5 reasons why you should tell your children if you lose your job

FamilyI tell my customers the first thing they need to do is tell everyone they know that they are unemployed. This includes colleagues from past jobs, friends, neighbors, relatives, hair stylists, convenience store owners, LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends; and even people they meet for the first time, providing the moment is right.

Most of my customers are amenable to spreading the word far and wide. They know that at any time someone may be able to provide a lead or offer sage advice. Sometimes this happens in my workshops.

But some don’t consider telling the people who should be some of the first to know, their children. Too often people tell me they wouldn’t consider telling their kids because they don’t want to let them down, don’t want them to worry, are afraid their children will lose faith in them.

Hogwash, I tell them. Your children need to know about your situation if you want them to understand the meaning of life.

Dr. Julie Olson, Ph.D. a clinical psychology, at the Santa Margarita Solutions Center, asserts, “Whether you lost your job, had a pay cut or lost hours at work, as much as this could upset you and create anxiety about your financial situation, the main job you have as a parent is to give your children a sense of security and teach them how to cope with whatever comes their way.”

I lost my job in marketing about 12 years ago. It was devastating, but I felt it was important to share the news with my three kids. I told them the day I was laid off. Yes it was a humbling experience, but they had to know for a number of reasons.

  1. There would be changes around the house. There wouldn’t be any more shopping sprees. My eldest daughter’s steady flow of GAP and Abercrombie and Fitch clothing would be cut significantly. The quality and quantity of food was going to change; but we would still eat.
  2. Daddy wouldn’t be going to work every morning. Instead I would be conducting a job search, which meant I would need time to be out of the house to visit the career center or local library, hit the pavement to knock on companies’ doors, and network. I would need a quiet environment to write résumés and cover letters, or make follow-up calls.
  3. I would be acting a little different. I might be moody or distracted, but I would still love them very much. I would need them to understand that it would be a sad and frustrating time but they shouldn’t feel they were at fault. If I seemed distanced while with them, it was because I was thinking about finding work. For little people this can be hard to understand.
  4. Losing a job is a fact of life. People sometimes lose their jobs more than once. It’s not a pleasant thing, but it’s temporary and will eventually pass. I couldn’t be Superman. I would need support from them and other people. In a way, this would be a great lesson for them about persevering in times of trouble.
  5. We would focus on the important things in life. Although a job loss is temporary, the duration of unemployment can be longer than expected. That year Christmas was celebrated like usual. The kids didn’t get all they wanted, and my wife and I went without gifts; but we still celebrated the holiday. I don’t think the kids thought once about our situation.

All came to pass after six months of unemployment. I was delighted to tell my three kids the good news. The funny thing about that day was when my son told me he didn’t want me to go back to work. Who, he wondered out loud, would take him to playgroup, or play Lego with him? At the time he asked me, I was more concerned about getting back in a working groove. Now, I miss the time I had with my children who understood at that bleak time more about life than they did when I was still working.

If you haven’t told your kids about losing your job, do it soon. As Dr. Julie Olson writes,  “…teach them how to cope with whatever comes their way.”

Photo, Flickr, Brian Stupar, Family Hike

5 reasons why what you know about your introversion can limit you

BrainstormingFortuneLiveMediaToday I think about how being mindful of  my preference for introversion may affect my actions. Like a self-fulfilling prophesy, this knowledge occupies my thoughts and sometimes prevents me from doing what I’d like to, what I should do. So the question is would it be better to be ignorant of who I am?

How I direct my energy. Because I’m an introvert, I should prefer not going to an evening business networking event after a hard day at work. Introverts should take time to recharge their battery, not exert themselves by socializing after a day of being around people.

Instead: I have the energy to attend social or networking events despite believing that my energy should be saved for reading a good book on my Kindle, while munching on Gummy Bears. I must fight the generalization.

How I communicate. Extraverts rule the world when it comes to small talk. Because I’m an introvert, my ability to make small talk consists of 140 characters of carefully chosen words. Entering a room full of strangers, expected to make small talk, should make me anxious and want to run from the room screaming like a lunatic.

Instead: I can make small talk with the best of them, as long as I’m not battling a motor mouth for airtime. I’ve often dominated the conversation in the lunchroom much to the surprise of my colleagues. I must fight the belief.

How I listen. As an introvert, I’m supposed to listen to people…and like it? Accordingly I should actively listen and wait until the person has said his/her 5,000 words. Extraverts, according to common belief, are off the hook when it comes to listening intently–they’re free to talk nonstop because…that’s the way it is.

Instead: I find it hard to listen to people who believe they’re all that. If there were an off button on some of the loquacious Neanderthals I meet, my right index finger would ache. I am totally cool listening to people who believe in equal rights in conversation. I must politely end a one-sided conversation, as well as be cognizant of my over talking.

How I learn best. Introverts are said to learn best through writing and research, rather than by talking to others. This implies that we’d rather receive e-mails than talk with our colleagues’ in their cubicles.

Instead: It is true that I enjoy writing, but I don’t get my kicks by spending a whole day at my computer researching topics like the Sabin Oxley Act and writing a 30-page whitepaper on it. I like talking with my colleagues as long as it’s productive and doesn’t drain my time, so I must extend my self more often.

How about those meetings. Apparently I can’t participate at meetings because I think too much before talking and, thus, lose my chance to express my brilliant thoughts. The same goes for brainstorming. When others are coming up with hundreds of ideas and throwing spaghetti against the wall, I’m supposed to remain quiet until I have an idea that will stick.

Instead: While it’s true that some extraverts suck the air out of a meeting room, I can throw my weight around as good as the next guy. True, I’m not a fan of brainstorming, but sometimes it works if facilitated by the right person. Instead of over thinking, I must speak up more often and express my great thoughts.

I’ll be the first to admit that knowing the characteristics of an introvert sometimes shapes my actions at work, as well as in my daily life. I wonder how I’d act if I was ignorant of who I am. Would I act more like an extravert? Nah.

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5 tips for promoting yourself in the job search

baseball

When I made our town’s Little League All-Star team, I ran to my neighbor’s house where my father was helping him fix a lawnmower. I burst into the garage and told my father with pride that I’d made the team. Instead of sharing my excitement, he told me not to brag and turned to finish working on our neighbor’s lawnmower.

I’ve thought for a long time that that day my father taught me an important lesson about humility. Now I’m not so sure it was such an important lesson. Some believe that our inability to promote ourselves is due to being told as children not to brag. To brag is inappropriate; to be humble is honorable.

This inability to self-promote often rears its ugly head in my workshops when my customers declare they cannot “brag.” I assume, like me, they were told not to brag as children.

I also understand that their confidence is shattered; and when you’ve been kicked in the gut, it’s hard to muster up the ability to talk about yourself in a positive, yet objective way—which is to say, not brag. Here are five tips on how to promote yourself during the job search.

  • Understand your audience. Know what interests potential networkers and employers. If you have the “stage,” this makes self-promotion all that much easier. This gives you free reign to highlight your accomplishments and related experience, as long as they apply to the job search and eventually the position for which you’re applying. If, however, you’re in the company of people who have no interest in what you’ve achieved, save touting your accomplishments for the proper audience.
  • Back up your accomplishments. As a jobseeker, your accomplishments will seem more authentic if you have evidence to back them up, perhaps in the form of recommendations, awards, or outstanding references. As well, if you can quantify your accomplishments with percentages and dollars, they will carry more weight. What others say about you, I tell my customers, carries more weight then what you say about yourself. And always be truthful; never lie about your achievements. Lies will come back to bite you in the ass.
  • Be relevant. Any self-promotion has to have relevance. If the employer is looking for someone who has demonstrated superb written communications, you should not talk about the numerous presentations you gave before packed houses; you will come across as a round peg for the employer’s square whole. Think back to the times when you wrote the company newsletter and got published in trade magazines.
  • Don’t overdo it. Avoid using words like “great,” “outstanding,” “the best,” etc. It is far better to provide facts than conjecture. For example, “I was the best counselor on the staff“comes across as bragging without any substance. Better put would be, “Among my colleagues, I was given the highest-level customers on a regular basis. I was trusted by management to give them the service they needed.” Yes, you were the best.
  • Give credit where credit is due. I often tell my customers that they should talk about their accomplishments, because that’s what employers want to know; what they’ve accomplished. But when they’ve worked with a team that achieved a common goal, this needs to be expressed. No one likes a smoking gun who takes all the credit.

The simple fact is that you as a jobseeker must promote yourself, because you can’t rely on others to be there by your side in your job search. We’ve been taught not to brag, like the time I rushed to my father proud of making the town’s Little League All-Star team, but we have to realize that promoting ourselves at the right moment isn’t bragging.

Photo, Flickr, Roiz, Roiz, Play Baseball

3 factors that can motivate you in your job search

For some of you reading this, the bad news is that you’re unemployed; but the good news is that you are in complete control of finding your next job.

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink—he writes about how science and the business operation paradigm are out of sync. Jobseekers can learn how to better conduct their job search by embracing Pink’s theories.

Pink asserts that most people are motivated by intrinsic values, which he calls Motivation 3.0. More specifically, we’re driven by autonomy, mastery, and purpose. The predecessor to Motivation 3.0 is Motivation 2.0, which assumes we’re driven by money, rewards, and reprimand—the carrot and stick theory, or extrinsic values. Motivation 1.0 satisfies our basic needs.

Unfortunately, many companies have not graduated to Motivation 3.0 and are stuck in Motivation 2.0, perhaps because management doesn’t trust their employees to act alone, doesn’t encourage them to challenge themselves, and doesn’t encourage them to see the purpose of their actions.

Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives. Pink gives Google as an example of autonomy as a motivator, where employees are given 20% of their time to work on whatever they want. This, as a result, promotes creativity; and creativity often leads to better ideas and better products.

Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters. The idea is to challenge yourself to be better and willing to accept failure. Some believe they never learn without failing and given the chance to correct their mistake/s. Have we evolved into a culture where failure is not an option?

Purpose: The yearning to do what we do at the service of something that is better than ourselves. What is your purpose in life? Is it to do what is simply required and receive an adequate performance review, or is your purpose to accomplish goals that grow you as an individual and, as a result, make the company better?

How motivation plays a role in our job search.

In my mind our motivation to get back to work comes from within. Certainly earning a paycheck is an extrinsic motivator, we need money to pay our bills, but what really motivates us is regaining our sense of identity and the daily routine we’ve grown accustomed to. Given that we are ultimately internally motivated, we need to take action and conduct a proper job search. Here are the steps you need to take:

Autonomy: I ask my jobseekers who is rewarding or reprimanding them for working hard and smart in their job search. Similarly, who is standing over them to make sure they network, engage on LinkedIn, and write compelling résumés and cover letters? The answer is no one. They have complete autonomy in their job search—they’re in complete control of their actions. Further, jobseekers can conduct their job search however they see fit. There are rules, but breaking some rules can lead to success, not reprisal or being fired.

Mastery: Jobseekers must master the job search in order to be successful. Some haven’t written a résumé or been on an interview in 10, 20, even 30 years. There will be a lot of attempts and failures along the way. Many résumés will be rejected because they’re poorly written and don’t talk to the needs of each employer; many interviews won’t go well. But jobseekers must not lose their resolve—when they master the process, results will start pouring in.

Purpose: Without purpose, the other two elements of Motivation 3.0 are a moot point. When I ask jobseekers what their purpose is, some will say getting a job; but this is not enough. Their purpose should be getting a job they find rewarding; a job that meets their values; a job that offers them autonomy, mastery, and…purpose. Purpose closes the loop. To those who simply say they’ll do anything, I tell them to think harder about what they really want to do.

Not all jobseekers will employ motivation 3.0. Instead they will go through their job search blindly and take whatever comes their way. Ultimately they will be unhappy and, thus, unproductive. The obvious way to look for work is to take ownership of the job search and embrace the three factors of motivation.

8 reasons why you aren’t a fit for the job

And you’ll never know which one.

interview failur“You aren’t the right fit.”

This is the default answer recruiters and hiring managers give job candidates when the hiring manager (HM) doesn’t hire them. But it’s as vague as the answer my son gives me when I asked how school went. “Fine.”

Though you may never know why exactly you weren’t hired, keep in mind that it may not be something you did wrong. You didn’t screw up the interview because you said your greatest weakness is you don’t spell well. Or you couldn’t come up with a story about when you saved a project from failing.

No, there were other reasons why you weren’t “a good fit.” Here are some possibilities:

  1. Legitimate reasons. Legitimate reasons such as relocation, compensation, or other financial issues. Hiring a candidate is a business transaction, so if you’re going to put too much of a dent into the company’s pocketbook, there’s only one solution—the company ends the business transaction. Or you just don’t make the grade, whether it’s because you lack the technical skills or you don’t have the personality for the work environment—no fault of yours.
  2. They went with someone inside. It’s not uncommon for a company to advertise a position even when they have an internal hire in mind. But the company wants to make certain that they hire the best possible person, so they test the water and conduct a traditional search. You’re better qualified but not as well known as their internal candidate. As well, the company is fostering good will among its employees.
  3. You’re too good. Many jobseekers have told me that the hiring manager who interviewed them was less knowledgeable; that they could do the HM’s job. Understandably the HM felt insecure, harboring “you’ll-take-my-job” feelings and decided to go with a safer, less qualified candidate. Perhaps one of the other candidates the recruiter sent to them for consideration.
  4. Hiring managers are sometimes incompetent interviewers. Many HMs aren’t trained to conduct interviews to capture the most complete candidate. Their priority is usually hiring someone who has the best technical qualifications. In finding someone who can handle the responsibilities in their sleep, HMs neglect another important aspect of the job—you’re motivated and will work well with others.
  5. Unfortunately hiring managers make decisions based on personal biases. Nepotism is one blatant reason why people are hired for a position. One of my customers was told she was being let go so the owner could hire his cousin. He actually admitted it to her. And there’s always a candidate’s appearance, attractive or not, that may come in play. I remember working at a company where the director of sales coincidentally hired beautiful, incompetent women. It was a running joke among the employees.
  6. You’re brought in for the wrong position. Has this happened to you? You applied for a particular position but are surprised to learn that the questions being asked are not ones you prepared for. Job responsibilities change midstream possibly because the HM is new and has other needs she needs met. This can throw anyone off their game, so don’t sweat it if you don’t do as well as you’d like at the interview.
  7. Sometimes hiring managers don’t have a choice. As a favor to a “friend,” an HM will have to hire someone who most likely isn’t qualified. Usually this is a strong suggestion from someone higher up in the organization, and there’s not much an HM can do about it, except to argue against hiring someone who isn’t a fit for the position. This comes at great risk to the HM and is probably not worth it.
  8. Okay, you didn’t do too well at the interview. But this doesn’t mean you were wrong for the position. There are times when job candidates are not on their A game, when they don’t answer the tough questions or show enthusiasm for the position or company. It happens. This can explain being the wrong fit; a poor performance at the interview. It’s time to move on to the next position. (The good news, if you’re dying to work at a particular company, you can apply for other positions, interview with other HMs, and quite possibly get a job.)

What we’re left with after a candidate isn’t hired for one, or many, of these reasons mentioned above is a disheartened jobseeker; a recruiter who won’t receive her bonus; and an HM who hopes he has hired the ideal person for the job. There’s only one winner out of the possible hundreds of candidates in the process. I’m not stupid enough to believe telling you the reasons why you didn’t get the job will provide you any solace, but hopefully you’ll understand that you’re not to blame.

Photo from Safrina Voor, Flickr

7 awesome traits of the introvert

I wrote this post a year ago but feel it’s time again to plug the introverts for their greatness. 

When I ask my Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) workshop attendees if they think I’m an introvert or extravert, they usually guess wrong. “But you’re so lively and loud,” they say.

What do they expect from me, Dawn of the Living Dead?

Those of my attendees who guess wrong believe that to be sociable and animated one must be an extravert. I don’t blame them for guessing wrong, because society has been under the impression that showmanship belongs exclusively to the extraverts.

The ability to speak in public is only one of seven traits the introverts demonstrate. Following are the remaining six:

We think before we speak. Dominating a meeting is not our style; we favor something akin to Parliamentary Procedure. That doesn’t mean we don’t have intelligent things to say; we just don’t like to compete with the extraverts who learn by talking. The problem with our method of communicating is we might not get the opportunity to get our brilliant thoughts out in the open.

We rule when it comes to research. We learn best by researching topics on our own and, as such, prefer the computer over dialog. Extraverts learn best by throwing around ideas among their colleagues and friends. We find staff meetings unproductive unless there’s an agenda and some sense of order. Brainstorming is usually a waste of time to us.

We hear you the first time. We’re considered great listeners. But we don’t appreciate being talked at. We’re perceptive so you don’t need to stress your point with 10 minutes of nonstop talking. You don’t like caviar, you say. And you had a bad experience eating it when you were a child. Got it.

We love to write. Writing is our preferred mode of communication, but this doesn’t mean we’re incapable of talking. We just don’t have the capacity to talk from sunrise to sunset. Writing allows us to formulate our thoughts and express them eloquently. There’s no denying, however, that our workplace favors those who talk; so there are times when we put down the pen and let our voice be heard.

We’re just as creative as the next person. Our creative juices flow from solitude, not open spaces where people throw Nerf footballs, eat cookies, and attend wrap sessions until 10:00 pm. If you see us working intently in our offices or cubicles, we’re usually enjoying “moments,” so don’t break our concentration. Nothing personal; we’ll join you at the pool table when our work is completed.

We can stand being alone. We don’t need constant attention from others; rather we enjoy the time to think and reflect on life in general. Some might consider this as standoffish, but those are people who require a great deal of stimuli and don’t understand the beauty of Quiet (watch Susan Cain’s YouTube video). We develop long-lasting friendships with fewer people, as deeper is better than broader. Don’t pity us if you have 20 friends and we have only five. We’re good with that.

My MBTI workshop attendees are not far off the mark when they guess I’m an extravert; I do have the ability to put on the Robin Williams act, or revert to a serious Bill Belichick persona. I put 100% into teaching the finer points of the job search, and as a result my exit from the room is quick and toward the stairway to where I can retreat to my computer.

The 12 types of job-search networkers; the good and the bad

Networking blackWhen you work at an urban career center, you come into contact with many different personalities. The customers that stick in your mind are the ones who not only help themselves, but also look out for others. In other words, they help their peers without being asked.

One gentleman who I speak of often in my workshops is a guy named John who worked at Brooks Automation. He was laid off and attended my workshops. He took it upon himself to create a networking group that grew in popularity, and he ran it like a pro. When he landed his next job, I was happy and sad. Happy that he landed a job; sad that the group eventually dissolved.

John exemplified one type of networker, the Giver. He gave his time and energy to help other jobseekers, knowing what goes around comes around. Here are the 12 types of networkers:

  1. The Outgoing (Good) — Never out of energy and always interacting with others around them, this networker is often popular and a magnet to others. People feel his energy; it gives them energy. (Don’t assume this person is an extravert; introverts can be outgoing, as well.) When he leaves the group, people take notice and wish him a good night.
  2. The Shy (Bad) — On the other hand is the shy person who comes across as a snob or aloof. He’d rather stand in a corner watching others interact. This is not his venue; he won’t stay long. (Don’t assume this person is an introvert; extraverts can be shy, as well.) When he leaves no one notices his departure. He’s a ghost.
  3. The Face-to-Face Person (Good) — She loves personal networking because she enjoys being with people. You’ll see her at every event until she’s landed a job, and she’ll return to the group to talk about her Happy Landing. She also networks in the community with whomever she can, realizing that anyone could offer her a lead.
  4. The Online Person (Bad) — Using LinkedIn exclusively is her idea of networking. She sees connecting with others and sending direct messages as the only way to network, but she’s mistaken. One must also make a personal connection to cement a relationship.
  5. The Giver (Good) — Like John, this person understands the true nature of networking. When he helps someone by providing a lead, he will get help from someone else. He creates good karma for himself. He is a maven, someone who knows about every industry and occupation, and he has contacts at many companies.
  6. The Taker (Bad) — He thinks only of himself and never of others. Just taking is a good way to alienate himself from the people with whom he networks. He doesn’t understand why people stop helping him because he’s wrapping up in his own battle. He expects people to have leads for him but doesn’t think of offering other jobseekers leads.
  7. The Listener (Good) — She is one of the favorite people in the room. Always asking questions and listening intently. She remembers previous conversations and brings them up, making people feel special. She is a great conversationalist. Unfortunately people may take advantage of her good nature and talk “at” her all night.
  8. The Talker (Bad) — This person believes that the room is his stage and those around him are receptacles for his words. People have a hard time getting away from him unless they have an escape plan. He is exhausting and gains few followers. In the community he drives people away from his company, unwilling to listen to people who could help him.
  9. The Doer (Good) — He is someone who will attend networking events despite being tired after a long day of work. The extravert and introvert alike will attend networking events, or meet up with a group of networkers, or connect with people in the community. They are active yet tactful in the way they network.
  10. The Non-Doer (Bad) — You’ll see this person at a few networking events and then he’ll drop off the face of the earth. After trying a few events and not getting immediate gratification, he’ll decide networking is not for him and abandon it. It’s a shame, as he may have potential.
  11. The Finisher (Good) — In soccer we call this a player who puts the ball across the goal line. In networking this person follows up with the people he meets at events and in the community. He keeps business cards and calls the people within 24 hours, 48 hours at the most. And he maintains contact with the people who can be of mutual assistance.
  12. The Buzz Kill (Bad) — We know what a buzz kill is. No more needs to be said. In networking he’s the person who doesn’t follow up with potential connections. Relationships die before they begin. Business cards lie in his drawer, piling up like a deck of playing cards.

In contrast to John, I’ve come across networkers who are in it only for themselves. Although it’s natural to want immediate gratification, it’s far more noble and productive to help your brethren, as your efforts will be returned in due time. There are other types of networkers, such as the positive and negative attitudes. As I say in my workshops, we’re more likely to help those who appear positive than those who appear negative. They all agree.