleted list of technical skills should take up the best real estate on your resume. If there is heavy weight given to your educational degrees or requirements, then that information should reside in the prime location. If the position requires writing samples, your objective statement and cover letter must be clear, concise and superbly written. I give very similar advice to students/graduates preparing for an interview. If the hiring manager is excited, mirror their enthusiasm. Look to your audience for your queues.

You can glean a lot of relevant information from a job posting/description.

  • Required skills – these are your key words.
  • Results Oriented & Proven Track Record – what success have you achieved at previous positions?
  • Relevant work experience – what positions have you held with transferrable skills?
  • Bachelor’s /Master’s Degree Required – make sure it’s front and center not buried on page 2.
  • Progressively responsible positions – not reverse chronological order.

I don’t claim to be the end all be all of the resume writing world. Doubtless there are many who would disagree with me on some points; however there is one area which I think we’ll all agree. The days of a one size fits all resume are gone. If you are not tailoring your resume for the job, industry, level and audience, the chances you will get the call are greatly diminished. Someone out there is taking the time upfront to perfect their image as the ideal candidate, are you?

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

Who is Your Hero?

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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/

Kirk, Spock, Bones or Scotty; who would you pick to be on your team?

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I think one of the reasons we love Star Trek isn’t because we get to see one of our favorite actors do what they do to save the world. We watch to see how this amazing group of misfits conquers the universe together.

We’ve all had co-workers, supervisors, department heads, or CEO’s that resembled Captain Kirk (whether you’re a Chris Pine or William Shatner fan). All they have to do is walk into a room, and you want to load up your gear and follow on whatever hair brained adventure they have in mind.

Why? Because it seems like whatever they do, whatever they touch, turns to pure gold. How do they do it, you ask? Well, I believe it’s because they don’t. They do. Of course by they I mean the ensemble. Captain Kirk, like all great leaders, knows they aren’t an island, although their ego may want to believe it’s all about them sometimes. It takes a team of skilled specialists and a few misfits to save the universe.

Don’t believe me? Please name one episode or movie where the mighty Captain alone on the bridge of his flagship saved the Universe. Planet? Person? Anyone? You can’t because he didn’t.

He needs the data/information (Spock) to understand all his options. He needs is moral compass (Bones) to keep him from doing more harm than good, and he needs his miracle worker (Scotty) to develop, implement, innovate, or when all else fails, use bubble gum and bailing wire to ingeniously limp the Enterprise out of harm’s way.

Every high performing team needs their key players. The group looks towards these people to mobilize the resources to get things done. Can you imagine an Enterprise full of James Kirks? What could possibly get done between the ego trips, skirt chasing, fist fights, and distractions? NOTHING!

Teams need diversity of talents, ideas, perspectives, and experiences if they are going to be able to fully understand a challenge, obtain the needed resources to overcome it, and have the wherewithal to get things done.

So, back to the original question; who would you choose?

My answer, none; any one without the other, although an exceptional individual, could not get done by 1/4 what the whole crew could. In the end, one by themself might cause more harm than good.

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

Graduates- don’t wait till after graduation to start the job hunt! Start now!

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I’m always surprised to get a call from a graduate that I haven’t heard from in months only to find out they are not working, have not been working, and haven’t even begun the career search.

“How have you been?”

“Fine thanks.”

“What have you been up to?”

“I took a break from the job hunt after graduation, but now I’m ready to start looking.”

“Did you keep in touch with your intern/extern supervisor?”

“No. I kinda just wanted to give my brain a rest after school.”

“Have you started applying with any of the employers you met with while in school?”

“No.”

“Do you have an idea where you’d like to work?”

“No. I just want a job. Can you help?”

Unfortunately, this conversation is far from infrequent. It doesn’t seem to matter how often I inform my students they need to strike while the iron is hot; inevitably, there are those who feel a 6-month vacation is not going to affect their chances of gainful employment. Even worse, they don’t feel the education they worked so hard for adds enough value to their skill set to obtain a career over a job.

WAKE UP! The country is full of people just looking for a job. We live in a country running short on skilled, educated workers, and you just want a job? Why did you go to college? Why did you spend all that time begging, stealing, and borrowing all that money to obtain your degree? Surely it wasn’t to get just a job?

If you are looking ahead at your graduation within the next 6-12 months, you should already;

  • Have a list of employers you want to work for.
  • Have a list of contact at those employers.
  • Know how your training/education will add value to their organization.
  • Have a kick butt resume.
  • Have a stellar cover letter.
  • 3-5 professional references all lined up.
  • Letters of recommendation from your instructors, supervisors, volunteer coordinators, etc.

Last but, by no means, least you must have enthusiasm, ambition, and determination to not quit until you obtain the career you dreamt about when you started your educational journey.

  • Don’t take 6-months off. Don’t take 6-minutes off.
  • Don’t ignore your resources who are there to help you.
  • And by no means, don’t ever underestimate the power of your education.

    “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
    ~Nelson Mandella

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

Improvise, Adapt, Overcome – Sensory Part 5

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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:

  • Prepare.
  • 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.

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