There’s something about you……

You know how they say a change is as good as a rest?  I tried it this week and it worked.

This is going to sound trivial but, stay with me…there is a good lesson here.  ronwhite_gladys-nudebouquet_1

I hit my favourite (and generally not affordable) shoe store for Black Friday.  Lo and behold, there was a pair of beautiful high heeled shoes in my size.  And they fit. And they were less than half price.  And I bought them.

I wore them on Monday in my office.  (Not to my office, just in my office). They make me two and half inches taller and they have flowers on them.  Not showy but definitely noticeable.

It was a bit like having new glasses or a slightly different hair cut. People don’t gasp at the difference.  They just step back and squint at you trying to figure out what’s different.

Boom!

They are, in that instant, reevaluating who they thought you were and what you are capable of.

For example, I walked up to someone who I have worked with for years and as I started to talk, I could see him processing the fact that I was at eye level.  I could tell it was a different experience for him.  His tone of voice was different and he seemed to be giving more consideration to what I was saying.  Who knew?

I do not consider myself to be stylish at all.  I am not up on the latest fads and I do not have a personal shopper but given this experience, I might actually spend some time thinking about my accessories.

Why not make people stop and pause at the Christmas party?  It might open up new avenues of conversation with people who matter and that’s where the good work comes from.

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Thank your way to the Top

I started the day today with five thank you notes.  Actually, I did them after my first two meetings.  I had them on my list yesterday but I just didn’t get to them.

It was not hard to come up with five people who needed recognition.  My local Women in Nuclear chapter hosted our Annual Conference a couple of weeks ago and there were a ton of people who contributed to an absolutely great day.

My notes were just brief emails – a bit like Jimmy Fallon does on Thursday nights.  I really didn’t think too much of it.  It only took a few minutes.

Guess what happened after I sent them?

Every time I came back to my desk, there was note back.  People appreciated getting the note but also took the opportunity to share what they enjoyed about the day as well.

I did not expect to get responses – that was not the point.  It was just to recognize a special effort made people who don’t have a lot of extra time on their hands.

That they responded in such a positive way was a real gift to me.  I filed each one in my Feel Good folder.  (Yes, I have one of those in my inbox).

This kind of genuine and spontaneous act can make a real difference in your career.  Not only is it totally uplifting to send a nice note, but it’s something that people really remember.  It’s the sort of differentiator that lends well to moving into more senior roles.  It is an indication of two things: that you can get your head out of your ass long enough to think about other people and that you can carve a few minutes out of your schedule to do something about it.

Trust me:  those two things will set you apart.

The holidays are coming and there will be plenty of opportunities to try this out. Can you fit in one nice note per week?

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How to Break the Little Glass Ceiling

We have spent a lot of time over the last few months talking about the glass ceiling.  In this case, it was one of the biggest, thickest, glass ceilings in the world.  It did not get broken.

What about your own glass ceiling?  I talk to many people who tell me that they cannot advance their careers because of their current manager.

They hear things like “what would I do without you?” and “I don’t think you are ready for that role”.

The first one is tricky.  We take this as positive feedback to what we are doing.  We feel flattered so we go on our merry way, feeling good about staying in the same place.  But trust me, flattery is fleeting.  It will not get you through the tough days.

When a manager tells you are not ready, it may be more a reflection of their needs than of your abilities. brick

Not all managers have your best interests at heart.  Some do and they are truly interested in supporting your career development.  Others are just more focused on their own objectives.  They probably don’t hold the doors for people either.

So, what do you do if you have the non-door holding type of manager?

Find a mentor – someone else in the organization who can help you navigate other areas and introduce you to new people. (Hint:  the lunchroom is a good place to start looking.)

Get a coach – talk to HR or your personal network about finding a coach who can help you identify your path forward and the steps to get there.

Talk to your manager – ask about the future of the company and your work group.  Find out what he/she sees happening and ask about how they see your role changing.  If there is no mention of a change for you, ask why and then ask the more important question:  what should you learn or do differently to change that?  How does he/she think you should go about it?

This should provide you with enough information to decide if your future lies within the organization or whether it’s time to start exploring and taking those head hunters calls.

 

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Today’s Veterans are Tomorrow’s Business Leaders

Do you have any military veterans in your work group?  Are there any in your company?

As we stop and pause on Remembrance Day at 11:00, we need to think about not just  the veterans from the Great Wars but from the more recent wars.

Every year more than 4,000 men and women leave the military and transition to civilian life.  Their average age is 37 and they have a lot to contribute.

Veteran Affairs Canada has a really neat chart that describes some common military roles and lays out their responsibilities.

Did you know that a Combat Engineer is responsible for building and maintaining roads, airfields and bridges?  We may think that road work is tough in our hot summers. I bet it is nothing compared to doing it in Afghanistan.poppy

Supply Technicians take care of purchasing, warehousing and inventory control of food, fuel, tank parts, clothing and a host of other items required to keep a large group of people at optimal performance in crappy conditions.

These are big jobs being done far from home with pressures and obstacles that can be daunting.

We would be hard pressed to have employment conditions that are as difficult no matter how fast our company is growing or how much pressure we feel from the investors.

You can check out the Veterans Affairs web page for more details and for information on different programs being offered to employers to help connect them with former military folks.

There is a really cool program called Helmets to Hardhats that is supported by construction companies and unions.  The program works to remove barriers and increase awareness of the skill sets that are available in this remarkable group of people.   You can read more about it here.

We owe to veterans and to our companies to talk more about this.  They have already served us.  Now it is our turn to serve them.

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How to Apply for Jobs that Don’t Exist

It is a good idea to keep up with jobs being posted in your industry.  You can set up alerts on indeed or LinkedIn or use a site like Follow That Page.

If you see something good, apply.  That’s career management 101.

But if you are really looking to make a change, you need to be way more proactive.

The hidden job market is not hidden because the recruitment process is secret. It is hidden because people get hired for roles that had not been created.

Say you have had three progressive roles where you fixed some important stuff.  You have great stories to tell about big impact projects and corralling the experts and the dollars to get the projects to the finish line.

You were able to convince and cajole people to adopt the new way and now it is a standard practice.

This is a totally scalable achievement.  You could be a coordinator or a vice president – it all counts.

If this is if the kind of challenge that gets you up and excited every day, then you need to find somewhere else to do it.  It might be another department in your current organization or if that is tapped out, you might need to go somewhere else.

It is not too bold to email or leave a voice mail for a senior leader in a target company letting them know that you have fixed some pretty big stuff especially if you do some homework first.

Read industry news, blogs, association websites, regulatory websites, Glassdoor, anywhere you can find the things that are going wrong in companies.  This is where opportunity lies.

A company that has just had a recall, for example, may not have had time to go through the process of posting a job. I would  seem pretty likely that if a VP of Quality got a message from someone who had great industry cred dealing with similar challenges they would respond and it would be pretty quick.

This is where the really great career moves come from and to quote my colleague, Lisa Knight, you need to manage your career, not let it manage you.

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How Long is your Digital Shadow?

I have heard the term “digital revolution” about 10 times this week and I have to say it is wearing a little thin…..I know it’s a big deal but what does it really mean to the average job seeker?

It means that you have many more sources to find  out information on industries, people and jobs. We used to have job sites like Monster and now companies post jobs on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and a whole bunch of industry specific lists like AngelList, Freshgigs and TalentEgg.

You can find out about actual companies at sites like Glassdoor.  It started out as a place where employees could post salary information anonymously and then quickly morphed into a place where people talked about their interview and employment experiences.  This can be handy but like any user fed information source, it is buyer beware.  Generally speaking, only the very happy and the very angry/sad/bitter people share their thoughts and feelings.  Definitely take info from Glassdoor with a grain of salt.

Here is the real impact point of this digital business:  your resume.  When your resume is reviewed, chances are, the person reviewing it is looking you up on social media at the same time.

What happens when you search google for your name?  (Hint: use quotation marks to get it right i.e. “Laura Machan”).

Check google images and google news (different tabs on the search page).

You need to see and be aware of what others will see when they look you up.  Are there lots of people with same name?  Are there pictures of you doing weird things?  News clippings about some neighbourhood shenanigans?

If there are  less-than-professional items, there is not a lot you can do except contact the site owner and ask for material to be taken down.

You also want to able to explain what was happening at the time to provide some context and alleviate any concerns in an interview situation or maybe even in your cover letter.

The better thing way to solve this is to get out and do more positive activities.  Volunteer, speak at conferences, get involved in kids sports.  Gradually, those images will push the junk to page six or seven of google and most people lose interest after page three.

Take a few minutes this weekend to look yourself up.  You might be surprised by what you see.

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If I could shake your hand…..

This post, according to my friends at WordPress, is my 301st.  So rather than pass along more thoughts and advice on jobs and careers, I am going to take a big pause to say thank you.

I started this blog in 2008 when we were in the middle of a big recession.  Companies were laying off way faster than they were hiring and we really did not have much in the way of jobs to talk about with candidates.  There were so many interesting and talented people looking. I started talking with them about networking and resumes and all the other things needed to propel a career.thank-you

Each week, a theme would emerge in my conversations and people really seemed to appreciate that I took the time to talk to them.  I started a blog to put this information out to the universe figuring other people might be interested as well.

A funny thing happened.  I started to get notes and comments from readers.  Honestly, at first it was just my parents (big shout out to them!) but then people would send a note that they enjoyed the tips or that they had read something useful and passed it along to their kids.

I started to share the material on LinkedIn and then a whole bunch of other people started to read it.  Clients and candidates provided both ideas and positive feedback.

It seemed that every time there was a black cloud over my desk, a happy comment would arrive in my inbox.  Last week, two colleagues asked me if it was okay for them to use articles for workshops they were leading.  That is certainly the highest form of flattery!

So this is my chance to thank you for spending a few minutes each week reading this stuff.  I hope it continues to be useful with a side of funny.

 

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