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Just How Much Job Searching “Should” You be Doing Over the Holidays?

22 Dec

If you’ve been following me on Facebook or Twitter recently, you’ve probably seen a slew of articles I’ve promoted around the idea of not stalling on your job search just because it’s the holidays.  And that is true – the holidays are no excuse to drop the ball (no pun intended) and lose momentum.

If you think about it, this doesn’t happen with any other job – projects are still due, time and staff still need to be allocated to the appropriate tasks, and someone has to field the phone calls and emails when customers or clients need a last minute request fulfilled on before the new year.  In most cases, a true, dedicated professional wouldn’t think of leaving the office for vacation, knowing there’s a ginormously important meeting at the start of the following week, and allowing the materials for such to remain in rough draft on their hard drive.  It’s just common sense practice, and covering your own butt.  Because honestly, I want to have a few cocktails and several pounds of homemade meatballs this weekend, not an anxiety attack.  Continue reading

To Have it All…Is to Move Diagonally.

28 Jul

Yesterday I celebrated my one year anniversary with my fiance, Adam.  We hit up our favorite Indian restaurant in the East Village, followed by a trip to Whole Foods, and ending with a couple of beers at this great little old-timey tavern nestled in a corner of Boerum Hill in Brooklyn.  I love Brooklyn folks – no matter where you go, it’s always Friday for someone, and my oh my, do they appreciate their local craft beer.  Very economically-minded.

Some folks at the 12-month mark in their relationship might find themselves still contemplating whether to introduce their significant other to their crazy family.  Adam and I, on the other hand, are planning a wedding – so I supposed I did something right.  Truthfully though, things moved quickly and happily because when we met, we had hit it off so well (we both appreciate talking about HTML) and after a steady string of dating people not right for either of us (me), we just knew what we wanted, and that the other had it, hands-down.  And after nearly 30 years of filing Single-and-1 on my W4, I’m pretty satisfied with the present outcome.  Relationships are hard work!  So are jobs.  I have days where, combined with how I’ve managed to balance the other important areas of my life – career, friendships, family, money, creative endeavors- I’m very satisfied with where I am, and it’s like I’m on top of the world.  Other days though… it’s still a work in progress.  And I’m fine with that!

See, hitting this “one year” mark, while initially symbolic of the healthy lifeline of my relationship, is pretty significant for me in a lot of ways.  Because it’s really the year anniversary of many successful changes that I’ve made in my life in a short amount of time – changing cities, lifestyles, relationships, financial status and essentially careers.  And while I’m beyond satisfied and proud of my accomplishments, as I said earlier, I try to always remember that it continues to be a work in progress.  And it’s going to be…for a very…long…time.

How are we currently balancing our lives?  Are we progressing along a diagonal line of balance, or simply laterally or upwards (one or the other)?  What I mean by simply upwards, is the act of thinking just about the next step, and then the next big thing after that, and what we want after that (thinking upwards, essentially)?  When we do that, are we omitting the importance of allowing ourselves some lateral movement, the days where we’re not moving up… we’re just being… just enjoying where we are and what we have, before we attempt to make the next jump or climb the next step?  Conversely, are we overly content with moving COMPLETELY laterally, or on a straight, flat sideways line, without any plans to move upwards toward something bigger, a better self, and just accepting complacency as a way of life?  Both are extremes, but if you balance lateral movement (the everyday enjoyment and being) with upward movement (the achieving and moving forward with your goals), you have diagonal movement.  And that’s exactly what I said it was – balance between being and doing.

On the days where I’m clearly doing more upward movement than lateral being, I certainly feel it, and it comes in the form of burnout, frustration and feeling overwhelmed and under-satisfied.  But that doesn’t happen often, because I’ve learned how to identify when I’m moving too quickly on that upward road and putting myself in danger of getting to that catabolic place.  The red light goes off, and when I feel myself going that direction of upward burnout, I slow down, and go back to being… being in and around the things that I appreciate and make up the authentic individual that I am. For me, it’s art, music and enjoying the company of close friends and family in environments that offer the kind of positive, uplifting energy I thrive upon.  And then I get back to work.

So what’s your acceptable incline?  At what degree of diagonal movement do you feel balanced?  90 degrees is complete upward movement, while zero degrees is complete lateral movement.  For me, I’d say right now I’m around 60 degrees, because while I enjoy simply being the things I love and taking time to enjoy them, I also thrive on the thrill of my business, my customers and coming up with fresh new ideas to move that forward.  Some days I might feel more like 40 degrees, like on Friday, when I will be at the beach all day in New Jersey, winding down with my best friend and taking a day completely devoted to fun, sun and beachey cocktails.  Maybe I’ll even go 35.

My Visual Interpretation

It all comes down to one thing – balance.  It means balancing the different areas of your life that are all equally important, equally prioritized, and to which you are equally devoted.  Whether it’s your job/career, your relationship, your hobbies or your down time with your friends, each of those things has a uniquely important place in your life, and needs continual nurturing.  It’s an ongoing process, and we are never quite done, because so long as we are living, it is possible to throw it off balance by investing too much or too little energy in one area or another.  And we do it everyday, sometimes unknowingly.  After all, we’re only human.

So what do you do each day to make sure that you are currently in, and staying in balance?  Are you doing a check-in with yourself to make sure you’re fostering each of your important life interests?  Are you working too hard at a dead-end job, or focusing all your time on your new career venture, and unknowingly neglecting your friends or significant other in the process?  Are you, in this case, pushing yourself upward too quickly in the act of “doing, doing, doing” and not being?  Conversely, are you not doing ENOUGH to achieve your career goals, moving further and further laterally each day in sheer complacency because you feel burned out, and not reevaluating your game plan to incorporate more “doing”, more upward movement?  There’s no rule that dictates that if something in your life isn’t working for you (like your job search tactics or your dating habits), that you can’t take it upon yourself to make modifications that will lead to a better outcome.  As my former boss LOVED to say on every conference call, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.”  Think about it.  And today, figure out ONE thing you can do, RIGHT NOW, to get yourself back to 45 degrees… and then grow from there.

Creating Awareness Around What We Never See Coming

23 Jul

The other night I joined some friends for leisurely activities in the Lower East Side.  After completing our “20 minute walk” from Washington Square Park, which realistically was more like 45 minutes in 90 degree weather, we arrived to find the restaurant we were planning on going to closed.  So while we formulated plan B, we waited for another member of our entourage to arrive.  When she did, she was frazzled and distraught.

On the way to the restaurant I had been informed in bits and pieces what had happened earlier that day to my friend-of-a-friend.  She had been traveling several weeks earlier in South America, and feared that while she was there she had forgotten to log out of her email account while in an internet cafe, and now someone had hacked her email  account, changed her password, and emailed all of her contacts soliciting money.  Posing as the young woman, the assailant contacted friends, family and work colleagues explaining that she had lost her wallet whilst traveling in London and needed immediately to be wired money from the US, so that she could pay her hotel bill and fly home.  And the worst part?  While perhaps it’s reassuring to know that she had a number of contacts willing to help her out financially, several of them were all but a keystroke away from divulging their own credit card and bank account information to a third party thief.  Including the CEO of her company!

Unfortunately, be forewarned that it is close to impossible in a situation such as this to convince your email carrier that your account has been hacked.  She tried.  Several faltered attempts.  And without sufficient physical evidence of these activities, which she couldn’t provide because she no longer had access to her account, GMail would not shut off the account.  A complete stranger with less than innocent intentions now had complete access to her friends, family & employer’s contact info, her personal emails to and from her ex-boyfriend, contacts for which she was utilizing to apply to new jobs, and her online bill pay information.  In other words, all the relevant ingredients for a professionally crippling case of identity theft.

In an age where many of us take for granted our enormous range of access to information at our fingertips, we also take for granted the security of everything we put out there.  Whether it’s your contact information, your personal life plastered all over Facebook, or your credit card information with every online transaction we make, we so detrimentally assume the “it can’t happen to me” attitude.  Ladies & gentlemen… NOT TRUE!

I had to leave shortly after our acquaintance joined us, and so I’m not yet privvy to the details of any kind of resolution to the situation, but I can imagine she’s in no easy spot right now as far as damage control.  And you – are you aware of what you’re putting out there to a bevvy of virtual strangers on a daily basis?  Does all of New York City know that you’re on vacation for the next 6 days in Cabo and not even your dog is at home because your best friend is taking care of him while you’re away?  Are you opening up the doors to your apartment and welcoming the neighborhood to come in and snoop around wherever they want, so to speak, because you left your Facebook account logged in at the bubble tea cafe? Or maybe it’s just your jealous coworker emailing your less-than-appropriate IM conversations to you boss because you rushed out of the office to meet Cindy for drinks at 6 without logging off of your computer.  Wait- wait- one more- how about the TIME STAMP on your blog post that your coworkers and boss can access from your online profile.   Did you every think that might throw a red flag out there and screw you over?  Don’t laugh…it happens.  (Okay, you can still laugh, so long as it’s not happening to you.)

Let this be a lesson to all to create complete and total awareness around everything we do online, where we provide access to our information (internet cafes, work, other people’s computers, etc.) and how we present ourselves to the digital universe.  Whether or not you’re in the market for a new job, needless to say, it can all come back to bite you in the…

Have a great weekend!

What Hiring Managers Want: A 2010 Survey

22 Jul

The Center for Career and Life Development at Saddleback College in Southern California recently performed the “2010 Orange County Resume Survey” by surveying over 200 hiring managers and employers on their preferences regarding resumes and cover letters. They surveyed everything from length of resumes, to cover letter preference, to disclosure of different types of information within the document.  And their findings are quite interesting!

  • 38% agree that the length of a resume simply depends upon the level of the position, while 35% say one page, and 19% say two pages.
  • 62% prefer Word document format verus 36% who prefer PDF. No one preferred html/online or .txt formats.
  • 49.4% prefer traditional chronologial (experience-focused) resume to 5.9% that prefer functional (skills-focused).
  • 67% agree you should explain employment gaps in either your work experience section or cover letter, versus 25% who think it’s okay to say nothing at all.
  • 74% prefer that you attach your resume as .doc or PDF to an email versus pasting it into the body of the message.
  • 57% cited that cover letters are either not important because they don’t have time to read them, or have no preference.  43% would like to see you include one.
  • 70% want your cover letter to be a 1/2 page or shorter.  Only 9% prefer a full page.  The other 11% don’t care.
  • 42% say that the biggest mistake on resumes is spelling and grammar, followed by 15% who find people not correctly tailoring it to fit the role or company the candidate is applying to.
  • The top three most important aspects of your resume are previous work experience (26%),qualifications & skills (22%), and making it easy to read (10%), which only slightly tops accomplishments (9%). Keywords, objective & computer skills rank lowest.
  • 98% agree that applicants with any kind of criminal history should be upfront about it to prevent issuse HR may encounter during a background check.
  • 60.7% of survey participants indicated they receive 26+ resumes for each open position.

You can read the full survey results (with visual!) here.

Tomrorow’s Teleclass: Finding Your Niche…

18 Jul

Getting super excited about tomorrow’s teleclass on “Finding Your Niche in Life & Work”, where we’re going to discuss the importance of personal & professional interests & values, and translating those into more fulfilling & sustainable work that resonates with who you are authentically as an individual.  What questions to do you need to ask yourself to make that shift, and more importantly, monetize your vision?  What IS a vision, and how do you create one that really makes sense?  It’s not as hard as it might sound – ANYONE can do it!   It’s going to be good!  Last chance to  Register Here .

Don’t Lose Them at Hello… Or Goodbye.

28 May

This morning on the F train into Manhattan I overheard a conversation between two women.  One was the Creative Director for a handbag company, and the second appeared to be a young woman whom she had just interviewed and hired for a part-time job.  The former was recapping a phone interview with a young woman seeking an internship in the fashion industry, and how she wouldn’t be calling her back for an in-person interview.

Apparently the candidate had approached the interview with the Creative Director saying that she was really interested in working for her company, so long as the internship was “doing all creative stuff”, as that was where her interests lie.  The Creative Director recapped this part of the conversation to her new colleague, adding that while she was talking to the candidate, she was thinking “This girl wants to do all creative stuff in her job.  Yet I’m the Creative Director of this company, and I STILL only do about 10% creative stuff in my job every day, simply because of logistics.”

As most employers would agree, the Creative Director considered the internship  an opportunity to gain valuable experience, not an obligation to the employer to provide the intern with their dream job, full of creative and visible responsibilities.  While the candidate surely meant well, the Creative Director was turned off by the young woman’s “Me! Me! Me!” attitude, and fairly convinced that she was more invested in her own self-interest of making the internship what she wanted, rather than partnering with the organization for a mutually beneficial experience.  And thus she turned to her new colleague and announced, “Obviously, I won’t be calling her back in for an interview.”

Now this is not a testament to the low-level expectations of being an intern these days.  By all means, one can find an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable internship that is everything they hoped.  However, the important take-away is to understand the role for which you are presenting yourself, so that you can best market yourself to the company in a way that screams “I will be an asset to any company I join!”  And one can do this in a number of ways – enthusiasm, ambition, positive attitude, being knowledgeable, being proactive, etc., etc..  But no matter what level of job you’re applying for, whether you’re the intern or the CEO, leave your checklist of surface “must-haves” at home and focus in on the unique and developed skills and opportunities YOU bring to the company, and not vice-versa.  Certainly keep in line with your values, by all mean.  But be informed.  Speak to other people in the industry who have been in your shoes and understand better the politics of the industry and what it takes to move up the ranks.  This is a fantastic opportunity to clarify your own expectations of the job, and make sure it’s mutually beneficial to both you and your employer.

So how could she have approached this more positively?

While I can only gather so much from being on one end of the conversation, it sure sounds like this candidate didn’t do her homework.  Find out – what does it mean to be an intern with this company?  What is expected of me?  How can I grow?  What is the company culture?  What opportunities will I have to demonstrate my capabilities and the knowledge I’ve developed?  And once she sold herself to the Creative Director and nabbed that internship, she could have gone in there and THEN demonstrated how “creative” she was, in her tasks, problem-solving, and wherever else the opportunity can be created to do so, rather than demanding it upfront.  Needless to say the impact would be much more positive.

So ask yourself before your next interview, or even your next email – “Am I presenting myself in the best possible manner, as the professional, accomplished and enthusiastic candidate I am?”

Deducting Your Job Search Expenses

12 Apr

Whether you are employed or out of work, the expenses related to your job search may qualify as tax deductible.  Certain expenses typically qualify as deductions, but to be certain talk to a tax professional before filing.  These include expenses related to:

  • Resume Preparation
  • Career Counseling Services
  • Employment Agency Fees
  • Travel Expenses (if the trip was primarily for job-related purposes)
  • Vehicle Mileage (standard mileage rate for deduction is 48.5 cents per mile)
  • Communication (phone, fax, etc.)
  • Associated Legal Fees

There are also certain criteria you MUST meet, depending upon your employment status, in order to deduct your job search-related expenses.

If you are employed…

  • You can deduct expenses related to your job search within the same field, and your search should be at a similar level of responsibility with duties similar to your current role.
  • You can deduct expenses that equal at least two percent of your income

If you are unemployed…

  • You cannot deduct expenses if you were unemployed for awhile BEFORE starting your job search
  • You cannot deduct expenses if you are conducting a first-time job search.  The exception to this is if you held a college internship or related job in college, and your search is related to the same field.

Whether you’re getting your taxes in last minute for 2009 or plan to conduct a job search in 2010, it is critically important to keep track of all of your expense-related receipts so that your deductions are as accurate as possible.  Start now!  And save some coin in 2011.  For more information visit http://www.irs.gov.

Do I Hire a Career Coach? The Big Questions…

10 Apr

Here’s a good article that addresses the “how’s” and “why’s” that people find themselves asking when it comes to whether or not to hire a career coach.

-What do they do?

-Can they really help me?

-How much does it cost?

-What’s the commitment from me?  And probably the most common one…

-Why can’t I just find someone to help me with my resume for free?

A Career Coach “literally guides the job seeker toward success in the hiring process.  Individuals who work with a career coach are far more likely to get in the door of their target employer, and out-perform their peers in the job market.”

Learn more by reading the full article by employment and labor  law specialist George Lenard here.

Connect to Dana on Twitter & LinkedIn

31 Mar

If you haven’t already, be sure to connect to me on Twitter for updates on career and life purpose coaching events and seminars, as well as tips and other useful tidbits!  http://twitter.com/DanaLeavy or click here.

If you’re a LinkedIn fan, connect to me on LinkedIn.

Avoiding the Tendancy to Stray From Our Goals

31 Mar

Women in Technology International (WITI) had a great article today by Kathleen Barton on “Staying Focused on Your Priorities”.  Think of the typical scenario around New Year’s Day, where you make the vow to join a gym and [insert relevant weight loss goal here].  Day one, you’re gung ho- you map out a schedule of every day you can make it during the gym – 4 to 5 times a week, no exception- and you vow to give up drinking high-calorie beer, stop eating those after-lunch snacks, and cook a healthy dinner each night.  Great plan!  You’re completely on track to success.  Day 10 you’re feeling good – you hit the gym 5 or 6 times already, and you lost that first pound or two.  Week 3 sets in – work is getting busy, family issues are creeping up, your significant other has an event you need to attend.  Okay, you’ll only make it to the gym 3 times this week, but you’ll make up for it by going six times next week.  Week four rolls around, and so do the priorities.  You make it to the gym three times…if your lucky.  You’re grabbing pizza on the way home because you’re in a rush…again… and so on, and so forth.

Why is it so easy for us to lose our motivation and determination, when it seems we have the plans all figured out on paper?  Human nature, for one.  Non-human factors, for two.  And three… just life in general.  It’s hard to prioritize sometimes, when it seems like we’re juggling so many obligations day to day.  But the good news is that there are a few key tricks you can start implementing now to keep you on track with goals that you set in place:

1)       Visualize Success create your vision of success – the feel, the image, the surroundings, the circumstances- and imagine yourself in that setting, successfully living that vision.

2)       Review Your GoalsContinually be asking yourself if what you’re doing right now is driving your closer to your goals, and if not, what other steps you need to be taking.

3) Reward Yourself for the Small Successes choose something that motivating to you, and that you look forward to, so as to increase your productivity.

4) Work with an Accountability Coach By having someone else help you set goals and hold you accountable for them, you are far more likely to follow through.  Work with a friend, or a coach, someone to give encouragement, but who will also take your goals seriously and challenge you slightly to get move you forward.

For more information on coaching yourself toward your goals, check out Aspyre Solutions’ affordable coaching packages.  You can also read the rest of Kathleen’s article here.

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