A Change in Your Attitude Line Up Puts Things in Perspective

After speaking at the Business & Professional Exchange this morning I came home to a bit of bad news. Nothing earth shattering, just frustrating. So I chatted with my best friend about this, as we girls have a tendency to do.

Funny thing is, I think she was more upset for me than I was for myself. No matter your pain, your girlfriends will always feel it worse for you! Although I told her it was okay, it is time to let go of anger about past situations, clean up the present and move on. I am all about taking a postive approach these days. She agreed it was the right attitude, but just wished things would stop piling on me. I admit, I had a moment of self-pity and wished the same thing; however, the way I look at it is if you keep starting from a lower point it just means you have a higher accomplishment waiting for you.

That’s how I am choosing to look at it. In this situation I thought that I knew everything that needed to be done, but then life threw a curve and took me a step back. That’s ok, we all need curve balls now and then. I mean how boring would it be if every major league pitcher threw only fast balls? Anyway, it is not like I took one for the team and it took me out of the game. It was just a slider that caught the outside corner for strike three. It was just one out, not the entire ballgame. Besides, this pitcher is getting tired and I’m just getting warmed up!

Networking – It Takes Work!

I was talking to a new friend today about networking. It is very encouraging to me how many people are so aware of how important networking is, especially to those in transition. My new friend has been doing a fantastic job of meeting new people, tracking information and following up with several people who can be of assistance to him and to whom he can assist. I was encouraged and impressed.

After our conversation I realized he was out-doing me. Not a happy thought for me, as I am a bit competitive in everything I do. I can’t help it; it just comes out in me. But I digress; today this is not all about me. I know a lot of people have one great, and grave, challenge when it comes to networking – implementing all the steps. And the one step that can really hurt a person or business is not following through and then keep following through.

Here is a typical scenario: you go to a networking event all pumped to meet three people. You are dressed for the occasion, have your great opening statements or questions to help break the ice, you’re in the right frame of mind, have your business cards or information handy – you are good to go. You enter and immediately meet a great contact. You make a connection, share information and move on and meet another great connection. This continues through the event and before you know it you have made five great connections!

Holy cow, you think, this was a great event. I meet five new people, we have established a connection and I can either help them or they might be able to help me: this is awesome! You might be so good as to that day or the next send a follow up email to tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them. They might send one back telling you the same and maybe a few emails exchange. And then it all fades to black. The connection stops. You do not follow up again, you never call, you never write, we never hear from you anymore unless you want money … oh wait, wrong speech… But you get my point.

You made a connection but that is not a relationship. Relationships take time and effort. Effort people, effort! You must stay connected, you must continue to reach out, and you must continue to be of assistance to others. You must put in effort to cultivate a relationship with someone. One magical night does not a marriage make. In order to do business with you (and that includes refer you to someone who is hiring) people must know you, trust you, understand what value you bring to others and remember you for crying out loud. I doubt many will refer a person they met one time and never heard from again.

If you are someone who keeps all those business cards, take a gander through them and think about when was the last time you reached out to any of them, even just to say hello? Do not fib here, we’re all friends, we can be honest. I am looking at mine and I must say I am embarrassed because it has been some time for me. Oh, the shame.

So, as soon as I post this I am going to go through and send out a friendly “hey stranger” and wish them a happy day. I must practice what I preach so that is my mission today. I am willing to bet dollars to donuts that I will receive a friendly hello right back from a few people and be able to reconnect with some amazing people. As a matter of fact, I will keep track of my results in order that I can come back and tell you to hopefully inspire you to do the same. Of course, I might have to mention that see, you should always listen to your mother… oh darn it, wrong speech again….

Gaps in Work History – What have you done for YOU lately?

“So tell me what have you been doing since you left your last position?” That can be such a daunting question during an interview. Please, please, please do not answer, “Looking for a job.” If you have answered in this way I am sending you a mental head slap! How you answer this question is important. Of course, that is, if you get to the interview.

When a potential employer is reading your resume and cover letter, if they see gaps, they are asking the question: what have you been doing. Are you adequately explaining gaps or even acknowledging them? Putting your head in the sand does not make an uncomfortable situation go away – I’ve tried, it doesn’t work.

I recently saw something on CareerBuilder the other day that stated over half of the countries unemployed have been without a job for 27 weeks or more. While six months may not seem like a long amount of time during this economy, what about those who have been looking for 12 or more months? No matter what the time period, this is a challenge and there are two things that can help you.

First and foremost: Invest in yourself. I’ve said it before and I will say it many more times: if you are in transition you are now officially in the business of sales. Your company is you, your product is you and your market is the employment world. Welcome aboard! Welcome to one of the most difficult jobs you will ever have full of frustration, doubt, insecurity, rejection, unknown – and that’s just a Monday!

So how does one invest in oneself and how much is this going to cost me you ask? Well, first, shame on you – that is the wrong attitude. Do not approach this as a negative; investing in oneself is a positive thing! The cost can vary monetarily but there is a heavy price of your time, effort and mental energy. You cannot slack on this, you must commit!

1. Take classes. Your public library has a plethora of classes available (I love that word plethora and am so excited that I can use it!); WorkOne Centers offer classes; there are community colleges, online resources: just look around you and you will see the availability. You may not be able to go back to get a college degree at this time but that does not mean you cannot take a class to help expand your skills. This can cost money, but you are worth the investment!
2. Network. Look in your community paper to see what networking groups are meeting and when and get your caboose there. Practice, learn, try – the more people that know you and what you can do the greater the chance they know someone or a friend of a friend that might be able to help. This can be low or no cost, do your homework and get moving.

3. Ask. If you are looking to get into a new industry, do your homework, research companies and reach out to ask for informational interviews. Generally I find people do what to help others, but how can anyone help you if you do not ask? This is free!

4. Volunteer. You can think of this as paying it forward, putting others before yourself or an opportunity to meet new people with whom you have something in common. You will be expanding your horizons and network, giving back to your community and building information to be able to put on your resume. This is free but the rewards are priceless.

5. Hire a professional. Sometimes you must realize there is only so much that you can do on your own and even that might not be working. There are professionals in all areas that can help you: life coaches, career counselors, etiquette consultants – you name it there are resources available to you. Yes, this costs money but again, aren’t you worth the investment?

5a. Go to a professional. Utilize the services of professionals that can assist you in your job search – staffing firms or recruiters. Many do not charge the employees but rather the employers so this is another free option in terms of money. But be forewarned – you must be worth the investment for them to try to sell you so I suggest you employ one or many of the above options.

Now, let me back up and say first that I completely understand the anger and frustration of losing a job and job searching. At some point it is akin to the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression then Acceptance. You are allowed to feel any or all of these emotions and it is perfectly normal.  Keep in mind; however, there is a difference between allowing oneself to feel these emotions and being trapped by them.

Before you can invest in yourself you must believe in yourself and the benefits of taking action. To be blunt – stop fighting everything in your world! I once knew a gentleman that was in transition for well over a year. He would show up at networking events, seminars and workshops and had quite the reputation. And not the reputation that one would like to have.

I was giving a workshop once on resumes and throughout the entire workshop he was very negative and challenging. Not to me personally, but to most things that any of the presenters said. He would say things like, “I tried that once, it didn’t work,” or “I personally do not think that employers care about that.” Negativity oozed from his pores and others around him started to roll their eyes. You see, every positive thought or suggestion that was given to him he rejected. Every suggestion on investing in himself was met with volatile denial, “I can’t afford to do that, I don’t have time. I don’t’ want to – I just need a job!”

You cannot afford to invest in yourself, just by becoming involved in activities that are free? Seriously? Think about that thought for a minute. To me it says I can afford to be unemployed for as long as I want to poison my world with my negative attitude. Seriously.

Now, one might think he picked up on this clue as to why he was in transition so long, but unfortunately, he did not get the connection. He created such a physical wall around himself that others were no longer willing to assist him to the point that they turned the other direction when they saw him coming. Learn from this, please.

I have talked to several recruiters, HR professionals and managers who state that they understand that there will be a time between positions; however, if it is any length of time they want to see that the individual was proactive in investing in themselves. Yes, they literally use this phrase: “I want to see that they have invested in themselves.” Do you start to see the connection?

Investing in yourself in any of the above ways shows that you are proactive in your search, in yourself. My uncle, when he was a teenager, was told my grandfather to go get a job. He came home after about an hour and told his mother, “I walked up and down the street and no one offered me a job.” True story. Your next employer is not going to run out of their building and say, “Oh, thank goodness you walked by, you’re hired!” nor are they going to come knock on your door!

Investing in yourself also means opening your mind to other possibilities. You want to be doing X, but cannot obtain that position right now. Sometimes the best roads are the ones that are not a straight shot to where we think we want to go. My path has taken some crazy turns but as I look back, I see that every step was a step in the right direction. No matter what job I did or what the title was or duties performed, I learned something and I moved forward.

If you are not willing to invest in yourself, why would an employer want to? Keep an open mind; get off your duff; put the time, effort, energy and possibly money into the most important person in your company – you. Oliver Wendell Holmes said it best, “I find that the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”

It’s Just Not Fair

We are used to hearing that from little ones about their older brother or sister getting to do something that they are not or not being allowed to stay up a moment past their bedtimes. Even from our teens in not being allowed to go have the freedoms of an adult without the mentality of one. But as adults, we sometimes find ourselves saying that as well. And you know what; it is okay. It is justified when we are upset about a slighting of our children or loved ones. I find that I say it more in my “momma bear” mode for my kids than I do for myself. After all, I am a grown up, I know the motto suck it up, but when it involves ones we love, well then, the rules change.

Get ready folks, football season has started and there will be a lot of analogies coming your way. This is my son’s Senior Year in High School. Big time! The season has not started and already I am biting my tongue enough where I think it will come off at any moment. First let me explain, my son is a chip off both blocks. Between his father and I – the kid is kind of ruined in terms of stubbornness, attitude and strong desire to express our opinions (in an appropriate way) when we see things that are not just. And, well, there is the attitude. He is 17, and a boy, and plays lots of sports, and has inherited his mother’s attitude. People have told me they can just look at me and know immediately if it is really a wise idea to challenge me on something at that moment. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeves. My son has also inherited my naive firm belief that things should be just, right and fair. Decisions made on the basis of merit, ethics and all the proper values. What I have seen in less than a week is testing what we are made of; but, as his father pointed out, it is just a matter of proving yourself once again and it will happen. But as a mother, it is hard. It is hard to sit back and watch helplessly while these things transpire. I want to DO something, I want to be able to make something happen, I want to make it better.

Last week I talked to a woman who is helping her husband with his resume. He is in an incredible funk and this sweet woman is carrying that burden along with the stress of trying to continually build him up and look at the bright side of things. It is killing her watching the effect the transition is having on her husband. She wants to do something, she wants to make things happen, she wants to make it better.

Another client freely admits that he is driving his wife insane because he is looking for work and is being a complete (and not my words) “nutcase” about it. He said his wife has asked how she can help (my assumption: she wants to do something, she wants to make things happen, she wants to make it better) and he tells her he does not know what she can do.

You see, the stress of transition falls not only to those that are in transition, but to everyone around them. Men, and yes I am generalizing here so forgive me, tend to merge who they are with what they do and how they can provide. When there is a chink in their armor, it drives straight to the heart. Women, again I am generalizing, want to do something for them, to make it better. It is a tough world to live in and sometimes we just do not see beyond our own frustrations.

Great, you may be thinking, you have wonderful insight to what is going on in my home but how do we make it GO AWAY??? I wish I had the magic answer to that. It simply does not go away, it eats and tears at us. Personally, I try to take a philosophical approach. This is a time that nerves are raw and we really see the ties that bind. This is the opportunity for very open communication and a chance to become stronger, even if it is not at this moment, but in time. It is also a time to make plans (a primary and back up or two), have a purpose, and go after that primary plan. And if it just so happens that it is not working out the way you want, after you have put everything you have into it, then you already have your back up ready to implement. Take control of what you can and do the best with what you have, this is no time for excuses. Now is the time to give it everything you have no matter what.

For the woman and her husband, I told her to blame me for the following: she was to go home and tell him that I would be glad to speak to him at one of my classes; however, before doing so he must come up with 25 positive things about himself. Only after I see this list would I be able to help him with his resume. I told her the point in this is to force him to see the good in himself in what he can offer not only in a job, but in other ways. It is a difficult assignment; however one which I think will be very valuable. I image that he will want to ask her for advice on the list and possibly he will get some glimpse of insight as to how much good she sees in him.

For my client, I told him he must tell his wife that he knows he is being a donkey’s rear end and he appreciates the fact that she has not smothered him in his sleep. He is not intentionally shutting her out but he honestly does not know what she can do to help him. And I told him he should tell her that as well then ask her opinion. Once he has asked for her opinion, he must shut up and listen. Not knock any suggestion that she gives but be appreciative that she gives it. And he should allow her the opportunity to tell him he’s been the rear end and offer a diversion, do something outside of transition world, even if it is a walk around the block.

For me, well, I am going to focus on the positive that my son has incredible athletic ability (this is not momma bear bragging, I have had several coaches tell me he is one of the most athletic kids in the high school) and is a strong young man able to stand up for himself and what he believes is just and right in a moral sense and not in a self-centered-the-world-revolves-around-me-teenage-entitlement sense. Yes, he knows the difference, I have seen it in action and it is those moments that my breath catches in my throat because there is an adult in there wanting to come out! Although, sometimes he just chooses to ignore it. I have to believe that when all is said and done he will be on that field kicking butt and (from my keyboard to the greater power’s ears) some college will want him to come play for them. Just on a side note, I also have game film of him, just in case any school is interested in seeing just how this kid tackles so hard he gives concussions and has hands that the ball just seems to find…

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!