9 Ways to Exude Confidence When You Feel Like a Hot Mess Inside

confidenceConfidence is a beautiful thing; it emanates persuasion, inspiration and power.   It emits a presence about a person that others around them easily tune in to and react to positively.

It is a great attribute to have; however, it is not always consistent or present.  Everyone has doubts, fears, negative self-talk that interferes with their confidence.  Unfortunately, these things can happen when we need confidence the most.

Here are nine tips to help you exude confidence when you are feeling like a hot mess inside, focusing on internal and external factors.

Externally – Posture

It is a natural bodily reaction to want to shut down or curl up when we are feeling insecure.  This can include crossing your arms across your chest, slouching and lowering your head down.  The one move that I recommend will help straighten your posture, release tension and raise your head all in one.

The Shoulder Roll

In an exaggerated sweeping motion, while inhaling, lower your shoulders and bring together toward your chest, roll them up as though you are scrunching them up toward your ears, continue the roll toward your back squeezing your shoulder blades together and finally drop your shoulders with a little emphasis while tilting your head up about 20 degrees and exhaling in a short, forced, pushed of breath.

In doing this motion, you may not realize how tight your shoulders had become.  This allows you to tighten them a bit more and with the release breath and drop, it will allow you to relax while straightening your posture. 

Simply “standing up straight” may cause you to push your shoulders back, stick your chest out and add to the tension.  The rolling helps you achieve a more natural, confident straightness. 

If you do not feel it the first time, do it again until you do.

The head tilt forces you to raise your head at a higher degree than what you normally would hold your head.  After the exhale, your chin will lower, but not to the buried position it had started.

Hand Reset

After you complete the shoulder roll, shake our your hands.  A nice, short, vigorous shake to both of them at the same time.  Odds are if you are a hot mess inside, your hands are giving it away.  They could be clinched, buried in your pockets or fidgeting.  Shaking them out releases the tension, allows you to recognize any give away signs you were emitting and let them go back to a more natural state.

Smile

Think of something that creates an easy, mini-smile.  I saw a video of cute dogs and when I think of it, I unconsciously let out a little breath and smile.  I don’t want to think of something that makes me laugh for fear that I will have a big old goofy smile on my face that might make people wonder. 

You also do not want to force a smile.  This could come across like the Sheldon Cooper forced smile that is just frightening.  Instead, just something that makes you smile a bit.  It relaxes the muscles in your face and gives a pleasant, yet unobtrusive, impression to anyone walking up.

Fit and Flatter

Make sure you are wearing clothing for the occasion that both fit and flatter you.  When you look good, you feel good and it comes through.  I do not think there is an exam I have taken from college through my professional career in which I did not dress up to take. 

Internally – Attitude

This may sound trite, but it really is all about the attitude.  What you are thinking you are broadcasting.  Now is the time that you need to change the internal dialog.

Safe Word

Think of a word, one that you have a positive affiliation to and make it your safe word.  That way when your mind starts to wander down the negative or worrisome path you can immediately stop it in its tracks by saying to yourself the safe word.

I am a dog lover or otherwise known as the crazy dog lady.  When I start to get nervous or anxious, I say to myself, “Puppies!”  If not one is nearby I say it out loud.  Who can be negative when you think of puppies?  Not me!  Whatever will help you throw the train off the tracks.

Be Proud

Once you threw that train off that track, it is time to reroute it.  Think of something that you have accomplished that you are proud of, no matter how big or small.  I recently completed a project helping build a fence, gate, arbor and path for my garden.  It was a lot of hard work – I had the bruises, sore muscles and sun poisoning to prove it.  But the end result was exactly what I wanted and it is beautiful.  I think of this and am proud of myself for the work I put in, the team work, how much I learned and that it is complete.

Chose the Positive What If

It is easy to be waiting for an interview or to give a presentation and have our mind travel down the negative road.  We think about how we might say the wrong thing, come across in the wrong way, sweat too much, seem too anxious, talk too much, go down a rabbit hole unable to recover…and the list goes on where we create and walk ourselves through a whole scenario in which we completely bomb the interview or presentation.

It is easy to mind play the negative.  Try mind playing the positive: you speak eloquently, how the audience responds, you answer each question perfectly, you are relaxed and in charge.  Allow your mind to create the positive experience and see how it feels.

Build a Bubble

Imagine a little confidence bubble around yourself.  Some people are offset by other’s confidence, only because they are envious that they are not exuding it themselves.  This little bubble protects you from any negative reactions and allows you to keep your confidence intact.

It also isolates you from comparing yourself to anyone else.  If you are in the midst of an uncomfortably long wait, it is easy to start looking around and comparing yourself to those in your surroundings.  Your mind then might start to wander on the “should have’s”; I should have worn this, I should have done this, and on and on.  Your bubble is to keep your thoughts all about you and the confidence that you are exuding.

Create a Challenge

I am a very competitive person, sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes, well, not so much.  I am the type that if someone tells me I cannot do something, I find a way and then I go do it.  Challenges motivate me.  Before I give a presentation or facilitate a seminar, I create a challenge in my own mind. 

I can always pick out the one that does not want to be there.  My challenge is to get them to smile.  At least smile, then maybe get them to show a bit more interest.  If I am really good, get them engaged in conversation, in a positive way. 

During an interview the challenge could be to get the interviewer to nod positively after your responses.  Start with something small and when you make it happen, it will help maintain or increase your confidence.

Exuding confidence is within your power.  You would not be there if you did not have the ability to pull it off; believe in yourself, relax and allow it to come through. 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

http://www.CareerPolish.com

 

Advertisements

Job Searching – Stay Flexible and Protect Those Eggs!

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – do you remember that phrase? When I heard it as a kid it did not make sense to me because the only time I thought about putting eggs in a basket was on an Easter Egg hunt and, well, wasn’t that the point to make it easier to carry?

Now that I am older I understand the phrase, still not sure of the origin but I will be looking that up as soon as I finish this blog. However I get it now and that’s my point. And since I now get it, I have to share.

Generally I find people who are putting all their eggs in one basket have one of two baskets: the first is hoping for just one job and one job alone. This is the one they want: they know it is going to come through for them so there is no need to look further.

The second basket is settling for one job and one job alone. If an opportunity comes up after accepting a position they do not consider it because they have already piled their basket high and wide.

I am here to tell you to stop carrying around that one basket and loading it full of eggs. People are talking and the eggs are starting to stink. When you are in transition you must learn to do one thing that is extremely uncomfortable – be flexible.

Regarding the first basket – I know an opportunity will present itself and you really want that position. I mean really, really, really; stomp your feet; close your eyes and silently say, “pretty, pretty please” want it. Been there, done that.

It is wonderful to get excited about an opportunity, it really is. You get jazzed for the first time in who knows how long; you see yourself in the position; you know you can do that job better than anyone else. But remain flexible and open. You may think it is perfect but that does not mean hiring managers think the same way you do. And alas, there may be disappointment.

Even if you think you are a shoe in (another phrase that I am curious about) for the job remember: do not stop networking, searching and keeping your opportunities open. Life happens; people make mistakes and hire the wrong person. It happens.

If happens to you, and I am so sorry if it did, here is another way to remain flexible and open. Call them back after about a month. There is nothing wrong with calling someone you interviewed with and were in the final running for the position to just check in. Tell them how much you really liked their company and to see if there are any other opportunities available because you really want the opportunity to work within that firm.

What are they going to do, tell you not to call back? Seriously. Swallow the pride a little bit and give them a call. I have actually done this and although when making the call I felt like I was begging I was so glad I did. The woman I interviewed with was delighted that I called and the first thing she said was, “Thank goodness you called back, the other candidate is not working out at all – when can you come in?”

As to the second basket – once you have a job and another opportunity comes you way, it is perfectly acceptable to check it out. If you were just throwing your resume against the wall to see what would stick odds are it may not be greener on the other side of the fence. However, if this is an opportunity that you would really like to pursue, then you should consider it. Do not, and I repeat, do not disrespect your current employer to investigate another opportunity. This means do not take long lunches to meet with people, do not call in sick two weeks after starting the position, and do not walk out thinking you have the new opportunity made. Remember, someone did hire you, they found value in you and this new opportunity might be great, but it also might be basket number one. Be flexible, be willing to listen but do not jump ship just because someone else caught your eye.

Sometimes it takes people a while to be able to seriously consider you for a position, whether they just got approval to hire, the right people just got back in the office or the need is now a priority. Timing is not always perfect so you cannot hold that against them. So hear them out as to what they have to say and you can determine for yourself if it is a right opportunity to consider, while you are still employed. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush you know. I’m not sure if that applies or not, but I am on a roll with these sayings today!

Job searching is frustrating and the timing rarely works out the way we want it to, but that is where being flexible comes in very handy. We just have to keep reminding ourselves that the world does not work on our schedule. I have to remind myself on a daily basis so trust me, this I know. Think I’m just saying that? Does the fact that years ago my brother once gave me a shirt that said, “I want it and I want it NOW” tell you anything?

Just remember what your priorities are, what is important to you and what is not, and what you really want to do. There is nothing written in stone that says you have to take the first job that is offered to you or that you have to remain on a path that is not conducive to your goals. Take a breath or two, weigh your options, remain flexible and it will all work out in the end.

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….

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!

Mike Ditka, Wrestling and Interviewing

Success isn’t permanent and failure isn’t fatal. That is something Mike Ditka once said. Let it sit for a minute and it really is a pretty powerful statement. I like it so much I have it tacked on my refrigerator and it helps ground and motivate me all at once. I think it speaks a lot towards attitude. I hound on attitude a lot, but I think it is important, it is my blog, so I get to!

My step-son Jesse started wrestling this year, as a 7th grader. He plays football in the Fall and baseball in the Spring but had no plans for a Winter sport so he decided to venture into wrestling – mainly because his dad told him he needs to be doing something during his off seasons. The boy is full of energy and really needs to keep busy in a positive way, as most young teenagers, but that is another story. Jesse’s school system is know for their wrestling program, I mean known, enough that they are looking at the 6, 7 and 8th graders and talking about State Titles in High School. They take it very seriously. And this is his first year. No pressure there!

We talked about his first year he may get his rear kicked a lot, but it will be the best way to learn. He has been pinned, which he hates, but I videotape his matches and he watches them. I mean really watches them. We see him trying different moves that kids beat him on and trying to perfect moves he has learned in practice. His attitude has made him stand out not only as an athlete, but also a student of the sport. He went in with the attitude that he was going to do this.

And what has this attitude gotten Jesse – sixth place in Folkstyle State a couple of weeks ago in his weight class. His dad and I could not have been more proud. My goodness, he looked like little Rocky out there fighting! I am more proud and impressed with his attitude than how he places – the kid won’t quit.

I can’t say enough about attitude. You see; if Jesse started the year with the attitude that he was going to stink, then guess what, he would have. Or worse yet, gone in desperate to impress the coaches being timid then he could have been injured. But he set the right attitude that was the first important step – just as it is for individuals when they prepare for interviews.

Remember, you are interviewing them too. It is not a one sided gig, at least it should not be. And if you step into that door feeling desperate that you NEED a job, any job, than guess what, that desperation will come through loud and clear. Desperation is not a pretty thing. Now, do not get me wrong, I know there are times that sometimes you feel you will take anything that comes your way because you have bills to pay. I get that – remember two teenage boys to feed here! But even in that circumstance, you still want to remain confident and positive about the position and about you – and you do have limits.

Anyone who has ever attended one of my Resume Workshops will hear me compare resumes and interviewing to dating. The resume is your first date, you want to tell them the absolute best stuff about you and get them interested in finding out more – the second date, the interview. On the second date you expand upon all your great qualities. So keeping with this theme, how many times would you go on that third date if the other person was desperate? See where I am going here?

Be clear about what you want and why. If your goal is just a pay check well okay then, no problem. But what hours are you willing to work, what conditions are you willing to accept, what type of work are you willing to do, what are your limits? Face it; you will not take any job. Don’t thinks so, ok, what if I told you I had an immediate opening for a great paying job as an enema specialist for those with severe diarrhea? Disgusting, yes, but it makes my point. Get rid of the desperation, know your strengths and your limits and go interview them! Remember, it is all about you.

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.

Tools in Your Toolbox

My dad was a diesel mechanic, when he died he was head of the shop for CCX, a damn good mechanic. He could fix anything. I grew up around tools, the smell of oil, grease, tools, knowing the importance of keeping them clean, putting them away properly and taking care of them. I learned the importance of tools; you can do anything with the right tool. I was comfortable taking some tools and scraps of wood or whatever I could find and see what I could build. I knew how to use tools and what I did not know I liked to ask. (When I was 14 I asked him to show me how to hot-wire a car although much to my chagrin he did not). I have my own tool box, circular saw, jig saw and yes, I have used them well – a couple of years ago I built floor to ceiling bookcases with a bench seat in the middle thank you very much. But the point of this early rambling is that I learned the value of tools from my dad. I also learned the strength in the truth from my dad.

Now that I am much older I carry those same lessons from my dad to other tools. You will hear the message of tools in your toolbox. For a job seeker there are many tools – your resume, your elevator speech, your mentors, your fellow co-workers, employment agencies, recruiters, networking groups – just to name a few. Today I am going to focus on employment agencies and recruiters.

Let me clear up one thing right now – employment agency does not equate to Temp Agency, although there is a time and place for these companies as well. There might be negative connotations about agencies and recruiters and some of those thoughts might be well deserved; however, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. I have met some wonderful people in both industries and they are very passionate about what they do and why. If you have not had a lot of experience with either it might be intimidating to try to figure out who to work with and why or even if you want to consider them in your toolbox.

First, go to the agency or recruiter’s website to check them out. There are many agencies that look to fill a need – a professional in a great industry and fantastic position. There are opportunities for office personnel, accounting, all level managers, to name just a few, for many different industries. These are top-notch positions. There are also recruiters who will not work with those seeking employment. This is a good thing to know, too. Any information is good information.

Companies work through an agency or recruiter because they trust them. A hiring company may not want the hassle of having to go through hundreds of resumes to find the right candidate. They utilize the agency/recruiter to filter out the cream of the crop, those that will meet their expectations and qualifications. A good agency/recruiter will have standards and rules that you must comply with so be sure to check this out. Think about it, if they have no standards how can you expect their clients to want the best? That would be you, by the way.

I know one agency that has a rule – if they offer you a set amount of positions within the parameters that you set and you refuse them all then you are no longer a candidate for them. I like this. It is a great standard and it makes you have a frank conversation –what do you really want? And honesty is important. I do not want to hire anyone that promises me the moon. I want someone who is going to be honest and tell me the positives and challenges and then helps me help myself.

A benefit of working with an agency/recruiter is you can be honest with them to tell them your skills and wants. It is not as though you would feel comfortable telling a potential employer “I have these great skills and want to pursue a new vein – how can I get there?” You can ask the agency/recruiter what you can do to improve your lot and have real conversations. They can help you determine a good course for you at this time. They might be able to see an opportunity for you right now that may lead to where you want to go in the future. These are professionals that help cut through the fluff to find the right candidate for their client and the right position for you. Agencies/recruiters have it on both ends so they are not going to waste your time – do not waste theirs.

Let me be very honest here, they are not on your payroll so do not expect them to

1. Drop everything just because you called
2. Perform miracles
3. Bend over backwards for you when you are not willing to put any work into this

Do your homework, just like you would if you had an interview with a company. Who are their clients (not specifically, but more in industry, size, strength etc); why do they chose to work with these companies; who are their candidates; who do they place most successfully; why do they do the work they do; how do they help place you?

In talking to recruiters, many have told me that your best opportunities come from networking, but there are instances that they can help. Find out what these instances are and how you can make yourself more appealing to potential employers.

Remember, you stock your own toolbox. You need to decide what is important to you, what works well for you and how much effort you are willing to give in maintaining your tools. Just keep in mind to look into alternative tools, you might be surprised at what you find.

The Art of Listening – Part Two

group frustrationI live with teenagers, this means that I am used to being ignored, have eyes rolled at me and generally repeating myself. (I only repeat myself once and add the “Mom” look so they know they are not listening and I am not happy.) This comes with the territory with two teenage boys. But I have learned some very valuable lessons on how to combat people NOT listening outside my home.

I addressed if you were a bad listener in an earlier blog, but what if you are on the receiving end of this? How do you politely tell someone to please, for the love of all things cute and fuzzy, please shut up? Not an easy task. But hopefully these little ideas that I have employed will help others.

And no, you really should not tell someone to shut up, it is pretty rude. And remember, Mom always said, “two wrongs don’t make a right”. My mother actually did say that a lot! A lot, so much so my son cringes every time the words “two wrongs” come out of my mouth!

If you find yourself in a conversation and the other person is constantly interrupting and obviously not listening, first simply stop talking. They might eventually notice that the only sound in the room is their voice going on and on and on… Some times it is just enough of gentle hint.

If that does not work, when they interrupt you again, simply smile sweetly and respond, “Oh I am sorry, I did not realize you were not done speaking, how rude of me to interrupt – please continue”. Subtle and can be effective.

Still no luck? Ok, then the next time they interrupt and they have asked you a question, simply look confused and again in a sweet tone with a smile reply, “Oh I am sorry, I thought when you asked me that question you were asking for my input, I did not realize it was a statement rather than a question, how rude of me, please continue.” The next time they ask you a question before you answer sweetly ask, “Would you like me to respond to that?”

Not getting through to them yet? You may even need to stop them when they interrupt you again and look them in the eyes and sweetly as you can at this point say, “I would really like to respond to this. When you have been speaking I have been respectful and listened to you and I am asking that you let me finish my thought uninterrupted. Then I would really appreciate your input.”

You will notice that I emphasized sweetly in each scenario, there is a reason. To be snotty or mean will simply not get your point across. And it goes back to the “two wrongs…” People can be rude there is no doubt about that. Try the smaller steps to gently remind them of manners. If it does not work, then as long as you are polite, respectful and yes, sweet, you can ask them to let you speak. It will also carry much more weight if you are a respectful listener to those around you. Do not be a “do as I say not as I do” – sorry, had to add one more terrible childhood quote.

Lisa K McDonald

They Are Watching You….

at grocery storeMidterms came out not too long ago. A few days ago the Head Varsity Baseball Coach emailed me about my son’s grades. (This coach is great, he really keeps tabs on his boys and helps ensure that they are a positive reflection of the team, the school and the community.) When I told Jake about this he asked why the coach was watching his grades off season – we are in the thick of football right now. I told him Coach is watching him all the time because he is one of his players. No matter what he is doing – Coach is always watching him.

This eerie concept applies to you when you are in the job market. You never know who you will run into or who has seen you so be prepared. Now, I will be the first to tell you if I am working in the yard or around the house and I need to run to the hardware store – I am not changing out of my grubby work cloths. But if you have seen my house or my yard you know that does not happen a lot. Give me a break, two teenage boys both involved in football and baseball, two dogs and two businesses run out of this house – are you kidding me???

However, more often than not, I take precaution to be prepared just in case I happen to run into a community partner, client or prospect. That does not mean that I wear the business suit to the grocery store, but I do dress in more of a business casual. Clean, fresh, no holes, wrinkles or tears, and fit comfortably but well. Men, that means either khakis or jeans and a golf shirt (or khaki shorts). Ladies, that means summer skirt or nice pair of shorts/pants and age appropriate top. I do stress age appropriate because I do not want to talk to a client in my “work around the house” t-shirt that has the bunny on it and the slogan “Its All About Me – Get Over It”. That is fine around the house, but not to a client! (and by the way, Jake got me that shirt!)

Perfect example – at the Northside BPE meeting Monday a gentleman talked about going to met someone at Paradise and his initial thought was to wear a pair of jeans and t-shirt. After more thought he realized that this is a place that a lot of business people frequent so instead he changed into a pair of khakis and golf shirt. Good decision, as he reconnected with a government official while in line and met two other contacts while waiting on his party. He said he was so relieved to have changed as he would have not felt comfortable having those conversations in his first choice of clothing. You just never know…. That guy behind you in the check out line may be your next employer or great contact to your next position!

Lisa K McDonald

Make the Most of Your One Play

jakes catch at hseMy son plays football. The first game he played offense and defense all game. Two touchdowns, an interception for 40 plus yards and was named Offensive Player of the Game. The next game they brought in a couple of receivers to give them some time, he was not pleased, but he was going to play defense all game. Before the game I told him he might get a play or two on offense so make the most of it. He went in for one offensive play. He was a receiver, caught a 35ish yard pass. He also was a maniac on defense and was named Defensive Player of the game. I would say he made the most of it.

Your resume has one chance and maybe 10 seconds to make the most of you. Someone reviewing your resume will scan the top quarter of your resume and decide in those 10 seconds or so if they are going to continue. You need to make the leap for that catch – put yourself out their early to let them know you are here to play the game.

So often I read through resumes and they include really good information. Information about accomplishment, money saved, increased clients, improved client satisfaction employee retention or money made. But these things are hidden further along in the resume – many times on page two. You are making yourself second string.

Once you have your strong Objective or Mission Statement follow that up with your accomplishments. Put the proof behind the words. Not only can you state that you are successful in increasing client base and sales, follow that up with your statistic of doubling sales boosting bottom line over $2 million in less than a five year period. If you state that you implement time and cost savings strategies, follow that up with how you implemented a new project management tracking system that linked all contributors and averaged a time savings of over 20% per job equating to cost savings for company and clients. Pretty good numbers to throw out there, huh?

Putting good solid accomplishments front and center allows you to make the most of your sales pitch (your resume) and gets you noticed more quickly. It also confirms that you have the talent and ability to back up your Objective or Mission Statement. Just like catching that one pass when is most needed. You increase your chances of being put in the game.

Lisa K McDonald