Employed but Frightened

How to secure your future ?

David, a recent client, is not looking for help to get a job. He has one—for the past 20 years. The job started way back then as a weeklong gig after he graduated from college but didn’t yet know what he wanted to do. David seemed—in the eyes of his supervisor, then a vice president and now the CEO—a promising young man who might have a future with the company. He was industrious, a hard worker, and good at winning over and maintaining the respect of coworkers.

Through the years, David kept being promoted when the opportunity was right. His growth on the job consisted not only of title changes but also changes in areas of responsibility, size of budgets he oversaw, and number of people reporting to him. And his remuneration changed accordingly. The big boss liked him and took him under his wing.

The company kept growing and after some more time, was employing 70 people and had annual sales of $60 million. At its start, the company culture had been typical of a small organization, but as the company grew, so changed its culture: politics and power games creeped in, replacing that small-company mentality, and corporate decisions gradually became made in direct relationship to the size of a general manager’s territory, number of employees in that division, and amount of contribution to the profit margin.

In the meantime, David got married to a professional woman who has not worked outside the home for the past five years while caring for their one daughter. The couple purchased a very nice house in a different state, away from the company’s headquarters, in the geographic area where his business is.

Over time, new and powerful and talented people joined the ever-growing company, and David was becoming scared about whether he’d be able to maintain his position in the long run. He assured me the ax is not over his head yet, but there are no long-term plans for his future, either. His long-term close relationship with the CEO has also loosened, and serious business problems keep him up at night. He’s mentioned that the paternalistic corporate culture has changed, that loyalty is no longer a core company belief, and that several of his old-time colleagues either have left or were replaced with younger, qualified, and talented people, most of whom have relevant master’s degrees.

David is smart and is aware that his long-term future is not secure. He has a family and heavy financial responsibility, and that’s where his vulnerability lies. So, what now?

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Once David recognized his situation, he called me, having found my contact details by way of a Google or LinkedIn search. During our initial phone conversation, he made it clear that he was not looking for interview preparation—which is 90% of the way I help clients—but needed someone who could help him create a long-term plan for mapping out his next 20 or more years of employment. He needs to take action in a certain direction that will enhance his value to his company—or even a different company—in his area of expertise. “I have no idea what my value is in the marketplace,” he said. Although he himself constantly interviews candidates for his division, he admitted to me that because this has been his only job, he’s never, ever himself had a job interview with a potential employer. And so, in that area he feels lost and without experience.

Is this you in the picture?

After spending two hours and 45 minutes together, we took the first step toward David’s goal. David realizes that one session will not be enough for him to get all his answers, but both of us felt very satisfied with the progress we made. In attempting to resolve David’s dilemma, we decided to explore both (1) opportunities for his further growth at his company and (2) opportunities elsewhere.

To begin with, I suggested he attend a certain Webinar.  Later he said that  this particular one-hour Webinar was very impressive, well documented, and logical.

As a second step, David must produce some marketing collateral. He needs both an outstanding résumé (an excellent one’s not good enough) and an equally outstanding LinkedIn profile. Neither production should be a do-it-yourself project. The creation of such material requires a professional who is deeply experienced, certified, and highly recommended by others. So, I gave David several names of such people who specialize in his industry. Once that’s done, David and I will meet again to talk about how to work with recruiters, where to find and explore opportunities, how to penetrate the hidden job market, how to be effective at networking, how to communicate both verbally and in writing, and, last, how to win an interview, get a job offer, and negotiate the salary.

How to tell what your own value is in the marketplace? No, it’s not what you think your value is. It’s what a bona fide employer is willing to pay. And it doesn’t stop there: both the employer and the job candidate have to think about employment several years ahead. Employment is an investment by both parties. And it better be a good one.

Mature, in-transition, and the next steps

Is this you in the picture?

Even though the economy has improved lately, there’s still a large contingency of people who after long and successful careers find themselves not only blocked but also bewildered about their professional future because of their age. This is a serious problem because these people still need to provide for their families, and many are by no means ready to retire—either mentally or physically. The pressure on this sector of people continues to mount, and they know that initiating their Social Security benefits too soon would put them at a long-term disadvantage. Many do not have employer pensions, and those who have retirement funds such as 401(k) plans should not start distributions too soon because of penalties for doing so. The last resort is in the form of tapping personal savings—if any exist at all.

What might be some reasons?

Of course, each person’s case is individual, but the long-term unemployed must face reality. If the marketplace was unable to absorb them in a reasonable time, it means either they don’t have the skills required to compete with others vying for the same position or they’re deemed not a good fit for subjective reasons such as age, appearance, or image. Another possibility might be that they simply don’t know how to market themselves as well as others do. Perhaps there’s also a level of rigidity about adapting to the current marketplace, or difficulty in accepting having to learn new job-related skills, or refusing a significantly lower benefit package, or reluctance to move to a different geographic job market. In many cases, the last is not an option for, say, family reasons.

What are some solutions?

Start with a self-evaluation to identify strengths as well as weaknesses. If you don’t trust your own judgment, then look for professionals who can provide help in doing it.

Next, evaluate opportunities where you can use your skills and experience and market yourself to employers that can use your talent and are willing to pay for it. If you don’t know how to find such employers, then seek advice from career coaches who specialize in identifying such opportunities for job seekers. Yes, there are people who specialize in that aspect of career coaching.

Then, once you’ve identified those potential employers, you’ll need an outstanding résumé and a strong and complete LinkedIn profile. Short of these, you will not be found by recruiters and employers. Yes, you guessed it: there are experts who write résumés and develop LinkedIn profiles for job seekers. Once those things have been done and are in place, your phone might start ringing because recruiters are busy finding candidates for the jobs they need to fill.

The last step involves learning how to present yourself in an interview. Yes, I know, you think that step can be skipped, because after all, you’re good at it—right?—and the proof of that is that in the past, you’ve gotten jobs based on your interviewing skills. I suggest, however, that you reevaluate that conclusion because in today’s job market—and especially for anyone who’s experiencing a huge gap in employment—good interviewing skills are of utmost importance.

What I have described here is a journey with a specific process. Job search takes endurance, determination, and follow-through. At times you’ll feel very uncomfortable and totally rejected. But every occurrence of such feelings serves to take you one step closer to an offer. Many people who followed this exact journey were successful. Can you add yourself to the statistics? Do you have the desire and the will to make the trek? This is the test. Bon voyage and best of luck as you embark to navigate your way to a landing at a pleasant and professionally profitable port.

Job Interview Essentials: 13 Interview Tips to Land That Job

The Interview: You Are Onstage

How do you answer difficult questions?

Interviewing for a position is tough. Many are called, but few are chosen. Following are some basic job interview facts and considerations you should keep in mind as you prepare for your next interview:

1) According to Albert Mehrabian, UCLA professor emeritus of psychology, 55% of communication has to do with body language. Therefore, it makes sense to learn how to decode an interviewer’s body language and how to minimize your own body language mistakes during an interview.

2) People think of and remember images much better than they do words or text. When watching a movie, do you remember the images or the actor’s lines? You can see it’s imperative to convey a strongly positive image during an interview. It starts with the proper clothing and includes posture and a smile. An attractive image is memorable and catching.

3) Consider that the interviewer is the final authority of the outcome of the interview. The interviewer is the one who makes the decision. The best kind of interview contains professional and amicable dialogue, but at the end of the day, the candidate has to convince the hiring manager of being the ideal candidate.

4) To be hired, three conditions at minimum must be met. The candidate:

  • Must bring evidence of possession of the skills required to perform the job.
  • Must be a superhuman performer, not just an average one.
  • Must be able to discuss validation by influential others, not self.

5) Providing good interview answers is essential, but asking the right questions is at least as important. Ask strategic questions. Strategic questions are those types that bring the candidate closer to the goal of getting the job offer. Don’t ask tactical questions like how to do certain things, because asking tactical questions puts doubts in the interviewer’s mind. After all, the interviewer expects the candidate to have answers. That’s why the candidate is interviewing.

6) Typically, there are four types of interviews with very different objectives.

  • An interview with the big boss.
  • An interview with the hiring manager.
  • An interview with peers.
  • An interview with a human resources representative.

Each of those kinds of interviewers evaluates a candidate’s answers from a perspective different from the other interviewers’ perspectives.

7) Candidates are often too long on their past. In evaluating the applicant’s candidacy, the interviewer is focusing on the candidate’s future. And candidates should, too.

8) Interview preparation is key. Before an interview, most people prepare for perhaps only a couple of hours. That’s by far inadequate when there are several other candidates with excellent potential.

9) If the position a candidate is applying for is of great importance, the best approach is to work with an experienced interview coach. This is the differentiator, as opposed to those who prepare on their own.

10) Get used to twenty-first-century technology. For instance, more and more companies are using video interviews prior to in-person interviews. This demands another layer of hardship and complexity in addition to being prepared with content. For example, proper lighting, good quality of sound, and favorable placement of the camera at eye level are essential. If you’re using a laptop placed on the desk in front of you, it may be likely that the interviewer will focus more on your accentuated double chin and not your eyes.

11) At the very minimum, the candidate must be super clear on the value proposition that answers the following four questions:

  • What is that you do?
  • Whom do you serve? or, Who are your customers?
  • What value do customers perceive in your services?
  • What do you offer that customers can’t get elsewhere?

12) The relationship between the interviewer and the candidate is identical to the relationship between a salesperson and a buyer. You’re the salesperson here, so be convincing by offering facts and not opinions. Otherwise, you won’t be fully trusted.

13) Last, in order to be hired, a candidate must leave the interviewer with good feelings about the candidate’s trustworthiness and likability.

If you excel in many of these interview tips, chances are good that you will beat your competition and the job offer is coming your way.