Archive for January, 2012

What does shooting free throws have to do with your job search and interview preparation? Most job seekers take their skills, knowledge about their industry of function and ability to talk about them for granted. They figure, “I have been doing this for x number of years, and I already know it”. Well I have been playing basketball my whole life. I grew up playing hours upon hours every day. I literally shot over 100 free throws every day. In high school, I never shot less than 86%. In recent years, I do not play as often, and my shot gets very rusty. However, with a little practice, my shot comes back pretty quickly. Today I played basketball with my son. It was the first time in a couple of weeks that I played, and my shot showed. I don’t think I shot 30% on my free throws! I know basketball very well. I know the mechanics of shooting free throws. However without the regular practice, my muscle memory had diminished, and I was stiff on my free throws. The same thing can be said of practicing for interviews. If we are not practicing every day, our answers are stiff, and we are much more prone to shoot an air ball. Athletes from high school thru professional practice every day. Is this because they do not know how to play? No, it is because they want their actions to be second nature. When you are working, you are doing your work every day, and it becomes second nature. The same thing applies to your job search. If you are in transition, your full time job is your job search. One of the most important parts of your job search is your interview. You need to be training and practicing every day. Here are 5
ways to help you do this.

  1. Put your power stories on index cards, with associated skills on the back side. Practice these every day! When you go to a coffee meeting, take out two or three and ask the person you are networking with to practice interviewing with you.
  2. Write down the most common questions, and script out your answers. (Two examples are: “Tell me about yourself.” and “Why should I hire you instead of the 15 other qualified candidate we are interviewing?” Once you are comfortable with the answer, write it down on an index card and practice it every day.
  3. Identify your perceived liabilities, and script out a response to questions about these.
  4. Take opportunities to do mock interviews, and if possible video tape them.
  5. Schedule your practice time at least 30 minutes every day into your calendar.

When you have an opportunity for an interview, you have put in a lot of work to get there. There are a lot of other qualified candidates. Do not waste the opportunity! Make sure you have put in the training for the interview so that you do not shoot an air ball when the game is on the line. Nothing is sweeter than the sound of the ball touching nothing but net in the clutch.

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In my last two blogs I discussed steps that, as part of your career management strategies, will help you maximize and realize your potential. Since implementation and follow-thru are key ingredients to the success of these steps, I was asked by several readers about my thoughts on accountability. What is accountability, and why do we need it. Accountability, in its simplest terms is the owning of the responsibility of our actions or lack thereof, as well as the resulting outcomes. In today’s society, accountability usually revolves around changing life behaviors such as going on a diet, or in the achievement of goals and completion of projects. In fact, project management is a great way of looking at accountability. So, what are the aspects of accountability, and how can we maximize our success in achieving our goals or desired results.

  • Desire for Accountability
    • Determine: is it more painful to stay where you are now, or do the work necessary to achieve your mission? If the pain of doing the work is greater than the pain of staying where you are, and you do not want to do what it takes, you will not be accountable.
  • Get into or form an accountability group. In the workplace this can be in the shape of department or committee meetings. For individuals in career transition, or maximizing their career opportunities, this would be in the form of groups that meet on a regularly scheduled basis. What are characteristics and components of a good accountability group?
    • Confidentiality – what is discussed in the accountability group must stay in the group, in order to create a safe environment.
    • Willingness to share and be open within the group
    • Comprised of individuals committed to achieving success
    • Comprised of individuals from diverse backgrounds and with diverse strengths to complement each other.
    • Willingness to be tough and demanding in the completion of commitments and achievement of goals.
    • Desire to share and celebrate the successes of milestones and realization of achievements.
  • Establish an accountability partner. While many of the components of an accountability group and accountability partner over lap, they are slightly different, and utilizing both will enhance your prospects. An accountability group offers a greater breadth of expertise and resources, an accountability partner allows for deeper support and commitment to success.
  • Determine your goals.
    • Establish your major goal, for example landing your next career position
    • Ascertain a desired timeline that is realistic to achieve success.
    • Break up the goal into different components that will help you achieve you’re your end game.
    • Break up the components into bite size milestones and tasks
  • Write down your goals with timeline – a goal in the head is unlikely to be achieved, while putting it down on paper impacts our commitment to achieving the goal and makes the realization much more likely.
  • Schedule your activity to achieve your milestones and goals. Put it in your calendar! If you are doing company research, put in your calendar when you will be doing your research. Be Specific! So often I hear people say they don’t have time to put everything into their calendar, or that they don’t want to “pin themselves down and lose their flexibility”. To put a different spin on one of John Wooden‘s quotes, failing to schedule your milestones is scheduling to fail your milestones.
  • Share the goals and milestones with the accountability group and partner. While writing down the goal greatly increases success, committing in front of others brings it to a different level all together.
  • Celebrate all your achievements big and small!

Here’s to your success in 2012! Share your thoughts on accountability, and where you have had success. I am looking forward to hearing your comments.

In my previous post, I wrote about 10 steps professionals in transition can take to rise up to their purpose. I received several comments that with a few modifications, this is also appropriate for professionals who are not in transition, so I decided to write a new post from this focus. Has the rat race got you going through the motions? What can you do to break free? How can you make 2012 the year that you play your career Above The Rim. As my good friend and mentor John Hall says, considering all the restructuring, downsizing, right sizing, mergers and acquisitions, and just “plain ol cost cutting”, job security in the corporate environment is a thing of the past. It is therefore incumbent on each person to strategically and purposefully take the steps to generate their own job security and maximize their career opportunities. Professionals must understand the value they bring to an organization, and create their personal brand based on their value proposition. Your personal brand is nothing more than your reputation as a professional and a subject matter expert. Typically, within our career, we naturally create this reputation or a personal brand identity with our colleagues, as well as a few vendors or customers we may deal with. However the reach of this brand identity is extremely limited. What can you do to take your career Above The Rim?

  1. Build a board of Advisors. Most successful executives have a handful of mentors or advisors. Each has different experiences and strengths that you can lean on. These advisors can be professors, colleagues, leaders in an industry, members of your church, and yes, your career coach. Discuss your career and dreams with your advisors. Seek their advice.
  2. Write a long-term career plan – Determine where you want to be in the next 3, 5 and 10 years. Do a S.W.O.T analysis to help you determine the best path for you to take. Determine any education, degrees, certifications or training you need to achieve your desired promotions. Consider the cost and time needed. Budget it and schedule it. Review it every year.
  3. Write a short term career plan. Assess what you want to accomplish in the next 30, 60 and 90 days. Get feedback from your supervisors, colleagues and mentors to determine what will help you maximize your contribution to your company or organization. Review it every month.
  4. Understand the why of what you do, and learn how to articulate it – this really differentiates you.
  5. Create Case Studies of your accomplishments. Assess your projects and tasks you are working on, and understand what is the impact on the bottom line of a company. Keep in mind, in order to be of value to a company, your work has to help the company generate more revenue, cut more costs or mitigate more risk than the cost of employing you. Utilize your case studies in your performance reviews.
  6. Network inside your company. Have lunch with colleagues outside your department. Learn what you can do to positively impact others both inside and outside your department. Cultivate advocates throughout the company. Keep your ears open to learn of new projects, or new opportunities that can be promotional steps for you.

  7. Network outside your company. Join professional or industry associations and actively participate on projects, committees or board positions. This allows your reputation as a professional to spread beyond the colleagues you work with. When networking, remember it is not about you. Become a connector and pay it forward.
  8. Read professional publications and keep your knowledge up to date. Know industry current practices, trends, leaders and what is on the horizon.
  9. Pass on information you read and learn in a comprehensive campaign leveraging social media including blogs, LinkedIn, twitter and face book. A well developed social media campaign will positively impact your current company or organization, and spread your reputation as a subject matter expert.
  10. Pay it forward. Understand that the more you help others and facilitate opportunities for other, the more opportunities will be facilitated and created for you.

Like I said in my previous post, following the steps above is not easy. This is both good news and bad news. It is bad news, because it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. It is good news, because not many people are willing to go the extra mile and take their career Above The Rim. May 2012 be a year filled with blessings, one in which you leverage your skills, experience and passions to fulfill your purpose.

We are living in the most challenging times we have faced in generations. Are you in transition now? Do you feel like you are riding a Tokyo rush hour subway? Are you feeling squeezed by the enormity of the job search, crushed in the crowd competing for too few jobs? The good news is we are now starting a new year. We have a chance to start with a clean slate. I would like to talk about a few things that can help us all to soar free from being a commodity, and fulfill the purpose for which we are created.

We are all created with specific skills and talents. We are all given passions and dreams. We are all given experiences to sharpen our skills and shape our dreams and passions. Here are some ways to focus your job search so that you can soar to your purpose.

  1. Dedicate full time hours to your job search.
  2. Assess your skills, experiences and passions, and what you have accomplished with them
  3. Understand the value of what you do, and learn how to articulate it – this helps differentiate you
  4. Understand the why of what you do, and learn how to articulate it – this really differentiates you
  5. Assess what industries you should focus on, and determine a list of target companies
  6. Research the industries and companies in depth, identifying common problems, issues and headaches within the industries and companies. If you do not spend at least 40 hours researching a company, you are not going deep enough.
  7. Brand yourself as the solution to the problems and headaches of your target companies.
  8. Spread your reputation as a professional solution by actively participating on committees and projects with professional organizations.
  9. Create a purposeful social media campaign to spread your reputation as a professional solution
  10. Have informational meetings with industry leaders and decision makers to spread your reputation as a professional solution.

Following the steps above is not easy. This is both good news and bad news. It is bad news, because it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. It is good news, because not many people are willing to go the extra mile and take their career Above The Rim. May 2012 be a year filled with blessings, one in which you leverage your skills, experience and passions to fulfill your purpose.