Archive for the ‘Career Encouragement’ category

Restoring Your Joy in Job Search

February 24, 2010

Miriam Salpeter (@Keppie_Careers) and I are delighted to co-coordinate the February Career Collective, a community of career advisors and resume writers blogging together on behalf of job seekers.

This month’s articles address how to overcome discouragement in job search. Please follow our hashtag, #careercollective, on Twitter. Responses from other contributors are linked at the end of this post. You may also wish to visit us at www.careercollective.net.

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Joy was palpable as the oversized airplane plane descended onto the tiny tropical landing strip. The pilot forcefully applied brake pressure, wings wobbled and dear, flying-averse hubby squeezed his fingers tightly into my arm as the plane safely landed.  Applause erupted and a plane-FULL of passengers, many of whose travel had been delayed several days due to winter storms, were elated to finally embark on their Key West adventure.

This spirited introduction belies the full story of our Winter 2010 vacation get-away, as just two days into the long-awaited event (we’d been planning this trip for 6 months), I fell sick with a wicked, and somewhat debilitating cold virus that I still battle today.

As with most who experience life’s unexpectedly altered plans, my hubby and I first expressed upset and disappointment, then adjusted, simply, ‘dealing’ with the reality of my less than 100%  involvement in our dream vacation — the first either of us had planned in over a decade.

Discouraging? Yes. Insurmountable? No. Akin to a disappointing job search, a vacation derailed by sickness, often can be resurrected, reshaped and reinvigorated. Here’s how:

* Visit the local pharmacy. Hubby promptly shepherded me to the local CVS Pharmacy for an investment in Dayquil and Excedrin. I immediately dosed myself with a capful of the liquid cold solution, and I felt some relief, allowing me to focus on the trip agenda at hand.

* Likewise, job seekers, consider the stifling effects of a protracted, discouraging job search as you tick off another month, 3 months, 6 months, even 1 year-plus of  looking — then find a salve that will provide initial relief from the distress and anxiety you feel, so you can positively concentrate on refocusing and remapping your job search efforts.

* Everyone’s salve will be unique to his/her own situation. It may come in the form of an activity – something and/or someone that you engage with that will produce endorphins, positivity and hope. This might simply involve planning a weekend away from the search with friends and loved ones that make you laugh and stir your optimism.

* Or, it may mean incorporating a daily exercise into your routine, a visit to the gym that will provide both social and physical stimulation, or becoming involved in a local church other spiritual or social group that has nothing to do with job search and has everything to do with your inner (and outer) well-being.

* Perhaps a visit with a career counselor will allay some of your angst.Or, a consultation with a career coaching / resume strategist who will shine clarity on your goals and/or career messaging strategy may help.  Most such career medicine, if prescribed by a credentialed, experienced professional is designed to allay your unique condition and spark a healthier, more robust go-forward path. You don’t have to commit right away; simply reach out to such a pro and request an exploratory, complimentary consultation. Just the motion of this activity may create traction and a sense of relief that you’re ‘doing something.’

* Today’s job search is unique from and takes longer than last year’s or last decades’ job search, and flailing about with the old techniques, pulling from bits and pieces of free advice from the Internet, the library or from your friends to build your search strategy probably won’t cut it. This is the time to invest in your future. And there’s no one-size-fit-all service or product. Do the footwork, risk a little of yourself to uncover the rewards. Do, then redo, then reshape and revisit and maintain momentum.

* Look inward. With my hubby’s prompting, I took this opportunity to look inward. Though I couldn’t reverse the virus’ grip, I took responsibility and the opportunity to reflect on how I might improve my own fitness (physically, mentally and emotionally) to possibly prevent a recurrence, or at the least, reduce the odds of this illness repeating.

* During this introspection, I reluctantly identified the word, ‘sedentary’ as one word that describes my day-to-day ‘norm.’ The plight of a writer? Perhaps! Or, maybe a self-induced situation I can change through plan-ful action steps that involve increased daily movement, an improved diet and a changed, overall lifestyle. I blogged about my aha moments earlier this week, here.

* Maintaining a strong mind and body or finding myself a broken heap on the floor are directly a result of how I manage my situation, day, after day, after day … after day. And the processes of self-management always are evolving, and so I always must have my eye on how to adapt, even if during the most inconvenient of circumstances, and even if midstream. Over the years I’ve invested in coaches and virtual assistants to prop me up and push me forward more efficiently and more smartly. From time to time, I must be reminded with a swift kick that I must reach out and seek their help to do even better.

* As well, job seekers, I encourage you to look inward at what has become your job search norm these past few weeks, months or longer. What job search lifestyle habits might you adjust, remove or transform to boost your job search momentum and vitality? Are you spending an inordinate amount of time online, with minimal results? Are you dressing up and attending networking, networking and more networking  events, but to no avail?

* Maybe it’s time to switch it up. Often, it’s a matter of trying just one new idea, or turning left when you’re used to turning right for example. Then try another idea, and another. Don’t give up. You’ll get there, but you must remain flexible and forward-thinking. You must not look at the elapsed time and feel you have no more time. As long as you are breathing, there’s still more time.

* Sometimes we get so caught up in doing it the perceived ‘right way,’ that we forget to follow our own instincts. Use your ‘gut’ today and see what happens. Instincts, if left untended, often start to feel unnatural, but over time, with exercise, those instinctual muscles begin to warm up … and strengthen.  Being instinctual doesn’t always equate to being so different that you stand out like a sore thumb. It might simply be applying a different shade of gray, or nuance to your job search communication and presentation style or to a particular job search activity.

* Dawn Lennon over at her Business Fitness blog shares an inspiring story of how her unconventional, yet instinctual actions and being ‘ fearless’ helped her turn around her career. Read it here: you won’t be disappointed, and you just might get inspired!

* Don’t always follow the pack and focus on modeling someone else’s resume or interview style or networking tactic. Be yourself, with a twist and a dose of learning from others. Combine what you’re being told with what you know is YOU and what you sense is sensible, smart and savvy.

* As a resume writer, for example, I know, first hand that the resume CONTENT is what rocks the interview world. Put blinders on, if you will, with regard to all the tedious rules of resume length, etc., and keep your eye on the creative story-telling aspect of career messaging. Build YOURSELF into your target readers’ story.

* And be willing to skin your virtual knee from time to time, because, through this, you will continue to get knocked around a bit.

* Finally, find someone who will hold your needs in the highest of esteem while also regarding YOUR best interests in compelling you to be BETTER. Someone who will NOT let you off the hook when you under-perform but who will continually compliment your efforts while also helping you find ways to shore up your weaknesses.

Clearly, a silver-bullet answer does not exist, but results will happen, if you maintain momentum, hope and a practical, responsive attitude. Traction does beget traction, and the hopeful optimist in me believes the end of any bad situation will come, just give it time, and don’t ever, ever, ever, EVER give up.


@MartinBuckland, Job Search Made Positive

@GayleHoward, Job Search: When It All Turns Sour

@chandlee, Strategy for Getting “Unstuck” and Feeling Better: Watch Lemonade

@heathermundell, Help for the Job Search Blues

@heatherhuhman, 10 Ways to Turn You Job Search Frown Upside-Down

@KCCareerCoach, You Can Beat the Job Search Blues: 5 + 3 Tips to Get Re-Energized

@WalterAkana, Light at the End of the Tunnel

@LaurieBerenson, Ways to Keep Your Glass Half Full

@resumeservice, Don’t Sweat the Job Search

@careersherpa, Mind Over Matter: Moving Your Stalled Search Forward

@WorkWithIllness, Finding Opportunity in Quicksand

@KatCareerGal, Job-Hunting in a Weak Job Market: 5 Strategies for Staying Upbeat (and Improving Your Chances of Success)

@ErinKennedyCPRW, Dancing in the Rain–Kicking the Job Search Blues

@keppie_careers, What do do when you are discouraged with your job search

@DawnBugni, It’s the little things

@jobhuntorg, Just SO VERY Discouraged

@barbarasafani Making Job Search Fun (Yeah, That’s Right!)

@GLHoffman, How to Overcome the Job Search Negativity

@ExpatCoachMegan, Dealing With Job Search Stress: Getting to the Source of the Problem


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What Would Hemingway Do?

February 23, 2010

“I think body and mind are closely coordinated. Fattening of the body can lead to fattening of the mind. I would be tempted to say that it can lead to fattening of the soul, but I don’t know anything about the soul.” ~ Ernest Hemingway in The Good Life, According to Hemingway.

In our recent travel to Key West, I was captivated by Ernest Hemingway’s estate, which my husband and I toured, drinking in the many pictures, artifacts and letters, endearing us to Hemingway’s chaotically adventuresome life.

We chose a casual, unguided tour, allowing us to privately imbibe the words and other visual stimuli, as we lingered, moving from one charming, old-style room to another. Each delightfully spare, tropical room met us with solid wood floors, quaint, uniquely carved furniture and vast windows that led from floor to ceiling, enhanced with fluttering, light curtains.

In reflecting upon our tour and subsequently reading a Hemingway book, cover to cover during our return flight home, I felt myself stretching and growing as a woman, as a wife, as a business owner and as a career advisor. For example.

  • I truly believe that mind and body are connected, and thus with the softening of either, there is an often gentle, sometimes dramatic rippling effect that occurs, impacting every aspect of our lives, both personally and professionally. I encourage job seekers to reflect on their day to day activity (or inactivity) that may be impacting, positively or negatively, their productivity and overall quality of life.
  • What can you do, today, to strengthen your physical self in a way that will shore up your mental self?
  • What can you do tomorrow? What fat-reducing and energy boosting activities can you integrate into your life on a daily, even hourly basis? Is it simply removing yourself from your chair to take a 30-minute brisk walk or to take a tour of your household chores, energetically, briskly, while breathing hard and perhaps sweating just a bit?
  • Or perhaps it’s more than that:  join a gym, making a pact with your spouse, your friend, an accountability partner that you will shed a certain amount of  weight, adopt a fitter diet and exercise routine; buy a bicycle and ride it daily; perhaps it’s that you will cease smoking or reduce your drinking … or, you get the drift. What will help you win the war against lethargy?
  • What can you do in-the-moment, every moment, to improve your vitality and convert calories to energy? What can you change up in your manner of operating, writing, communicating, speaking, acting that may seem awkward, hard and unnatural at first, but which may actually move you more meaningfully toward your deeply desired goals?

In Hemingway’s words:

I like to write standing up to reduce the old belly and because you have more vitality on your feet. Who ever went ten rounds sitting on his ass? I write description in longhand because that’s hardest for me and you’re closer to the paper when you work by hand, but I use the typewriter for dialogue because people speak like a typewriter works.

  • I loved this line, as I’ve actually tried ‘standing while writing’ before, and more recently, have spent an exhorbitant number of hours just sitting. I think it’s time to stand again!
  • Not only will it burn more calories, but the idea of improved vigor is reverberating … improved mental capacity, improved ability to manage difficulties that erupt, improved muscle strength in my legs and my buttox! I must not only hope, I must aspire to make it happen!

After all, we are the only ones who control what WE are doing with our bodies, our fingers, our toes, our eyes, each breath we take, each drink we imbibe, each food calorie we ingest.  Starting now, this moment, this next breath, make that commitment to yourself and to your career that you will invest the energy in both mind and body to infuse energy, enthusiasm, hope, health, and ultimately generate the success results you deserve!

THE ROLE OF CAREER STRATEGY IN REPAIRING JOB-SEARCH BREAKDOWN

June 5, 2009

My husband and I launched a new hobby last year: sailing. If anyone reading this article knows about sailing, they know that the lifestyle is replete with challenges. Our most recent (and current) challenge has been the breakdown of our boat’s motor, critical to getting in and out of the harbor. It recently occurred to me that the mystery of how to repair the sailboat motor might resonate with job seekers, and thus also my esteemed career strategy colleagues, as you manage the fears, anxieties and frustrations of your job seeker clients.

Job Search Often Requires Hours of Mind-stumping Retooling

Often, prospective resume and job search clients approach me in an aggravated mode, having spent days, weeks or months in what feels like wheel-spinning motion, feeling their job-search strategy is broken. My husband and I have been battling the broken-motor problem since the end of last sailing season, but most heartily since March of this year, when we were able to de-winterize the boat and begin retooling various parts: carburetor, distributor, fuel tank, etc. Each time my husband retooled a part (often, after hours of back-aching work spent stooped over the engine), he looked at me hopefully, turned the key and kerplunk, it didn’t fix the problem.

As with fixing a persnickety engine, job search often requires hours of mind-stumping retooling only to find, hours or days into the execution, that the job search strategy still won’t turn over a new job interview or job or at the least, it won’t stimulate an effective job lead. Instead, it feels to the job seeker he is investing time and resources into a black hole.

Modeling my job seeker clients, my husband and I have tapped various professional resources to try to get our boat engine running again. As when career bumps detract from once thriving careers, our boat engine’s demise stalled our sailing life, all at once making us feel stranded on our dock.  So we called upon service experts specializing in just the type of motor we have (Atomic 4, fuel engine), paid for new parts and advice, tapped our local marina’s service department aspiring for an appointment with a master mechanic (is a waiting-in-line issue during this busy boating season; plus, we have a specialized engine versus the more-common motorboats that Midwest marina mechanics tend to prefer working on). Still, after all this, the engine is fettered with what seems to be a systemic mechanical issue.

We feel we have thrown money and time upon more money and time only to find the problem to be amorphous and unending. Our patience wears thin.

This process has further upped my empathy for job search clients intent upon navigating the winds of a stormy job-search climate, where effectively communicating their value proposition, ferreting out their unique personal brand, planning the perfect networking strategy, appropriately and impactfully networking … and so forth unceasingly fill their job-search prep and execution lifestyle, often with what appears to be little positive result.

What I Tell My Job Search Clients to Quell Frustration:  Reason to Hope

As a result of my motor-boat problem, some solutions and tips that I have gleaned for my job-search clients and prospects, follow:

  1. Don’t give up. As for my husband and me, our boat motor will either get fixed … or it won’t. Either way, we will not quit sailing. For example, recently, we adapted our harbor exit and reenter process to allow us to sail a full day in 85+ degree, sunny weather, exceeding our earlier expectations, when consumed by our broken motor. Similarly, in a job search, you may need to circumvent what’s blocking your progress and find another way to get into the job-interview harbor. If that means that you are going against the grain a bit of what mechanically feels like the right fix for the problem, take the risk and just do it (don’t dwell).
  2. While you are trying new tactics and strategies to get the wind in your job search sails, as you are opening new channels in which to sail through to an interview, also be thoughtfully planning new ways to fix that broken job-search engine for the long-haul. This plan may include better, ongoing job-search maintenance as well as investing yourself in niche experts that really know their stuff — though you may be an expert in your career profession; e.g., project management, finance, sales, marketing, technology, human resources, operations, etc., you likely will never be a job-search expert unless you become a full-time, trained professional career strategist.
  3. When immersed in the problem to the point of being emotionally wrung, unplug. Find a smile, find laughter, step away! Come back later refreshed and renewed. It WILL pay off in the long run. You will either find a whole new way to address the same problem, or you will deflect the problem, and plot an entirely new job-search course to navigate the choppy career waters.
  4. Invest in yourself in a meaningful way. Don’t just throw good money after bad in job-search services. For example, if you are hunting down a great resume service to partner with, be bold; be prudent, be hopeful. Spending $200 for a value-proposition-focused career document probably won’t cut it! This dynamic document is intimate, detailed and tailored and is your public relations voice. Don’t shortchange it, as the repercussions will put your search right back into choppy waters or beach your job-search boat entirely.
  5. Does all this sound specific, but at the same time, a bit vague? Yes! But as in all of life, job search (as well as sailboat maintenance) is an art that is fluid, creative, pragmatic, results-oriented and risky. This risk is not without rewards: Just keep on tacking, adjusting your sails, finding new wind, plotting and adjusting your course to ensure you navigate toward the rewards, which, over the long haul, most definitely will outweigh the risks.

Originally published in Career Alliance Connection, Career Management Alliance’s member newsletter.