Friday, May 30, 2008

The Organizing Principle

As a consultant, I find it tough to get organized.

I am not shy about mentioning this, since I talk to other consultants all the time, and they usually have the same problem.

Not that being super organized about my work has ever been a great strength! My tendency is to work in a more stream of consciousness way, which means that I stay open to opportunities that present themselves, which can be good except...when the day ends and I scratch my head and think "What did I do today?"

This is not a great feeling.

So I've been working with a coach. Yes, a coach who is a project manager and clearly gets a lot done herself. With her help, I am disciplining myself to create some "chunky goals" during the week, and to write down the steps to getting there. And this has definitely improved my productivity.

This of course is not rocket science. But it makes me feel better.

The truth is, some of us are better at idea generation and some at execution. And when you work on your own, you have to learn to do both.

I'm a big fan of getting help when you need it--maybe that's one of the reasons I became a career coach. So I encourage all my clients to figure out what they're good at, and get support on the things that don't come as easily. There is no shame in this; we can't all be good at everything. And as Marcus Buckingham says, the more time we spend focusing on our strengths, the more impact we'll ultimately have.

If you're in the market for a coach and you'd like some advice, email me and I'll give you the names of some people I think are really good.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lunching Ladies

Yesterday I was the lead speaker at a seminar for women considering going back to work.

This was the first in a seminar series called Mind Your Own Business Moms, started by two women I know through my kids' school.

It was held in a restaurant, and there were about 25 women there, prosperous and engaged in their lives but looking for a career to complete their fulfillment.

My presentation was entitled "Why Work?", which I felt was apt considering these women are making a choice to work, and income is likely a secondary factor.

I feel very passionate about women working as a protective measure. The truth is, 50% of us will get divorced and many of us will be widowed. Women outlive men by seven years, and that number is growing. A horrifying statistic: In the first year a woman is divorced her standard of living plummets by 73% on average.

So one of the things I always stress to women is this: You never know.

If you start planning your career now, in a few years you'll be making enough of a living to re-invigorate your earning power in the long-term.

I shared many, many thoughts and tips with this group, and I will share a couple here:

-Figure out what you want to do, what companies interest you, and then find the right person to contact at those companies. Never go in blind.

-Don't use the Internet to apply for jobs; unless you can prove that you fit the exact profile of what they are seeking in the ad, you will be ignored. Women who haven't worked in years and/or are seeking part-time work do not qualify. Answering ads only makes you think you're making progress when you're not.

-You never know where you might find a job so be prepared. Have an elevator pitch, and use both old and new networks to talk with people.

Anyway, there's lots more in my presentation. If you'd like to view more of it, just email me and I'll get it to you.

Happy hunting!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Making Your Resume Squeaky Clean

Today I was interviewing a search consultant for a project I'm doing: a series of interviews about the current hiring climate in various sectors, for the career management website

We were talking about a common acquaintance who recently took a very senior job. It turns out that this particular search consultant had been considering this candidate for another very senior job, and at the very last minute the company withdrew their offer.

Why? Because in conducting their due diligence, the search firm found that the candidate had inflated his graduate degree. He said he had an MBA, but it turns out he had something different.

Now that's embarrassing. It turns out the search firm that ended up placing him in his new job either didn't check his credentials thoroughly or, more likely, he changed the description of his degree after his gaffe was discovered. So he got a job; no harm done, right?

Not so. The search firm that caught the degree detail will have notes in this candidate's file, and they happen to be the pre-eminent search firm in his industry. So the next time they have a hot opportunity, they're unlikely to get in touch with him. Too bad.

I mention this because it's a common occurrence. And when we've been working a long time, sometimes the early career details can seem a bit fuzzy and we find we're able to convince ourselves to tweak a resume detail to favor our current situation. My advice: Be careful. Don't do it. It could come back to haunt you.

When it comes to resumes, project a strong, positive image for sure. But don't embellish the facts--in the end, it's not worth it.

Fast Company