Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Your Road Not Taken

You are 55. You've just been tossed out by your employer in a downsizing. You are sitting at your kitchen table with your outplacement workbook, diligently doing the exercises to re-do your resume.

Then a song comes on the radio that you haven't heard in years, bringing back a flood of sweet memories from when you were young.

You ask yourself, What happened? What has my career added up to? What next? Do I really want to go back into corporate? Or should I take a chance and do something different?

In each of our lives, we choose a road and follow it. Whether it's engineering, nursing or policework, banking, underwriting or plumbing. We choose a career path and we pursue it.

Every road taken is a choice. And we leave other roads not taken.

Then we get to a point in our lives, maybe somewhere north of age 40 or 50, where we ask ourselves, "Have I reached the end of this road?"

If you are a boomer who has been downsized --or are still employed but are feeling like you have reached a dead-end-- it may be time to pull out the roadmap of your life and look back at the roads you chose NOT to take.

Why? Because these early career glimmers may hold the seeds of possibilities for the next act of your life.

When I was a child, grown-ups used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Without hesitation, I'd answer: "A priest."

I did not take that road.

But when I think about the choices I did make in my life, I can discern a definite calling:

~ to be of service, to help others, to teach, to guide, to coach.
~ to do something that makes a difference in people's lives.
~ to help make the world a better place.

So, what were the career choices you entertained once upon a time? What happened? Why did you turn away?

Take a look at your roads not taken. Ask yourself what that choice might have meant to you. Ask yourself if it continued on in your life somehow, if it called you in some way.

If it is still a smoldering ember, deep within you.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, July 28, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mission: Career Success

This week, there is a great event coming up at Ft. Dix called Mission . . . Career Success, designed to support 1300 returning reservists who are coming home and looking to transition back to the workforce.

Here's an excerpt from the program description:

"Spearheaded by the Garden State Council-SHRM Workforce Readiness team, chapter volunteers throughout New Jersey will provide support to 1,300 returning NJ Reservists from the 50th Infantry, with the opportunity to attend a wide variety of job readiness workshops designed to provide insight and awareness to their career options and conduct a successful job search.

"Throughout the afternoon, Reservists will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one for a mini coaching session with a Career Coach, HR or Recruiting Professional who will provide feedback on resume content, interviewing issues specific to the Reservist and career guidance

I'll be there, along with several hundred volunteers, giving a few hours as a job search coach.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, July 27, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What Makes You Different?

In my work with job hunters, I often find myself helping the other person to confront the ultimate employer question, Why should we hire you?

The best answer is to say, "You should hire me because I can do X for you and your company."

But how do you figure out what X is?

I call it, Finding Your Differentiator.

And the way to discover it is by working, really working, on your resume.

I find that as the job hunter works on their skills, accomplishments, and Summary (or Professional Profile), especially the identification of key capabilities, they get closer to their differentiator(s).

As an example, one of my candidates (aka clients) is a bank branch manager from a well-known bank. After several one-on-one meetings to delve into her experiences, accomplishments, and skills, it dawned on her that her differentiator is:

~ She takes under-performing branches and transforms them into award winning branches.

She not only had an aha moment, but she seemed to shift into a higher gear of feeling positive about herself.

So how did she learn that about herself?

By really digging into her resume:

- opening up each work experience
- mining the accomplishments
- writing each one
- examining the Challenges that she faced, the Actions that she took, and the Results that she achieved
- and discerning the Story that emerges

Writing your resume can be a process of self-discovery.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, July 25, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Go With the People Flow"

Years ago, during the heyday of the Quality movement, I learned this slogan:

~ "None of us is as smart as all of us."

Great little maxim. It's saying that when you bring a team together to address a problem or an opportunity, the collaborative effort can yield more ideas, often better ideas, than one person working on their own.

As true as this is for Quality improvement teams, it also applies to job hunting. Get together with other job hunters. Why? At the Riley Guide, Margaret Dikel says:

"You just lost your job, or you lost it some time ago but are still not finding something else. Why do we so strongly suggest you join a job search support group? Because they can help. No, they probably do not have job listings nor can they introduce you to potential employers, but they can give you the lift you need to continue and the other members can offer ideas and suggestions for strategies you did not consider."

Well said. And she goes on to list a ton of resources around networking groups, including mentioning the article that Janice Lee Juvrud and I wrote about starting your own group.

Networking groups have many benefits, including:

- boosting your morale
- enhancing your networking skills
- producing leads to opportunity
- giving you new perspectives
- and adding to your fund of networking contacts.

In a meeting the other day with one of my outplacement clients, I asked her how her networking efforts were going. She said, "I'm just going with the people flow."

I love that phrase!

I've said before, Don't go it alone. The rest of the story is: Join together with others for a successful job search.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, July 22, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Clearly Engaged

What are the key things that managers must do to promote greater employee engagement? It's quite clear to me:

- Connect: Make a genuine connection with each of your team members.

[Consultant Michael Lee Stallard writes very well about the power of connections.]

- Listen: Listen not only with your ears. Listen with your heart. Learn to really hear what your people are saying, and what they are feeling.

[Consultant Judith Bardwick has written very powerfully about the role of feelings in engagement.]

- Empower: Give your people the freedom to make a difference in how things are done in your area of the company.

- Acknowledge: Recognize your people not only for their results, but for their effort, their ideas, and their commitment.

[Consultant Judith Umlas has written very well about the power of acknowledgement.]

- Reinforce: Strengthen your people via training, feedback, team building, coaching, and new experiences.

What would you add?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, July 20, 2009

We Are Now In The Riley Guide!

I'm happy to report that this blog, Here We Are. Now What?, has been featured at The Riley Guide, one of the foremost career sites on the internet.

The Riley Guide is "a directory of employment and career information sources and services on the Internet that also provides instruction for jobseekers and recruiters on how to use the Internet to their best advantage."

Here's what Riley Guide editor Margaret Riley Dikel wrote:

This blog by Terry Seamon offers advice on careers, work, dealing with issues in (and out of) the office, job search and career change, and other life/work topics. Among the many postings here are several dedicated to the job search which he has gathered together under the great title of Galvanize into Action. You'll enjoy these plus his many other ideas and suggestions. Scroll past his interesting list of links to other blogs to get to his full archive. You'll find some real gems in there.

Many thanks, Margaret, for the recognition!

Posted by Terrence Seamon, July 20, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

Lesson of the Scarecrow

At the Employee Engagement Network, moderator David Zinger asked, "How do you stay engaged with your work?"

This is a useful question in good times. In bad times, for example during a job search, it's a very important question.

First, it helps to be doing (or pursuing) work that you love.

Then, you've got to be able to recover after having a bad day. S__t happens, right? Things come along that knock you down. People come along who ruin your outlook.

To re-constitute myself after such set-backs, I've learned the lesson of the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz: stuff yourself back together.

In the scene where Dorothy is kidnapped by the flying monkeys sent by the Wicked Witch, the monkeys beat the crap out of the Scarecrow, throwing his innards all over the place.

Here's a snippet from the script:

SCARECROW: Help! Help! Help! Help! Help!

TIN MAN: Oh! Well, what happened to you?

SCARECROW: They tore my legs off, and they threw them over there! Then they took my chest out, and they threw it over there!

TIN MAN: Well, that's you all over.

LION: They sure knocked the stuffings out of you, didn't they?

SCARECROW: Don't stand there talking! Put me together! We've got to find Dorothy!

What happens next? His friends on the journey, the Lion and the Tin Man, join together to help put the Scarecrow back together. Then, with a clear sense of purpose, they go forth to rescue Dorothy.

What a lovely metaphor for the job search process.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, July 17, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What's Your Story?

What's your story?

Job hunting involves telling stories. The stories of your past deeds and accomplishments. These stories convey Who You Are. What You Can Do. What You Are Best At.

Let's look at the ancient art of story telling:

When you were a child, did you enjoy hearing stories? Do you have a kid of your own? Do you enjoy telling stories to him or her?

Stories, and story telling, are primal. They harken back to the most ancient times, when people gathered around a camp fire, to hear tales of how the tribe (and indeed the world) was born.

Stories can be spellbinding (great old word, isn't it?): to enchant, to fascinate.

Work on developing your storytelling skills. A tool for telling stories is CAR for Challenge, Action & Results:

- What was the challenge you faced?

- What actions did you take?

- What results did you achieve?

With all the competition out there these days for jobs, what will set you apart? One skill is your ability to tell your special story.

Keep this in mind: No one else has a story quite like yours.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, July 15,2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dead Wood. No Passion.

Yesterday at a church picnic, I was handling the grill, flipping hamburgers for a big crowd. While gladly performing this role, I spent a couple hours chatting (and networking) with fellow parishioners. (Remember: Network all the time. Everywhere. With everyone.)

In one conversation, a friend who had recently taken on a senior management role with a growing company, told me he was having a very hard time filling a key opening with his firm. The problem was not quantity. There were plenty of applicants, plenty of resumes. No, the problem was, as he put it: "I'm seeing a lot of dead wood. No passion."

I was sorry to hear that. I wondered how many excellent candidates, with strong capabilities, were disqualifying themselves by coming across poorly.

If you are a job seeker, do you have any idea how you are coming across to hiring managers?

Here are five suggestions that should safeguard you from the perception that you are just "dead wood" with no passion.

Positive Energy - Although it's a bummer to be out of a job, you can't let it drag you down. Somehow you must master your outlook. Stop holding on to the past. Let go of the banana. Remind yourself that you are still intact, that you still have your strengths. Focus on your objective. Focus on the future.

Continuous Research - Anyone committed to their job search nowadays has to be in continuous research mode. In other words, make sure that your feelers are out for information about what's happening in (and around) the business world. If you are not already a news junkie, become one. Stay abreast of what's going on in the fields of your greatest interest.

Problem Solving - The employers that you would like to work for have problems. Do you know what they are? Do you see yourself as the solution? Can you convey that to them?

Lifelong Learning - When an employer looks at you, do they see Miss Havesham (the Dickens' character from Great Expectations), someone whose clock stopped years ago? Or do they see someone who is learning, trying new things, experimenting, and ever curious about the world?

Passion - Finally, let's look at passion. What is it? And how do you display it in your demeanor? Passion is strongly felt love for something, that shows up in your eyes, your face, your gestures, and your voice. You can't fake it.

If you've got passion for something, it'll drive the positive energy, the research, the solutions thinking, and the learning. It will be the fire that burns within your personal engine of success.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, July 13, 2009

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Galvanize Into Action

My mother, Ramona Dorfman Seamon, had a lot of sayings, some in English, some in Yiddish. When she wanted one of us kids to get moving, "Galvanize into action," my mom would say.

Galvanize: rouse, stir, electrify, fire, spur, animate

Galvanize: To arouse to awareness or action

Not sure where she got that phrase, but it's a good one.

What does it take to galvanize someone into action? What stimulus will startle, arouse, and impel you forward to action?

A downsizing will startle you. But will it galvanize you? Does it have the arousing and motivating effect that will produce positive action?

In general, I don't think so. Yes, some hardy and resilient people will galvanize into action and get going. But the rest? Many in today's recession have no idea where to begin or what to do.

Once downsized, it's up to the individual to galvanize herself into action. But does the person affected by a downsizing know what actions to take?

In the past few months, I've been writing about different aspects of the job search. Here is a round-up of a slew of posts. I hope you find some value. Feel free to share with others who need to galvanize into action and find their next job.

Zen and the Art of Career Change


Working on It


What's Your BVP?

Your Career GUIDE

My Confidence is Shot

Your Road Not Taken

What Makes You Different?

Lesson of the Scarecrow

What's Your Story?

Dead Wood. No Passion.

Having a You Orientation

We Have Met the Enemy

Be Sure You Have A Strategy

You Are the Solution

Your Interview Dashboard
Part 1
Part 2

Marketing 101 for Job Hunters

Waiting for the Phone to Ring?

Fast Start to Re-Employment
Part 1
Part 2

On Networking

Transferable Skills

What's Your Personal Brand


Posted by Terrence Seamon, July 8, 2009

Monday, July 06, 2009

Improving Your Odds

A job hunter sent me an email today asking for advice. He writes: "I see lots of HR and IT jobs posted on your Yahoo site, but nothing in my field. Any suggestions?"

My suggestion would be, Don't count on the job leads that you are seeing on this, or any other, job lead sharing site. The odds are too low.

Much better is to work your own network, both interpersonally and on LinkedIn. Let your contacts, both professional and personal, know what you are looking for. Tell anyone who will listen. Remember: you never know who they know.

At the same time, identify your target companies: the employers that you know and admire which could use your skills and experience. Once identified, pursue them, by networking into them. LinkedIn can help here.

Search for the likely hiring managers and send them a letter of introduction. Then call them.

This approach has much higher odds of paying off.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, July 6, 2009

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Having a "You Orientation"

Over the years, I've taken (and given) any number of training courses on presentation skills. But the one that I thought was the best was created and taught by a NJ-based businessman, author, song writer, and trainer named Robert "Bob" Max.

After a successful career, Bob started his own training company and specialized in teaching business writing and presentation skills to corporate audiences: salespeople, scientists, engineers, managers and administrative professionals.

One of the secrets to excellence in presentations is a concept of Bob's that he called "you orientation." Having a You Orientation means that you are audience-centered in your approach to the presentation you are getting ready to give. And, when you get up to deliver the presentation, having a You Orientation means that you stay audience-focused throughout the delivery.

In the years since I took Bob's course, I have often recalled and applied this idea. It's one of those simple yet powerful frames that can really make a big difference in what you are trying to accomplish.

For example, let's apply it to job hunting.

In a job hunt, the job seeker is by definition extremely Me Oriented. But to make progress, she has to develop a complementary You Orientation.

~ The Me Orientation helps the job hunter get clear about her Objective, her skills and accomplishments, and her values and interests.

~ The You Orientation helps the job hunter to research the Target Companies that she has identified; to build a mutually beneficial network with others in order to get information, advice, and referrals; and to ask questions of hiring managers that elicit the goals and needs of the organization.

The most effective tool in the You Orientation is the "you question;" for example:

- What are you looking for?
- What are your goals?
- What advice would you give me?
- Who else would you recommend I speak to?
- How can I help you?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, July 4, 2009

Thursday, July 02, 2009

We Have Met The Enemy

"We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us" - Walt Kelly, creator of Pogo.

In the last blog entry on strategy, I mentioned that the job hunter's greatest Enemy is the Self.

Let's look at that more closely.

Take the following test. The twelve items below represent twelve key ingredients in an effective job search. The more times you answer Yes, the more likely you will successfully land. The more No answers, the more likely you are sabotaging yourself.

For each of the following statements, answer Yes or No.

1. My job search is my full time job now.

2. I have a clear Objective for my job search.

3. I understand that I am now in a Sales & Marketing role, and that my Product is Me.

4. I am NOT going it alone; rather, I am reaching out to others to support me.

5. I am on LinkedIn.

6. I am busy networking every day, with everyone.

7. I have Target Companies that I am researching and pursuing.

8. I am NOT waiting for the phone to ring.

9. I have joined at least one local networking group.

10. I believe in myself.

11. I know my strengths (i.e. my skills and accomplishments).

12. I am developing a strategy to attain my career goals.

How did you do? Are you your best ally? or your worst enemy?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, July 2, 2009

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Be Sure You Have A Strategy

How many business people have a strategy? My guess would be: Not Many.

It's not for lack of appreciating the value of having a strategy. No, it's mostly because people do not know what a strategy really is.

There is a very helpful article called "Are You Sure You Have A Strategy?" by Donald Hambrick and James Fredrickson, published in the Academy of Management Executive, 2001, Vol. 15, No. 4.

The authors remind us that the term strategy comes from the Greek strategos meaning "the art of the general." In a war, a general has an objective and a strategy for achieving it. Hambrick and Fredrickson identify several key elements of a strategy. Here's my take on their model:

- The Arena: Where will the action take place?

- The Enemy: Who are our competitors?

- The Vehicles: How will we get there?

- The Weapons: How will we win?

- The Staging: What will be our speed? What will be our sequence of moves?

- The Measure: How will we obtain our returns?

How might this apply to a job hunter?

First, a job hunter must have an Objective. Everything else in the strategy depends upon that.

The Arena is Where the job hunter wants to land. Ideally, the job hunter has identified Target Companies to pursue proactively.

The Enemy is the Self. A job hunter will defeat himself more surely than any external competitor. (More on this in a future blog entry.)

The Vehicle of choice for job hunters is Networking.

The Weapons are Self-Awareness (especially about one's own Skills and Accomplishments), Self-Belief, and Persistence.

The Staging involves Sequence of Moves as well as Speed. The warrior job hunter does not wait for the phone to ring. Instead, she makes her own moves and makes things happen, keeping a high level of activity each week of her search.

The Measure is three-fold: Interviews, Offers, and Starts. Until the job hunter gets an interview, there is no chance of an offer, and no way to start.

Now that you know the elements of a strategy, it's time to map one out. What's your Objective? How will you attain it?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, July 1, 2009