The 64 Million Dollar Question

Well, here it is….WHAT DO I WANT TO BE WHEN I TO BE WHEN I grow up?  This is a perfectly legitimate question to ask yourself, whether you’re 16 or 66. Face it: we as human being go through  a series of metamorphoses during our lifetimes, and what suited you for a career in your mid twenties isn’t likely to suit you as well in your forties or fifties! But, as life goes on, answering  this question can be tricky.

After all, we start out with a minimal skill set that increases over time and takes us down different paths–paths that we didn’t necessarily contemplate when we were younger. As we go on in time, we tend to forget what used to make us happy: we get diverted into parenthood and into satisfying the needs of our offspring instead of ourselves.

Young adults who long to become musicians, painters or artists are often discouraged from pursuing careers in these fields by their well-meaning parents and family members because the revenue generating potential is dubious.  But, that means giving up their dreams, you say. Well, uh, yea, it does. But you can’t have it both ways.

We’ve all heard the old saying, ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life!’ You can start out with manageable ‘bites.’ For instance, if you love to read, join a book club: it may lead to working with the elderly who can no longer see the words on the page.  If you love to sing, find a choir: you  might end up providing voice lessons to others. If you’re passionate about cooking, you might eventually be asked to cater a meal.

The point is, all of these ‘fun’ activities can also be turned into serious careers.   But first, a word of caution, however before you go full steam ahead and open  your art gallery, book store,  bakery, clothing shop etc. .  And that is, that you may decide belatedly that your passion in life has now become drudgery because you HAVE to do it to survive!!

 But, you owe it to yourself to at least test the waters, and if your skill doesn’t turn into a career , maybe it just wasn’t meant to be!

 

 

 

Motivators For Career Change

Is your job becoming obsolete? Has another firm purchased your company? Are your current promotion prospects grim to none?  Are you fearful that you will be next on the corporate chopping block?  Are you physically and emotionally worn out? If so, you might want to do something about it!

 

If you’re an older worker who has been thinking about such a career change, you may be feeling rather tenuous right about now.  You’re probably asking yourself questions such as “How is my new boss likely to handle the fact that I am 20 years his senior? “Will I be good at my new job?” “ How hard will it actually be to find a position?” “Will I be able to successfully relate to my new co-workers?” “What can I bring to this position?”

 If you prepare yourself adequately, your fears may be unfounded.  You will undoubtedly find that given the number of years you’ve spent in the work force, the transition will be less painful than you thought.  After all, there is something to be said for experience!  Certainly, you should make every effort to update your skills—in the technology area if nowhere else.  Be sure to spend some time learning the new language of communications: to google/to blog/to tweet/to twitter, and so on.

 If you’ve not already done so, you’ll want to practice your social networking skills. And what better way to put them to work but to actually sign on to various sites and participate in the discussions. It’s best to focus your efforts on areas in which you are already knowledgeable.

 You can find groups that blog about virtually everything; from philosophy and fishing to  skiing and swimming, it’s all out there. As an extra benefit, it may be that you can  identify new job leads through the on-line acquaintances you’ll be making. It’s a brand new world out there!

 

 

 

Ready? Set? Win!!!

If the thought of ‘Networking’ makes you cringe then clearly a change in the way you think about the whole idea is in order.

 Start thinking of it not as a chore, but as a game that you CAN win. Wherever your travels take you, be on the lookout for friendly, open people. (You’ll want to avoid the dour, nay-sayers of the world—you’ve got enough problems of your own already: you don’t need to hear from them about how bad their lives are!)

 Instead of asking those in your immediate career field the obvious question: Do you know anyone who is hiring?–take a step back and remember that people such as your hairdresser or your realtor. They are both ideal as contacts and may be able to help you find your next position.  Why is that, you ask?  Simply because both of these professions have the chance to cross paths with many, many different types of people in the world. Furthermore, the chance friendships they often tend to make regularly take them OUT of their own sphere of influence and transport them to another place entirely.

 One minute, your hairdresser may be giving a buzz cut to a retiring Air Force colonel, while the next minute he/she is coloring the hair of a corporate executive. This is true to an even greater extent of realtors. Week by week, day by day and hour by hour, a realtor meets with people who have different income levels, different careers and different hobbies.

 Take advantage of that opportunity to help you jump start your own career. (again.) Work out a simple paragraph to share about your qualifications and abilities.  Whatever you do, DON’T pigeon hole yourself as ‘an accountant,’ ‘an insurance sales person,’ or ‘a banker.’ Instead, describe what it is that you enjoy and what makes you the happiest in life. (It has been said more than once that you’ll never work a day in your life if you like what it is you do for a living.)

 Ask your realtor whether they’d be willing to introduce you to 3 or 4 of their nicest clients. It doesn’t matter what field they’re in: the more people with whom you are acquainted (and who know you’re looking for work—the better.

 A final reminder:  a network is like a garden. It must be carefully dug, planted and tended in order to flourish.  Make sure you keep yours alive by staying in contact and sending out ‘thank-you’s’ as circumstances dictate.       

 

Feel Like Giving Up on Your Job Search?

Do you ever just feel like chucking it all out the window? Your resume, your cover letter, your reference letters?  Are you frustrated, irritated or annoyed by the fact that you just aren’t getting called in for interviews?

The grim reality of this is that in today’s job market, you may be in for a long wait. In fact, it could be 6 months to a year before you locate a new position.  The worst part is the waiting. You wait to find an appropriate position for which to apply. You wait to see whether you get an e mail from the Hiring Manager. You wait to find out whether you’ll get called in on an interview. You wait in the hopes that you were actually selected for the job. 

In effect, you spend almost your every waking moment WAITING for something to happen. It is a process that can just wear you out. Perhaps it’s time to try something different.  What, you ask, might THAT be? Well: this IS the age of the internet. So why not take advantage of it? Why not start a blog?

If you can focus your efforts and energies in another direction, it will keep you occupied and hence less prone to obsessing about your current predicament.  SO, pick a subject to write about. Write articles about your career field. If you can get these published in a print magazine or newspaper, so much the better, because you can then use them as supplemental materials along with your next job application. They will help you differentiate yourself from the other candidates out there.  Send a sample article or two out along with your next cover letter and resume. Any employer is bound to find your credentials both interesting and impressive.

Try to meet a certain number of people each week–even if they aren’t in your career field. The bottom line here is that the more exposure you have to others the greater the chances that SOME-one in your contact circle will think of you when that next job comes along.

Be Careful: Your Adverse Credit History WILL Follow You….

If you’ve ever had difficulties paying your bills or credit cards in the past, it is likely that you have seen your credit rating take a nosedive. Many of us are in this unenviable position.  

Should your prospective employer run an actual credit check on you—as many of them tend to do these days—your history of paying bills on time (or not) will send a loud and clear message. Regardless of whether it is true or not, what it will tell him is that you do not possess sufficient business acumen to get your bills paid on time.  Worse yet, he may construe your behavior as being simply irresponsible, which leads to questions as to whether you can be trusted with money.

 Whichever the case may be, the bottom line is that you are most likely NOT going to end up with that job.  And, no manner of after-the-fact cajoling, convincing or explaining is likely to do you any good. 

The preferred strategy is to ‘come clean’ up front and simply state in a separate letter to the employer what difficulties you’ve had in the past, and how you have resolved them, or are in the process of so doing.   Perhaps you experienced financial difficulties due to a long illness or circumstances out of your control. Whatever the situation, just state the facts in a logical fashion without undue emotionalism or emphasis on details. 

You will want to offer the future employer your assurances, in the form of personal references from those who are familiar with what happened. Such attestations should state that your credit history does NOT impinge on your desire or ability to perform to their standards and it is certainly not an indication of any overall character flaw on your part.  Make sure that the person who signs this letter on your behalf is fully familiar with your situation.

 By bringing this information to the attention of the employer ahead of time, and presenting it honestly, you may be able to preserve your chances of success in the interview. If you are interviewing for a secured position, the agency may have concerns about you and view you as a security risk. Quite frankly, this will be tough to get around, and you may want to consider seeking alternative employment for a few years until the adversity is behind you and has been definitively resolved.

What is Your Priority as a Job Seeker?

So often getting a job hangs on a slender thread. A VERY slender thread. Perhaps you mentioned your job search casually to a neighbor who told a friend of hers, who told her husband, who told his boss, who told his supervisor–you get the idea.

 With that in mind, your top priority is to meet as many people as you can to introduce yourself and your qualifications. Not only neighbors, friends and past colleagues, but the butcher, the baker and the candlestick makers as well. Or their modern day equivalent! 

Think about the people you see on a daily basis: your banker, your doctor, your pharmacist, your child’s teacher, your child soccer coach, your child’s scout leader, your mailman… you get the idea! Don’t ever pre-judge the potential for someone to be of assistance to you: make every contact count.

 When interviewing, treat everyone—from the janitor and the receptionist to the Human Resources Director and the Vice President—with the same professional courtesy and demeanor. Your ultimate goal: to make a favorable impression on anyone (and everyone) who assists you in your search for a position.

 The smaller the company, the shorter the ‘feedback chain’ will be—i.e. word tends to travel faster about that ‘stuck up blond who thought she was the cat’s meow’ or that ‘great guy with such a nice smile’  in an office with fewer people.

 From the minute you walk in for your interview, until the minute you leave, you will be under the microscope. Not only will your competencies and qualifications be evaluated, but you will also be judged on the way you look and the way you behave. 

 By treating everyone–regardless of position or rank–with the same respect as you would like to be treated yourself and you’re likely to enhance your chances of a receiving rave reviews… and just maybe, an offer of employment!

 

How to Avoid Providing Salary Requirements to Prospective Employers

Actually, there’s not a very satisfactory answer to this question because what we have here is a horse and cart situation.

The reason the employer is asking for salary rates is either because he/she is looking for a way to diminish the pool of applicants, and one way to do this is to ask candidates what they’ve been making in the past OR because he truly can NOT afford to pay more than XXX dollars.  Either way, the result is still the same for you, the job seeker. And that is to say that if you DON’T give this information, you WON’T be considered. Period.

About the only work-around possible is to write a very nice cover letter explaining the fact that while you have held salaries for as much as $XYZ, you are no longer searching for the ‘bucks’ but rather for job satisfaction. Therefore, the paycheck is really the least important part of the job. You might wish to elaborate on this by stating that your partner has more than sufficient income, thereby allowing YOU to take a position that pleases you, salary notwithstanding.

Having said that however, be ready with a convincing and logical answer to the question as to WHY you’d even agree to work for less than what you’re really worth.  Some answers that come to mind would be outright lies such as a) I just inherited a substantial sum of money from my great uncle/dog/sister etc and I can afford to work for much less than previously or  b) I just won the lottery. However, the better part of valor is to use your spouse, as per the above and simply say that your wif/husband already has significant financial resources allowing you to live quite comfortably without your contributions.

And, while you probably won’t want to use the previous answers, you DO still need to create a sense of devil-may-care re what salary they offer you. The customary phrase here is ‘I’m open for discussion on that point” or “I’m certain we can come to a mutual understanding on this point.”

If the employer does agree to interview you, he may still want to see a dollar amount. If this is the case, no reasoning is going to persuade him otherwise.  You will therefore need to provide an acceptable range. Note that if you’re applying for a position as Senior Management, you’d do best to provide a range in 10K increments: ie. “I am looking for $80,000-90,000. If applying for a more modest position, your range would obviously be a more modest one: i.e. $30,000-$32,000.

That way, if the employer is truly interested in you, he has some flexibility and will feel better about hiring you at a lesser level.  MAKE NO MISTAKE….Don’t kid yourself and think the employer is doing this because he cares so much about you: NOT! Instead, he knows only too well that an employee is likely to leave as soon as a better offer comes along. Therefore, why even bother to make the offer?

One other technique you can try is to volunteer to sign a binding contract for a specified period of time. Of course, it may not be in your best interest to do so–it just depends on how badly you want the job!

 

 

 

Yes, Job Hunters: Establishing Rapport IS Crucial to Your Success!

Unfortunately for those of you who border on the introverted, who you know really DOES matter—to say nothing of how you relate to them.  In fact, the relationships you establish (or fail to establish) will often mean the difference between success and failure.

Think about any of the social events you’ve been to recently. Undoubtedly, you’ve observed a couple of people chatting animatedly with another person in a corner of their own, seemingly on the way to creating something great–and having a great time simultaneously.

It is usually true that it takes time to create rapport and a lot of it.  But, in today’s society, there things happen instantly, thanks to the like of e mail, Twitter and Face book, and people have had to adjust their entire ways of doing business. It’s almost as though we have given ourselves permission to rush through the pleasantries to get to the ‘real stuff.’

One of the best ways to ‘shortcut’ the whole process is to make sure to make a positive first impression by maintaining eye contact, smiling frequently and reacting in a welcoming manner. 

After you’ve been introduced to someone new, your next task is to find some way to connect with them after your meeting/seminar/conference etc.is over. This means finding common elements in your background, upbringing or beliefs. We all seek to be understood, accepted and valued as human beings and the more open you are, the more people will tend to gravitate to you. And voila: a bond is born!

Now, it’s up to you to keep it alive. You can do this with thoughtful little gestures such as a birthday card, congratulatory note or e mail message just to reaffirm the fact that you’ree still interested in maintaining contact.  As time goes on, you will undoubtedly find occasions to share a meal or a dessert.

If you believe in yourself and are convinced of your ultimate success, others will be drawn to you and want to partner with you.

 

Get a Mentor and Get Ahead!

It’s all the rage now—and for smart employees, it has been for the past two decades. A mentor can guide, direct, counsel and advise you from the vantage point of many years in the work force.

If possible, see whether you can schedule a regular meeting with your mentor to discuss the areas in which you feel you need assistance. She or he should be willing and able to enlighten you as to the hidden pitfalls of your department—which often includes tipping you off to the personality idiosyncrasies of your colleagues.

She or he should also be capable of explaining to you what the career path is at your company and how to prepare for the next step. Your mentor can either be someone in your own company or simply someone from the same industry. The most important thing is to identify a person who shares your same values and work style.  (It usually works best if you select someone who is both positive AND optimistic.)  

A mentor should also be skilled at communicating and not take this role lightly. An individual who is here today and gone tomorrow won’t be of much use to you.  The most important quality of a mentor-mentee relationship is the ability to share. 

Even though you won’t have the numerous years of work experience behind you, it’s still possible for you to make a contribution.  Your strength lies in the fact that you are a brand new set of ears and eyes and you will perceive things differently–precisely BECAUSE you don’t have a ton of experience weighing you down.  A fresh perspective is a valuable commodity.

Because your mentor is likely to be far busier than you are, you must take responsibility for managing the logistics of your relationship. For instance, keep a journal or a notebook in which you note the things you have learned or ideas that come up.  Take the initiative in confirming your meetings, and where possible, volunteer to pick up the tab for a breakfast or lunch at some point.

If you are given criticism, try very hard not to take offense. Remember that your mentor is just trying to be helpful to you, so take it in stride and see what you can do to correct your behavior in the future.

Finally, remember to tell your mentor how much you appreciate the fact that he/she has taken the time to meet with you. Watch for any opportunities to assist your mentor with logistics for that upcoming meeting, or personal errands.

A mentor-mentee relationship is predicated on mutual benefit and trust and you’ll want to do all you can to ensure its ultimate success.