The Lost Art of the Thank You Note

thank you cardA few months ago I attended my best friend’s son’s high school graduation party. After all the food and festivities the three of us had some quite time. While I debated as to the tipping point of too much food, she and her son went through every card. He read each one, told her who gave it to him and had a nice comment about each and every person.

Shortly after, he went to reservist training and in his packed belongings was the list, thank you cards and stamps. He was personally going to write a thank you note to each and every person. Not only thanking them if they attended, for any gift but to also put a personalize note to them. His mom did not make him to this entirely; he knew it was expected of him. He understood and appreciated that they spent part of their valuable personal time on him.

Sending a thank you note after an interview is the same concept, plus one. You are thanking the interviewer for taking part of their valuable time to meet with you. Trust me, they have a lot on their plate, this was a sacrifice for them. The plus one is you are also letting them know you are still interested.

Business writing can be a bit overwhelming, especially when job searching. Too often we put extreme pressure on ourselves to say just the right thing. So let’s break it down into the four basic parts and ease our way through it. We will also hit on some please do not do’s, timing and delivery.

Four Parts of a Thank You Note

1. The Thank You

Start off by thanking them for their time in meeting with you on the specific date to discuss the position.

2. Reinforce the Positive

Let them know that you enjoyed hearing about one or two certain aspects of the job that align with your skills, experience or value and tie into a winning moment in the interview.

This is how you tie back to a positive connection that you made during the interview.

Think back through the interview where you think you really scored or you two seemed to click. Reiterate that moment. They may have a goal of abc and in the interview they seemed to perk up about your experience in being successful in achieving those goals.

In the thank you note you can simply say something to the effect of, “I am confident that the experience, lessons and successes I have in xyz, I can bring immediate value in helping company name in achieving abc.”

3. You are Still Interested

It amazes me to hear hiring managers, HR professionals and recruiters tell me that more often than not, interviewees do not let them know if they are still interested in the job after interviewing. All too often, they let these candidates drop. You are interviewing the company just as it is interviewing you. As nervous as you are that they like you, they have the same feelings and nervousness.

We all want to be liked, they are no different. They want the right candidate to like them. They also like to be told that you still like them.

A simple statement such as, “after speaking to you I am even more interested in the opportunity/position with company name”

4. Set up the Follow up

Conclude the note with either confirming the next steps or setting the stage for following up. If, at the end of the interview, you were told that the next step would be an email at the end of the week then your conclusion could be, “I look forward to receiving the email by the end of the week and moving forward in this process.”

If there was no next step defined, then a gentle prod is okay. “I look forward to speaking to you soon about the next steps in moving forward with this position.”

Delivery and Timing

Write the note after you come down off the interview high, but the same day so the information is fresh. I recommend sending a thank you note no later than the next day.

It is an electronic world; it is acceptable to send it via email. Just remember this about email verses formal letter writing – email is expected to be shorter. The reason I called it a thank you note instead of a thank you letter is for brevity. Make it short, sweet and to the point.

Mailing a formal thank you note is acceptable too, who does not like to get good mail?

Please Do Not Do’s

Please do not remind them of a negative. The thank you note is not a place to make up for mistakes during the interview. Focus only on the positive. They might have forgotten about a misstep during the interview, why bring it up again?

Please do not use the opportunity to ask about salary, vacation or benefits. This is simply a thank you for their time and letting them know you are still interested. This is not an informal information gathering opportunity.

Please do not demand of them. Saying things like, “I expect to hear” or setting time frames on them is not appropriate.

Please do not try to play passive aggressive. This is not the place to let them know that you are being considered for another position so they better step up.

Please do not copy and paste the same thank you for each interview and each interviewer. The premise can be the same, however, make tweaks for each individual and situation.

Please do not lie. If you are not interested and do not want to continue with the process, let them know – in a nice way. This is a three step process:

1. Thank them for their time and let them know you appreciate learning about the company and position.
2. Let them know after much consideration that you do not feel that you are the best candidate for this position/the opportunity is not in the best interest of your family – any manner in which you can politely decline in a positive way.
3. Leave the door open: close with a statement that you wish them, their department, their company much success and hope that if another opportunity that aligns with your skills/goals or unfortunate circumstances were removed, you would love to have another discussion.

Will the thank you note cinch the job for you, probably not. However, it does provide additional touches to the interviewer, reinforces positive aspects about you and solidifies your professional brand.

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at companies, professional organizations and colleges speaking to leadership, sales, teams, transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

You Wouldn’t Marry The First Person Who Asks You – Why Work For Them?

proposalIf you went out with someone once and they told you nothing about themselves for example their values, their goals, family, what they do and other pertinent information and only asked about you – would you marry them if they asked you at the end of that date?

I am hoping the answer to that is no.

If so, then why would you do the same with a job?

Job searching is a lot like dating. The first date was the resume; this is where they discovered you meet their general qualifications. The interview is the second date; this is when they size you up to see if they can introduce you to their friends and family and if you will stick around.

In any long term relationship you have expectations and items that you will accept, will compromise on and things that are “oh hell no”s.

These are your negotiables and non-negotiables. One of the most important ways you can be prepared for an interview is to know what is on your lists.

It is Personal

Your non-negotiables are your non-negotiables. They are items that are personally important to you. I know there are many people in your circle that are trying to help you and it is great to have feedback and guidance. However, in the end, what you decide upon is what you have to live with, not them.

What is important to you – money, opportunity, benefits, location, travel time, duties? There is no judgement, this is your list.

Your list may be quite specific (I will not take less than X salary) or broad (I will not work for a company that is immoral or unethical based on my beliefs).

They Change

My list from 20 years ago is different from my list today. I have grown as an individual, a mother, a family member, a partner and a woman. Twenty years ago you might have foregone money for opportunity. Today you have the experience that you will not accept less salary than what you deserve.

There are many factors that change our non-negotiables. Age, experience, family, personal growth are just a few. Perhaps you have been in one industry for over 10 years and you want a change, even though you are older you are willing to accept a lower pay for the opportunity to get into your new chosen field.

It is Okay to Say No

Just because an opportunity is presented to you does not mean that you have to take it. There is no obligation just because an offer was extended. When you do decline, do so professionally.

Simply tell them thank you, but no thank you. After interviewing I do not think I am the best candidate for this position or the best candidate that you are looking for. Simple, polite and professional.

You can use this same sentiment when telling friends and family. You will be asked, ridiculed or berated for not taking a job. I have had clients that they friends or family members tell them things like: you’re crazy, you will never get another offer like that, that was stupid, what more do you want, you’re being selfish, you can’t afford not to take whatever someone is offering you.

Personally, I would like to coach them on how to tell their friends and family what they can do with those comments six ways to Sunday, but that is just me. Those are rude comments and completely unsupportive. The best way to handle them is to say very little.

It was not a good fit. If they continue to push, and remember this is not their business or the job they have to show up to everyday, stand firm: it was just not a good fit. You do not need to explain yourself or justify your core beliefs about what you want or are willing to accept.

Trust Your Gut

This is the hardest thing I think for people to grasp. Job searching is a gut wrenching process. It makes you question your value as you have the opportunity to be rejected at any time throughout the process or before it even begins.

Going back to the relationship analogy – if the thought of being there every single day all day does not give you the warm and fuzzies then your gut is trying to tell you something. Thinking you will learn to love it is not the best plan B.

Respect Yourself and the Opportunity

It is actually more disrespectful to take a job you do not want rather than decline. It is also disrespectful to you and it sets you up for failure if there is absolutely no give and take of value.

If the opportunity has a component that you could learn a certain skill while I am there and provide benefit to the company than you are making a contribution, which means this is a compromise.

Stop Talking Yourself Out of It

Talking about what you want does not make it happen. I can talk about winning the lottery but it does not make me a lottery winner. Talk is anticipation of action; however, it is only an expression, not an action that carries you forward or moves you back.

I cannot win the lottery if I do not play and even if I play it does not mean I will win. If I play there is absolutely no guarantee that I will; however there does remain a chance – no matter how miniscule.

You have to apply, talk to them and participate in the process. An offer and acceptance is a combined decision and is a step – either forward or back. Without an offer there can be no action, without trying there can be no offer.

Find Your Support

I already touched on the non-supporters who would condemn you for not taking just anything; what you need is to find the circle that supports you for not taking it. Those that do not ridicule but rather listen. They may be few and far between but they are out there.

They may not be in your immediate circle so go out and find them. It could be a networking group with the sole purpose of supporting job seekers, it could be a faith based group or a recreational group that you find one or a few people that are true supporters.

You need them, find them and support them, too. My best friend has been my person for a long, long time. Sometimes her most supportive statements are: they suck, do not apologize, why do you think that or move on.

It is an individual process; however, you are not alone. What has been the most helpful advice or encouragement that someone has given you during job searching?

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

Listen for the Pebbles That Can Propel Your Career

Luke on guardSome of my greatest lessons, examples and reminders come from my dogs. I have three dogs; the one pictured is Luke, the baby of the family. He is a big six year old puppy full of enthusiasm, joy, unconditional love and unbridled energy.

And the attention span of a gnat.

I discovered after Luke was a part of my family that he had special talents – being able to open doors (especially the pantry and empty the contents), figuring out child locks, putting holes in walls, leaping six foot privacy fences and major anxiety.

Luke and I have been playing new games for over a week. It is actually training, but do not tell him that or he will stop playing. In less than a week he now drops his toy for me to throw instead of drooling all over me and nipping at me while trying to get me to take it out of his mouth. Today, he dropped a toy over nine times in a row before he got bored and napped. Major victory!

We have also been working on playing nice while walking on a leash. Here is the thing – this dog could drag me all over creation without batting an eye. He weighs almost as much as I do, extremely strong and big – and don’t forget that unbridled energy. So walking nice on a leash is a big thing.

This weekend he was praised by a neighbor for calmly walking past her two yip-yip hyper dogs as they tried to tear through the fence to play with him. I was a proud mommy. Training was going well. I still have to remind him when he sees people on the other side of the street or in their yard that they are not out there to meet him.

Yes, all was going well, until that guy.

We had completed over a mile and a half at a good pace so he was happy and a bit tired and listening well when a man, his dog and his small daughter appeared at the end of the street. As they got closer, I shortened Luke’s lead and told him (in a voice loud enough for the guy to hear) “good boy, no, we are not going to play, stay with mommy”

Apparently the guy was deaf.

He kept making a bee-line right toward us. So when he was close enough, I started to take Luke off the path and told him, “He’s training, so we can’t say hi to your pup.”

Apparently the guy is really deaf.

He continued right up to Luke with his dog and said, “It’s ok, they will be fine.”

I’m sorry, what?? As I tried to pull Luke back and continue, the guy moved forward so his dog could continue to sniff Luke and then said, “See, they are doing good.”

Are you kidding me? What?? That is when I was finally able to break free of that guy and his dog. The whole time his young daughter looked on.

I am normally a very nice person, a friendly person and a happy person. However, disrespect my dogs or my kids and it becomes a different story. For the sake of the little girl, I kept my calm and walked away, praising Luke for being a good boy and muttering not nice words about the man in my head.

I fumed about this for a bit. I specifically told this guy to not bring his dog up to mine. I was nice, I was firm and I could not be more clear. Okay, maybe I could, but that might have involved words that my mother would not approve of, so yes, I was clear.

Yet he refused to listen.

It hit me later that there are a lot of people that do not listen throughout their career. Their bosses, customers or coworkers are nice, firm and clear but they just do not listen. There are so many opportunities lost because we do not listen.

If it is suggested by your boss that someone should learn a certain skill, take on an additional responsibility or serve in a certain capacity – how many times does this fall on deaf ears?

That is opportunity! More than one opportunity – a way to learn something new, let your boss know you are listening and willing to put forth effort needed and a chance to step up.

It is a pebble. The road to greatness, adventure, advancement, exploration and growth are all built upon pebbles.

If your coworkers or boss compliments an aspect your work or the job you did– those are pebbles. You have been recognized for a skill set or ability, now how can you build on it and do even more? Are you listening?

If a customer makes a suggestion or even a compliant – are you listening? It is a pebble. An opportunity to solve a problem or go beyond to create an even more memorable experience.

Often people feel stuck in their jobs or careers; yet what they do not realize is there are amazing opportunities all around just waiting to be taken advantage of propelling them to where they want to be.

Stop, listen and then take action.

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

I Prefer Windows to Doors

open windowMy dad was an amazing man and a huge influence on who I am today. Of course there are some traits that he cultivated that, if he were here to see them in action, I am sure he would be doing a mental face palm. Not like I didn’t see enough eye rolling or hear enough sighing growing up.

Now, don’t go feeling all sorry for my dad, he also had a wicked sense of humor. Like the time he gave me a black spiced jelly and after I put it in my mouth said, “Isn’t that the worst thing you ever tasted?”

Or the time we were on a fishing trip and he told me that the little round things in the tapioca pudding were fish eyes. He ruined that for me for good.

I did get my dad’s sense of humor and my son has suffered for it. When he was in elementary school my son got in trouble for a “food fight”, he threw a piece of cheese at another student. He also lost a tooth that day and put it under his pillow that evening for the tooth fairy.

The next morning he woke up and excitedly looked under his pillow only to find a piece of cheese. He looked at me with the same face I am sure I gave my dad about the tapioca/fish eyes thing and I told him, “The tooth fairy heard you had a thing for cheese, especially throwing it at school.”

I’m not that mean, there was money there, just further back.

But there were times that I got the combined look of “what the heck” and “I’m kinda proud of that” from my dad. Like the time we talked about house keys.

Well after the house I grew up in was sold, we were talking about if we still had our house keys. I told him that I hadn’t had one for years. This shocked him because we grew up as what would be called latchkey kids, so how did I get in the house?

I pried open the basement window with a screwdriver I had buried in the flowerbed.

I specifically remember the pause in the conversation and that “what the proud” look on his face. I looked back and said, “What, you created me.”

And he did. He and my mom created several foundations within me. This one was there is a solution to every problem. It may not be typical or “normal”, but sometimes creativity is exactly what is needed.

All though junior high and high school I basically broke into my own home, hey, it worked. Does that count as breaking in since I lived there? I think not, I just called it an alternative entrance due to a locked door.

In your career, you will encounter seemingly locked doors. A promotion you want, a new job you desire, having to find another job after losing your current one, additional learning/educational opportunities –doors you want to go through, but seemingly do not know how to unlock it.

Walking through these doors will give you access to a whole structure; rooms filled with floors, walls, furniture, electricity – and windows. Stop banging your head on the door and take a step back – you can see the windows.

These windows may be represented by networking, volunteering, part time jobs, speaking up asking for what you want, taking your work to the next level. The one thing they all have in common is this: they are there waiting for you to discover them, you just have to get off your rear-end and do it.

Just because you see only one path as a solution to a problem does not mean that is the only path. Too often we get so focused on the problem that we get tunnel vision and do not allow ourselves to see possible solutions. When that one solution seems impossible, we want to throw our hands in the air and declare it is impossible. Done deal, never going to happen; poor me, I have no control or ability to do anything about this.

Several years ago I was a part of an organization and I was at the point of frustration, I just did not feel that I was getting anything out of it. I realized that I was attending, but not participating. So I set a timeline and made a deal with myself. I would go through the window of volunteering on committees and give it a certain amount of time for me to gauge ROI.

I joined three different committees; I was a little go getter. My logical mind thought that the ROI would be more business. Boy was I wrong. The ROI I received was expanding my network to befriend some amazing women. Today these women are my friends, mentors, cohorts and inspirations.

If I had not gone through that window my business would not be what it is today, nor would I as a person.

I also met many women and was able to lead by example and assist them in becoming more active in the organization, which provided value to them and their businesses.

The other benefit of going through a window is you can get inside then open the door for someone else; remember, the best way to get is giving to others.

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

Don’t Let the Bunnies Force You Out of Your Job

bunniesMy dogs have a strange fascination with bunnies. Beyond strange, more like obsessive.

They sit at the window and watch, for hours, for any sign of a bunny. When one is spotted or a trail is picked up in the yard, they go into high alert. This consists of strange noises and the doggie equivalent of bouncing off the walls. It goes from peaceful silence to complete chaos in two seconds flat.

So imagine my surprise when I took the boys on individual walks yesterday and bunnies were in the vicinity but there was no chaos. No barking, no whining, no chasing – not even a twitch! How is this possible? How can those furry little things turn my sweet, loving crew into crazy, possessed pups in one situation and not the other?

It is the environment. On their turf, bunnies are the devil reincarnate. Outside of their turf, they do not even appear on their radar.

Our environment guides us in how we judge an issue. If you are at the point of hating your job and ready to find something new, ask yourself why. What are the bunnies that are getting to you right now?

Why do these bunnies bother you? What about them – is it a task, a person, a situation, a long commute, too much travel, a process, an inability to grow in your position? Figure out the bunny and the underlying issue with it.

Here is a curious thing. When I work with clients, they tell me why they want to leave their current job. They have identified their bunnies and the reasons why.

Then they see other job opportunities that they are interested in and get really excited. The thing is, the bunnies are listed in the job description. Right there in plain sight! But in that situation the bunnies do not matter so much.

So going back to the original list of bunnies and reasons why, it may very well turn out that it is not bunnies at all. Because you don’t notice the bunnies outside your normal environment. This is when you want to go back and re-evaluate your list on why you want to leave.

This is important because if you get an interview for that new, exciting job and you list out the reasons for leaving as the bunnies, but they are the same bunnies where you are going, odds are the interviewer is not going to think you are a good fit.

Maybe it is not the bunnies, perhaps it is you.

Have you outgrown the position, company, environment, team, city – whatever it is, there is something in you that wants a change because of a bigger pull than a bunny. When I took the boys on a walk yesterday, I diverted their attention when there was a bunny in the vicinity. I steered them to a bush to smell or mark, talked to them to distract them – anything for them not to see the bunny.

They were so happy to be interacting in a bigger capacity – outside the walls of their home or fenced in yard, that those cute little furry creatures were no longer a concern. That was the whole thing that made them happy – to be a part of something bigger.

If you are in a situation where you are not able to leave, take a look at those bunnies again. Are they really that destructive? Is it possible that you could find a bigger environment to enjoy where you are now to minimize the bunnies until you are in a better position to leave?

There are times that one of those furry little creatures is sitting right outside the window driving my crew crazy – and yes, I think they do it on purpose. I simply go outside and walk towards it, giving it gentle persuasion to go away. When I comeback in, all is calm again.

We have the power to rid the bunnies from our environment to a degree, do not let them drive you up a wall to leave one yard to jump into the very same yard but with different landscape. Do not let the bunnies hurt your job.

Take a walk around your job; look at it from a new perspective. If you were new and just hired, would these bunnies really matter? Are there other opportunities for you to explore that you had not seen before? Give yourself a chance to recreate yourself in your own environment. Often the things we want are right there in front of us, just hidden behind the bunnies.

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

3 Reasons To Quit Your Job –Is It Time To Go?

As the song gYoung entrepreneur contemplating a projectoes, breaking up is hard to do; especially when it is with your job. There are many different motives for a breakup; however, we can summarize them into three reasons: you want to, you need to and you have to.

Understanding the difference between these three reasons can help you salvage your job, reclaim your sanity or get the clarity to get the heck out.

Each reason is going to be individual to each person; one person’s want is another’s need. These lists are generalizations and not all inclusive; it is important that you clarify in your own mind your needs, wants and have to reasons.

You Want To

A want according to the dictionary is a desire or a wish for; for our purposes this is a time that you are just not feeling good about where you are and this creates a bit of wanderlust.

  • You are not valued in terms of ideas, income, accomplishments or recognition.
  • You are stuck unable to advance or gain new knowledge and skills, there are no more opportunities.
  • You either dread going to work or it is mind-numbing, the passion or fun is gone.
  • You dream of doing something else, all may be just okay where you are, but you dream of something more.

You Need To

The dictionary defines a need as a requirement, duty or obligation; in a job situation this is when the situation is causing some degree of damage to you personally or professionally, although not on a catastrophic scale.

  • You have a bad boss who you do not respect, does not respect you or is not going anywhere. They may be incompetent, unsupportive or sabotage your efforts for their own gain.
  • You do not fit it or you clash with the corporate culture.
  • You no longer know what is going on or are the last to know; your boss is no longer including you in decision-making or projects directly related to what you do.
  • You have burned bridges or damaged your own reputation either by picking a fight with the favorite employee/suck up boss, behaved in a manner which is deemed untrustworthy, unprofessional or improper.
  • You or your family is stressed out; the environment, hours or anxiety is taking a physical or mental toll.
  • You have experienced a major life change; getting married, having children, losing a spouse – any situation in which your current position no longer supports your personal family needs.

You Have To

Have, according to the dictionary, is defined as being compelled or under obligation; in a job situation this is when there is no light at the end of the tunnel, the worst case scenario is to stay.

  • Your company is going downhill fast – losing clients, not paying its bills, laying off in numbers or needing upper level approval for the most minor of decisions.
  • Your ethics are being challenged; you are asked to lie to clients or coworkers, you see unethical business practices or illegal activity.
  • You are experiencing verbal abuse, bullying or harassment.

The Decision

If your decision is based on a want to list, take the time to make a pros and cons list and give yourself the opportunity to realign with your job or create new opportunities to correct the wants. Make sure you have explored every opportunity available to improve the current situation; this will help ensure that you do not jump into a similar or possible worse situation.

Once you have made a decision to leave, the key factor is time. Do you need to leave immediately or can you wait it out a bit while you look? No matter your timeframe, now is the time to make a plan.

  • Identify what you want to do – is it in the same industry, is it the same position, is it the next position up or is it a whole new direction for your career.
  • Identify what value you have to offer – not what you were hired to do, rather what you did. Who did you work with, how did you work with them, who received value from you doing what you did and what were the results of that value.
  • Create your branding strategy including your resume, networking and LinkedIn.
  • Start networking in your own circle and expanding to include new contacts.
  • Create a no list – these are the job specifics that you do not want included in your next job; having a no list rather than a yes list leaves you open to opportunities you might not have considered before.

Lastly, make sure you create a plan for leaving which includes leaving gracefully including a timeline and an explanation; there is no reason to burn bridges.

Leaving a job can have mental, emotional and financial ramifications. Take the time to evaluate why you want to leave and if there is the opportunity to improve your current position to best prepare for that next adventure: finding the next right job.

The Path from Have to Jobs to Career Passion

mazeI posted a great quote this morning: “Talent is a pursued interest. In other words, anything you are willing to practice, you can do.” – Bob Ross.

There were a couple of comments that took me in a different direction: passion. One gentleman described his journey of 25 years from painting to building complete homes bottom to top. Another said it beautifully: “If one is pursuing an interest, be certain it is a passion. If that is the case, that interest will never be lost”

It is wonderful to hear about people following their passion, even better to hear when it is successful and best yet to live it personally.

But what if you don’t know what your passion is or feel like you will never get to live it?

There are a couple of things to keep in mind before getting frustrated if you feel this way:

Passions change
There is no straight line

When I was in college I was passionate about the criminal justice system and social change. I knew when I graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Sociology I would be ready to change the world.

Then life offered me a different path, I met my ex-husband and we had our son. My passion was then being a full time mom to this tiny human. Later I completed my degree, but my original college passion had changed.

If you would map out my professional career history and put it next to a drawing my son did when he was 2, they would look identical.
Something like this:

With each position, my passions were sparked, doused, modified, clarified and identified. They changed and morphed until it all came together in a clear picture.

Even then, the path in following my greatest passion was not a clear-cut way marked with neon signs saying, “Do this”, “Go this way”. It was still a twisty path that I had to navigate. It also did not come to me until I was at an age that was not considered young.

Relax, you have time, you do not have to figure it all out right now. Even if you think you do, it will change. Just go with it and lighten up – it will happen when you allow it to happen for you. There is no timeline for finding and pursuing passions.

In identifying and defining my greatest passion I was taken on an amazing journey. Do you know why I can say that now? Because I suffered through the crap that I had to do, not wanted to do, and survived it. At the time the word ‘amazing’ would not have entered my vocabulary. Ok, it did, but it was normally followed by words like “…load of @#$%.”

When following your passion, more than likely you are not going to tip toe through the tulips; oh no, you are going to wade through fields of manure that comes up to your knees. Bad jobs, low pay, ridiculous hours, and having feelings of being underutilized, unappreciated, discouraged, frustrated, unworthy and many others that make you want to just give up.

Do not give up.

I had a full range of jobs from unpleasant to vile. I had jobs that had no relevance to what I am doing now. I had jobs that I would come home and think, “What am I doing? Is this what my life is going to be like forever?”

But each one was necessary. Each one taught me a lesson. What I want, what I do not want, what I will accept, what is unacceptable, how to behave, how to manage, how to lead, how to inspire, how to avoid getting thrown under the bus, how to survive being thrown under a bus, who I wanted to be and who I did not.

I had great bosses and horrible bosses. I had wonderful colleagues and people that made me question humanity. I did tasks that challenged me and things that were mind numbing. I had jobs that thrilled and excited me and jobs that sucked the life out of me.

Each one was a step to where I am now.

Do not give up.

It may not make sense now and that is okay. Each one of my jobs did not fit in my passion path. Some taught me personal lessons, not professional lessons. Do not try to make everything fit in the box. Boxes are constrictive and hold you back. I also learned to blow up boxes – it is fun, liberating and became another passion.

Look at where you are and where you have been and try to view it from a perspective of where you want to go. What did you learn? What did you like about your duties? What were you complimented on?

Start small, relax and remember – this is your journey. You will find your passion, when you are ready. Passion equates to love, and like the song says, you can’t hurry love.

No, you just have to wait.
You got to trust, give it time.
No matter how long it takes

I bet that song is now stuck in your head – you’re welcome. I just can’t decide if I like The Supremes or Phil Collins’ version better…

Don’t Give Them a Reason to Ignore Your Resume

apples and orangesI had a conversation the other day with a gentleman who was expressing his frustration about his job search. He told me that after a continued period of absolutely no response, he started researching resumes.

His first frustration is there is a tremendous amount of information out there and most of it is contradictory. So he went with the most general and commonly accepted points. But even this, when he compiled a list of agreed upon traits, was a very small and generic list.

His second frustration is not knowing what to say to get someone to notice him. He has listed duties and accomplishments and they seem to be right in line with what the job postings are requiring of a candidate.

His third frustration is how to say what he wants to say. He looked on line to see examples of resumes and pretty much copy and pasted the common bullet points in other resumes that were a fit to what he did.

His fourth frustration was that none of this was working, he was not getting noticed.

That is a lot of frustration. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon.

I can address the last three frustrations in one statement, but first let me address the first frustration:

There is a lot of information out there and if you really start digging into it, it can easily become overwhelming; especially when every other article you read contradicts the one you read before it. As a professional resume writer, I would like to apologize because I am sure that some things I say or suggest contradict others.

Here’s the thing about that: there are very few hard and fast rules to resume writing. It is a matter of style and personal preference infused with a varying degree of coaching and training. You can ask five people that do what I do one question and you can get six answers. We are all going to have a certain degree of variation on our spin.

So how do you sort it out and know what is right for you? By knowing what feels write and is in alignment with you. If someone suggests pie charts, pictures, varying fonts and lots of color and that does not jive with you – don’t do it. It is not right for you, which means you will not be fully vested in your resume and therefore not prone to promote it.

Now, about the not knowing what to say, how to say it and utilizing what everyone else is doing – I will tell you exactly what I told him:

If you don’t want to be seen like everyone else stop writing like everyone else.

How will you distinguish yourself if you use the same concept, form, words and bullet points as every other candidate? What in that makes you stand out or tells the reader, “This one is different?”

What is that distinction? Value.

You can have three other people that do what you do but what makes you different, better or a more attractive candidate than the others?

What makes you unique? Is it your education, skills, training, experience or the way you do the things you do? It is most often a combination of these things and a few more, including the value you provide.

Think about these questions and answer as many of them as apply to any single task or responsibility:

Who do you work with?
How do you work with them?
What do you do?
How do you do it?
Who benefits from this?
How do they benefit?

When you answer all of these questions on the first pass, there might be a lot of information to write down. That is fine, just take that and put it all together, then you can trim it down into a bullet point.

What you will be left with will be a value driven bullet point that will sound like no one other than you.

That is how you bring alignment with what you have to offer and what the position requires and makes it very difficult for the reader to ignore you.

Networking: Break the Rules to Make Connections

HandshakeThis morning I had the pleasure of doing one of my favorite things: talk to a group about one of my favorite topics – the elevator pitch.

If you are in business the elevator speech should not be anything new to you. It is simply 30 seconds of verbal mayhem that supports or blows up your first impression.

Your introduction is critical because all business begins with an introduction; either you introduce yourself or you are introduced via a third party.

This morning a couple of the attendees mentioned that what I presented is different than what they have heard from other professionals. What they had been told was more about structured rules, protocols and expectations.

There are many networking groups and they have certain protocols that their members or attendees are expected to follow. You should respect these protocols. As far as all the “rules” of elevator pitches, if they do not work for you – break them.

You can talk to 10 people that do what I do (career, networking, business building coaching or resume writing) and can get 12 different answers to the same question. You can also do an internet search on the topic and really get overwhelmed with advice, dos and don’ts.

Given this overload and sometimes conflicting information overload my suggestion is this: read or listen to it all then stop using your head and listen to your gut. Use what resonates with you. This morning what I said, as explained below, resonated with the audience. For them it felt like breaking the rules and it felt good!

The Context of an Elevator Pitch

If you break down networking to the core it is all about building relationships. Relationships are based on an exchange of value. Before you can build a relationship, you must first make a connection, which is the point of your elevator pitch.

Make a memorable impression

I have a hard enough time remembering names, there is no way I can remember titles. My brain filters those out because they are unimportant.

Titles are meaningless for two reasons:

1. Titles allow your audience to determine your value. If you had a friend that had an unscrupulous broker who caused them to lose all their money in the market, what do you think their personal impression of brokers would be? If they were at a networking event and someone walked up and introduced themselves as a broker, do you think your friend would have the warm and fuzzies for this person?

Your friend is assigning a negative impression and value to someone they just met solely on the basis of their title.

2. Titles do not convey value. There are certain titles that do not need to be elaborated on, for example Pediatric Surgeon. That pretty much sums it up. However, for the vast majority of us titles are ambiguous.

The Crafting of an Elevator Pitch

You are not a title, stop introducing yourself as such. Introduce yourself as your value.

Make it clear

What do you do and for whom? Break it down to the very basics. What do you do? I have a friend in insurance and he does lots of things for his clients. Planning, sells insurance, blah, blah, blah. But what does he do at the core? For him and his clients it is all about retirement. His core is preparing and guiding his clients to be able to retire when they want with the income they want.

His what is retirement his who is his clients. He changed his introduction after we spoke from “I work in insurance to help my clients plan for and …….” I am not including the rest because I am pretty sure you started nodding off after hearing “insurance”.

He now introduces himself as “I’m a retirement coach.”

Make it less (to get a response)

I was at a networking event a month or so ago and a woman and I were talking when we were approached by a young man. We followed proper etiquette and invited him into the conversation asking what he did.

That was a mistake. After two minutes we started shifting in our places, after three minutes we started shooting each other sideways glances. By five minutes we were saved by an announcement over the loudspeaker. And we still didn’t know what he did.

You want to elicit a response from your audience, preferably a positive one. Ideally you would want a question. This gives you leeway into a conversation.

My friend who is the retirement coach is almost always asked a question. He purposefully uses a very short introduction to lead to a deeper connection.

Make it personal

I love the IT industry. I have a great deal of respect for people who work in this industry. I also know they get a bad rap. I also know that a lot of them do not help themselves clear that rap. I work in branding, I work with social media and with technology. I know what I know and it enough for me at this time. I also know when I am out of my league.

When I have to call on IT professionals the first thing I tell them is “I am an IT idiot, explain things to me as you would a three year old.” I just do not get what they are talking about when they use IT verbiage. I am also not alone.

When you describe your value, describe it in a way that other people – us non-industry people – will understand. Make it relatable to me. If I can understand it and relate to it I will remember it. I cannot talk about you or refer you if I can’t remember you.

One client started introducing himself in this way, “You know when your company does a system update and you come in the next morning with a crashed computer?” pausing for a positive response “I’m the guy that makes sure that doesn’t happen.”

Make it real

This is about you so it should sound like you. Not resume you, real you. The person I am talking to right now and at any time in the future. Be authentic, be yourself. My dad told me many years ago that a lie is much harder to remember than the truth. It is much easier to be yourself in every situation than present a façade and keep it up.
Some people are going to like you, some are not – there are no two ways about it, you cannot please all people all the time. The real you will resonate with the right people, clients, prospects and organizations.

I am a straight forward, blunt and high energy. I also practice the art of effervescent witticism (sarcasm) and sometimes my language does not meet with my mother’s approval. I am this way in my blogs, seminars, talks and coaching. I am consistent. You know what you are getting. I am passionate about what I do, I give my clients my all and I celebrate their victories as much as they do.

I also am the kind of coach who tells her C-level executive client that he has a bad case of verbal diarrhea. It clicked with him and he appreciated it. He also said no one had ever told him that before (even though he knew deep down he was doing it) and I told him because everyone else was afraid he would fire them.

This does not resonate with everyone, this is why everyone is not a client and I do not want everyone as a client.

When he refers me he can tell his peers what to expect and they get it. Part of my brand is my consistency in who I am and the value I provide to my clients.

This leads me to my last point:

Make it repeatable

The more I understand what you do and how it relates to things I can understand the greater the chance I will remember you and more importantly, mention you.

Many times in structured networking events you are expected to mention the types of contacts or companies that you are seeking for an introduction. If I know that contact, but not your value, then how can I introduce you?

If I tell one of my contacts that they need to talk to you one of their first questions will be either, “Why?” or “What do they do?” If I cannot answer that question I will feel stupid. It is as though I am telling my contact that I am using them and it is a one way introduction – for you to get value from them but not for them to get value from you.

Telling them a title will not answer their questions. If they ask me what you do and I say you are an IT Manager they will ask more follow up questions to determine if they want to have that conversation. Your value will determine if they will share one of their most valuable resources: their time.

Sell me on you so I can sell you to others.

–Lisa

13 Ways to Launch Your Visibility on LinkedIn and Significantly Increase Your Connections

linkedinIf you want to increase your professional visibility to grow your business, your book of business or find the opportunity to take the next step in your career do not get on LinkedIn.

That is right – do not get on LinkedIn.

In order to accomplish the goals listed above you must participate on LinkedIn.

There is a difference.

Side note: I am nitpicking on a word; however, one word can make a huge impact in your communications in networking and on your resume – just a little gentle reminder.

LinkedIn is an amazing, effective and powerful tool for your business and career – if it is used properly.  As with any tool, if it is not utilized it does you no good.

Having an incomplete profile, double digit connections, lack of information or incorrect information will send the message to the LinkedIn community that you simply got on LinkedIn but show no interest in being a part of LinkedIn.

Here are 13 tips to elevate your profile to let it work for you through content and engagement

Content

1.     Profile picture

Get one and post it.  This picture should be a nice head and shoulder shot with the dress in the theme of business casual.  Smile.  Please no bathroom selfies, family shots or pets.  My dogs are adorable and photogenic but they do not belong in my profile picture.

2.     Professional Headline

Personally, I hate titles.  They are meaningless.  I recently wrote a post about networking and introducing yourself by anything but your title, aptly named For Crying Out Loud Don’t Tell Me You are in Sales.

The same principle applies to your LinkedIn title.  Yes, you can list your title; however, you have a 120 character space limit for this section – utilize it.

Instead of “Sales Professional” try something like Award Winning Health Care Sales Representative with a career of exceeding sales & revenue targets for growth & expansion.

If you are employed and looking for another job, I would not recommend advertising this fact for two reasons:

  1. It is disrespectful to your current company
  2. No one wants to hire the unhappy person, if you are not happy there what makes you think you will be happy at the new place – and would you do the same thing to them?

In this instance, utilize your current title with the value that you add in support of the current organization.  For example something along the lines of “Systems Sales Representative bringing solutions to our clients for all their CRM needs now and as their companies grow.”

3.     Summary

If you get someone to your page, you need to give them something to read.  Too often profiles are missing the summary section.  This is your introduction to prospective clients, employers and contacts.  Utilize this space – up to 2,000 characters – to give them a glimpse of the value that is you.

This is not a place for you to post your resume.  There is a distinct difference in voice between your resume, business biography and LinkedIn.  I discuss the difference of this voice in more depth in the post LinkedIn Versus a Resume or Business Bio – The Difference is Voice.

To boil it down: in a resume or bio you are portraying a professional sales presentation of yourself not knowing who will be reading it, it is an arm’s length conversation.  On LinkedIn you are having a one-on-one conversation with the person reading your profile.  Direct the conversation to this target audience.

It is not enough to tell the reader what you do, you must give them a sense of your value in describing things such as who you work with, how you work with them, what you do, how you do it and the value others receive in you doing what you do.

4.     Position Description

This is where I see a lot of copy and pasting from resumes or job descriptions.  LinkedIn is that additional layer; people who have viewed your bio or resume are looking to LinkedIn to find out more about you.  If the bio/resume and position descriptions (or summary) are the exact same you look like a one trick pony.

This section should be similar to your resume or bio; however, since it is a one-on-one conversation you should use the “I”s and “me”s that you do not in the resume.  You have a minimum and maximum character limit here of 200 and 2000; choose the biggest highlights to emphasize here while giving a brief description of your role and value.

5.     Stay Current

It takes time to craft a complete LinkedIn profile; however, do not fall into the trap that in completing it you are done.  About once a month on an off day, read and review your profile.  Is everything still relevant and current?  Are there any additional skills, projects or accomplishments that you can include?  Could that one sentence be tweaked so it is a little more compelling?

LinkedIn has made a change in that you can update your profile without notifying your connections about every single thing one.  For directions on how to accomplish this refer to How Not to Broadcast Your Updates on LinkedIn.  The article describes when you might want your connections to see updates and the updates you have no control over if they are seen or not.

Engagement

6.     Post and Share

Interact on LinkedIn every day.

Post and share relevant content for your connections.  This can range from inspiring quotes, Slideshare presentations or relevant industry articles.  Scroll through you home screen and read what your connections have posted; like or share the ones that you truly like or may be of value to your connections.

7.     Participate

Join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your business, expertise, goals and interests.  Take it one step further and participate in these groups; ask and answer questions within discussions.  You can begin a discussion by posting a question within the group.

One word of caution, make it manageable.  Staying active and engaged in 20 groups is quite the task, start with a few and go from there.

Follow influencers that resonate with you, your industry or specialty.  Like, make a comment, ask a question  or share their posts.

8.     Connect

LinkedIn does a wonderful job in providing you with suggestions of people with whom you can connect or may know, even providing a little connect link right there!  Try to send at least one invitation daily, but do not be lazy.  Although LinkedIn provides a pre-written script, personalizing your message gives you a better chance of making that connection.

Do not stress yourself out over creating a personal message.  Make it as simple as “I would like to add you to my professional network as I see we have some common connections including Joe Johns and Mary Mary.”

Another option could be, “I have gained a lot of insight and information from your articles and would like to connect with you directly.”

9.     Appreciate

Provide endorsements to your contacts via a personal endorsement or for one of their skills listed in their profile.  Do this as a one way action without expectation for them to do the same for you.  Business is all about the giving.

10.   Allow Them to Contact You

Make sure that your contact information is displayed and easily found in your profile.  If you are going to gain their interest you want them to follow up, right?  Make it easy for them to do so!

11.   Link for You Elsewhere

Create a link to your profile on your email signature allowing people to easily find you – and connect with you.  If you are a business owner, display this link on your blog, website and any other places prospective clients and connections can click.

12.   Combine to Build

Spread the love to other social media platforms.  Tweet your LinkedIn updates to Twitter, LinkedIn gives you this option within the status update box.  Include your blog and website into your profile for your connections to see your entire brand across various platforms.

13.   Stay Consistent

This tips are solid and will work – if you work them consistently.  Making a big surge for two weeks then slacking off for two months will take you right back to square one in having to build trust, confidence and value with your network.  It takes less than 15 minutes a day to implement the connection tips.  One quarter of an hour is certainly a valuable investment in your career, one that can provide considerable results.

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