Canada 150 – Big Grin

We are approaching one of the best long weekends of them all – Canada 150.  Everyone will be celebrating in some way: barbecues or fireworks or family reunion picnics.  What ever plans you have, you are certain to run in to people you have not seen for a while or people you just don’t know.

This represents a great opportunity to network and get yourself out there.  I am not saying you will have a new job on Tuesday but you might make some valuable connections that you can develop over the summer.

Here is the problem:  everyone I know (including me) is walking around complaining about how tired they are and very busy they have been.  That is not the best frame of mind to be in if you want to maximize your opportunities.

Of course you are tired.  Of course you are too busy.  Even retired people are too busy.  Get over it.

Take a few minutes to identify a few good things that have happened over the last quarter.  They might be work things or family events – it doesn’t really matter as long as they are positive.  Maybe you finished a big project or got a promotion.  Maybe your kid graduated from something or you got engaged.

Park these thoughts in your brain, near the front.  When you meet someone at the grocery store on Sunday and they ask how you are, these are the things to share.  Not “same old, same old” or “I have been soooo busy”.  These are lame responses and you come across as too lazy to thing of something meaningful to say.  That does not beget new connections or relationships.  It makes you look as interesting as a dish mop.

You are better than that.  So tomorrow, when you are wrapping up loose ends before the long weekend, think about your positives.  Jot them down on a Post-It note or your hand.  Be ready to smile and throw some good energy at people.  You might be surprised at what happens.

Happy Birthday Canada!!

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The Value of the Interview Pause

We are all nervous when we go to interviews.  It never changes. It does not matter how senior you are or how many interivews you have done, you will still have sweaty palms and sweaty armpits.

We also, in that situation, tend to speak just a little too quickly.  We get caught up answering in a gush of words that were probably not the best choice.  Our answers are either too short or too long.  When you can no longer remember the question, you have gone on too long.

One of the ways to combat this is to take a pause before you start to answer a question.  Not a long pause, just a short breath in while you compose your thoughts.  It will feel like you are taking an hour but only to you.  The interviewer is processing pretty quickly too.  A breath might be a welcome pause.

This will allow to quickly flip through the possible answers and examples in your head to select the best one and then lay it out clearly.

Once you do this the first time and see how it feels, it will be easier to continue it through the interview process.

You can even practice at home before you get to the interview.  When someone asks where the measuring spoons are, you can take a small pause and then answer.  What’s neat about this approach, is that sometimes the person answers their own question while you are pausing.  This is especially helpful with teenagers.

If you have not been in an interview situation for a while, it is worth the time to practice with someone you know.  Pick a few examples of your successes, resilience, empathy and anything else that might be relevant and then sit down with a friend and try out the stories.  Make sure you insert the pause before you begin each story.  It will be worth your time.  You will feel way more confident going to meet the next hiring manager and that’s a big part of success.

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Are we Exclusive? Managing your LinkedIn Invitations

I was talking about LinkedIn with a group of people on Monday evening.  One of the big questions that came up about invitations. When someone invites you to connect, should you accept?

Some people only accept invites from people they know. Others, like people in my profession, accept most, if not all, invitations.

The answer lies in why you got on LinkedIn in the first place. Is it a place to hang out with former colleagues?  A place to develop your consulting reputation?  Maybe you want to grow your community of influence, so that when you throw a highly pithy comment out there, you get lots of feedback.  It is a pretty cool feeling to get lots of positive comments when you throw something out into the webosphere.

Most of us keep our profiles current and polished so we can get noticed. We want prospective employers or clients to find us and look us over. The way we get “found” is by broadening our networks either by sending invitations,  accepting invitations or joining groups.

Here’s a way to manage the invites that seem to collect on your profile:

  • Take a look at your invites once every week or so. You don’t have to do it right away. They will not evaporate.
  • If you don’t know the person, click on their name. Maybe their profile will jog your memory and you will realize that they know a lot of the same people you do.
  • Decide if you want to accept, ignore or procrastinate a little longer.

It is up to you to decide if your network is going small and exclusive or open and diverse but when review invitations,  think about how you want to be treated. When you reach out to someone, you want to be acknowledged, right?

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Happy? Could you tell your face?

My son is very laid back.  For the most part, it’s a good thing.  He does not freeze up before tests or freak out when an assignment is due.  He just goes about his business and gets it done.

The down side to this is that he really only has one expression.  It’s neither happy nor sad, it is just kind of flat (except before 10 am, then he looks just plain dopey)

He has started going to job interviews and this has proven to be quite a liability.  His face and body language don’t give off the air of an enthusiastic, new graduate who wants to learn the ropes.  To a hiring manager, he probably looks more like a bouncer at a club.

I have been talking to him about putting out a little more energy when he is talking to people but I’m pretty sure it’s falling on deaf ears.

People in the workplace, whether they are peers or managers, need energetic feedback.  You don’t have to bounce off the walls but you need to be able to nod and make eye contact with at least a bit of spark in your eyes.  Otherwise they will keep repeating the same instructions over and over because they think you are just not getting it.

Try it now.  Stare at your screen with a flat “whatever” look.  Now, pretend someone has just come in to take a photo.  Sit up a bit straighter.  Clear your throat.  Crack your face muscles into a smile and turn on the lights behind your eyes.

I’m not saying you need a 10 megawatt smile to tell your boss that you are going to lunch but if you want the team to go with your strategy, then you need to get a little projection happening behind those  eyeballs.

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Job Postings and Romance

I have been reading a lot of romance novels.  Don’t hate me.  They are really are lovely.  They are not too long and they always resolve in such a nice, neat package – very appealing.

The problem is that I have now started to day dream about a rich, handsome guy showing up at work or on the train to sweep me off my feet.  Not just any rich, handsome guy. No, this guy has chiseled abs, just the right amount of stubble and a home in Sardinia.

I can wish all I want, but I have already been swept off my feet.  He has the stubble, but alas, no home in a sunny, warm locale.

And wishing is not going to change that.

I tried to explain that to a few candidates this week.  Not the part about getting a new husband, but the part about wishing for a new role that’s a departure from where you are today.

It’s not that a major career move is not possible.  It is just that you need to be rational.

I had someone try to convince me that they would be ideally suited to sell medical devices because their neighbour was a doctor and they had spent a lot of time together building a fence.   He honestly thought that having a beer with a doctor imparted enough knowledge to make him a legitimate candidate for the role.  Come on!

It is fine to daydream about a job when you read a posting on monster, but give your head a shake.  Read the list of requirements.  Can you honestly say yes to at least half of them?  It does not matter whether you agree with them nor does it matter that you think you have a better list of requirements.  The employer has put them there for a reason.  Respect it.

If the posting says “living, breathing human”, then by all means, go ahead and apply but if it says “have a degree in mechanical engineering”, then going on a date with an engineer is not going to cut it.

But if you see a place in Sardinia, could you let me know?

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What was I doing? Dealing with Distractions

If you can’t remember what you started five minutes ago, you are distracted.

If you find yourself staring at the little spinning wheel while your computer thinks, you are distracted.

If you leave the kettle boiling until its dry, you are distracted.

It happens.  It’s spring. People are distracted by the warm weather and long weekends have started.

It can be especially frustrating if you are looking for a new gig.  You get to the end of another day and feel like you have accomplished nothing.

The day started well. You sat down at your desk, showered, dressed and ready to work.  You woke up your computer, took a sip of coffee and bang!  It was dinner time.  Whoa.

Try this:  before you power up that master of distraction, make a list of things to do. Make them short and specific.

  • Invite 2 people to connect via linkedin
  • Send one thank you note
  • Exercise
  • Apply for 2 jobs
  • Eat lunch
  • Make a lunch date for next week
  • Read a whole newspaper

In between these activities, you will have all the regular distractions (email, phone calls, letting the dogs out) but if you keep coming back to the list and checking off the items you will a) feel more accomplished at the end of the day and b) continue to push everything forward.

You will be connected, knowledgeable, fit and energized – the perfect state of mind for new opportunities.

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Just Start #2 – First Jobs of Very Successful People

We tend to get hung up about our first job.  Whether it’s a summer job or a full time gig, we worry that it won’t be in line with our goals and ambitions.  Stop worrying about it.  As long as you learn a lot and make money, that’s all that matters.

Want proof?  Here is a list of some pretty successful people and their first jobs.

  • Warren Buffett sold newspaper subscriptions and delivered papers
  • Barak Obama worked in an ice cream parlour in Hawaii
  • JK Rowling was a researcher at Amnesty International
  • Lady Gaga was a server (and there are many others to add to that list!)
  • Director James Cameron drove a truck before he saw Star Wars and decided to try out the movie business.
  • Frank Stronach, founder of auto parts giant Magna, apprenticed as a tool and die maker in Austria before moving to Canada.
  • Bryan Baeumler – ran an air cargo business before he made the leap into home renovations and was discovered by HGTV
  • Peter Mansbridge was a ticket taker at the airport in Churchill, Manitoba

I am sure they can each point to something valuable that came out of the experience but it’s clear that they did not take the job because it lined up with their future plans.

So get on with it.  Take that irrelevant job with no “meaning” or “impact” on society.  It will make for great stories later.

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