Friday, November 26, 2010

5 Practices of SMART Job Hunters

Since starting this blog back in 2004, when (according to my friend and fellow career blogger Alexandra Levit) I was one of the first voices blogging about career issues, the blogosphere has exploded with a plethora of wonderful career experts and resources.

In fact, it's somewhat overwhelming. How do fledgling job seekers sift and sort through it all to discover the most reliable voices and the best ideas that will help them find meaningful re-employment?

First, let me list a few voices that I admire and follow. Then, I will outline five practices that I frequently recommend to job hunters.

Some reliable and generous career experts:

Alexandra Levit = her blog is called Water Cooler Wisdom

Abby Kohut = her blog is Absolutely Abby

Hannah Morgan = her blog is Career Sherpa (I love that metaphor!)

Nick Corcodilos = his blog is Ask The Headhunter

Donna Svei = her blog is Avid Careerist

And the Career Realism blog

Note: There are many many more that have a lot of good advice for today's job hunters. For example, Curt Rosengren, Alison Doyle, Walter Akana, Susan Joyce, Barbara Safani, Meg Guiseppi, and Keith Ferrazzi. And don't miss The Riley Guide. (If you are on twitter, check out my list of career experts)

Now for some takeaways. Here are five practices that will make you a SMART job hunter.

S = Story: Why would an employer hire you? Because you told the best story. The story of Who You Are. And what you can bring to the employer's organization. Your Story is your Brand. Telling your Story is the way you sell the prospect.

M = Market: How do you find potential employers? Like a Big Game Hunter tracks and snares his prey. With clear intent and unrelenting pursuit. You know what you want. You know your market. Because you know your Product. And the product is You. Remember: when you are in transition, you are in Sales & Marketing.

A = Acquisition: How do you rise above the rest of the job hunters out there? They want a job. But you are looking to acquire a company. Sure, you want a job too. But think about it for a few minutes from the point of view of the recruiter who is beating the bushes to find and attract some good candidates. You are doing the same thing from the other side of the equation. So get into acquisition mode.

R = Research: How do you wow the employer? By demonstrating how much you know about him or her. You did your research, using your network, LinkedIn, and other resources on the internet. You prepared a list of questions to ask. You know so much about the employer that you may actually stun the interviewer.

T = Tools: The well-equipped job hunter always carries his most trusty tools, especially business cards, a pen, a fully charged cell phone, and a box of "Thank You" note cards. But the Swiss Army Knife of all job search tools is one's network, the people you know, the people you can count on, the people who are looking out for you.

Be smart, baby. Be smart.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, a veteran job hunter. For more ideas on job search, career change, and how to find the meaning and happiness you seek out of life, invite Terry to speak to your organization.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Leading In Chaotic Times

"May you live in interesting times." A curse, right? According to wikipedia, it may derive from a Chinese saying. That saying is itself interesting:

~ "It's better to be a dog in a peaceful time than a man in a chaotic period."

Chaotic times, eh? Surely we are living in chaotic times. A period of change, stress, ambiguity, even confusion, leaving many bewildered and lost.

What sort of leader do we need in a time such as this?

Lately, our federal leaders have been putting the emphasis on the need to communicate more clearly. While I would never disagree with that, there is another capability we sorely need.

Here's a true story. A "rising star" manager was at the front of the room giving a high-stakes presentation to a senior level audience when a slide came up with a typo on it. The word was supposed to be "new" but it appeared as "now." This young hi-po was so adept that he instantly incorporated the typo into his talk, delighting everyone in the room. He said, "Not only is X a new idea, it's a NOW idea that we should embrace." I still smile when I think of how nimble he was. He didn't even break a sweat.

In that moment of truth, he demonstrated an intangible aspect of leadership. It's more than being able to communicate and make a good presentation. It's more than being "good on one's feet." It's an in-the-moment improvisational capability that consultant Julie Sheldon Huffaker (of the Hungry Toolkit blog) says is seeing "a palette of possibilities in front of them" and making "instant connections, using what they have."

My friend and colleague Robin Cook has made improvisation part of his OD consulting practice for many years. In his study of innovative organizations, he found nine cultural characteristics that cut across a diverse array of highly innovative companies. Included in the nine qualities are Open and Playful. Let's apply this to leaders and our times.

- Open: Many leaders have an agenda and a plan and they stick to it, no matter what. While having a plan is a good thing, sticking rigidly to a plan, when all around you is in flux, is a closed posture that can lead to irrelevance or worse. Scottish filmmaker Guy Ritchie puts it well: "I like to think that we've got a plan, so let's stick to it. That said, once we've stuck to it, we're allowed as much improvisation as anyone cares to indulge themselves in." A leader in chaotic times has to be open to what's happening around him or her. Open to ideas. Open to the unexpected. Open to diverse people, even opponents.

- Playful: In his classic work Homo Ludens (Man the Player) Johan Huizinga coined this phrase: "Let my playing be my learning, and my learning be my playing." Every culture, and every organization, arises from the drive to play that is hard-wired into us humans. The distinction between learning time and play time, and later in life between working time and play time, is a false one. Play leads to learning. And play at work leads to creative ideas that in turn may become the next big thing.

And let me add two more that, together with Robin's, create a model for Leading In Chaotic Times:

- Engaging: Due to the work of the Gallup organization and others, many are now realizing that authentic engagement with others is the key to success. When we truly engage our employees and our customers, we listen to them, we learn from them, and we co-create the future with them. These strong bonds, built on shared vision, trust, and mutual commitment, become a foundation for productivity, profitability, and growth.

- Networked: A watchword for job hunters and sales people is networking, the never-ending process of connecting with others for mutual benefit. How about leaders? Shouldn't leaders become networkers too? Keith Ferrazzi, the world's foremost expert on networking, says success is all about people and the relationships you have with them. And it helps, he adds, if you are nice.

How OPEN are you? If you hope to lead during interesting times like these, you had better be.

For more ideas on leadership, innovation, improvisation, and managing chaos, contact Terry and invite his to your organization.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Batting Coach Revisited: The Incredible Power of Coaching

Five years ago, I wrote a blog entry called "The Batting Coach" that it's now time to revisit. So, first a republication of the original post, followed by new material on the incredible power of coaching.

The Batting Coach (first published in 2005)

As a Little Leaguer, I was not much of a ball-player. A fact that bothered me, but also bothered my dad. My father was an uber-athlete, a champion in his youth, and a coach, referee and umpire in his middle-age. Sport was everything to him. And four out of his five sons followed suit.

The fifth son, yours truly, was the exception. More of an egghead than the others, I was best at academic performance, and a shambles on the ball field. I had no skills and little discernible aptitude.

My dad was encouraging but he tended to invest his energies in the other better players. One evening at baseball practice, an assistant coach named Ed approached me. I was pretty amazed that he was even speaking to me since I was a third-string splinter-collector.

Ed said, "Let's see your swing, Terry."

I got up, grabbed a bat, and showed him my style. Appraising me carefully, Ed began to coach me, saying "Hmmm. Let's try this. I want to change a few things, OK? First, I'd like you to get the bat off your shoulder. Yeah that's it. Raise it up. Now spread your feet further apart. More. OK good. Bend your knees more. Yeah good."

I went along with his specific suggestions, modifying my batting stance and swing. Why not, I said to myself. It couldn't hurt.

After a few minutes of pantomime practice, Ed said, "OK. Let's hit." He indicated that I should step up to the plate.

At this point, I felt a mix of feelings. I was not much a hitter, but I wondered if Ed's approach would work.

He said, "OK Terry, try what we just practiced." Then he gestured to the pitcher to throw.

I reshaped myself into the stance Ed had suggested: bat in the air, legs apart, knees bent.

Ed called to me: "Terry, get closer to the plate." I did as he said.

The pitcher wound up and threw the ball. I put my eye on the ball and swung the bat.

To my utter surprise, I connected, solidly, and heard the thwock that I always wanted to hear, and saw the ball floating in the air over the shortstop.

"Way to go, Terry!" Ed cried from the sideline.

I was euphoric. I was a changed person. I can hit! I know how to hit!

In the next game, the coaches took a chance on me and put me in to hit. I did not disappoint. I whacked the ball, got all the way to third base, and drove in two runners.

As the years have rolled by, I have often reflected upon this incident. I marvel at the effect this coaching has had on my life. I became a teacher; then an industrial trainer; and now a coach myself, working with supervisors, managers and executives on ways that they can be more effective.

A good coach can have a direct and meaningful impact on performance, output, morale, and engagement.

Revisiting The Incredible Power of Coaching

The late great management educator George Odiorne once said that "Coaching is not an addition to a leader's job. Rather it is an integral part of it." In other words, coaching is at the very heart of leadership.

Even tough CEO Jack Welch understood this when he said: "My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too."

Welch and other leaders have understood this vital truth, that your organization is only as good as its people. And that if you build your people, they will build your business.

So what does it take to be a coaching leader? If we use assistant coach Ed from my story above as a model, five steps materialize clearly:

C = Caring Intent - The motive to coach is the desire to help the other to improve, to become what they are capable of being. In other words, coaching comes from love.

O = Observing Performance - Coach Ed took a good look at me before intervening. Careful direct observation provides the coach with data for the next step.

A = Assessing Leverage Points - With solid observational data, the coach can now identify and pinpoint the specific changes that have the highest value, i.e. the leverage points. In my baseball story, the changes in my swing that would put me in a much better position to connect with the ball.

C = Communicating Feedback - Now the coach intervenes, approaching the other with the offer of input, intended to enhance performance.

H = Helping the Other to Change - The effectiveness of coaching ultimately depends upon the player's desire to improve. If that desire is there, the coach knows that change is seldom instantaneous. There is likely to be a learning curve. And the coach is ready to help the other through the process.

Coaching Leaders not only improve your batting average. They also can change your self-image. They can help you see that there was more to You than you thought possible.

Legendary Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian once said: "A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are."

For more ideas on coaching and unleashing the potential of others, contact Terry and invite him to speak to your managers.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Twentysomethings Go to Work

Recently at the Employee Engagement Network, Bob Wiebe of Enliven Consulting asked this question:

"Young people are given bad press in some circles for not meeting employer needs. Perhaps you have encountered the young person who is rude or inattentive or sloppy, or who has what (used to be) called a poor "work ethic". How does one engage the young person (teen, early 20's) in their work?"

As the proud parent of two twenty-something sons, one who has graduated from college and entered the workforce, and one who is a senior in college, I jumped in and made the following contribution to the discussion.

What do twentysomethings want at work? My 23 year old stopped by this weekend, so I grabbed the opportunity to put the question to him. He said:

- I'll work hard for you (the employer), but this job is not my life. I've got dreams and I'm going somewhere.

- Let me use my creativity and bring my personality to the work. Don't treat me with a cookie cutter.

- Don't micro-manage me. Don't constrain me. For example, don't block my access to social networking. That's how I stay connected to my world.

- Treat me fairly and pay me fairly (and on time) for the work I do.

- Communicate one-on-one with me. Although we love our electronic tools, we can actually talk face to face. And we want that.

- Keep the job from turning into "work." There is a difference between a task and a mission.

- Be open to a different method. The "Old Guard" style of managing, that does not allow the us twentysomethings to figure things out for ourselves, is frustrating.

Hmmm. This list sounds very familiar. Aren't these things quite similar to what any worker would want?

So, if you are in HR or in management, and you've got twentysomethings entering your organization, heed the voice above, and practice these guidelines:

- Does the work fit the person? Is there something about the work, even just a small aspect of it, that appeals to the young person's interests? Is the work exciting at all to them?

- Does the young person see a clear WIIFM (What's In it for Me?) connected to the work? Are you engaging them with your brand?

- Does the work offer a career path that the young person can envision him or herself travelling on toward future opportunities?

They may be harder to manage than other waves that have gone to work, and they may leave you at the drop of a hat to pursue their dreams. But ask yourself the question that Bob Wiebe has built his consulting practice on:

~ Our mission is helping harness human capacity. Why shouldn’t organizations and individuals function with zip and crackle rather than foot dragging and boredom? Our vision for our clients is to experience more life-giving joy and fruitfulness in their work.

I like that a lot! How can you harness the zip and crackle of the new generation?

Posted by Terrence Seamon on November 8, 2010. For more ideas on motivating and engaging people of all generations at work, invite Terry to speak to your managers.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Now That's What I Call Leadership!

So much is written about leadership! Qualities of leaders. Traits of leaders. It's all interesting, to be sure. But, at the end of the day, you may be thinking: If you want to be a leader, what should you do?

There is wisdom to be found in the old saying "I'll know it when I see it." In other words, what do we see actual leaders doing?

The good news for students of leadership is that there are real life lessons all around us, each and every day. Take President Obama for example. He acknowledged the other day that he and the Dems took a shellacking in the mid-term election of November 2. He went on to say about leadership that:

"...leadership is not just's a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone. And making an argument that people can understand."

His main point (and his learning) was that his message did not get through.

Looking at his statement, it seems he is talking, at least in part, about engaging people. But real engagement is not just persuasively arguing people into agreement.

For all his intelligence and excellence as a speaker, our president does not seem to get something fundamental about authentically engaging others: it's a two-way street. It's collaborative. And each party influences the other.

So, inspired by this real life story, here are three things that leaders do...that you can start doing today.

1. Leaders ask for input - Leaders know that power is not in position. Rather, power is in posture. And the most powerful posture is humility. An open and receptive posture that invites and welcomes many voices and perspectives. "What are your thoughts?" is a positive power play with real potential. So, leaders actively seek the ideas of their team members. "What do you guys think we should do?" is not a sign of weakness on the part of the leader. Quite the contrary. It's brilliance. Leaders ask for help. Leaders listen. And, in so doing, they engage and empower others.

2. Leaders seek wisdom before they take action - Leaders take action based on what they believe is wise, that is, the right course for the right reasons. Where do they find this wisdom? While leaders often have good ideas, even the smartest know that they don't have all the ideas. There may be even better ideas out there among their constituents. The leader that seeks the wisdom of the people in the system is indeed a wise one.

3. Leaders learn and change - Leaders are agents of change. And all change starts with the man or woman in the mirror. The Self. In the face of an overwhelming message such as the mid-term election results on November 2, the wise leader would take a long and honest look in the mirror. And resolve to make the necessary changes in himself.

So, if you are thinking about being a leader at work or outside of work, start acting like a leader.

Posted originally on HR Blognotions by Terrence Seamon on November 5, 2010. For more on leadership, listening, wisdom, and change, invite Terry to your organization.