Wednesday, August 25

How Do I Pick My Major If I don't Know What I Want To Be (When I Grow up)?

Start with the end in mind. As with writing a speech, you determine what your objective is and what it is you hope to instill in your audience and only THEN do you begin to write your speech, make sense? Same with the job search and too, picking a major, internships, related clubs and activities, and more: You begin with the end in mind.

Every step you take, even in the moment, is another step on a path that will lead to one place or some other. Once you define you want to go north, south or anywhere in between, you can take out a compass and start down the path. I tell people just starting college that “job satisfaction years from now will be affected by the decisions you make today.” That being the case, why not try to define “job satisfaction” now? For many young people, the reason they don’t is that they don’t yet know what job they want. Nonetheless, without a sense of what “job satisfaction” may be to you, it will be very difficult to use a compass; so let’s start with that – defining job satisfaction; and I have a 5-step method you can use.

Your 5-Step Method for Defining Job Satisfaction

At the core of Job Satisfaction is an understanding of what you enjoy most. To understand what it is you enjoy most, you have to define ALL that you enjoy, and subsequently, what it is you enjoy most to least. This is an exercise that will help lead to a decision regarding not only a major, but internships and future job development. Sound tempting? That’s why we approach this not as an exercise to pick a major, but to define job satisfaction, beginning with the end in mind. Afterward, we will see how it can lead you back to defining your starting point, in your case perhaps your major. Let’s begin!

1. Where or from what might job satisfaction come?
Job satisfaction for some stems from the challenges in the job or a sense of purpose while for others it's more extrinsic and may be measured by the money they make; for some it may come from the learning that takes place or from knowing that their work matters; and still for others, simply having a job to go to everyday in order to have other things in life is fine, and it's from accepting that they derive their satisfaction.

2. Defining factors for YOUR job satisfaction: Defining the factors for your own job satisfaction requires you jumping all the way back to the beginning which could be your first job as, for example, a life guard when you were 16 years old, or a paper route at 12, and walking through your life right up to the present. However, instead of identifying duties, responsibilities, job descriptions, etcetera, as you might for a resume, look at your successes and the underpinnings of those successes. Underpinnings such as,

  • Instinctive skills – the automatic, the intuitive, creative skills that you drew upon at that time
  • Learned skills – that might be fielding phone calls, equipment inventory, basic accounting or program management

3. Other successes outside the workplace: When you take this “walk-through”, don’t limit yourself to jobs either. You have successes from other experiences outside a workplace that may be relevant and transferable. Maybe you led a youth group or did charitable work or went door-to-door promoting some cause; perhaps you edited a newsletter for your bowling league or helped a parent or friend put together a website for a small business.

Consider, too, alumni associations, community and civic organizations, councils with which you may have been involved (i.e. Habitat for Humanity, Scouts or a Theatre Arts Society), teams on which you played (sports; debate; moot court competitions) or Boards on which you served (Student Council or Yearbook or Save the World).

4. Success Attributes:
Once you have all these successes out on the table (achievements, accomplishments, contributions), you can identify (a) actual skills, (b) personal characteristics, (c) professional characteristics and (d) inherent or learned knowledge areas, all that you drew upon to succeed. These are the "underpinnings" I referred to, your success attributes, many of which may be derived from your innate or core competencies … your intrinsic know-how. Don't stop here!

5. Motivated versus Unmotivated successes: One a piece a paper, set up a “T-Chart” with Motivated and Unmotivated Successes written across the top of your sheet as your left and right headings respectively. Next, divide and list your “success attributes” defined in No. 4 above, into your two groups under the headings.

  • Motivated Successes – Those successes and their underpinnings that you are interested in perpetuating
  • Unmotivated Successes – Though they are successes, they are those which you have little or no interest in perpetuating

The motivated successes describe those skills, competencies, attributes… you not only work with and perform well, but enjoy – they motivate you. The other skills or competencies, with which you perform well, maybe even very well, just may not hold your interest; thus they do not motivate you. For example, maybe you're terrific at editing research reports but don't enjoy it. If you're caught on the job being good at it and consequently it becomes 20% of what you do, well...there goes 20% of your job satisfaction out the window, follow me? It also, perchance, may determine the level of angst you feel on the job, the most sever level requiring you to pull yourself out of bed in the morning and drag yourself to work. How many people like that have you met in your life? They live for Fridays and Sundays are the worst day of the week. Hey … Life’s too short!

Rob’s Maxim: If you don’t think you’ll enjoy it, don’t get caught doing it!

Once you have defined and thus classified your success attributes, you have laid the groundwork and are well on your way to defining the "best fit" for what might be your first career position after you’re graduated. With that done, you may be able to back up to the moment, the present time, and with some guidance from people you know and trust (i.e. family, peers, your school’s career development office, a career coach...) you can begin to lay a path moving forward.

A friend once said to me, “If I knew that job satisfaction was so elusive, I wouldn’t have spent half my life looking for it.” I asked him to define what job satisfaction for him would be. He said: “I’ll know when I find it”; hence the reason it’s been so elusive.

When you know what it is you can do, and moreover, want to do because you enjoy it most, you are in the best position to capitalize on the opportunities that await you in school, outside and beyond; and why? We are at our best when doing that which we enjoy most.

Hope this Helps!!



Tuesday, August 24

Is My Personality Killing My Chances? ... I Mean, Really

If you feel that your enthusiasm and focus on being the best you can be, either in an interview or on the job, may be working against you, you may want to rein in your enthusiasm and moderate your intensity to some degree. Nevertheless, and more often than not, it is a matter of developing good communication sense.

Is my Personality Killing My Chances?

"Communication skills" and "communication sense" are not the same. Good communication skills is the foundation, underpinnings, for developing communication sense, just like knowing the functions of the pieces on the Chess board is ultimately necessary for executing strategy. Pieces don’t win the match, how you manage them does; and perhaps that's all you need - a better strategy for managing your communications or Sound Communication Sense.

Here are some tips to help:

Truism: (You read this before) You create a more meaningful connection by becoming interested in others before trying to interest others in you.

  1. Set up "informational interviews" with knowledgeable and/or influential people with the specific intention of gaining job information. Informational interviews are also great low-risk practice grounds for developing your communication sense.
  2. Don’t oversell yourself: Talking to much is perceived as over-selling. Focus and listen and show the interviewer that h/she matters.
  3. Two ears, one mouth blah, blah, blah…”
  4. Seek out “referrals which results in less stressful interviews for all parties. When you are referred you enter the interview “pre-sold” to some degree and thus less burdened.
  5. Don’t bury your listener with incidentals and unnecessary details of a situation. When showcasing your value, if it’s not relevant to a result, drop it!
  6. Use simple language when talking with others. Don’t make your listeners plow through too much jargon, since “too much” can be a turn-off.
  7. Use brief anecdotes to communicate your value and strengths; keep each under 30-50 seconds and invite interviewer questions. (People will remember your anecdotal stories more than a litany of duties and responsibilities).
  8. Don’t rush. Stop and wait to see if there are any follow-up questions after responding to a question.
  9. Finally, target "spot opportunities". Spot opportunities are typically unadvertised, unpublicized opportunities that are triggered by some activity or event in the business community: Plant openings; new business developments, diversification or product introductions; mergers, acquisitions, divestitures; IPO’s, LBO’s, etc.
  10. Use your Informational interviews, referrals & spot opportunities gain other networking opportunities; leads to jobs or actual openings that you can get to before of the crowd.

Effective communication continues to grow more and more important in our information-intensive world. How you manage your verbal communication in networking meetings and interviews will directly impact not only the quality of the meeting, but the number of meetings that arise as a result (networking), and consequently, the outcome of your job change or career search. These 10 tips are helpful, but general. You may want to consider looking at some online “communication-style” and or “personality-style” quizzes to learn if your communication/personality style is helping relationships or causing problems. Entering meetings forearmed with that information plus the 10 tips herein will be a winning combination – and it makes good communication sense.

Hope this helps!!

Thursday, July 15

10 Rules For Beginning Your New Job On The Right Foot

Securing a new job is akin to a successful product launch! After all the time spent running a well-organized marketing campaign, you product has landed in the market. Similarly, you’ve landed your new job: The Product is in the Market! … And just as with the product launch, you want to continually work on positioning and posturing for long-term success … YOUR long-term career success.

10 Rules for Beginning Your New Job on the Right Foot

1. Get to Know the Company’s Key Players. Producing long-term results is more important than an immediate impact. Depending on the company and the reason for your hire you will have a settling-in period anywhere from 30-90 days. Use that time for wisely and get to know people and their roles; network; build alliances, etc.

2. Remember Names and Try to Use Them from Time to Time; and always with a smile. It is important to always Project a positive. Most people when introduced to others immediately forget names. If this happens to you, look them straight in the eye and say, “I’m sorry, could you tell me your name again?” and then practice using it once or twice a week –it’s also flattering.

3. Do Not Over-Do Conversation. Your weekend, evening, lunch, visit... was always “Very good” quickly followed by “and how was yours?” People ask, but they aren’t necessarily interested in more than that. If they get more than that before they really know you they will steer away the next time.

4. Observe How The Company Gets Things Done: The Company’s management style, your boss’ management style; leadership; company culture… Become a student of your managers and their leaders. I once heard said, “The best classroom is at the feet of an elder”. The bell has rung; so now take a seat and really pay attention.

5. Be a Class Act. Don’t get drawn into the chitter-chatter of gossipers. Smile, nod in agreement if you must, but do not gossip. If you do people will not put their trust in you. Practice being a good listening and consider everything you hear, even if it plainly is gossip, as if it were most private. Bite your tongue and you won’t go wrong.

6. Gain The Confidence Of Others. Give credit to others up and down the line. Be humble when given credit and say only “thank you”. For the first few weeks defer to others for advice; defer to your boss’s lead. After you have gained the confidence of your boss and others, maybe 30-60 days, you can start making recommendations.

7. Keep Your Boss Informed. This too is part of gaining his/her confidence. Make a point of asking a couple of questions from time to time. Be careful not to phrase your questions in a manner that sounds like you are prematurely criticizing people or procedure.

8. Show Your Boss You Are Serious. State your intentions within the confines of the job as it is currently described (save “posturing” for after the first 30-60 days). On day-one, arrange a series of short meetings for over the course of a few weeks to ensure that both of you remain on the same page; and that your actions support both your objectives and his/hers.

9. After Your “Settling In” Period, Schedule and Subsequently Plan for Your Review. In the meantime, keep a diary of what you see that can be improved, changed, accomplished and NEVER share this with co-workers – someone might steal your ideas or shun you for having some.

10. Keep Your Resume Updated. From day-one, be mindful of any and all your accomplishments, even the most subtle: Situations you were in; Opportunities you saw or sought; Actions you took; and Results! (Your S.O.A.R. Technique for story02telling). In doing so, you will be better prepared for your first Review, just as you had been for your interview. You will be forearmed with the information you will need to take an active part in the outcome of the Review. Since most employers take a very passive approach to Reviews, this tact will likely be most appreciated.

Wednesday, January 20

10 Steps to Preparing Top-Notch References

It Pays to Groom Your References

Grooming your references is essential; knowing exactly where you stand and avoiding surprises can be the make-it or break-it in a search. A little time with a reference can result in great returns.

10 Steps for Preparing Your References to Work for You
(Yes, another '10-Stepper')

1. First, phone or visit your references. Demonstrate the importance of your request my investing your time.

2. Ask for their permission even if you feel it goes without saying that they will help. Get a commitment for an enthusiastic endorsement; but make sure they understand it is okay to decline and it can still be business as usual (if not now, perhaps another time).

3. Compliment your reference. Communicate a sincere recognition of their accomplishments or their importance…that you think a lot of their success. You could say something like, “I’ve always admired your professionalism in business and hold the highest regard for your contributions to the industry.”

4. Most people know only a part of your background, so consider different references to speak to different areas of your background, experience, skill sets and accomplishments. Be sure you know who’s who and what before you meet, so you can be sure to give each the appropriate overview.

5. Provide a copy of your resume and go over the area of experience you feel they could endorse most enthusiastically. Prepare ahead to talk to them about the specific area and ask for their suggestions and advice. It’s flattering, even elevating, to be asked for advice.

6. Share. Together, shape the key selling points you want your reference to discuss. This will increase their retention and combine nicely with your resume. It’s also helpful to discuss types of roles and companies that are of interest to you and show them how your resume can be a script when they “perform”.

7. It will be helpful to develop a list of likely questions potential employers may ask. One (scary) question could be, “Can you explain to me the circumstances around h/her leaving your company?” You better be in sync! Another question may be, “Can you give me a general idea of the direction you see h/her career heading?” ... or ... “Would you rehire h/her?” Prepare careful answers and discuss them. After all, this will make helping you a lot easier for them.

8. Your references are likely to be busy people. Assure them you will respect their time and might only use them a few times, now and then…and mean it! They will not be very enthusiastic on the tenth call.

9. Avoid giving references to employment/personnel agencies. Personnel people may see them as potential targets for their own business and you could find yourself with “burned bridges”. Remember, you need to protect your references. At the Executive level it is different, and you should expect to provide references to Executive search companies; but then, only if mutual interest has been established.

10. Finally, after you call or visit, send a follow-up letter expressing your appreciation and highlighting a few of the key (positive) points that can be said about you. After that, remember to keep your references updated during the interview process with a call or visit, if and when you submit their name so they aren’t taken by surprise. You may even suggest they keep your resume by their phones to make it easier for them to respond quickly and too, save them time. They will appreciate that.

The easier you make this for your references the happier they will be. Everyone likes to help others, they just don’t always know how. Although they will do their best, it isn’t always best for you. The 10 points herein will help them help you and create good chemistry along the way. When the chemistry is good between you and your references, odds are they will be much better references. Again, grooming your references is essential. You must know exactly where you stand and they should too, so that surprises are avoided.

Hope this helps!


Rob Taub