A New Job Thanks to the Elephant

When I interviewed for a business developer position in the early 1990s, I answered one question that I credit with getting me the job. At the time, I thought it was an odd question, but I answered it instinctively – and it was the response the interviewer was seeking.

What was the question? "If an elephant showed up in your front yard, what would you do with it?" My immediate Elephantresponse was that I would sell it to a zoo. I discovered later after I was employed in this organization that other candidates had responded with "donate it to a zoo" or "find a home for it where loving people would care for it." These responses were more philanthropic oriented than what the interviewer wanted to hear.

My instincts had guided me correctly – this organization was looking for someone who knew how to promote and sell, even though they were a nonprofit. Once on the job, I bought a small ceramic elephant that I sat on my desk. The interviewer, Ron, and I would chuckle whenever he dropped my office to visit, referring to the question he had asked me about what to do with a surprise elephant.

Even in the 1990s, behavioral/situational interview questions – like the one I answered – were popping up in job interviews. Today, it's all about behavioral and situational interviewing. Furthermore, storytelling is now woven into the process. For example, instead of just explaining how I'd sell the elephant to a zoo, today I'd go further and say, "In fact, let me tell you about a time when something similar to this really happened." Interviewing is all about positioning yourself, about selling yourself, about proving your uniqueness.

Storytelling creates pictures in the minds of interviewers that help them remember you and your brand. Storytelling helps you create bridges from what you did that provided value for former employers to how these experiences can help a potential employer solve their problem(s). Storytelling also offers you a way to demonstrate what you've learned from possible negative situations about which hiring authorities will inquire.

Marketing Master, Patsi Krakoff, discusses the art of storytelling on her blog. Her post has many elements in it that can be applied to job interviewing. I love her quote, "Stories impose meaning on chaos and organize and give context to our sensory experiences." My advice to you is to remember that job interviewing is your opportunity to sell yourself, so most of what works in sales and marketing can be applied to your promotion of YOU in your job search.

Anyone in a job search today needs to be prepared for typical behavioral and situational interview questions. However, no way do you want to memorize responses. In a job interview, you must appear conversational and have knowledge of your topic, never spouting off rehearsed responses. The key to job interview success is mastering the storytelling process. Train your memory to bring the right responses forward based on keywords you have embedded in your answers. Although not a quick skill to master, storytelling in job interviews does produce positive results and worth all your effort to learn.

One of my career coaching programs with the biggest demand is Job Interview Preparation. A two-session program, it all takes place by phone and customized to a job candidate's needs. Homework is offered to help you develop your own storytelling skills. You may learn more by visiting my website

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

Career Success CAN Be Yours in 2011!

As we leave 2010 and enter 2011, take some time to choose what you want for your career next year. When you have a plan, you're more likely to get what you want.

"Fortune favors the bold." This quote from Virgil, a wise man of long, long ago, was never more true than it is today in our workplace. "The great thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving." Was Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., referring to the way we manage our careers? "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." Will Rogers sums it up: we have to take action to make it happen!

Are you getting the picture? Take charge of your own career success! Remember the bestselling book of a few Who.moved.cheese years ago, "Who Moved My Cheese?"  Its author, Spencer Johnson, M.D., uses a short and simple parable to prove how we need to embrace change as a way of life to succeed in today's workplace. He develops the plights of four characters, two mice and two "little people," as they seek crucial nourishment by wandering through a maze, forced to deal with unexpected change along the way. Taking less than a hour to read, this amusing story could impact your life forever and help you process the idea of "change."

Continue to explore your career options, even after you achieve your "dream" job. Don't get stuck in a career rut. Your job security must come from within YOU. Research your career interests. Talk to people in different fields. Develop your networks and get involved. Keep looking for ways to improve your skills and increase your knowledge. Gather your data, make some decisions, then begin plotting your course to a new career success.

Hire a career coach to help you focus on your goals and create an action plan to attain them. When you partner Perfectjob_12 with a professional coach, you have someone who will support you in your goals and keep you motivated to achieve them.

Never, ever, ignore the proverbial handwriting on the employer's wall. Always be ready for the next change, whether you want it or not. You can make it happen! You can make it the best thing that ever happened to you!

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

Who Cares About What You Want in a Job? Only YOU!

OK, folks, let's get real about job search – seriously!

I appreciate that you've put many stressful hours into resume preparation. That's not an easy project to complete. Hopefully, you hired a professional resume writer to ensure that your resume is letter perfect. When it comes to your resume, there is absolutely no room for error.

BUT, no matter how much work and money you put into your resume, keep in mind that it will probably be glanced at by a Recruiter or HR professional for maybe 10-15 seconds on its first pass when you submit it for Suit and resume any job opening. Ouch! That may make you stop suddenly in your tracks – but don't let it. Most recruiters and HR personnel receive many, many resumes for each job opening they post. There's just not enough time in a day to study each document carefully. So how does your resume become the one considered for final review? And an interview for you?

Keywords! Most resumes are stored in electronic databases where they rest until pulled up for review on the basis of keyword search. Your resume writer knows how to embed the right keywords into your resume to enhance its chances for final review. If you're working on your resume yourself, take a look at relevant postings on job boards. That's where you may get some hot keywords to use in your resume.

The other critical factor is having a crisp, clear target that is expressed through the experience and skills listed on your resume. No employer has time to figure out what you're looking for. Make it easy on them – leave nothing to chance! So, guess what, this means tailoring your resume for each job opening you apply for. Yes, a lot work, but well worth it. There's no such thing as a general or "I'm open" resume – be specific if you want the employer's attention.

Now, let's assume your resume makes it to the final cut and you become one of 10 or fewer people called in to interview for the position. How do you prepare for this opportunity? It's a given that you NEED the job, but, again, who cares? Only YOU! Your task when you get to the interview is to demonstrate your highest value to solve this employer's problems. In other words, focus only on what you can do in this position to contribute to this company. Remember, what YOU need doesn't matter – only what the employer needs is important, especially in your first interview.

So, how do you prepare? Start by thoroughly researching this company. Learn as much as you can from your Internet detective work about this company's products and/or services. Read this company's press releases. Check out this company's website, plus go to LinkedIn.com for information about this company and its employees. Know anyone who works there? Reach out to them professionally to see if you can get some inside scoop. It helps if you can learn why this job is open – is it a new position, a replacement, or was someone let go?

Once you have insight into why this job is open, take stock of your experience and skills to figure out what you have to contribute that can be of benefit to this compnay. Think in terms of what challenges you've faced, what actions you've taken, and what results you've attained. This critical information will help you "tell stories" in your interview to demonstrate your "best stuff." Storytelling is important as it will leave pictures in the minds of your interviewers to make you memorable and a stand-out among your competition.

During the interview, think in terms of sell, sell, sell! Your interview is your opportunity to sell your Suit and smile qualifications to the employer (or its representative). Just like your resume is your marketing brochure, your interview is your sales presentation. Try to de-personalize yourself a bit from the process. Think in terms of selling "Brand Me, Inc.," to the employer. You are your own product!

Don't worry. There will come the time when your needs will be considered, usually when a job offer is made. Until then, only be concerned with how you can help a prospective employer want you and only YOU! Always put the employer first!

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

Career-Collective-original-small

SPECIAL NOTE: I am honored to be a member of the Career Collective, a group of careers experts who each month share their advice and tips to enhance the management of your career. Please link to their blog posts below. Your comments are invited and much appreciated. Follow our hash-tag on Twitter – #careercollective  as well as follow everyone's individual tweets on this month's topic of common misconceptions many have about the hiring process. You'll be amazed at all the free career advice and knowledge that is available to you from these experts in the careers field!

 

5 Misconceptions Entry-Level Job Seekers Make, @heatherhuhman

How "Interview Savvy" Are You?, @careersherpa

Employers Don't "Care", @ValueIntoWords

Misconceptions about Using Recruiters, @DebraWheatman

15 Myths and Misconceptions about Job-Hunting, @KatCareerGal

Are You Boring HR? @resumeservice

Job Search Misconceptions Put Right, @GayleHoward

Who Cares About What You Want in a Job? Only YOU!, @KCCareerCoach

How to get your resume read (sort of), @barbarasafani

The 4 secrets to an effective recruiter relationship, @LaurieBerenson

Job Interviews, Chronic Illness and 3 Big Ideas, @WorkWithIllness

The secret to effective job search, @Keppie_Careers

Superstars Need Not Apply, @WalterAkana

The Jobs Under the Mistletoe, @chandlee

8 Common Sense Interview Tips @erinkennedycprw

Still no job interview? @MartinBuckland @EliteResumes

Misconceptions about the Hiring Process: Your Online Identity is a Critical Part of Getting Hired, @expatcoachmegan

Creative vs. Traditional Job Search: Got What It Takes?

Should you employ creative job search strategies, or do they  just fall flat and make you look like a fool?

That depends. In a recent careers column by Eve Tahmincioglu at MSNBC.com, the author quoted a workplace consultant who said in regard to the practice of informational interviewing that employers don't like a "bait and switch" or, in other words, you need to be up front with your intention and purpose when sitting face-to-face with a hiring authority. If what you really want is a job interview, then getting your foot in the door based on your request for an informational interview is being insincere.

I don't completely agree with this opinion. While I don't advocate being anything less than authentic, you can choose when to exercise full disclosure. In fact, my personal work history includes a time when I landed a new and better full time position, all because I took a risk using my creativity.

Here's what happened:

I was working as a Job Developer for a non-profit organization that strove to get laid off workers reemployed. My role was to set up meetings with potential hiring authorities where I introduced our non-profit program and how it worked. I then tried to solicit job openings for which our job loss clients could apply. Building rapport was key to the success of my efforts. A reason I was offered this job was my background in recruiting and staffing.

One day a faxed job opening hit my desk. It was for a position with another non-profit organization requiring very similar skills as the job I was currently doing – but offering $5000 more per year to start! As a single parent of two sons, I instantly knew that I had to get that job – but what was my best strategy? The job posting asked for one area of experience that I didn't have – working with a specific client population type. Would that become a deal buster? Hmm, only one way to find out.

I picked up the phone and scheduled an meeting with the organization's director on the pretext that I wanted to learn more about their position for my laid off clients. No problem – an appointment was immediately set for later in the week.

The day of the meeting I dressed in my best suit as if I were going to a job interview. I made sure I knew the location (actually, another benefit if I could only get the job was that the site was located five minutes from my home!). I arrived five minutes early with my questions in hand. I planned to conduct myself as if I were being true to my stated purpose – learn more about the position for my clients.Interview

The moment I met the director I was completely at ease. She was very personable and easy to converse with. We meandered off topic a bit and got to know each other as real people – definitely building rapport. Of course, I got answers to all my questions, and the meeting went beyond the allotted 30 minutes to over 45 minutes.

When it was time for me to leave, I looked the director straight in the eye and said, "I've really enjoyed our talk. Your position sounds very challenging and rewarding. I have no doubt I'd be a perfect candidate for you. You will have my resume in the morning." She replied, "I certainly hope so. I look forward to seeing it."

Wow! I was halfway there! That evening I updated my resume and delivered it, as promised, on my way to work the next morning. I was called for an official interview within the week. So, I got a new suit and went to the interview prepared to ace it.

Yes, I was hired. During the seven years that I worked for her, the director commented periodically that she never would have considered me for the position based on my resume alone as I lacked that specific client population experience. She had liked my assertiveness in setting up that first meeting. She also realized that I could learn about her client population from her, but my recruiting and job development skills were priceless and she couldn't pass up the opportunity to hire someone who really knew how to do the leg work.

Will this strategy work every time? Of course not. But I do encourage you to be professionally creative as you conduct your job search. Be true to yourself and others while keeping an open mind to trying out-of-the-box possibilities. Make your networking work for you, build your rapport, and take a few chances.

Wishing you career success as 2011 races toward us!

Meg

Your Career Brand: A Scary Trick or an Appealing Treat?

Ghosts and goblins and witches – oh, my! Have you gotten into the spirit of Halloween? Ghosts_DSC2516 We at Career Collective have, but, of course, we see this "trick or treat" time through the lens of career management and job search. What fun metaphors this holiday provides us! 

Does your career "costume" attract your target audience? I'm not talking about the clothes you're wearing, but the career brand you project by the way you talk, the professional groups with which you associate, and the kind of work behavior you exhibit on the job. While you have to be true to your authentic self, there is never a right time at work to be totally informal. Opinions of others of you do matter, so keep your politics to yourself, don't bash your boss or co-workers, and NEVER go into work with a hangover. Crying on the job is usually inappropriate, no matter how difficult it may be to hold back the tears. Habitually long lunch hours and other mismanagement of your time indicate a careless attitude toward your job responsibilities. And whatever you do, remember that your work computer belongs to your employer – don't use it for personal shopping, surfing porn sites, or goofing off because you're bored with your job. (Do I even have to mention why you don't use it for job search? Duh!)

Finger OK, I hear you – you're not currently looking for a job, so why must you project any career brand at all? NEWSFLASH: No matter how secure you believe your job to be, you are always "on stage" auditioning for your next career role. Do I really have to re-hash the "no job is permanent" speech as we continue to crawl out of a crippling recession? Every worker wants security and stability, but these elusive conditions no longer exist, if they ever did. You must take charge of your career, making decisions and choices while still employed as you now is when you have emotional wherewithall to exercise sound judgment.

So, going back to your career brand, take a look at how you can build and weave yourDigital_spider_cobweb_2010  career plan for the life of your career, not just for filling the space between your jobs. At work, everything you do and everyone you meet become part of your career plan in some way. Be strategic – decide how you can integrate both into your next career move. Guess what – this means you need to discover what your next career move should be. Or do you want another career by default instead of by choice? (Note: A Career Coach can help.)

Cultivate your database of contacts. When you collect business cards, note on the back of them a connective word to trigger your mind to remember the individual. And then reach out to them later. A quick email, coffee break, or a lunch can start to build the rapport you need. Recently, I had a client who faced very little challenge in getting a new job when she was unexpectedly laid off. She went to her database and contacted everyone she knew. Voila! She was back at work – in her chosen field – in 30 days. Her lifelong, on-the-job networking paid off big time.

Constantly working on your career brand can become tiring. You will have to consider it your second job, deserving of your time, attention and hard work. I suggest keeping a tracking file – on your HOME computer – of what you do, when you do it, and with whom you connect. Keep it simple, but well-organized. Stay connected to the world outside your workplace by reading about current events, white papers from your field, and global business news (as well as local). We are entering the annual holiday season when you can make networking more frequent – take advantage of this time!

Bottom line: Discover your own way to set your career brand on fire. Jack_DSC2886cut%20copyWhen you light it up, others will notice. Carve out your goals, then go after them by staying involved and engaged so your next job search is an easy one.

Wishing you career success in 2010!

And a safe Happy Halloween!

Meg

 

Career-Collective-original-small SPECIAL NOTE:

I am honored to be a member of the Career Collective, a group of careers experts who each month share their advice and tips to enhance the management of your career. Please link to their blog posts below. Your comments are invited and much appreciated. Follow our hash-tag on Twitter - #careercollective  as well as follow everyone's individual tweets on this month's topic of Halloween. You'll be surprised at all the free career advice and knowledge that is availabe to you!

 

Where Are the Wild Things, Anyway?, @WorkWithIllness

Is Your Job Search Making You Feel Like a Smashed Pumpkin?, @DebraWheatman

Hiding in Plain Sight, @WalterAkana,

Don't make these frightful resume mistakes, @LaurieBerenson

How Not to Be a Spooky Job Seeker, @heathermundell

A Tombstone Resume:Eulogizing Your Experience, @GayleHoward

The Top Ten Scary Things Job Seekers Do, @barbarasafani

Oh, Job Search Isn't Like Trick or Treating?, @careersherpa

A Most Unfortunate Resume Mistake No One Will Tell You, @chandlee

Oh no. Not the phone!, @DawnBugni

Halloween Caution: Job Seeker Horror, @resumeservice

Boo! Are you scaring away opportunities or the competition? @MartinBuckland @EliteResumes

Your Career Brand: A Scary Trick or an Appealing Treat?, @KCCareerCoach

How to avoid mistakes on your resume, @Keppie_Careers

Sc-sc-scary Resume Mistakes, @erinkennedycprw

A Flawed Resume is a Scary Prospect, @KatCareerGal

Job Search Angst: Like Clouds Mounting Before a Storm, @ValueIntoWords

Does Your Career Costume Fit You?, @expatcoachmegan

Flipping the Job Interview

I can't believe that I've been blogging for five years!  As I took some time to read some of my past posts, I came across the one below from 2006 that still rings true today.

Hope you enjoy this gem from the Career Chaos archives:

Cracking Your Next Company's Culture is a must read for anyone embarking on a job search. Instead of spending all your prep time rehearsing your answers to tough interview  questions, read this article and note what you need to do to ask the right questions.

One strategy that grabbed my attention is to ask the interviewer to give an example of how  the company "lives and breathes its value statements." Of course, you have to know  what the company value statements are, so your research here is highly critical.

Tired of all those behavioral and situational interview  questions? Turn the tables by asking the interviewer to "walk you through a recent initiative." Wow! This is great stuff!

Wishing you career success in 2010!

Meg

How to “Stage” A Successful Job Search

While I was channel-surfing recently, I discovered HGTV, a cable TV station that offers programming on topics related to buying, selling, and renting homes. Not having sold a house lately, I am learning a lot about working with today's real estate market.

Mathouse3274 One topic I find particularly fascinating is the concept of "staging" rooms to sell a house. The way I understand it, staging refers to updating a house's rooms to make them attractive and appealing to prospective buyers who want to be able to walk into a house and immediately "see" themselves in the space. This updating could be as simple as painting the interior walls with a neutral color that blends with the furnishings. It could mean replacing a kitchen's appliances, counter top, or even knocking down walls to enlarge the space.

One might ask, "What's the point to investing money into a house that you're trying to sell? Won't that just decrease the profit you make on the sale of the house?" Yes, it will, but keep in mind that today's home buyer's market requires sellers to work harder to make the sale happen.

Staging is a technique that job seekers can utilize to make themselves appear more employment-ready to prospective employers. I see it applying to your resume, job interview preparation, and attitude adjustment.

When it comes to your resume, think, what does a potential employer want to see? What will make you stand out among all competition? Niche your resume as tightly as you can in order to brand yourself as a unique expert in your field. A resume shouldn't be designed to appeal to the world, but rather to a narrow slice of the employment market.

Job interview preparation should help you learn how to answer interview questions to demonstrate that your past experience and accomplishments can be translated to solve the problems of a potential employer – remember, it's always about the employer, not you. Before your interview, research the employer so you are able to prepare. You need background information to help you discover the employer's needs, and then, frame your work stories accordingly.

Your attitude adjustment may be the most challenging aspect to engage into staging your job search. I would never ask you to surrender you authenticity, but rather, boost your opinion of yourself and the job search process. Each job interview offers you a new chance to show how you are the perfect pick for the job. Make the best of this opportunity by leaving your grudges, prejudices, job seeker weariness, and overall disappointment behind you. Stage your attitude with enthusiasm, hope, self-confidence, and faith in the job search process.

Employers want to meet upbeat candidates – so become one!

Wishing you career success in 2010!

Meg

Some Basic Job Search Tips for You

Here are a few tips to help you during your job search:

Numbers Game

Throughout your job search ponder this – You must collect your share of “No’s” before you get your “Yes”. And it only takes one “Yes” to get a job!

Mind Your Manners

Your mother was right. Please and thank you do count. It’s amazing what a well-timed thank you card or letter to a potential employer can do for your job search. It may not guarantee a job, but it will bring your resume and application to the top of the stack! As one employer said, “I may not hire the person with the thank you card, but I will definitely keep his resume for future reference. I will also keep him in mind if I hear of any opportunities with other companies.” (Note: Sometimes an e-mailed thank you is appropriate – know your potential employer to know if this is the case.)

Read My Lips

Interviewing for a job is not just a question and answer session with a potential employer. Body language plays an important a role in the job interview process, too. Shake hands with the interviewer, sit up straight, look the interviewer in the eye and SMILE! Smiling relaxes your muscles to make you appear at ease and receptive to what the interviewer is saying. Remember to dress the part. Experts say that an interviewer makes up his mind about you within 15 seconds after you enter the room. That’s before you’ve said a word! Make your job search preparation count by developing your style and poise.

Tell Me About Yourself

The dreaded interview question! What do you say? Keep in mind the purpose of this question. Usually, it is asked after you sit down facing the interviewer. You may see it as an “ice breaker,” but beware. The employer is looking for a couple of things. First, does your answer show how you qualify for the position? Second, how comfortable are you in thinking “on your feet?” Stay away from the long-winded history of your life. Stick to the facts of your job performance and accomplishments. Use this question to sell yourself! (Note: Watch for my next post which will cover this question in depth.)

Prepare for your job interview and you will get closer to getting the job!

Wishing you career success in 2010!

Meg

Is Your #Career in Recovery or Retreat? (All Joking Aside)

Don't be fooled by the sense of false security implied with being employed. This state of being can change in a flash – poof! Suddenly your job can be gone. You, and only you, are in control of your job security. Quit hunkering down under your desk and get proactive! Take charge of your career; begin enjoying your work life again.

The economy has started its recovery – why haven't you? Are you still fooling yourself by hanging onto your job for dear life? According to a recent CNN article, "Take This Job and Tolerate It," the frequency rate of people leaving jobs by choice is close to the lowest point since 2000. American workers are choosing to let fear drive their careers instead of passion. Sounds like the April Fool's joke may be on them this year – and maybe you, too?

Overwhelm from being over-worked and under-paid is not a work life you want to maintain. Instead, start today to find the career where you can be happy and feel appreciated again. Find the career where your values are honored in the workplace, where your mind is stimulated, and your skills are utilized. Find the career where you know in your heart this is where you want to be. Don't be fooled by continuing to believe that your employer will take care of you – that old joke has worn itself out long ago.

Utopia? Not really. It IS possible to attain career and job satisfaction. But this ideal career must first be defined, molded and purposefully pursued. Here a few tips to jump-start your career change process:

  • Make two lists: one is what you do well and the other is what you like to do. Where do these lists intersect? Chances are the clues to your ideal career appear in this intersection.
  • Need more training to qualify for your ideal career? Go get it! No one is ever too old to learn new things. Careers are rapidly changing (I still remember keypunch operators, now long gone from the career landscape). Learn about employment trends so you can see what careers will still be viable 5-10 years from now.
  • Write your resume to attract the ideal employer for your ideal career. Better yet, hire a professional resume writer to craft this resume for you with your input. You need objectivity to determine what's most important to include in this door-opening document. Your own bias can cloud your opinion on relevancy of information.

Still feel stuck in the process? Hire a career coach to be your partner for your career change. Some things are just done faster and better when done with a careers expert who can challenge you, brainstorm with you, offer you resources, and celebrate your successes with you.

On this April Fool's day, what will be your choice? Continue to keep doing nothing (which you know is getting you nowhere) or step onto the playing field by becoming proactive in your career? Stop being fooled by employers' empty promises and uncertain futures – your career belongs to you. Make it what you want it to be!

Wishing you career success in 2010!

Meg

SPECIAL NOTE: I am honored to be a member of the Career Collective, a group of career experts who will each month share their advice and tips to enhance the management of your career. Please link to their blog posts below. Your comments are invited and much appreciated. Follow our hashtag, #careercollective, on Twitter, as well as follow everyone's individual tweets that are based this month on an April Fool's Day theme.

Career-Collective-original-small 10 Ways to Tell if Your Job Search is a Joke, @careerealism

April Fool’s Day – Who’s Fooling Who? @MartinBuckland @EliteResumes

If It’s Not You and It’s Not True, You’re Fooling Yourself, @GayleHoward

Don’t Kid Yourself! (The Person You See in the Mirror is a Good Hire),
@chandlee

Avoiding Most Common Blunders, @jobhuntorg

 
 
 
 
 
 

Stop Fooling Yourself about your Job Hunt: Things you may be doing to sabotage yourself, @erinkennedycprw

Same as it ever was, @walterakana

Don’t be fooled. Avoid these, @kat_hansen

Job Seekers: You Are Fooling Yourself If... @barbarasafani

It's not all about you, @DawnBugni