Story Telling – Interview Secret Sauce

I spent yesterday morning in a sales workshop.  One of our executive sales leaders took us through the process of using insights to help customers get a better understanding of how we do what we do.  The insight part was not really new. As recruiters, we have always been pretty consultative on the whole.  The new part was actually laying out a specific plan on how we were going to take them through the conversation, almost like chapters of a story.

Two things struck me.

This is exactly the same process we use to write a stand-up comic bit.  You lay out a scenario, take your listener through the details and then, BOOM, drive them to the punch line.

That was a very fun (but unsharable) realization midway through the morning.

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Here is the more relevant part:  everyone in the hiring process needs to get a handle on this technique.

As a job seeker, the only way for hiring managers to understand what you can do, is to take them through what you have done before.  You need a concise, relatable way to share those details.

As a hiring manager, you need to be able to paint a picture of your group and the cool things they are working to accomplish.  That’s how you attract the really great talent.

When someone asks for an example of a behaviour or a situation, they are really asking for a story.  Smooth story telling does require some practice.  Your best joke is the best because you can tell it over and over with the right amount of details and you don’t leave out anything that’s important.

Your best stories are the same thing.

Describe the setting (A string walks into a bar) and some details about what transpires ( he asks for a martini, the bartender tells him they don’t serve strings).  He ties himself into a knot, tousles one end and asks again. (Bartender says “Hey aren’t you a string?”.  String says “No, I’m a frayed knot.)

That may be a little too simple to explain real work situations but you get the idea.  It does not have to be complicated but it does take practice.

Take some time this weekend to practice telling some good work stories.  You will be glad you did.

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Hibernation Tips for the Weary

It’s grey, cloudy and cold and the pandemic has curbed out social activities. How we will cope with this again?  Usually we can distract ourselves with concerts, drinks with friends, hockey games and the always popular Sunday brunch. In the spring, we did sourdough, Netflix and competitive toilet paper shopping. Here are some options for this winter.

Find a crafty hobby – sift through Pinterest for ideas on this and then organize curbside pick up from Michael’s. (always look for a coupon before shopping). 

Paint your place – consider intricate stenciling or interesting patterns.  Head to Apartment Therapy for ideas on this.

Research travel destinations – YouTube has virtual tours of many of world’s best destinations.  Build itineraries on one of the travel sites.  Eventually, we will be able to go somewhere and you will be ready.

Learn an instrument – pick up where you left off in high school band or learn something new altogether.  Many music schools are offering live, interactive instruction using Zoom.  You could be ready to lead the sing along at your first spring outdoor gathering.

Find religion – it used to be that only mega-churches broadcast their services but now, lots of different faith groups are live streaming their services. Many of them are free to join – no strings attached.  I have found some peace and comfort attending weekly services from the comfort of my couch.

Get a new job – use your evening time to research, network and refresh your resume.  (I had to fit that in somewhere……)

Take a Course – I am not advocating that you sign up for your PhD but there may be time to learn out to project manage or code in a new language or mediate better.  Coursera and Masterclass are only two platforms offering great courses. 

Get a big ass tv – you can’t spend all your time looking at a laptop.  Non- work stuff should happen on a different device.  Sometimes a tablet works but sometimes a big screen with big sound is what you need.

These are just some ideas – there are many more.  Tuck them away for a cold, wet day or get started now. Just know that you don’t have to lie on the couch watching NCIS reruns all winter.

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Sigh…Another Covid holiday

The holidays are almost here and I think it is safe to say that next week will not be what we expected, hoped or planned.

Everyone is going to go through at least a few minutes of sadness or disappointment.  Many people go through low periods between Christmas and New Year.  The pre-holiday hype can really mess up people’s emotions.  This year, things may be more dramatic.

Kids may be frustrated at not seeing their friends. Adults may be sad or even angry that this is not the holiday they expected.  Vacations and parties have been cancelled. It can be a tough pill to swallow.

Before you log off from work this week, take a look at the services your Employee Assistance Program offers.  Does it cover your family or just you?  Put the contact info in your phone.

Check out the resources your community offers. Is there a mental helpline?  A crisis line at your local hospital?  Most communities have local chapters of the Canadian Mental Health Association with helplines and virtual meetings/resources.

The other thing to check out is the growing number of apps that offer video counselling using your phone.  This can be tremendously effective.  MindBeacon has been around for a long time.  Telus has invested in a mental health section of their MyCare program. ( I am not endorsing these programs.  I am just a recruiter, not a doctor)

I hope you don’t need to use these services over the holidays but let’s face it, it’s different this year and we need to be prepared.  Putting your head in the sand (or a bottle of wine) may not be the best thing for you or your family.

I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom. I am sure, in all this, there will be moments of joy and special smiles but I am done with the messages about being grateful and in the moment.  Sometimes, you need more than that in your back pocket.

Take care of yourself and your family.  Be a good friend. Laugh when you can and I will see you in the new year.

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Focus on your Career Goals – Tip #2

As you head into another holiday season in captivity, you will likely have time between Netflix binges for daydreaming about your career and how to improve it.

Even when you love your job, you can think of ways for it to be better. Maybe you want to make more money or make more time for other things or set things up so you can start on your passion project.

All of those things are possible but not without planning and thought. I have tried the wishing-on-a-star thing and it does not work. You have to put in the time to visualize what you want to be doing in the future and then identify the steps to get there.

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It does not have to be a complicated exercise. It just takes some time.

The first step is to identify what you want to do or change. Do you want to do something entirely different or just shift to a different team, manager or location?

Next, consider what you need to do to make that happen. Notice that action word? Make it happen. This will not happen by itself. No one is going to tap you on the shoulder to step into your dream role. But if you talk to the right person, they might open the door that gets you one step closer.

As you lay out your strategy, take some breaks to let it roll around in your head. Do some yoga or go for a walk with your pandemic puppy. Revisit your notes to make sure they make sense.

The third step is to assign timelines to your strategy. That’s the only way to keep yourself accountable. Put notes in your work calendar, the one you see every day. You can use a secret code (which sounds cool) or just put in notes and lock the appointment so no one else can see it.

Keep moving forward towards your goal. Pull in some support from a friend or relative. Maybe set up a weekly check-in with a friend.

It might be hard to stay with it when the hamster wheel of life starts up again in January, but if you stick with your plan, it will be worth it.

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I don’t know about you but the next two weeks on my calendar are sprinkled with dinners and cocktail parties and they are not all virtual. Some will require pants, shoes and lipstick. That’s a lot of effort for activities that usually cause me to roll my eyes and find other things to do.

But this year is going to be different. I am looking at each get-together as an opportunity to learn new things.

I am going to try not to gossip about people in other departments or complain about the weather. Instead, I am going to share positive and interesting stuff about my work.

For example, when someone asks me how things are going, my response is not going to be “so busy”. Of course, I am busy. Everyone is busy. We would not have jobs if we were not busy.

Instead, I am going to talk about one of the search projects I am working on. This opens the door for much more interesting conversation than “I am sooooo busy”.

I am also going to avoid asking about people’s plans for the holidays. There are lots of people, like me, who are not going skiing in the Swiss Alps or dining with celebrities. While it can be fun to hear about those adventures, it can be depressing too.

I am going to ask about Netflix instead.  I plan on some heavy binge watching over the holidays and I need some recommendations.

If I can stick to this plan, I should be able to come away from this holiday season with lots of new ideas and information which will be an excellent foundation for my big plans next year.

Cheers!

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Focus on your Goals — Tip #1

You might not have noticed but we are just about finished with 2021.   Yep…..that was fast.  Apparently, time flies especially quickly when it is dark and cold outside and we were stuck in our homes for most of the year.

Did you set some goals for this year?  It might have been in the fog of New Year’s morning or the marathon of DIY shows over Christmas.  Or maybe you set some new goals over the Labour Day weekend. That’s a popular time too. Do you remember any of those goals?

Once you get into the flurry of everyday life, it can be hard to even remember the special things you wanted to do, let alone focus on getting them done.

I learned a neat trick from one of the great people I volunteer with (yet another reason to put up your hand and volunteer!).  I commented on her aggressive development plans for the year and she said that she learned long ago to use the B-HAG method.

Excuse me?

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Was she calling me a hag?  And if so, how did she know?  We had not known each other that long…..

No, not at all.  B-HAG stands for big, hairy, audacious goal.  She said the most important thing is to make sure you think of it every day and work to make advancements, no matter how small, every day.

She even has a B-HAG pet. (image on right)  It’s a little, furry thing that sits on her desk.  When her eyes fall on it, she is reminded about those goals.  Also, when people see it in her work area and ask her about it, she gets another opportunity to describe the things she is working on. It spurs her on even more.

She said having a physical reminder of her goals worked really well last year and so to up the ante and keep it effective, she is going to move it around her office.  A bit like Elf on a Shelf.  It will have eyes on her all the time.

In the end, it does not matter how you do it.  You just need to make sure that you have something or someone that continues to remind you why you need to do just one more thing before lunch, bed or wine.

Good luck!

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The Gift of Connections

It is difficult for kids to get their start in the job market.

A federal government panel has released its interim report and it is focused on employers’ reliance on the digital application process.  We know as adults how frustrating it can be to spend 30 minutes filling in an online application that feels less and less relevant as we click through each window.

We, grown-ups, get around this by networking.  We talk to friends and former colleagues and the parents we sit next to at hockey practice.

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Kids, even really social kids, often don’t have the right kind of connections to get them started.  This is especially true if they want to do work that is different from what their parents have done.

We thought that internships would solve this problem.  Kids would get an introduction into the work environment and then either get hired or get recognized by others in the field.  This is only true in some cases.  Free labour, energy and enthusiasm does not always turn into paid work.  Wehen you are 24 and trying to make your way in the world, this can be pretty disheartening.

Kids need our social connections to workplaces and industries.  It’s a tough road for them and we need to help.  I am not talking about just our own kids.  I am talking about the kid next door, the nieces and nephews, the kid who walks your dog when you are away.

You will likely see a lot of young people over the next month as we resume family get-togethers and friendly visits.  Stop for a moment to chat with them.  Ask about their studies and their plans.  It will seem like they are rolling their eyes.  Ignore this.  It’s just habit.  Think for a moment about whether you know someone or something that might be helpful and offer it up.

At the very least, ask if they are on LinkedIn and offer to connect.

Getting young people into good work situations should be on all of our minds.  Let’s do as much as we can.

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Move the Carrot a little Closer – Make more Money

I have been working on our family budget this week.  Ugh.  It is way more daunting than a resume.

Yesterday, I got so fed up with the process that I ditched the task completely and took another approach. I’ll just make more money.  Then I would not need a budget at all.  I would totally free up the weekend.

Now, any economist (or fan of Till Debt Do Us Part) will tell you that how much money you make has nothing to do with the act of budgeting.  But as a recruiter, I know that thinking about how to make more money is definitely a positive action.

So how do you make more money?

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Just working harder in your current role is not enough unless you are working on commission and slacking off every day.  If that’s the case, then get off the couch and go to work.

For most of us, it’s a little more complicated.

Does your current role have room to make more?  Is there a bonus based on some personal achievements?  Could you focus specifically on those for a while to get some payoff?

If there is no opportunity for a greater financial reward, is there a career move within the organization that pays more?  Could you leverage what you know and do in your current situation for some gains? If so, start networking internally to see how best to position yourself for consideration.

Sometimes, you have to leave an organization to increase your value.  It’s sad but sometimes it takes a new group of people to look at your skills and experience with fresh eyes to really appreciate what you bring to the table.  This is especially true if you have been with a company for a long time.  Managers typically see you as you were when you joined, not necessarily as who you are and what you have accomplished today.

So open your eyes and take a look around to see what you can do to improve your lot. It is a hot market. There are lots of opportunities for growth and reward. When you arrive in your new tax bracket, make sure you stick to that budget so you can really make it mean something.

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How to keep up with a Hot Job Market

There is an article in the Globe and Mail this morning about the “hottest” jobs in the business world.  I don’t like the term “hot” when describing the job market.  It suggests that people are running from one flaming seat to another.  And sometimes they are.  But really what it does is encourage people to change jobs for a dollar…..or a lot of dollars.

It is true that money should always be a factor in job selection but, unless you are grossly underpaid, it can only be one consideration.

I know too many people who have accepted roles with out of proportion compensation packages and then been miserable.  At the other end of the spectrum are people who get more satisfaction from their volunteer work than they ever got from their day job.

It is, though, helpful to keep an eye on job prospects in emerging segments.  Whether you have an eye on one of the roles specifically or you are in a support function, being aware of what’s on the horizon is the best way to manage your career.

  • Chief Technolgy Officer
  • Chief Revenue Officer
  • Drone Operations Manager
  • Jobs in Clean and/or Renewable Energy
  • Information Assurance Analyst

These are the roles that companies are looking for now or will be in the next short while.  It’s an interesting variety.  Who has not thought about being a drone pilot?  Sounds so cool.

If you spend your days on a hamster wheel focussing on only your organization and you haven’t the time or energy to look ahead, you will end up bitter and exhausted.  That really limits your ability to figure out how to make amove let alone how to figure out what that move will be.  It also means that if an opportunity presents itself, you might not recognize it or be able to capitalize on it.

Two suggestions to stay on top of future opporunties:

  1.  Swap some of your Instagram scrolling for LinkedIn scrolling
  2. Read the business section of a newspaper every day

These are not big things to do but they will pay dividends.

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Feeling Cold and Grumpy? Take a Course

It’s November and the warm sunny days of Fall are gone.  No more hopping across the street for Starbucks.  Yesterday, I caught myself scrolling through Uber Eats to see exactly how much it would cost to have a vanilla latte delivered.  From across the street. 

Cold, grey days combined with too much work can be challenging on the attitude.  I find my tone becoming a little too crisp and my ability to procrastinate getting a little out of hand (which is why I had time to scroll on Uber Eats……)

When I start feeling like this, I call a friend or colleague to rant.  That feels good for a while but for a long-term solution, I sign up for a course.   

There are lots of options. Gone are the days when you had to rush to a course on some far-away campus two evenings a week.

There are lots of organizations that offer virtual courses where you login for a specific time with other students. There are also on-demand courses where you can login anytime you want and go at your own pace.

Coursera – courses from 200 leading universities
General Assembly – web development, data, digital marketing
LinkedIn Learning – business, technology and marketing

These are just a few of the places. They all have different price points and different platforms. Some offer free trials or demo events.

Take a look. Not only will taking a course freshen up your mind but it’s also the kind of development that shows at work. People notice when you are learning new stuff and you are excited about it. It shows. Sometimes people even think you are taller.

Let’s face it….at minus 30 degrees, we are not going out jogging. Let’s stay in and learn something.

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