New Year, New Start – New Career?

career rebootIt has been awhile since I wrote a blog post. Life and career can get in the way, can’t they? Perhaps you have let your life coast, too. And maybe your career? The new year offers a fresh start for all of us. Time to review, refresh and reboot. That’s what I’m doing by offering my new website, one that can be read on your phone as well as any other device that is connected to the Internet. I have also been reading a lot to learn what’s new in career strategy and social media. (Did you know that social media offers many avenues to enhance a job search and improve your career success? LinkedIn offers ways to network online.) Lifelong learning is how anyone stays current in their career.

So what are your goals for 2018? Get a better job? Return to school to finally work on that degree? Maybe you are burned out and feel it’s time to choose something entirely new. Or are you ready for your second act, perhaps a part time gig that will take you into retirement? Whatever it is, don’t procrastinate. Take charge, take action. Contact a coach for assistance. Enhance your self-confidence and you will feel better about yourself. A career coach can help you with that. For years, I’ve lived by the motto, “Believe in yourself and everything is possible.” I know, I am a walking example of what can happen when you do.

Wishing you career success in 2018!

Meg

Good Questions Enhance Communication – How?

What good questions do you ask? Questions can be powerful, especially open-ended questions starting with what or how and sometimes a non-intimidating why. Coupled with focused listening, you have here the tools for mastering the art of communication.

Let's establish that in most situations questions will produce better responses than commands. Try this with your teenager and you may be surprised. "What time will you be home?" will usually get better results than, "Remember, your curfew is 11 p.m." If your child tries to test you with a reply of time beyond his/her curfew, then you can always step in with the reminder. Just give him/her the opportunity to communicate with you.

In the workplace, how many times have you asked your boss questions that could be answered with yes or no? Did you get a helpful reply, or one needing more discussion? Perhaps you would have received more complete information if you'd asked what or how? Take a moment and ponder this point. How can you reword a question to start with what or how?

In a job interview, which questions produce better responses from you – those beginning with what, how, and why, or those easily answered with yes or no? Do you feel like you're leaving the response incomplete unless you add additional information? Notice how more comprehensive your response becomes when you're asked a what, how, or why question. Which kind makes you more memorable to the interviewer?

There is an art to asking good questions. One tip is to put yourself in the responder's shoes. How will they feel after answering your question? Hopefully, they'll feel comfortable and willing to continue communicating with you.

The next time you want information from someone, ask the what or how question with respect for the responder in mind. Give it a try! Be mindful of your results and fine tune your future questions. For more information on this topic, check out, "The Art of Asking Questions," on the HBR Blog Network.

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg

She Asked Good Questions

What will be your legacy? Will it be attached to your career? Or will you have one?

Journalism lost one of its pioneers for women this past weekend, Helen Thomas, 92. She joined the White House Press Corps in the Kennedy administration and retired in 2010. She was the first female reporter to cover the President. Always with a lot of spunk and persistence, she prodded presidents to get responses to her questions. One time she had President Kennedy talking in circles – he didn't know how to wrap up his answer. With grace, she rose and said, "Thank you, Mr. President." With obvious relief, he replied, "Thank YOU, Helen," and quickly exited the stage.

Just before Helen's retirement, Ann Curry of NBC News, interviewed her about her long career with the White House Press Corps. One of Ann's pointed questions was, "Helen, what do you want to be remembered for?" Helen quickly replied, "She asked good questions."

Many people wander through life with no thought to what the world will be like once they're gone. Others spend time trying to make the world a better place than when they entered it. Which type of person are you? Your legacy doesn't have to be grandiose or larger than life. It can be as simple as dedication to recycling or planting a tree in a park. Those with larger ambitions may run for office to improve their city, or join nonprofit boards or foundations to help improve others' lives.

Some peopled just want to give their children a better life than what they had. They work all the time to build savings and acquire "things" to leave their kids. Others focus on enriching their children's lives with beauty, fine arts, and appreciation for all around them. Whether you teach by example, experience, or with textbooks, kids will get their values from you. Your values will become your legacy to your children.

Maybe now's the time to give some thought to your legacy. You still have time to build one. In the future, someone will stop at your gravesite or flip through a photo album or see a plaque with your name on it and remember you – what do you want them to say about your life? As for me, being a career coach, I'd love to have people remember me by saying, "She asked good questions."

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg

Career On-Hold for December? Why?

When I went to the post office this week, I had to firmly grip my steering wheel with both hands as my car wanted to turn down the street to the shopping mall — all by itself! Seriously, I wanted so much to go "play" and leave work behind in the office. But if I did, what would my career coaching clients say when they called for their appointments and I wasn't there? What would my clients think who were expecting their resumes completed, and I hadn't even started writing them? What would my creditors think if I ignored the bills on my desk and just added more? I had obligations to myself and others that I needed to fulfill despite the holiday season with its good cheer and temptations beckoning me.
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Traditionally, December is a time when employees party-hearty, slack off some, use up vacation days, and wind down in anticipation of holidays during the month. On the other hand, companies look for ways to meet budgets, trim expenses, and complete their annual planning for the new year. Sometimes layoffs occur before December 31 as cost-saving measures to enhance a company's year-end bottom line – you know that, right?

You may ask, "How does this relate to MY career?" Well, let me tell you — plenty! The economy is coming back. Today the national unemployment rate was announced at 7.7%, the lowest rate in four years. When employers begin hiring in 2013, will you be ready? Or will you be someone who has put your career on hold for December, choosing to play instead of prepare for the hiring rush? Perhaps you are happily employed and have no desire to change career or job right now. If that is your situation, congratulations…you must be working your passion, and I am so thrilled for you.

However, according to several recent reports, 20-50% of all workers are miserable in their current
Definesuccess208gifjobs and want to "bail out"
the first chance they get. If you are ready to jump ship, or if you are currently unemployed, December is the perfect time to update your resume, practice job interviewing skills, work on your career plan, and get ready for January. Don't be left behind when hiring gears up.

Contact Abilities Enhanced for your career change needs. I'm ready to help you!

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg

At This Time of Year We Give Thanks

(From the archives, November 2004) 

At this time of year, we think about the meaning of Thanksgiving and what we are thankful for. Not a simple task, for those anticipating pink slips before the end of the year. Not a simple task, for
Thanksgiving those enduring long-term unemployment. Not a simple task, for those wondering where they will find the money to buy holiday presents for their loved ones. Not a simple task for those in decision-making roles who have to choose which employees to keep, which employees to let go, and in which direction to lead their companies as they struggle to move forward into 2005 (and now 2013 – what's changed in 8 years?).

Yes, there are signs that our economy is improving, depending upon where you live and work in the U.S. Somehow most of us are going to make it, even if we have to work temporary positions for awhile, even if we have to purchase our own health insurance, even if we have to make our presents this year instead of buying them.

This week (in 2004) I received an email from an American client who has put his coaching program on hold while he works for a U.S. contractor in Baghdad, Iraq. He recently completed an assignment there working for the U.S. Department of Defense and decided to return to continue honoring his calling. Let me share with you some of his thoughts at this time of year:

"It is fall in Baghdad though it doesn't feel like it since the trees don't display the season's colors that we have in the Midwest. But the leaves are falling. The other day I watched a Marine (who was standing sentry) push leaves with his boots creating a nice little pile. I bet he was thinking of home.

"We had a very sad incident occur a few days ago. Three of the guards that protect our building were kidnapped and executed. They were young and all married with children. The 'powers that be' continue to keep us safe (in the building). We have many guards around the building, as well as inside. We are constantly under tight security.

"I forgot how exhausting this place is. Twelve hours of work is enough to wear a person out. And when the day's work is done, it is impossible to relax and get a good night's sleep when you jump at every sound. So, I am looking forward to my first R&R back home with my family – only 31 more days.

"This week I finished a counter-terrorism course and next I will be learning field first aid. I am planning to add the counter-terrorism course to my resume. All this is so different than the work in the states. The experience (here) just continues to grow."

Compared to many living in other places around the world, most of us in the United States have a lot to be grateful for at this time of year. By digging deep and acknowledging our joys, our loves, our strengths, our abundance – we will trigger our hopes, our passion, our self-confidence, and our convictions to inspire us to successfully make the career changes that bring us closer to living the complete lives we want. Are you ready to honor your calling? To follow your dream? It's up to you to make it happen. It's time to figure it out – now – at this time of year.

*** A Thanksgiving 2012 note: Don't forget to pay tribute to our military, many on active duty who can't be with their families this year. We owe them so much! And also give thanks for, and to, our veterans who have defended our country, often leaving permanent wounds that will affect them for the rest of their lives. We owe our own lives to them all.

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg

Job Interviewing: Positive Spin or Just Plain Lies?

After a very long Presidential campaign, it's fair to say that we're all tired of political ads, debates, lawn signs, and "news" programs focused on the election and candidates. More than anything, I'm tired of all the different versions of the "truth" cast about by those fighting to win. How could any of us discern the "real" truth amidst all the contentious babble? I know I struggled, but I did vote.

"Why You Need to Run Your Job Search Like a Presidential Campaign,"  an article published by by Andrea Murad at FOXBusiness on Election Day (November 06, 2012), got me thinking about how the campaign was more than just a job search – it was a very long job interview. Have you ever had those job interviews that go on for weeks where you have maybe six or more interviews with individuals, committees, and then individuals again? At the end of the ordeal, do you even still want the job?

After so many job interviews for the same position, you may begin to wonder if you told each interviewer

Perfectjob_12 the same version of why you wanted to leave your current employer – why you wanted this particular job – why you were more qualified than your competition. Or do you begin to reflect on what you said at different times and hope you didn't contradict yourself? Everyone wants to create the best possible impression when interviewing for a job. But there is a fine line between positive spin and just plain lying.

When asked why you're leaving your current employer, it's fair to say that you want a job or career change where you can build on new skills you've developed. What you don't want to say is that your current boss holds you back and refuses to give you new responsibilities, although you've acquired new skills. Never blame your boss for anything, even if true in your own mind! It's not a lie to omit this information from your reason for leaving. In other words, give your reason a positive spin focused on you, not a negative one that shows your stressed relationship with your boss.

So what is classified as a job interview lie? If you claim to have graduated from college when you've completed 120 credit hours, but not actually graduated, that IS a lie. Just as political candidates are fact-checked for their claims, you will also be. College graduation is easy to check, so don't put yourself in that position. Instead, in a job interview, explain why your combined college courses and life/work experience exceed the qualification of college graduation. Sometimes that will work!

Another easy-to-check fact regards your references. Accept that your references WILL be checked, so don't ever lie about knowing someone you don't. Furthermore, ask your references permission to list them and send them a copy of your resume so that they can feel more at ease with your potential employers when discussing why they support you.

Job interviewing is an art based on facts. If called for an interview, go – even if you have mixed feelings about the job. Yes, you need lots of practice, but more than that, how can you really know anything about a job until you've spoken with a hiring authority at that company? You may surpise youself and get an offer when you don't feel the stress of dearly wanting this particular job!

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg

Networking for Life – Do You Do It?

Today Joan called me in a panic. The job she's been happy in for the past two years is coming to an end due to company restructuring. I had coached Joan for several months to help her land this position after she'd been laid off the last time. She worked so hard to get it, and now she's going to have to hit the pavement again. It's so unfair! What makes the situation particularly painful is that Joan did not maintain her network of contacts once she accepted her current position. She thinks she knows where some of these people are, but will have to do some legwork to reestablish all her connections. This process will slow down her job search considerably.

With the average stay on a job now less than three years, it is critical to build and nurture a strong
Networkingprofessional network for the life of your career.
Stay in touch with people through occasional emails, greeting cards, and phone calls. Go out to lunch once in awhile. Don't end up like Joan – out of work one more time and having to start from scratch to rebuild your network. You are the only one responsible for your job security; you cannot afford to stop networking just because you get a new job. Jobs are transitory and will not last forever. Focus on the relationships you build to bridge you from one job to the next.

We're heading into the holiday season where more opportunities for networking present themselves. Please take advantage of these. Don't just party – build personal relationships! Even if you're not in the market to change jobs, broaden your knowledge base about what career opportunities exist. You never know when you'll need a little help from your friends.

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg

Ready to Change Jobs? Follow 6 Top Tips for a Smooth Transition

The buzz among hard workers today is that they're exhausted and ready to make a career change in 2013. Are you one of them? Here are a few tips to help you move forward:

1. Know what you want in a new job.
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Make sure you’re moving toward a better job and not just running away from one you don’t like. What are your values and how do they align with a new company’s culture? What will make this new job better than the old one? (Money is not the most important reason to change jobs.) A coach can help you work through the confusion.

2. Create a professional resume.

Your resume acts as your introduction to a company. It makes your first impression for you. Find books with resume samples to guide you or hire a professional resume writer who is trained, experienced and certified in this field. Make sure your resume reflects your work achievements. Don’t forget to send cover letters and interview thank you letters to show that you understand business etiquette.

3. Evaluate your network of contacts.

The job search process is a lot like dating – prospects usually don’t come knocking on your door! You have to get out and meet people. More people get new jobs through networking that any other activity – up to 80% according to several surveys. Look at the business relationships you already have and what you do to cultivate them. What professional, civic, and social groups do you belong to? Where do the people hang out that can introduce you to the right job opportunities?

4. Prepare for intervieiws with storytelling techniques.

Most hiring authorities use “behavioral or situational” interviewing methods. Write down examples from your work experience of specific challenges or situations, the actions you took to resolve those challenges, and the positive results or outcomes of your actions. Be ready to discuss these in any interview to demonstrate the value you have to offer an employer.

5. Test for business reality before saying “yes.”

Know the salary, benefits, overtime expectations, relocation/travel requirements – you don’t want any surprises after you start a new job. Some executives negotiate exit agreements before signing acceptance letters – kind of like pre-nuptial agreements!

6. Revisit old opportunities.

If the job you really want doesn’t choose you, check in with the employer 6-8 weeks later to see how the new hire is working out. Sometimes – not always – you can head off your competition and get a foot in the door before a second job vacancy notice is issued.

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg

Your Career: Have You Reached Its Final Frontier?

Astronaut Neil Armstrong died last week. He will always be remembered as the first man to walk on the moon, saying as he did it for all posterity, "One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." I vividly
Moon landing recall that day in July 1969, as do most of the Boomer generation. We were glued in awe to our TVs, some of us still watching black and white sets. What a day! If a man could walk on the moon, then anything was possible! The event filled me with hope and anticipation as I looked forward to my first year in college and the launch of my career. As most high school graduates then, and even many today, I had no inkling that my first career wouldn't be my only career. It's taken years for me to comprehend that career paths are meant to change.

Interestingly, career change correlates to space exploration. Like for those involved with many of NASA's projects, we have to patiently persevere and let the change process evolve, accepting things that can make us say in doubt, "Yeah, but…" If we try to rush it, chances are we'll fall into a career by default instead of by choice. Many names of NASA's space vehicles iterate major steps of career change, the most current being Curiosity.

Curiosity

Forty years after the first moon landing, NASA continues space exploration – this time with a robot on Mars. Launched in November 2011, the Mars Rover, "Curiosity," landed perfectly on the "red planet" on August 5, 2012. Just imagine it, over eight months to travel from Earth to Mars. Once again, I was awestruck at the grandeur of this event that led me to reminisce about the moon landing.

In changing careers, eight months isn't an outlandish time. Some career changers can accomplish the process in as little as three months, while for others, it might take up to a year. Influencing the time factor are one's commitment to the process and the actual hours available to invest. Most of my career change clients reach their goals in three to four months with my career coaching assistance, motivating and cheering them along.

Exploration

The first U.S. satellite, "Explorer 1," launched in 1958 in response to the Soviet Union's Sputnik. Look how far the U.S. went in space exploration in the eleven years before man's walk on the moon!

In career change, curiosity leads to exploration of options and possibilities. Questions get asked and with the right focus, answers are found. Once you see a few career possibilities, it's time to explore their viability for you. At this stage, the career change process involves a lot of research, talking to people who actually work in jobs that you are considering for yourself. Consider the information you receive; what matches your life's purpose and your core values?

Discovery

In the 1990s, NASA's space shuttle, "Discovery," busily carried communication satellites to various space destinations to facilitate man's deeper exploration of the space frontier. This exploration led to many discoveries that contributed to more than the just the satisfaction of man's curiosity. Scientific discoveries built on each other, paving the path for greater things to come.

As you choose a new career following your research and testing, I hope you accept that this career may not be your last. Most people will change careers several times in their life. Instead of looking at it as your final career, do the mapping to build on this career so it can lead you to even bigger and better career opportunities.

Summary

Just as the NASA space program has endured major budget cuts and accepted private industry into the realm of space exploration, periodic layoffs will occur in the workforce and careers will continue to evolve or become extinct. (Does anybody remember a keypunch operator?) One thing is true about change of all kinds – it happens – change is a constant of life. When you are able to embrace change and rebound from it in your career, you will be better prepared for whatever the future may hold for you. Parts of the career change process you can direct, but there is plenty beyond your control.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

Busting Free from the Control of Email

Remember the 1980s movie, "Ghostbusters?" The plot involves a trio of ghost exterminators who try to save New York from supernatural doom when a river of slime grows unchecked under the city, threatening to obliterate humanity.

After 13 years of working in my virtual career coaching business, I admit that I've been "slimed" by the over abundance of emails – email drives my business and I am tired of it! Email notice

When I boot up my computer in the morning, the first thing I do is check my email. I get invigorated from the thrill of never knowing what awaits me. It might be a potential client's inquiry, it might be a sign-up for my newsletter, or it might even be a new client contract! More likely, though, hiding behind cloaked headers are unwanted solicitations for anything from male sexual enhancement drugs to how to get my Santa letters addressed from the North Pole.

After reviewing 50 or more email headers in my inbox, deleting what I perceive as junk mail, saving my subscription newsletters for future reading, handling requests for information about my career services, and responding to clients who have emailed me overnight, whew! – I feel like I've worked a full day and it’s only 8 AM!

At this point, I’d probably be OK having invested only an hour or so into my email management. However, I stay connected to my email inbox throughout the day. Whenever I receive a new email, I am alerted through my email software program. With my business being Internet-based, I assume clients and prospects expect instant gratification when they contact me; therefore, I want to comply. I guess you could say I consider replying to email with a sense of urgency as one way I provide high-quality customer service.

The constant interruption of email alerts distracts my focus. I'm pulled away from whatever I'm doing to read the latest greeting. It’s difficult to create new client materials, prepare for my speaking engagements, write articles like this one, and more. My only saving grace is that I don’t handle emails while coaching my clients. I’ve been caught off guard on occasion, though, trying to multi-task by reading email when participating in a teleclass. I just can't seem to master the art of reading, listening and responding – all at the same time! (Why do I get a picture here of the three monkeys who see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil?)

Outside the office, my obsession with email continues. I’ve set up my email to route to my cell phone; I can easily access it from my laptop computer via my wireless Internet connection as I watch TV with husband in the evening; I never travel out of town without my laptop for fear I will miss some critical email message. On more than one occasion, my husband has claimed that I am married more to my email than to him! Oh, my!

Now that I've bared my soul, can you help me figure out what to do to control this email monster? Perhaps you have experienced similar feelings about email driving your own work day? What are the challenges you face? What have you done to remedy the situation? Please, tell me your secrets and tips! I need help!

I’d love to hear from you. Then, I will write a follow-up column offering solutions to this dilemma that I’m sure impacts many of us. When you write, please let me know if I may use your name when I quote you in my article. You may contact me at meg@abilitiesenhanced.com.

I did find a good article on email overload, "10 Tips To Take Control Of Your Inbox" – published in the Business Insider. I'll see if any of those tips can help.

Working in a one-person office presents me enough challenges without having "email slime" trying to Ghosts_DSC2516take over. Let's all become "ghost-busters" and discover better methods for handling our email monsters so we can refocus on what's most important while we work. I'm ready to take back my life!

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg