My Superwoman Cape Strangled Me

Yesterday I was a panelist at the ASIS International Indianapolis Chapter meeting discussing careers, transitions, branding and service in the law enforcement/security industry.  I was honored to be asked to participate and further honored to be sitting with two very distinguished and intelligent men as panelists. 

 

During the course of the conversation the topic of mentoring came up, specifically mentoring young college students wanting to get into the industry. First – how fabulous is it that this group of professionals actively want to mentor?  Pretty freaking fabulous if you ask me!

 

One point that I brought up was about expectations.  I encouraged them to ask any potential mentee what their expectations are about the industry and certain jobs in terms of what happens when they graduate and possible career paths.

 

A second point, somewhat related, was getting exposure to life skills or skill sets that are important yet not normally thought about – written communication for example.  It is vital in any industry but let’s face it, write a warrant incorrectly or unclearly and you are screwed.

 

I was discussing the meeting with my best friend this morning and she brought up another topic that – and I am generalizing here – young people need to learn: time management.

 

Ok, I’m just going to say that I just had to give myself a mental smack because using the term “young people” instantly makes me feel old and I did it to myself.  Damn it!

 

One thing I love about my best friend is that her mind takes the same twists and turns that mine does so our conversations begin at point A and take some weird, winding path to reach point 14.  It works for us.  During our conversation we realized two things:

 

  1.  There is no such thing as time management.
  2. We, as parents/caregivers/providers are primarily responsible for young people’s inability in time management.

 

It is because we wear Superman capes.

 

This point was further illustrated to me courtesy of my 21 year old son this morning.

 

Now that I have about four different lines of thought going on here, let’s see if I can bring it all together to actually make my original point…stay with me here…

 

Illustration from my son

 

My son got a tax refund – yay him.  It was mistakenly mailed to him instead of being deposited into his account.  I received the check yesterday and let him know that 1. Calm down, I got your check and 2. I would be depositing it into his account today.

 

I got a call, ok, repeated calls until I answered, this morning asking if I had deposited it yet.  I had a scheduled call this morning and planned on doing it after my call.  This did not set well with him.  His expectation was, and I may be exaggerating a bit here, that I would be waiting outside the bank doors for when they opened so  I could get it in there the first possible moment of the day.   

 

Yeah, not going to happen. 

 

I explained that I have a schedule and I worked it into my schedule.  After explaining this and letting him know that if he had certain expectations I would suggest that he communicate them to me prior to the day of the event.  His response was that he needed it deposited.

 

I tried to do the grown up explanation thing, that didn’t work.  So I responded, “Well baby my world isn’t always on your schedule.”

 

That pretty much ended communications for the day.

 

No, wait, I literally just got a response: “Yes it is, your my mom”

 

There is no such thing as Time Management

 

Time cannot be managed.  It is a continual, constant every progressing thing.  Everyone has the same parameters.  You cannot bend time or make it adjust to you.  We do not manage time we manage actions.

 

Knowing you have set parameters to work with allows you to manage the activity within those confines to complete whatever tasks are at hand.  You learn to plan, identify resources, prepare and allow for challenges.  This is action management, not time management.

 

Need to write a report? The most effective way to do so is plan; not your time per se but your activities.  You need to perform research, how much time will you allow for that.  You need to compose a draft, how much time is involved in that?  You need to perform revisions and finally a final draft.  Included in those time parameters are you allowing for delays, interruptions, writers blocks or heaven forbid technology issues? 

 

Now, knowing what all is involved, where do they fit into your schedule?  Do you have classes to attend, a job to perform, family commitments?  This is true management.  Seeing the entire picture and blocking out the appropriate time.

 

This is where the Superman cape has strangled us and we have failed our children or young people (dang it, there is that phrase again.)  Again, a generalization, but stick with me.

 

Throwing Away our Superman Capes

 

When my son was younger he was involved in a lot of things: school, sports, practices, family activities and personal time.  He never just played one sport, oh no, he had to have about 10 things going on at one time.  So, being the good mom, I controlled all the scheduling.

 

I knew when the practices where, what time, what was required, fitting travel time into all the planning and made sure I got his little butt to everything he needed. 

 

I made his little life easier because I handled all the logistics.

 

It was a mistake – one I wish I would have realized a long, long time ago.  I never allowed him to think about what was involved in participating in all these things; ie the time commitment and the conflict with other people’s schedule (namely mine).

 

He just knew the schedule that I prepared.  I wish I would have taken a step back and said, “Ok, you have practice at 6 – what do you need for it?”  This would have allowed him to think about getting his practice gear ready.  Then I could have asked, “Did you wash it?  It will take about an hour to do so, so when are you going to do that to make sure it is ready for practice” instead of saying, “I washed it, it is in the dryer. – because I wear the cape”

 

I would have also asked, “What time is practice and how are you getting there?”  This would force him to think about the time prior to practice and if I had a conflict.  What if I had a client meeting and couldn’t take him?  He would be walking if he didn’t work it out with me prior; and if he was walking that was additional time he would need to tack on to his schedule.

 

The cape I wore so proudly that allowed me to get him where he needed, all prepared actually strangled me.

 

I didn’t help him prepare for managing activities himself. 

 

So let’s not be so hasty to get frustrated with (sigh) young people for their lack of “time management”.  They haven’t been taught because we have been so busy wearing capes.  Even in a work setting, we are making the same mistake, in setting schedules for them instead of engaging them and asking them to assist or even think about the planning.  Because it is easier to do ourselves.  And why not, we’ve been wearing the cape so long, we know how to do it with our eyes closed.

 

I hung up my cape a long time ago, but as you see, the effects of wearing it for so long still come back to bite me in the…I mean strangle me. 

 

I recognize that I have played a part in the lack of certain skills (not that I like admitting that) but in doing so I also realize if I helped set the stage for it, I also have a responsibility to retrain the brain.

 

It ain’t easy or fun; but it is important.  Take a look at the (double sigh) young people around you – are you allowing them to learn?  It is time we stop complaining about their lack of skills and knowledge and give them the opportunity to learn. 

 

Be a mentor and when you do incorporate not just industry skills, but life skills and skill sets that we take for granted from wearing that cape for so long.  They are not going to get it right the first time and it may be a struggle because it is new to them, but given the opportunity, communication and expectations, they will surprise you and that will make them much more prepared to succeed.

 

Lisa K McDonald, CPRW

Brand Manger & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

http://www.CareerPolish.com

 

 

 

Tips to Help Stay on Track When Looking for a Job

Delay, avoid, procrastinate, ignore….then you need something NOW. I see this time and time again with those in transition. I have had numerous clients that apply this approach with their resume. They delay or hesitate on reviewing the resume I have prepared, or avoid giving me pertinent information and it just lingers. Until I get the call late in the day or evening that, holy cow, I need to send my resume to a company TOMORROW, can you do it tonight? Where were you last week when I was asking for the information?? One of my favorite phrases is, “Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part”. Seriously, did you forget you were in transition and an opportunity can happen any time any where?? (And yes, I always get it done)

So for those of you that are going through this little traumatic experience at the time you are reading this, shame on you! You should know better. For those of you that have been there, let’s see what we can do to make sure this does not happen again. Here are some things you can do to make sure you are prepared for that opportunity at any time.

1. You should make sure your resume is updated and appropriate at all times. You should have more than one resume and it will be modified for the job and skills for the position for which you are applying. For example, you may be a manager but there are different types of managers. Some management styles fit better with certain organizations rather than others and you will need to decipher what skills and qualifications each company feels are important for their organization. For example Company A may be seeking a very hands-on manager who is skilled at team building, open communication and being able to perform the work as well as lead it. Company B may be seeking a very analytical, time and information sensitive leader who is skilled at direction, delegation and oversight. Completely different perspectives and having a one-size-fits-all resume will not benefit you in the least.

2. You should make sure you understand your resume and can sell it – i.e. sell you. Your resume is your sales brochure. Have you ever encountered a sales person who constantly has to refer to a manual or sales brochure to tell you the highlights of the product? Not very convincing, huh? If I am in the market for a new digital camera, I do not want someone to read me the manual, I want someone who can explain it in my terms, show me the best features – in other words sell me on it. Then I can glance through the brochure to get further information and reinforce my “need” to buy that camera. You, in this little example, are the digital camera and the sales person.

3. You should have your sales materials with you at all times. Sales materials: that means resumes, business cards or skills cards. No, I do not suggest that you hand out your resume at networking events (unless it specifically requests that you bring them), but you should have your resume with you to read through again before you go into a networking event just as a refresher and boost. When you are at casual networking (i.e. ball games, concerts, gatherings, picnics – wherever) you should have your skill summary cards or business cards with you to be able to hand out to someone if they would like to contact you.

4. You should have a tracking sheet. Job searching stinks. You can get to the point that you feel as though you sent out one hundred resumes last week and did not get one single response. I have literally heard this line numerous times. Keeping a spreadsheet of your activity not only helps you gain a bit of perspective, it also helps you keep track of who you have spoken to, what companies you have applied to, when, what positions, what follow up actions you need to take and any important information relevant to your search. Knowing that you sent a resume to Company A last week, perhaps it is time to follow up – you would know this if you were keeping track of your activities.

5. You should be training your friends and family as Sales Associates. One thing I ask people when I teach classes is, “Do you friends and family know you are looking for a job?” Of course everyone looks at me like I am an idiot and say, “Yes, of course”. So my next question is, “If I were hiring and met them casually, would they know what key word I might say that would let them know immediately to give me your name and number?” Normally, those in my class now have a bashful look on their face for thinking I was an idiot only moments before… The point is, if you tell me you are an IT person looking for a job that means nothing to me. And quite frankly it would be a weak introduction to someone looking for a programmer to tell them that I know someone in IT, but no idea what they do. You need to be specific and make sure people understand that. If I were going back into the financial industry telling you I was a manager tells you nothing! But if I were looking to go back into Compliance, now you have a better clue. If I told you that I would love to work for a mid-sized financial company rather than one of the big boys in banking, investments or insurance there is another clue. And if I told you that I was looking to work in the area between and including Indianapolis to Anderson, there is another really good clue. You now have several key words: Compliance, mid-size, investments, insurance, banking, Indianapolis, Anderson – see where I am going here? Never assume everyone knows what you mean, make it clear.

6. You should make sure your references are prepared. Here is another question I ask during class, “Do you have your references ready, you have asked their permission” Again, normally a yes. Then I ask, “Have you asked them what they would say?” The answer to that one is almost always no. In fact, in between 60-80 classes I have only heard two people say yes. The purpose is two-fold. One, you want to make sure what they say and how they say it will be perceived correctly. I am a sarcastic person, it is who I am and I know it. I have to temper it and keep it under close supervision. If one of my references said I was a great leader, motivator and trainer with great sarcastic wit, the prospective employer may not like that whole sarcasm thing. The second reason is those references may see something in you that you may not see yourself. What if one of your references told you that no matter how stressful a situation got you were always cool, calm and collected and they always looked to you at those times. That sounds like great things to emphasize in a resume or cover letter don’t you think?

7. You should only offer what you can produce. Undersell and over deliver is an old motto. In this situation what I mean is do not get so involved in the job search and networking that you have booked yourself out of quality time for self, family, friends, and quality leads. I have seen people get so wrapped up in networking that they are professional job seekers with no real ability to make real connections and possible inroads to future opportunities. Do get out there and meet with people, do not make it a practice that you have no real results or you neglect the things that are important in life. If you are meeting with so many people at all times and if you are promising to follow up, are you able to keep up with the schedule you set? Sometimes we are our worst enemy. Here’s another old motto to help with this one: work smarter not harder – i.e. network smarter, not harder.

8. You should look at alternative ideas to building connections and seeking opportunities. Volunteer. Give yourself a chance to do something you love, help other people, animals or the environment and enjoy it. By doing something that you enjoy, you will meet other people with similar interests and you can get to know them through this common connection. From there, you can find out what they do when they are not volunteering and maybe they work for a company you are targeting or knows someone who does. You just never know.

9. You should be keeping up to date. I emphasized your resume earlier, but now I am expanding on this concept. You should make sure your skills and techniques are up to date. Not just job skills, but networking and interviewing skills as well. Make sure if you have a business social media page it is up to date. Are their groups or discussions you can join or be a part of, and if so, are you active and up to date in what they are discussing? Are you up to date in what is going on in your town, city, state and nation? Events outside our immediate life impact everyone and you certainly do not want to be caught off guard. It would be disastrous if in an interview the interviewer makes small talk and says something to you about the terrible oil spill and you reply, “Yes, the Exxon situation was very sad”.

These are just a few things that you can do to make sure you are prepared and ready when that wonderful opportunity comes your way, or even a maybe/iffy one shows up. If you are in transition your job right now is to get a job – don’t fire yourself by being unprepared!

Sometimes a Good Thing Isn’t All That Great!

Last week my son sprained his ankle. Sounds like no big deal, huh? Yeah well, this is my son so it is not that simple. He sprained it Monday night, Tuesday morning it looked like it was removed, beaten to a pulp and put back on his leg crooked. So Tuesday x-rays, Wednesday an MRI and Friday a visit to an Orthopedic Specialist, a week on crutches and now he’s in a boot.

Good times had by all. At first, he wasn’t minding the crutches because, well, I can’t tell you how many cute young ladies looked at him and said (with heartfelt sympathy and “poor baby” eyes), “Oh no, what happened?” and offered to help him – with a door, with his books, if he wanted them to get him anything – yeah, it was kind of nauseating. As a 17 year old charmer, he was kind of enjoying this. Then a couple days on the crutches and he was over the whole thing. His arms hurt, he could not get around very fast and he could not work out or practice. When he was first enjoying all the attention, I just kept waiting; because I knew the day would come where he would look at me and say, “This stinks!” And it did. And I laughed, because that’s the kind of mom I am!

So where is the point in all of this today? If you have read any of my blogs then you know it takes me a while to get to the point and I normally have to tell a story before I get there. Hey, you are the one that keeps reading so don’t blame me, you should have figured this out by now!

Networking, it can be a wonderful thing or it can be an activity that sucks the life out of you. But you have control over that. I know some people who are professional networkers. They attend everything, know everyone and can tell you in great detail all about it. For those that are in business I ask them how much many leads it has generated for them. For those that are in transition, I ask how many opportunities it has brought them. For both categories those professional networkers normally answer that they have a huge rolodex of contacts.

Yeah, well, I can go to any event and get a boat load of cards but that doesn’t mean a darn thing. In fact, I do not offer my card when I network. If there is a genuine interest then the individual will ask for it. When you network you must have a goal, and it is not to get as many cards as you can at the end of the night – this isn’t business card bingo!

Let’s take a step back before we discuss an event. Before you even go to a networking event, do you know what your goal is for that night, for right now in general? What are you looking for? And those of you that answered, “a job” just to let you know, I am sending a mental head slap out to each and every one of you! NO NO NO. Not just a job, but what job; what industry; in what capacity; what skills are you wanting to utilize; what are your strengths; what makes you happy; what drives you crazy; what city, state, or side of town do you want to work in; what are your challenges that you are willing to overcome? Where are you going? If you can’t answer this, grab some happy food, a pad of paper, a comfortable chair and get to work. You are not prepared to network. Prep work here kids.

Now, to the event. Have you done your homework – do you know who will be attending? Did you know that you can call the organizer to find out more information about the event and the attendees? Really, try it! It is much better than wasting your time. Do you know who you would like to meet, either specifically or in general (I want to meet Mr. Smith or I want to meet someone who is works for X company, even better if they work in Accounting), and do you have a goal in mind? If not, go back and read my previous blog about setting goals – look here it is in a convenient link: https://lisakmcdonald.com/2010/01/17/hey-new-year-wait-for-me/.

You see, if you go in unprepared to a networking event, you are going to be like my son on crutches. You are going to get a lot of attention and it will feel great. But all those looking at you with “poor you” eyes are just trying to get names to spam with their emails or waste your time with meetings to tell you all about them. You will be bogged down with all this useless information and irrelevant contacts that will slow you down worse than if you were on crutches.

Go in with purpose, have a goal, know what you want. The event may turn out to be a bust; maybe you do not meet the right type of contacts. That is okay, you did very well in being prepared and walked out with a great practice session rather than hobbled out with arms that hurt and two to three weeks stuck in a big clunky boot. Oh wait, that is my son…

Hey New Year – Wait for Me!!

A new year, seriously? Already? Wait, I was not ready! It was just Thanksgiving and I had a great list of things to do, put up all the Christmas decorations, bake holiday cookies, make goodies for my neighbors, send out all my holiday cards early…. Then it was Christmas, holy cow, I have so many things that I had on my 2009 list that I only had five days to accomplish! Now it is the New Year? It is already the middle of January – wait, let me catch up!

So if you are wondering, no I did not make any New Year Resolutions. I never do. Not because I run out of time or I am a slacker with no goals, I just realized a long time ago that making a years worth of resolutions at one time is daunting – especially if there is no short planning to back it up! Oh sure, you are normally all jazzed to start fresh and go full steam ahead (look at the parking lots at your local workout facility), but by February or March you are all fizzled out. Then deflated. Then driving by the local workout facility and giving it dirty stares.

So I learned to cut myself a break. Now, I do start out with some lofty goals for the year, but having a lofty goal and setting it in motion are two completely different things. Can’t eat the elephant in one bite, you know. So I break it down to segments, in four quarters of the year. It is much more manageable and obtainable. I am an example kind of girl so let me give one here. A typical New Years Resolution.

Let’s say that your resolution is to loose 20 pounds this year – period. Let the diet begin. Okay, great. But then what? How are you going to do that? What kind of goals are you going to set? How will you know when you achieve them and in turn help propel you to keep going? What about if instead you tried this: your overall goal is to lose 20 pounds this year. In the first quarter of the year you will cut out sweets and white breads through the week, walk three times a week and drink two more glasses of water a day. Not focusing on the weight here, but the habits. Then at the end of the quarter you can measure your progress then check out the scale. Dropped 7 pounds? Awesome, you are ahead of the game. You can continue with this plan for the next quarter or decide to increase your walking to four times a week and add more fruit into your diet on the weekends. Check yourself out at the end of that quarter – whoo hoo, you are looking awesome and feeling good! The point is, have a plan, measure your plan appropriately and adjust from there.

How do we do this in the job search world? Set a goal to be employed in 2010. Great lofty goal, right? So now, let’s break it down into quarters. For the first quarter you are going to attend two networking events a week and meet three new people at each event. Within two days after meeting these three people decide who you would like to get to know a bit better and reach out to them for a one on one. You will also attend one free training session a month. The training can be on job search or related to that or for a skill (for example a computer application) or even something fun – a free cooking class. Track your progress and guess what, look at you. You have met 24 new people a month! That is (given a rounded four weeks in a month) 72 people in one quarter! Now, let’s say that out of each one of the three, you met with one person for a one on one – get out of your way – you have started to establish 12 new relationships!! And not only that, you have learned something new three times this quarter by attending a class. Not bad, kid! How are you going to top that for the next quarter?

Set your goals, track your goals and pat yourself on the back for your achievements! At the end of the year if you follow the path of your first quarter – you will have met 288 new people this year! And, you will have begun to establish and established relationships with 48 people. Can you grasp this? That would be 48 people who are getting to know you and what you are looking for and working for you by spreading the word of knowing this great person! Way to go kid!

**side note** I always read my blogs to my fiancé before I publish. In case any one else is thinking this, he beat you to it – the first words out of his mouth after he heard this is, “There is a lot of math in there!” Yes, I am a numbers freak, but just focus on this” 288 new people – 48 new relationships.

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.