Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pinching Yourself

I had lunch with a colleague yesterday, a woman named Suzanne Zemke, whom I met through coaching. Having worked in big corporations for most of her career, Suzanne was given the "gift" of a layoff several months ago.

Instead of going back to the same type of job with the requisite steady paycheck, she decided to take a risk. Now this is someone who is very organized about everything in her life. So, she has done a budget to plan how much she will spend in a year, and has saved enough to cover her expenses while she checks things out a bit.

She's decided to become a management coach. And it turns out, she's an excellent one.

Within a few months she has created a plan, built a website, put together a seminar and has a small stable of clients. She has analyzed how many clients and seminars she needs to have each year to make enough money to support her lifestyle. She is flying.

She said to me over lunch that she never imagined, while toiling away at big companies over the years, that she could create the kind of life for herself she is now in the process of creating. She described the feeling of leading a coaching session and being in that perfect state of flow--like when she got to a certain point of her training for the marathon.

She jumped off a cliff, and she feels amazing.

So can any of us. It's all about creating and executing a plan that makes sense, one that enables you to take the risk, but limit any negative fallout.

I would love to hear your cliff story, if you'd like to share it with other readers.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tips for Job Seekers

I am consulting with an organization called Nexxt Phase, for women in career transition. We are in the process of redefining the vision of the group and determining ways we can help women achieve their career goals.

We put together a list of tips for job-seekers, with special focus on women returning the workforce. I thought I'd share them here.

• Your career effort should be a PUSH, not a PULL. This means you should avoid getting absorbed in trolling the Internet and applying for positions, which will give you a false sense that you are doing something productive. Instead, the focus should be on determining what you want to do, what organizations might hire you and finding contacts in those organizations. This is a marketing effort and the brand is YOU.
• Put all of your information on your resume. You want to manage expectations about you, and that means including pertinent dates such as when you graduated from college. Hiding your age will not prevent ageism and may backfire since employers could make an assumption that you are significantly younger than you are and be surprised when they meet you.
• Be opportunistic, prepared and strategic. Get out and attend things, consider everyone a potential lead. It is typically your secondary contacts—friend of a friend, etc.—that become the ultimate conduit to a new job.
• Know that there is no one perfect job that will fulfill all of your needs. Know what your skills and interests are and seek out positions that meet at least 2-3 of your key criteria.
• Define what you are looking for and ask your contacts for what you need from them. Be specific, give people a hook. The onus is on you to define your own needs. You will get a much higher response rate this way than asking “for any ideas you may have”.
• Just get started. Get off the fence and commit to something and take steps. It is very easy to postpone a decision until everything is well-defined, but that day may never come.
• Establish criteria, test and modify as you gain feedback.
• Package what you’ve done and what you are seeking in an effective elevator pitch. This pitch should put into 3-4 sentences, your background and what you are seeking in a job. It should be polished, confident and memorable. The elevator pitch is designed to catch someone at a random moment and provide them enough detail and impetus to be helpful to you.
• Show your strength in interviews. Remember: You are interviewing them too, it is very much a two-way street.
• If you are interested in creating a flexible work schedule, define what that means to you and package it as a win-win for both yourself and the organization. Don’t rule out positions that are full-time; once you’ve gotten beyond the preliminary interviews you can begin to investigate flexibility.
• Create a personal Board of Directors. This should include people who care about you, are willing to speak the truth and who have complementary and desirable skills.
• Never turn down a meeting, you never know what will come of it. Network by joining professional associations and support groups where you can expand your circle.
• Be okay with where you are right now; be positive. And take steps to move forward. This process requires patience, commitment and discipline.

Fast Company