The Hail Mary pass with only seconds left on the clock-

The game winning home run-

The product launch that goes viral-

These are the things we dream about. But note, none of these big, dramatic actions are possible without a lot of smaller steps over time.

When I first started my resume writing business I thought my shiny new website and a few Google ads would lead to an overflowing of clients. I thought that one big action would lead to success.

I was wrong.

Building a successful business meant a lot of small steps. (Learn social media, create consistent quality content, build a client list, engage, engage, engage, write quality resumes, ask for referrals.)

Needless to say the above list is not a description of overnight success; it is a recipe for slow and steady growth over time. The same will be true for you no matter what your career.

Building a career requires many small actions executed over time, not any one big action. Here are three reasons why.

1. Big plans without checkpoints are doomed to fail. 

It is good to have a dream and to keep your eye on the end goal. But if you don’t have small checkpoints along the way you won’t be able to measure progress or make course adjustments.

If you want to achieve your dream in a year, create monthly benchmarks. Have a five-year plan? Then use six month benchmarks.

2. Small successes feed big dreams. 

There as psychological benefits to each small success you make along the way. Think of the last time you were on a diet. If you wanted to lose 20 pounds in six months, you would weigh yourself each week and get pumped as the scale moved in the right direction.

If you only weighed yourself at the end of the six months you may not have had the will power to make it through. Stack the deck in your favor.

3. Small steps guarantee success.

Not every dream comes true. Some of your big goals will remain un-reached. However, if you plan and measure the small steps along the way then you are guaranteed to have at least a few small successes. These will then help you plan better for the next big goal.

Just keep moving forward.

So what is your big dream? How can you break it down to guarantee yourself success?

I remember once, back in the early 90’s, right after I got out of college, my future wife and I got to pre-screen a film. I forget how we ended up getting the invite but as movie buffs we felt pretty lucky to get the chance to see a film well before its release date, and tell the producers our opinions.

The film was The Crow and it starred Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee’s son, who had tragically died during the filming, much as his father had 20 years earlier. It lent a certain weight to the whole experience.

To make a long story short, we loved the film, said so, and then watched two months later as the film became a hit. Alas, that was the end of our journey as gurus to the film industry.

The Crow is a very dark story, and fairly violent, but it had a hauntingly beautiful song that played a recurring role, titled ‘It can’t rain all the time.” It served as a reminder to one of the main characters that while things were pretty horrible now, that the sun would eventually come out and things would eventually improve.

It always reminded me of the quote, “This too shall pass.” It is a simple thought, that contains deep reservoirs of meaning and is something I actually bring to mind often.

  • When work is piling on and I can’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  • When we suffer one home mini disaster after another.
  • When the kids seem to be double-teaming us parents and we’re down to our last frayed nerve.

It’s a useful reminder that no matter how tough life may seem at the moment, that the page will turn and a new season will come. When we are in the middle of a pandemic storm in our lives it is often hard to see that, so we need to be reminded. For me, that reminder comes from a now forgotten action movie’s title song. Maybe for you it is scripture or a saying of a favorite teacher.

Whatever it is, try to make it something you can look to when the going gets tough.

Jobseekers in particular need this kind of reassurance that the struggle they are going through will not last forever, that there is in fact light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re currently looking for that next step in your career and you are either enduring a dead end job, or are trying to make ends meet while unemployed, just remember it can’t rain all the time.

Eventually the sun will come out for you, too.

The people you know can be the best way for you to find your next job. The “tried and true” path of networking is still the most successful way to find your next position.

According to a recent surveys person-to-person networking is the single most effective way to find a new job, with 70% of jobseekers identifying networking as the reason they found their most recent job.

Research consistently identifies networking as an important job search tool — anywhere from 40-80% of job placements are attributed to networking. Networking can also be a way to identify unadvertised job opportunities — accessing the “hidden job market.” (The “hidden job market” refers to jobs that are not advertised publicly. These positions may be filled through employee referrals, recruiters, or direct contact with hiring managers through networking.)

It happens all the time. Someone in your network says, “You know what? You should talk to John Jones at the XYZ Company. They’re hiring.”

This guide will help you identify who is in your network and how to use these connections to find your next job.

Build Your Network Before You Need It

The single biggest mistake most job searchers make is not asking for help from their network. People want to help you — so let them! But don’t wait until you’re out of work to start developing relationships with your network.

As author Harvey Mackey says, “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.” Develop your contacts, be willing to help these folks with their needs, and they will be there when you need them!

The more people who know you are looking for a job, the more eyes and ears that will be available to help. Networking is about getting the people you already know to help connect you to the people who will help you land your next career opportunity.

You can also tap into your network for specific assistance. For example, if you want to work at a particular company, ask people in your network if they know anyone who currently works for — or used to work for — “Company X.” Then contact that person and ask about the company, culture, and hiring practices.

Who Is Your Network?

The first step is to identify who is in your network. This can include: friends, relatives, parents of children’s friends, parents and relatives of your friends, club members, cousins, neighbors, current and previous co-workers and managers, suppliers, professional association contacts, your community contacts (civic leaders, clergy, etc.), and your doctor, financial advisor, or attorney. Your holiday card list, if you have one, can be a good starting point for identifying who is already in your network.

If you don’t already have a list, start one! Make a list of all of your contacts — past employers, vendors, customers, colleagues, competitors, bankers, and others. You never know who may have a great lead or know of an unadvertised opportunity.

Then, expand that list. Here are some ideas for other people to add to your network.

Personal Contacts:

  • Friends
  • Relatives
  • Parents of children’s friends
  • Parents of your friends
  • Relatives of friends
  • Club members (country club, swim club, sports club)
  • Associations
  • Military service personnel
  • Sorority/fraternity
  • Cousins
  • Neighbors
  • Sports team members

Business Contacts:

  • Current co-workers
  • Previous co-workers
  • Previous managers
  • Consultants
  • Vendors and suppliers
  • Retirees
  • Seminar, conference, and workshop attendees
  • Business owners
  • Competitors
  • Clients/customers
  • Venture capitalists
  • Members of industry associations
  • Contacts you make at conventions and job fairs

Third-Party Contacts:

  • Accountants
  • Doctors
  • Real estate brokers
  • Financial advisors and bankers
  • Attorneys
  • Dentists
  • Mortgage bankers/brokers
  • Insurance agents
  • Travel agents

Educational Contacts:

  • Elementary, middle, and high school friends and teachers
  • College classmates and friends
  • Alumni association contacts
  • Graduate school classmates
  • Other alumni of your schools
  • University career-placement office staff
  • Former professors and advisors

Community Contacts:

  • Civic and political leaders
  • Librarians
  • Clergy/ministers
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Community groups (Kiwanis, Rotary, Scouts)
  • People you meet while volunteering
  • Health club members

Assemble the contact information for these individuals and add them to your list.

You can also brainstorm contacts you need to make. Write your desired job target at the top of a piece of paper. Then, make a list of possible employers on the left side of the page. On the right side of the page, make a list of people you know who can connect you with these companies.

Here are some more opportunities to develop your network:

  • Attend networking events (for example, those hosted by your professional organization, Chamber of Commerce, and tips groups). Attend association meetings and take advantage of educational opportunities.
  • Work as a volunteer. For example, in your industry association, the Membership Committee is a great place to start. The Program Committee (that plans events) or the Finance Committee (that helps line up sponsors) can also be good choices. Getting involved in any organization is beneficial. Volunteering is one of the best ways to network your way to new contacts.
  • Participate in an online community. This can be a social networking site like Facebook or LinkedIn, an alumni site (like Classmates.com), or your trade association’s website (which might have an elist or message board to connect members).
  • Contact your alumni groups. Your college or university should have an alumni association (often with a directory of members) that can be useful. You can mine the directory for contacts in your field, even if they didn’t graduate in the same year as you. Your alma mater connects you.
  • Read your local business journal to find out about growing companies. Pay particular attention to the “People” section (the section that highlights promotions and new hires at companies) and see if there are any contacts you can make.
  • Reference directories can also lead you to the right people. For example, the Manufacturers’ News (www.mnistore.com) sells databases and print directories of manufacturing businesses and contact information for the decision-makers at these companies.

How to Use Your Network

There are a few ways to use your network to find a new opportunity. The first is to contact specific people in your network — or your entire network — and let them know you are looking for ideas, information, advice, and contacts/referrals. Create a networking cover letter (samples are included in this guide) and send the letter with your résumé to each of the contacts in your network. This is the broadest way to use your network, and can be useful if you are currently unemployed and not worried about jeopardizing your current job by visibly pursuing a new one.

A more effective way to use your network is a more targeted approach. Identify the specific need you have, and then contact people who are in a position to help you reach that specific job goal.

For example, if you see an advertised opening for a position, go through your network and see who might be able to provide you with access to the hiring manager (or someone else who works at the company), information about that specific company (or the company’s position in the industry), or information about the specific position you’re seeking.

You can use your network contact to make an introduction to a hiring manager — either asking them to pass along your résumé to that individual, introducing you directly, or allowing you to use their name when making an initial contact.

 

 

Work in the 21st century, especially in the west, is often a means to an end, that end being money, the more of it the better. This is pretty soulless stuff, and we see a movement against it pop up now and again, from craft breweries, to the etsy marketplace. Heck, even those much-maligned artisinal cheese shops run by millennials with man buns are motivated by the same impulse – to make work an end in itself, to be more of a craftsman at an art than a cog in a wheel.

I think we can all take something from this resistance to the money at all costs culture. What if we all looked at our work, whatever work that might be, as more of an art, as more of something that can be continually practiced and honed until we are true masters at it. I think it would make our chosen careers more fulfilling. It would also make us more free since it is hard to be a slave to a job that you consider your own personal craft. It is simply what you do.

“Love the humble art you have learned, and take rest in it. Pass through the remainder of your days as one who wholeheartedly entrusts all possessions to the gods, making yourself neither a tyrant nor a slave to any person” – Marcus Aurelius

#YourFriendlyNeighborhoodCoach

#Careers

I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, specifically in Groups. I like helping people who are starting out on that job search journey as well as those who are veterans of the process, but who may not be up on the latest changes. By doing this I get to see where people’s sticking points are and what they consider their pain points. Then, as a Job Search Coach I can better tailor my own services to meet their needs.

However, I also get to see how unrealistic a lot of seekers expectations are.

Many people assume that their emails and applications will always be answered- and in short order. They expect the resume they used during their last job search to still work. They assume once they have created a profile on LinkedIn or Glassdoor that recruiters will come knocking on their door. And most importantly they assume the whole job search will only take a month.

Unfortunately most, if not all, of these assumptions are wrong. While some people may be lucky enough to find gold their first time panning in the river, the majority will work long hours and for a long time to find what they are loking for. Here are some facts about the realities of the modern job search.

You won’t hear back often
When you send in an application or try to connect with a recruiter you most likely will not hear back. This is largely due to the fact that they are receiving 100’s of emails a day. Logistically they can simply not get back to everyone. This also happens after informational interviews. Many job seekers expect to hear back soon and if they get bad news they want to know why? What could they do to improve? While occasionally a recruiter may give some feedback, the bottom line is that they work for the company, not you, and they simply do not have the man power to provide detailed feedback to everyone who goes through the interview process.

Getting noticed takes time
Social media is not a set it and forget it enterprise. You need to engage daily and spend time networking with the right people. This is all the more true when it comes to LinkedIn. It is an amazing resource but only if you use it. Every. Day. Join groups, reach out to people in the companies you are targeting, follow their posts. Networking is only as good as the networker.

It will take a while
I’ve known people who found jobs in 2 weeks, and I’ve know people who searched for over a year before landing the perfect position. But on average, the modern job search takes 3-4 months. It is just the reality of the situation. The process is slow largely due to the fact that so many people apply for each opening. Up to 250 per corporate job. This is a lot of candidates to go through, analyze and interview, even after ATS does the initial culling.

The reality of the modern job search is- you need to treat it like a job itself. Once you do you can put a strategy in place to succeed.

Do you know the secret value of writing your branding statement on LinkedIn? Short version: It has nothing to do with keywords and search value.

Of course your headline/branding statement is important in terms of SEO value, but it has a 2nd, even more important, function. It is how you chose to define yourself, and as such it has an aspirational element.

I’ll use myself as an example. I used to call myself an “Executive resume writer crafting job-winning resumes for job seekers.” But this was actually limiting. Because what I really wanted to do was be more of a job search coach helping people beyond simply writing the resume. But as long as I defined myself as just a resume writer that was all I did.

That changed when I chose to change how I defined myself. I now consider myself a “Job search coach helping leaders on the rise.” By just rewording what I consider myself to be, I began attracting a different type of client and I started working differently with them.

So your branding statement is also a bit of positive psychology. Tell the world what you want to be, and then go be it.

But you have to tell yourself first.

So what do you really want to be?

#YourFriendlyNeighborhoodCoach  #careers

Pick up any book of quotes, or one of those ubiquitous quote-a-day calendars and you are sure to stumble upon Ralph Waldo Emerson. He is one of those authors who everyone quotes, but few actually read. Even if you are unfamiliar with his body of work you’ve most likely heard the famous line, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” This comes from his essay, Self Reliance.

Emerson (1803 – 1882) was an American philosopher, essayist, and poet who is best remembered for championing the Transcendentalist movement. He was a strong proponent of individualism and a critic of the pressures of society. He published dozens of essays and gave more than 1,500 public lectures across America throughout his lifetime.

I came across an author recently who was extolling the virtues of reading Emerson. He even went so far as to claim he was one of the wisest philosophers he had read. I went through a brief period of being infatuated with the ideas of the Transcendentalists in college but had not given the movement, or its leader, much thought since. So I dug out my college text and reread Self Reliance. Much of it still held appeal, though some of Emerson’s thinking seems lacking to me now. On the whole though there is some solid advice that one can apply to their life and career.  I’ll attempt to show where I think he gets it right and where he may be over-reacting to prevailing traditions of his time.

While Self Reliance has no section headings, the essay falls into three basics sections.

Education vs. Experience

The first can be summarized as the importance of self-reliance. He stresses individual experience over any knowledge gained from books or teachers. This is the core of self-reliance, that you rely on your own thoughts and ideas and not simply regurgitate what you have read or heard from others. I can certainly see the appeal of this kind of individualism, especially when you consider the world in which Emerson lived.

Emerson’s America was still laboring under the specter of self-doubt in its own intellectual and structural integrity. Many in America, if not most, still considered themselves essentially European. There had yet to be a truly American philosophical movement. For Emerson to place such a high regard in one’s own ideas rather than the older traditions of Europe makes perfect sense.

However, to discount all the wisdom of the past in favor of current thought, which while Emerson does not expressly state as his aim, is nonetheless the natural extension of this philosophy, seems folly. Emerson wants us to trust ourselves and that if we are to reply on other’s judgment rather than our own we are somehow being cowardly. What he does not take into account is that our own thoughts, ideas and morals need a formative structure.

Our inner instincts are not always correct; many would argue that they are rarely correct. Humanity needs a foundation of values around which to base its systems. Emerson discounts this entirely, believing instead that we should apply our own standards to what we see rather than any societal norms.

“No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature . . . the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it.”

This is the beginnings of our current moral ambiguity. According to Emerson there is no real right or wrong; objective-ism is being replaced by moral relativism. Again, I sympathize with a desire to break from certain stale traditions as America was just starting to spread its wings, but taken to its logical conclusion Emerson’s idea of individualism leads us down, what I feel, is a dangerous road.

Career lesson: Today, as in Emerson’s time, we have a natural tendency to want to be told the next step. We read books on success that are heavy on story, but light on actionable advice. We follow blogs that promise -10 Steps to Financial Freedom- and expect to be sitting on a beach in six months. We are a society that wants success-now! But Emerson is wrong in saying all we need to do is listen to our inner voice. The truth is, success takes time and requires both an understanding of traditional and classic principles and hard-won experience.

Consistency vs. Adaptability

However, Emerson does have some things to say that I feel can be applied to modern business realities from which we could learn quite a bit. I’d like to point out one area where I think Emerson has something significant to teach the modern 21st century citizen of the world.

Emerson’s idea of consistency has to do with the inability of some people to allow their views to evolve. He believes that striving to remain consistent over time to views you held in the past saps you of creativity and doesn’t let your true personality come through. He goes on to say that, even worse, are those who belong to a groups whose opinions you share and to which you remain utterly consistent.

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — `Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”

One need look no farther than the modern business world to see this dynamic at work. Too often companies refuse to evolve, instead holding on to what worked in the past. While on the one hand we want companies to stand for something and not simply twist in the winds of fads and trends, we also need managers and executives capable of analyzing the world as it shows itself and make conclusions.

We could do worse than heed Emerson’s advice and look for men and women of character not simply consistency. It is people of character- character which can only be developed through an honest accounting of views and opinions held in youth that may need to be changed over time- who move the world forward.

“Character, reality, reminds you of nothing else; it takes place of the whole creation. The man must be so much, that he must make all circumstances indifferent. Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age; requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his design; — and posterity seem to follow his steps as a train of clients. A man Caesar is born, and for ages after we have a Roman Empire. Christ is born, and millions of minds so grow and cleave to his genius, that he is confounded with virtue and the possible of man. An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man; as, Monachism, of the Hermit Antony; the Reformation, of Luther; Quakerism, of Fox; Methodism, of Wesley; Abolition, of Clarkson. Scipio, Milton called “the height of Rome”; and all history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons.”

Career Lesson: While having a foundation is important, we, as business leaders, also need to be adaptable. Staying consistent to a vision that has grown stale is not leadership. True business leaders see future potential and grow their vision to include new possibilities and new opportunities in the marketplace.

Progress vs. Tradition

Emerson’s final section of this famous essay deals with four social areas where we need self-reliance: religion, which fears creativity; culture, which faults individualism; the arts, which teach us only to imitate; and society, which wrongly values progress. As I said before, I feel that much of Emerson’s essay is a product of its time. His critique of religion is less valid today when there is a much greater amount of freedom in terms of denominational variety. His knock on culture and art is largely due to the fact that America was still trying to get out from under the shadow of Europe’s influence. However, his thoughts around society still hold true today.

Emerson argues against the style of progress that creates ever new ways and new technologies and yet leaves us fundamentally no better off. He uses the example of the watch. While a watch certainly makes telling time more convenient, we also lose the ability to read the sun’s path across the sky. Therefore according to his reasoning we are no better off. He makes sense here, to a point.

The harm of the improved machinery may compensate its good. Hudson and Behring accomplished so much in their fishing-boats, as to astonish Parry and Franklin, whose equipment exhausted the resources of science and art. Galileo, with an opera-glass, discovered a more splendid series of celestial phenomena than any one since. Columbus found the New World in an undecked boat. It is curious to see the periodical disuse and perishing of means and machinery, which were introduced with loud laudation a few years or centuries before. The great genius returns to essential man. We reckoned the improvements of the art of war among the triumphs of science, and yet Napoleon conquered Europe by the bivouac, which consisted of falling back on naked valor, and disencumbering it of all aids.”

There is a lot of value in technological progress. (I run a virtual business, so it would be fairly hypocritical to claim otherwise.) However, we can become so enamored of our technological toys that we forget the core truths. Just because technological progress is available to us, we do not have to take advantage of all of it.

Career Lesson: Without a foundation in the basic realities and truths of our common history as citizens of western civilization, then the bells and whistles of progress can not add, but only subtract, from our collective advancement. Be open to new modalities, but don’t become a slave to the newest shiny toy.

The writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson might not, at first blush, seem like career development material, but upon closer inspection the old master actually has quite a bit to teach us. Read on.