Stepping Away

There will be no Zoom room hangouts today and no Team chats tomorrow. I am stepping away from my computer for a couple of days. I plan to catch up on some long neglected home and personal tasks like reading a stack of magazines, getting a haircut and organizing my closet.

See you next week!

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Another Zoom Call? Smile Anyway

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 been invited 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, especially on video.  You don’t have to bounce off the walls but you need to be able to nod and look into the camera with at least a bit of spark in your eyes.  That’s the only way people know that you are listening and paying attention.

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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Dating, Dreaming & the Olympics

I have been watching the Olympics like a fiend and have come to a conclusion:  I want to date a bobsleigh brakeman.

I know it might seem silly and I don’t want to sound like a romance novelist but I think the combination of focus, determination and strength is a pretty great and those skin tight suits don’t hurt either.

But the hard truth is that I can’t.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I can’t date a bobsledder any more than I can be a CFO. Just because I admire them and think that what they do is neat, does not mean we would find any common ground.

I am not athletic or even fit for that matter. I am a desk rat rather than a gym rat. I don’t go out much in winter. And nothing I do is measured in hundredths of a second. Nothing.

Applying for jobs is the same thing. Just because you think the role is interesting or cool does not mean that you would be suitable date material.

When you read the requirements, pay attention to what they are really describing and asking for. Does it really reflect what you do, or more importantly, have done?

Will the receiver of your resume instantly be able to see why you are interested and why this makes sense for you and for the hiring manager?

We can all date bobsledders in our dreams but we should save the heartache and focus for more realistic career pursuits. Me included.

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Race Car Driver, Drone Pilot, Chocolatier

There has been so much press about the ‘Great Resignation”, it’s pretty hard not to daydream about what else you could be doing.  Maybe you’d like something completely different or maybe you just want something that is a better match with your values.

But what do you do about it?

It’s all well and good to explore a new career path if you already know what you want to do. I have read lots of articles about people who had a side gig before the pandemic and decided to turn it into their full-time gig – pie baking, candle making, dog walking, balloon animal sculptor. 

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

If you don’t have something specific in mind, it is pretty hard to make a plan that will drive the shift you are looking for and if you are working now, you know that time is at a premium.  Noodling on the net for hours without a plan will get you nowhere and be depressing to boot.

There are more than 407,000 jobs posted on LinkedIn.  That’s just in Canada alone. That does not count US jobs with remote work schedules.

LinkedIn Jobs has a pretty good search function so why not use it?  Write down 10 words that you want to explore. Set the timer for 10 minutes.  (this is important) . Pop the words into the search bar and see what comes up.  You can easily filter for location and onsite/remote.  Now, take a look at what you’ve got.

Is there anything worth exploring further?  Be ruthless about your decision-making.  You don’t have time to wander down the garden path with visions of driving a clown car.

If there is a gem in the list, take a screenshot and save it in your Career Development folder.  Go through all of your words and then evaluate what you have saved.  Anything still making the list?

Block time on your calendar to dig deeper into each one.  In the end, maybe you decide that what you have is pretty good or maybe you start a side gig.  The only way to know is to take the time to check,

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What to Do About a Jumpy Career

I had two clients this week who decided they did not want to interview candidates because they looked “too jumpy”.  I pressed for more details. Their perception was that the candidates might not stick around for long.

Meanwhile, the candidates were asking me about the company and whether it was stable.  They wanted to know if it had a good history, if it was Canadian or if it has headquarters elsewhere and what the future looked like.

Does that sound like they were looking to jump ship after six months?  Of course not.

It is ironic  that hiring managers hang so much on whether a candidate demonstrates long tenure at each position. Meanwhile, they cannot offer any guarantee that in two years the company or even the role will be the same.

Mergers and acquisitions, retirements, pandemics and technology advance all affect the way companies conduct business and the humans they need to be successful.  Employees need to do their best to stay relevant and keep up, but at the end of the day, leaders may choose to swap out those employees for others with different skills when required by the business.

Just because someone gets restructured does not mean that they do not work hard or offer great skills.  It means they were not the right person at that moment in the organization.

A well-structured interview will bring out the skills, experience and attitudes offered by a candidate. A constructive reference check will verify those characteristics based on past performance.  An independent assessment can be used to predict how the person will react in a new environment.

Those are three solid ways to validate that what you see in an interview is what you will get when the person is in the seat.

Sure, it’s an investment in time and possibly money but it does allow a hiring manager to de-risk a hiring decision.  It also allows them to tap into all the good talent not just the small slice of the candidate community that offers a particular career pattern.

As Forest Gump said, “life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get…. so try them all.”

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Lift Your Day – Make a Grinbox

It’s winter and it’s a pandemic – that’s a terrible double whammy. Many of us would be suffering from “winter fatigue” at this point in a normal January and when you layer a lockdown on top of it, it just gets worse.  We are weary of taking a deep breath and bracing ourselves before we step out into the cold.  We are sick of wearing the same winter coat day after day. The only upside, as my Mom pointed out, is that we have not lost our gloves and mittens because you can’t even think of heading outdoors without making sure we have them on our damn hands.

Photo by Kat Smith on Pexels.com

These are the days when it is hard to get motivated to do anything but lie on the couch wrapped in blankets. How, then, do we keep up on a job search?  That takes a lot of energy. Energy that could be totally used up walking the dog or going to a drive through.

The Grinbox.

Make a new folder in your inbox called  Grins.  Sort through your mail for messages that made you feel great when you got them.  If your inbox is too gargantuan for this, filter with workds like “great job” or “thanks” or “congratulations”.  Put all these messages in your Grinbox.

I bet there are more than you think. I’ll also bet when you read through them, you will break your face grinning at least once.

Keep putting those positive messages in there and you will develop quite a collection. Double click on that folder any day that feels crappy, cold, sad, whatever.

If you need a message to get started, let me know. I’d be happy to get you started.

PS You can share the positivity by sending a couple of grin-worthy message to friends, colleagues, and your boss. That will really make you feel good!

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Career Managment Best Practice: Say Thank You

It’s been a rough world for the last 2 years.  Many of us have been working from home. Isolated from our teams and missing good take out lunches.

Some of our leaders have been able to manage well – they offer praise and support.  They understand when the dog is barking at the Amazon driver and they make sure to let you know about vacancies and stretch assignments.  Others not so much.

You have probably heard about The Great Resignation.  And if you spend any time on LinkedIn, it looks like the whole world is “honored” or “humbled” to be accepting a new role with the greatest company ever.

You may have been thinking about exploring opportunities yourself. Maybe you want to start something entirely new or maybe you just want to work in a different area of the company.  But how do you find the time and the energy to even start?

It would take way more than this blog post to take you through a full on job search strategy but here is a good place to start:  the thank you.

It is amazing with these two words can do.

Especially when they are unexpected.

When we go to an Awards banquet, we know people will speeches and thank everyone including their mother.  We expect it.

But when someone stops you on the street to thank you for shoveling their driveway, that really means something.  It puts a real spring in your step.

The same holds true in the business world and by extension, in the journey to improve your career.

Let me give you some examples.

Say you sign up for a webinar. You put it in your calendar and you actually log in on time.  And it turns out to be totally worth it.  The speakers are great and the presentation is engaging.  The time flies by and you come away with a couple of gems. Before you sign off, you take a screen shot of the presenters name.

Later that day when those ideas are still rolling around in your brain, look  up the speaker on LinkedIn, compose a short note thanking him or her for such a high value presentation and hit send. 

Say you are running behind because you forgot to put bathroom breaks in your calendar and your colleague not only covers for you but makes it seem like they were going to do it all along.  No one is the wiser and your anxiety goes way down.

After the meeting, call them or better yet, hop on Teams and thank them for doing that.  It was more than what was required and it meant a lot to you.  Take the opportunity to let them know how much you appreciated it.

Say the President of your company hosts a Town Hall.  New plans are announced that sound pretty exciting.  People ask some tough questions during the session and she does a great job of answering a constructive fashion.  You could send a note thanking her for a) the new plan and b) doing such a good job of stick handling the Q and A.

Say you are cruising LinkedIn and you see a neat post by someone you know.  You appreciate the thought they put into sharing the content.  Perhaps it was creative or brave or funny.  Share it to your network with a big thank you mentioning that person.  No one has to put stuff on LinkedIn, They do it to be a good community person. 

I cannot guarantee that any of these people will acknowledge your notes but you can bet they will read them.

Everyone likes a little recognition and they remember it and where it came from.

The President of your company might take note of your positive attitude and nudge your manager to promote you.

The webinar speaker might work at a company you admire and might be open to making an introduction to the right hiring manager.

Your colleague might be the one your ask to be a reference when you are interviewing for your dream job.

And it all started with a thank you.

Two simple words.

Use them often. 

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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.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

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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