The Limits of a Positive Attitude

I consider myself a generally positive person and most people who know me I think would agree with that. I smile a lot, I have a lot to smile about and smiling makes me more positive. My dog, Misfit, even smiles (great picture of that, huh?) Although, keep in mind I do have teenagers, so it is often tested and the glass half full thing is sometimes hard to come by or there is a debate of what liquid is in the glass! The point is this: I try to be positive, look for the good, see the good in people and do unto others. Having said all that, some days it is the most magnificent accomplishment that I made it out of bed and I am okay with that.

Sound contradictory? Perhaps, but let me explain. You see, I believe in the power of a positive attitude. I do believe that your attitude going into a situation does have an impact on your result. However, I also realize there are other factors at play. For example, I have not worked out in a very long time – very, very long time. Now, when I become more active on the weekends, I see the effects. If Manuel and I want to go walk around downtown playing tourist in our own town, I am going to tire out very quickly because I am an out-of-shape slug. No matter how positive I want to be, I am a slug and I will be a tired, grumpy, sore slug after several hours of running around.

When you go on a job interview your positive attitude will absolutely serve you well. However, it will not take you far if you are not prepared. You can only smile and nod so much while the person across the desk realizes you have no idea about the company that you applied to and are now seeking a job from – they pick up on that pretty quickly.

Then there will be interviews that you are completely prepared and absolutely nail it. You know the history, the position, the key attributes they are looking for, you have all the right answers – you rock. Then you do not get a call back or they decided to go with someone else. It happens. And here is where the limits of a positive attitude come into play.

On one hand you can force feed yourself a positive attitude enough that you are so delusional that you think it must have been that you were not positive enough. You had doubts about some of your answers and that must have ruined your interview – just thinking those negative thoughts. Tomorrow you are going to be even more positive, force yourself to think only happy thoughts and never let a negative thought into your mind and THEN you will get that job. Oh, sweetie, you are in for a really long hard fall back to reality. You have lost the boundary line and now look like my little dog Misfit chasing her tail until she makes herself so dizzy she wobbles. It happens I have video to prove it.

On the other hand, you did not get the job, you are bummed and give yourself a moment to grieve….ok, time is up. Now, look back and see this for all sides. You had doubts, so re-examine those. Get back in touch with the interviewer and ask them your questions. If they did not tell you a specific reason why, then ask them – were they looking for a different training background or more experience? ASK! They may not tell you, but give it a shot.

You did your best. Let’s review that statement. You did your best. Pretty strong words, can we always say that about our actions? So you can be positive about the fact that you gave it everything you had and sometimes these things do not work out, but on to the next one! Be positive of your performance, your efforts, your research and your preparation, but do not take this to the extreme that your positive attitude alone is going to make or break you.

I walk into every situation being positive, that a wonderfully positive result will come of my actions. Guess what, it does not always happen. But I know there are other opportunities out there, and if I keep trying and working at it, those will happen. I am positive that I will fail, but I am also positive that I will learn from my failures and tomorrow will be a better day. Now, if you will excuse me, I really need to get off my slug butt and exercise!

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It Could Be You…

Most of my blogs are written for those in transition. I try to give a different perspective and a little advice with a bit of humor. Today, I am still writing for that audience; however it is in a different perspective. I am writing FOR that audience, a voice for them. Let me just say this, to set the tone: for all of those that are employed who treat Transitioners with pity, avoidance or disdain – be careful who you look down upon because you might find yourself looking at their back in line for an interview.

I am passionate about helping people; I try to helping any way I can to help them come to a successful end to their period of transition. This is one reason I have become a board member for a newly formed Rainmakers Hub – the Transitions Hub. Our goal is simple – to bring resources and assistance Transitioners and bring together those that are employed to expand their networking circles. I believe Rainmakers is a great group to assist this vision because their mission: Do More Serve More. I am very excited about this new group! (Our kick off event is February 8 at 5:30 at the Junior Achievement Building on Keystone Avenue)

However, I can also take off the rosy glasses and see the other side. I have been at networking events both formal and informal where I have witnessed first had the iron curtain coming down to someone in transition. It starts simple enough by Person A asking, “So, what do you do?” and Transitioner responds in some manner, “I am looking for a job in…” then BAM! The Transitioner is no longer viewed as valuable to Person A they want to immediately remove themselves from the Transitioner’s presence. Well, to that I throw the Yellow Flag and yell “UNNECCARY ROUGHNESS!” It is like a full on, head down tackle to the kicker: it is just wrong!

I mean, come on, what is wrong with these Person As? It is not as though people in transition woke up and said, “Hey, I want to put m life in disarray today – I think I will become unemployed!” Or better yet, “Wow, I my self-esteem is way too high so I think I will become unemployed today so others will immediately look down upon me and knock it right down to size!”

Being in transition stinks, I mean really stinks. Stinks like the uniform of a football player being closed up in the locker for two weeks after hard fought game in the pouring rain. Really stinks. There are a lot of emotions going on – denial, anger, embarrassment, resentment, frustration, insecurity – just to name a few! So really, let’s get a clue about our fellow man!

Over the past couple of weeks I have seen great acts of humanity both large and small to residents of Haiti. Even just the simple acts of people reaching out to offer hope and help by keeping those affected in their thoughts. If we could offer these qualities to individuals in the midst of devastation so many miles away, can we not offer the same to those that stand right next to us?

Instead of saying, “Gee, that’s too bad” (while thinking Transitioners have nothing to offer you) how about saying, “Tell me about yourself” and then listen. You might actually know someone or a friend of a friend that would be a good person for the Transitioner to talk to, even to just get more information. Or, you may not know a darned thing that might help them out, but at least you showed common courtesy in listening. Small acts of kindness, like asking and listening can work wonders for everyone.

Still not convinced? Think about this:

* What makes you think your job is so safe? You could be walking in those shoes next week or next year. Life happens to everyone! And if it were you, how would you like to be treated? Ever heard of the saying, “I can forgive but I never forget” or “What goes around comes around”?

* Those Transitioners are going to land on their feet and get back in the game. One day they may be a player that could make things happen, even make things happen for you. Oh, they may not score a touchdown, but they might be able to make a heck of a block for you, and you never know when you will need a good block!

So, the next time you meet someone and you ask what they do and their response is somewhere in line with, “I am looking for a job…” repeat after me –

“Tell me about yourself and what you are looking for, maybe I can help.”

Time Management

clockTwo words that can either express a great talent or two words that put you in fear of facing that you are less than diligent. Time management is a tricky thing. I remember when I was entering into the financial arena and had to get my stockbrokers exam, supervisory and a few more all while staring a new position and my son’s father was diagnosed with cancer – oh yeah, and caring for my young son. I don’t remember how I got through that year, but I did. I do remember the clock was not my friend. First thing in the morning getting my son to school, then to work, lunch was studying, after work get my son and off to the hospital, home in time for dinner time with my son then put him to bed, then two to three hours of studying. I earned five Series exam designations within 12 months, I excelled at the job, Jeff survived cancer and the horrendous treatments and recovery and my lovely son was wonderful and able to participate in all his activities with glee.

Then later in life I was between jobs. I had all this time on my hands and could not get a darn thing done! How is that? I think I finally figured it out, when it is your time you do not put the same value on it that you do for others. When I punched a clock I was determined to make the most of the time I was there, then when I left for the day I left it there. When it all bleeds into one day and there is no delineation we tend to not keep track of our time. It can be a habit so easy to slip into and a battle uphill to break. I know, owning my own business it is my biggest challenge. It can be the same principle when looking for a job.

Sometimes we volunteer and join so many networking groups that we are very, very busy but at the end of the day we can not determine what we have done for us, for our pursuit of a position. We really end up hurting ourselves by putting everything else first and ourselves last. Let’s face it, if you are looking for a job your first priority must be you and that is hard for some of us to do.

My advice, look at it as a business. Look at your activities – what is the return on investment? Are many of your events duplicates? Same people just different times and locations? Are some events not productive or worse yet involved negative people? Drop them. Just because there is a group out there it does not mean you have to join every single one of them! Be selfish, be honest and make sure what you are choosing to spend your time on is worth your time. Your time is valuable! If you do not believe it how will anyone else?

Make a list of all the activities that you participate in or attend. Next to each item write down their value. If it is your church group, that adds value, maybe not in your job search, but mentally and spiritually it adds value. If it is a networking group – what is the value for YOU? Is it a group coming together complaining or actively supporting and encouraging each other? Are you getting return on your investment of time. Next, think of each one and if you enjoy participating or attending. If you dread going or are not enthusiastic about attending then don’t! Make it a point to put you on the calendar and realize that you are a priority and should be treated as such.

Football and Job Searching

jake tackleI love football, almost as much as I love baseball. I grew up a sports girl. One of my mother’s favorite stories is about Glenn Fry. One day we were driving and he had just released his first single. My mom turned to me and said, “Did you know that he used to be with the Eagles?” I replied (without missing a beat I might add), “I didn’t know he played football.” I was serious.

What’s even better than watching the boys play football is watching the parents. Now, I’m not a quiet Mom, I try, but I normally end up yelling “Hit somebody Jake/Jesse” before we are out of the first quarter. I said I try!

Football is a responsibility it takes effort, time, practice and dedication. It is also all on them. I have nothing to do with their success on that field, I’m just there to support them. Coaches can teach, I can preach, but when it all comes down to it, only the boys can decide what they are going to do. After hearing a father tell his son that he screwed up on several plays and the only reason he did well on one thing was because the dad taught him how to do it. Oh, seriously. I tell my boys I cannot take credit for your successes nor can I take blame for your failures.

Same with your job search. It can take time, a lot of effort, practice and you need to be dedicated to your goal. And when things are not going so well, are you quick to become bitter or blame others for your “failures”? And are they really failures, or simply learning opportunities…. Jake got burned on a kickoff, simply burned. He watched the receivers, not gauging the ball. But he learned, then next kickoff, he nailed the guy on the five yard line. Quick study.

I know it is hard – I have been there. I went through the anger, frustration, resentment, blaming, anxiety – the whole gambit. One thing I learned is there is a lot in my control. Mainly, my attitude. Instead of blaming someone else, whether it be a company or individual, for my position in life I tried looking at options. And when I did not get a position, I sucked up my pride and went back to see how I could improve for the next go round.

If that was my lot in life, what was I going to do about it? And how can I possibly preach one thing to my son and blame everyone else for my situation? A shut down, a lay off, an unfair hiring – whatever it is, and I say this with all due respect, we all have our burdens and tough breaks. Did you get up this morning? Hot damn, you are a head of the game!

So, get your resume in order, get your elevator speech down, get your business cards printed, get your attitude adjusted and go do the best you can. Some days you will be disappointed and rejected – you are going to get faked out. But other days you will make progress and eventually be to the place you want to be, because you got yourself there. Right there on the five yard line when the kid catches the ball and doesn’t call for the fair catch. Not in spite of anyone or because someone else handed you something, but because you worked for it. The hardest part to work on and get in order – your attitude. But that, my friend, is entirely in your control.

But What Do You DO??

yawnHave you ever met someone and in polite conversation ask them, “so, what do you do?” and their answer leaves you completely dumbfounded?  Either they are really cute about describing themselves using very creative metaphors or use so much technical jargon that you stifle a yawn and begin to wonder if there is a bar nearby, where it is and what is the quickest way to get there.  So you end up eyes glazed over, smiling nicely, nodding and saying, “wow that sounds interesting.  If you’ll excuse me I just saw someone call me over”.  No need to tell them that someone is Jim Beam….  Have you received that look?  Then, please, read on.

 

Let me step back and paint a picture (no bars in this one.).   My computer broke and I am an IT idiot.  I know “reboot” and that’s about it.  Seriously.  So when I had to take it to the computer hospital I told them I do not want to know all about my operating system and the complexities of it, really I don’t.  My position was: Make it work awesome IT guy, tell me what buttons not to hit again, explain to me as you would a six year old how to get it up and running – that’s all I ask.  Make it simple for me, please.

 

It is similar to when someone asks you what you do – please do not tell them what certifications you hold or the amazing letters after your name, to us lay-people that means nothing.  No, wait, I correct myself, to me that means my brain shuts off (not on purpose) but because you lost me.  I might pick up on a word or two, but I doubt I am going to ask for clarification because I am completely lost, period.  As bad as this will sound for me, you must tell me in simplistic terms what you do or you will lose me.

 

Let me clarify one point – I am not talking about during an interview when you are asked your qualifications or what you have done.  Then jargon away – they will understand you!  I am talking about casual conversation.  Grocery store, party, at the ball game – those types of scenarios.  Networking happens any time, any where, any day – there are no vacations from networking.  You must be prepared to tell anyone what you DO. 

 

So, to the main point of this – when someone asks you what you do, answer them as though you are talking to someone completely unknown to your field.  Explain in a short, simple response your current job responsibilities or what qualifications you are bringing to the table.  Be sure you give an explanation that will invite your conversation partner ask you to tell them more. 

 

And for the record, I admire anyone in the IT field, I really do.  My cousin is an IT person and he is amazing, intelligent and awesome.  And I will not pick on IT any more, not that I was really picking on you, but it was an easy target for me – remember I’m an IT idiot.  So I will use myself as an example from now on.

 

In a former life I was a Senior Branch Operations Manager in the financial industry responsible for all Compliance oversight for our area’s Banking, Brokerage and Trust Departments.   Does that tell you at all what I did?  No, it tells you that I had a long title that you could make it into the acronym “BOM”.  (My son had fun with that one.)  When someone would ask me what I did I would tell them something similar to: “I am a Manager in the financial industry partnering with Brokers and Bankers for your accounts”.  This told people what field I worked in and with whom.  Nine times out of ten people would ask me how I partnered with Brokers and Bankers or what that meant – because I added “for your account”.  It kept the conversation going and gave me a chance to explain a bit more.  I would then ask them if they had an investment account and proceed to explain my responsibilities in correlation to their personal experience.  It was less intimidating, more interactive conversation and people actually understood what I did because I could break it down to something they related to personally or through someone else. 

 

In this difficult time we get so anxious to impress others with our qualifications and hope that translates into a good networking contact that we overstate ourselves.  Just remember, someone cannot be impressed with you if they have no idea what it is you do.  Relax, guide us gently through what you do, even better if you can relate it to something we might know, and we will remember you – not for all the jargon, but for your outstanding qualities!