job search

How to Plan When You Hate To Plan

This post originally appeared on my Wordpress blog (now inactive). I’ve slightly revised and updated it.

I’m not a planner.  At least, I’m not the type of planner who feels happier with the weekend organized in advance, who can tell you what I’m going to be doing next week, who can tell you, without consulting my phone, that my son’s friend’s birthday party is next Saturday at 11 am.  Now don’t get me wrong; I admire the people who have the calendar and the daily to-do list with everything written down, coordinated, and crossed-off.  At work, I maintain my to-do list and watch my calendar like a hawk because I’ve learned the hard way how it will come back to bite me if I don’t.  But organizing and planning just don’t come naturally to me. I like my weekends and other downtime precisely because I don’t have to be so on top of everything.  And then I realize we’re out of gummy snacks again . . .  But that’s an entirely different post.

So three years ago, when my life was in complete personal and professional chaos, I decided to give myself five years to recover.  I didn’t write a five year plan; I developed a five-year perspective.  Rather than setting goals and timelines for accomplishing things, I simply told myself that it would take five years for all of the changes in my life to shake out.  In the midst of some really difficult life changes, I didn’t know where I was going to be in five years, but that didn’t matter.  I had five years, after all.

This was the best gift I could have given myself.  It gave me room, initially, to grieve and deal with the pain of ending a marriage, and divorcing, followed by changing careers.  When I think about those first two years, I see how much of that time was simply slogging through grief.  If I hadn’t given myself a five-year timeline, I would have been tempted to bury my feelings in an attempt to rush forward into making changes.  Giving space and time to honor the grief and sadness caused by change is an important part of navigating life changes, and one our society doesn’t prioritize.

Having a five-year timeline for change also helped me keep things in perspective.  I can be very impatient, wanting things to change tomorrow.  And when things don’t change at the pace I think they should, it’s easy for me to get sucked into a cycle of blame and self-doubt.  But with my five-year perspective in place, I reminded myself that I didn’t have to make progress any faster.  It was much easier to recognize how big my goals were, and how unrealistic it was to expect to be able to achieve them within one or two years when I had a five year perspective.    It also helps me to look back and see all the progress I have made.  How much nicer to congratulate myself on everything I have achieved in the last three years than to berate myself for what I haven’t done yet.

And since this is a perspective, not a plan,  I don’t have to create SMART goals and timelines that are unrealistic or that I won’t follow through.  However, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t set any goals or that I don’t take time to assess my progress and make changes.  For example, in 2016, I had the goal of launching my business by October. After working on my website, I realized that I wasn’t ready to launch.  I revised my goal to 2017 and launched in April.  A five year perspective provides me the flexibility to plan and revise without the anxiety and self-doubt that comes when I set timelines and goals that are very time-specific.  It’s the five-year plan that works for me.

My friend and collaborator, Lisa Munro, writes that that the act of creating is like “building the plane while flying it.”   A five year perspective gives me the time to practice radical acts of self-creation while in process.  And this is what moves me forward far faster and easier than if I had attempted to map everything out beforehand.

Social Networking (Yes, it's ok to talk about your job search at parties)

What is Social Networking?

You don’t need to attend a networking event to be able to network effectively.   Networking is effective whether you are meeting with a career professional at a conference or over the Thanksgiving dinner table.  This is because networking is about connecting with other people and building relationships for mutual benefit.  A good way to approach networking is to be willing to ask questions and to share information with others. 

 

There are roughly two different types of networking:

·      Planned

·      Organic

 

Planned Networking

Planned networking is attending an event or doing an activity for the purpose of making connections, learning information, or otherwise advancing your career.  Examples:

·      Attending a professional conference

·      Scheduling and conducting an informational interview

 

Organic Networking

Organic networking opportunities grow from social and random encounters we have with other people.  Organic networking often happens when you’re least expecting it.  Examples:

·      Sitting next to someone on a plane and striking up a conversation with someone who turns out to work in an industry you’re interested in

·      Talking with another parent at your child’s school and discovering you’re both interested in the same career

I’ve heard of people developing professional relationships that led to internship and job opportunities through conversations they started with others at a baseball game, in the grocery store, or the airport. Organic networking happens most frequently outside of business or professional settings but it can be very powerful.

 

Creating a Networking Mindset for Social Settings

Networking in social settings isn’t the same as going to a work conference and attending a conference mixer.  In that situation, everyone assumes you’re there for professional development, and it’s easy to talk about your career and job search. 

 

At your friend’s housewarming party, people are more likely to be talking about the cost of real estate or other topics of interest to your friend.  Talking about your career or job search might feel more awkward or difficult to bring up.

 

But unless it’s a small social gathering, you’re likely to meet at least one person you don’t know.  And the first way people go about getting to know people they don’t know is to ask questions.   

Remember the purpose of networking:  connecting with other people and building relationships for mutual benefit.  And successfully connecting with other people means listening to them and asking them questions to learn more. 

 

Here’s a Script

If you’re at a social gathering and someone asks you, “So, what do you do?”  here’s your chance!

 

You can respond: 

“I currently work in higher ed as a professor, but I’m exploring other careers right now.”

 

The person you’re talking with is likely going to have a question or two about that.  They might ask why: 

“Interesting.  Why do you want to stop being a professor?”

 

Here’s your chance to talk about what you don’t like and what else you think you might be interested in:

“I’ve really enjoyed the research I’ve done, but I’m frustrated with bureaucracy in my current role and ready to try something else.  I’m interested in careers in UX design or that overlap market research and UX.  Tell me more about your work.”

 

Notice that I ended with a question for the other person.  Remember, you’re building rapport so don’t forget to ask questions about the other person, too!  This is a chance to find out more about them and what they do.

 

Also:  note this is a conversation not an elevator pitch.  Save your elevator pitch for career fairs or job interviews when you’re in front of recruiters or hiring managers who might be interested in assessing your qualifications and interests for how well you fit a job.  When you’re networking in social settings, it’s best to keep your answers short—around 20-30 seconds.  Just like when you’re having a conversation about anything else at a party.

 

So What Happens Next?

Lots of things could happen.  The person could be very interested in your work and career exploration and ask more questions.  They could offer to connect you with someone in their network.

 

Or, they could say “That’s cool.  Good luck with that” and change the subject.  You won’t know until you have a conversation and start asking and answering questions.  And if someone doesn’t respond with a lead or an offer to talk further about your job search, you still practiced talking about your job search.

 

Why Should I Talk With Strangers?

Shouldn’t I start with the people I know first, you ask? 

 

Yes, you should let people in your network know that you’re exploring other careers and/or looking for a new job.  But, it’s not just the people in your own personal networks you need to reach; you need to tap into their personal networks.  Research shows that it’s the weak ties (those friends of friends) that are likely to help us land our next opportunity.  That’s why you can’t overlook the power of social networking and the opportunities to connect with people beyond your immediate social circle.

Want More Help?

I can help you create answers to questions like “what do you do” that spark further conversation and help you get leads and connections. Check out my individual coaching page to set up an appointment to get started.

 

How to Job Search in 2018 not 1996

Recently, I did 5 Days of Job Search Tips on my Facebook page. Every day, I shared a different tip, but the theme running through all of my tips was the point that people need to shift their perspective about how to do a job search successfully.

We’re still going out and searching, many of us, like it’s 1996. We identify jobs we’d like to do or we think we can do, we go to Indeed or some other job board, and we start hitting the “Apply” button. The we wait for someone to respond. And repeat. Sometimes the wait seems endless.  No wonder we get so anxious and agonize over whether or not to follow up and to whom and when.   

The problem with this method is that it’s ineffective. Many organizations use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to organize and manage their applications. With an ATS, it’s easy to post a job posting to dozens of job boards with just a few clicks. I’ve done this as a recruiter, and I can tell you that it’s very easy to get a job posting in front of thousands of eyes within a few minutes.

And just like it’s easy to post a job to job boards, it’s also comparatively easy to apply to a job. Click on a posting link on a job board, create an account, answer some questions, upload your resume and hit Apply. You can make this even faster by applying through external sites like Indeed or LinkedIn and importing information from your LinkedIn profile.

All of this means a higher volume of applications for recruiters and hiring managers to evaluate. When I worked in recruiting, I regularly received applications from people who were wildly unqualified for the role, weren’t even sure what job they had applied for, or had applied for an entry-level role on the west coast when they lived on the east coast and had no plan to relocate. Wading through lots of unqualified or uninterested candidates means that many employers use their ATS to screen out unqualified candidates up front by using “knock out” questions or searching resumes for job-specific keywords. Not all employers use their ATS this way, however; recruiters are skilled at looking at resumes quickly to see who has the skills and experience to match their positions.

So what does this mean for you, the job seeker, in 2018?

It means that finding jobs online, applying, waiting and hoping for a call should not be your first or only method. Your job search needs to be proactive not reactive. Do you know where you’d like to work? If not, make a list of ten companies where you’d like to work (it doesn’t matter if they have jobs you’re interested in posted). Next start identifying companies on the list where you have contacts. If you don’t have contacts at those organizations, do you have them at other, similar organizations or do you know someone who knows people who work at the companies on your list? Chances are, you do.

Once you have a list of organizations where you’d like to work and have identified contacts, start reaching out. Ask for 20-30 minutes of people’s time to talk about their careers, their jobs, the organization. As you put yourself out there, your target list of companies will evolve and you’ll start developing contacts and leads. Remember, this method isn’t overtly about getting a job; it’s about getting the information you need to find jobs.

Using this method, you’’ll be able to write targeted resumes for positions and not be just another application sitting in the ATS. If someone refers you to a hiring manager and you do an informational interview with that person, applying for the job may be the second or third step for you in the hiring process not the first.

Running a proactive job search is harder than a reactive one. It means asking for help, putting yourself out there, and taking the time to make genuine connections with people. But this method is far more effective than a reactive job search where you apply, wait, and hope someone will call you. The jobs I’ve found via informational interviews and referrals have been far more aligned with my interests and values than the ones I’ve landed via the traditional methods of finding a job online and applying.

It’s time for you to start job searching in 2018 not 1996. If you’d like help, I offer a variety of services to assist you with your job search.

Why Investing in Yourself Matters

Why can it be so hard to invest in ourselves?  I have writing I want to do, work on IncipitCareer that I want to get out in front of clients and potential clients; I have content that I want to develop, things I want to bake, hikes to do.  Yet it just seems so hard to stop and carve out time to write, think, bake, go out for a quick walk or hike.   I've been musing on this all week because of a toilet.  

Recently, my girlfriend and I bought a house.  It's an exciting but scary journey because the house needs quite a bit of work.  We're committed to replacing big, expensive parts:  the roof and the gutters as well as doing work on a bathroom.  Despite our estimates and budget, there've already been a few unexpected expenses that have us nervously waiting for the final bill and watching our bank account.

So I wasn't thrilled when the contractor called on Monday (of all days!) last week.  He reported that the elderly toilet in the bathroom had developed a large crack in the tank and was leaking.  There was nothing to do but sigh, okay his request to replace the toilet, and add a little more to the bill.  When the toilet breaks, what are you going to do?  

We're coping with the fallout of delayed maintenance.  Little things have built up over time until bigger, and more expensive damage has been done. I thought about this in terms of my own work.  How easy it is to let things slide for another day.   It's easy to think: "I can write a new blog post tomorrow."  "Today's busy; I'll get around to that market research tomorrow night."  And then suddenly two months have gone by without me writing a new post or working on new content.

How many times have you done this?   Delayed self-care, eating well, working on that side project that energizes you, taking that risk?  How can we give to ourselves when we already feel so maxed out giving to and helping others? Doubt, fear, and the fact that self-investment takes time and commitment holds us back.  

But I've found that when I make time for myself--to write, to move, to create--I'm a happier, healthier, more joyful human being.  And yet, many days this seems less achievable than going to the moon.  And so I wait until the metaphorical broken toilet to act.

But today I took twenty extra minutes this morning to finish this blog post.  One small step in avoiding delayed maintenance.

Where are the broken toilets in your life?  What small step can you take to invest in yourself and reinvest tomorrow?