Nov 16 – “Empowerment & Your Job Search”

2 Nov

I had a great time recently volunteering my career coaching expertise at Pace University’s career coaching clinic, at their New York City campus!  The event was full of alumni and students enthusiastic about their job search and what’s next for them in their careers.  It was great to see so many people taking control of their search and empowering themselves to reach out and get the most mileage out of their resumes, job search strategy and interviewing skills!

On Tuesday November 16th I’ll be joining Pace University again to give a talk on “Empowerment & Your Job Search”.  I’m excited about this event, as there’s really something for everyone here, even those who aren’t actually IN a job search!  But you’ll have to attend to get the full scoop.  We’ll look at the key inner components of a results-driven job search, the not-so-obvious mistakes we make in the face of career transition, and how to build critical awareness around the limiting beliefs that keep you from generating the momentum you need, and how to break them down.

To register, visit the Pace Career Services website or the “Empowerment & Your Job Search” Facebook page.

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Get a Life. Get a Job. Whatever You Do, Get Creative.

8 Oct

When I was applying to colleges, I heard this story about a wanna-be ivy league-er who wrote their admissions essay to Brown University on Post-It notes.  They were accepted.  Doubtfully due to their perfect grammar or well-structured paragraphs, but because they were innovative, and their vehicle for communication, however unconventional, sent the Brown admissions committee a clear message:  “YOU WANT ME! And now that I’ve got your attention, here’s why…”

This is kind of how I feel about cover letters.  I’m not a fan of the old standard.  Yea, they’re “professional”, but unless you’re saying something that really has value to your reader, usually the person looking to hire you… it’s not really worth it to regurgitate the same resume babble everyone else does.  Granted, in some cases, it’s still just required.

Applying to college was the first time we were faced with the challenge of how to be distinctively creative in our communication while still remaining credibly professional.  Nowadays, as job seekers and career changers it’s something we toil with on a daily basis.  How does one creatively make their brand stand out above hundreds others, while keeping the professional face of the subject matter expert?

I worked in recruiting and talent management for the creative industry for close to 7 years, with hundreds of fantastically talented graphic and web designers, developers, producers and writers.  I love the creative industry and people involved in advertising because they perfectly illustrate this idea – boring self-promotion doesn’t work.  I had more people come into my office in faded jeans than business casual, and this was perfectly acceptable within that population.  Because when you’re vying for a job at one of Boston’s top advertising agencies, you don’t strut into the interview in a Canali suit and briefcase.  No, you rock a messenger bag and t-shirt that you designed for your last brand-name client and show off how awesome you are, because in reality, you ARE getting hired for your awesomeness.  And your Flash design skills.

Granted, that’s far from appropriate for other industries.  But regardless of industry, there needs to be a high level of awareness around who your target employer is and how and what your personal brand is communicating, the second your credentials come across someone’s desk.  Very often in the creative industry, a standard format cover letter detailing who you were and why someone should hire you was not very effective.  Particularly in a profession like design or advertising where your creativity is the driver of your success, it’s imperative that your ability to walk the talk is clearly communicated when you present yourself to a prospective employer.

Walk the talk. I’m not saying don’t write cover letters, ignore standards of professional dress or to not follow appropriate formatting guidelines for your resume – not at all.  The type of company and the nature of your targeted industry will dictate what’s acceptable for those items.  What I AM saying is that no matter what industry you are in, there is competition, and you need to differentiate yourself in an effective, creative and credible way if you’re going to beat candidates 1 through 56 into the door.  Boring self-promotion doesn’t work.

Answer this question: Why should I hire you instead of the person who came in right before you?  You know nothing about their credentials or experience, only that you have something great to bring to the table and you’ll bring megawatts of success to the company.  The other person probably has something great to offer as well.  What makes you different, and how can you highlight that in a way that is memorable, appealing, appropriate and makes the person interviewing you or looking at your resume say, “We HAVE to have this person on our team!”  Hint: it has nothing to do with money or blackmail.

A former boss of mine was pitching her recruiting services to a new department in a well-known Boston advertising agency.  The agency had just won a lucrative contract with a well-known beverage brand, and while they hadn’t publicized it yet, surely they would be looking to build up a new creative team to support the account.  I love what she did next.  She did her research and thought outside of the box of how to approach this potential client who pretty much every other recruiter in Boston was calling on as well.  How could she stand out in a saturated, competitive market?  She bought a case of the agency’s new client’s beer, and emptied out the bottles (I’m not entirely sure by what means), and in each bottle, she rolled up a resume scroll-style of 12 different candidates whom she thought would be great for their new team.  She was still presenting resumes to a prospect, but she got their attention.  And unlike the competition, her delivery shouted, “Hire me!  And now that I’ve got your attention, here’s why…”

Unfortunately, I can’t give you a one-stop formula on how to be creative with your resume presentation and win the affections of your potential future boss.  It simply comes down to knowing your target prospect, what keeps them up at night, how you can solve that for them, and then how you can communicate that ability to them in a way that makes you look irresistible.  Make them have to have you.  At the very least, get their attention, and create the venue to tell them why you’re the best person for the job, instead of waiting for it to present itself to you.  Take control – create an opportunity for yourself to communicate your worth.  While your message may not change the world, it can certainly change your life.  But nothing changes if you don’t allow anyone the opportunity to listen to you in the first place.  So go out there, create opportunities for yourself, and then tell the world what they’ve been waiting to hear – “Your perfect candidate has arrived!”

Get Out of Their Head, and Into Your Own!

4 Oct

Everyone I know is trying to get into someone else’s head lately.  No one is concerned with the inner workings of their own psyche, at least not when there appears to be a plethora of confusing, cliche, emotionally-withheld and skeptical single men and


Photo by mitopencourseware on Flickr

women whom we can date and dissect psychologically until the cows come home.  Everyone I know wants to know, “What is he/she thinking?”

“What are you thinking?” The fiance asks me this as we’re sitting on the couch on a Friday evening, watching the 90s Alternative music channel.  More often than not, this question annoys me, and not by any fault of his, but mostly because I rarely know the answer.  This is due largely in part to my tendency to have 25 different thoughts running through my head at one time, and an unwillingness to commit

to just one as the dominant thought the moment, worth discussing.  Because then I wonder if he really wants me to start a discussion about whether Port Salut cheese is better with or without a dash of salt, and should I or should I not eat what’s left of it in the fridge with a couple of saltines?  Or maybe I should reserve the bit of information about “Step by Step” being my favorite New Kids on the Block song, as of not that long ago.

See, this is the dilemma.  There’s no one really interesting thought, just a bunch of small ones that give the illusion of me contemplating something really deep and noteworthy.

But the difference is that the fiance’s quest for this information and insight into my brain isn’t driven by his desire to uncover some breakthrough, some long-awaited clarity on how I feel about him.  He already knows this. He’s just curious as to why I’m staring blankly at a wall. And only when you can ask this question without the resulting answer determining your self-worth and your legitimacy as a potential partner…is it  safe to ask.

One good friend of mine is navigating a breakup while another is navigating a new relationship, and both want to know what the other parties in each of their situations is thinking.  In the case of the former, she feels that knowing exactly what he’s thinking about her (and how often) will better help her determine whether they’ll get back to together at some point, which will assumedly ease her feelings of loneliness and longing.  She’s made it all about him, and not her, which is more common than we like to admit.  We all do it. The other friend  wants to know what her partner is thinking so she can better determine whether they’ll STAY together. Again, we all do it, we all try to figure out our potential based on vague clues and references from the other party. The point is that both share the same inconclusive theme of “What does he want from me?”  And now here is the magical answer that will answer this every time for you without fail:  It doesn’t matter.

Here is why it doesn’t matter: Because no matter how well you know someone (or how manipulative you are), you absolutely cannot control either 1) what someone else thinks of or feels about you, and 2) how someone else reacts to any given situation.  If you want a great book on this and how you need only focus on “your 100% of what you bring to a relationship”, check out Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Mastery of Love”.  And he explains this theory in depth.  Of course, the answer here isn’t to just sit back and hope, it’s not to wait to see if the person echoes your sentiments and your desires to remain or become a couple.  It’s about understanding that every time you ask yourself “What is he/she thinking?” you are taking the control away from yourself, and giving it to someone else, whom you may barely even know.

When you give up control to someone else, whether it’s by becoming emotionally dependent upon a partner, a job, or allowing yourself to be manipulated in any way, you are putting yourself in the victim seat. Plain and simple. Trying to figure out what is going on in someone else’s mind or heart, so that you can feel better about yourself, the relationship or your future, is allowing yourself to be a victim at the hand of someone else.  Even if they didn’t ask for that control, you willingly gave it to them.  But luckily, it’s very easy to take it back.

And it’s important to note that when I say “regain control” that does not mean having the upper hand.  It simply refers to regaining the control you have over you… not anyone else.  The mistake we commonly make upon entering a relationship is forgetting to clearly define to ourselves what we want out of this potential partnership.  Unlike relationships, we do typically do this with jobs…we figure out what industry we want to work in, what our core strengths and talents are that we bring to the table, the types of people we want to immerse ourselves in, the desired outcome, etc.  So why do we throw values to the wind when it comes to seeking a successful, fulfilling relationship, and instead just rely on hope that it turns into what we want?  Why are we not asking ourselves first and foremost, “What do I want out of this relationship… and does this person fit into that which will support my objectives?” Instead we assume we’re the ones that need to prove our worth and fit into their picture.  This is why so many relationships fail – we don’t set any expectations, for our partners, and more importantly for ourselves.

Just think – if you know confidently what you are looking for in a person and what you need out of a relationship to feel fulfilled, energized, motivated and loved, won’t it be much easier to determine whether it feels right, rather than trying to decode their every thought, movement and word?  This isn’t an invitation to be close-minded, or saying that you will be happy if you’re committed to only dating a guy who is 5’10, makes X dollars as a pediatric surgeon and says things like “I completely understand how you feel…please, tell me more.” It’s about establishing your non-negotiables, the underlying aspects of a person and a relationship that you want and need, that are based on your values.  These are the  things you’re not willing to bend on – like monogamy, or someone who is legitimately interested in a serious relationship that has long-term potential.  But do be aware that once you know what you want, you’re not wasting your time trying to mold someone else who’s not on the same page as you, into the ideal partner that they’re not.  Be honest with yourself.  If the shoe doesn’t fit, there are a million other pairs potentially more flattering.

So start by asking yourself these revealing questions:

  • What does a successful relationship look like to me?
  • What do I need from someone to feel appreciated and loved?
  • What are my non-negotiables?
  • What level of commitment am I looking for right now at this stage of my life?
  • What qualities does the person I want to be with possess?
  • What am I currently tolerating, or have I tolerated in the past, that I won’t tolerate going forward?
  • What excites me about a person?
  • If I found this person, am I in a position to give to them what I want them to give to me?

I can give you a bunch more, if you want.  But the general idea here is to construct your own vision of your  successful relationship, to build awareness and confidence around that, know that you deserve it, and then be able to use that vision as a foundation for moving forward.  Knowing what you want and need eliminates that typical early-on scenario of the blind leading the blind, where neither person knows what page you’re on, what the other person wants, or what’s okay or not okay to say.  And yes, being the one to stand up and admit what you need can be scary, as you’re essentially putting yourself on the line, hoping the other person accepts you for that.  But know that our fears of doing this simply stem from our own  limiting beliefs that we have about ourselves as a partner, or about what we think other people expect of us.  They’re not necessarily true, but they certainly hold us back.  What are those limiting beliefs keeping you from voicing what you need, even if it’s just to yourself?  They exist…we all have them.  It’s time to break them down.

Drop the labels, drop the rules.  Know your relationship vision and stick to your plan.  Leave room to improvise, of course, but build that awareness around where you’re coming from and where you want to go, and you will eliminate that feeling of being at the mercy of someone else all the time, and the god-awful  drudgery of trying to decode someone else’s thoughts and feelings.  Because that should be the fun part – finding someone who really compliments you, some in ways you’ve always wanted, and in ways you never even know you needed.  Personally, I think relationships are self-discovery at its best.  And the next time someone asks you “What are you thinking?” maybe it’s not a bad idea to <gasp>… let them know.  For the love of God, (and hopefully the love of someone else) get out of their head and into your own.  If you’re like most people, you already have your work cut out for you there.

Dressers, Dream Jobs & Boyfriends – Stuff I Got By Networking

22 Sep

Networking works wonders for both your career and your relationships (personal and professional).  Case in point- the fiance and I, by the grace of God, found an AMAZING apartment in Brooklyn that was nothing short of everything we were looking for.  This, after weeks of scouring Craig’s List and the numerous floor-throughs and “luxury” rentals where the standard for “luxury” was a subterranean dump to which the landlord added a last minute “jacuzzi” to class things up a bit. I suppose I could enjoy building the next decade of my life looking out into the rotting underpass of the BQE…as long as it’s done from my jacuzzi, 24/7.  But anyway.

What’s even more amazing than the wall-to-wall carpeting, the functional fireplace, or the lovely Italian family downstairs, is how I found the place.  Several weeks ago I went to a women’s networking event in Manhattan and met a couple of great women with whom I’ve since stayed in touch.  One graciously invited me to an invite-only networking website called “Quentin’s Friends”, where members share information and recommendations on local services, real estate, buy/sell items or offer up their own expertise or professional services.  I figured I’d post an ad for an “apartment in Park Slope or Carroll Gardens for October 1”.  Miraculously, someone replied that their friend was moving and looking to sublet.  We got in touch, exchanged contact, and I arranged a meeting with said friend to view the place.  My hopes weren’t high, but what the hay, it was worth looking.  Less than a week later, we signed a lease on our new amazing Brooklyn abode.  Karma! I promptly emailed my contact from the event, promising her a few rounds on me the next time we meet up!

Trust in the unconventional happenings of the world, I say.  I’ve found two  best friends and a future husband via networking sites and other forms of untraditional advertising (that’s not what it sounds like…).  But that’s another story.

So there is truth to networking, and a great deal of it. And one thing I always stress to job seekers or newcomers to the networking arena is to remember that the results don’t manifest within the course of one conversation at a rooftop bar.   Nor does it happen overnight.  In nearly all cases, you are not going to attend one event and walk out of there with a job offer, so you cannot go into it with that intention.

The key to networking is approaching it in a manner of generosity and gratitude – how can YOU help someone else?  It is much easier to approach and talk to a stranger if you go into it with the mindset that you are open to helping them (and of course, they will help you in return).


Photo by Craig Hamnett on Flickr

And the first conversation is simply that – the first conversation, the initial encounter, the starting point.  You don’t make best friends in one conversation, and similarly you don’t make trusted business contacts in that way either.  It is about building a complimentary relationship with someone with whom you share professional and personal interests, and perhaps can benefit from one another’s knowledge and community.  That is why most networking groups or events have themes – women’s groups, entreprenurial-focused, young professionals, dog lovers, alumni of Boston University, etc.

For instance, you can’t look up the person who heads up the HR department at your dream company on LinkedIN, send them an invite to connect, and expect them to respond.  Sure, it’s beneficial to you to connect with and know them, but what benefit will the person on the other end get out of the relationship?  Why should they connect with you?  Give them a reason.  A good way around this is to see what groups you have in common, or that you can join, and then contact them asking about their experience in the field, and how they navigated their own path to the role they’re in today.  Be open to simply listening and learning.  If nothing else, remember this:  people LOVE to talk about themselves and offer advice, so invite them into your circle by offering them a venue to share their story with you.  Most times, they will be glad to.  That is far more effective than approaching someone you don’t know and blurting out selfishly, “Hi, my name is so-and-so, and I’m looking for an entry-level marketing position.  Is your company hiring?”

When you go to a networking event, and you collect cards, keep track of the people you meet.  Follow up with EACH of them the day after the event, even if you have nothing in common and it’s simply to say, “Nice meeting you!  Thanks for that last drink- it really put me over the edge.  I don’t even remember how I go HOME last night!” Fine, that’s too much information, but a cordial note of acknowledgment will go a long way.  Why?  Because people know other people, and other people might know about opportunities that you don’t.  But no one is going to put their professional reputation on the line and recommend you to a colleague or contact if they don’t have some kind of very positive rapport with you.

And rapport is built over time, with communication, gratitude and mutual effort. Even if it takes a few months to receive a lead, isn’t it worth the couple of emails you sent to build the relationship, in return for a lead that could potentially lead to a fulfilling job with a great company?  Keep in touch, send an article you think might be of interest to your new contact, or put them in touch with someone you know who might be able to help them out. Set them up on a bad blind date…at least you tried.  No doubt, if the opportunity arises, the favor will be returned.

The next time you walk through a door at an event, intimidated by the fact that you’re flying solo in front of a room full of other professionals, ask yourself calmly and confidently – “How can I potentially help someone today?” And then put yourself out there, and see what is created. And while I don’t need an accounting degree to realize that the bills can’t be paid in karma (at least not in New York), that is the point-  you have to start somewhere.

The Myth of Stability, The Wrath of Complacency (And the Token 9/11 Reference)

13 Sep

A friend of mine is in job transition right now, and she’s freaking out.  10 million other people are as well.  So this is nothing new.  And much like the swapping of seasons, career transition and change is always happening somewhere, to someone, yet we react with the same disbelief that “Here it is!” But seriously…is it really almost Fall?

The fact that everyone goes through career or life transition, some of us multiple times in our lifetimes, doesn’t diminish the impact we each feel emotionally, physiologically, financially and otherwise when it happens to us.  Quite heavy is the realization that we want to make a significant change to something we’ve become comfortably adjusted to.  For those of us already employed, it’s worse. Because not only do we find ourselves contemplating how to navigate the roadmap of “what’s next”, but then we also have to shake off the complacency of already having a source of income, and finding the motivation to abandon that and welcome the several weeks (or months) of hard work in job searching that we’re likely to endure.  Even in cases where you despise your current occupation, job or employer, admit it – some fear or limiting belief has kept you there this long, whether it’s the “stability of a paycheck” or “having work friends”, or even just being mildly satisfied in having a routine every day.  But here is the truth:  STABILITY is a myth, and COMPLACENCY is dangerous.

Stability.  What is that? In an economic downshift such as the one we’ve been experiencing in the last 18-24 months, many folks are realizing that the stability they thought existed for them, was completely a myth.  “Stable jobs” were yanked out from under our friends, colleagues and loved ones like rugs, and the unsuspecting, UNPREPARED victims (I don’t like that word) were left with their hands out to their sides wondering, “Oh my god…what do I do now?”  And often times for many, job loss can be a God-send, an opportunity to reinvent themselves – a push off the cliff that they couldn’t force themselves to take on their own.  For others, even if they knew they wanted a change eventually, they were unprepared to make it in such an abrupt fashion.  It happened to them, and it can happen to you.  And I say that not to worry you, but to instead solidly prepare you, by opening you up to a wonderful idea, that the falsity of stability that has been keeping you where you are when you desperately don’t want to be there… no longer has to have that control over you.

Abandon that.  Let it go.

To truly be free, you have to make the distinction that stability isn’t necessarily linked to your paycheck, your job or your relationship, but rather it is linked to not having to depend on someone else for your well-being.  It means not having to worry that you will lose something by means that are out of your control.  For some, that means working for themselves, and for others, not being in a job where the fear of losing it or the lack of integrity makes them feel stuck, or to question their value.  No matter where you are, whether you were pushed off the cliff, you’re standing on it or you’re running open-armed toward it, if you rise above complacency, and detach from that belief that stability is at the hands of your employer/spouse/etc., you no longer risk being the victim of change, because you have become the CREATOR OF CHANGE.

And the only thing more limiting than perceived stability is its evil brain-child, Complacency.  Born from an unholy union of False Stability and Fear, Complacency continues in the family business of ruining the careers and lives of otherwise motivated, talented and passionate individuals.  We cling to perceived stability in an unhappy career for the same reasons we cling to perceived stability in an unhappy relationship or marriage – fear of being alone (or jobless) and fear that we won’t have the strength to pick ourselves up in the face of loss and move on to something better.  That fear drives us to rely on and cling to what we already have, because it’s easy, and we fool ourselves into thinking that so long as it is there, we are protected.  That idea right there is complacency- our inability to move ourselves forward toward our own goals, despite any willingness and desire we may have to change, because of the circumstances we allow to control us.  So we cling, for dear life.  But how good is that life?  What’s the worst that can happen if you loosen the grip and quit feeling the need to hold onto what you don’t really want anyway?

Yes, you can “do it tomorrow.”  You can set it as a goal for the New Year.  You can do it whenever and however you like… but you haven’t yet.  Why not?

Friday was September 11, a day in American history continually reminding us all of our own falsely perceived invincibility and which echoes the sentiment that life is indeed short.  Despite multiple subsequent threats over the years, as of today 3,289 days have passed without harm being inflicted upon New York City. As my fiancé likes to say, “It’s all the NYPD, not the government faltering those attempts…” And then he argues how New York should get pretty much all the domestic security funding, which he may be right, but that’s beside the point.  Had the NYPD (or government) relied on that faulty logic, the fact that, “3285 days have gone by without any danger, so what’s a few days off?” there’s no guarantee that life would go on uninterrupted in America’s brilliant metropolis of the East.  After all, one thing we’ve learned as Americans is that we’re not infallible, we’re not exempt from the tragedies and obstacles of life.  And the truly lucky ones are beginning to accept that.  So you have to think… even New York City does not falsely perceive its own stability, nor does it choose complacency.  And it never will… so why should YOU?

So allow me to repeat the idea above, as it’s probably the key take-away from all of this.   When you rise above complacency, and detach from that belief that stability is at the hands of your employer/spouse/etc., you no longer risk being the victim of change, because you have become the CREATOR OF CHANGE.  No-thing or person has control over you and your outcome unless you allow them that power.  That is the power of conscious choice, and that, my friends… is a story for another time.

Cheers, New York City!  To another fruitful year of disgruntled urbanites living, thriving and taking for granted the liberty and security that was never just a coincidence.   I guess in fairness, no one ever said being human was easy.

Honey, We All Have to Fetch the Coffee at SOME Point…

30 Aug

When you’re 21 years old and fresh out of college, you’re full of energy, exuberance, enthusiasm and a plethora of other anabolically-loaded words that start with “e”.  You can’t WAIT to get out into the working world and show the man what you’re made of.  “I’m going to be different – I’m going to change the [insert industry here] world as we know it!” And dammit, good for you!  It’s not the least bit realistic… but as you move through the ranks of the working world, experiencing the ups and downs of being a career-ist, you will no doubt realize just how valuable that unrealistic attitude can be for you.

Here’s a newsflash to the Class of 2010, and pretty much anyone who came before, and will follow suit – you don’t have to change the world.  Changing your own life to simultaneously fit what you want and what the world demands of you is hard enough.  Where we make the mistake is not putting enough value and acknowledgment on what we do every day, you know, the little things that don’t always garner the accolades, but end up being topics of “man, I never realized how much that would come in handy later,” conversations.  Maybe not even that.

When I was 21 years old, I was a senior in college, and slightly bitter, because alot of my friends had these fantasically lax schedules, chock full of BS classes (and that doesn’t stand for bachelor of science…) and plenty of down time to, well, “be a senior”.  My Wednesday during the spring semester of senior year started at 9am and ended at midnight, commencing with my PR internship, continuing with my liberal arts classes I’d left ’til last semester of college, climaxing with my 3-hour art studio courses, and finally dying down around 11:59pm when it was time to close up the gym in my dorm, where I worked part-time.  The next day it started all over again, with my THIRD job, which was working at a modeling agency in downtown Boston.

Some days that job was a nightmare.  I remember riding in on the train in the mornings from Brookline with nervous aches in my back because no doubt

Yours truly, at 21.

my boss would find something to scream at me about, whether it was my fault or not.    After all, I was just the intern.  And then we’d make up, joke about something stupid, he’d insult me again and I’d go out and get him his coffee and French crueller donut at Dunkin’s.  With the added benefit of graduating college at the tail-end of the dot-com bust, I didn’t really have a choice about working there.  Job prospects were scarce, and in early May of my senior year I signed onto the modeling agency full time, as the head of the men’s and runway division.  I put up with a lot from my boss, but at the end of the day, my job was to talk to, take pictures of and look at male models.  I never said I was looking for sympathy!

Nearly a decade later I’m looking back at that first job and realizing how much I’ve grown professionally, and also how much I put up with.  I look at some of the ridiculous tasks I was stuck with (putting together a giant metal filing closet, or picking up my boss’ burrito for dinner), and sure, I thought I could do better.  One day I got stuck walking my boss’ friend’s pitbull, Neno, down Newbury Street, where he decided to relieve himself in front of the upscale brunch-goers at the Armani Cafe.  Also not impressed was Jimmy Fallon, who Neno nearly attacked on the sidewalk, shortly after (and just think, without my hasty restraint, there may never have been Fever Pitch!).

But I also look at the opportunities that came from demonstrating that I wasn’t afraid to do the low-level boring tasks.   I could easily sit on my high horse and argue that I didn’t go to the best communications school in the country to answer phones and shuffle resumes.  But processing and faxing a couple of hourly timesheets each week at the agency lead to eventually managing the financials of a multi-million dollar company less than 2 years later.   Shuffling a few thousand resumes over 7 years produced the credibility to build my own company in career advising.   I’m still not afraid of the small stuff.  In fact, I love it, because there’s something bigger underneath it all!   I’m not picking up the coffee anymore, except for myself, seeing as now I only have myself to answer to.  But when you work for yourself, there is no one else to do the low-level tasks.  And I’m okay with that.  Because more than anything that I might have learned in 10+ years about recruiting, advertising, graphic design or art, I learned that entitlement gets you nowhere, and initiative opens up more doors than you can even imagine.  I’ll give partial credit for that lesson to my dad, a several-decade successful entrepreneur himself.   At 61, does he complain about still fetching the coffee every morning?  I assume not, since these days he’s the one drinking it.   Yea, you might get stuck taking on an extra PowerPoint or two, and you may hate it until the sun comes up, but someone will remember that you threw your hand up, in the end.

So you don’t have to change the world.  You just have to accept that change is the only constant, and as long as you’re willing to roll with it, you’ll undoubtedly be okay.  Not every day will be great, not every day will be tolerable.  But the next one has potential to be life-changing, if you choose to make it that way.  And it’s all about conscious choice, making choices that, while they may not be ideal, they’re still YOUR CHOICES and they’re in line with the authentic you.

Sometimes it’s the small accomplishments, even the things we don’t ask for, but we STILL GET DEALT, that make us stand out.  Don’t be afraid to embrace those things and turn them into positive experiences that open up other doors.  Don’t be afraid to stick your hand up and volunteer for the crappy job you really don’t want to do, because in the end, you’re the person who said, “Sure, why not?  It’s not below me to offer up my expertise.”  It was my conscious choice to be that person, to stand up and say, “See me?  I’m here! And I’m worth it!”  Coaching is all about shifting perspective, from the catabolic to the anabolic, but we all have the innate power within us to do it.  It just needs tapping into. There are not magical tools, and as you’ll read on my “Services” page, my practice thrives solely on people who want to believe in themselves, that they have the answers already, and who want to do the work to uncover the hidden treasure within.  That may sound a bit cheesy, but it’s true.  It is within.  I found it, and [holy deity] knows that if I can, and others before you can, well, you can as well.

So what little thing are you proud of today?  Forget the world at large – what have you done today to change YOUR world that you would have otherwise overlooked?   Think about that…while you go take a coffee break.

Life Transitions: It’s Never ‘All in the Details’

16 Aug

You know why I love coaching people through life transitions?  Because outside of simply career coaching, it’s really a limitless term that embodies the energy, the challenge, the opportunity of making a change really in any facet of our lives.  Sure, changing careers and/or jobs is certainly a large life transition, and an intensely exciting (and potentially stressful) one.  But how about the other kinds of transitions that are important in our lives, that maybe at first glance we don’t equate with being on the same level of magnitude as, say, a complete professional reinvention?  What about relocating to a new city because you just want to, or breaking up with your long-term significant other because you met someone, well, better for you, or even changing apartments to a different part of Brooklyn?  That’s a transition.  Heck, changing banks is a transition, and depending where your perspective is, it can be stressful.

Photo by Adrian Miles on Flickr

The fantastic thing about coaching someone through a transition is that no matter what the scenario at hand is, they are the protagonist in the story. And the story is an unwritten opportunity that may seem daunting, or the victim of severe writers’ block at first, but has absolute potential to be life-changing in an immensely positive and empowering way!  No matter what change is on the brink of coming into our lives… something good can come out of it, and it’s mine and my clients’ mutual journey to uncover that good and put it into motion. It’s kind of like being an archaeologist of the mind and soul, and finding a chest full of ancient scrolls that have existed since the beginning of human time, and unbeknowest initially to any of us, they hold all the answers to life.

Next month my fiance and I are moving apartments in Brooklyn, and while I’m excited by the prospect of a (slight) change of scenery, I’m less than thrilled with the typical aches and pains of the real estate process that await me on the other end of this journey.  Because 12% of $xx,xxx is a lot of money to pay some real estate agent in exchange for posting a Craig’s List ad for a two-bedroom rental, and blocking off two and half hours on a Tuesday evening to walk you around a couple of buildings.  But that’s standard fare in New York City as far as real estate brokerage goes, and I can choose to accept that… or I can choose to go elsewhere.

My fear is that I’m going to stumble upon this amazing abode on the most amazing of Brooklyner blocks, clearly within my price range, since I stated that to the agent upfront, and I’ll already be picking out my bar stool at the amazing neighborhood pub, when… BAM! He/she hits me with a massive fee that tips the scale way over budget. “Okay all I need you to do next is hand me over a check for the brokers fee, pretty much what you paid for your senior-year college tuition, because let’s face it- that’s just the “going rate” in the NYC market.”  And while I’m busy complaining how Boston is far more democratic when it comes to ripping off the little people than NYC is, some work-from-home up-and-coming Park Slope blogger who lives off their lofty severance package from their former finance job will be signing MY lease and making themselves comfortable in MY abode… and taking MY bar stool.

And alas, that could all very well happen.  But the reality is that neither myself, nor anyone else, can know that, nor can we control everything that happens in the world as we embark on these changes and transitions within our lives. Those are the details – the crown molding, the exposed brick, the perfectly southern facing exposure that lets the light in at the perfect angle… all details.  And only details, not non-negotiables.  And as we recognize the difference between the two, it’s important not to focus all of our energy on the details to the point where we are forgetting WHY we decided to make that transition, that change in our lives, in the first place.  We committed to making a change because we saw something bigger, and better, and we wanted it for ourselves enough to make it happen.

So it’s not all in the details, and in fact it rarely ever is.  Even with relationships, despite the saying.  The details help, but they aren’t the foundation.   What you truly see as your ideal version of yourself, you at your best, living your best life – that’s the foundation for making positive, lasting change.  I didn’t decide to move out of my current apartment because I was confident the parquet flooring would be better somewhere else.  I decided to move because the person I’m meant to spend the rest of my life with came into my small world, and suddenly life took a different route.  Did I expect it?  Not exactly.  Do I choose to embrace it?  Absolutely.  But I’m not changing my bank, just yet.

Aspyre Solutions Named as Top Career Expert by Tim’s Strategy

12 Aug

Aspyre Solutions is very proud to be featured on the Tim’s Strategy list of approved career experts.  Tim’s Strategy is a new online directory that includes a growing list of the best career experts in the world across multiple categories, including career coaching, resume experts and personal branding. Each expert organization or professional is personally selected and approved by Tim’s Strategy creator and former consumer marketing expert Tim Tyrell-Smith himself.

Written from the perspective of a job seeker and a hiring manager, the site delivers free advice, tools and templates to support anyone looking for a new job, to create a new career path, network into a better situation or find the right life/work balance.

Check out Aspyre Solutions on Tim’s Strategy.

I’m Just Going to Say It: Bad HR Practices Make Everyone’s Life Difficult

2 Aug

So…what are your thoughts on the idea around telling a potential employer that you’ll “work for free”, as part of an effort to potentially get yourself in the door at a company?  If you’re an intern, sounds like a great idea.  Even for you entry-level folks who could eventually monetize that extra experience.  But outside of that, I question such desperate tactics and the message a candidate would be sending about the value of their talent.  Punk Rock HR wrote a good article last week about why candidates ought NOT to work for free, which sounds pretty common sense in normal circumstances… but given the state of the job market, maybe not so outlandish an idea for some people.

And I agree with PRHR.  That idea sucks.

Because now more than ever are people struggling to make ends meet and pay the bills.  If you’re a resident of NYC or Boston in particular (and probably any other equally-indebted metropolitan area), transit fares are on the rise, while service quality is on the decline.  Congress is “talking” potential tax breaks, while adding in other places.  And sales tax in some states has risen exponentially in the last 18 months alone.

The lengths that job seekers will go to these days in attempts to impress, or even satiate, HR alludes me sometimes.  Granted, there’s a certain air of desperation floating around the professional atmosphere, but to what degree should job seekers be reduced to begging at the feet of some recruiter or hiring manager, to get a couple of scraps of employment?  Aren’t we all better and more highly skilled than that?  Of course we are.  Unfortunately, economic circumstances remain as they are.  So with that in mind, what are we, as HR professionals and business owners, doing to shift that perspective and better the situation where we can?

I have hired, fired, fought and questioned the legality and ethics of numerous employment situations in my tenure as a recruiter and career adviser. And on the other end, I have been the intern, the job seeker, the hiring manager, the newbie, the senior associate, the boss and the owner of various companies, and I’ve found one thing to be fairly consistent – my disdain for the American HR system.  Now do NOT confuse that with a lack of respect for HR professionals, because at the end of the day, we are all just doing our jobs, and many of us simply regurgitating orders from a higher power that we may, or may not, agree with. Now it’s a known case that third-party recruiters and internal HR folks aren’t always on the same page when it comes to recruiting processes and details.  It helps if you are, as it’s a partnership.

And despite classifying myself as a former HR professional, I was very often miffed by the manner in which my candidates were treated by either internal recruiters, hiring managers or department heads with whom they were interviewing.  While I worked with literally hundreds of fantastic companies whom I absolutely loved partnering with, others I found to be misleading about either the terms with which they were talking to my candidates, or establishing a so-called business partnership with my recruiting agency.  In fact, I’m happy to share my top ten complaints around bad human resources practices, as they best relate to you (and once upon a time, me) as the job seeker:

10. HR filling their pipeline with resumes, “just in case” they decide to pull the trigger on hiring for a particular position.  Why?  Because unemployed people don’t like to sit around hoping and praying any more than they already have to.

9. Overlooking very relevant skills for the exact wording of a job title.  Marketing Associate and Communications Coordinator… same thing.

8. Assuming that someone who has worked in all corporate environments cannot physically function or breath, let alone work, in a casual or agency environment.  In some cases, this may be true, but not always.

7. Knowing in advance what a candidate’s salary expectations are, and after three mutually successful interviews… offering them $15K less.

6. The “Hurry Up & Wait” tactic.  Company X needs someone in that chair YESTERDAY, and when the perfect candidate comes strolling in, the hiring manager is out on maternity leave, with no one to replace her.  Call back in three months!

5. HR generalists recruiting for specialized areas, in which they have no knowledge of applicable skill sets.  “This candidate knows ActionScript 3, but I see NO mention of Flash on here… Can you explain that please?”  Of course I’m never allowed to email the resume to  the Creative Director… DIRECTLY!

4. This conversation: “Hi Janet, just following up on my email and my previous voicemail regarding that great candidate I sent you on Friday for the Marketing Manager role.  Please let me know if this is still a priority for you, as he’s considering other options as well.  Thanks.”

3. Rejecting a candidate without any explanation of where they didn’t stack up.  Unfortunately, this one will never change, and likely it’s because they “weren’t a good culture fit”.  Although in HR’s defense, try saying that without royally offending someone, and inspiring a potential legal retaliation.

2. 3 in-person interviews for a contract or freelance position.  Generally, the interview process should span less time than the job itself

1. Hiring a new employee and providing no support or on-boarding process whatsoever to get them acclimated to their new role.  It’s not a matter of hand-holding.  It’s expensive to hire new people… and it’s three times as expensive to hire their replacement when they quit.

And as an amendment, one more that makes the list, and unfortunately, will always remain on it:  Sh*tty recruiters.  They don’t return candidates’ emails, calls or inquiries, they submit their resumes without informing them first, and generally treat them like another paper in the stack.  I was a good recruiter, as were my colleagues and my agency in general.  So I say in all honesty that as a job seeker, perhaps you have to be most cautious about this one, because in some cases working with a recruiter can do more harm than good.  That’s an article for another time, as well as a few good tips on how to circumvent ALL of the situations above…

Stay tuned!

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.

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