You’re a Volunteer – Not Victim – of Your Horrible Career or Job Search

volunteerHave you ever gotten ticked off after reading something that really rang true even though you did not want to hear because it called you out on something that you were doing but would not admit to doing?

Have your found yourself saying to friends, family, co-workers, contacts or anyone else that would listen that you are in a never-ending stall in your career or job search due to no fault of your own?

If you answered yes to both of those questions then, please, do not continue reading this article.

I might just tick you off. Not intentionally, of course, yet it could happen just the same.

This week I realized that I have been incorrectly using the word ‘victim’. You normally hear someone is playing the victim or being a victim when they are behaving in a poor me type of way wanting sympathy while taking no responsibility for the events in their life.

That is not a victim. My step-dad inadvertently helped clarify this for me.

My step-dad is a great guy; he inherited me as a step-daughter when I was 40 yet treats me as his own. I love him and he has no business at 70 being up on top of a ladder cutting down tree limbs.

But he did, and there was a disagreement with gravity which resulted in him being the proud owner of a new hip.

He was a victim of a fall.

The dictionary defines victim as: “Noun. A person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action”

If you lost your job because the company downsized or closed, you are the victim of a downsizing or closing. Those are events. You were harmed.

On the other hand, if you are in a seemingly never-ending terrible job, career or job search and blaming events, people, the economy or any other outside factor, you are not a victim; you are a volunteer.

I am not talking about a couple weeks, months or so; I am talking about an extended, prolonged, excessive, lengthy, drawn-out, extensive, continual, long-term, very, very, very long (hence the never-ending) terrible career or stalled job search.

You are volunteering to remain in that position.

Why do people volunteer? Because it makes us feel good.

I volunteer at a woman’s program to do resume, networking and LinkedIn classes because it makes me feel good. Volunteers do not get paid; they volunteer for an intrinsic good feeling.

If you are a volunteer it is because you have come to feel good with the pain, frustration, anger or other negative emotion that you have cultivated and will not let go of it, even if it means letting go leads to a possible positive outcome.

Volunteers in these situations are quick to point out all the ways that the positive will not – cannot – happen.

Here are some common volunteer phrases that I and other coaches have heard:

My boss/coworker steals all the credit for my work
They don’t like me at my job
There is favoritism at my company
No one recognizes how hard I work
I keep getting passed over for a promotion
My boss is an idiot
The economy stinks
No one is hiring
No one will even consider me
It was their fault I got let go
The computer systems block my resume
They do not give me a chance to tell my story
You have to know someone to get ahead
I don’t have time to get that certification

These are not events or actions that cause you harm; these are situations in which you have a choice – you have options.

Leave. There is an option. Some others are: network, redo your resume, take a free class, ask for help or try something new.

I never said your options are always great ones, just that you do have choices. Don’t think you have a choice? Wrong – you are making one simply by staying. Sometimes those options make you feel like you are going backwards. Go back, go sideways, go forward – just choose to go.

I am going to throw out another option that should be considered first before all others, and this is one that many of my colleagues really, really, really, want to tell people but are much too polite to do so: stop blaming everyone else.

All the reasons above are a “them” mentality – ‘I cannot because of someone or something else’.

When an event happens, whether you got screwed by your boss, company, coworker, industry or whatever – you have a choice. You can blame them and wear the cloak of volunteer –or- you can see it for what it is, an event in a continual progression of your career and life.

It is like driving on the road and you veer off a bit and find the rumble strip. That rumble strip does not mean that you forgot to drive, can no longer drive a car or are going to go careening off into an embankment.

It is simply a rocky and very loud reminder to get yourself back on track.

Oh, I know, I am making it sound so easy. I’m not throwing stones, I am not heartless and I am not speaking from mount high. I was a volunteer.

Shortly after leaving a solid career in the financial industry and starting my company the doofas I was engaged to decided to have an affair. When I kicked him out I also kicked out the sole means of support since my company was in its infancy.

I was a volunteer. It was his fault that my career and life was in shambles. He did this to me, look what he did to me, look at the rubble that he left in his wake, blah, blah, blah.

Luckily I have a best friend who called me out. Sometimes getting called out is the shocker you need to get off the rumble strip.

She pointed out that I was completely giving up my power of choice. I was volunteering to boo-hoo.

I was volunteering to cry about business; instead I chose to work my butt off and made it successful.

I was volunteering to be alone; instead I chose to allow a true, wonderful, loving circle of family, friends and my beau into my life.

It is not easy to stop volunteering. I hated the process. I did not want to be positive, damn it, it was much easier to be miserable and blaming.

If I stopped blaming than I had to take ownership and I had to do something. There was no immediate reward for doing something, but there was an immediate reward for blaming, it made me feel better.

What got me through it was a best friend who kicked my butt with every boo-hoo and celebrated every victory, even the tiniest, as though I just won the World Series. I’m a Cubs fan so that is really saying something.

We started tracking the victories and they began to multiply. The by-product was the boo-hoos started to dissipate no longer made me feel good.

The hardest lesson and the one that made the biggest impact in my life and career was to look beyond the events. Oh, I so wanted to stay lingering in the events and milk that poor me thing for all that it was worth. I thought the events were what was making me miserable or sad.

They weren’t.

It was the fact that I was not ready for the better events that those crappy events just cleared the way for. When I decided to look at it from a perspective of no matter how painful and humiliating it was, it paved the way for something better – that is when life got better. Let’s face it, if that was the best there was than it would not have crashed and burned.

When I was able to step back and say, “thank goodness doofas did that” it allowed the most amazing, intelligent, supportive, loving, honorable man to come into my life.

“Thank goodness I was put in the position of eat what you kill” it positioned me to completely devote, nurture and love my business and create something that brings tremendous amount of value to others and myself.

Instead of “Darn it, I didn’t’ get the job” how would it feel to say “thank goodness I did not get that job, that means there is something better for me that I can now find.” Oh, it might make you gag the first time or two, but once you really try to see it that way, you get excited.

When you get excited you take action. When you take action, people notice and are drawn to you. When you widen your circle of people you increase your pool of opportunities.

Victims are survivors, volunteers are not. You survive a downsizing. You survive a layoff. You survive getting fired. I did not survive a couple of crappy events, I moved on. You do not survive a crappy job, you move on. You do not survive a stalled job search, you move on.

My step-dad survived the fall and he is surviving me hanging out with him to help out. It’s not all bad; he gets out of tree-trimming or any other house physical labor and I get to hear how to prepare pork the right way and was expertly instructed while making my first quiche.

✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰

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

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

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

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

–Lisa

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

I Prefer Windows to Doors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰

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

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

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

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

–Lisa

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

3 Things Not To Do When Job Searching

elephantsOne of the most difficult periods a person can go through is being unemployed.  Being underemployed ranks right up there to, however searching for a job can be depressing, humiliating and downright frustrating.

 

That is if you let it.

 

It can also be a time of renewal, evaluation and opportunity.

 

The choice is yours and it all begins with your mindset.  It isn’t easy to maintain a positive attitude when you are job searching.  Heck, if being positive were easy the world would be a much different place, now wouldn’t it?

 

Think about it – who would you rather be around positive or negative people? If you chose negative I am not sure why you are reading my blog – I’m all about the happy so you must have gotten lost somewhere in cyber world.

 

People are attracted to and respond to positive.  Period.

 

That is why it is critical that you not do the following three things when you are job searching:

 

Complain

A lot of us have been there, done that in the job searching.  We can sympathize and maybe even commiserate with you, however that does not do you any good.  It just reinforces the negative aspects of the situation.

 

Complaining about your situation may garner a little sympathy but what you need now is assistance, not sympathy.  Having a positive outlook invites people to want to help you because as a positive person you are more likely to take action on leads they give you and be appreciative of the help.

 

Complaining also tells the listeners that perhaps this is a constant state of mind for you.  What if they do assist you in landing a job – are you going to complain about that job too?

 

Blame

No one wins at the blame game.  When it is all said and done the truth of the matter is you are where you are and it doesn’t matter how you got there because it is over, put it behind you and move on.  You may absolutely be in the right if you were let go unjustly, but honestly, no one really cares.

 

They care about what you can do going forward.

 

Utilize the events as experience.  Try to be impartial when evaluating the past – what did you contribute, what did you not contribute and how can you improve on a situation like that in the future or prevent it?  Learn from these lessons, find the positive and utilize that to propel yourself forward.

 

Life is best lived learning, not repeating.

 

Refrain

Retreating into yourself and refraining from interactions and life will propel you down the rabbit hole of the dark side.  Now is the time that you need to reach out and communicate with people.  Not everyone you interact with will be able to assist you in your job searching, nor should you look at them that way.

 

One of the best ways to brighten your day and improve your situation is to stop focusing on yourself and help someone else.  When you are networking make sure to listen to other people and see how you can help them.

 

Volunteer – hey, you have some extra time now so why not?  It may not lead to a job but it will absolutely do some great goods for others.  When you give of yourself you allow others to see you as a whole person focused on more in this world than just you.

 

Give yourself permission to learn something new: a new skill, a new art even the art of relaxing.  Take the opportunity to evaluate everything that has lead to this point and realize there is more to life than where you were.  There are new people to meet, new experiences to be had and more mistakes to make – and learn from.

 

You can’t do that hiding away in front of the computer waiting for that perfect job to pop up on a job board.  Get out there and start interacting with people.  You might find by sheer dumb luck a whole new opportunity you never dreamed of just because you were open to new things.

 

 

It takes continually effort to stop yourself from complaining, refraining and blaming and there are times that you just need to get it out.  Vent it out to your best friend, your spouse or your coach – but that is it.

 

The rest of the world needs to see the positive aspects of this new adventure so they know you are welcoming them to ride along with you as you soar to new hights.

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Marketable Skills – Look Outside Your Box

Manuel came home last night and gave me a sly smile and told me Jesse gave him a compliment. If you have a teenager you know exactly why he was smiling. For those of you without children or have younger children I’ll fill you in – teenagers do not give their parents compliments. Of course it was a bit backhanded, but it was there.

They were talking about going to the batting cages and hit golf balls this weekend because Manuel said he needed to get a couple of buckets in as he has a tournament coming up. Jesse asked if he even knew how to play golf. He told Manuel that if it were baseball he would not question it, he knows Manuel can play baseball, but golf? You see Manuel is a former ballplayer and has coached for years. But Jesse had never seen his dad play golf or known that he has played before so he naturally assumed he could not play. Ah, teenagers. In Jesse’s mind his dad was a baseball coach, not a golf coach.

This got me thinking about my class this week. We had a great discussion about how you may have marketable skills or abilities that you have learned even if it was not a part of any job description. Our personal lives offer us a multitude of opportunities that we can draw from in giving examples of skills and abilities during an interview. Volunteerism gives us these same opportunities that we can include on our resume.

One word of caution – if you are using a personal example make sure it is not too personal and that it is relevant. The examples should illustrate your point and be able to demonstrate rather than just tell a story. Sometimes people get a bit too comfortable during an interview and forget the whole point – to sell yourself to that person. You want to show them that you are the right fit for that job: you have the skills, expertise, experience and ability to be the solution to their problem. Telling personal stories with no point does not help you; this is not a social call.

It can be done and to help here is a personal example: Someone once asked me if I could successfully handle multiple projects that were outside of my comfort zone and, if so, could I give them an example. I explained that when I was first brought into the financial industry I was required to earn my Series 7 exam with the Series 9 & 10 to follow at some point. Within a short time period my ex-husband was also diagnosed with advanced aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Over the next twelve months I was successful at my duties at my position; earned my 7, 63, 65, 9 and 10 Series licenses; spend every night and weekend at the hospital learning about dialysis, chemotherapy, and various tests and treatments as my ex-husband successfully battled cancer all while managing my young son’s school and sports responsibilities and activities. The person looked at me and said, “I would say that is a definite yes.”

Even with our job we have opportunities to learn new skills that are not listed within our job description. We get so ingrained in our position and title that we forget all of the abilities and talents that we have developed that are not tied to a position. Just because it was not in your job description does not mean you have not done it. Think about your last position and what the job description was when you first started. Now think about everything that you actually did – I bet the two lists do not match.

Stop selling yourself short and start thinking outside the box. You are your hardest critic, but for today, knock it off. Start listing out your strongest skills and abilities and then go back to everything that you have done in work-world, volunteer-world and life-world. Start writing down all of the things that you have done, can do and have learned or achieved. Odds are you will see there is much more depth to you when you look outside your cubicle.

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.”

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!

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.