February 23, 2012

Mastering the Informational Interview

Why wait to hear back after applying for a job? Be proactive and set up an informational interview. There may not be a position available, but here are steps you can take to leave a lasting impression:

Seek out companies you're interested in. Don't aimlessly apply to different jobs. Create a target. What organizations align with your career goals? Once you identify which companies are on your radar, figure out a way to get inside and meet face to face. Tell them you're doing some research. Find something in common to talk about. Ask to set up an informational interview. How you get in there doesn't matter. All that matters is making it happen.

Sell yourself. There may not be a position open, so get them thinking about creating a new one for you. Focus on the following 3 areas:

1) Share your strengths and how they will help you get the job done
2) Tell them why you want to work there
3) Show them how you will fit into their organization

Don't be a car salesman. Instead explain how your past experiences equip you to help their company. Show passion and enthusiasm. Emphasize the value you bring to their company

Be amiable. People don't hire people they don't like. Simple, yet true. It's not so much about you. It's about IF you fit and what value you bring to the organization. Meeting in person works when you leave a positive impression. Treat the person like you want to be treated. It's not rocket science. It's about your people skills (see number 3 above). We hire people we like.

Informational interviews should be treated like meeting for coffee. Sure you need to be professional, but the goal is to have the person positively remember you. Do these steps and follow up and you'll be the first person they think of when it comes to a new opening.

February 20, 2012

How to Build a Loyal Fanbase

This past week the PGA tour stopped in L.A. and I was fortunate enough to observe the Northern Trust Open for 4 days straight. Here are some takeaways from two of the most followed/popular players on tour, Fred Couples & Phil Mickelson: 

1) Be Approachable: Body language, eye contact & smile. You don't have to say anything to communicate that you're approachable. Loyal fan bases are created because you want to affiliate with them. Look around, pause and listen. Charisma is seen from afar, but being friendly only comes up close. Be visible, accessible and you'll be approachable. 

2) Be Honest: Everything's not going to go your way, so when it doesn't be truthful. Perfection is overrated. Forgiveness is granted, when ownership is taken. Listen to an interview by Freddy or Phil; they'll readily admit their mistakes. We resonate with mistakes, because we make them. Be who you are. When you screw up, admit it. People love a comeback story. Choose integrity over image.

3) Showcase your Talent: Smart individuals play to their strengths. We love to see people perform at their best. Malcolm Gladwell argues that you must practice something for 10,000 hours to become great at it. If that's true, the faster you figure out what it is you want to focus on, the more time you can spend on mastering your craft. Talent should be developed and exposed. It doesn't just benefit you, it benefits everyone around. 

90% of the crowd followed these two superstars the entire week. You can learn a lot from these two athletes when it comes to building your personal brand. Start connecting with people and do more of who you are. Loyal fan bases aren't born, they're made.

February 10, 2012

How to Handle Career Setbacks

"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog." - Mark Twain

It's easy to get discouraged in this economy, so how do you handle career setbacks? 
Here's a couple of ways to look at it in a different light:

Connect Daily: Reach out to new contacts, follow up and ask for introductions to more people. Repeat. I can't stress this enough! The days of submitting your application and resume are done. Jobs are given through referrals. If you don't know anyone in the company you are applying for, you don't have a chance. In fact most positions that are posted, usually are given to internal candidates or friends of friends. It's a numbers game. You need to get on the right side. 

Keep Fighting: There's several factors you can't control when it comes to your job search, but the one area you can control is your effort. What are your career goals? What measurable steps can you take this week to make progress? Who will keep you accountable for action? Setbacks are inevitable. Successful people actually fail more. They are willing to take risks because without risk, there are no rewards. Giving up is easy. Rise above that. Keep pushing.

Be Innovative: Do what no one else is doing. Create you own job description and submit it. Volunteer at an organization you are passionate about. Record a video resume. Look to help someone else in need. Start your own network group. Stand out. You career depends on it.

There's no timetable when seeking a new career. Focus on having the right process and trust it. The worst thing you can do is sulk and quit. Remember, isolation kills, so surround yourself with supportive people and keep moving forward. You'll get there and when you do, you'll be thankful.  

February 2, 2012

The Cost of Workplace Motivation

What truly motivates you to work harder? Although it's personal, here are some ideas to ponder: 
What's the transaction? There's give and take with any relationship. The question is what are you giving and what are you receiving? We all want meaning, to feel valued and to make a difference at work, but at what cost? Would you rather get a bonus check or perk that's equivalent? Bottom line: If you're happy at your job, you're receiving value. If not, well...you can figure it out.

What are your expectations? Think pricing. When you purchase a luxury item, there's the perception that it will make you feel better. When you're underpaid, you feel undervalued. Why is that? Money is the most expensive motivator, but ironically one of the least effective. A high salary actually doesn't make you work harder. Any volunteer will attest to that. Clearly irrational, but true.

It comes down to relationships. Look at companies such as TOMS, Betterworks, Factual & Shopzilla. They focus on culture, more than anything else. It's the little things that make the difference. You know what "perks" represent? Care. Perks say, "I care about you enough to eliminate distractions and give you the proper resources to do your best work." There's a difference between being paid to work and working to make a difference. Relationships are about emotional investment. Now that's motivating.

Interested in learning more about this concept of social vs. market norms? Check out Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.