Archive for the ‘job’ Category

Are You Sabotaging Your Career?

January 2, 2009

As a Director of Human Resources and someone who has dispersed a great share of career advice over the years it never ceases to amaze me how often people engage in irrational, self-sabotaging career behavior. Career Coaches help their client’s careers by offering advice and expertise and taking the emotion out of decisions. Below are some of the most common forms of career self-sabotage I have witnessed and how to avoid them.
Overreactions/Underreactions. Years ago, while in graduate school, I had a professor who purposely elicited emotional responses from his students. We would watch regularly as students would have strong emotional reactions and lose control. Calmly, the professor would say that when someone overreacts there is a reason that generally has little to do with the actual event. So why do you overreact at work? Pent up frustration, anger, fear or excitement?
Taking things personally. Jobs and careers are critical to our identity and generate income, savings, introduce you to friends and create a sense of self-worth. When things happen at work it is easy to be emotionally involved and take things personally. But is it is not always personal. Take a step back and look at the situation with an unemotional eye.
Lack of self-knowledge. Knowing your strengths and limitations enables you to properly assess your skills and abilities. Without understanding your unique value proposition you cannot appreciate the interplay of forces that impact your career and may not properly assess situations or read the tea leaves. So what are you good at? What can you improve on?
Fear of taking risk/failure. You want a promotion and raise. Are you willing to pay the price and take the risk? Are you willing to risk rejection? This often manifests itself with people failing to seek the promotion, ask for a raise or a place on a key project team. Ask and you shall receive.
Following others (Lemming Effect). Following the wrong person is what I call the Lemming Effect. There are a lot of leaders, official and unofficial, in the workplace. It is critical to align yourself with the right person, one who is professional, well thought of and well connected. Too often I see people associate with negative people who help to make decisions for them and have their career stalled. Independently, analyze the situation and don’t rely on the herd to do it for you. Use common sense.
Making decisions without all the facts. While information does not lead to better decision-making, it helps to effectively understand the situation. Get enough facts and brainstorm your choices. Viewing the breadth of choices is empowering and leads to better decision making. After gathering a reasonable amount of information, do a cost benefit or risk reward analysis. Your analysis should look at the pros and cons of your choices, their likelihood and magnitude of success and failure. Understand the downside consequences.
Making decisions without seeking feedback. Before making decisions seek feedback and input from others. Get advice from people educated and trained differently, perhaps even those in different businesses. They may be able to offer you unique advice.
Failure to adjust. Evaluate your decisions and adjust accordingly. If you see you made a mistake, cut your losses. Do not continue down a bad path to fix a mistake. For example, if I realize I hired the wrong person I fix it as quickly as possible. To do otherwise will only lead to more downside.
I always thought it strange that to ensure that they make the proper investment decisions, many people engage Financial Advisors. These Advisors get paid handsome sums of money by helping people make prudent investment decisions. Yet far fewer people reach out to career coaches who can ensure that people have the money to invest in the first place. Career coaches help clients make rational, well thought out decisions and remove the element of emotions from the decision making process. It is worth the investment.

Land The Interview

December 30, 2008

We are clearly in a buyer’s market where employers possess both leverage and pricing power. As the economy weakens and the unemployment rate rises, employees become more nervous about what the future holds for our companies and careers and begin searching for alternative opportunities. As a Human Resources Director, I track the response rates for my job postings and have seen a 54% increase in responses verses a year ago. The competition is fierce so you must be extremely proactive in your job search.
If you try to get an interview the same way everybody else does you will get the same results. You must be unique and use various strategies outside of the norm. Here are some tactics that can help you get your foot in the door.
Call the employer. Most candidates send their resume by email. A job posting can garner literally hundreds of resumes. It is impossible for the employer to screen and review all of them. In contrast, very few candidates call the hiring manager. So be different,
Step one is to call the company and find out who the hiring or recruiting manager is for the position of interest. Simply say “I have corresponded with the recruiter for the “position”, but am not quite sure of his/her name. Can you help me?”
Once you have the name of the hiring manager/recruiter put together a list of 4 or 5 critical reasons why you are a great candidate for the position. Then call, introduce yourself and say “the reason for my call is I have a strong background in . . . and believe my past successes such as [insert critical reasons] make me a great candidate for the position. I forwarded my resume and would love the chance to speak to you about my background to see if there is a good fit.” Focus the conversation on your strengths and close for the interview.
Send your resume by regular U.S. mail and email. Since the vast majority of resumes and correspondence today come through email, a hard copy sent through regular mail may ensure your resume gets noticed. Again, find out the name of the hiring manager and send your resume and cover letter to their attention.
Network into the organization. All of us know a lot of people. Create a list of your college friends, colleagues, vendors, friends and neighbors and you will quickly have access to a strong network to tap into. Networking sites like Linked-in (www.linkedin.com) and Facebook (www.facebook.com) can help by offering you a well defined network and identify where your connections are employed. The purpose of your network is not to get you hired, but rather to get you the meeting, whether by phone or face to face. Contact your network and ask for help.
Personally drop your resume off. Years ago as I was looking for an operations manager a candidate showed up at my workplace to introduce herself. She was professionally dressed, had her presentation down and was respectful of my time. She told me she simply wanted to ensure her resume was reviewed. Linda, who was a candidate I would have passed on if I received her resume via email, turned out to be one of the best hires I ever made.
We are in difficult economic times and changing jobs is very difficult for everyone, so you must differentiate yourself. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. These techniques will help you get more interviews.