Careers, Communication, Jobs, Mentoring, Networking, Uncategorized, Work Strategies, Working Professionals

Grab the Driver’s Seat…Regain control of your career

I attended a talk last week by Bill Stixrud and Ned Johnson who recently published a book called, “The Self-Driven Child,” The science and sense of giving your kids more control over their lives. The authors, a clinical neuropsychologist and a motivational coach/test taking company CEO, both agreed that there are ways to reduce, anxiety, depression, isolation, and lack of motivation in today’s children. I thought about that tag line, “Giving your kids more control over their lives”. Then I thought, doesn’t everyone want more control?

Through the entire spectrum of our lives we struggle to be independent and self directed. When a baby learns those first words, “No!” the baby is looking for autonomy. As we do battle with our teenagers over technology use or homework, they are trying to command their own way of doing things. Later in life we fight to keep our driver’s license even after it’s unsafe for us or others, but losing that right curtails our freedom. This can be a huge blow that some people don’t recover from, that loss of independence. The ideas about control and being self directed can also be applied in the workforce and when it comes to managing your career.

There are critical moments in the development of our brain, according to Bill Stixrud and Ned Johnson. We as parents can help our children develop into healthy “Self-Driven” people, by not hovering, rescuing, or solving all our children’s challenges. If we can give them the tools to take, “more control over their lives” they can become healthier human beings throughout their lives. If we translate the parent-child role to the workplace, we can also see how this plays out in a manager-subordinate role. We are faced with several challenges in the workplace with multiple generations who have different styles trying to work together. If we teach our children to make healthy choices that give them back their sense of control early on in life, then later on they will be more successful in the workplace. With more confidence, an individual can be more self-directed and this results in greater success for all throughout the life cycle.

Raising self motivated children, building a more motivated workforce, are just two aspects to a healthier society or economy. In the arc of our working life, we can learn to be more proactive with managing our career too. We aren’t all going to be entrepreneurs or the CEO, but we can be proactive or be our own advocates in the workplace. Again, these are skills we need to teach our children while they are young or as they grow up, so they can be healthier members of society. What this looks like in the workplace could take several forms.

When you start your first job, you are often just thrilled to have a paycheck. If you’re more focused, maybe you land a role at your target company or doing exactly what you wanted to do. Regardless, what your title is, what you do on the job is key. Plus, you can influence your career pathway. Here are several important tasks to do as you get oriented to a new job and beyond.

  • Learn the corporate culture and the spoken and unspoken rules of the organization.
  • Build clear communication with your immediate supervisor and don’t forget your peers.
  • Master your tasks and gain new skills that will allow you to progress within your firm.
  • Find a mentor in the firm or outside the firm, someone who can give you sage advice or perspective on any given situation.
  • Identify what you need to do to progress as a professional, and set goals to achieve these skills, experiences, or abilities.
  • Learn how to self advocate for yourself and the organization promoting change, growth, or a new ways to do things.
  • Notice a way you can positively impact the organization, pitch your idea!

All of these tasks allow one to take back control and have a say in your own future. It feels better to have control at all ages, when we are a kid, a young adult, middle aged, and aging. How do we retain it in the workplace professionally?

In Teddy Roosevelt’s stirring speech, about the lazy critics in our lives, he said,

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat…”

Like Stixrud and Johnson, Roosevelt felt strongly that by acting or participating we are already taking back our control. If we silence the critics who are not in the arena with us and focus on the experience of being there, then we are already ahead of the game. How this plays out for each person can vary, but it is clear that by regaining our control we lessen our anxiety, depression, lack of motivation or sense of isolation. As we replace these destructive feelings, there is now room for confidence, positive energy, possibilities, connection, and the ability to map our own future. We can’t all be in charge of the company, but we can be in charge of our own lives.

Careers, Networking, Resumes, Uncategorized, Work Strategies, Working Parents, Working Professionals

Communicate Your Creds

The Merriam Webster dictionary definition of a résumé is short, or “a summary”. The origins of the word are French and date from the early 19th century. Humans have been creating résumés or “Curriculum Vitas” (CV) for hundreds of years. Like music, the notes have all been played before, but the way you put them together is key to how you build a powerful, useful tool for yourself.

If you Google to find rules, a format, or a sample of a résumé, you will get gobs of information. There are thousands of résumé writers, coaches, and books about the subject. There are lots of good resources out there, and if you ask four people, you will get four different opinions on what and how to present information. It’s one of the topics that I receive the most questions about during the process of identifying the next opportunity. The reality is that it’s a piece of paper that is supposed to summarize who we are. How is it even possible to sum up, in words, paper, or electronically, the essence of who we are?

Remember that the purpose of a résumé is to share a summary of your many talents with a potential employer, but the true goal is to make the person reading your resume WANT TO MEET YOU! We are not striving for a perfect résumé, but to translate or share enough of our essence to get an audience. I’d like to propose that we remind ourselves of why we create a résumé (to earn an interview) and then concentrate on how we create a résumé (best summary of our skills) that is focused on the basics.

GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS

I suggest creating a core resume that is all inclusive. Regularly add to this document; additional roles, increased responsibilities, ongoing training, publications, presentations, and extracurriculars. Keep it up-to-date. Think of a core resume as your portfolio. The next step is to tailor it. It’s your responsibility to craft a document for your specific audience. A résumé is the first item that introduces you to a potential employer, but along with it goes an email or cover letter.  The content matters as much as the presentation. Trust me… they are looking at your format, your ability to write and express ideas, and your attention to detail. Your resume is a tool to gain an interview so you can deliver a marketing presentation of yourself, face-to-face.

How creative you are, what format you choose, what information you share; all are personal choices. Be consistent whatever you choose. The core stays the same. You can customize your résumé for your audience each time you use it. This means selecting the items from the all inclusive résumé that are going to appeal the most to your potential employer. Don’t combine too many ideas or make the resume so busy that it detracts from the content.

KEY CONCEPTS

Pick one style, keep it simple, and stick with it-check your entire document for consistency. Bold the same things, italicize the same things, layout the same format, but don’t use all the “bling” at one time because it can overwhelm. Remember, be consistent. I’m going to repeat this again and again. Be consistent. Neither of these examples below are wrong, but all the positions must be presented in the same way throughout the document.

Account Executive

RRLLC, McLean, Virginia

January 2010 – present

or

Account Executive Jan 2010 – present

RRLLC, Mclean, VA

Present the information in powerful ways, traditionally in third person. Boring doesn’t get you an interview. “Show, don’t tell” is key. Use a strong opening statement that shares skills, describes accomplishments, and translates how you add value to an organization.

20 year market research executive with a proven track record of successes

or

Innovative 20 year market research leader who’s deep industry knowledge has successfully attracted and retained clients.

Clearly present the facts with powerful details that express the depth and breadth of your experience – quantify and qualify any information you present. Pick a paragraph or use bullets (I prefer bullets).

Managed 7 staff members.

or

  • Hired, trained, and managed 7 professionals with a 80% retention rate over a five year period.

Proof your work.  Make sure to check grammar or for spelling errors and typos. If this isn’t your forté, find someone who can help. Content is important, but your presentation matters too. Most of your tasks on your resume were completed in the past, so make sure to use past tense. If you are presently in your job, that is the only description that will be in the present tense. Be specific and share details.

Lead teams on a variety of successful projects for a client.

or

Led teams of five on simultaneous business analytic projects that were delivered on time, within budget, and client requested additional work.  

STRONGLY SUGGESTED

Include pertinent information in the resume. The opening statement is important. Highlights or a showcase of special skills can be valuable. Descriptive powerful statements about your roles, responsibilities, and accomplishments is crucial. Skills, certificates, licenses, education, continued training, memberships, or extra curricular activities add impact. If the item adds depth or demonstrates an additional dimension to your candidacy, include it.

Another way to increase your chances of that in-person meeting are to allow the reader to connect with you. The prescreen person needs to be able to see you have the skills and abilities to do the tasks, and it’s a plus if they can relate to you too. The rule of thumb has been if you have under seven years of experience, stick to a one pager. After that, try and keep it short but you can have a two to three pager. Professionals in more research or academic worlds often use a longer style or the CV format. It will never be perfect, but good enough is what you want. The true test is if you get results: interviews. Do your best or get help from someone who can. Then get out there and start the conversations.

We have about 30 seconds to capture someone’s attention, use it wisely.

Careers, Networking, Uncategorized, Work Strategies, Working Parents, Working Professionals

Networking is a Necessity

In 1992 I moved, as a young mother and dependent spouse, to Guatemala City the capital of Guatemala in Central America. I tell you these details because I was asked a lot of questions before we relocated. Where is it? What language do they speak there? Why do you want to leave the US? I still remember the sound of the 3 year olds voices, and the reverberations of their feet as they jumped around the 40 foot container that pulled up in front of our apartment building about six weeks before departure. My son’s pre-school class took a field trip to see what our moving container looked like as a way to say good-bye and understand what moving meant. I’d taken seven years of French and studied for a semester in Brussels, so wasn’t quite prepared for a Spanish speaking country. Some days I’d pinch myself to see if this was really going to happen. Other days I wondered why we were doing this. Bottom line, I wanted to get out of the horrible economic situation of the late 90s, and I wanted my kids to have a cross cultural experience.

The five and half years we spent in Guatemala City were formative. I arrived with a 14 month old and a 2.5 year old. They mastered Spanish in about six months, I took quite a bit longer to adjust to my new home. I didn’t know enough to pack my toolbox with my career skills. I hadn’t given much thought to how my knowledge of talent acquisition might enable me to work in another country. Things started gradually. First, I had a crash language course. Next, our belongings finally arrived and then we moved from temporary housing. As we got settled, the kids entered school. Then I was able to pick my head up and consider my options.

With five years of headhunting under my belt and a four year degree, I wasn’t sure what I could do in a country where we didn’t have a bi-lateral work agreement. It turned out my years of playing soccer and attending a summer camp were my first skills to be used in the new place. I started a summer camp for American kids who were on the opposite school schedule to their peers. Eventually we started girls soccer teams in the middle and high school for the American school. It caught on in several of the major private schools. I coached and helped organize the first Central American girls soccer tournament amongst American Schools. This was contract work and my second taste of entrepreneurism.

It was a random call from a Peace Corps Volunteer while I visited my spouse’s office that changed everything. He wasn’t available to talk, so I took the call. This conversation led to several others. Eventually I was referred to the Deputy Director In-Country and we started to discuss a three day workshop for the volunteers. The goals of the workshop would be to bring closure to their 2.5 years of service and help them think about how to re-enter the workforce in the US. I leveraged my 5 years of experience as an executive recruiter to develop the various pieces of the three day workshop. Did I have any previous experience as a workshop facilitator? No. I had recruited and trained people to work on my teams, and trained to be a camp counselor. Plus, I had knowledge of the US business world, but formally I did not have direct experience.

I just did it.

Five years later, I had run 3 weekend workshops per year, plus started a full semester class at one of the private universities. These workshops became the back bone of my training and coaching in the US. One in particular struck a chord with the Peace Corps Volunteers, it was about building networks. They felt very cut off and back then the internet was just coming onto the scene.

Often I’d hear a volunteer say, I built effective wood burning stoves to stop deforestation of the Guatemalan forest, how does this have value in the US? 

Or another volunteer might share that they built latrines to reduce the contamination of the water supply and reduce water borne disease. Why would they care about this in the US?

Los Tres Anillos workshop was born. The Three Rings.

The term referred to the rings of influence that surround each of us. Some are more obvious and easy to tap, others are harder to build. Returning to the US, the volunteers had to revive their existing networks and needed to be taught how to do this. I had to teach them the skills to build a powerful story and to realize they had the responsibility to translate their experiences into terms others would understand.

The volunteers thought they had it tough, but I have seen other populations have even bigger obstacles to overcome. The refugee, immigrant and American born women-entrepreneurs-to-be that I delivered these workshops to for Empowered Women International, worried about the same thing. They weren’t sure how to translate what they had done elsewhere into something that would be valued or understood in the US economy. Plus, they didn’t have networks to revive or fall back on, they had to build from scratch.

BUILDING LOS TRES ANILLOS

Los Tres Anillos starts with you. Each person has family and friends in their inner circle. Each of these different members have different educations, different professions and different spheres of influence. It’s much easier to start these kinds of discussions with people we know and hopefully will want to help. Begin a conversation with family and friends by letting them know you are trying to learn about what kinds of professions, companies, and options exist. By creating this list you can then reach out to them for informational interviews or conversations.

 WHY BUILD THE RINGS

The goal is to learn about the person, their role, but also more broadly about their field, and where they think the economy is strongest. Practice and share some of your experiences that you have translated into what you feel are valuable skills in today’s market. See if they agree or if you need to retool the statements. Ask if they can refer you to others who might be interested to speak with about what you have discussed. Sometimes, you have to make suggestions to help trigger ideas about who they might know; former colleagues, classmates, etc. Start recording who you have had conversations with and the outcomes in a tracking tool.

Take this exercise seriously. This doesn’t mean don’t be yourself, but do prepare for the meeting like it is an interview. Follow up with a thank you note, post conversation.  Make sure you add any suggested contacts to your tracking sheet. Keep notes and schedule follow up on whatever calendar you use regularly.

SECOND RING

Once you’ve exhausted the inner family and friends circle, the next ring is still people you know. Colleagues, classmates, and people you know through professional channels. This ring should be easy enough as well. You have an existing relationship or connection with each person. Don’t be concerned if you haven’t been in touch for awhile, reach out and let people decide if they are willing to help. Remember, it takes several attempts to connect. Don’t be a pest, but you will need to be persistent.

THIRD RING

The third ring is the one where you are building a relationship without a previous knowledge of the contact. Before the internet this was much harder. With the availability of information from Google or other engines, you can find almost anything with a keyword search.  Through professional networks like LinkedIn, association membership, reading business papers, you can gather information about almost anyone or any company. This requires a different kind of effort from the other circles, but with research you can create potential links to almost anyone. There are no cold calls anymore. I’d call them warm informed connections.

Networking is imperative to find the right opportunity. During these discussions, you will learn about opportunities or roles that you may not even know existed. It’s a wonderful time to gather information about requirements, skills, and education needed for an industry or specific role. You can start learning the jargon of a sector. Gather details about what industries are strong or skills that are in higher demand. A network can lead to many things, internships, jobs, referrals, and more. Even though you may think you don’t have one, don’t give up! You can build one-all it takes is effort.

Careers, Interviews, Jobs, Uncategorized, Work Strategies, Working Parents, Working Professionals

Demonstrating Value on an Interview

One of my favorite activities is to present my workshop on preparing and securing a job offer. Recently, I did my regular guest visit to Empowered Women International’s (EWI) Entrepreneur Training for Success course being offered at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia. I was excited to have the opportunity to discuss career topics with the women, their mentors (and hopefully our future supporters) the Gupta Family Foundation. An added bonus, my daughter attended plus a friend.

It was a full room, with over twenty of us, and it started out slowly. As we went around the room, introducing ourselves and sharing a few facts about who we were, I slowly saw each woman in a different way. Initially their head coverings made them hard to differentiate from each other. Soon, I noticed different colors and patterns that reflected how truly different each woman was. First, they shared their name and then three facts about themselves. A mother. A maker of family recipes. A model and artist. An accountant. A businesswoman. When we broke out into small groups and regathered to share our results, the room was heating up.

As immigrants to a new country, with a new language, new culture, it’s even more challenging to market yourself. It’s one thing to list skills and talents, but the burden to translate how you add value to an organization falls on each of us. I was amazed at how animated the women became as they shared. I shared the ingredients that make a good interview; preparation, questions, compensation, and closing questions that overcome objections.

Next, I taught a technique called a FAB Presentation-Features, Accomplishments, and Benefits. With these two exercises, you will be able to present yourself in the most powerful way during any conversation. Key components to note are my “Closing Questions”, “Salary”, and the “FAB”. Walk through the anatomy of an interview (below) and then practice the FAB exercise (below) to prepare for any type of interview. Go out and grab that next opportunity!

ANATOMY OF AN INTERVIEW

First there are several types of interviews. While they have much in common, they do have slight differences.

  • Scholarship/Honor Society
  • Entrance/College
  • Informational
  • Internship/Permanent Position

Prep for Positive Results

You wouldn’t just show up to a client presentation and wing it. So don’t do this when you are interviewing. An interview is a marketing presentation of yourself, and it’s important to do the prep work so you can have the best possible outcome, an offer. When you get an offer, you have the power to decide if you want the job, otherwise, you have nothing.

Homework for an interview

  • Learn about the company
  • Read about the people meeting with you
  • Search the internet for articles about the organization
  • Review the company website to understand their business

“Package yourself”

  • Bring an updated version of your resume
  • Dress appropriately (Even if they are business casual, you have to impress with your interview “suit”)
  • Review the position and anticipate areas of interest (FABS- see exercise)
  • Ask insightful questions to learn about culture, training, career path (see exercise)

Closing Questions

There are many ways to close an interview. I believe there are two types of key closing questions that you should focus on. It’s perfectly legit to ask these.

  • Objections – Ask if the interviewer has any concerns or if anything is unclear. By exposing any objections, you have a chance to overcome them while you are still there. This increases your chances of moving to the next step.
  • Process – Ask about what the next steps are in the process. Gain clarity on your competition. Find out what the time frame is on a decision. By asking for more information, you will be able to better manage your own expectations.

Thank you Note – Get business card(s) to ease writing a “Thank You” note (Email or Snail Mail). MAKE SURE THIS IS NOT GENERIC! A thank you is an opportunity for another contact. Make it count. Add additional information, share a relevant article, or make a suggestion based on the earlier conversation.

Salary – Is probably the conversation people most dislike.  Typically it doesn’t come up on the first round, let the company raise the issue. Here’s an easy approach to demystifying the process. Be direct and honest.

  • Share your present base plus bonus
  • State you are open for a fair offer
  • If they push again, you can use a “redirect”
  • You can ask what the range of salary is for the position
  • Ideally, don’t state a figure, you have a 50% chance of being high or low
  • Receive an offer and then you can counter

You have shared, now it’s their turn to share. If the range is what you would consider, confirm it. Typically, to make a move, a professional likes to see a 10% increase of the base. There are other nuances to this conversation, but these are the basics.

NUTS & BOLTS

Below is a tool that I would suggest you use to field questions you will be asked on an interview. Most questions fall into three categories. I suggest you prepare 3-4 FAB statements for each category. This way you will be prepared to field any questions in a succinct powerful way. It will give you more confidence. You will not forget a detail or tell a long drawn out story.

Questions you receive will be focused on:

  • Skills/talents/subject matter expertise
  • Ability to manage people and projects
  • Client Services and Business Development

FAB Presentation Exercise

Features, Accomplishments, and Benefits (FAB)

A FEATURE is a fact about you. This is a point where you begin self-analysis. Focus on the features that describe your abilities, skills, & experience. Remember features are factual and objective. They describe “WHAT. . . “

An ACCOMPLISHMENT is a significant achievement accomplished during education or employment (high grades, publications, promotions, projects that stand the test of time) Accomplishments are stated in a very specific language and should include quantitative measures. They describe “HOW WELL. . .”

A BENEFIT is an example of what you can do for a future employer. The benefit takes into account your previously stated features and accomplishments. A benefit translates the facts for a future employer in terms of what you can do for them. They describe “HOW YOU ADD VALUE. . . ”

Before an interview create at least 10 FAB statements. Write them down, and review them. Focus on three categories you know you will be asked about, skills, management and client services. FABs will help you field difficult questions. They will help you to gain confidence by recognizing that you have concrete skills/abilities to share. FAB statements are powerful ways to translate skills from your resume to actual benefits for future employers.

Careers, Jobs, Resumes, Uncategorized, Work Strategies

Capture a Crowd with your Resume Opener

You can list a bunch of words so a computer can find you, you can state an objective at the start of your resume, but neither is going to get someone to read much further. You have about five seconds to capture the attention of your reader, grab them, and share enough that they want to read onward. Some people believe the cover letter is key. Others will argue the resume rules. I’m a resume reader. I often don’t bother with the cover letter at all.

These ideal elements (described below) will help you build a powerful, concise, highlight, statement. As you prepare to enter the marketplace, build a comprehensive marketing presentation. This includes your “elevator pitch”, your intro statement on your resume, and your marketing presentation of yourself. Today we will focus on the introduction, stay tuned for more conversation about pitches and preparing for interviews.

Components of an opening statement

Like any journal or newspaper piece, the first line has to pull you in and be packed with important information. If possible, “show not tell” because it’s a more powerful tool. As you craft this statement, think about the key elements:

How many years of experience do you have doing what you do best?

Examples:

  • Over twenty years as a consultant and entrepreneur
  • Ten plus years as an executive focused on strategy within the health sector

Where did you gain your experience?

Examples:

  • Academic training
  • On the job
  • Private, public or commercial organizations
  • Sectors or industry verticals

What are your strongest skills or accomplishments?

Examples:

  • Technical expertise
  • Subject matter expertise
  • Specific skills demonstrated by a project or product

Closing an opening statement powerfully

How do you add value to an organization? 

Examples:

  • Teach or train others in valuable technical skills
  • Share knowledge and best practices
  • Develop methods to streamline and produce superior results

Can you translate your skills and accomplishments into how a company will benefit from your talents?

Examples:

  • Grow client base by referrals based on special skill demonstrated with previous project
  • Deliver high quality results that stand the test of time
  • Publish or present at industry events to build reputation of excellence

Results

The power of your statement will results in several outcomes. First, you will have succinctly presented the highlights of your many talents. Next, a potential employer will want to read further and gather more details. Most importantly, your carefully crafted document will entice the reader to want to meet you and learn more. That’s the goal of a resume, to be invited to have a conversation either by phone or in person. You are now one step closer to a formal interview.