Tag Archives: Job search counseling

Is Fear a Part of Your Professional Life?

free_2777276During my work with job seekers or those contemplating a job/career change, I evaluate the amount of fear that drives—or paralyzes—my clients. To some extent, all of them exhibit fear originated by some threat—or so they perceive. For a person out of a job, that feeling is not only a perception but also, unfortunately, a reality. The normal human body has a built-in mechanism to protect itself from such an emotion by either confronting it or running away from it. It’s also known as the fight-or-flight response. In more-extreme situations, such fear leads to anxiety, but I’ll let a mental-health professional explain that one.

Conversely, a few clients indeed become energized by fear resulting from lack of employment. Their adrenaline levels rise sharply, and they’re ready to attack. They see opportunities coming out of this employment change, and nothing stops them from getting to their next assignment. They exhibit a go-getter mentality and thrive on even small incremental successes. However, the majority of those I see react to their unknown futures by clamming up and thus thinking they’re protecting themselves during this vulnerable stage of their life. I vividly remember my own situation during a transition. My entire attitude could have been described as, “The answer is no, so what’s your question?” It’s a shame that our emotions and our logic are not always congruent.

In working with people who at times seem paralyzed due to their new, jobless reality, I try to clearly understand what’s behind the obvious fact that they don’t have jobs. That understanding is typically complex and intertwined with other, tangled elements. For example, embarrassment vis-à-vis family and friends, or self-humiliation as a parent unable to financially support a child who wants and deserves a college education, or, perhaps, aggravation of an already bad spousal relationship due to the inability to contribute to basic family finances for an extended period. And the list can go on and on.

In such a situation, my solution is to attempt to provide clients with (1) job search tools, (2) exposure to and familiarity with the job search process, (3) ample amounts of mock interviewing that increase clients’ knowledge and experience, and above all, (4) listening as they talk about their pain, and (5) an understanding of all they’re going through. Another tactic that’s proved successful is helping clients learn to divert their attention to something positive. For example, clients can learn to network effectively in order to establish new relationships with people who may be able to help them and whom in turn they can help. Clients can also learn to discuss volunteering opportunities that not only could lead to a job but in the interim could help job seekers mingle with other people. And, more often than not, volunteers could hear again the words “Thanks for a job well done”—a sentiment that for a while has probably been absent from their lives.

How to Choose a Career Coach

success failureI am a practicing career coach, and at every year-end, I summarize my annual accomplishments as measured by how many people I helped and what percentage of them landed. In practicing Six Sigma principles in my career coaching, one of the ones I especially take to heart is CIP, which stands for Continuous Improvement Process. That means, I keep asking myself what I could do better for my clients in the future.

Another of the principles is measurement of performance, and in this case, my own personal performance. While doing that I’m checking out my competition to see whether my fees are aligned with those of others in the same field. This is always an amazing exercise that constantly keeps me wondering. Basically, I, too, do what many people do when searching for help with their careers: seek assistance from a coach (1) to improve a résumé, (2) to acquire the skills needed for interview preparation, or (3) to get general career guidance. I simply Google some terms such as career coaching and add a state or city. Such searches typically result in several similar service providers.

And now the real fun—and frustration—start. If I were a job seeker who landed on a career coach’s Web site, naturally I would like to get some basic impressions and information. After all, how else could I make a judgment? The problem is that most Web sites are inferior and lacking. Many of them use stock photos of, say, a handshake or some attractive young people. I would rather see a picture of the person I may want to hire and work with.

Another major problem I see is that many if not most of the Web sites are overwhelming: the landing page is confusing and uninviting because it has way too much information and offers way too many options. Job seekers want simplicity, order, and guidance, yet typically, they encounter inordinate amounts of information. I think this is a classic case where simplicity is attractive and where less is more. Career coaches help job seekers communicate eloquently and concisely, But the evidence via most of such Web sites proves the contrary. I speak with many of my counterparts and business friends. Most of them admit that their Web sites are not producing as they expected.

So what should a job seeker look for when searching for a career coach? Above all, nothing beats personal recommendations. So, testimonials and LinkedIn recommendations are essential. But of course, career coaches would not post less-than-spectacular testimonials. Next, the Web site should be clear, not confusing, and easy to get answers from regarding the services provided, the ways the services would benefit a job seeker, how to contact the service provider directly by phone, where the service provider is operating from, and the fees for each type of service. Are there any contracts to be signed? any up-front fees to be paid? any short- or long-term commitments to be signed. These are some of the basic and elementary pieces of information a job seeker needs before making a decision.

For those of you who are job seekers or are contemplating making a job change, I suggest you gather as much competitive information as you can, definitely talk with your potential career coach before making your first appointment in order to make sure there’s good chemistry between the two of you. Make sure you’ll be getting what you need and that the fees are competitive. Don’t go by price alone, because then you may end up with the proverbial “You get what you pay for.” Don’t be too impressed with academic degrees, courses, and certificates. I myself once used a coach who had two master’s degrees, had taken many relevant courses, and displayed wallpaper-like posts of certificates. Regrettably, the individual’s services turned out to be worthless yet very costly! Do your homework. Make your decision. And make sure you feel good about it.

Are you just looking for a job, or do you have a campaign going?

Photo credit to Stuart Miles

Photo credit to Stuart Miles

No one needs to reiterate that today’s is a difficult job market that is unprecedented in recent times or that regrettably, many people are looking for jobs for extended amounts of time—sometimes for years! As a career coach, I often work with such people, and I notice that they have things in common: None of them have a well-thought-out career management plan. None of them have a thorough and well-integrated career search campaign. Most are just looking for a job. When I try to diagnose where the problem is, I find universally that (1) they continue practicing what worked for them in the past; (2) they follow what other job seekers have suggested to them; (3) most of them are simply lost because of not knowing what to do next and are borderline depressed due to their repeated failures to generate positive activity; and (4) they do not have a plan containing a series of certain specific activities that are necessary for them to accomplish in order to reach the goal.

If interested, you can find such a road map of activities on my Web site, www.landingexpert.com. Look first under Resources and then look for the chart in Landing Expert Tools.

This article cannot cover all of the information I recently presented to a group of job seekers for over an hour, but here is the essence of it. The four elements of a successful job search process are:

  • The creation of a marketing plan
  • The preparation of job search tools
  • The physical marketing of oneself
  • A continuous plan for improving the process

While creating the marketing plan, you should first learn about yourself. Second, you should assess your marketable skills. Next, you should learn the ways of finding a job in today’s marketplace. And last, you should map out what you want to do. This is the stage in which to engage a career coach. Hiring a career coach will speed up the process, and you’ll learn from a pro, get unbiased feedback, will be kept on track, and acquire the skills for negotiating an equitable compensation plan.

The next major campaign objective is to have an excellent résumé. Good and very good résumés get failing grades in today’s economy because plenty of excellent résumés are available. I strongly suggest using a recommended professional résumé writer. While such professionals are not cheap, an excellent one is worth every penny. Professional résumé writers provide your key for unlocking the door to an interview. Otherwise, you’ll just be praying to be called in, and that can take a long time. Once your résumé is completed, you need to develop your little vignettes and success stories. At this point, you’ll need to learn how to work with a select group of recruiters, how to use job boards, and how to establish a system for keeping track of all of your activities via a searchable form; Excel works well for this.

The difficult part starts now. You need to market yourself by associating with job search networking groups. Those who live within a distance of, say, a hundred miles from New York, can profit from the comprehensive list of job search networking groups found on the landing page at www.landingexpert.com. Self-marketing includes good collateral such as strong cover letters, a persuasive elevator speech, a detailed LinkedIn profile, and effective use of LinkedIn. Joining Yahoo! groups and LinkedIn groups could prove helpful as well. And last, you need to identify your target companies and go after them ferociously.

Now comes the last step, which is to continue improving the process. This includes embellishing your list of success stories and frequently practicing mock interviewing.

As you can see, this is a rigorous and demanding career campaign plan. To be good at it, you have to devote at the very least 40 hours a week; and that doesn’t include time spent commuting to meetings. By following this plan, you’ll get not only the satisfaction of accomplishment but also the distinct possibility of favorable results. Good luck to you!