Have you ever had to listen for long to someone whose voice seemed in imminent danger of fading out completely or was annoyingly laced with “umms” or “you know” or other meaningless verbal fillers? If so, you can probably relate to an article I just read, ““Is This How You Really Talk?”” (in The Wall Street Journal online). Author Sue Shellenbarger states that “new research shows the sound of a person’s voice strongly influences how he or she is seen. The sound of a speaker’s voice matters twice as much as the content of the message….”
Poor Speaking Skills can Hurt Your Career
That’s right. Your weak speaking skills could hurt you. You might ask: Could my voice quality and/or other elements of my oral presentation really be throwing a huge speed-bump in the path of my career? According to Shellenbarger’s article, the answer is very possibly yes. For example, if you need to be perceived as assertive, a strong leader and so on, a quiet vocal delivery of your messages might undermine the impression you need to make on your audience. If that audience consists of people who can decide whether or not to offer you a job or a promotion, you definitely want to consider what you can do to improve the situation!
This is also true in other aspects of a job search or ongoing career management, including interviewing. When you obscure the delivery of your message through poor speaking skills, you could fail to gain the support of colleagues for critical initiatives, lose the respect of the team you are expected to manage or discourage an interviewer from giving you a chance at second-round/multiple interviews. The potential repercussions of poor speaking skills could add up to a long list by the time you’re done!
Do You Know If You Have a Speaking “Problem”?
You might think you have reasonably good speaking skills and can’t imagine how anything about your vocal delivery could negatively affect your ability to land a job or advance in your career. However, it’s not necessarily safe to assume you don’t have an issue with it just because no one has told you that you do. Friends, family, colleagues–many people hesitate to raise such a sensitive subject with someone they know. They might be afraid of hurting your feelings or making you angry at them if they do. What can you do to ensure that how you speak isn’t standing in the way of your career success?
Here are just a few tips you can try:
- Record yourself speaking and listen to it with your eyes closed, so you’re not distracted by visual elements around you. As much as possible, eliminate auditory distractions as well (find a quiet place).
- Ask someone whose judgment you trust to listen to you delivering a short presentation and provide candid feedback. Then remember not to “shoot the messenger”!
- Consider finding and working with a speech coach/consultant, especially if you have an important interview or on-the-job presentation scheduled down the road, to make sure you’re delivering the message effectively. (Don’t wait too long to do this, however; it can take time and practice.)
Importance of Non-Vocal Presentation Skills
In college, I had an instructor who frequently stroked his goatee while he was speaking to the class. This mannerism was so distracting that I had to avoid looking at him if I wanted to absorb the information he was presenting! I never had the nerve to mention it to him, and I don’t know if anyone else ever did, but I hope so.
Visual gestures can be a bad habit you’re unaware of. Try recording a video of yourself doing a presentation and watch it as objectively as you can to see if you’re using distracting gestures. You might just be glad you did!
As much as I’m a fan of plans and planning in general–and nowhere more than in job search and career management–I have to admit that plans aren’t perfect or cast in stone. Sometimes they have to change, either because we see a need or because a change is forced on us.
When I started publishing this blog (which I think was in late 2011), I “planned” to do a blog post three times a week. I’d been reading that daily posts were even better, and some people were publishing multiple times in one day, but I knew I’d never hit that target! I figured three posts a week should be do-able–and so it was…some of the time.
Unfortunately, sometimes life got in the way, and there were entire weeks when I didn’t publish ONE post (last week being one of them). Gasp! Ah, well, super-blogger I’m obviously not.
Plan Job Searches with Some Slack
My take from all of this is that it’s not only okay but actually desirable to cut yourself some slack now and then in your job search and career management planning. You’ll probably run into days or even weeks when you’re up to your eyes in problems, unexpected demands on your time and energy, and so on.
Instead of kicking yourself because you fell down on the job and didn’t put things in motion that you’d planned to, take a step back and gain a longer-term perspective. Did you miss out on a dream job because you failed to do whatever it was? Unless your inaction cost you a desirable job opportunity, it probably wasn’t the crime of the century.
It Could Be Worse!
If the worst that happened was that you felt guilty about not staying 100% on track, relax. After all, things could be worse. As Scottish poet Robert Burns once said:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
(Translation: The best laid schemes of Mice and Men
oft go awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!)
At least it’s not likely that your off-plan action (or inaction) will cause you “grief and pain”!
You’ve probably read one or more articles about how to “work a room” and talk to as many people as possible in a networking event when you’re conducting a job search. I know I’ve seen a lot of them published. However, maybe it’s not so much of a numbers game after all. At least, that’s the premise of a recent article by Eric Holtzclaw, “Why Networking Doesn’t Work.”
Selective Networking–What It Is and Is Not
Selective networking is my term for it. Here’s part of what Holtzclaw says about it:
“Remember six degrees of separation? With the introduction and widespread use of social media and other technologies, a study from 2012 shows that these days, it’s more like four degrees. The more people you know–really know–the more likely you are to make that important connection you need to take your career, company, or venture to the next level.”
According to Holtzclaw, self-described as an introvert, it’s important to start by considering what you might be able to do for the people you meet that would be valuable to them. He believes there’s no point to collecting business cards by the gross if it doesn’t produce any useful results or constantly increasing the number of your LinkedIn connections “unless you can establish a meaningful relationship with these new connections.”
Networking with Prospects & Non-Prospects
Often the advice will be to focus your attention on spending time with people who are clearly in a position to do something useful for you. However, besides sounding more than a little self-serving and self-obsessed, this approach could cause you to miss a good opportunity to connect indirectly with someone who could add value to your job search. As Holtzclaw puts it, “A non-prospect may be just as important to your future needs as a prospect because they may connect you with someone or something you need.”
The trick, probably, is to find out whether that possibility exists without spending an inordinate amount of time talking to people who don’t have the ability to offer value for your job search either directly or indirectly.
With regard to the quantity versus quality issue in networking, Holtzclaw believes that if he focuses on meeting and having “a meaningful conversation with only about five people at every event…or for each day of a conference,” he can line up sufficient new contacts to arrange for a day of meetings and “get to know each of them more deeply within a couple of weeks of the initial introduction.”
Follow-Up is Key to Networking Success
If you meet X number of people at a networking event and it’s a manageable number to get to know better, you still haven’t done all you need to do as a job seeker who’s serious about achieving a successful networking outcome. Holtzclaw cites Quinetha Frasier of First Born Group as firmly believing that if you don’t meet with someone within 10 days of the first contact, it wasn’t in the cards…not going to happen.
So you need to choose your number, network purposefully with those individuals and follow up to arrange a meeting in 10 days or less. Hopefully, that follow-up meeting will pave the way for a longer-term, mutually beneficial relationship that will show positive results for your job search.
Sometimes we find that we have achieved a comfortable groove with our job search and career management. If that describes you, you might want to consider that a synonym for “groove” is “rut”! Achieving a comfortable groove sounds better than being stuck in a rut, but the concept is still the same. You are basically going nowhere, fast.
This quote that I found while reading items on SmartBrief on Your Career suggests a concept that I believe is worth considering: “After you’ve done a thing the same way for two years, look it over carefully. After five years, look at it with suspicion. And after ten years, throw it away and start all over.”
Alfred E. Perlman, American businessman
Start All Over with Your Job Search Strategy? Really?
Remember, Mr. Perlman said this should happen after ten years. So we’re not talking here about throwing the whole thing out after a few weeks or months. A lot can and does change in the employment situation over time–and often not very much time, at that. If you are still using a job search strategy that you put together a few years ago, you might be cheating yourself out of good job opportunities. In today’s uncertain economic climate and competitive job market, that’s less desirable than ever.
Look at your career situation from the perspective that everything needs to be reevaluated periodically. If a job search strategy or job search tactic has worked well for you recently, you might not need to change it–at least, not significantly–for quite some time. However, you can and probably should take an objective look at it each time you start a new job search campaign or begin considering one. For example, a tactic that initially supported your overall strategy well might now be of questionable value and potentially even detrimental to your job search. If so, you definitely want to look at viable alternatives. Maybe there’s a new development you haven’t tried yet that seems promising for your needs.
Update Your Job Search Strategy, Strategically
One definition of “strategy” is “a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” You need to do more than just define your job search strategy, important as that is. Doing something strategically relates to “creating direction and priorities that will advance both your short-term and long-term direction and efforts” (from a blog post on Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, titled “We Are Less Strategic Than Ever“).
That strongly suggests the importance of not changing your strategy–or your tactics, for that matter–without giving thought to the likely downstream effects. Consider carefully before you update your job search strategy, especially if you’re looking at the possibility of taking steps that involve a major commitment of your time, money or other resources. However, don’t let this stop you completely from moving forward. No action is not the best alternative to rash action!
The subject of using headhunters (aka recruiters) in a job search comes up from time to time. I guess some jobseekers view it as a possible magic bullet in the job search. I have written at least one post in the past about this subject. However, recently a couple of clients have asked me questions about using headhunters in a job search, so I decided it was time to revisit this topic.
Recruiters Don’t Find You a Job
I sometimes mistakenly assume that everyone these days knows recruiters don’t go out and find jobs for you. Evidently, there are still people who don’t know that, just as there are people who think Twitter is what birds do. So let’s explode that myth from the start. You can’t march up to a recruiter (figuratively speaking) and say, “I need you to find me a great job…and soon.” Well, you could, but it’s probably a quick way to get yourself shown the door (again, figuratively speaking, unless you actually had the nerve to try that approach in person!).
Think about it. If you were a recruiter, would you appreciate having people come at you from all directions, each one thinking he or she is the answer to your prayer or expecting you to pull a rabbit (job) out of a hat for him or her? Recruiters need to find hot candidates for specific search assignments (retained search) or open positions they know about (contingency recruiters). They don’t keep a steady pipeline of possible jobs in all functional areas or for all possible employers just so they can say, “Hey, Joe needs a new job as a Director of Marketing, and here’s one that’s right up his alley!”
Watch Out for Possibly Unscrupulous Recruiters
Yes, there are some. Regardless of that, you need to keep at least one thing in mind if you’re considering working with a recruiter. If a recruiter contacts you about an opening and you agree to have him/her contact the employer to present you, what happens if you then receive a call from that employer who says they found your resume online? In a recent column by Ask the Headhunter’s Nick Corcodillos, someone wrote in with that exact problem. Was that recruiter unscrupulous? Not necessarily. However, as Corcodillos points out, something like that puts you in a no-win situation.
Following are a few points made in Corcodillos’ response to the inquirer (summarized to save space). See #4 on the list.
- Recruiters and companies can both find your resume online. It’s next to impossible to tell who found you first or where.
- Companies don’t want to risk a “fee fight” or a lawsuit if they hire you without paying a recruiter who claims to represent you.
- Recruiters can submit your resume to possible employers even without your knowledge and specific permission.
- The best way to avoid these problems is to stop posting your resume online…anywhere.
As I’ve said before, I read Ask the Headhunter frequently and always find it interesting. He knows a lot about the subject of employment, particularly recruiting and recruiters. That doesn’t mean I (or anyone else) will agree with everything he says. However, what he says in this case is worth considering.
The trend toward personal branding–as opposed to corporate brand development–has been evident for at least the past few years, if not longer. However, many people still have not paid much (enough) attention to it. If you are one of those who believe personal branding is a flash-in-the-pan fad, I urge you to give the concept another thought. I do not see personal branding as a now-you-see-it/now-you-don’t aspect of savvy career management and well-planned job search campaigns.
Ditch. Dare. Do!–Personal Branding
One of the career-oriented newsletters I receive regularly is “Reach Personal Branding Newsletter – YOUnique.” Today’s edition highlights the upcoming book Ditch. Dare. Do! by Reach Personal Branding’s William Arruda and one of my highly esteemed colleagues, Deb Dib, a CEO coach.
I saw excerpts from the book in a presentation Deb gave at a professional conference I attended last fall, and I am definitely planning to read the book as soon as it becomes available (I’ve put my name and email address on their advance notification list to make sure I don’t miss it). Even though the book is pitched as being of particular relevance to executives, I’m pretty sure you would find it intriguing and thought-provoking even if you’re not at that level–yet.
The concept behind the book is called 3D Branding (you can see the connection with that in the book’s title). To give you just a teaser about what you can expect from the book, here’s a snippet from the conference presentation:
“What is 3D Branding?
- Personal Branding rEvolution.
- You as a whole 3D person.
- You in your world/work world.
- You as your business/career manager.
- You as a DITCH. DARE. DO! daredevil.”
Note: The apparent mis-capitalization of rEvolution in the first item is actually intentional on the authors’ part. They consider personal branding as an ongoing process and 3D branding as a natural but also amazing outgrowth of that–in other words, an evolution that is really a revolution.
Personal Branding’s Role in Career Management & Job Search
We’re not talking about manufacturing an image that you want to present to the public (employers, in particular), even though it really isn’t “you.” Genuine, effective personal branding has to be based on uncovering the reality of your strengths, your unique value, and other similarly distinctive aspects of who you are.
I’m not a branding expert like William and Deb, but I understand the importance of the concept in today’s environment and do help clients with some aspects of it when we work together. You are probably always going to have competition for the jobs and careers you want to pursue; that’s a fact of life. Other people are bound to find them just as desirable as you do.
What gives you the edge in that competitive employment environment? It starts by identifying your unique message to employers, deciding how to communicate it compellingly to the right people, and having a plan for doing that consistently throughout your career management, including a current or anticipated job search campaign.
If you don’t know “who you are” and what makes you special, you can’t expect employers to figure it out for you. They’ll just move on to whoever is next in line. Your job is to make it difficult–preferably impossible–for them to bypass you without at least agonizing over doing so!
P.S. To find out more about 3D Branding, you can check out the 3D Branding video and sign up for notification about the book’s launch. (Personal note: I don’t get any “payment” for recommending this–I just believe it’s something you should know about.)
Based on what we have been seeing over the past year–and more–job search in 2013 will not be for the faint of heart. If you want or need to plan and conduct a job search next year, you will need to have several things, not the least of which is enough determination to overcome the numerous obstacles that could and possibly will pop up to block your path to a new job or career.
To quote Mr. William Shakespeare: “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” In colloquial terms, you can’t complete the dash for home plate if you never even get to first base. And, as Sydney J. Harris (an American journalist for the Chicago Daily News and later the Chicago Sun-Times, who died in 1986) tells us: “Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”
Job Search 2013: Borrow Nike’s Slogan and “Do It”
I recently read a thought-provoking book by Peter McWilliams called Do It! Let’s Get Off Our Buts. In fact, that’s where I first saw the quote from Mr. Harris. It’s the kind of book you need to read and then re-read–at least once or twice–to get the full benefit. Also, it probably makes the book more effective if you do the exercises it provides. I have to confess, I haven’t done that yet; however, I initially read the book for pleasure, rather than as part of an action plan for self-improvement. However, I do want to share McWilliams’ view of what constitutes a career: “You have a career or profession when what you love doing most is what you also get paid for doing.” That’s how I feel about the work I do with and for my clients, and it’s how I sincerely want them to feel about the work they do for current and future employers.
Countless obstacles could stand in your way to a successful job search or career in 2013. No one promised the search would be easy–or if someone did, he/she was deceiving you, either intentionally or unintentionally. However, you can’t afford to let obstacles intimidate you into spinning your wheels or backpedaling, if achieving your goal is essential to your well-being–emotionally, physically, professionally or all of the above.
5 Job Search Tips for 2013
- Outline a plan that will have you up-and-running by January 1 (if not before).
- Build flexibility into your plan–remember that obstacles can crop up unexpectedly.
- Marshal your job search resources–people, time, money, whatever else you might need. If you don’t have all your ducks lined up yet, start working on that now.
- Take a quick look backward (over this past year) to see where you veered off track, slipped up in some way or otherwise didn’t make the progress you had aimed for. Use that quick review as a launchpad for your 2013 planning–starting with what needs to change and when.
- Allow yourself opportunities to recharge your batteries between now and the end of the year–quiet time with family, a trip you’ve been putting off, a good book you want to read or a movie you’ve been waiting to see, whatever will rejuvenate your energy and strengthen your ability to surmount any obstacles you encounter in your job search 2013 activities.
My Wish for Your Job Search 2013 Success
Actually, it’s more than a wish. It’s an affirmation. I believe you can do much more than you think you can, even if you don’t always see a clear path at the start. Give yourself credit for that…and don’t give up if the going gets rough. Persistence can pay off when you least expect it.
Einstein was such a great source of inspiration for career success tips that I could not fit everything into one post, so here is the second and final installment. Note: Einstein passed on 50+ years ago, but his words of wisdom are just as relevant now as they were then. Some things are timeless.
- If someone can enjoy marching to music in rank and file, I can feel only contempt for him; he has received his large brain by mistake, a spinal cord would have been enough. The phrase “think outside the box” has been done to death, but that’s basically what Einstein is referring to here. If you don’t distinguish yourself from others who do what you do–show how you are better, more innovative, and so on–you aren’t using your thinking-power to full advantage.
- When you look at yourself from a universal standpoint, something inside always reminds or informs you that there are bigger and better things to worry about. Focusing heavily or almost entirely on yourself might fool you into thinking that’s the most important aspect of your career success. However, if you make that the key point of your career management or job search and don’t take other potentially important factors into account, you could miss opportunities to make a valuable contribution to something greater than yourself.
- In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. When your career path is smooth and work is going without a hiccup (if that ever happens!), you might not see a lot of opportunities to excel. However, when you and/or your company are facing tough challenges, that’s the test that shows what you’re really made of and gives you a chance to shine. Make the most of that opportunity.
- Never underestimate your own ignorance. One of my favorite sayings from long ago was: “I’m not conceited, because conceit is a fault and I don’t have any.” If you assume you know more than you actually do or ignore signs in your job or career that suggest it would be a good idea to double-check what you “know,” you risk disaster. Accept that you might not know everything you need to know and take steps to increase your knowledge in key areas.
- When all think alike, no one thinks very much. Einstein is suggesting that you think for yourself and don’t just move in lockstep with others without considering whether that is the best thing to do. For instance, if innovation is a key concept in your career success, it’s imperative that you consider different ways of thinking–avoid the “but we’ve always done it that way…we’ve never done that before” mentality.
- Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. In life and in your career management, you can’t afford to run in place, much less fail to run at all, if you want to maximize your potential.
- The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving. Prospective employers will be looking hardest at what you can do for (give to) them and much less (if at all) at what they can do for you. Your strongest selling point is based on the value you can bring to employers.
- It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer. Of course, Einstein actually was that smart, but the point is that he refused to give up when faced with major challenges that stood in the way of achieving his goals. Your career success could hinge on possessing that same degree of determination.
“Bonus” Career Success Tip
Few people will care as much about your career success as you do. You don’t have to work on it alone, but you do need to lead the charge.