Monday, July 28, 2014

The Profile of an Ideal Job-Seeker

 One of my career coaching clients recently asked me what the “profile of an ideal job-seeker is”.  Career building and job-seeking consulting has been my profession for over thirteen years after a career in advertising and retained executive recruiting, but I had not thought about this question in just these terms
So, what is the profile of an ideal job-seeker? One man’s opinion follows:

The Ideal Job Seeker is the following:

1.    They know themselves. He/she has taken the time to drill down and truly assess their real goals, their real interests, their real talents and their ideal career and job. They have taken professional personality assessments (Birkman, Myers-Briggs, Strong, Emotional IQ, etc), have thoroughly evaluated their “career bridges and barriers” (factors that are helping and thwarting their career growth), and have learned exactly what type of career, and therefore, jobs that make the most sense for their career success and satisfaction. They are fully prepared to answer that simple, but important question, “tell me about yourself” succinctly and persuasively.

The key here is that you must know yourself so that you “seek work, not just a job”. Jobs are fleeting; work is eternal.

2.    They are comfortable in their own skin and in their professional value. They have learned to modulate their self-promotion, to cast their search in terms of how they can help others rather than being mostly self-focused and self-serving. This attitude is infectious; others will sense and appreciate it. And very likely, want to help the person achieve their objectives. If they are over fifty (and sensitive to the issue of age in their search), they adopt the persona of an “expert”, someone who is fully experienced and informed to help a company solve very challenging problems while working seamlessly with a younger group of people.

3.    They rely on themselves instead of others (friends, recruiters, Lady Luck, etc) to make their career happen. They take a proactive, rather than a reactive, approach to their search. They do most of the work, even if working with a career coach or outplacement firm. They know their success is up to them.

4.    They have a solid, well-crafted Action Plan. They know that clear, well-written communications are key to life, so they have revised their resume to include a tight and unique “summary statement”; they have written a powerful and arresting biography, they have their elevator speech down pat, they have a tight email template designed to get recipients to call them to meet, they have improved their interviewing skills and have done all the other important “homework”.

5.    They have a clearly defined Prospective Company Target List. They have researched and identified 10-20 companies within a reasonable commute of their home that they have determined match their skills, interests and experience. They know the companies “where they deserve/are qualified to work”. This is their mission; to obtain employment at one of these firms while keeping all of the best connection alive with ongoing communications in the future. This list is their “search world”.

6.    They do not waste time firing off hundreds of resumes, wandering around job boards, calling friends for ideas (who are likely in the same boat, or may soon be) on job opportunities

7.    They go into action and remain in action. They allocate a significant part of each day and week to their search. They “live their search”. They go after their future, not wait for it to happen.

8.    They keep their family apprised of their progress so that they are not “left in the dark” to wonder how the individual is faring. They carefully choose their references and keep them apprised of their progress. They keep a careful record of all contacts and events with their Target Companies. They avoid being concerned about “pushing too hard”. Remember, today, everyone understands the deal that people are having a challenging time being or getting employed. If done well, including people in your search will bear fruit. Just do not rely on them for the work you should be doing.

9.    When you land, be sure to thank people. And stay in touch with all of your contacts at your Target Companies. Again, these firms are now your career universe- your future will likely include some of these companies, so keep your relationships via email or phone calls alive and healthy.
This, I believe, profiles an Ideal Job-Seeker. I hope this is helpful for you.

The Art of the Phone Interview

One of the surprising things that I have learned in coaching executives at all ages in gaining new or different employment is that most of my clients have given little thought to how to effectively conduct a phone interview. Most of their concern revolves around the live, in-person interview.

This is doubly surprising as most interviews, be they initial or later-stage interviews, take place by phone or Skype.

Here are some tips to keep in mind for your next phone interview (some may seem obvious, but they bear repeating):

  • Be at your phone on time.  It is best to have agreed that you would call at a specific time so that you can have at least a modicum of control over the call.  Answer it on the second or third ring with a pleasant (“Hello, this is Peter Engler”) and slightly formal answer.  Have a glass of water at hand and perhaps, have taken some honey or a lozenge to smooth your voice.  Also, remember to “wake up” your voice before the call if it takes place in the morning.

  • Do the call from home or a quiet place.  A landline is best, as you may have a bad cell connection and not realize it.  Ensure that no family members or associates (or pet dogs) are liable to interrupt your call. 

  • Dress in business casual (shirt with collar), especially with Skype. If using Skype, conduct a practice session to see how you look including the appearance of the background. Have an uncluttered wall as background. Dressing will help ensure that you are in a “business mode”.

  • For non-Skype interviews, stand up and smile during the interview.  Put up a picture (of them if possible) and speak to it.  You will sound more energetic and powerful, and will likely be more focused regarding your comments. 

  • For Skype interviews, sit back a bit so that you are not looming over the screen, especially if you are male. Be sure your lighting is good. Move around a bit so that you do not appear to be stilted or too intense.

  • Answer the questions completely but briefly. Avoid extended responses. Respond directly to the question and provide data to support (I improved profitability for my product line by 6%) your responses.

Speak in a assured, confident, but attentive fashion. Let them guide the conversation, but look for opportunities to take the lead (“Can you tell me what the key challenges of this job are?”, “What are successful people in your company like?”, “What attracted you to the company>”).

Be prepared for key questions like, “Tell me about yourself”. Keep your responses brief, targeted and thoughtful. Don’t simply recite your resume; explain how you work, what success looks like to you, how you engage with people, what you take particular pride in doing, etc.

  • Avoid letting the call lose energy, which is more likely to happen in a phone interview.  Keep your responses and comments focused, brief, energetic and informative.  Smile into the phone, chuckle a few times.  Be “human”- all they know of you is your voice and your resume.  Remember that a phone interview may be conducted by a junior Human Resources employee, and therefore, they may not be an effective interviewer.  Help the process along as best you can.

  • Have your resume, notes, job description and other applicable items on hand.  Also, ensure you have thoroughly thought through the job requirements and have written down bullet points that clearly qualify you for the job.

  • At the close, ask how it went.  Doing this illustrates your level of interest as well as your ability to keep a business relationship moving forward. It is also a good way to learn, right then, what the potential is for additional interviews. Should the interviewer actually note some concerns at this point, gently respond to them or suggest a follow-up conversation to respond to their concerns.

  • Enjoy yourself, be present and go for it.  You will do fine if you prepare and think about your answers before speaking!

Are We a Fit?

It is not surprising to realize that the primary purpose of a job interview, or even a casual conversation around a possible business association is, “are we a fit?” “Can we work successfully together”.
When you are in a 1:1 meeting to discuss your candidacy for an opportunity,you have already passed the test of having the right credentials and experience for the most part. They have reviewed your resume and your terrific bio and know you professionally to a certain extent. 

What they really want to know is the answer to the classic question, “tell me about yourself”.  

They want to know how you think, interact with people, size up and solve problems, deal with stress; how you are to work with. The interviewer (and the company) wants to know how successful you will be at the company. How you will “fit in”.

This is especially true the older you are. Young people can be trained and molded to a company culture; older folks bring years of acculturation elsewhere to the party. This can prove problematic in many cases.
So what to do?

I believe that the more you can present a convincing attitude of “I am here to HELP”, the more appreciative and interested they may be in bringing you on board. This is also true for pitching consulting assignments.

Your primary interest should be in learning “what needs to be done” (solve their need). Focusing your comments and questions on how you can help, rather than on personal issues of what resources, office space, and other secondary issues, should help convince them that you are focused on them and their needs rather than on yours. 

As you begin to satisfy them in the interview of your intentions on their behalf, the “fit” will improve and become comfortable for both you and them.

Once you have an offer, you can decide if the opportunity is a “fit” for you. But, until that point, ensure you have them and identifying and satisfying their needs 100% in mind.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Your “Inner Career Coach”

I have been coaching college grads and executives around the country for twelve years in my own practice after thirty years in advertising management and retained executive search. During that time, I have noted the explosive growth of coaching across a range of subjects; health, career, relationships, social media, etc. This surge of demand for coaches is somewhat bewildering, and I think, a bit over-used in many cases.
In general, most of us know what we ought to be doing for ourselves, our families, our jobs and our careers. We just do not listen to our “inner coach”. Instead, we resort to outside help, believing that we really need another person to figure it all out.
As a coach, my practice is designed to help people do a better job of successfully pursuing their careers. But, I sometimes get the feeling that they think I am going to do the heavy lifting for them. This is the same feeling I used to have as a retained search executive. Candidates would come to our office assuming we were there to find them a job. Not so. We were there to satisfy our clients’ needs fo great executives.
The fact is that coaches, recruiters and other human resources professionals are there to guide people and to help them. But, the individual has to do the hard self-assessment, career planning and plan implementation work themselves. Anything less is sure to fail.
Self-understanding and reality testing is critical to being successful. Relying primarily on yourself is critical to being successful. Judiciously hiring coaches is a good idea, but it must be seen as augmenting your efforts, not replacing them.
So, rely on your “inner coach”. Listen to that coach, spend quiet time taking notes, understanding what works for you and what does not. Where do you deserve to work, not want to work? What types of people and working environments are best for you and which ones should you avoid? What types of companies and executives within those companies need you? What is the most effective way to approach them and attract their attention? Your inner coach will provide a great many of those answers.
Once you have done the hard thinking, it may be time to engage a professional coach to help you clarify, refine, and express your candidacy in an excellent resume and bio. The coach’s job should be to encourage, guide and refine your thinking rather than do it all for you. Hopefully, the result will be a faster, more successful career search process at a greatly reduced cost to you in time and money.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014 New Year’s Career Search Resolutions

To my Clients and Friends (employed or seeking new employment, or career direction), I offer some ideas I have learned as a career strategist and coach to consider as you enter 2014, regarding adding focus and energy to your valuable career. Take some quiet time soon to consider where you are in your career and promise yourself to take specific action steps to enhance your job search or, if employed, to re-affirm your current direction or begin to move into a totally new field of endeavor.

Please consider these resolutions:

1)  Most importantly, I will do some self-assessment work on my own or with a career coach to clearly define and understand who I am, why I am that way, and what I truly need in a job and a career.  I will re-create “my story” so that I can confidently answer that famous question “tell me about yourself” with focus, brevity, and energy.  This step will help me clarify my career objectives and create an effective and vital career search action plan resulting in the right new position or new career for me (I will “look for work, not just a job”).

2)  I will ensure that my resume is current, two pages in length and proofread with a powerful two to three line summary statement at the top of the first page that clearly and attractively defines my professional focus and what I am seeking.  I will ensure that my bio is current and interesting to read and will cause someone to like and want to meet me. I will try to remember to keep my target audience in mind (what they are looking for), rather than just myself, as I create my communications. 

3)  I will ensure my sixty second “elevator speech” is brief and as interesting as my bio.  I will practice delivering it for my search until it is second nature.  It will contain a memorable “button” about me (beekeeper, recently published author, ski champ, etc). I will also be sure to ask others how I can help them in their career search.

4)  I will re-contact my references (three supervisors, three peers, three subordinates) to update them on my career search status, remind them of my key strengths, and thank them for being willing to act as a reference.  I will avoid overusing my references and thank them when I “land” in my next job.  

5)  I will create or reenergize my support network and meet them and new contacts on a weekly or biweekly basis. I will ensure that I am trying to help them as much as seeking their help on my behalf. I will think back on all the people I have ever worked with, including people who used to “sell” to me, and update them on your status. I will realize that everyone understands today’s unpredictable job market and will not be shy regarding reaching out to and following up with people, no matter how senior they may appear to be (they are human, too).

6)  I will create a CRM program ( and keep a careful record of all contacts that I have ever made that are pertinent to my career search. I will follow-up on all opportunities with alacrity and energy.

7)  I will draw a forty mile circle around my home and identify all the companies in that circle where I “deserve to work” based on a match between my profile and the company’s profile.  I will learn all that I can via the internet and contacts about how their business could benefit from my expertise, skills, and interests.  I will contact the most likely executives, including board members, to establish relationships that might lead to consulting or employment. These companies will be my primary target list for my job search- I will go after my next job. 

8)  I will consider obtaining presentation skills and interview training to sharpen my presence and confidence in interviews.  I will prepare for the wide range of questions that I will be asked.  I will be expert in how to interview effectively by phone or in person. I will get really adept at using Linked In and other Social Media tools to network with professionally aligned people. I will ensure I am current in my technology skills, am dressing for success, and following a written schedule of meetings and internet job search activities.

9)  I will dedicate a specific amount of time each week, ideally the same days and times, to my career search.  I will treat my search as seriously as I do (did) my job.

10)  If I am not working, I will find a part time job that keeps me feeling active, pays something, and is consistent in some way with my career objectives if possible. I will use LinkedIn and other “groups” to connect with and communicate with people who might prove valuable in my search.

11)  I will keep my family, friends, and support group current regarding my career search, and I will enlist their support and love to keep me energized and focused.

12)  Once I land that next consulting or full time employment, I will thank those who helped and I will keep doing all of the above to be well-prepared for the next “work interruption” or career shift.

Remember, jobs are fleeting; work is eternal.

Happy New Year!