Do You Know Yourself?

At a recent workshop I lead called Interview Boot Camp, I asked the question, “Can you tell me something about yourself?” It was the very first question of the morning. The participants were sitting next to each other in a U-shaped configuration, and there were eight of them. This question seemed simple enough, but they were naturally nervous and self-conscious. Interview Boot Camp is not advertised as the name implies; rather it’s intended to be a friendly and educational workshop.

I asked this question of the first attendee, who began with “This is tough. I guess I’d answer by saying…”

Oh no, I thought, there is no narrative allowed, just answers. I predicted this would be a long morning.

The next person was no better prepared for the question than the first. She began by talking about where she lived and upon seeing the look of disapproval on my face, she said, “I’m not doing this right, am I?”

At this point I called a time-out. I was noticeably perturbed—uncharacteristic of me in a workshop. I regained my composure and said, “No, you’re not. Look, here’s what I want. You have to focus what’s important at an interview, which isn’t talking about your personal information. It’s about telling the interviewer about experience, skills, and accomplishments. And it’s about telling the interviewer information that is relevant to the job for which you’re applying.

“But since you’re not applying for an actual job, your answer today will be more general. I want to hear about your previous position and maybe one before that. What were some of the outstanding skills you demonstrated? I’d like to know about some outstanding hard skills. Give me an accomplishment or two. Wrap it up with some strong adaptive skills, such as the energy and enthusiasm you demonstrate in your work.”

They were taking notes while I was talking. The person who prompted me to explain what was expected in the answer regained her composure and started afresh. She did beautifully in all aspects of her delivery.

One of the participants brought up another one of my workshops she had attended called Personal Commercial and how it would be helpful in answering this question. I agreed, telling them that in this workshop they would write a commercial, recite it to their peers, and then get some valuable feedback.

Another said that maybe Personal Commercial should be a prerequisite. They all agreed. From that point forward the remaining six nailed the question like pros, which is what they are. They just don’t know it.

Keep on Course During the Job Search

It doesn’t happen too often, but yesterday I beat my wife in the Valentine’s Day competition. We don’t put value on the cost of gifts. Heck, I could go without receiving one just to save money. But we definitely have an unspoken rule that the card and gift be on the dining room table in the morning before we wake up. I scrambled at 6:00 am to write a note in her card and place it next to the gift I bought her. Then I went on my morning walk, relieved that I was the first one to have the requisite gift and card sitting on the table.

Jobseekers who know they’ve blown the whole application process must feel the way my wife felt this morning when she said, “I got you a gift but forgot where I put it.” Yeah, right.

There are a number of times when jobseekers “drop the ball” because they’re not on top of the search process, or they simply don’t care. But it only takes one mistake along the arduous journey. I’ll list a few that come to mind. Do these apply to you?

  1. Didn’t update your résumé to reflect the job requirements. Some of my customers admit to sending a cookie cutter résumé, or one-fits-all, to a prospective employer because it’s the easy thing to do. Not recommended. It’s sort of like giving someone a Valentine’s Day card that you’ve given your loved one the year before…and the year before that…and the year before that. Employers hate receiving résumés that aren’t written to them, ones that don’t address their needs and concerns. So make the extra effort when writing the most important document you’ll write until you land a job.
  2. Didn’t send a targeted cover letter. Again, like the résumé, the cover letter must reflect the skills and experience that are needed for the particular job. One customer of mine sheepishly admitted that she’d sent a cover letter with someone else’s name on it. That’s just plain embarrassing but goes to show you that care goes into writing and addressing the requirements of the job.
  3. Failed to follow up after sending the documentation. Unless the employer strictly says, “No phone calls, please,” follow up to see if the she has received your material. Employers aren’t dumb; they know why you’re calling. You’re calling to put a voice to the résumé and cover letter. In that case, make sure it’s a good voice. Be prepared to talk about your interest in the job and company, but most importantly be prepared to state what makes you better than the hundreds of other applicants for the job. Have your personal commercial ready to deliver, a commercial that’s tailored to that particular job.
  4. Aren’t taking LinkedIn seriously. I know this is tough for those qualified jobseekers who don’t know what LinkedIn is and don’t understand why it’s important in the job search. I see the dear-in-the-headlights look on my LinkedIn workshop attendees when I ask them how their profile matches up. These are people who are curious about the application—how it can help in their job search. Well, it can’t help if your LI profile isn’t up to snuff. Rather it can hurt. Here are a few ways it can hurt: 1) it’s identical to your résumé in that it doesn’t provide any new information; 2) it isn’t fully developed; 3) you only have a few contacts or recommendations. There are many more mistakes you can make with your profile. Take a look at LinkedIn’s Learning Center for some great tips.
  5. Don’t prepare for the interview. Everything, in a way, is done to prepare for the interview. You research the job and the company to write your résumé and cover letter. You make your best effort to network with the hiring manager or people in Human Resources after you’ve sent in your application. Perhaps you’ve been savvy enough to use LinkedIn to contact people in the company or correspond with someone who can give you inside information. So naturally you should be prepared for the interview. However, the night before you can’t locate your interview outfit. You haven’t taken a drive by the company to see where it’s located and how long it will take you to get there. How many times were you told to practice answering some of the predictable questions you may be asked? Again, can you answer questions like, “Why should I hire you” or “Can you tell me something about yourself”?
  6. Don’t send a Thank You e-mail or card. This one kills me. After all the hard work, you don’t follow through with a Thank You note that shows your appreciation for being interviewed, mentions important topics that were discussed at the interview, or redeem yourself by elaborating on a question you failed to answer. I tell my workshop attendees that the interview isn’t over until they’ve sent the Thank You note.

There are a many ways you can fail to make the job search your best effort, but you don’t have to “drop the ball” if you focus on what’s most important in your life right now, your job search. I don’t know what my wife was thinking about before she went down in defeat, but I know that I was totally focused on what was most important in making today a victorious moment this morning. Happy Valentine’s day, dear.

Here I Sit Wondering about Online Networking

I ponder this question, “Are people who are ridiculously active on social or professional networking sites equally or more social in personal/professional life?” I, thus, answer:

I believe that people who are extremely active on social networking sites, e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, are less active in their personal interactions. I see it as a matter of time spent dictated by one’s personality type, namely introversion.

I’ll use myself as an example. Here I sit typing away when I could be talking on the phone, at a social gathering, or in the next room with my children watching their mind-numbing TV programs. I freely admit that I spend too much time on LinkedIn, answering questions and reading responses.

I’m an introvert, and spending time networking online suits my personality type more than social interaction, especially after a day of leading workshops to numerous people. It’s my downtime and opportunity to recharge my batteries. More to the point, I thoroughly enjoy answering questions and reading answers posted by others.

Other introverts have told me that they enjoy the non-personal interaction that LI and the others offer. This is their form of mental stimulation, as it is mine.

That said, it’s a mistake to think that doing all your networking online will build your business or aid in your job search. I’m not implying that all introverts conduct their business this way. Introverts also have the capacity to personally interact with other business people and jobseekers; it just requires more energy to sustain a whole day of being around people.

I’m sure many people who read this will assume I believe this true of all introverts. I do not believe this to be true of all introverts; nor do I believe that extraverts avoid online networking sites. But I believe on a whole that time spent on networking sites can be dictated by one’s personality type and that this affects their social interaction.

Note: I spend on average two hours a day on LinkedIn, often more time during the weekends. Despite the amount of time I spend on LinkedIn, I am by no means as addicted to this application as other LinkedIn users.

Self Promotion is Evident in Children, Necessary in Adulthood

I’m not worried about my son.

My son is in his second year of playing basketball. He’s quite good, for someone who just started playing, and talks a lot of trash. He’s usually the shortest kid on the court, but he’s fast and dives on the ground like Larry Bird used to. All the parents get a kick out of watching him play. (One parent once asked me before a game how many times I thought he’d fall to the floor.)

The thing that makes going to his games fun for me is the conversations he and I have driving to and from the games. “Dad,” he’ll say, “how many buckets do you think I’ll get?”

“Four,” I’ll pick a number out of the air.

“How many steals and assists?”

“Four each.”

Wouldn’t you know it, he scores 10 points; steals a ton of balls from the slower, less interested kids; and passes the ball to four of his teammates who don’t know what to do with the a basketball.

I’m worried about my daughter.

My daughter is an excellent soccer player. She plays in the backfield and loves stripping the soccer ball from oncoming forwards. And she’ll take out anyone who comes near her, despite her rail-thin body type. I’ve witnessed her lay a tackle on girls twice her size, the collisions reminiscent of a train wreck.

The conversation she and I will have before a game is quiet like two hummingbirds. Occasionally she’ll ask me after a game what I thought of her performance, and I’ll use the old sandwich technique—compliment her on a crushing tackle, criticize her for letting a girl slip behind her, and finish by telling her she passed the ball well. These are great conversations between a dad and his daughter.

My daughter has been reserved and humble since she first started playing soccer. When she first stepped on the field, she was about the age my son is now, so I can gauge the differences between the two fairly accurately. It’s fair to say that my son promotes his skills more than my daughter does. Now, I didn’t say better. I said more.

It would be shallow of me to worry about who is the better athlete, my son or my daughter—and I’d be a fool to declare whom I think holds the title. No, I’m worried about my daughter’s ability to promote her accomplishments, particularly later in life when it really matters.

I also worry about my customers.

In the job search it’s all about marketing yourself—on your résumé and in your cover letter, while you’re networking, on the phone, and at the interview. It’s all about accomplishments and it’s all about using them in context. The written and verbal communications skills have to be in place—one is not exclusive of the other.

Recently a customer related a story at one of my Personal Commercial workshops about how she had mobilized nearly a whole city to promote the arrival of a professional wrestler. She had no budget with which to work, yet she was able to barter with a marble sign company to create a welcome sign for Cold Stone Austin; and she persuaded the city to rename a street for “Cold Stone.” The event, as she described it, was a smashing success. He enthusiasm in describing the event was similar to how my son talks about his basketball prowess; not how my daughter reluctantly talks about her soccer game.

She succeeded on the verbal front but not in her written campaign. Following the workshop, she asked me to review her revised résumé. I expected to read about her coordination, management, persuasive, creative, and a whole slew of other skills that made the Steve Austin event an outstanding accomplishment. While the story she told at my workshop was captivating and her enthusiasm was contagious, her résumé didn’t hint to any of her strong skills. She was unable to tie her strong verbal and written communications skills into the full package necessary to market herself effectively.

I would tell you about the time my customer had to coordinate the flushing of an entire sports center’s toilets, but that would be too long a story.

Will my daughter be able to promote herself in her written and verbal communications, or will she wait for someone to drag all of her strong accomplishments out of her? Will she express her accomplishments, or fail to express her accomplishments, in the whole package? Perhaps I worry too much.