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What Do Smoke Signals Tell Us?

Ever feel like you have made a mess out of your career and your life?  This can happen from time to time.  As we get a little older we start looking back and see things in a different light.  Sometimes that light might be a little dimmer than previously thought.

So let’s say your career is in ruins.  You have been fired or cannot find the right company to keep you for more than six months.  Your resume looks like a revolving door or a “lazy susan” (sorry if you are named susan).  These are tough circumstances.  They are tough to get out of.  But there is another way of looking at it. 

When your career starts to crumble down around you, that might be a good thing.  Might is too weak of a word….it IS a good thing.  Crumbling and falling apart should send a signal to your brain that something is wrong.  Is the industry you are in fading out?  Is the job you are doing going overseas or being done by temp workers?  Are you exhibiting some bad attitude to your coworkers and they don’t like working with you?  All these (and more) could be derailing your career in your mind but really just smoke signals that something is wrong.

Go fix what is broken.  Go ask someone to be honest with you about you.  Get someone to shine a mirror in your face and see what they see. 

Then clear away the rubble and fix what is broken.

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Spend Time With Kids

Do you have kids or know someone or a family member who does?  If so you need to be with them and get into their world.  Many of us parents get wrapped up in our world we forget to enjoy the simple things in life.  Cut out the tv and video games and go take a walk.  Go have a picnic or play in a creek. 

Getting away from the serious part of life once in a while is important to your sanity and your perspective.  If you let them, kids have a way of reminding you that the important things in life are more on the fun and simple side.  Go be with kids at least once a week if you don’t have them.  If you do have kids, find a few minutes each day where you are not their parent.  Be a kid like them for just a few minutes.

Your job search might take on a more simple approach.  Learn from the kids that taking life too seriously is not a lot of fun.

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Be A Good Questioner

Do you ask good questions?  Are you curious about the deeper things in a conversation?  You should be.  Asking good questions shows two very important character traits:

1. You are respectful – when you ask good questions that means you are listening to someone else and getting “into” their topic.  If you can drill down one or two levels during your conversations (or interview) the other person won’t even know they start liking you until they do.

2. You are confident – asking good questions shows others you are confident, willing to go where most other people don’t go.  Willing to drill a little deeper sometimes means you find things you don’t want to find.  It also means you can find some hidden gems. 

A good question is one that elevates the conversation.  It can be elevated in your favor or their; it doesn’t matter.  The act of elevating it provides the forum for good communication.  Interviews can go from routine and mundane to exciting and impressive by asking the right questions.

If you are married or have been in a relationship for a long time, you might have noticed you can easily get stuck in the mundane:  “How was your day, honey?  How was yours?”  Instead ask about a specific thing you remember from a previous conversation and drill down.

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Conspiracy Theories

Don’t believe everything you hear.  Actually believe only about 25% of it.  The problem is you like me are probably not sure which 25% is the right stuff.  Jobs are out there.  Stop making excuses and get going.

Here are the top 10 ideas for finding a new job:

1. Call up three people (local) who you haven’t talked with in the last year and see if you can get together.

2. Schedule yourself to attend an industry meeting later this week.

3. Find a job club and go meet the presenter.

4. Go to the library and find a book to read about job searching.  Look for one nugget of truth and start following it.

5. Make a list of 20 companies you would love to work for and why.  Make the list short.

6. Call each of the 20 companies on your list and ask to speak with someone in the department you have experience in.

7. Stop by each of those 20 companies and drop off a resume in a very nice clasp envelope (no bending it) with a request to speak with them on the phone for two minutes or a Starbucks coffee card.

8. Ask the neighbor on your left and on your right if they know anyone who works as a manager in your industry.

9. Call your church or place of worship and ask if they have anyone who provides job search services.

10. Leave the cave and find a place to meet one new person each day this week.  Walk up to them, introduce yourself and have a question or two you want to ask them.  They could be these if you want:  “Hi my name is Jeff.  Are you waiting for someone?  May I ask you a question?  I am looking for a new job and taking a poll of other people and how they found their last job.  May I ask how you found the last two jobs you have had?  It might give me some ideas on how I can find some leads.”  Stay quiet and see what they say.

Do creative things.  Get yourself out there.  Be bold.

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Where Are All The Jobs?

Do you hear this all the time?  You probably hear it now since you are job searching more than ever.  Jobs are not any tougher to find than they every were.  Careers are tough to manage just like in the old days.  Now it seems like there are more types of jobs but there are way more potential workers too.

The jobs are out there.  They are:

– In the minds of hiring managers waiting until the right person comes along to make it easy for them.

– They are on HR’s desk waiting to be processed and listed on the internet job boards.

– They are not even approved yet but a “business rationale” has been developed for them.

– They are actually on the job boards but no one really fits the “ideal” candidate (based on job description) because the ideal candidate doesn’t exist.

Job openings are everywhere; you are just looking in the wrong places.  You are the perfect fit for a current opening right now, it’s just that neither of you know the other exists.  Don’t let another minute go by without making one more call or sending out one more resume or scheduling one more meeting with a friend or at an event.  Do everything you can to find the one who is looking for you.

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Resume Renovation

Most resumes I see for the first time are not very focused.  If someone does it on their own they typically try to list everything about them with no real focus to the message the document says.  The message is typically lost in the translation because the person is not thinking like a hiring manager.  They are thinking the resume is all about them when it really isn’t.  It is about the reader.

Renovating a resume can be tough and it is good to get an outside perspective on it.  If you are not good at seeing yourself from outside of your own skin don’t go it alone.  Find someone who will be honest with you even if they rub you the wrong way.  A good resume renovation project takes a lot of things into consideration.  Things like what the main focus should be, what job titles you should put in, how to describe your successes and what style is easy to read. 

Find someone who can give you a balanced view on what you are looking for and what your resume says to others.  This will either make or break your job search.

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What Are You Worth?

This is really the question at the heart of salary negotiations.  What you are worth is subjective ONLY to the person looking for someone like you.  Is one man or woman worth more than another?  CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies are “worth” more than most of us.  They get paid huge salaries for tackling tough work just like you and I do.  So why do they make seven figures every year and we don’t.

Another question similar is why does someone like the President of the United States hold so much power?  Why does it take an army to keep him safe?  His worth is even greater than a CEO.  All of these questions tie into one important thing which underlines all of them.  That piece is more of a package than anything else.  People in those positions have been able to prove themselves as important to what drives the hiring process for their job.  The US was ready for some new leadership and was very open to an African-American from the Democratic party to do it.  Thirty years ago that may not have happened; it didn’t.  The position was not ready for him but now it was.  This is timing.

Every job search that results in a job offer is conducted in a similar manner.  Each company thinks they need a certain type of person to fill a certain open slot.  They open it up to candidates and then pick the one who both fills the slot with experience AND fits into their organization.  Both are needed to be successful in getting the offer.  The company (or hiring manager) needs what you have to offer.  If they value it then you get paid a good wage.  If they don’t value it much you might not.

So worth is not easily dissected.  A successful job search is not easily duplicated.  There is a lot of subjectivity to it and you are typically not in as much of the control as you think you are.  The largest salaries come from the highest valued positions AND your ability to connect with those who make the decisions.  If they want you, they will offer you what you hope for.  If they don’t care whether they get you or someone similar, you either need to be better at connecting with them or turn the other cheek.

Worth is subjective.  Worth is also a function of how you sell yourself on the value you can bring to a position.  Bring value = worth.

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Make Big Plans

Your career path will take many twists and turns through life.  Some years you will be up and others you will be down.  Are you just along for the ride or are you making big plans for your career?

Being along for the ride can be fun, exciting and enjoyable.  Not having to be driving your career every step of the way can be less stressful and easier on you in the long run.  The flip side to that is your hopes and dreams can easily get swallowed up by the reactive nature of just letting things happen to your career.

I honestly don’t know which side of the coin you should be on with this one.  For years I have pushed people to get more out of their career and life.  Pushing meant really thinking through how to get from point A to point B.  I am not so sure that is always the best approach.  Being too much of a driver has its downside while being more passive does too.

So my recommendation on this topic is to be open and comfortable with both.  Dream and dream big about your career and your life.  Drive hard sometimes and then other times pull back and see where it takes you.  Both can benefit you and your career since we don’t really know what the future holds.

Make big plan.  Never let your dreams die.  Just make sure they don’t kill you.

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Your Lot In Life

What is your lot in life?  Are you wallowing in your problems, issues and strife?  Or are you dancing with the clouds?  Whatever your lot in life is, it is what it is…yes? 

No!  No!  No!  Your life has not be decided for you.  Your life is not figured out and now you just have to live with it.  Yes some of your decisions can put some barriers on your life to one degree or another.  Yes life can be tough and bad things happen to good people.  But you are still in control of your life no matter how it feels.

Feelings come and go like the weather.  Sometimes they are sunny and others are filled with clouds.  Feelings can get in the way of living life to the fullest.  If you don’t like the lot in life you have, sell it and buy another one.  Don’t try to get the most money for it.  Sell it just below market value and get out as fast as you can.  I am not saying throw your life away and start over.  I am saying find a way to transform your life into what you know if right for you.

Your lot is negotiable…start negotiating.

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Control Freak

Are you a control freak?  What does that even mean…I don’t really know myself.  I have been tagged with this one a few times in life.  Most of the time it comes from people who evidently I have made decisions for.  Typically this would be my kids and my wife.  I have also noticed others have wanted to call me this but didn’t out of respect.  I kind of now wish they would so I could better understand what they mean and when they feel it.

Be strong.  Don’t let people walk over you.  Keep to your principles.  Don’t drink too much.  All these are good things to be in control of and you should be a control freak with them.

Be open to other’s ideas.  Recognize when someone elses answer may be better than yours.  Don’t keep control of everything so you can’t be surprised or shocked in life.  Take chances when it feels funny.  Don’t be the one who changes the direction of the day.  These can be places where a control freak doesn’t see they are undermining the people around them. 

Control freaks are actually fearful people.  They need to feel comfortable in a situation so they try to make it conform to what they think is right.  Don’t be fearful.  Be strong and strength comes from letting go.  Let go and see the skies open up wide.

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