Posted on: February 21st, 2017 by
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Are you crazy? How can I plan two jobs ahead?

Answer: It’s the difference between a strategic and tactical plan. The strategic plan looks out in time at your ultimate goal and the steps to get there. Tactical plan looks at the benefits of the next job only, without considering the future implications.

Short-term career decisions usually look at the title, compensation, bonus, ease of commuting, family considerations, lifestyle and immediate payback. Longer-term career decisions focus on potential for advancements, ability to develop new skills, relationship building opportunities, growth of the new organization, expansion possibilities, what you can learn from your new boss, professional development options, educational advancements, and so on.

What are some potential downsides of the tactical approach?
1. There may be a number of negative factors you should have checked out: A flat or shrinking organization, a consolidating industry, promotions based on length of service and not performance, your function isn’t seen an important, an autocratic boss, no upward mobility, lack of new skills development, and so on
2. A change in the industry or skills needed to stay current: Technology has supplanted the need for certain skills, the standards are changing that will pose a problem, or your new organization doesn’t believe in training its people: It buys talent from the outside when it’s needed.
3. The culture that seemed right during the interview is found to be inconsistent with your value system or your management style: Information is not shared, work groups are highly competitive rather than team-oriented, goals and objectives are murky, ill defined, or worse, as they change constantly.

What are the four strategic steps toward your ultimate career goal?
1. Define your ultimate career goal. If you don’t know your destination, no road will get you there. Be as realistic as you can after you do a reality check. Don’t put yourself in an unrealistic position before you even start. Always be adjusting to fit the situation.
2. Identify your current organization and skill level. What skills or experiences do you need for the next level? What are you missing? What must your new organization provide you in order to succeed? Certifications? Training? Opportunities? Other?
3. Lay out all of the steps necessary for you to achieve your ultimate career goal. What are the benchmark positions at each step? How many steps are there? Are you ahead or behind the curve? Can you jump over a step? Is there an alternative route to successive steps?
4. At each successive step you’ll need enough time to master the function and the skills that are needed for success. Look at each step in your career ladder and assess how much time each step will take before you’re ready for the next step. Do you have enough time?

Time, experiences and opportunity will determine if you’ll achieve your ultimate career goal.

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Posted on: February 14th, 2017 by
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Interviewing is like a first date: Your all dressed up, nervous, on your best behavior, and act kind of stiff until you become more comfortable with the other person. Then you move into the question and answer stage, looking for common ground. How do you impress your potential boss so you’re invited back and become the candidate of choice? Learn to differentiate yourself in a meaningful way from all others, through “Showstopper” questions or answer.

KEY POINT: Something in your resume triggered the hiring manager’s interest in you. What was it? You need to find out, as it’s the key to the success of your candidacy. Here’s how:

INITIAL SHOWSTOPPER QUESTION: The most effective way to position your candidacy, as your sitting down before the interview, ask the unassuming question, “Just out of curiosity, what was it about my resume that peaked your interest in me?” It’s a casual question that makes the difference between getting the job or not. Why? Because:

  • It gives you insightful information that few other candidates will have
  • It gets the interviewer talking about what the key issue is, before you even start
  • It provides you with a direction of how to tilt your answers, making sure to cover the key issue

The majority of interviewers will answer your question, which sets you up with critical knowledge.

SHOWSTOPPER ANSWERS to the hiring managers questions: An interviewer basically wants to know what you did, how did you did it, and what were the results? Fundamentally these three questions provide the core answers they need from you. The resume will give them most all of the other information. Since you now know the three basic questions, you can preplan your answers in a concise but powerful way by stating the issue you were addressing in each job, the actions you took and the outcome you achieved, within 20 to 30 seconds. This method eliminates the fumbling around for an answer as you’re already prepared for the answer. By responding to the questions in this manner, you are demonstrating that you are a problem-solver and can be a contributor to solutions since you have the prior insight into what the issues are.

A SHOWSTOPPER CLOSER: Usually, toward the end of the interview you will be asked, “Do you have any questions of me?” This is your chance to shine as a businessperson that will set you apart from other candidates. The Showstopper questions:

  • “What’s the key issue of this position that needs a solution in the short-term?”
  • “What are the performance expectations for the new hire during the first year?”

Your objective during this discussion is to engage the hiring manager around actual issues, alternative solutions and impediments that might hinder results.

When the hiring manager sees you as a problem-solver to the issues that need resolution, you become a primary candidate rather than an also ran.

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Posted on: February 7th, 2017 by
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Experiencing bumps in the road during your career or in life are to be expected. The critical question is: “What do you do about it?” Make a comeback? Wallow in self-pity? Stay depressed? Accelerate your plans? What do you do to come out ahead?

Some say that comebacks are a rarity. That may be true in sports or politics because the opportunities to advance are slim to none. But for you and I, the opportunities are what we make of them, as there are prospects all around us. Here are my thoughts about what to do.

Make a bad situation better – The unsaid word is “manage” not “roll over”. Whatever the situation, you’ll need to optimize the upside and minimize the downside with strategies in your favor. Caught in a reorganization? Get your resume into the marketplace a.s.a.p. Ask for additional paid severance, extended benefits, a glowing reference or ask for a few more weeks to finish a project. Cut back on non-essential expenses. Assess your positives and negatives then develop a strategy to augment each one. Your goal is to elevate your position, no matter what it is, to the highest level possible.

Manage the transition – My best advice is to leave the past behind quickly and focus on the future. Easier said than done, but the sooner you look to your next steps the more positive the outcome. Those who dwell on anger, bad mouth bosses and organizations, or wonder what you could have done differently, are all a waste of time and energy. You can’t change the past; you can only affect the future. Your best approach is to objectively assess your greatest skill, achievements and results, then match them against functions and skills that organizations are looking for in candidates. If you objectively analyze the marketplace you’ll see where the opportunities are and what you need to do to attain a new and better position.

Focus on your goal – Define your overall objective, then determine the best direction: What goal do you want to pursue? It may be higher, lower or similar to the one you have now. The higher the level, the more difficult and longer it will take to find. Some functions are in demand (like cyber security and big data analysis) while others are not (like retail store and branch bank managers). Put a compelling resume together that spotlights measureable results, then target organizations that are looking for skills and experiences that match your most outstanding traits. You want hiring managers to see you as the answer to their most pressing problem that needs a solution.

Making a comeback after a negative situation is never easy. The most difficult part is to carry on without a destructive attitude that will hurt your chances of finding the right organization. The most important and difficult element is to have the right attitude, focused drive and with the correct strategy to accomplish your task.

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Posted on: January 31st, 2017 by
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How do you commit career suicide? Sometimes it’s a one-of-a-kind event, but most likely it’s a series of smaller incidents that are cumulative over time. What are the signs? Take notice when:

  • You’re not on the list for key meetings that involve your function or should have your input
  • Managers don’t engage you or don’t look you in the eye when talking to you
  • There’s a lack of interest in your ideas or your not called upon to give them
  • Your performance is lackluster, falls short of goal, or your not chosen for team projects

This list may not be complete or fatal, but the trend is troubling. You need to reverse the trend. Here are the major attitude or performance causes of career suicide:

  • DOOM & GLOOM – Balance the negatives with the positives when reporting on an issue. Decision makers are looking for alternative solutions. Complainers are usually to be avoided. If you aren’t the solution, you may be the problem.
  • FIGHTING CHANGE – Managers are paid to eliminate impediments that are in the way of achieving goals. If you’re seen as fighting changes that management wants implemented, your days are numbered. If your not “on board”, your not part of the team.
  • OVERCONFIDENT BRAGGARD – Few people get meaningful results without the help of others supporting their effort. An individual with a magnified self-worth is usually trying to cover up their inadequacies or showing-up others. It’s not a trait in an effective manager.
  • PROMISES NOT DELIVERED – It’s better to slightly under-promise, then over-deliver. Surprises to the upside are better received than to the downside. If you become someone that management can’t depend upon, why should they trust you in the future?
  • MYOPIC – Losing sight of the goal by focusing on an unimportant detail let’s everyone down. Ask yourself, “Is this contributing to the end objective or does this only show me in a good light at the expense of the total?” Shortsighted actions lead in the wrong direction.
  • UNDERHANDED ACTIONS – Those who are devious or show favoritism are found out quickly and are usually shunned. Relationships are based on respect and trust. An underhanded action is always short term and never realizes long lasting results.
  • UNDERMINING OTHERS – Careers are advanced in two ways: Those pulling you up the ladder of success and those below pushing you up the ladder. You should support and help others, work as a unit and give appropriate credit when due.
  • LACK OF TEAMWORK – Anyone that is difficult to work with is an impediment that can end in termination. If an individual is disruptive, belittles others, or causes personnel problems, they usually end up gone.

Sometimes it’s hard to show energy, enthusiastic support and engaging interaction, but these are the signs of a highly productive person. If these descriptions aren’t you, ask yourself why and what you need to do about it. Your technical skills are secondary to a smooth working group.

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Posted on: January 24th, 2017 by
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For every open position to be filled there’s a need or a hole that a hiring manager has to plug. Certain skills and experiences are required to fill the hole. That hole is described in the posted position description. That’s your insight into the mind of the hiring manager.

When a hiring manager is putting together a position description, usually the top five items listed are the ones you should pay the most attention. They define the biggest needs of the hiring manager.

Many job seekers write their resumes as if the open position must be modified to fit the applicant’s skills and experiences and not the other way around. These are the applicants that get eliminated early in the process. Your objective is to fit the needs of the hiring organization and fill the hole in a way that increases your chances of being hired. How do you do that? Here are four steps to fulfill the needs of an open position and become the primary candidate.

  1. Define the one or two things that you do better than most everyone else that set you apart from the pack. It differentiates you from your peers. Then translate those attributes into potential value for a future organization: What do you have that they need?  If you can’t define why you’re the greatest, no one else will be able to either.
  1. Target the jobs and organizations that are specifically looking for those skills and experiences. Not every organization is looking for the attributes in which you excel. The special capabilities you have need to meet the “holes” that the hiring manager is looking to fill. You’ll know it when you see it. Others may be able to replicate parts of your background, but only you can match the two or three items that can’t be duplicated? They are your ticket to the future.
  1. Focus both your resume and interview on the five top items on the position description. When writing your resume, make sure your fields of expertise are prominently placed in the top half of the first page of your resume. Include measurable results if you know them. Hiring managers are impressed with candidates who can quantify their results. When interviewing, always keep in mind those top 5 items from the position description. All other factors are either secondary or will be covered on your resume, like education, job history and the like.
  1. Your references are important when its time for them to sing your praises. Prepare a checklist of the major accomplishments that parallel what the hiring organization is looking to fill.  When your references understand the key requirements of the hiring organization, they can toot your horn about past performances as an objective third party. Use them to your advantage.

If you can’t demonstrate your ability to fill the hole a hiring manager is looking to fill, you’ll always be a runner-up, but never the winner.

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