Archive for February, 2011

What’s your hidden talent?

February 28, 2011
  • What talent do you wish you were using on the job?
  • What do you wish people knew about you?

I’ve seen this question come up in several ways.  My brother reports that it was used as an ice breaker in a staff meeting, and he made use of his life-long talent in making that champagne-cork-popping thing with his finger against his cheek.

It can come up in your performance appraisal.  Your supervisor might be enlightened enough to ask what else you’d like to be doing. In these days of reducing the workforce, when many folks are doing the tasks formerly done by others, it makes good sense to ask what you’d like to do.  They might be pleasantly surprised, and you might get to enhance your skills.  (I’m not sure that popping-cork sounds would be the right answer here.) Maybe along the lines of writing for the office website, contributing to the procedures manual, or mentoring new employees.

And most of all, it comes up in job interviews.  What do you bring to us that isn’t on the resume?  In what direction would you like to grow?  Hint:  this might be the answer to one of those long-term goal questions:  where do you see yourself in five/ten/twenty years?

Think about it.  Be ready.  Start working on using your hidden talents in a professional way.  Somebody might ask you.  And no popping sounds, please.

The Career Boogeyman

February 25, 2011

What keeps you awake at night?

When I was unemployed or employed in unsatisfying places, I remember well that it was that dark-of-the-night anxiety in which the worst thoughts came to me:

  • I’ll never get another job,
  • Maybe this is the best I can do,
  • Why did I ever think I could do better?
  • Some people get all the breaks (and I’m not one of them).

And I certainly didn’t have a career counselor, nor did I even know one.

Today, I am that career counselor.  And now my anxiety might be more about getting ready to speak at a conference, unfinished business with a client, or just plain worry about a friend or relative. I find solace in revisiting my former worries and answering them from today’s perspective:

  • I’ll never get another job, but I don’t really need one.  I can shape this one.
  • Maybe this is the best I can do. ARE YOU KIDDING?
  • Why did I ever think I could do better? Some long-buried source of confidence has always existed in me, and now I can tap into it.
  • Some people get all the breaks (and I’m not one of them). Okay, I need to get out there and create my own good luck.

What keeps you up at night?  How has that answer changed in a decade or so?

Hola and Greetings!

February 22, 2011

Today I am proud to announce that I am connected to two blogs that my readers may find interesting – Francisco Acosta’s career blogs in Spanish and English

.  He tells me his readers are in numerous countries.  I am honored to be part of this project.  My Spanish is pretty much limited to hola and feliz navidad, but my welcome is sincere.

I met Francisco some time ago at a meeting of 40 Plus, a wonderful career resource for those who are 40 and over.  And this linkage is a great illustration of how networking pays off, even if some time has gone by.

Again, welcome, Francisco,  to my listing of favorite sites.  You can see the listings on the home page of this blog under the term Blogroll.

Voyage to Renewal

February 20, 2011

Do you know Iona?  It’s an island off the west coast of Scotland.

If you’re wondering what visiting this really special place has to do with your work life, bear with me. Iona is a place for contemplation, restoration, meditation, prayer, and just plain thinking.

No one there asks you what you do.  They are more likely to ask you what you are reading, how the hike to the other side of the island was, or if you would like some tea.

The abbey at Iona was founded in the sixth century by Columba, an Irish monk.  Columba had had a bit of difficulty at his monastery in Ireland and had been forced into exile.  Legend has it that he and his twelve companions vowed to build a new community at the first place he came to from which you can’t see Ireland.

Columba had failed.  He had been humiliated by his failure and he was exiled.  Yet when you visit Iona and its magnificent abbey, you don’t think about failure, but the triumph that this early settlement became. Columba brought Christianity to the Picts and the Northumbrians.  The cemetery at the Abbey is said to the burial place of Scandinavian royalty as well as Macbeth, Malcolm and Duncan.  For several centuries, Iona was a center of learning.

Failure?  Columba left Ireland in disgrace and set the stage for a glorious epoch of celtic intellectual and spiritual community.

When I need restoration and inspiration, I want to run – to western Scotland.  I will be reminded that no failure is fatal, that a comeback is mine for the asking.

What have you learned?

February 16, 2011

Here’s a job interview question: what have you learned lately?

We could quibble about the meaning of lately, but let’s not.  Let’s take this question as an opportunity to shine.

Would you be ready to discuss something new or emerging as of this year?  Here are a few examples:

  • I’m still learning patience with difficult customers, and lately I’ve been sorely tested!
  • I’m completing a certificate in internet technology.  I’d like to tell you about the recent advanced web design course.
  • I’ve just finished participating in my first audit.  Scary, but successful.
  • I’m learning to persevere in lining up job opportunities, and that’s how I found your company.
  • I’m learning to roll with the challenges of temp jobs, and am gaining a breadth of experience I didn’t know was possible.

See?  Now get ready with your answer:  what have YOU learned this year?

Fast Forward 10 years: how you’ll look back

February 14, 2011

Previously, I suggested that you look back ten years and have a brief conversation with yourself about your work, your hopes, your worries.

What about going the other direction?  How about a peek into the future?

  • How old are you?
  • Will you be doing the same things?
  • What will you have accomplished since 2011?

I hope I’ll be taking my observations about people and their work dilemmas and doing more writing.  Blogging?  Well, yes, unless it has morphed into something else.  And maybe a book in whatever form books will come in.  Right now, I have ideas, notes, and interviews.  Maybe that’s like making deposits in a retirement account to be withdrawn when you need the money.

What about you?  How will you look back on 2011?

A backward look at your career

February 13, 2011
It has been suggested by wordpress that some of us bloggers in the 2011 challenge tackle the topic of your life ten years ago.  If you could go back and have a brief conversation with that younger self, what would you say?  Here’s a start:
  • How old were you?
  • Where were you?
  • What were you earning?
  • What were your biggest worries?
  • What were your hopes?

I was doing pretty much the same work I’m doing now, only in a more optimistic environment.  People got jobs after duly working at it.  We cautioned them that it might take several months.  And a salary increase was not out of the question.

Here’s what I worried about:  clutter in the house, lackluster grass growing in the yard, losing a few pounds, saving more for retirement, staying abreast of technology.

Well, gee, that list looks familiar.

I would go back to that person and say to worry less, enjoy life more.  Enjoy that toddler grandchild as much as possible because he, too, grows up faster than you’d believe.

Then there’s technology.  I would counsel that I’ll always be a bit behind just because…but I can keep advancing at my pace.

And I’d say that when the word blogging comes up, pay close attention and jump into it.

Next: looking ahead ten years.

The Job that Got Away

February 5, 2011

Haven’t we all been rejected?  Doesn’t it hurt a bit to remember?

I’d love to hear about the job you didn’t get.  And what you think about it in retrospect.

Here’s mine:

I had been laid off a job here in Washington, DC, during the 1980-81 era when we all learned the word RIF (reduction in force, if you haven’t had that experience).  And the Office of Unemployment mandated that I go on two job interviews a week.  This is kind of crazy, because you’ll go anywhere, ANYWHERE, to fulfill that requirement.

So there I was, facing a rather unfriendly man in some association regarding higher education.  He was hiring an administrative assistant, and I was determined not to type for someone else all day.  A neighbor of a neighbor had told me about this opening, and I had called to schedule the interview.

He noted that my previous job was (ahem) a certain politically charged office, which I shall not identify because I don’t want half of you mad at me. And it’s not the point.  “So, do you really believe all that stuff, or were you just working there?”, he asked dubiously.

I spoke truthfully, that when I had taken the job, I hadn’t known much about the issue, but had become more informed, and yes, I did become a supporter of the cause.  I added that I believe in working for a place in which I can put forth a lot of energy, such as the process of supporting administrators in higher education.

But the damage was done.  He asked how fast I typed and I low-balled the number.  He asked my salary range and I high-balled his range.  We half-heartedly shook hands and ended the interview.

That one was easy.  The culture wasn’t right, the personalities clashed, and I learned that I don’t need to sell out my values or my strengths.  I don’t need to play dumb.

What about you?  I’d love to hear a rejection story or two and what you learned from it.

Reality Show: my take

February 1, 2011

WordPress, the people who host this blog, has proposed that we write about our lives as TV reality shows: what would mine look like?

Thinking about the work of a career counselor, I got it!

American Applicant

The setting: four judges of varying degrees of sobriety, experience, and judgment.  I’m one of them – perhaps the sensible, yet clever one.  Yep, I get to play that one.

And one by one, out come the applicants.  A typical show:

The hysterical, underqualified one: loaded with unwarranted confidence, has been told too often that he/she is gifted, so often that no work experience has yet accrued.  This person hasn’t bothered to prepare a resume, because none is needed.  Way too clever to need that.  Grins at the camera with white, white teeth. Applause, applause wooo, wooo.

The unfocused, one: willing to agree to anything, eager to please, when asked about future goals, answers “uh, whatever comes my way”. Pretty good in most academic subjects, majored in general studies, has had a number of short-term jobs.  Does have a resume, four pages long, which no one has read. Looks appealingly at the judges.  The audience choruses “awww”.

The surprise one: Does not scream, throw self on floor, or cry.  Well-dressed.  Greets each judge by name, states the reason for being in the competition, briefly summarizes his/her qualifications and asks for consideration.  Mentions the appropriateness of being a role model for young people watching the show.  Turns to the camera and speaks about decision-making and how school really does point the way to your future employment.  Thanks the judges for taking the time to listen. The audience is silent for a few seconds, then starts clapping. A few tears are shed.

As for us judges, we are mindful of the ratings of the show.  Yet somehow, in my reality show, the judges also recognize their responsibiities.  We know who is watching.  And we want our show to make a difference.

Use your cellphones to call in your vote.  No wait, post your vote below for the most successful job applicant.