Posts Tagged ‘Career Coaching’


The other day, while conducting a mock interview workshop, I asked the interviewee what compensation he was looking for. He proceeded to say that he needed at least six figures because he has two kids in college and alimony payments in addition to his mortgage payments. Now you might think that this is a reasonable approach, to determine what your obligations are and therefore what you need to earn.

However, your obligations have no relevancy to the company or to the value you bring to an organization. The reality is that whatever projects, processes and tasks you do for a company need to contribute to either the growth of revenue, the reduction of costs or the mitigation of risk. If your work is not helping the company in any of these areas, it is hard for a company to justify paying your salary. Therefore it is essential for you to understand how your work in impacting your organization.

In an earlier blog I wrote about 10 Tips to Optimize Your Career Security. This is the fourth instalment, Tracking Your Success. If you have followed the first tip and ask the right questions, you will understand how your projects and tasks fit into the needs and goals of your company. Once you understand this, establish Key Performance Indexes (KPI’s) relevant for your tasks and projects to measure your growth and performance. These can be in the area of time saved, improved efficiencies, improved productivity, and improved quality. You can then measure your performance against when you took over a position, or show year to year improvement.

Renowned management thought leader Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” What this means that you can’t know whether or not you are successful unless success is defined and tracked.  With a clearly established metric for success, you can quantify progress and adjust your process to produce the desired outcome.  Without clear objectives, you’re stuck in a constant state of going through the motions

Not only do these measurements help your organization to understand your success, but it also helps you to understand your value. When you are able to articulate your success through quantified accomplishments, you demonstrate that you are aware of how your role impacts an organization, and that you are not just going through the motions, but striving for the success of the company you work for. You are no longer a commodity for the company, but a solution for their problems and a resource for their opportunities.

This blog is written by Greg Johnson of Above The Rim Executive Coaching

Gold Bars Image courtesy of ponsulak / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Almost every job interview begins with the interviewer asking the interviewees to tell about themselves. This seemingly innocent and obvious question sinks more interviews than any other part of the interview. Everyone knows this question is coming, however, very few candidates prepare for this. They assume that they know their background, and so they can just talk about it. However 90% of candidates talk themselves right out of a job just in telling about themselves. Because they have not prepared they:

  1. Ramble
  2. Bore the Interviewer
  3. Say irrelevant or even damaging things
  4. Do not demonstrate relevancy to the company or the position
  5. Do not demonstrate track record of success

Nailing this part of the interview makes the rest of the interview so much easier. If you strike out on this, recovering is almost impossible. Since you know they are going to ask the question, wouldn’t it make sense to prepare? I have heard recommendations to respond by asking the interviewer to first explain what the job entails. If I am interviewing, and a candidate asks this question, I will wonder why they did not read the job description, and assume they are unprepared. So how do you answer this question? Keep in mind, when interviewing, your primary objectives are to:

  1. Answer “What is in it for the interviewer”?
  2. Demonstrate how your values and culture align with the company values and culture.
  3. Articulate what you are known for, and how that is a benefit for the company.
  4. Articulate your value proposition.

Also you need to be concise and to the point. In preparing for the “Tell Me About Yourself” the following tips will help you nail the shot when the game is on the line.

  1. Read and understand the job description.
  2. Research the company.
  3. Total time should be between 1½ and 3 minutes.
  4. Give a BRIEF synopsis of your career. Shape your synopsis to the needs learned from the job description and prior research.
    1. Do not list every title and company you have worked for, but give a range.
    2. Do not give a laundry list of responsibilities tasks or processes you performed, but give a range.
  5. Based on the job description, as well as the required skills and experiences, give 2 or 3 SHORT accomplishment statements to demonstrate your success.
    1. Do not go into details.
    2. Do not take time to “set the stage”.
    3. Give a simple Quantified Result and action statement including key skill or experience.
    4. Should be 20 words or less.
  6. Summarize skills and experience inferred from the accomplishment statements focusing on skills and experiences required in the job description.
  7. Say why you want the job! Why are you interested in the company, and their products or services?
  8. Solicit their agreement that your background and experience enable you to meet the objectives of the position and the company.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the interview “Tell Me About Yourself” and how you prepare.

LinkedIn is one of the most powerful Career Management tools business professionals can tap into to maximize the achievement of their objectives. LinkedIn has recently rolled out a new feature that is a great way to facilitate this and to enhance your online brand. Like all Social media, LinkedIn requires two key philosophies. First is Pay-It-Forward, and the second is “Think It Through”. A little bit of thought, and the desire to pay it forward will take you a long way. Keeping this in mind will help you use the brand new Skills & Endorsements tool to take your LinkedIn engagement to the next level. In order to help you do this, I have developed the following EZ steps.

  1. Add Skills to your profile: Click “More” on the top of the LinkedIn menu than select Skill & Expertise. Add the skills that relate to your profession that you are recognized for and that you use regularly on the job. LinkedIn allows you to choose up to 50. Choose as many as apply.
  2. If you already have some skills listed, go to the edit profile mode and click to add more skills
  3. After you add skills, you can click the skill to specify your level of proficiency as well as the number of years you have been utilizing the skill.
  4. Endorse Others: Now pay it forward. Go to the profile of contacts you want to endorse. A box opens up with some suggested skills to endorse. Eliminate skills you are not able to endorse, and add skills you want to endorse. Then click the endorse button
  5. Take an additional couple of minutes to scroll down to their skills section and review their skills. Click all the skills that make sense for you to endorse based on your knowledge of the individual.

Don’t just select the skills suggested by LinkedIn, endorse and move on. Unfortunately, even if you are trying to help the person out, the message that you are giving is that you are not putting thought into what you are doing. This will hurt your reputation, and people will assume if you are “lazy” on LinkedIn, you will be lazy in other parts of your profession. Take some time to do it right, the ROI on the time spent will come back much higher.

This blog is by Greg Johnson

My mentor and good friend John Hall likes to share that In the January 3rd 2011 issue of Fortune Magazine, Geoff Colvin talks about how Chief Justice John Roberts prepared for oral arguments he would meticulously write down hundreds of questions that he thought he could conceivably be asked, pondered and refined the answers in his mind, then he wrote the questions and answers on flash cards. He would then shuffle the questions and practice, practice, practice. When Chief Justice Rehnquist died on September 3rd 2005, George W. Bush nominated Roberts to succeed Rehnquist as Chief Justice. For what might be considered the ultimate job interview, Chief Justice John Roberts prepared for the confirmation hearing the same way. For anyone who was able to watch portions of the confirmation, his answers were quick, concise, and delivered in an easy manner.

You might think, “I know myself. I know my career. I know my industry. Of course I can answer interview questions.” The fact is, more times than not, candidates hurt themselves in the interview. Interviews can be so hard to come by, yet we often wing them, rambling on and talking our way out of the job. Preparation and repetition is the key to setting yourself apart from others in the interview process. Like I said in What Do Free Throws Have To Do With Interviews, you cannot afford to shoot an air ball when the game is on the line.

Finally, video tape mock interviews are a great way to see how you appear to interviewers. So many people are shocked by what they see in the video replay. The good news is I have seen many people make the necessary changes, and successfully land their next position. Practice and eliminate bad habits. For those of you who live in Southern California, Above The Rim Executive Coaching offers Mock Interviews once a month. Check the schedule and register online.

Can You afford an air ball when the game is on the line?

 

Over the past several years, the news has been filled with huge layoffs by companies trying to cut costs. Is this a strategy that really helps a company? Every day, in the course of networking, I have the opportunity to talk with, not only people who are in transition because of cost cutting efforts, but also I have opportunity to talk with people “left behind” after the cost cutting. The story is so often the same. Significant resources of knowledge and skills have left the company, leaving those left behind swimming against a rip current. The more they struggle to make up for lost resources, the further fall behind on objectives. They are asked to do more and more, all with decreasing efficiencies and effectiveness. Managers are looking to leave the company because they no longer have the assets in place to meet the demands for the company to succeed.

In a corporate environment, every person in the company, through the tasks and projects they work on, needs to contribute in a way that they are helping the company do one of three things:

  1. Help the company generate revenue
  2. Help the company reduce costs
  3. Help the company mitigate risks

If an employee is not doing this to a degree greater than their annual cost, it really doesn’t make sense for the company to be paying them. The company should not wait for a crisis to let go of underperforming employees. Typically, companies expect to cost savings or revenue generation 3 to 5 times the cost of the employee. If the employee is achieving this success, it NEVER makes sense to cut the employee to save costs.

Does your company understand the true value brought by your employees? Is your company costing itself more by trying to reduce employee costs?

Last week I discussed the best way to get around the salary question for online applications is to stop relying on online applications and pursue the hidden job market. This makes sense not only to get around the salary question, and the general road block of HR, but also because 80% of the truly open jobs are in the hidden job market. Before we go any further, what is the hidden job market? It is not that the jobs are buried somewhere hidden. It is any opportunity that is not currently posted on the job boards. This can consist of jobs that are in the still in the internal candidate search process, jobs that are in the process of being defined, or opportunities to solve problems that have yet to be identified in a job description. Your success in this depends on a purposeful strategy with a clearly defined goal of where you want to go. In the words of Yogi Berra:

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”

Start off creating a list of Target Companies based, not on jobs posted, but on your passions and interests. While not all companies have job openings, all companies have problems. In order to differentiate yourself from the masses of job seekers, you need to position yourself as a solution, not a job seeker. In order to position yourself as a solution you need to know the problems and headaches of your target companies. In order to understand the problems, you need to research your target companies. Finally in order to research your target companies, you need to have target companies.

Once you have your list of target companies, begin your research, identifying their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. You can find a few resources here.

From here you are in a position to produce industry wide special reports which are great keys to get you in the door for information meetings. Use these as a launch-pad for a social media campaign to establish your reputation as a thought leader and subject matter expert in your particular niche. Simultaneously, you need to network network network. This doesn’t mean just attend a ton of networking event collecting business cards to put on your desk. Strategically and purposefully engage in professional organizations taking positions on committees and boards, so that you can work on a professional level with influential people in your target industry. For your success in the hidden job market, it is not necessarily what you know, or even what you know, but who knows you, and what their perception is of you that will maximize your career opportunities.

How are you strategically researching your target companies and spreading your reputation as a subject matter expert or thought leader in your particular niche?

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.