We live in an era of career self-management. It's easy to slip into the comfort zone and become complacent. If you want to stay competitive in today's marketplace, you need to protect yourself with some critical tools. These might include a solid resume, cover letter, bio, blog and references. If I could only recommend just three things you can't do without as a professional, I would choose these.
Whether you realize it or whether you even like it, YOU are a brand. Your goal is to create, build, promote and protect your brand. If you don't, I assure you that your competition will. Your brand creates an image or mental picture for someone when they think about you. Your brand is what comes to mind when someone sees or hears your name, product, service or logo. Your brand your public image. Your brand is being developed anytime someone has an interaction with you in some way. You are the CEO of YOU, Inc. YOU are running your life like you own a company. Most people don't get this. Ask yourself, "What messages am I sending about how I am running my company?" More than ever, your online reputation IS your reputation.
In my 23 years as a Career Counselor, I've worked hard to create my unique brand of career counseling. When people say, "I need to make a job change!" I want them to think; contact "Dr. Tom." "I need to have my resume critiqued;" contact "Dr. Tom." "I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up;" contact "Dr. Tom." "I need to have my taxes prepared;" DON'T contact "Dr. Tom." I do career counseling. I don't do taxes, websites, personal training, photography, insurance, or plumbing. And I certainly don't do HAIR! (You only need to see my LinkedIn Profile picture to see why.) Ask yourself, "What things do I do way better than other people?" Ask yourself, "In what area do I want to be known as a SME - Subject Matter Expert?"
Ask yourself, "Do I like the brand I have now or do I want to make a change?" Don't waste time creating a brand that is not you! If you don't manage your brand, no one else will. You run the risk that your reputation will be determined by chance rather than by choice. Make no mistake about it; what you do all day long plays a major role in branding. Ask yourself, "Am I proud when I say what I do?" My advice: Define your brand, share it and live it out!
I suggest you focus your energies in two ways to build you brand. The first way is through real networking. The second way is by social networking. This is what I would call a High Touch High Tech approach to pushing your professional reputation forward. -The question you need to ask yourself is, "Who do I know, who knows me, and do they know what I want? Your goal is to create TOMA (Top Of Mind Awareness) which is a slow build. Brand management never stops. Each morning hold yourself accountable by saying, "What am I going to do TODAY to build my brand?"
Your Business Card
The second thing you can't do without is your business card. If I said, to a group of professionals, "How many of you can go six months without using a business card?" most would not be able to do it. An outstanding card gives an outstanding first impression. A lame card sends the message, "I'm not serious." A business card is what we refer to in marketing as a "Leave Behind." You paid for both sides so use the front and back. It should have a photo of you since we remember 80% of what we see and 20% of what we hear. Get a business card holder and never ever leave the house without it. I have landed clients while hiking in the Adirondacks and on Cape Cod because I had one on me. My advice: Invest the time and money in an exceptional card. Don't do it on the cheap.
Your LinkedIn.com Profile
The third thing you need is LinkedIn - the world's largest professional networking site! LinkedIn is not a fad! It is commonly referred to as the "Facebook for Professionals." I could run Careers In Transition without a website, but I could not without LinkedIn. Why? Because LinkedIn IS my website and my electronic Rolodex and my resume and my list of references. If someone wants to hire you, they will search for you online. Make it easy for them to find you. Don't hide!!! Ask yourself, "What comes up when I Google my name?" LinkedIn is your professional Internet image and the way to build your online reputation. LinkedIn is the way you manage your "Circle of Influence." You simply can not be successful without a "Circle of Influence." It's the High Tech part of building your brand and your empire. Now, you may be saying to yourself, "I have LinkedIn, but I don't really do much with it." Ask people who are regular users of LinkedIn for tips and advice on how to maximize its potential. If you are not leveraging LinkedIn, I guarantee your competition is. Remember, LinkedIn is totally free. You can either ride the wave of social media or get crushed by it. If you are serious about advancing your career today, you must be on LinkedIn!!! Take this virtual network to the next level by meeting your Connections for coffee and requesting their help in your job search. My advice: Spend 10 minutes on LinkedIn each weekday, and have fun with it. Get LinkedIn or get left behind!
Copyright 2013, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - Published Friday, April 19, 2013
In a research study conducted by Dr. David Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, he discovered that 80% of Americans don't have goals. Sixteen percent have goals, but don't write them down. Three percent have goals, write them down, but don't review them. Only one percent, the highest achievers, have goals, write them down and review them on an on-going basis. But do we really need to set goals to enjoy life? No, but you can't reach your potential without them. Here's how goals make us a better person.
1. Improves Self-Confidence
If we set a goal and reach it, it builds our self-confidence. If we don't reach our goals, it feels like failure. Fear of failure is one of the main reasons why most people don't set goals. However, when we don't set goals the message we convey is that we are leaving our life up to chance. In other words, "We'll just see what happens." Without goals, you hold yourself back from reaching your potential and making a difference in the larger world. You don't want that. You want to be an inspiration to your family and friends. People who set goals and achieve them become role models. They are looked up to. They leave a positive legacy as someone who accomplished a lot during their life. The very first step in goal setting is having the courage to deciding that you want more out of life. When you set goals you are telling yourself, "There's more than the status quo." Goal setting helps you live life on the highest level.
2. Prioritizes Life
Goal setting defines what you really want out of life. Goals give you direction and purpose. Goal setting allows us to suspend reality and dream. Use your imagination. Without a dream, you don't have much. By writing down your goals, you are clearly saying, "These are the things that are really important to me. These are my priorities." Goals are rooted in your V.I.P.S. (Values, Interests, Personality-traits and Skills). In other words, goals must be in alignment with who you are. Start by creating a list of five Values, Interests, Personality-traits and Skills. Next, write a one sentence vision statement for your personal life and another one for your professional life. You can then create a list of short-term, intermediate-term and long-term goals in these nine areas: Faith, Family, Friends, Finances, Fitness, Fun, Future Career and Further Learning. Make sure the goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic and Time-Sensitive). Be sure to create "Micro-goals," ones that are so small that it is impossible to fail. Surround yourself with a "Dream Team" of close family, friends and advisors that will encourage you. Be flexible and add and subtract from your "Goals List" as you measure your progress periodically. Don't beat yourself up if you fall down. If you reach all your goals, you set the list too low. If you hit at least 70%, you are on target. Do this, and you will be well on you way to a balanced and happy life.
3. Prevents Distraction
Americans are busier than ever before, but we are accomplishing less and less of what we really want. We are simultaneously procrastinating what we want and don't want. Technological devices that promised to save time, in fact, have created a culture where the office never closes. By spending a majority of our day reacting to email, phone calls and social media, it can feel like we are merely running in place and never getting ahead. Too often we are passengers on the road of life, frequently feeling that we are not in charge. It's easy to get sidetracked by every little distraction. When we set goals, we are in the driver's seat. We get to choose where we want to go in life. Goal setting prevents us from getting lost. Goal setting allows us to take a time out to reflect and get refocused. Goals guide your decision-making and time management. Without goals, you run the risk of being impulsive and reactionary. Your goals should also motivate you to take action. When you begin the process, ask yourself, "Is this goal worthy of my time?"
4. Fosters and Energizes Growth
Goals push you outside the comfort zone where real growth happens. When we achieve a goal, we are energized. Reaching your goals makes you feel productive. You feel positive each time you check off something on the "To Do List." Unfortunately, most "To Do Lists" are a result of small thinking. We all need to go to the cleaners, bank, post office, grocery store, mow the lawn, take out the garbage, do the laundry, clean the house, etc. But if that's all we do, it will make for a life of regret. People spend more time writing their grocery list than a list of goals. Don't let that be you. Being happy is a by-product of achieving goals. Without a plan, everything is left to chance. Ask yourself, "In what areas can I learn and grow." Spend more time looking through the wind shield of life than the rear view mirror. Setting and achieving goals helps you look and move forward. It gives you hope and optimism.
5. Gives a Sense of Accomplishment
My other passion besides career counseling is climbing mountains. I've climbed over 180 mountains, big and small. This includes over 70 with my 11 year old daughter, Rachel. Each year I climb one "Major Mountain." I call it a B.H.A.G. - Big Harry Audacious Goal, a.k.a. a "Stretch Goal." This year my team braved temperatures in the 20s and 65+ mph winds to reach the summit of Mt. Shasta (14,179 ft.) in the Cascade Range of California. We only grow when we are outside the comfort zone, and that was pretty uncomfortable! Our motto was: only look where you want to go. So we set our sights on the summit. It was an absolutely brutal climb, and despite the weather and altitude sickness, the sense of accomplishment is something I will have for the rest of my life. As a result of this charity climb, I raised over $3,000 to benefit the scholarship fund of Girls Incorporated of the Capital Region. Summiting a Major Mountain is not done serendipitously. It's a deliberate endeavor. Climbing mountains is a metaphor for career counseling and for life. Goal setting is about getting higher. Now ask yourself, "What summits do I want to reach? What's on my Bucket List?" I urge you to pick your peaks carefully, commit to something despite the price you may pay, and start living the dream!
Copyright 2013, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - Published Friday, February 1, 2013
What I am seeing in my practice are clients willing to swap money in exchange for meaningful work. In the past, work was regarded as a means to support oneself and a family. Today, we expect a job to be more than just a paycheck. Work is being recognized as a way to grow not only financially, but professionally and personally as well. We aspire to work that gives us meaning, identity, creativity, pleasure and allows us to fulfill our purpose. The problem is this. Employees want to make a living doing something meaningful, while the employer's priority is profit often at the expense of creating meaningful work. Companies are not in the business of designing meaningful jobs. Work can be a blessing, a curse or somewhere in between. Can you really have both?
The Nature of Work
In today's economy, most jobs are repetitive, inflexible and often an uncreative way to make a living. In many ways, technology is fueling the increase in boring work - staring into a computer all day can be mind-numbing. Corporations reward conformity not individuality. Meaningless work is an energy suck and can ruin many a good person. It can take a real toll, turning you into a "Work Zombie" - someone physically present, but is emotionally, spiritually and intellectually absent.
For millions of Americans a job is merely a means to an end that meets some other need other than work. People do their jobs and go home to find meaning in hobbies, learning, family, friends, houses of worship, or leisure activities. However, work that is authentic and significant must be an integral part of our life, rather than an activity that is segmented during the day to make money to support our life outside of work. Because we spend more time at work than in any other aspect of our life including sleep, the work we do largely determines our emotional well-being and often our intellectual and spiritual fulfillment. Clearly, you are more than your job, but to a large extent, you are what you do all day long. Consider this, "Is it possible to live a happy life, if we spend the majority of our day doing work that doesn't make us happy?"
For some the meaning of life lies in the accumulation of wealth and material possessions. The attraction of money can be hard to resist. It can lure or seduce us into jobs devoid of meaning by the promise of a high salary, benefits, status, or power. In an attempt to avoid the pain of unchallenging or dull work, many seek to overcompensate through a life based on having. Material possessions can give the illusion of security in an unsecure world. Most Americans have bought into the following myth: the harder you work, the more money you make and the happier you will be. Unfortunately, money is a poor long-term motivator. Often when we achieve material abundance, we discover that it doesn't satisfy our souls. Please don't trade your precious time for dollars. Everyone needs a base level of income to pay the bills, but focusing on money rarely brings meaning. Money is not a bad thing, but it's the love of money that separates us from true meaning. At some point you will ask yourself, "Why am I doing this? or Is this all there is?"
The meaning of life is not to accumulate stuff, but rather to make a difference. Dr. King put it so aptly when he said, "Life's most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?" This is true in my practice where most clients yearn to do work that is for the greater good. When you devote your working hours and energy to contributing to something larger than yourself, you reduce self-absorption and meaning emerges. Often with professional help, you can discover what that larger purpose should be.
The people that are truly passionate about their work are a very small percentage of the population. Finding a job that is consistent with a sense of meaning is a difficult job. The task begins when you become aware of your inner self through a deliberate process of reflection. It comes down to clearly identifying your core values and top priorities. If your V.I.P.S. (Values, Interests, Personality Traits and Skills) are not in alignment with what you are doing, you will experience disappointment and emptiness on the job. If you are not able to merger your true self with your life's work, the result will be stress and anxiety. This persistent dissatisfaction will continue to rise to the surface until it is properly addressed. It can become intolerable. It may eventually manifest itself in an act of "Rage Quit." I often hear from my clients, "This work is just not who I am!"
If you want to live an authentic life, devote your valuable time to the difficult pursuit of what you were meant to do with your life. Anything less and you will not reach your potential. In her book, I Don't Know What I Want But I Know It's Not This, Julie Jansen outlined ten types of meaning. Which of the following have the most meaning for you: 1) Rewards and Challenges, 2) Interesting Field or Industry, 3) Expressing Ideals and Values, 4) Contributing/Making a Difference, 5) Solving Problems, 6) Changing Your Lifestyle, 7) Feeling Passionate, 8) Supporting a Cause, 9) Innovating/Creating, or 10) Learning. If you can't find the job of your dreams today that's okay, but get clarity on your ideal job and then begin working toward it for the next several years. Set a goal to do just one thing each week that will help you reach the job that will be the most meaningful to you. Consider going back to school, working for yourself, joining a socially responsible corporation, exploring non-profit organizations, or an employee-owned company.
When work is stimulating and fun, you tend to be more productive. It can bring out the best in you. If you strive for money, you will rarely find what you are really looking for. Put simply: It's a shallow way to live. If you strive for meaning, you will probably get both meaning and money. If you love your work, you will love your life. Have the courage to do what you were meant to do.
Copyright 2013, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - Published Friday, January 25, 2013
The interview is the most neglected and yet most important part of the job search. Behavioral-based interviewing is a style of interviewing that more and more companies and organizations are using in their hiring process. The basic premise behind behavioral-based interviewing is this: The most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in a similar situation. It provides a more objective set of facts to make employment decisions than other more typical interviewing methods. Traditional interview techniques ask you general questions such as: "Tell me about yourself.", "Why should I hire you?" or "What is your greatest strength?". These are all good questions, but often the candidate can answer the question without giving the information the interviewer really wants to know. The behavioral-based interviewing process is much more probing, works very differently and is often more effective in collecting the right information to make the best decision about a candidate.
How to Best Prepare
Employers predetermine the skills that are necessary for the job opening and then ask very pointed questions to determine if the candidate possesses those skills. The company may be looking for some of the following core competencies: leadership, presentation, communication, decision-making, organization, analytical, teamwork, problem-solving, and negotiation. To determine which skills an employer is seeking read the company literature, conduct a Google search and speak with others in your inner circle and network that might have some inside information.
In the interview, it is important that your responses be specific, detailed and polished. Tell them about a particular situation that relates to the question, not a general one. Briefly describe the circumstances, what you did specifically, and the positive result or outcome. In other words, you should frame your answers in a three step process: 1. the situation, 2. your role and responsibility/action, and finally, 3. the result.
The interview is designed for the interviewee to tell a story for a few minutes, and then the interviewer will pick apart the story to try to get at the specific behaviors. The interviewer can probe further for more depth and detail such as: "What was your thought process at that point?", "Tell me more about your meeting with that person." or "Lead me through your decision-making process." Unfortunately in traditional interviews, candidate answers are too general and superficial. Behavioral-based interviewing really goes much deeper and provides richer data for the interviewer.
Always listen carefully to each question. Take a minute to pause and think about a specific story that would address the underlying issue the interviewer is getting at. You can ask for clarification if necessary and make sure you answer the question completely.
Your interview preparation should include identifying examples of situations in which you have demonstrated the behaviors you have determined are important to a given employer. Your resume will serve as a good guide when answering interview questions, but do not read from your resume in the interview. Instead, commit your resume to memory ahead of time. Demonstration of the desired behaviors may be proven in many ways. I encourage you to use examples from past employment, activities, community service, professional associations or other experiences that give the interviewer a better sense of your strengths. In addition, you may want to use some examples of which you may be especially proud such as running a marathon, exhibiting paintings for an art show, organizing a fundraiser, climbing all the high peaks in the Adirondacks or biking across the country.
I recommend preparing carefully because these are often difficult questions to answer on the fly. Think of writing down specific examples, stories or situations in your past that you would use to answer these sample questions. The three rules of behavioral-based interviewing are: preparation, preparation, preparation. Setting up a Mock Interview, a video-taped practice interview with a career counselor, is an excellent way to improve your delivery. By answering the following questions your will have a better sense of what to expect in a behavioral-based interview:
1. Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
2. Describe an instance when you had to think on your feet to extricate yourself from a difficult situation.
3. By providing examples, convince me that you can adapt to a wide variety of people, situations and environments.
4. Describe a time on any job that you held in which you were faced with problems or stresses that tested your coping skills.
5. Give an example of a time in which you had to be relatively quick in coming to a decision.
6. Tell me about a time in which you had to use your written communication skills in order to get an important point across.
7. Describe for me a time when you had to serve as the leader in order to accomplish a goal.
8. By providing examples, persuade me that you have strong analytical skills.
9. Give me a specific occasion in which you conformed to a policy with which you did not agree.
10. Tell me about a specific project where you had to use your teamwork skills.
11. Give me an example of an important goal which you had set in the past and tell me about your success in reaching it.
12. Describe the most significant or creative presentation which you have had to complete.
13. By providing examples, tell me about a situation where you had to use your ability to negotiate.
14. Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get the job done.
15. Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully communicate with another person even when the individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
Copyright 2013, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC, Published - Friday, January 18, 2013
A job search can be a lonely process. Beyond a reasonable point, your family and friends will tire of hearing your job search woes. If you are feeling discouraged, a job search club can help you cope with the loss of your job and the barriers and struggles of finding a new one. Here are my suggestions on how to get the most out of this strategy.
1. Identify Job Clubs
You may find one in the newspaper and some are sponsored by libraries, universities, house of worships, (workministry.com), chambers of commerce, government or community agencies. Most are free or charge a small fee.
2. Search for Online "Clubs"
Conduct a Google search for job clubs in your area for in-person or virtual ones. Even social networking job club can keep you going when you might otherwise be frustrated, stressed or down about your progress.
3. Know What to Expect
Whether you are exploring your options or are focused on what you want, a club is can be very beneficial. A club is a collaborative effort of 15, 20 perhaps 30 people who help each other facilitate achieving career objectives.
Often held in the evening, meetings typically introduce new participants, review job search efforts, hear a guest lecturer, listen to reports from successful club members, and network in small groups or with the facilitator. Be ready to share your job search story and be prepared to help others. Meetings can last 1 or 2 hours with an inspirational message at the end.
Before you attend, be sure to clarify your goals regarding what you hope to get out of the club. Sometimes the focus of the club DOES NOT incorporate individual career counseling. In addition, clubs might not operate during the summer months.
4. Bring Stuff
Make sure you attend the meeting well armed with resumes, sample cover letters, job listings, references, and any other documents that will help others help you reach your goals. Be sure to take notes on any presentations or discussions.
5. Cultivate Networking Contacts
Networking is a key benefit from the group. Job search club members can share job search tips, leads and advice. Ask the participants if they can recommend three people you can speak with regarding an informational interview.
6. Gain Emotional Support
The main attraction of the club is the emotional support and motivation that members provide to each other. Venting with similar downsized or job seeking professionals can keep your spirits high and is comforting. Between meetings, members may want to contact one another to offer encouragement and ideas. Finding regular mutual support is crucial to mounting a successful job search and getting back on your feet. Don't do your job search alone!
7. Develop Effective Strategies
Job search clubs can create community and a safe place to share your stories and gain insight into effective job search strategies. Another benefit is the opportunity to brainstorm solutions and bounce ideas off others. Members can give impartial feedback on your career plans, help you sharpen your goals, and broaden your horizons. In addition, they can help generate ideas about Internet job searching or how to answer difficult interview questions.
8. Attend Regularly
Since it is easy to get sidetracked, attending regularly will help you to stay focused and on task. Find out if it meets weekly or monthly. Members can hold each other accountable. Valuable topics can include self-assessment, career exploration, resumes, cover letters, networking opportunities, interviewing and negotiating salary. Updates at meetings can feature success testimonials, or ways to address potential obstacles and difficult interview questions.
9. Get Expert Advice
Turn the experience of losing a job into a learning opportunity to assess your real goals. The counselor will advise you about your next move, job leads, and also have a wealth of information, handouts, and contacts for your benefit.
Most successful participants acknowledge that they appreciated the help members provided and enjoyed helping others. Club "alumni" often stay in touch by posting available openings, welcoming networking calls, or occasionally attending meetings. Be sure to follow-up after your job search is successful and see if you can give back to the club.
Copyright 2013, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - Published Friday, January 11, 2013
When it comes to packaging and marketing your background, you have three main choices: 1) a resume, 2) a CV (curriculum vitae) or 3) a bio (career biography). There are some significant differences. You will need to determine the reader's preference - do they want something short, something more detailed or a promotional document.
Resume - a one or two page bulleted list of your professional information used to apply for a job.
It can either be in a chronological, functional, combination or business card format. A resume contains the factual and specific details of your education, experience, job titles, certifications and skills. The resume is the first impression an employer has of you and it is used to screen candidates for interviews. It is not your life history. It's a wise idea to make sure the resume is tailored to the position you are applying for. When you apply for the majority of jobs in the private, public and non-profit sectors, a one page resume works best. A two page resume is acceptable for some fields and also for jobs that require more extensive experience.
CV - a resume that is two or more pages and typically used for an academic, research or fellowship search.
It gives a complete and lengthy account of your professional background. It is Latin for "course of one's life." Like the resume, the goal of the CV is to get an interview. Styles and opinions vary so make sure you are tailoring your CV to the institution's needs. For example, are they looking for someone who has extensive research experience or perhaps a person who has a strong teaching and administrative background? Due to the extended length of the CV, it is going to have more categories than a resume. I have seen some CVs that consist of 15 or more pages. Some of the categories may include the following:
Education, Certifications, Dissertation/Thesis Topic, Teaching Experience, Administrative Experience, Research Experience, Computer Skills, Laboratory Experience, Languages, Presentations/Publication Experience, University Involvement, Consulting Experience, Affiliations/Professional Associations/Memberships, Scholarships/Fellowships, Honors/Awards, Research Interest
Bio - a promotional summary in an essay format of your most important highlights used for consulting, presenting or job searching.
It is an overview of you without specific dates or detailed duties. Written in the third person, it is a compelling story of your most compelling achievements. Keep it more informal and interesting. Stick to no more than one page with a few paragraphs. Bios can include photos, credentials, awards, personal information, name dropping of companies and impressive job titles. It is a piece of advertising especially for consulting and presentations. The following bio I use for speaking engagements is a sample format:
"Many in the higher education and business community regard Dr. Tom Denham as a leading authority and much-sought-after speaker on career development, marketing and entrepreneurship. His enthusiasm helps him to quickly connect with people and make an impact on them to take action.
Tom has over twenty years of experience in career services including leadership positions at Union College, Harvard, St. Lawrence and Boston Universities. As the Director of the Siena College Career Center, students honored him as the 2000 Administrator of the Year.
He founded Careers In Transition LLC, a private practice in career services, which focuses on career counseling for individuals and consulting services for institutional clients. Tom also founded Northeast Public Radio's award winning talk show, The Career Forum. He has been a contributing writer for five books, has published dozens of articles, and speaks extensively on career management issues. His first book will be published next spring by Melange Press. Academically, Tom earned his bachelors from St. Lawrence University, his masters from Boston University and his doctorate from Nova Southeastern University.
Athletically, Tom has run the New York City Marathon in less than 4 hours. He has climbed over 200 mountains including the Adirondack 46. In 2009, he survived a huge crevasse fall on Mt. Rainier by ice climbing his way out. He has also climbed Mt. Hood, The Grand Teton, Mt. Shasta, and Devils Tower. Tom lives where he grew up in Albany where he would rather be ice and rock climbing and raising his daughter, Rachel."
All three are tools for your career development. I encourage all of my clients to have a lifetime "Master Resume" or CV that they can develop into a current one or two page resume or bio. Whether you use a resume, CV or bio, get it professionally critiqued and update it annually. Which ever format you use, be truthful and be sure you can back up your claims in the interview. By first considering your field and background, you can select the best way to market your candidacy in order to achieve your objectives.
Copyright 2013, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - Published Friday, January 4, 2013
After completing the self-assessment and career exploration stages of the career development process, you're ready to either: 1) conduct a job search, 2) go back to school or 3) start a business. This last stage is where you are trying to answer the important question, "How do I get there?" Now that you know where "there" is, you can now develop a strategy that is going to work for you.
First, begin by writing down your vision statement for your career. Determine where you want to go ideally. The vision must be aligned with your careful inventory of your skills, values, interests and personality traits. Be sure that you are committed to your vision and make it your top priority.
Second, type out your career mission statement. Your career vision explains where you want go and the mission statement describes how you will achieve your vision. Again, be sure you are totally committed to the vision and mission you have for your future. Don't lose your focus.
Third, you will need to conduct a thorough analysis of the gap between your ideal vision and the reality of where you are now professionally. List out the specific areas that must be overcome to achieve your career objectives. Consider what you are learning about yourself up to this point.
Fourth, start to prioritize the information in the third step from the gap analysis and determine what needs to get done. Ask yourself, "In what order do the specific career barriers need to be addressed?" Develop your list of: 1) Highest Priorities, 2) High Priorities and 3) Lower Priorities.
Fifth, identify and outline possible solutions. What are the methods that you will employ to overcome the career barriers that were prioritized in step four? The goal here is to develop the means to close the gap between the ideal career vision and your current reality.
Sixth, write out your S.M.A.R.T. Goals. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic and Time-Sensitive. If it's not S.M.A.R.T., it's not a goal, but merely an idea.
Seventh, begin to identify your strategic partners. Ask yourself, "Who are the individuals and groups that can help me achieve my desired career?" Be sure to have at least 10 on your list.
Eight, implement your S.M.A.R.T. Goals. Think about how you will execute the micro-goals set forth in this action plan to reach your professional dreams. What will you do today to get started?
Ninth, re-evaluate your action plan. What progress have you made to achieve the desired results? What are your criteria for career success? What strategies or techniques need to be modified?
Tenth, show your gratitude. Create a list of all the things about your career that you are thankful for? What do you need to do to pay it forward or help others that are less fortunate?
Copyright 2012, Dr. Thomas J. Denham - Careers In Transition LLC - Published Friday, December 28, 2012
Undoubtedly you have heard of Type A Personality, but what does it really mean? Personality Type theory was first described in the 1950s as a potential risk factor for heart disease by cardiologists Meyer Friedman and R.H. Rosenman. They estimated that Type A behavior doubles the risk of coronary heart disease, but recent studies have invalidated these findings. Despite all the criticism, many people use the term "Type A" and "Type B" to describe contrasting personality traits. An individual may have a dominant type with a combination or blend of the other three types. Remember, everyone is unique and Personality Type theory does not explain all of human behavior. The professional goal is to understand the various types and manage them in the workplace. Which type best describes you?
Type A "The Leader"
Behavior Characteristics: highly independent, take charge, decisive, direct, business-like, ambitious, efficient, motivated, persistent, focused, risk taking, practical solution oriented, dislike routine, high achieving, no-nonsense, multitasking, deadline driven and change oriented.
Weaknesses: aggressive, controlling, too competitive, impatient, status conscious, high strung, workaholic, often interrupt, insensitive, walk or talk at a rapid pace, easily upset over small things, blunt, rushed and time starved.
Appealing Jobs: business, entrepreneurship, management and politics.
Many researchers believe that Type A behavior is a reaction to environmental factors and are influenced by culture and job structure. Many jobs today place unrealistic demands on time, emphasize efficiency and productivity, and put heavy penalties for mistakes. This only creates additional stress making people less patient. Others may be naturally intense, but this tendency is increased by environmental stress.
Type B "The Socializer"
Behavior Characteristics: highly extroverted, strong charisma, easy going, sense of humor, high energy, talkative, enthusiastic, gregarious, travel oriented, community minded, and enjoy being the center of attention.
Weaknesses: excessive socializing and may take things personally.
Appealing Jobs: advertising, event planning, marketing, public speaking, sales and travel consulting.
Type C "The Detailer"
Behavior Characteristics: introverted, accurate, logical, analytical, reserved, calculated, crave facts, consistent, procedural, rule abiding, predictable, dependable, loyal, patient, cautious, rational, risk averse, deep, thoughtful, sensitive and precise.
Weaknesses: perfectionism, overly serious, conforming, pleasing, difficulty communicating with others, unassertive, excessively detail oriented and emotionally limited.
Appealing Jobs: accountants, analyst, customer service representatives, engineers, programmers and technical careers.
Type D "The Distressed"
Behavior Characteristics: appreciate routine, need structure, orderly, dependable, supportive of others, punctual, consistent, motivated by security and benefits and work well from a set of directives.
Weaknesses: anxious, angry, depressed, worried, tense, inertia, change averse, overacting, inability to express emotions, low self-esteem, socially inhibited, lack creativity, resist responsibility and prefer to be told what to do. Appealing Jobs: administrative assistants and clerks.
Sources: Bill Garrison; Elizabeth Scott, MS (About.com, 11/8/07); Simeon Margolis, MD, PhD (Yahoo Health 9/5/01); Tim Bryce (ArticlesBase.com 9/7/07); HireSuccess.com; Shrinivas Kanade (Buzzle.com); Wikipedia.org; WiseGeek.com; Aastha Dogra (Buzzle.com, 3/11/10).
Copyright 2012, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - Published Friday, December 21, 2012
We have more to do now in our personal and professional lives than ever before. We are ruled by haste and urgency; we race from one thing to the next. The result: we feel fragmented and often depressed. There is so much mental clutter in our minds that it is sometimes hard to even start. Achieving balance comes from regularly answering a series of questions. Here is my ten step plan:
1. Become Aware - The very first step is to become conscious of the fact that you are overloaded. Ask yourself, "Am I feeling a temporary imbalance or a persistent long-term imbalance." Some of the typical signs of work/life balance gone amuck include: 1) Feeling that you are merely trying to get through the day; 2) Barely making it to the end of the week and feeling completely exhausted by the time you get home; 3) Feeling that you are on the merry-go-round of life and just want to get off; 4) Feeling like you are falling behind and never catching up in the game of life. You have to become aware of the imbalance and then sincerely commit to change.
2. STOP - Second, make the intentional decision to stop and take a time-out. We are a nation addicted to speed and multi-tasking. If you really want to, you do have the ability to slow down and carve out some time to focus on your work/life balance problems. Make the purposeful decision to stop and reflect. Ask yourself the question, "When am I going to stop and make this my top priority?"
3. Assess - One of the most fundamental questions you will have to answer is, "Who am I?" Either with a trained professional or with someone you trust, thoroughly inventory your V.I.P.S. (Values, Interests, Personality traits and Skills). Reflect on your current situation and write down a two page outline of the major personal and professional events of your life. Generate a list of the 10 defining moments of your life and what you learned from them. The objective is to answer the question, "Where have I been?" Next, reflect on your present situation and list all the major challenges you currently face. Use a time management system to record how you spend your time each day for one month. This will help clearly identify where you are spending your valuable time. The goal is to answer the question, "Where am I now?" Having clarity with these three questions is the foundation for moving forward.
4. Explore - The next question is "Where am I going with my life?" Visualize your ideal life. Start to match the information gained from the assessment step, to the future you want to create. Based on your spiritual or philosophical purpose in life, write both a personal and professional "Vision Statement." Your vision must be in alignment with your V.I.P.S. Finish this sentence, "My life would be a total success if..." Be specific! Ask yourself, "What are my core priorities?" Without a focus, you are setting yourself up for failure. Create a detailed list of your wants vs. your needs. Write down your vision of what you truly desire in these eight areas of your life: 1) Faith, 2) Family, 3) Friends, 4) Finances, 5) Fitness, 6) Fun (yes, fun), 7) Future career development, and 8) Further learning. Write a list of the six to 12 most important things you would want to have written on your epitaph. If you are not clear on your objectives, you will only get mixed results. Remember, where you go in life is up to you!
5. Analyze - With your written ideal work/life balance vision, you now have a gap between where you are now and where you want to be. The question is, "What barriers must be overcome to achieve my work/life balance?" Once the barriers are clearly defined, you can then generate possible solutions. Next, develop specific "Action Items" to close the gap between the "Ideal" and the "Real."
6. Prioritize - There will be many things you need to do to improve your work/life balance. It is important to rank these responsibilities into three categories; 1) Highest Priorities, 2) High Priorities and 3) Lower Priorities. This will help answer the question, "In what order do the specific barriers need to be addressed?"
7. Set Goals - When you develop the methods and means for overcoming your challenges you are on the path to answering the question, "How do I get there?" Start by writing your goals out using the S.M.A.R.T. formula (Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic and Time-sensitive). If it's not a S.M.A.R.T. Goal, it's not a goal, only an idea. Divide your list of goals into: 1) Short-term (less than a year), 2) Intermediate-term (one to three years) and 3) Long-term goals (three to five years). Make sure one of your goals is a B.H.A.G. (Big Harry Audacious Goal) - something that you will be really proud of when you achieve it.
8. Form "The Dream Team" - Establish an "Advisory Board" of six to 12 people with whom you can share your goals and progress. When selecting these individuals, ask yourself, "Who will help me get there?" Have your most trusted person be your "Accountability Buddy." Develop any other support groups that can serve as your "Strategic Partners" which will help you get you where you are going.
9. Implement Micro-Goals - Achieving balance can only be done incrementally, so break down your goals so small that there is no room to fail. When you wake up in the morning ask yourself, "What can I do TODAY to move toward better work/life balance?" Be deliberate with your time and your actions. I also suggest you, plan out five Actions Items each week for an entire month.
10. Evaluate - Finally, ask yourself, "How am I doing?" At the end of every week, month, quarter and year, take a time-out to reflect and chart your progress. Your job is to answer this question, "What do I need to start doing, stop doing, continue doing, do more of, do less of and do differently?" Reflect and write down your thoughts and ideas. When it comes to work/life balance, there are no silver bullet solutions. If you are self-disciplined, these daily minor techniques that you implement will have a cumulative effect.
© 2012, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - Published Friday, December 14, 2012
It's a big risk to leave your job, so clarify that this is what you want. Have you carefully written out and weighted the advantages and disadvantages? Have you discussed it with a career counselor or someone you trust? What advice do they offer? Are you really ready to move on? Think constructively about how you want to handle it in a professional and amicable way. Here's how to do it.
1. Keep It Private - Don't tell anyone until you are really ready since rumors will spread like wildfire. In advance, find out what benefits you are entitled to such as vacation, sick time, insurance, retirement payments, etc. Don't jeopardize your benefits or a possible breach of contract because you didn't think ahead. Consider reviewing the policy manual to determine the appropriate amount of time. Giving at least 2 weeks is a common professional courtesy, but more may be necessary depending on your situation.
2. Write Your Letter of Resignation - A clear and concise letter of resignation will document that you have given adequate notice.
"I am writing to inform you that I am resigning from my position as the Director of Finance effective August 19, 2010. I have accepted a position as the Vice President of Finance at ABC Corporation. I want to sincerely thank you for this opportunity to work with you over the last 5 years. I have learned so much from you, and I am grateful for the skills I have developed here. Since I want to make this as smooth a transition as possible, let's meet again to plan a course of action. Thank you again for what you have done for me, and I want to wish you and everyone the best for the future."
3. Inform Your Supervisor - Schedule a private meeting with your boss. Tactfully explain that you are leaving and then submit your resignation letter by hand. Never resign by email - it's just bad etiquette. Be clear and upbeat that this is a positive move for you. Express your appreciation for what they have done for you. Resist the temptation to vent - you'll only regret it later. Instead, be gracious. I suggest you submit your resignation on a Friday. This will give everyone in the office including your boss time to think about it over the weekend. Keeping your last day at work on Friday also will increase the chances for closure.
4. Consider a Counter-Offer - You may receive a counter-offer as an incentive to stay. When you have accepted an offer from another company, you have already made the emotional decision to leave. A counter-offer is unlikely to keep you very long or keep you happy. Counter-offers tend to be short-term solutions that eventually fail. Think about it thoroughly before you accept one.
5. Tell Your Co-Workers - Break the news sensitively to those in your office before they hear it from others. Let them know that you are excited about the new opportunity, but you will miss them. Being diplomatic determines the perception people have of you.
6. Notify All Others - Share the news with management, other departments, customers and anyone that might be impacted. If you are overjoyed about getting out of there, just don't gloat about it. Never bad mouth or complain about anyone or any workplace - it will come back to bite you. Be polite about it and express your gratitude. Give your connections your new contact information.
7. Be Prepared - In some work environments, you may be asked to leave either immediately or by the end of the workday. Some believe that once you have decided to quit, there is no point in having you linger around. If that is the case, wrap up your duties, clean out your desk, say your goodbyes, don't take it personally and move on to your next opportunity.
8. Help with the Transition - Remember: the mere fact that you have resigned is likely to cause problems and stress for your supervisor and the ones left behind that have to pick up the slack. Leaving an employer high and dry may have its consequences. Demonstrate that you want to make this a seamless transition. You may want to suggest an internal or external candidate that might be a good fit. Offer to train the next person. Be flexible if you have outstanding projects and work late if you have to. Don't leave your boss or co-workers guessing about how to handle the various aspects of your job. Find out what is expected of you in the last days. Don't wait until the last minute to tie up loose ends since they tend to take longer than you think.
9. Be Ethical - To avoid claims of fraud, be sure to return any property including company car, client lists, computers, product samples, etc. Don't be tempted to copy confidential information or files. Don't sabotage the company or your future - you'll only regret it. In addition, your reputation may be tarnished and be perceived as someone untrustworthy. Be sure to leave a lasting, positive impression that people will remember - all you have is your reputation to protect.
10. Say Goodbye - On your last day, leave your office clean and neat. This way your supervisor and replacement don't have to clean up your mess. Have a wrap up session with your boss to go over any duties or other details. Let them know that you are always available for questions. It's important to say thanks in-person, or by personal notes or email to all the people that you've worked with.
11. Move On - Since we live in an interconnected world, don't burn any bridges. When you close the door behind you, also leave behind any negative memories, emotions or people. Don't take any old baggage to the next job; make it a fresh start. Only take your skills and experience with you. By resigning properly, you will be respected for it, and you will leave a positive legacy of your work.
Copyright 2012, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - Published Friday, December 7, 2012