Uncategorized

AmateurToPro Podcast with host, Ryan Dempsey Argentieri

Ryan called to tell me she was launching her new podcast AmateurToPro and wanted to know if I was game to be interviewed.  She said she wanted to share my story about becoming an entrepreneur, my non profit board work, juggling work and life, and still finding time to be creative and write a novel.  Ryan invited me to meet her at this cool recording studio, Podcast Village, and we sat down for our conversation. 

Ryan’s goals with her new show are to create an engaging environment and share knowledge. “The Amateur to Pro podcast features in-depth talks with leaders, change-makers, risk-takers and innovators about how they overcame fears and worked through obstacles to bring big ideas to life. Episodes include practical implementation advice, leadership lessons learned and best practices of the world’s sharpest minds and high performers”. 

Check out her other 11 interviews, there are some really interesting people, starting with Santana Moss and several other fascinating executives.

Here’s my interview:

http://amateurtopro.libsyn.com/melissa-reitkopp-the-road-to-performance-and-knowing-when-to-say-when

Careers, Communication, Jobs, Work Strategies, Working Professionals

Under a Microscope, First Days on the New Job!

So you landed the dream job, what’s next? Did you know the first 6-12 months are the most important in any new job or relationship for that matter. Everything is new, people are the most open, and no bad habits have been established, yet. Many companies have a formal review system and new employees have a probationary period for 30-90 days. It varies company to company. But we all can recognize that the orientation period is critical to success.

Each time I place someone in a job, we get to have a celebratory lunch. It’s one of the best parts of my role as a headhunter. Often I’m asked what kinds of suggestions I have for someone to set themselves up successfully on their new gig.

“That’s a great place to start,” I like to say, “Because being aware that this is the time to dedicate yourself to being successful is the first step.”

Here’s some ideas that I think are worth considering, some seem like no brainers but you’d be surprised. Plus, there are few my dad gave me when I first graduated from college, just a few years ago 😉

Be on time or early. There’s all sorts of subliminal messages about punctuality. It may be OK to show up to a party 30 minutes late, almost considered a norm, but it’s not OK at work. Those first few months will allow you to see what acceptable at the company. You can ask your boss to find out what their expectations are for you. Others may come dragging in later, but not you. It’s time to earn your stripes and gain the respect of your new organization.

What you wear matters. Most people make judgements about who you are within the first 30 seconds of meeting you. I’m a believer in wearing a suit for the interview even if a company is business casual. First day of work you don’t have to put the suit back on, but do wear something nicer than the lowest common denominator. Business casual can run the gamut, be the nicest dressed for awhile till you have settled in.

Don’t make best friends. This is from my father’s advice list. I have to agree with him here because you don’t know the political landscape, yet. You don’t really know the lines of command, the pecking order, or who’s respected or not. You don’t want to ally yourself with anyone at the beginning. Be nice to everyone. Collaborative environments are more productive. Learning to be part of a team and get along with everyone is an important skill to master.

Ask Questions, be thoughtful. It’s good to get feedback but do you remember the kid who always asked “Why?” That kid was smart but also annoying. It’s important to show initiative and to explore to find answers on your own, first. If you have a question or need feedback, do talk to your boss, but also bring some possible answers with you.

Be a problem solver. Along with asking questions goes innovative thinking and problem solving. Lots of people throw up their hands and bring problems to others. I was reminded by a friend that her daddy always told her, don’t just bring the problem, do some thinking first and bring ideas about possible solutions too.

Take initiative. Even if you don’t have something to do, ask others if you can help. When I was a substitute teacher while living in Guatemala, I didn’t have much planning to do. Rather than be idle, I offered to help. Now some people can take this wrong and feel threatened, but the majority will know you just want to learn and be helpful. Who knows what you will absorb and who you will meet?

Watch your electronic use. Don’t be on your phone or surfing the internet, especially on the first days even if you have nothing to do. Yes, we all stare at our screens but we learn much more from social cues and face-to-face contact. There’s no substitute. Engage with others as you start your new job. The bonds you build will be imperative to your continued success.

Feedback helps focus. Do your work, ask for new tasks, and don’t forget to get feedback. Each organization has it’s own ways of doing things. Ask and check to see if you are meeting expectations, and the deliveries are in the form that your new company prefers. Time is money.

Listen more than talk. Sort of stole this from Burr in Hamilton, “Talk less, smile more.” A good skill to develop in any organization is the ability to be quiet, listen and focus on the person rather than on formulating your response. You will find your ability to converse and absorb information increases as well as the respect you garner as a strong consultant or listener.

Share best practices in respectful ways. We’ve all met the person who comes in new and tells us we are doing things all wrong. Or the one who always has a better way to do things. I used to be that person. I annoyed people. They weren’t very receptive. What I learned is that after you have been exposed to the ways of the new organization, if you ask if they’d like other ideas you can present them as alternative approaches with different outcomes. People are much more receptive.

Be willing to roll up your sleeves and do what needs to get done. My father told me whatever I am asked to do, be it answer the phone, prepare a memo, regardless of the complexity, do it well. A can-do attitude goes a long way. Learning all the tasks in a firm, regardless of how mundane can help you appreciate everyone and show you are a team player.

Review and remember. Do homework at night to review and master what you learned during the day. If your homework was worth anything while you were in school, it was because it helped reinforce what you learned in the classroom. Hopefully you have taken a new role because it will help you grow as a professional. This means you want to learn and will need to master new skills or knowledge to stretch your capabilities.

Communication is key.  With three generations in the workplace, it’s crucial to figure out how to best communicate with all your colleagues. Starting with your boss and closest team members is important. Then learn the communication styles of others. Some people like face-to-face conversations, others prefer a phone call or an email. Some organizations have internal chat systems, some text…with social media there are so many options. Stay professional and remember whatever you put out there into the ether, it’s pretty darn permanent.

Careers, Uncategorized, Working Parents, Working Professionals

The Importance of Informational Interviews

Without fail, I recommend informational interviews to everyone. I get several reactions, push back, mystification, and just plain disbelief of the value. There’s lots of way to overcome these initial concerns, plus understand the immeasurable value of the informational interview. It’s time to forget the discomfort or embarrassment of thinking you are bothering someone when you ask for an informational interview.  People like to help and you are potentially helping them as well.

It’s the new year. Create a career plan, and include informational conversations as an integral component. I’m going to give you substantial ammunition that will blow your concerns out of the water.

DEFINITION OF AN INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEW

Informational interviews serve a multitude of purposes; to determine an educational direction, to help define a career path, or to help build a network for career connections. THEY ARE NOT TO ASK FOR A JOB. The person you are meeting with may feel tricked if you go down this path. Just like the name implies, these types of interviews are for gathering information, networking, and are the best precursor to formal interviews for an actual open position.

WHO SHOULD DO INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS

The best time to start informational interviews is in high school. With access to information about companies, professions, and talented people on the internet, even if you don’t have established networks, you can build them. Plus, learning about skills and job options, before investing in an expensive education could save you lots of time and money.

OK, so you missed that opportunity, but it’s not too late. I’ve taught groups of women entrepreneurs who come from other countries or didn’t attend US universities how to build networks in their communities, or through LinkedIn, or online resources including search engines like Google.

Or what if you’ve decided you need a change, or are in a dead end role? If you brainstorm with a professional you may even discover new applications for existing skills. Maybe, through the discussion, you find that retraining or an advanced degree could shift your career trajectory.

Informational interviews are about building a network, keeping abreast of market developments, and staying fresh.

HOW INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS CAN HELP

Check out my examples below, do you see yourself in any of these scenarios? If your answer is yes, then I’d say an informational interview would be a great step for you before you apply for specific open positions.

My oldest son finished up his Peace Corps service in Panama, and transitioning back into the US job market was a daunting challenge. He didn’t enjoy informational interviews when he first graduated from college, but after I sent him this Forbes article, http://onforb.es/IFInBe, “How to Land and Ace an Informational Interview,” he seemed to have a change of heart. Recently, he was recruited away from his first position (back in the US), to a role where he’s using his bilingual skills and leveraging his experience to help the elderly.

My daughter embraced the idea of informational interviews and used them to network in NYC as she looked to relocate and think about the next steps in her career. She leveraged Linkedin profiles and companies websites to do her homework. She also made sure her resume and profile were in good shape before connecting with professionals. She’s now living and working in Brooklyn on a research project with the option to earn her advanced degree.

These are two examples of different reasons to do informational interviews, one for re-entry into a market, and another to relocate geographically.

OTHER REASONS TO DO INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS

  • Determining the best academic route to be qualified for a specific career
  • Identifying career options or alternative roles for specific skills or previous training
  • Gaining better insights into career pathways and choices of established professionals
  • Learning about companies-not only what they do, but what kinds of professionals they value and may need in the future for their organization
  • Finding the right organization and team (corporate culture) that fit your personal style

PREPARE FOR INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS

It’s important to keep your goals in mind as you prepare for informational interviews. The initial focus is to learn more about the person and their organization. So do your homework, read about the professional plus their company, and always prepare good questions.

Eventually the conversation will focus on you. Be prepared to share your “Pitch” or “30 Second Elevator Speech” with the interviewer.  Even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, you can share what your skills/talents are, and how you have used them in the past. This will help the professional think of ideas to help you for your next step.

Send a follow up thank you note. Don’t let it be generic. It’s another opportunity for contact, so make sure you add a piece of information or mention a specific topic that was discussed and how it was helpful.

WIN-WIN

Through these conversations, your connection can learn about the marketplace from you. You can learn about the company’s successes and challenges. Plus you both know different people and are able to expand each other’s networks. Just like a successful date, the meeting is about finding common interests and exploring if there’s any chemistry. That connection can pay off in several ways; a referral to another interesting person, a future opportunity, or even an idea about something you never imagined.

Most strategic hires are based on an introduction or conversation that was not planned. Do your research, identify interesting professionals, and start reaching out to them now to start a conversation for the New Year!

Careers, Uncategorized

IS YOUR CAREER TOOLBOX CURRENT?

 

Today, I interviewed a medical doctor working as a researcher and in the final year of writing her dissertation in Public Health. Yes, she may be an over-achiever, but I’m seeing more and more medical professionals obtaining dual degrees in Public Health; it keeps their options open. My interest in this person isn’t in what she studied, but more in what she was planning to do with her academic and professional experience. She had an active plan and was exploring her possibilities.

After twenty years of recruiting and counseling clients, companies, and candidates about careers, I’ve found that being proactive in your selection of positions and companies is key. What impressed me most about this doctor/researcher was how she got to the crux of things and focused on where she could add value to an organization.

“With my clinical and research skills, plus my ability to consider complex challenges, I think consulting is the way to go,” she told me.

We spoke further and I told her that she had many talents, but the most important of these were her awareness of which tools she had in her toolbox, how to use these tools, and most of all, to continually add skills to her toolbox.

This is the time of year to take stock of what’s in that box of skills. As you assess these abilities, remember to consider both hard skills like technical expertise, subject matter knowledge, computer skills, or specialized knowledge. Soft skills are important too, but they need to be presented in a impactful way. For example, if you feel you are a strong communicator, that’s great – but describe it in more concrete ways, like the ability to write a strong proposal, or deliver a report to a client, or present at a conference. It’s always better to describe the tools that you have, and how they apply to prospective employers, than merely stating that you have them.

When you do an inventory of your “tools”, you can also compare them to the activities you enjoy the most in the workplace. These activities, consisting of what you like and what you are best at doing, often align. Furthermore, sometimes you need to update your “tools” and/or get a refresher. This can include a seminar, a short course, a full length program, or on-the-job experiences. Making sure that you are current and growing as a professional will have huge impact on your career advancement.

Remember that doctor and how I admired her active plan? Many professionals fall into a job and let their career wander; sometimes this works fine, but other times you can wake up and find you have become stagnant. By regularly checking in on your skills, your interests, and your continued growth as a professional, you will take charge of your future. Each time you consider other options within your firm or outside your firm, you will want to evaluate the opportunities on three merits.

  • Is the role a good match of my skills and the needs of the company?
  • How will I add value to the organization in this role?
  • Will I learn new skills and gain capabilities that will allow me to have more options in the future?

If you are aware of your self and proactive with the management of your career, you will have more options. The end of the year is a good time to be self-reflective. Make those lists of your many talents, consider your professional and personal interests, and evaluate if it may be time to sharpen up some of your tools, or invest in some new ones. New year, new possibilities.