Friday, December 9, 2011

To Go Foward in Your Career, Go Back to Your Roots.

One of the best techniques that I know in helping my career coaching clients more clearly define their true interests and talents is to suggest they sit down during a quiet period, perhaps late at night, and consider and write about “their roots”.
The use of various formal assessment tools such as the Birkman Method, Myers-Briggs and other well-regarded tools is very useful in identifying our strengths and the areas of business in which we are likely to succeed.
A useful exercise to help guide our future career direction with actual experiential support information is to “think back”.  Think back to what your teachers and other “youth guides” said you were good at.  Did they suggest that you patiently studied your school work, or that you seemed to enjoy speaking to the class, or that you were always the most organized kid in the class.  Market research, general management or administrative careers would be natural directions for each of these behaviors. 
What did your friends always say about you?  What did your class yearbooks say were your noteworthy attributes?  Were you the class clown?  Perhaps sales is the right place for you, building relationships through upbeat means.  Were you always surrounded by people, active on sports teams?   You may be right for leading technical or operational teams.  Were you always coming up with novel school newspaper columns or writing term papers that got the approval of your teachers and fellow students?   Maybe you should focus on creative careers such as a becoming a technical or advertising copywriter.
When you examine your high school and college roots, what role did your team-members on a class project always ask you to play?  Was it a leadership role presenting the group’s work, or was it an administrative role ensuring that everyone knew the date and time for the next group meeting?  Did you always draw the pictures or handle the white board during discussions? 
All of these recollections will help you identify your real-world talents and expertise and gain confidence in the direction you choose to undertake.
So, try going back to your roots to find your future career direction. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

“I’m Here to Help”- Key to a 45-Plus Job Search

I work with executives of all ages across the country that have a range of job titles in a variety of industries, and the one common trait those in a 45-year old job search portray in their job search is that they sell themselves too aggressively.
Being “bright-eyed and bushytailed” was the right style when you were in your twenties and thirties.  Employers sought energetic, ambitious prospective employees who they could train and mold into successful executives.  So, “selling yourself” was what we all were told to do.  And we did so with vigor……and success in most cases.
However, now that you are in your forties and fifties, over-selling yourself is 1) unnecessary and 2) wrong.  At this point in your career, you must instead “insert yourself into the new position with confidence and tact” as one of my clients reflected recently.
She had been interviewing for a CMO position at several Bay Area firms with little success.  Smart, well-educated and fresh from several successful start-ups, she had approached each new interview with the same high energy and take-charge attitude that she had developed during her twenty-three year marketing career.
When she then engaged my career strategy services, she was frustrated and gun-shy.  “At each company, I was told that I was “over-qualified” for the position.  I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, but I need to figure it out soon”.
In our meetings during which we thoroughly assessed her as an individual and executive, tightened up her resume and created an engaging bio and other communications materials, I found myself often “bowled over” by her persona.  It became clear that instead of presenting a profile of someone who would readily “fit into” the company and provide the right kind of leadership, her intense persona borne of years of success, had the potential effect of intimidating and sabotaging her candidacy.
We concluded that her being told by several companies that she was “overqualified” was “HR code” for believing she might be difficult to manage and might alienate her co-workers.
As I had seen this “overqualified” phenomenon many times in my work with clients, we agreed to adopt a more effective approach.
We agreed that she would begin to present a more “HELPFUL” approach in future interviews and portray herself as a strong team-leader and member, sensitive to developing good people, capable of nurturing good ideas with the help of others, and generally, interested in doing what the company needed to do to continue their success.
This shift from “I can  do anything” that worked when she was younger and less-experienced to an attitude of “I’m here to help” was a critical, and as it turned out, a very effective tool in recent interviews.
She found people more interested in and comfortable with her, quickly engaging in more meaningful and informative interviews that will likely lead to an offer soon.
So, in any interactions now that you are over 45 years of age, consider approaching others with equanimity and quiet confidence rather than power and domination.  You are now a pro and do not need to press your case as aggressively.
This “helpful” attitude will feel better and require less energy which are good things as you mature in your career.

Monday, September 5, 2011



In my many years of coaching mid and late-career executives to seek “work, not just a job”, I have been mystified by an almost universal response on the part of candidates when they are rejected in favor of another executive for a position they really desired.

These executives, who are highly-qualified, talented and motivated, simply “take no for an answer” and move on to other opportunities.

What a waste of weeks of work on their part interviewing for the position as well as the contacts they made at the subject company, many or most of which were likely to have been positive ones.

Should you be rejected for a job, my earnest advice to you is the following:

1 If you really wanted the position, express that fact and the reasons for your interest in a follow-up letter or email to all the people you met. State in a pleasant, yet confident fashion that you would like to stay in touch and hope they will reach out to you should other opportunities arise in the near future.

2 Specifically follow-up in a phone call with executives you met in the process with whom you really “hit it off”. Express your pleasure at having met them, remind them of your on-going interest, and ask that they keep you in mind for future opportunities at the company or elsewhere. Add them to your Linked In contacts. Linked In will advise you when they have changed positions or companies, another reason for contacting them again.

3 Review the entire interviewing process in your mind (and with trusted advisors or your career coach), and endeavor to refine your interviewing skills and improve your professional presentation based upon any insights you can identify or glean from the people you met.

4 Add these people to your network and periodically update them on your progress (especially when you land a new job).

5 Consider offering to work in a consulting capacity if you are aware that the winning candidate may have more on their hands in the new position than they can handle.

6 Consider contacting the hiring executive or Human Resources in five months or so. Often the winning candidate will have succeeded or failed by this point, so your follow-up could be well-timed.

7 Look for other ways to stay on their radar. But, don’t just let them “go away” if you were strongly interested in the company.

8 Look for other ways to stay on their radar. But, don’t just let them “go away” if you were strongly interested in the company.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Interview for an OFFER, not a JOB!


Sounds strange, right? Most of us assume that the main purpose of interviewing is to get a job.
Not exactly!
Having coached dozens of mid and late-career executives across the country in the last ten years, I believe that you are interviewing to get an offer, not necessarily a job.
Think about it. How many times have you been seeking employment where the specific job is really not what you want, but the company is?
The point is that you should be interviewing to join the company in a position that makes sense for you, not simply a job that is listed on a job board or introduced to you by a zealous recruiter. You are seeking work that is right for YOU, not just a job.
The way to accomplish this is to get an offer. Then, once the company has committed to you with this offer, you are in the “catbird’s seat”. Up until the offer, you were one of many candidates. Therefore, you played ball and did your best in the interviewing process. Once you have a written offer in hand, it is now your turn to ask the probing questions, meet more people, visit a couple of company offices or whatever you need to do to convince yourself that this is the right place and job for you.
Then, meet with the hiring manager (not anyone else) and have an adult conversation regarding whether this offer is best for you and them, and discuss how you see revising it to better serve both parties.
In most cases, you will focus on the specific position in question and negotiate a better offer. They want you; this is the best time to ensure you get what you think you need to be properly rewarded and motivated to do your best for them. It is also the last chance you will get for a long time to realize your key demands and needs.
In a lot of cases, the job they offered is not quite right for you. This is the time to ask if they can revise the position or identify another role in the company more in sync with you and your goals. One of my clients recently convinced a financial services firm to combine two open marketing positions which resulted in a VP title and more money.
Yes, this requires some courage and finesse. But, remember, with a firm offer, they have said “we want you to join the company”. It is now up to you to ensure that you will be doing “the right work for you”, not just filling a position on an org. chart.
So focus on getting an offer, and then focus on shaping the actual job to best fit your talents and needs as well as being responsive to the company’s requirements.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

America's Cup as a Career Template

The “America’s Cup” as a Career Template

In just over two years, the US will host the 34th America's Cup on San Francisco Bay. This world-class event brings the fierce competition for the oldest trophy in international sport back to the United States for the first time in 18 years. The rivalry between the top-notch crews has already begun with extensive preparations among the contenders in full swing. Every aspect of each crew’s preparedness will be thoroughly examined, improved, refined and finely-honed into an unmatched contender for the Cup.
Your career deserves the same preparedness to sail the best race. This requires an excellent Assessment of your “team” and a winning Action Plan to achieve your goal of career success.
The America’s Cup teams are already hard at work assessing their team vision, sharpening their training and professional education programs, refining their financial plans to support their bid, applying the best of technology and design to yacht and rigging design, and racing tactics, building their team’s physical fitness levels and belief in themselves, and creating their marketing and communications programs to tell their exciting story to build support among their country’s fans. The teams are also ensuring that they are including their families in these plans as it is a long twenty-eight months before the starting gun fires and the America’s Cup is off and cruising in the lee of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Take a cue from these teams and take the same action with your “caree team”.
First, assess yourself and your vision. Do you know yourself and your talents in detail? Do you have a clear idea of who you are, what you are best at, and where you are going? The answers to these and other critical questions must be clear in your mind before you try to take action with your career. Sailors chart courses to win races by knowing a great deal about the tides, winds, competition and other key factors. You have to do the same.
Consider your educational and professional preparation for the future. Do you need to get an MBA or a professional qualification in your field to move ahead? Does your “career team” need key courses that you could obtain at a nearby college or university to improve your professional knowledge and candidacy?
Are you in good financial condition? If you were to lose your current job or decide to change careers, how long could you support yourself on savings and investments?
Are you well-equipped with the right technology support? Are you as hip as your peers in social media, personal computer skills and other pre-requisites for life in the digital age?
Are you healthy and fit, or do you need to take immediate action to lose fifteen pounds or get a physical to ensure your health can support your career activities?
How is your spiritual life? Do you have faith in yourself? Do you have a good group of friends and peers to provide the energy and support you will need to forge ahead?
Do you have a solid and persuasive personal marketing program? Have you created communications including a powerful bio and 60-second elevator speech that separates you from the pack and causes people to want to meet and help you? Does your resume summary paragraph explain who you are and what professional situations you are seeking in concise and memorable terms? When asked to “tell me about yourself”, can you do so in a confident, precise and impressive fashion that causes the interviewer to realize how clear you are regarding your talents, interests and fit with their company?
Last, but not least, like the America’s Cup team-members, are you including and involving your family in your preparations as well as your action steps? Keeping them in the loop will provide you with more energy and give them a sense of true team-work, a nice thing!
So, look hard at yourself, your “career team” elements and assess them and address them with improvements, refinements, additions and deletions.
Then, plot those next career steps, sail hard to each mark, round them with style and finesse, and drive to the finish line with a new job or industry role as the trophy for all your hard work and deliberate preparations.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hemmingway was a Career Coach!

Hemingway Was a Career Coach

Posted: 15 Mar 2011 10:35 PM PDT
by Peter Engler

I recently re‐read Hemingway’s brief (125 pages) but remarkable novel, The Old Man and the Sea.

It is clear to me that not only was “Papa” a unique and powerful writer, he also knew a great deal about life and its many individual achievements and unexpected challenges. He would have made an excellent career coach.

With the time‐honored privilege of editorial license afforded writers (and coaches, I hope), I have gleaned a number of themes from the novel that apply to effective career planning.

• A job search, like a fishing expedition, requires courage and faith. Santiago may have been old, but he was “cheerful and undefeated.” It was this deep sense of optimism, even at his advanced age, that caused him to think that “tomorrow is going to be a good day with this current.”

• Age should not be allowed to temper our efforts and confidence in ourselves. “Many made fun of the old man and he was not angry”.

• A job search is made easier and more successful if we learn to trust and rely on others. Santiago did not initially act on the numerous offers of help from the boy, Manolin, a hero worshiping youth from his village. As the novel progresses, he accepts the small but meaningful assistance of the boy with encouraging results.

• Set your career sights a little broader as does Santiago when he ventures farther out to sea than he has ever “fished” before.

• Take good care of yourself, stay in shape, and learn new things. Santiago was in good physical condition, maintained his boat and equipment, and was an ardent baseball fan, something thattook his mind off his unproductive fishing business. Find passions for yourself like the “the great DiMaggio.”

• Replace your youthful ambition with mature modesty and confidence as Santiago does when the boy asserts that he is the best fisherman in the village. “No, I know others [who are] better.”
• Realize that your youthful energy may have waned somewhat, and rely instead on your “tricks and resolution” to make your objectives and dreams come true. Focus on “the lions on the beach” as Santiago does in his dreams, rather than on the negative events of the past.

• “Let the current take you out to where the big fish are.” The “current” consists of career aids including LinkedIn, employment websites, Hoover’s, company websites, past associates and other resources.

• Define your targets carefully, like Santiago did, based upon where you really want to work and where you belong, “and maybe there will be a big one among the bonito and the albacore.” Find work, “a big one just made for you”, not just a job, another small fish that will not challenge or feed you.

• Just as “Albacore make beautiful bait” for Santiago, ensure that your bait (resume, bio, elevator speech, email and voice‐mail script, target list, thoughtful interview questions, etc.) is fresh and guaranteed to get a big bite. Like Santiago, who considers the fish and their needs and lives, be sure you are considering the company, their people, and their possible challenges, and be responsive to those factors in your interviews.

• Once you have created interest in yourself and they “have taken the bait,” let the company run with it as they will need a period of time to make a decision, but stay alert and close, checking in “with your fingers on the line” and anticipating various developments with thoughtful inquiries and responses.

• Continue to “re‐bait your line,” see to your health, keep “an eye on the weather” and prepare for the coming of the sharks (unexpected events that might strip the opportunity from your fishing line). Don’t give up. Santiago didn’t!

• Be prepared to finally land the great fish by anticipating how to bring it alongside your boat and securely lash it. “Clear up [your] head, clear up” as you negotiate the new opportunity and ensure that it is the right job for you with the right incentives and support elements that will assure success and happiness.

• Realize that others may never fully appreciate your achievement. Santiago’s fellow fishermen saw only a ravaged skeleton tied to his boat, “eighteen feet from nose to tail.” Only the individual fishing for that giant of all fish (or job) can fully appreciate what it means to him or her to land it, and how much meat is really on those bones (and job). Like the Old Man gently asleep at the close of the novel, happily dreaming of lions on the beach, one can only contemplate and prepare for another day at sea.

Happy Fishing!!

"What Are You Doing?"

What Are You Doing?!?

What are You Doing?! ?

As a Career Coach, I work with executives at all stages of their careers. My clients are terrific when it comes to engaging themselves in the personal assessments I conduct to help them know themselves more deeply and intimately. And, they are equally adept and motivated to work on improving their resumes, creating interesting bios that tell their stories in a compelling fashion, and tightening up their 60-second elevator speeches. They get their Linked In profiles updated, join Linked In groups, begin to identify networking contacts and join useful job boards.
This dedication to doing the “career homework” applies to clients who are employed, but seeking better or alternative careers, as well as for clients who are out of work and seeking new employment.

But, when I ask them, what are you DOING about the challenging part of a career program, taking ACTION by making calls and setting meetings, they often have made very little progress.
So the title of this MENG Blog is quite apt. What are you DOING?!?

What are you DOING about:

• Reaching out to people with whom you have worked for leads and ideas?

• Pulling together some people you admire for bi-weekly breakfast networking and support sessions?

• Identifying ten companies where you “deserve to work” within thirty miles of your home and contacting them for exploratory talks?

• Reaching out to target company board members who are very influential and open to being contacted, especially if you share something in common?

• In the same vein, re-contacting influential teachers with whom you got along and who might know of corporate or consulting opportunities?

• Contacting carefully-selected retained search partners whose backgrounds and search focus mirror yours?

• Suggesting to those key recruiters that they can contact you if they feel you can HELP them with any of their searches in your area of expertise (and tell them again what that is)?

• Keeping your family and friends who are concerned for you well-informed of your progress?

• Carefully tracking your activities with CRM software to ensure nothing drops through the cracks?

• Updating your references to ensure they are current and supportive of your candidacy?

In short, doing your homework (better resume, powerful bio, target company list, etc.) is important, but success will be achieved through WHAT YOU ARE DOING each and every day to support your career objectives.