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Get a Career Director to stop you making rash job choices. Yes, even now.

Hire a Career Director when you look for a job

I once worked for a man who said you cannot Manage & Direct a project at the same time.  I didn’t really understand this statement, so I stored it away in the back-of-my-mind, to understand as time went by.

Now I have a good example of what he means. You cannot sell and do business development at the same time.

When you are looking for a job, you need a career coach to do your business development while you “sell” yourself.

This is why.

We need to separate execution from directorial oversight

When we are selling things, the marketers open up a market for us, the business developers find the prospects, & the sales people close the sale.

Once the sales process begins, the sales person will press on turning objections into opportunities. Quite rightly, because this is their job, sales people take the view that every sale is a good sale and they disregard every sign that they should walk away from the deal. In sales parlance, they counter sales objections. This is good selling, but dangerous business.

The business development people have a watching brief during the sale and watch how the sale unfolds. Sometimes they simply have to step in and say, “No, we are sorry. That prospect and that deal looked good but it is time to walk away.”

The Director/Manager distinction operates in the same way. The Manager executes and does everything to press on and solve problems. The Director watches from the sidelines and calculates the value of a project. Sometimes they too have to step in and say, “Yes, I know you can pull it off and complete the project, but it is not worth it. We have to pull the plug on the project but it is not a reflection on you. We were simply wrong about the value of the project and we must move on to something better.”

We need Career Directors

Whether we make our living as employees, freelancers or entrepreneurs, we have the same dilemma.

We open up opportunities on many fronts. And we press on to a sale. We are keen to make a sale and we disregard warning signs that this is a bad deal.

We need a mentor or coach to review the terms of “our sale”. We can try to do it ourselves but that is not reasonable. Psychologically we are in “close the sale” mode.

Even if we mentally put a different hat on, walk to a different desk, and open a file that says business development, we will find it difficult to backtrack from action to analysis. Moreover, if we do succeed, we will find it very difficult move back to action. Analysing our own actions will take “the wind out of our sails” completely.

At that moment, we want the deal and nothing else makes sense to us. Any friend who tries to give us any advice, is likely to get an earful!

That is where a professional coach comes in. Most career coaches help you to “sell” yourself. Selling is important too! Get a selling coach as well.

But you need a business development coach. You need someone to sit you down when you least want to and go through the details of the deal.

  • What you are emphasizing?
  • What are you missing?

Choosing a Career Director

You need someone who you will listen to. And it shouldn’t be someone with whom you have another relationship. You shouldn’t have a “dual relationship” as we say in the professions.

The professionals in your life often have to give you bad news and you may want to shoot the messenger. Professionals understand that. As long as you pay your bill, you will be welcome back after you have calmed down. Professionals are there to save you hide while you go off and sell yourself!

Framing your career search to avoid rash selling

Until you get a professional business development coach, here are a few rules-of-thumb that people use to stop them getting too carried away with any deal.

#1 Apply for 100 jobs, get 10 interviews and choose 1 job

This is a good tactic when you don’t know the market well and you need to get out there and explore what is available.

Focus on drawing a map and try to get 10 interview close in time to each other to give yourself a proper choice.

#2 Apply for 500 jobs, get 5 interviews and choose 1 job

Use this tactic when you are completely unknown in a market and you are building relationships.

Focus on meeting people and understanding who knows whom. Concentrate on moving into a circle of people who are motivated to look after you.

#3  Have 3 talks with other employers open and humming at any one time

Use this tactic when you have a job that is OK and you can take your time. In this way you explore the 3 best opportunities at any time and explore them in depth yet never be rushed into a bad choice.

#4  Send out 1 CV each & every month

Use this tactic when you have a job that you like and expect to move one in a year or so. This tactic helps you keep your CV in order and your eye on the market. When you are ready to move, the shift into choosing a job will be more considered.

#5  Deliberately plan to move employers every 2 to 3 years

See every job as a “project” within your career and work out how this job will lead you to the next job. What must happen in this job to allow you to move to the next one? Which of 10 organizations will be supplying the job after this!

This tactic will focus your mind on the essential features of the job that you must get right (for you).

Career Direction and Unemployment

If you have been a victim of the recession, restoring positive cash flow is probably urgent for you.  you may be feeling impatient. If you read this far in that frame of mind, well done!

Appreciate though, that the pressure of cash may lead you to make a bad decision. You definitely need a Career Director.  A Career Director will also share the burden of navigating the current job market will also make life considerably easier for you. Think about it!

How has the recession changed job searches?

I’ll leave you with these questions

How do you manage your job search? Do you have a career coach whose job it is to make sure you make a wise decision? Do you have a attention-management strategy that I can add to the ones above?

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What happened to that “everything is waiting for me” feeling?

Lost: can’t see the opportunity

When I was young, I loved career choices.  The world was my oyster.  Choices were everywhere, and I was in command.

Some people aren’t so lucky.  They don’t feel like that.  Our somehow they’ve gone through a bad patch and they feel lost. As I have got older, that has happened to me a few times.

What can we do about that?  How can we get back that omnipotent feeling that “everything is waiting for you”?

There seem to be three key things to remember.

1. Look after your emotional health

Negative feelings feed on themselves.  When we are feeling down, lost or confused, we like to wallow.  This doesn’t make us bad or inadequate.  It is quite normal to want to wallow.  Physiologically, we are primed to focus on threat, and our worry captures 100% of our attention.

The corporate poet, David Whyte, talks of arriving at a ravine in Nepal and being scared witless by the sight of a rickety bridge.  Many decisions in life are just like this.  We arrive at a ravine.  We can see clearly that we want to be on the other side.  We are least wise enough not rush onto the bridge, but we are paralyzed with fear.  All our attention goes onto the ravine and onto the rickety bridge, instead of working out our options.

The funny thing is that we hang on to bad feelings, as if they are the bridge itself.  Yet this is the time to get a grip.  At the side of the ravine, we check our pockets and rucksack -knife (check), water (check), food (check), etc. etc.

In ordinary life we have to take the time out to exercise, clean the house, and think about what is going exactly as we want it to.  We must, we must, we must (!) sit down each night, write a short summary of the day, and then answer this question:

Why did I do so well?

I can assure you that you won’t want to do this.  You will want to worry and tell me how badly everything is going.  Just do it! and you will surprise yourself by what has gone well.

It is also more.  It takes our attention off the equivalent of the ravine and the long drop down. It focuses our mind on

  • What we can do
  • What we can do well
  • What delights us and
  • what the world finds delightful about us!

2. Start before you are ready

When we feel lost, we often feel very tired too. The idea of starting anything feels too much.  And anyway, if we haven’t sorted out our emotional health (#1), then we are enjoying our panic attack far too much to give it up.

But if you don’t intend to spend the rest of your life weeping and wailing and gnashing you teeth, you will have to begin to move out of the anxiety, before your are ready.

The way we do this is to focus in what we have at hand.  At the edge of the ravine, that is your water, your food, your map, your radio, etc.

In ordinary life, I look for what you love.  What brings the light to your eyes?  I can give you a magazine and ask you to flick through and point to a picture which represent what you want out of life. You’ll have done it in 1-2 minutes.

Or, I can ask you about when you have experienced flow – that feeling of total engagement where characteristically you don’t notice time, but you do notice being growled at when you were late for your next appointment!  That’s flow.  When do you feel flow?  When do you feel totally engaged doing something you just love to do?

Then we deal with the next thought that pops into your head which is  “I can’t”.  I have kids and a mortgage.  I can’t be an artist – I owe it to my parents to make a good living.  I have a student loan to pay off.  I don’t have the skills.  You are looking at the ravine again!  Hold the image of what you want to be, that makes your heart speed up slightly, that makes your eyes light up (you can’t see them can you, but I can). Hold that image.  Don’t let it go.

Now we aren’t going to do anything reckless.  We are simply going to look around our immediate circumstances for things relevant to getting to the other side.  So we take stock.  As we took stock of our map, our compass, etc. at the side of the ravine.  And we do sensible things.  If we were at the side of a ravine and had a radio, we would call in and say where we are.  If we are tired out, we’d work out if it is feasible to eat and sleep.  We secure everything we need to go to where we want to be.  At worst, we may retreat.

But we keep our eyes on what brings us alive?

3. Marshall resources and support

And now for the humdinger, are you the only person in the world who wants you to be on the other side?  Are you Rambo all of a sudden?

As soon as you have yourself secure and have established the all important “time out”, ask yourself who else benefits from you being on the other side of the ravine.  Who else will benefit?  Who else will be delighted?  Who else will enjoy getting you across (however you are going to do it – we’ll leave that bridge alone!).  These questions might make you feel anxious again.  That’s OK. That’s only because this project is something you really want to do and you are about to make it happen.

So, let’s marshal help and resources.  If we were at a ravine, it might be helicopter rescue (do it in style?).  It might be a long trek around. You might be able to walk down and through some shallow water and up. In the morning light, you might realize you can reinforce the bridge. Who knows?  Start bringing together what you need and a plan will emerge.

Once you start to methodically and systematically work on the problem, the universe will conspire to help you.

This can’t be true, I hear you say.  This must be nonsense.  Well not in my experience!  Read on!

Damn the universe, it makes life so easy!

When I first noticed the universe helping me, I did feel nuts.  I felt superstitious and I didn’t like the feeling.  How can this be?  But it happened.  The universe kept helping me.  When I knew what I wanted, and moved towards it, it came towards me.  This doesn’t work if I am dithering.  If I start one thing and I am still doodling or daydreaming about something else, I don’t get any help at all.  I must be totally confident about my priorities and have ‘left all other worlds behind’.

I would get moving on a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) and the phone would ring.  There it would be.  How could the other person know I wanted that?  It was freaky and just too easy!

Eventually I decided three things.

  • The world is a munificent place.  Stuff probably comes down my phone all day long, but I don’t notice when I don’t want it!
  • I have good judgement!  My sense of what is right or wrong is good.  I know which ravines are worth crossing and which ravines other people want to cross with me.

But sometimes I go through a bad patch when I am indecisive.  I dither.  Do I want to cross; do I not?  I am not ready to make a decision.    In part this is good judgment.  I don’t rush ahead before I know what I want.  But the reality is,  I am also frozen in fear.  Time to take “time-out” to de-clutter my emotional self and figure out what is going on. I know with a small investment, my head will clear.  I will keep my dreams clear, focus on what I have in hand, and be on my way again soon.

Everything is waiting for you

In poet, David Whyte’s words: everything is waiting for you, it really is (and would like you to hurry up!)

It is just that you have come to a ravine in your path.  You want to get to the other side.  You know you need to be there and you are rightly terrified by the rickety bridge and the long drop down.

The most important thing to do is to acknowledge your fear.  Don’t pretend you aren’t scared.  If you do you will either be paralyzed or you will be reckless.  Take yourself in hand, remember your goal  and focus your attention this minute on what you have in hand.

  • First, attend to your safety and the safety of everyone with your.  Take stock of my situation (maps, compass, radio, food, etc. if you were at a ravine), get yourself fed, watered and tell other people to where you are.  When your are physically able to think, focus your attention on what you want!
  • Then thoroughly enjoy exploring your options.  Bring in help if your need it and invite people to be part of the adventure if they want to be (which they probably do!)

Remember the three steps

1.  Keep yourself emotionally healthy: ask yourself daily – why did I do so well?

2.  Start before you are ready – tick off everything around you that is useful for pursuing your dream

3.  Welcome support – list everyone who will be enjoy watching and helping you pursue your quest

And do it for g…  sake.  It’s funny how the toughest of people are so bad at this.  Do it.  Whinging is annoying.

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4 fold plan to map your own future

Botrychium lunaria
Image via Wikipedia

Take charge of your life, please!

I’ve just watched a Reuters slide show of people looking for work in the States, China and Japan.  Sometimes we have to look for work!

But to do it without having a larger plan is the most frightening and desperate thing we can ever do.

It is a mistake to define our life by the opportunities created by other people.  It would depress me.  It would depress anyone.  It will depress you.  It is such a bad idea.

Finding a job is like traveling abroad

A young friend of mine described choosing a career direction as being in a foreign country and asking people for directions.

Have you ever noticed that the locals in a foreign country don’t know where anything is?  It’s not surprising really.  They go to the same places every day.  They don’t know what is useful to a visitor or newcomer.

My young friend has made the gustiest decision he will ever have to make.  He has decided not to rush it.  He’s continuing with his student job while he works out what he really wants to do.

What I’ve suggested to him is that he pretends he is an adventurer in an uncharted place and draw the map as he goes.   So to extend the metaphor,  when he sees a mountain, put it down roughly.  When he sees a lake, add that to his picture.  And so on.

He’s contributed a pretty nifty metaphor that completes the other three I wrote about this week.  This is how they work together.

1  Define your core value (five minutes)

  • Scan a list of flowers and their symbolic meaning to capture your sense of the value you deliver.
  • I found btw that I want a red carnation for me (meaning I carry a torch for you) and lunaria for my company (meaning prosperity).  I don’t mean I just want my company to be prosperous.  I want that, of course.  I mean that the job of my company is to deliver prosperity to other people.
  • Which flower captures the value you deliver?

2  Resolve to do well by doing good (relax)

  • Be like my neighborhood restaurant in Olney.  Do what you think is right and do it for free.
  • Don’t be so focused that you only think of getting a job or how much money you can make out of other people.
  • Let people help you.  And you will find that people do.
  • People want to applaud you success.  Let them have have the pleasure!

3  Each day find 1 signpost and 1 person who is closer to where you want to be than you are now

(1 hour searching and 10 minutes recording)

  • Do a daily exercise finding a website representing activities that take you one step further and make contact with one more person who is closer to where you want to go than you are now.
  • Do this daily, and don’t break the chain!  Then add a rough diary of what you did during the day and WHY IT WENT SO WELL!
  • You’ll have 30 websites and people at the end of the month.  In month 2, each day also discard a website and person each as you find another pair.  (Or put them in another box.)
  • In this way, you’ll edge towards the place you want to be.
  • I don’t know how long it will take, but you’ll be surprised at how fast it goes.  My guess is 3 months.  You tell me when you’ve tried.

4  Draw your map (7 minutes)

  • And each day add to your map.
  • What is the landscape of your field and its future as you see it?
  • Keep adding features as you go.
  • And whatever you do, don’t try too hard.  Your map might mutate into a map of the underground or something like that.  Just don’t jump to defining answers.  Doodle!  We want your creative juices flowing freely.

Who should do this?

The recession is so severe, everyone should be doing this.  If you are in a good place right now and it looks secure, then sure, do it intermittently.  Jot down websites and people intermittently and review the box once a month.

For everyone else, I would say this exercise has fairly high priority.  The bankers say they didn’t know what they were doing.  The government says it is uncharted waters – meaning, they have no map.

We are all in a strange place asking the locals for directions.  Best to start drawing the map!

And don’t aim to come out with a job that is defined by others.  Define your own future.  Let other people stand in your queue!

Is this possible?

Of course it is.  How do jobs get made?  They get made by people like me and you.  But you know, they followed their dreams.

Will we always be an employer?  No.  Sometimes we will choose to work for others because hitching a ride on their wagon, so to speak, makes sense.

But we don’t want to feel desperate.  If that is what you feel.  Do this exercise.  You will feel better very rapidly, I promise.

If you are not feeling desperate, begin now and gather around you the people you need on your journey.  They will be grateful.  They want company too.

Talk to me!

And let me know how you get on.  I like company too.

Thanks to my young friend who helped me finish this series.  I appreciate his help – again.  Actually we are friends, despite the difference in our years, because he has helped me before.  As now, he didn’t set out to do anything in particular.  But he added value to my life.

That’s how it works, isn’t it?  We journey part of the way with other people and we help carve out a future together that we believe is worth having.

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