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How To Get A Career

This “how to” topic sometimes baffles me.  Some people mix up the word “career” with “job”.  Let’s explore the differences in them first and then address the “how to” aspect of them.  The difference between a career and a job is based on time.  A career is typically what you have or are planning to do with your working life.  Careers can start out in one direction and end up going in totally a different one.  Starting at a young age, adults begin asking children what they want to be when they grow up.  Children start to think about it, parents start encouraging (or discouraging) their choices and the career saga begins.

A job on the other hand is what you are currently doing as one part of your overall career.  The job is the actual working you are doing on a daily business.  The job title helps others define what you do.  The job title can be different from company to company and industry to industry.  A sales person might be an account manager, sales representative, business development rep or even sometimes a marketing rep.  The job is still what you are doing on a daily basis for work and income.

No matter what job you are doing you should always be thinking about your overall career plans.  Some jobs during your career might be great while others might not.  Each and every job has challenges with it both on the daily chores of it and the emotional side.  Each job will also teach you more and more about yourself.  This “education” is very eye-opening.  You should be trying to change your behavior based on what happens in your daily job.  I know I have changed some of my behaviors based on people I was working with, managers who have targeted in on a weakness or strength and also after experiencing work I hated or loved.

Let your career decisions expand your horizons and bring out both the best and worst in you.  Keep doing your best and start finding ways to change what is worst.  It will make all the difference in your world.

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Practice Makes Perfect

I want to remind you how important practice is.  Whether you are preparing for a big presentation, an interview or a business review you need to practice.  Practice is nothing more than hearing yourself present something outside your head.  We all do things in our head everyday.  We analyze situations, we crunch numbers, we ask ourselves why-type questions and even play out a confrontation.  In your head is VERY different from out in the open.

Practice does head you down the path to being perfect.  Now I don’t want you to confuse the fact that you will be perfect in a fluid situation (one that could go in any direction).  Perfect is subjective when you are giving a presentation or navigating an interview.  The reason you should practice hearing yourself answer some good questions about your career and the future is so you can get comfortable with the answers.  If you are confident with your tone and technique, you will portray that confidence in your interview.

Interviewing is part confidence, part connecting and part content.  You need to first portray just the right amount of confidence without going over or under (this is subjective too).  You then need to be able to find a “connection point” with the other person; a common ground.  This will help them feel better about you.  Lastly, you need to have the right experience and knowledge they are looking for.  All these areas are not something you can be perfect about before you meet them but they are things you should be confident with when you meet them for the first time.

Practice in the mirror, practice on a voice recorder, practice using a video camera and practice with someone else.  The  more you do the better you will be at it.  Your goal is to be comfortable with how you feel and sound.  The rest will take care of itself.

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Career Quiz

It has always been funny to me that people need a career quiz to get them thinking about what they want to do with their life.  On one hand I love those type of people because they are open to other people’s interpretations of what is best for them.  On the other hand they might not be able to make decisions for themselves; that worries me.

This quiz doesn’t have a score at the end.  Instead the quiz itself helps you sift through the best way to make a career decision on your own. 

1. What are you doing right now?

2. Why do you really want to make a change?

3. If money didn’t matter what would you do for work right now?

4. When you think about what you want to do, think about what it would be like doing it in 10 years or 20 or your entire life.

5. What makes you smile when you think about it and not a person?

6. Are you the kind of person who goes their own way or follows what others do?

7. Why do you want to win so badly?  Why do you want to make so much money so quickly?  Why do you think the grass is going to be greener on the other side?  Life is not about what you have is it?

8. If you wake up hating what you do, what is the worst thing that could happen if you quit?

9. Then why not quit today?

10. How long can you put up with yourself if you were working with you?

Some of these questions are not directly related to what you want to do with your life, some are.  These questions help to uncover some thoughts you probably need to wrestle with a little more.  Take your time and think about not just the short-term decisions you are making but why you make the decisions you do.

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Networking Ideas

This post is geared to highlight some underutilized networking ideas.  I hate the term networking but it is one of the best words to describe connecting with other people.  The reason I hate the term is because of all the baggage it carries with it.  Baggage like sticky name tags, room full of people, not sure what to say, begging and more.  Instead, here are some networking ideas which might even work and not make you so jittery inside:

1. Volunteer – I don’t necessarily mean volunteer at a homeless shelter or a food bank even though these are viable options.  You can volunteer to help out a neighbor, friend, relative or whoever you find needing help.  Maybe it is a business owner who needs so help with sales or marketing which you can do.  Any type of volunteering will get you in front of people doing something of value for them.  You might make a new friend, expand a current relationship and/or find a lead.  Be prepared to ask some good questions and see where it goes.

2. Throw a party – now maybe you are not much of a part thrower, so what.  Ask someone who likes parties to help you.  Pick a theme, even an out-of-work theme, and invite five people.  Ask them to invite five people who you may not know.  If you are too nervous to throw the party yourself, ask the person who is good at it to do all the talking and get things rolling.  Mix, mingle and get to know some people who you might not have ever known. 

3. Go to free programs – there are lots of free programs out there.  Programs on finance, crafting, gardening, cooking and more.  Find two or three and attend their meetings.  Get to know like-minded people or just sit there and soak it all in.  If you are around people who like the same things as you do, you will eventually meet some new people.  Those meetings could turn into new friendships or contacts about job leads.

4. Start attending a church – this one I love to suggest to those who have never tried it.  Churches are not that scary where the religious goers will pounce on you.  Try a few of them, get to know their doctrine and see if you can be comfortable there.  Then get involved and make some new friends.  This is a great way to expand your horizons and expand your network. 

These four networking ideas will help you get out in the community and meet some new, like-minded people.  It takes time to build a network so get started today.  Building a network after you lose your job is a failed strategy.  Build it over time with the right attitude and it will pay dividends over your lifetime.  You will depend on them and they will depend on you.  Give and take is both good for you and profitable.

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Real Career Advice

Career advice comes in all shapes and sizes.  My assumption is you have tried some advice from someone else and it didn’t work.  Right?  If so, I hope I can dispel some misunderstandings when it comes to career advice.  A lot of times career advice comes from people who truly want to help you or care for you.  They don’t always put themselves in your shoes but they do think what they are telling you will help you.  They might have read something online or in the newspaper which they want to share with you.  Others might have used a certain technique and it worked for them. 

Don’t throw all advice out the window.  Think about what someone is trying to get at (the big picture) before you discount it as un-real or stupid.  Most of the time there is some type of result or idea you can focus on.  Another way to repackage someone’s advice is to try to apply what they are recommending to what you are doing.  Maybe a similar plan might work done in your own way.  Not all advice is bad.

The best way to find real applicable advice is to go searching for it.  Don’t wait for someone to give it to you.  Ask others about some of the questions you have been wondering about.  Questions such as: 

“How did you find your last job?”

“Do you know anyone who has had similar struggles as I do?” 

These type of questions will help open the doors a little to suggestions tailored to your situation.  You might have to sift through the advice or details of what someone says but you can glean some pearls.

Getting real good career advice should be easy to accomplish if you try hard enough.  At the end of the day you probably know what direction you want to go in but might be a little scared to do it.  The best advice I can give is to try something that makes you nervous every day.  If you do that eventually your fears won’t control you.  Fears are what keeps us back from a great career.  Stop being fearful and go live the life you have always wanted.

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Online Job Searching Advice

This entire blog is dedicated to job searching advice.  I am just one guy on a mission to help individuals figure out what they want to do with the rest of their life; when they grow up.  Figuring that out can be tough no matter who you are.  Some of the most successful people are stuck in dead-end jobs.  Others who love what they do cannot make enough money to live on.  Navigating all the possibilities can be tough.

Today let’s focus on how to be effective at online job searching.  Online job searching is a little different from regular job searching.  This type of advice is more centered on how to uncover an opportunity while you are competing with hundreds and maybe even thousands of other people for the same job.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Be there first – if you are competing with lots of other people then the first thing you need to make sure of is you are first.  Job postings go up all the time.  There are literally thousands of jobs changing hands each and every day.  Do you have the time to get to the ones relevant to you first?  you can manually do it every day or maybe there is another way.  What about finding an online submission company to do it automatically for you or hire someone from another country (like India) to keep an eye out for you; like a personal assistant.  It’s not as expensive as you might think it is. 

2. Be better – if you send any old resume to the job postings that come up, will you be putting your best foot forward?  Probably not.  If you are going for a sales job, make sure you are a salesperson with some quantifiable experience and success examples on your resume.  If you don’t have them, then find them or find something else.  No sales manager wants to hear from you that you will give it a try.  They want proven experience especially when you are competing with hundreds and even thousands of other candidates. 

3. Stand out from the crowd – in order to be noticed you are going to have to do things different from the average bear.  If everyone else wears dark blue and black, you need to wear something like dark maroon.  Don’t wear pink with flashy shoes so you look like a fool.  But do wear something where you are just enough different to stand out from the crowd.  Make follow-up calls or show up in person.  Most people won’t do that and will stay at the bottom of the pile.

Online job searching is a skill to be mastered and not inherited.  You have to work at being better than the rest.  It is a street fight and the winner takes all.  Tape up your hands and go get bloody.

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How To Get A Job

Do you ever wonder why there is really no good How To guide for getting a job.  Now granted there are a ton of books on different techniques to find a job.  But at the end of the day there is no one real, fail-safe way to get a job.  Would you agree with that? 

So to test out this concept, I encourage you to ask the next five people you see how they got their current job.  Ask them no matter who they are.  They can be friends, family or just someone you run into at the grocery store.  Go ahead and ask them how they did it.  Then go and read the top two or three books on job searching.  Do they match? 

You will find that there really is no how to guide to getting a job.  Everyone is different.  Everyone comes with different baggage and experience.  Everyone has different preferences on their comfort level with different getting-a-job techniques.  This is great.  Realize this is true and go figure out what is good for you.  Try out, experiment with, different ways and see what works for you.  You will be surprised how easy it can be if you find a way that works best for you. 

Even if it is using the internet to job search.  I don’t think this technique is the most effective (actually the least) so I don’t recommend it.  But for many people it is the most comfortable one.  I think this is the lazy-man’s approach but ok let’s say it is the one for you.  Be the best at it.  Use the right tools.  Figure out what is most effective and do it.

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What Career Should I Do?

This question comes up a lot these days.  There are some many career options out there it can be tough to suggest one or two options AND tough for the career explorer to pick one or two directions.  So when pontificating what career you should do, think about the following four things:

1. You don’t have to pick just one – Very rarely does a person pick a career path and not change their minds.  Picking one career path and changing to another (even multiple times) is completely normal.  Looking at your career choices should not be limited to what you currently know about yourself.  In your 20’s you think one way.  In your 30’s you think another.  And in your 50’s and 60’s you think completely differently.  Don’t get too concerned with picking the right career for life.  Just pick one and see what you can see.

2. Some people let their careers pick them – This one can get a little dicey with other career professionals.  I am not saying everyone should take this route but it can be more of an exploration than a plan.  Getting started with a temp agency or getting entry-level jobs are a great way to explore your career options.  If you don’t know what you want to do, go experience an industry or career track first and see how it goes.  You never know what you might find.

3. Be patient.  Its is not about quantity but about quality – Patience is very important when you are asking what career should I do.  Slowing down and making good, well thought out decisions is the key to finding the career you should move towards.  Patience means not trying to force a square peg through a round hole for money’s sake.  Keep your current job until you can find something else to try.

4. Ask those in authority what they think you would be good at doing – be careful with this suggestion as to not do what someone else thinks you should do if you hate it.  But what you can glean from a conversation such as this are some ideas from those who have gone before you on where you might be able to use your strengths.  If you can get your boss or their boss (who knows you) to suggest some ideas, they might even be in a position to help you get there.  Ask good questions and see where it takes you.

Figuring out what career you should do can be easy if you keep these things in mind.  You are who you are.  Explore your gifts and talents in different directions and see where the paths take you.  Enjoy the ride from start to finish.

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Hostile Work Environment

Are you working in a truly hostile environment?  I include the word truly because I do want you to be sure about it.  Hostility is actually borderline illegal.  If you find yourself in a situation where some time of abuse (verbal, emotional, mental and/or physical) is going on, seek out someone to give you advice on how to sift through what to do.  You should NEVER be subject to hostility in your personal life or work life.  Period.

The next level of challenges falls into the gray area of a “hostile work environment”.  If you find yourself in a situation where your boss or the owner of the company has put unrealistic expectations on your tasks there might be a reason for it.  I am not saying it is a good reason but hang in with me that there might be a reason for it.  Trying to cut through all the hype and better understand what is going on can help you uncover the root of the problem.  Making assumptions based on what other people are saying is not getting to the root of the problem.  Asking good questions of your manager, the manager above him/her and even the CEO or executive leader above them is your goal.  Don’t be scared to speak with any of these people no matter what level they are at.  They put their clothes on one pant leg at a time just like you do.

So how do you figure out if a new job opportunity might be a very tough environment to work in?  The answer lies in the questions you were a little too scared to ask when your gut was telling you that something was not right during the interview.  You the candidate should be looking for subtle clues on what type of situation you are moving into.  If a hiring manager pulls a bait and switch tactic on you to get you in their organization, there are potentially legal grounds you could consider.  Baiting and switching is a term used in both hiring and sales type functions.  Don’t be scared to fight it.

Asking some really good questions about expectations on work load, hours worked, overtime, lateral and up the ladder movement are all good things to ask about.  When a hiring manager answers these type of questions, they might give you some clues to what they are going to expect.  Take very good notes and even repeat the information back to them if you can. 

Never put yourself in a hostile work environment.  Never take hostile treatment from anyone no matter who they are.  You are better than that.  You deserve better and don’t you EVER forget that.

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Monday Morning Blues

Are you excited to get going on Mondays?  Or do you dread sitting in your Monday morning rocking chair?  There has to be something about why Monday’s can be tough for us at certain times in our career.  There has to be more to either us or the day of the week that causes dread or wishing for a better life.

Let’s explore some potential reasons for this dilemma.  One reason Mondays can be tough is because you might not be doing the type of work that gets you excited or motivated to complete.  Now even when people are doing the work they love you can still experience tough Mondays.  But what I am talking about is the feeling that what you are striving for is not what gets your juices flowing.

Another reason Mondays can be tough is because your finances are not in order.  Lots of consumer debt can slowly and surely weigh you down.  Having to make $X so you can pay your monthly bills can easily cause you to work in a place you don’t like or on tasks that are not what gets you jazzed every day.  Finances have a way of causing you to be “a slave to the lender” and your daily life can reflect that oppression.  Remember you made those choices so it’s not the lender who caused your pain.  You can also start making choices to get you out of the slavery.

Another real life dread-maker is your attitude.  Now I am not going to suggest you try to psyche yourself so that you can make it though a tough day.  What I am going to suggest is you might have a psychological issue you are not dealing with.  Recently I realized the genesis of my frustration in various areas on my life is due to my lack of patience.  I have been this way with my job, my family and myself basically all my life.  My kids were starting to see me as a Jeckyl-and-Hyde kind of person.  I could see it on their faces when I quickly got frustrated by the millionth question or my disappointment if they spilled something.  Realizing they soak up everything I deliver, helped me realize I am training them to be impatient like me. 

Over the past three weeks, I have really tried to change this.  In the past few days I have received a bunch of stickers from my five-year old on my attitude.  I never told her what I was doing but she realized something new in me and I want to keep it going.  This attitude was something that was standing in my way.  Changing it now will greatly help me in both my personal life and my working life.

The Monday blues can be tough to fix quickly.  Looking for something you can do quickly might be like taking candy or soda hoping to pick you up.  The sugar fix lasts for a short time and then fades quickly.  Don’t look for a quick fix on your attitude, your finances or your job selection.  Move slowly, move deliberately and you will surely get out from under the Monday morning blues.

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