Sweats to Suits Your transition from campus to the workplace

2Dec/120

No Time This Time

I will confess...I probably spent more time trying to find the right song title to accompany this entry than to actually compose the entry itself. I really liked the line from the Steve Miller Band's, "Fly Like an Eagle", "time keeps on slipping into the future," but then I watched part of the music video on YouTube and started thinking about movies like Half Baked and Dazed and Confused and that clearly isn't what we're going for here. Alas, I found fitting lyrics in an incredibly annoying song by the Police.  Even though I could only handle listening to this punk-esque tune for about two minutes, the words, "If I could, I'd slow the whole world down," seemed apropos for this time management-themed entry.

Selfishly (hope you don't mind), I wanted to write about time management in advance of a prioritization-themed session I'm leading this week at work. This way, you can learn about a useful tool to help monitor how you spend your time and I can prepare for my presentation. Win-win!

If you have read Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you are probably familiar with the third habit, "put first things first." In a nutshell, this habit is all about executing around priorities. If you are like me, you probably have a good sense of what those priorities are in your head, (high visibility projects, long range or strategic planning, etc.) but back here on earth there are phone calls and emails to return and people who have "urgent" needs that in no way relate to your job.

Covey uses a metaphor (in this short video) with different sized rocks to demonstrate the concept of tackling the most important things first.  You may be thinking to yourself, "well that's great that I know what to focus on, so what do I do now?"

Most of us probably start our week or day with a "things to do" list. I know I do, but how do you keep track of the most important things? I sometimes highlight, write them all in caps or use a red marker.  That helps to an extent, but it isn't a clear visual reminding us of what the priorities are. Here's a short step-by-step process you can use to capitalize on one of Covey's tools:

1. The first step is to list all of your day-to-day activities - everything - checking your RSS feeds, Facebook, responding to calls from [insert annoying colleague name here], etc.

2. Now, add the things you know you should be working on, but haven't made the time for, e.g., your budget, strategic plan, publishing your memoirs, etc.

3. Go back to our calendar for the past week and add anything else you may have forgotten - regular meetings, doctor visits, etc.

4. Think about how you spend your leisure time...how many sitcoms do you watch regularly? This my weakness.  How much time are you allocating to researching "important" things online? (learned about Facebook garage sale groups last night), reading, cooking, exercising, etc. There is no judgment here. Just write it down.

5. Now you should have a long list of activities that comprise your time and a list of activities to which you would like to allocate time.

Stay tuned for the remaining steps after this important message!

The following graphic is adapted from Covey's Urgent-Important Matrix, which has four quadrants you can use to categorize those activities you just listed.  Let's work backward (sort of).

Quadrant Four (Urgent and Not Important) - These are referred to as distractions or  "time wasters." They add little to no value and, if possible, should be removed from that list of activities. Activities may include: too much t.v. or channel/web surfing (for me this is looking people up on LinkedIn unnecessarily), reading or forwarding junk mail, and/or responding to requests that can be ignored or better dealt with in a more strategic way (i.e., requesting weekly vs. daily updates)

Quadrant Three (Urgent and Not Important) - These "time sucks" reflected by Covey as "poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part,” should also be eliminated. A blog I read while preparing my presentation encapsulated quadrant three activities well with this example: email that you have to reply to right away or it loses value (“Do you want some donuts? I have some in my office!”). Guilty as charged when it comes to theater or symphony tickets that are being given away on a first come-first served basis. On a work-related note, these are often someone else's priorities and if we become known as someone who responds immediately to others' requests, then we can earn the reputation of a chameleon, changing on a dime to meet the needs of others (before our own).  Worse yet, people will come to expect that you respond immediately to any concern and when you do not you could be perceived as someone who is non-responsive.

Quadrant One (Urgent and Important) - Items in this category are crises and problems.  Per Covey, people tend to spend 90% of their time dealing with these fire drills. If you spend that much (or more) time in this quadrant you run the risk of burning out quickly and you may start viewing everything as a crisis. In my last job, these were students racing into my office the day of an important interview seeking career guidance.  At first, I dropped everything I was doing and went into hyper speed coach mode, but then I got smart and used my time over the holidays to put some structure in place for the Accounting population so that they were prepared with their resumes and interview skills well in advance of job hunting season.  If this is you, it's important to take advantage of your down time to better organize yourself and plan ahead with activities in the next quadrant...

Quadrant 2 (Not Urgent and Important) - Remember that example I just gave two seconds ago about restructuring the way I served students? While painful, it was exactly the sort of activity that falls into this category. Covey purports that working in this quadrant is "the heart of personal management." He includes examples such as building relationships, writing a personal mission statement, long-range planning, exercising, preventive maintenance, and preparation. I would add building your network and argue that, for the most part, these are the activities that do not happen if we don't carve out time for them (or management doesn't mandate that they occur).

So, now back to these steps...

6. After perusing those four categories, you should be ready to draw your own matrix.  I like using the Smart Art in PowerPoint or Word, but all it takes is two lines on a piece of paper or four cells in a spreadsheet. Migrate yourself into quadrant 2 for a moment and map our your own matrix!

7. My coaching philosophy is that change is difficult without an accountability partner. After you map out a matrix for work (listing quadrant 4 activities judiciously of course), consider sharing it with your manager or a trusted colleague to see if you are on the right track. Also, ask your partner to check in with you periodically (maybe once a week) to see if you are adhering to the goals you set for quadrant 2.

8. This isn't a static tool. It's something you can change often as your work and personal priorities change. One of our new hires writes his matrix on the dry erase board in his cube and updates it weekly so that it is visible to his manager. It also helps guide their bi-weekly 1x1 discussions.

I hope you find this tool useful - please comment if you already use it and share your best practices! Wish me luck keeping 60+ leaders engaged and awake! Fortunately, they get to start by throwing these toys around the room to each other - shouting out the names of primary tasks, distractions, and curve balls in the process!

 

18Nov/120

With a Little Help from my Friends

Tis the season for aspirational goal setting and for many, job hunting.  Networking is a prerequisite for that process and the theme of this entry.

Once the daily grind slows down and the holiday party invitations start rolling in, we begin reconnecting with people we haven't seen in what seems like an eternity.  When these individuals inquire about your employment situation, do you cringe (on the inside or the outside)? If so, this entry is for you.  Put the pumpkin pie aside and get back to your laptop. You have work to do before those holiday parties and family gatherings!

My friend "C" recently invited me to speak about networking to a group of business students she advises at a local university.  Knowing that this time of year is especially important for college job seekers, I decided to employ some of the strategies I use when coaching engineers in my day job - provide tools, an action plan, and hold them accountable. Most of what I shared with these students is applicable to any active or passive job seeker, so I decided to share the same toolkit with you. Here goes!

THE NETWORKING TOOL KIT

Tool #1 - Your Elevator Speech - I've written other blog entries about networking and how to compose an elevator speech, so I'll keep this one to a formula to get you started:

  • PRESENT - What am I doing now
  • PAST - Summary of past experiences and accomplishments
  • FUTURE - What I'd like to do next/long-term
  • ASK - What I want from the person I'm conversing with/writing to

Elevator Speech Best Practices:

  • Have a few versions of your speech ready to go depending on who you intend to speak with/write to.
  • Keep it to no more than a minute, 30 seconds is better
  • Practice it with at least one person within 24 hours, keep practicing and always right before a networking event
  • Check out this video or the one embedded below for more tips on preparing your speech:

Tool #2: LinkedIn Profile

The following list includes what I refer to as "LinkedIn basics." At a minimum, these are the "must haves" for your profile in order to start building your on-line networking and leveraging connections.
  • Relevant headline - Ideally a combination of degree and objective (if you are a student)
  • Strong summary - Written version of your elevator speech
  • Revised URL - Include your name and use on your email signature so that you won't have to "push" your resume on others. Make it easy for them to find you!
  • Uploaded Resume - Experience listed in several short, but well thought out bullets that clearly describe what you did (even for someone who doesn't understand your work) and how you improved the organization
  • Professional Photo - Face visible, dressed business casual or professional

What to do with LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is best used to identify “gatekeepers” individuals who can help you get connected to someone on the inside of an organization of interest. It’s also a best practice to check out the profiles of individuals you plan to meet or interview with in advance so that you can prepare targeted questions and talking points (see this entry for more details).  Another great use of LinkedIn is to view the online resumes of people in positions/companies of interest to get ideas on how to best tailor your resume, i.e., which jobs/internships/activities to highlight the transferable skills you bring to the table.  Check out this blog entry for tips on using social media for your job search: People who Need People or the instructional LinkedIn videos I posted on YouTube.

Tool #3: Networking Map or List

I recently read an article that helped me better organize my own networking contacts.  I shared it with the students and mentioned that each of their networking maps would be different , e.g., selecting a parent for one's operational network, while others may leverage parents as part of their developmental and/or strategic network. Same goes for friends, spouses, managers (if you have that sort of relationship with your boss), professional mentors, etc. Here's an overview of the three types of networks and who I include in mine:

Operational: People who help you to complete your day-to-day work (my assigned buddy, manager, HR business partners, business leaders, etc.)

Developmental: Trusted individuals you seek out for advice and to explore professional options (friends in related roles, former managers, my mom, my husband - #1)

Strategic: Sources who help you define what the future will bring and help you to prepare for and succeed in that future (former professors, contacts in professional associations, executive coaches I contract with in my role)

Source: “The Three Networks You Need”  – Linda Hill & Kent Lineback

I recently heard a coach describe the concept of goal attainment in terms of hair maintenance: "lather, rinse, repeat." Use whatever mantra works for you - the point being that mastering the networking process is like developing any other skill - you prepare, practice, act, reflect and then do it all over again.  You significantly increase your chances of success by leveraging an accountability partner, a friend, colleague, coach, or fellow job seeker who will help you make sure you stick to your action plan.  Why do you think AA assigns each participant a sponsor?

Best of luck until next time. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving (for those of you in the U.S.)!

 

3Oct/100

Take a Chance on Me

I had initially planned to call this week’s blog entry “Ode to Joy”.  After hearing a different tune this week from Mamma Mia, I decided take a less narcissistic approach to presenting the joyous news of my sister-in-law’s impending employment.  You may recall that the name of my blog, Sweats to Suits, was her invention. After coaching her through this process for several months, it certainly feels like things have come full circle.  I asked Katie (my sister-in-law) to elaborate on key lessons she learned over the past few months for my readers.  Happy reading!

Guest Blog from the recently employed, Katie Gaylord

Let’s face it, the job hunt can be an incredibly frustrating and time consuming experience. However, through my personal search I found several things that assisted me in this process. And in my personal opinion, helped me to land an internship after several weeks of searching, and then a full time job after three months of searching.

NETWORK

I cannot impress upon how important this is. I became aware of both my internship and new full time position from individuals within my personal network.  Knowing someone at a firm, or company, is a great way to get your “foot in the door” and make you be more than a name on a piece of paper. I spent a great deal of time networking with family friends, relatives, neighbors etc. I usually would ask if they could take time to speak with me about their current position, and just come prepared with a list of questions. I would advise not to go into this with the concept of “find me a job” but rather expressing an interest in what they do. Inevitably at the end of speaking with someone, they would reciprocate the questions and ask about my interests, and then to send them my resume and they would pass it along to those who could help. You’d be surprised at how willing people are to help you (i.e. “take a chance on you”), and truly extend a hand in anyway possible

PATIENCE AND PERSISTENCE

Searching for a job is a fulltime job, and I personally am not the best when it comes to patience. You have to remind yourself to be proactive on your end, but that at the end of the day, all of your hard work will also require patience. Know that in the end all of your effort WILL pay off.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL

I initially thought that I could just have one master resume and generic cover letter that I could send out in mass quantities. Looking back this was quite naïve, but I feel like I wanted to do this because the time and effort it took to adjust my resume and cover letters was in no way appealing. However, after I realized that this would not work I reluctantly, but dutifully, began. There were so many days where I would spend hours tweaking my resume, or formatting my cover letter for a specific position. At the time it seemed exhausting, but I truly feel like paying attention to such details, and making changes as needed made a huge difference. This attention to detail extends in so many ways more than this. Facebook: make sure your profile is such that there are no embarrassing pictures, or comments on it. In all correspondence emails: make sure you are thoughtful of the structure of the email. Make sure that you review your work for grammar errors, and that you express your professionalism in an eloquent, yet brief and concise manner.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

When going into an interview, be sure to research the company to the MAX. With several of the interviews I had I tailored specific questions to my role within the firm, as well as doing research on those who interviewed me. I looked over their profiles on LinkedIn and addressed their educational background and how they wound up in their position.  I was initially resistant to “stalk” my interviewers on LinkedIn, but Joy assured me that people put their profiles out there for a reason.  Needless to say, most individuals were quite impressed that I took the time to become so familiar with them and the company. This shows effort, and a true interest in the position.

PREPARE YOURSELF FOR REJECTION

Following one interview I was crushed to receive word that I would not be extended an offer. At the time it came as such a blow. This is one position that I spent so much time working on from an application process, as well as preparing for my interview. However, looking back, my future position is a fit on both ends. I started to think about my “rejection” in a different light. Would I really want to work somewhere that I wasn’t a top candidate, or that the company wanted me? It has to be a mutual fit, or else in the long run, things will most likely result in the antithesis of a “happy ending.”

CELEBRATE

And when you do receive that phone call of a company extending an offer, I can tell you that you will be nothing short of delighted… I sure was! Take some time to recognize your accomplishment and thank others who helped you get there.  Good luck, and happy job hunting!

Katie landed a Campus Recruiting Coordinator position at a professional services firm.  She starts in two weeks and is currently accepting applications for roommate candidates.

Career Blunder of the Week: One of my classmates (let’s call him Peter) was particularly frustrated with the ambiguity of an assignment we received in one of our classes.  In a moment of catharsis, he crafted a heated message to our professor, which he planned to revise and send after receiving the graded assignment.  You know where this is going…Unfortunately, Peter accidentally (and prematurely) hit the send button.  We have yet to hear of any implications of the message transmission, however, the lesson here is very clear. Moral of the story: DO NOT populate the TO field of an email until you are ready to hit the send button – to a professor, employer, or family member.

11Apr/100

People Who Need People

Blog Post #8: People Who Need People


For those of you who are show tune savvy, I’m sure you imagined that it would not be long before Barbra Streisand made her way into a blog entry title.  People who Need People is a track from Funny Girl, a musical about an actress named Fanny Brice who falls hard and engages in a codependent relationship with a handsome gambler.  I must admit that I never actually saw the musical and only excerpts from the movie, but the song title stuck with me and immediately came to mind during an event I attended this week.  For purposes of the blog, perhaps we can all agree to focus on attributing a positive meaning to the last two lines of the song’s refrain, “People who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.”

Some of you may have seen my LinkedIn or Twitter posts about the Women for Hire Career Fair and Networking event (http://www.womenforhire.com/career_expos/spring_2010/dallas) that took place in Dallas this past Tuesday.  Women for Hire is an organization (but perhaps empire would be more appropriate) founded by women empowerment expert, Tory Johnson (http://www.womenforhire.com/).  The event mostly catered to women looking for re-enter the workforce after having been out of it for a while, but also attracted an audience of women looking to reinvent themselves.  I was out of Sweats to Suits business cards in the first 20 minutes!  The People Who Need People theme entered my mind a number of times during the speaking engagements I attended, but most prominently before the event even started when my new friend and entrepreneurial inspiration, Jasmin Brand, invited me to the event AND provided me with free VIP access to Tory’s speech, i.e. I did not have to pay the $20 for Starbucks nor pre-register via the website.

My most favorite part of the day occurred when I serendipitously sat down next to Jasmine’s sister for Jasmin’s spiel on utilizing social media to make the most of your job search.  Upon introducing myself, she said, “oh girl, we love you and we need to have a party to watch Working Girl.” We became fast friends as well!  I should also share that additional positives coming out of the event were that I was able to get myself on a list to speak or serve as a resume reviewer for next fall’s event AND…Tory Johnson (HERSELF!) replied to an email that I sent to her organization requesting information on her retreats for small business owners.  I’m not sure that I’m her target audience, but I certainly hope she keeps my name on her radar!

At this point, I’d like to share most of the pearls of wisdom I gleaned from Tory and Jasmin’s wise words. This is a LONG entry, but I was hesitant to be too particular about what I share given that I have a mixed audience of readers.  I hope you find some of these thoughts useful regardless of where you are in your own career path (and that you’ll forgive me for using recycled material rather than Joy original work!).

Highlights from Tory Johnson’s Key Note Address

  • The bitterness of your unemployment situation can keep you from succeeding in your search.  Embrace the reality and use it to move in a new direction by starting with a blank slate.
  • Treat your job search process with the same degree of precision as you would if you were ordering food in a nice restaurant, e.g. you would not just ask the server to bring you any food and therefore you should not just accept any job because it is gainful employment.
  • Think back on your experiences (work, personal, etc.) to try to get a sense of when you felt most happy and passionate about what you were doing and use that to drive your job search.
  • Author Daniel Pink encourages his followers to ask themselves two questions.  He shares that if you want to find your true motivation you should first ask yourself, “What’s my sentence?” He goes on to say that you should think about your sentence and use it to navigate your life.  The second question to ask yourself is, “Was I better today than yesterday?” suggesting that incremental progress contributes to improvement over time.  Check out this video on Daniel’s website to see where the inspiration for these questions originated: http://www.danpink.com/archives/2010/01/2questionsvideo.  Tory suggests focusing on what you can build on and on what you can learn from the mistakes you made from the previous day to be better the next day.  By the way…Tory’s sentence is related to women’s career empowerment.  I am still working on mine J
  • When embarking on your job search you should pack your schedule full of activity and work toward specific, deliberate goals so as not to lose yourself in errands and other competing priorities.
  • Most people use the internet to search for jobs, but they take the “spraying and praying approach”, meaning that they simply post their resumes for jobs of interest and wait (and pray) for a call from a hiring manager.  Job seekers should allocate 40% of their time to internet, but to spend the vast majority of that time utilizing social media rather than relying solely on job search engines. Internet job searching and posting gives us a false sense of security because we can quantify what we’ve done.
  • Use the company profiles on Facebook and Twitter to conduct organization research and to source potential contacts.  Check out Tory’s tutorials on utilizing Twitter and LinkedIn for your job search: http://abcnews.go.com/gma/jobclub.
  • Connecting with like-minded people via social media can help you get your foot in the door.  Check to see if the companies you’re interested in have a Twitter following.  Find people talking about what you’re interested in and share ideas, tactics, and advice from your experience.  Start building your brand and your on-line presence if you haven’t done so already.  Reconnect with old friends and colleagues via LinkedIn to broaden your network and then make a list of people you should connect with based on the direction of your job search.
  • Join a local job club to garner support from others in a similar vocational mindset.  Check out this story on the Collin County (north of Dallas) job club: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/JobClub/story?id=6150326.  You need support and comradery when circumnavigating the job search.  The AA and Weight Watchers nature of these clubs can provide much needed motivation.  As an aside, this topic provided additional inspiration for the People Who Need People blog entry title.  I am thinking about leading a job club in the Dallas area.  I just hope it’s not required to be weird and quirkly like every other Weight Watchers leader I’ve ever met.
  • Temporary jobs are the #1 source of new work in today’s job market.  Temporary employment is great for filling a gap in your resume and earning an income while searching for a job. It should be a part of your strategy while seeking permanent employment.
  • Volunteer strategically and join associations related to your industry or field of interest
  • Temporary employment, strategic volunteering, and involvement in related associations allow you to position yourself as someone in control of his/her job search and it allow you to focus potentially uncomfortable conversations around what you are “doing” rather than just speaking to the fact that you are looking for a job.
  • If you are not a natural networker, strongly encourage yourself to introduce yourself to three people at the next networking event you attend (and they should not be part of the staff or crew).  Many women find it challenging to sell themselves and to self-promote, but it does get easier with practice.
  • It is hard for women to ask for something and much more likely for us to give.  The moment will never be perfect, so ask when the moment is “good enough”.  Most people (women especially) like to help others.  Keep this in mind when you have reservations about asking for guidance and support.
  • If you are “overqualified” be prepared to respond and to probe into why the hiring manager may be concerned.  Be ready to share experience you have working for people younger than you and address experience you have which highlights your sense of loyalty.  Anticipate, rehearse, play devil’s advocate, but DO NOT ignore the fact that you could be perceived as overqualified.
  • Train yourself to become a strong negotiator.  Check out the statistics and advice from the authors of “Women Don’t Ask”, Linda Babcock and Sarah Laschever, on this website: http://www.womendontask.com/stats.html

Highlights from Jasmin Brand’s Seminar: How to Make Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook Work for You in Your Job Search

  • Check out these social media stats:
    • 400 million people are on Facebook each day
    • 60 million people are registered on LinkedIn
    • 18 million people access Twitter at least once a month and most companies have a Twitter feed as well
  • Social Media Action Items
    • Best Practices by Social Media Site
      • Twitter:
        • Use the search function in Twitter to identify jobs, news, and associations relevant to your job search.
        • Visit www.search.twitter.com for industry specific key words and phrases.
        • Add people and companies of interest to your following then tweet away (no more than 140 characters at a time).
        • Set your email preferences so that you are notified when someone is following you or replying to one of your posts.
        • Update your status to let people know you’re looking for work.

        • Linked In (I added a few of my own here):
          • Complete your full profile, which is made incrementally easier if you upload your resume to the site.
          • Build your network – start with 10-15 people you know well and then “invite others to the party”.
          • Hiring managers use LinkedIn to search for candidates and to get a preview of their background.  Ask for recommendations and offer to recommend others with whom you have worked.
          • Use the search function to learn about companies and the employees within them.
          • If you are eventually selected for an interview, search for your interviewers’ profile(s) to help prepare specific questions you can ask when you meet in person or over the phone.
          • Join as many relevant LinkedIn groups as you possibly can to broaden your network of connections.
          • Don’t be afraid to connect to people you haven’t spoken to in years.  LinkedIn can bridge long gaps in contact without the awkwardness of making a re-introduction.
          • Add your LinkedIn site to your email signature.  It is the last line in the blue box of important information called Public Profile within your profile screen.
          • Facebook
            • It is better to use Facebook strictly for business or strictly for social purposes (i.e. make the tough choice if you are on the job market).  If you must keep your social profile, adjust your privacy settings.
            • Limit your posted photos and consider asking friends not to post photos of you without your permission.
            • Be selective about accepting friend requests.
            • Add Facebook Marketplace to your list of search engines for job-seeking: http://apps.facebook.com/marketplace/
            • Post an ad for yourself to increase your chances of getting noticed.

Brief Career Blunder for this Week: “There’s No Crying in Job Hunting”

Several years ago, I attended an all-university career fair at one of the campuses where I recruited students.  At one point during the fair, I was approached by a woman who introduced herself and shared her entire life story, concluding by telling me about the completely unrelated Masters degree she was in the process of earning.  Mind you, this happened before I moved to Texas and before I absorbed some of my husband’s excellent active listening skills (e.g. before I developed the mental fortitude to listen to anyone for long periods of time), so my patience was growing very thin at this point.  I finally was able to interrupt her to explain that her degree and experience were in no way related to the type of positions we were recruiting for.  Even though I tried to be as polite (yet direct) as possible, my words somehow triggered an eruption of emotion and a waterfall of tears came streaming down her face.  I don’t think I realized it then, but perhaps this was what started me down the path of career counseling.  I took this woman (who was easily twice my age, by the way) aside and tried to advise her as best as a 23-year-old with limited work experience could and then I sent her on her way.  I’d like to think that she is now working in a tranquil environment like a nature preserve or ashram.

Moral of the Story:

Job hunting can be a challenging and emotional process.  Keeping a positive attitude and finding healthy ways to relieve stress during this time are absolutely critical to maintaining one’s mental sanity.  Exercise, pleasure reading, and spending social time with others can help give your mind a break from the mentally taxing act of looking for a job.  Perhaps most importantly, however, you need to find a strong support network so that when rejection happens (and it will) you will be prepared and can address it head on instead of experiencing an avalanche of emotion akin to Old Faithful.