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Beating Around The Employment Bush – Purple Clover

In my job search post for Purple Clover, I cover 5 things you should ask for in a networking conversation besides a job:

Your friend does not know if there is a relevant job for you that is hiring right now. S/he doesn’t know every single job opening within the company or its competitors. Therefore, even if s/he wants to help you, if s/he thinks you are asking about open jobs, sh/e won’t accept your meeting invitation. S/he thinks s/he’s doing you a favor by not “wasting your time” and will wait until there is a relevant job for you that is hiring right now. But we’ve just established that s/he doesn’t always know about jobs, so you will get very few meetings.

Furthermore, what s/he thinks is relevant — of interest, matching your skills, meeting your needs — is probably not accurate. S/he knows you from a specific context — when you were junior, when you worked in a slightly different role, when you were a different person. Do you want to cede control of your job search to what your contacts think you want?

You always want to get a meeting, whether there is an open job or not. This way, you can manage the conversation to get the information you know is relevant for you and your search. So you have to make your meeting request about something other than a current job opening. You also don’t want to make your request an open-ended fishing expedition for information because now you’re too broad. Instead, ask for a meeting to discuss just one or two particular items and assure your friend that you are not asking about job openings. Here are 5 things you might discuss:

Org charts. Many jobs aren’t posted or are advertised late, after a short list already exists. Once an opening is defined, the manager in the department with the need typically asks around for referrals before telling HR or conducting an all-out job search (why do all the work if someone great comes your way?). You want to be one of those referrals. You want to hear about those jobs before they are posted or jobs that never get posted. You need to identify the decision-makers in the departments you want. This requires a very intimate understanding of the org chart — who does what for every department you may be interested in. If you want a marketing role, don’t ask your friend about open marketing jobs. Find out how marketing is structured overall. Find out what area does the type of marketing you want to do — consumer insights, branding, digital, research, etc. Find out who runs that area, how many people work there, who reports to whom — in other words, who does what. You can’t find this critical information in published sources, so networking meetings are your only source.

Personal preferences. Some hiring managers favor specific pedigrees (e.g., Ivy League education). Some only hire from direct competitors. Some hire those they hang out with. These preferences will not be in a job description, plus you’re trying to find open jobs before they’re advertised and therefore don’t have descriptions. Yet, understanding these personal preferences will greatly help you position your background to be noticed. You may not think to highlight the name of your undergraduate alma mater from 20+ years ago when you introduce yourself to the CMO, but when you realize she would care you went to a top school, you mention it and catch her attention. Different things resonate with different people, and you need all the nuanced information you can get about the decision-makers hiring for the roles you want.

Read three more things to ask for in a networking conversation at Purple Clover: Beating Around The Employment Bush.

 

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Bargains that Kill

Bargaining is a stage, a phase really, of the acceptance process. And the acceptance process is very similar to the grief process in that the phases don’t really have any order, but they include denial, anger, sorrow, bargaining and finally acceptance. Bargaining is the toughest of these phases because it provides us the illusion that we don’t really have to accept that tough reality, instead we can fix it. So, let’s say my father was indifferent to me—bargaining with this might mean I continually tried to get him to be loving, and then married men who were indifferent hoping that I could get them to be loving. And the bottom line is that the more I’m bargaining with them—those people who are least likely to become loving and kind—the less the chances are that I’ll meet those hungry needs—so I’m really being indifferent to myself. Well, we can stay stuck there for whole lifetimes. And today we’re going to talk about how to get unstuck. And don’t miss the Oprah clip on today’s show.

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Ten Career Lessons From ‘Extreme Couponing’ – Purple Clover

In my career advice post for Purple Clover, I talk about how extreme couponers can teach all of us valuable career lessons:

My 11-year-old added TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” to my queue because she knew I liked business and money shows. Extreme couponers shave over 90% (in some cases 100%) off their grocery bill, earning thousands of dollars per year in free products. I would never have thought to watch this, but half a dozen episodes later, I’m hooked and seeing amazing real-life examples of key career strategies at play. Do you apply these ten good habits to your career?

Invest time. Extreme couponers spend 30-60 hours per week on research, clipping and shopping. This is not about leisurely perusing the Sunday paper before your weekly shopping trip. It is not just a hobby, but the equivalent of a job. If you want to turn a passion to a paying job or reach the upper echelons of your job, you need to invest the time. How much time are you spending to hone your craft?

Invest money. Extreme couponers subscribe to multiple newspapers. Some have multiple computers in order to take advantage of online coupons and bypass the maximum print-out per computer. These expenditures are a necessary investment in order to do their job. Professional memberships, conferences and classes might be the equivalent for your career. Do you know what you need and are you willing to invest the money?

Get support. Extreme couponers learn from their peers via online forums that post tips and strategies. Social networks, professional groups or even a single accountability partner can give you the support to take care of your career despite the busyness of the day-to-day. Are you taking advantage of your community to support your career goals?

Read 7 more lessons at Purple Clover: Ten Career Lessons From ‘Extreme Couponing’

 

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Three Books That May Make You Re-Think Your Career Choices – Forbes

This career coaching post originally appears in my Work In Progress blog for Forbes.com:

It can be easy to get into a rut with your career. Are you on a path that still excites you? Are you at the level, in the industry, and performing the role that you intended? Should you add something to your routine or discard a long-held assumption?

My post last week included book recommendations with explicit career advice to share. Here are three more non-traditional recommendations – non-traditional because only Bill Connolly’s Funny Business is specifically career-related, and even Connolly tackles career in a different way. I feature these three books together because each prompts questions about career choices that many people make automatically and without much introspection and revision later. If you’re looking for some new ideas, consider:

Funny Business by Bill Connolly for its take on the importance of comedic skills in businessThe subtitle of the book is “Build Your Soft Skills Through Comedy” and Connolly outlines a number of ideas taken from comedy and improvisation that apply to professional development. For example, “Let the Idea Breathe” covers how improvisational play and NOT cutting down ideas prematurely often leads to creative genius. Business leaders might adopt this to encourage more innovation and problem-solving. “Know Your Audience” covers how comedians develop rapport and how these techniques might apply to companies looking to better engage employees and customers. Beyond the tactical lessons, Connolly profiles a number of professionals and business owners who are also comedians and improvisers – a lawyer for the Department of Homeland Security, a wedding officiant, an advertising agency where the entire staff takes comedy classes. My favorite stories were the professionals/ entrepreneurs by day, comedians by night, who figured out how to have both the professional and play in their lives. You notice an opportunistic, open-ended and curious approach to building their careers.

Coaching tip: How can you apply more of that openness to your current career? Are you having enough fun? Fun might not be stand-up or improv, but what hobby or interest can you develop to bring more excitement to your whole life and therefore your career?

Fate of the States by Meredith Whitney for an economics perspective on where the growth isSubtitled the New Geography of American Prosperity, Whitney argues that growth is in the central corridor, the “fly-over” states that normally take a backseat to the coastal powerhouses such as NY and CA. This is an economics book, not a career advice book, though Whitney does point out where unemployment is below average, including North Dakota, where fast food workers can make upwards of $20/ hour. The major metros on the East and West coast normally dominate the news, and as a native New Yorker who never left the City, it was refreshing to get pulled outside my regular zone.

Coaching tip: Often times, you can become very insulated in your career – to one industry, to one functional area, to one geography. If growth is happening elsewhere, under what circumstances would you relocate? Even if you ultimately decide not to relocate, actually investigating your options and making a conscious decision to stay where you are brings you more career clarity.

Inside Passage by Michael Modzelewski for a firsthand account of how much one person can change and grow
This is a memoir subtitled “Living With Killer Whales, Bald Eages and Kwakiutl Indians,” so it’s most definitely not a career book. However, it’s a beautifully written story of a comfortable middle class person leaving everything behind to live alone in the wilderness (Inside Passage refers to an area between Seattle and Alaska). Modzelewski meets an entirely different set of people, picks up a whole new set of skills and pushes himself well outside his comfort zone (his dive to swim with an octopus is one of my favorite anecdotes and shows the lengths he goes to push himself). Michael Modzelewski is  currently a travel journalist and if you ever get the chance to attend one of his nature talks, as I did on a recent vacation to Alaska, it’s well worth it!

Coaching tip: I am not suggesting you need to chuck all earthly belongings and move to the wilderness. But meeting new people, learning new skills, and stretching outside your comfort zone are critical to your career. Rather than reading a dry, how-to book chastising you to do this, settle in for this poetic account of one adventurer’s change experience. It may inspire you to take smaller, but still change-inducing steps on your own.

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9 Steps to Getting a Raise – The Fiscal Times

Compensation is and should be a huge issue with everyone in the workforce. So why do people choke when it’s time to negotiating for a raise?!

Lack of research, preparation and practice.

I was recently interviewed by a reporter for the Fiscal Times and I discussed the specific steps you can take to ensure you do not freeze, or choke, or deny yourself the opportunity for a raise.

I know the following will be helpful to you: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2013/07/25/9-Steps-to-Getting-a-Raise-in-2014.aspx#page1

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9 Steps to Getting a Raise

Compensation is and should be a huge issue with everyone in the workforce. So why do people choke when it’s time to negotiating for a raise?!

Lack of research, preparation and practice.

I was recently interviewed by a reporter for the Fiscal Times and I discussed the specific steps you can take to ensure you do not freeze, or choke, or deny yourself the opportunity for a raise.

I know the following will be helpful to you: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2013/07/25/9-Steps-to-Getting-a-Raise-in-2014.aspx#page1

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Capitalize on Your Eclectic Experience – Life Reimagined At Work

In my career management piece for Life Reimagined At Work, I cover personal branding for the professional with the non-traditional background:

A seasoned journalist contacted me years after we’d worked together, inviting me to a fine arts show where he was exhibiting. I was impressed by his versatility. However, a recruiting colleague shared a similar story with a different outcome. When an executive search firm was filling a senior HR position, they passed on a senior HR executive who had a side career in the visual arts. What impressed me as versatility struck them as lack of commitment. I know many job seekers with diverse experience who are anxious about how to pull it together in a cohesive, compelling personal brand.

If you have been working in several different industries, roles or careers, here are three guidelines.

Find the common thread. One of my clients had worked for several years each in financial services, medical equipment, non-profit, real estate and energy, with roles in sales, marketing and operations. You don’t want to recite a laundry list of everything you do because your audience won’t remember. Instead, find a common thread to build your story around. In my client’s case, all of her accomplishments relate to opening a new market or developing a new product. Her common thread is that she can launch and grow (a value proposition that is easy to remember), and she has done so in diverse industries and roles (the laundry list is now neatly housed under a theme). What is the common thread for the different projects or roles in your background?

Continue reading at Life Reimagined At Work: Capitalize on Your Eclectic Experience.

 

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I think therefore I am not?

Descartes told us that our thoughts proved our existence. But what if just the opposite is true? What if it isn’t our thoughts that prove our existence but our presence in the experience of the now? If those who teach meditation, as the art of suspending thought or at least backing away from it to simply observe it, are correct, then why is thought still considered to be so very important to those who tell us that are thoughts create our realities? What if our realities are created by something much deeper, much more real? But we can’t really say that thinking is a useless activity either. So, what is the true nature of thought? Tune in to find out. And don’t miss our airing of this week’s clip from Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday series.

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What The Best Introductions Have In Common – Purple Clover

In my career advice post for Purple Clover, I talk about the two characteristics every elevator pitch should have:

Do you freeze up when you have to introduce yourself? Maybe you’re in transition and feel like you have 20 seconds to prove your professional worth to everyone you meet. Or you’ve launched a business and worry that people don’t know what you do (or worse, they don’t care). While it’s true that the way you introduce yourself is important, you’re putting too much pressure on yourself if you’re trying to get a job lead or entice a prospective client with just your pitch. Your introduction is just that — an introduction, a beginning, a start. The best introductions have two things in common:

Memorable

A lot of venues where you get a chance to use your introduction – career fairs, conferences, professional association meetings — are crowded with lots of similar people. Most people will offer their name and their job or business. Maybe they’ll explain a little bit about what they do. After meeting multiple people with such similar introductions, it’s hard to remember who’s who.

If you want your introduction to lead to another conversation, that new acquaintance needs to remember you enough to seek you out again. You need to include something the listener can easily remember, regardless of how many other people s/he meets that night. This might be professional – being employee #3 in a now-famous start-up – or it might be personal – an unusual hobby not normally associated with your trade (I’m a career consultant/ stand-up comic, and yes, I work that into many of my introductions).

Of course, you still want your introduction to flow and make sense, so you can’t just lob in something memorable for the shock value. I once met a female banker who raced cars as a hobby – car racing is unusual enough to be memorable but still fits in with the type-A, intense career she is seeking. For your own memorable pitch, experiment with blending your personal and professional sides. Don’t feel like you have to be all business all the time.

Continue reading for trait #2 at Purple Clover: What The Best Introductions Have In Common.

 

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Test Your Network Today – Life Reimagined At Work

In this career advice piece for Life Reimagined At Work, I share 5 characteristics of a strong network:

Most people look at their network only when they’re job-hunting. This is short-sighted, as the best relationships are built over time, with mutual engagement, not just you asking for something. When you do have a request, it’s an easy way to see if your network is strong – do you get what you want? Short of manufacturing a request to test your connections, you’ll know that your network is robust if is has these 5 characteristics.

A Big Network Is a Healthy Network Size does matter. Yes, you want deep, genuine relationships but the value of your network isn’t just who you know but whom the people you know are connected to, whom those connections know, and so on. The fewer people you know, the shorter your extended reach. A network with quantity also ensures you don’t have to rely on the same people over and over when you need something. If you can only think of a few people you regularly connect with, make a specific effort to expand the numbers in your network.

Diversity Counts Too A strong network has variety. If you only know similar types of people or people in the same industry or role, you will have limited perspective and limited access to breaking trends. Focus on meeting different people by making one date a week with someone outside your department, outside your company or outside your industry.

See 3 more characteristics of a strong network at Life Reimagined At Work: Test Your Network Today.