Career Direction From Storyteller To Storydoer

Do you wish you had a crystal ball to see your future career direction? Do you wish someone will tell you what path to take? It really won’t help you. The past can help you to understand and articulate your story to date, and having excellent eyesight and insight can help you to see clearly right now. The future is unknowable, que sera sera.

Since I graduated from university with a Law degree, my career has zig-zagged in many different directions and being a lawyer has not been one of them (through choice). I’ve been a cameraman for a small media company, a pizza restaurant manager, a sales assistant in a department store, an administrator for a professional institution, a researcher for a start-up in professional services, a manager in a public service, a consultant in a small organisational development consultancy, and now an independent coach, facilitator, author, blogger and Associate for several consultancies in developing people for job, career and improved performance.

I’ve lost my job three times, once because I was ill-suited to the role and twice because the companies folded. This is the third recession I’ve experienced.

What conclusions do you draw about my working life and career? Did I end up where I thought I’d be? No way.

It’s been a non-linear, varied journey of exploration that has been characterised by regular change. It’s helped me to survive and thrive in a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. It has required agility, flexibility and being open-minded. I’ve been hard to label, being generalist and specialist at different times.

On the face of it, my career history seems really random. But it hasn’t been. There have been consistent threads drawn from a commitment to lifelong learning and personal growth. It has enabled me to be a storydoer, creating my own narrative as I’ve gone along. The ability to reflect and understand myself has allowed me to also be a storyteller – about who I am, what I can do, my strengths and the talents I have honed. I’ve pointed them at the thing I feel most passionate about – helping people “learn to leap” in their jobs and careers.

If you are setting out at the beginning of your working life, or making a shift in career direction, you are about to write a chapter in your own story.

Develop your narrative or story consciously through investing in your self-awareness – from regular personal reflection on what you are doing and how you do it, as well as seeking feedback from other people… so your story makes sense to you and helps guide your direction.

Are you career gazing, using hindsight or your 20/20 vision?

The 20-Point Job Search Game Plan

Autumn is football season and as I listen to the TV analysts handicapping each game two words are ubiquitous in their conversation when they discuss what it takes for each of the two teams to win. These words are ‘Game Plan’.

In football, more than in any other sport, regardless of the disparity of talent, a game can be won or lost based on a coaching staff’s game plan designed around their teams’ strengths and the perceived weaknesses of the opposition, with the deciding factor lying in the execution and the coach’s ability to assess and adapt midstream as needed.

This is also true about conducting a job search; however we substitute the phrase Job Search Action Plan for Job Search Game Plan.

For a successful job search you need to define your goals, create a step-by-step Action Plan with defined benchmark and results, and you must commit yourself to execute and adapt the Action Plan to the best of your ability. For executives and professionals at a senior level it is helpful to have coaches and advisors help you throughout the job search process.

Here are 20 basic steps I recommend incorporating into a job search game plan.

1: Define the job/s you’re seeking and the Hire Profile of the ideal candidate employers are seeking to interview and hire.

2: Define, qualify and quantify your qualifications, strengths and weakness based upon the Hire Profile.

3: Identify your relevant achievements and accomplishments based upon the Hire Profile.

4: Investigate how employers for these positions recruit and prefer to receive and process resumes and referrals.

5: Craft a resume(s) with a unique personal brand in the favored style and format based on points 1-4.

6: If you have a DIY resume and LinkedIn profile have it critiqued before (not after) you begin to use it.

7; Prepare all addendum documents you will need for your document portfolio.

8: Craft a generic cover letter that is also adaptable for specific positions.

9: Create a LinkedIn profile with a unique personal brand based on factors 1-4 listed above.

10: Identify existing LinkedIn connections and other people you know who you can reach out to for networking.

11: Set a reconnect and follow up plan for all the existing people you want to network with.

12: Set a goal of acquiring 5-25 new connections each week and define how you will approach them.

13: Identify people who will recommend and endorse you on LinkedIn and how to approach them.

14: Vet your references or have them vetted for you by a trustworthy 3rd party.

15: Identify interview questions you are likely to be asked and prepare brief on point responses.

16: Have people conduct mock Interviews with you as part of the prep process.

17: Research potential employers and how you can get on their radar screens.

18: Make a list of company websites you will check constantly for new postings.

19: Create an Action Plan tracking booklet.

20: Keep focused on working the Action Plan a minimum of 25 to 40 hours each and every week.

These are some of the essentials of a successful Job Search Game Plan, and as in football the desired results are dependent on commitment and the quality of the execution.

As always I am happy to critique resumes and LinkedIn pages and they can be sent to perry@perrynewman.com.

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How to Improve Communication Skills at Work

Communication is without the doubt one of the most important business skills, no matter what industry you are in.

As a Sr. Recruiter and Interview Coach, I have seen many candidates, often strong technically, fail interviews as their communication skills weren’t strong enough.

Most of us process huge numbers of messages every day. However, effective communication is also about understanding the emotion behind the information. Effective communication can improve relationships by deepening your connections to others and it enables you to communicate even negative or difficult messages without creating conflict or destroying trust.

Here are some tips to improve your communication skills at work:

Most of us are terrible listeners. Instead of truly listening to what the person is saying, we interrupt, think of our response, or think we already know what the speaker is going to say next. To become a better listener, practice fully focusing on the other person. If you are checking text messages or doodling, you’re almost certain to miss nonverbal cues in the conversation.

Avoid interrupting and seeming judgmental. In order to communicate effectively with someone, you don’t have to like them or agree with their ideas or opinions. However, you do need to set aside your judgment and withhold blame and criticism in order to fully understand a person. The most difficult communication, when successfully executed, can lead to the most unlikely and profound connection with someone.

Lastly, show your interest in what’s being said. Nod occasionally, smile at the person, and make sure your posture is open and inviting.

Pay attention to non-verbal communication.

Body language can tell you just as much as what a person says, if not more. The way you look, listen, move, and react to another person tells them more about how you’re feeling than words alone ever can.

You can enhance effective communication by using open body language—arms uncrossed, standing with an open stance or sitting on the edge of your seat, and maintaining eye contact with the person you’re talking to.

Find out preferred way of communicating.

Everyone has a different communication preference.  I love email, but others would rather pick up the phone and talk, text, or even use social media or instant messaging to relay something. Respect the person you’re trying to contact and use the method they seem to prefer. If you’ve called someone several times and always get their voicemail, but the person is always quick to respond to email, switch to email instead.

Consider your tone.

The problem with email and social media is that it can be difficult to determine the tone. It is easy to come across as angry or pushy, so avoid using many exclamation marks in your emails and if you’re angry or upset, take a few minutes to cool down before responding. If possible, meet in person, so nothing is misconstrued.

Check your grammar.

Always proofread anything you type. If you’re not great at catching errors, use Spell Check or ask someone to proofread your emails/letters.

Rephrase what you hear.

Restating what your co-worker or boss says to you by repeating the important points shows you are listening and understand what you were told. It gives both parties a chance to clarify if there is any confusion.

And finally, never stop improving. Effective communication is a skill you must practice. Observe how others respond to your communication to clue you in on areas for improvement.

Networking Tips: Sincerity Overcomes Skepticism

After my last post titled “How to Network for a Job: Give Before You Get“, I had a great email from someone asking for additional networking tips…

“How do I make sure I am not the slimy guy who’s just helping people to get favours? How do I make sure that I stay genuine?”

I appreciated the note, and it’s a great question!

I think each person has to ask this of themselves each day.

Zig Ziglar, an exceptional motivational speaker, often used to say:

“You can get everything out of life that you want! …if you help enough other people get what they want.”

I believe that’s true. However, I also believe that motives and the heart with which you do those things matters greatly as well. If it’s clear that you are “the slimy guy who’s just helping people to get favours”, it’s unlikely that most of those favours will ever materialize… AND you’ll have a reputation as a “slimy guy”!  Don’t be that guy!

The answer is… Sincerity.

If you sincerely want to build relationships, and be a blessing, a pleasant surprise, a welcome connection, a valued resource and a friend to those you meet, it will become evident. It will be evident in your words, in your body language, in your face, and in your generosity.

In the 1970’s TV show M*A*S*H, Hawkeye, in one episode was trying to get a date with a particular nurse, and was having no luck at all in charming her. BJ, his best friend and tent-mate suggested that instead of trying to find a way to play her… he try sincerity. Hawkeye’s response was… “Oh, sincerity, I can fake that!”

It was a funny line, but everyone understood that it was a bad idea. Real sincerity can’t be faked. Faked “sincerity” becomes evident quickly, and the “slimy guy” reputation is born.

Checking your motives and determining you want to be of value to others will make the difference in all of your phone calls, meetings, casual conversations, and interviews as well. Before every contact, remind yourself that you truly want to be of help to the person you’re about to engage. It’s an opportunity for a new professional relationship, or perhaps even a friendship. Take the time in advance and during the conversation to think about who you know, what you know, or what you could offer that would be of help or of value in some way. Not just a token contact name or uninformed piece of advice that you throw out to them, but something that truly hits the mark.

It’s possible, and highly likely many times that you can’t come up with anything… and that’s OK.

However, SINCERELY expressing your desire to be of help somehow goes a long way toward planting a seed for future further contacts.

Don’t fake it, and don’t be the “slimy guy”.

True sincerity will quickly erase whatever skepticism your contact may have… and then they will be much more interested in helping you as well!

Effective Leaders Go First

The action of going first is to take a leap of faith. It is putting yourself out there. Making yourself vulnerable. Taking a calculated risk.

Going first is summoning up the courage to step outside your comfort zone and try something new.

This means putting your inner fears aside. It means not caring what others around you will think. (You can’t please everyone all the time.)

In Leadership, going first means you set the example. You walk the talk. You are the first person to admit when you make a mistake.

It also means that when you’re building trust in teams, that you Go First. Be the first to place your trust in your team – that they know what they are doing. Trust that the people around you have the skills and abilities to get the job done.

In Leadership Going First also means that you are the first to extend a hand and help others around you. You are constantly asking others “How can I help you?”

Is Going First easy?

No. But waiting for others to reach out to you creates success in waiting.

Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.” – Louise E. Boone