Scary interview moments

Let’s face it—interviews can be downright scary. Many of us, no matter how much work experience or charisma we possess, feel intimidated when we’re being analyzed and assessed by recruiters and hiring managers during interviews. Even basic communication with human resources professionals can feel daunting. We don’t want to use too many exclamation points, but if we don’t use ANY, will they understand our enthusiasm regarding the job opening? There’s a lot to consider and many steps to take prior to and during a job interview.

Hopefully these two videos and tips will help you walk through the interview process unscathed and come out on the other side with a job offer in hand.


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Scary interview moments (and how to overcome your fears):

Calling and emailing to inquire about interview details.

After you’ve landed the job interview, you might need to contact the employer to verify details. Of course, my first suggestion is to prevent this situation. You can do this by asking a few key questions when the interviewer contacts you. Take notes when the recruiter calls you to schedule the interview or save the email you receive containing pertinent information. During that initial call, or immediately after receiving the initial email, verify time, date, and location. If you’re unfamiliar with the job site or interview location, ask clarifying questions or request a physical address. Don’t forget to ask where to go within the building and where to sign in when you arrive, either.

If you forget to ask these questions, or if you think of other questions you might need to ask, don’t hesitate to call or email the employer prior to the interview. But use caution—no recruiter wants to respond to 10 emails from a candidate before she’s ever interviewed the candidate.

Backing out of an interview if you decide you’re not interested.

If you decide the job opening isn’t a good fit for you, or if you land another job after scheduling the interview, you need to respect the potential employer enough to politely decline the interview opportunity. I suggest doing this via a short email so there’s a lasting record of your communication; voicemails are too easily deleted and forgotten.

Even if you don’t believe you’ll ever be interested in working for the company in the future, be prompt and polite when declining interview opportunities. You might change your mind and apply for a different job opening in a few months. Or the recruiter you’re communicating with might leave that company, and you may find yourself facing her when you apply with Company B in a few months. Ending on good terms is key to successful professional networking.

Running late to a job interview.

Again, prevention works better in this case than damage control. Try to avoid arriving late by taking extra precautions against tardiness. Allow yourself about twice as much time as usual to shower, dress, eat, and drive to the interview location. Set at least two alarms so you won’t oversleep. Allow yourself at least 5-10 minutes of quiet reflection time before leaving for the interview. And plan to pull into the company parking lot about 10-15 minutes prior to your actual interview time.

If all these tips don’t work, and you run into unforeseen problems on the way (such as a horrible traffic jam), call or email the employer immediately. Don’t wait until five minutes before the interview starts to call to notify the employer you’re running late. Call as soon as you realize you simply don’t have enough time to arrive promptly. And by all means, don’t make up ridiculous stories about having to stop your car at the end of the driveway to help an elderly woman carry groceries into her house, which held you up for an hour… or anything equally as unbelievable. Employers aren’t stupid, and they’d rather you simply let them know you’re running five minutes late than listen to your false fish stories.

Understand that if you’re late to a job interview, your chances for landing the job drop significantly. You’re communicating to the employer that the interview appointment simply wasn’t important enough to you to ensure prompt arrival. Arriving late demonstrates lack of time management skills—and all employers want to hire candidates who demonstrate mastery of this soft skill. Whether you feel this way or not is irrelevant, so do your best to arrive a little early and avoid this scary predicament.


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Deciding what to wear to a job interview.

Selecting interview attire can feel overwhelming. You want to make a great first impression. Do it by selecting interview attire which is appropriate, comfortable, and professional. And yes, you can find a suit which meets all three criteria! If you’re uncomfortable and wear clothing which is too tight, too long, too short, or another TOO, you’ll be unable to focus on responding to interview questions. And if you under dress, you’ll quickly recognize your mistake and will feel embarrassed throughout the interview. You might think it’s okay to wear jeans because the dress policy at that company calls for casual attire. Don’t. If the employees wear jeans, you still need to wear interview-appropriate attire. Go for business casual if you’re interviewing with a casual organization. Wear a suit otherwise.

If you can’t afford a suit, pair up separates which create the impression of a suit. If you’re a male, by all means, wear a tie and shine your shoes. And if you’re a female, avoid super high heels, excessive perfume or makeup, and over-the-top accessories. It’s also important to remember that your appearance includes your facial expression and non-verbal communication. When you greet the employer, smile. Ensure your posture is open (don’t cross your arms or fidget with your purse). Leave your phone in the car or at least put it on silent mode.

Realizing you are poorly prepared for the interview.

When you don’t research the company/position, you’ll have a sinking feeling in your stomach when asked, “What do you know about our company?” or “Why are you interested in working here?” And you WILL be asked these questions—most employers ask common interview questions, even if they word them a little differently.

You can prevent this by spending plenty of time researching the company and the job role online. If you know current employees, reach out to them and ask their opinions of the work environment, company culture, supervisors, etc. Wouldn’t you rather learn that your potential boss carries a terrible, micromanaging reputation BEFORE the interview than AFTER you’ve accepted the position?

You’ll also need to practice responding to interview questions, especially those tricky questions about why you’re leaving your employer or why you were out of work for two years. Think carefully about your interview outfit, and map directions to the interview site (whether you prefer printed directions or simply enter the location into your smartphone).

Answering difficult interview questions.

We all get tired of responding to the same old commonly asked interview questions. But guess what? You’ll probably be asked those same questions, so you better prepare to respond well. The best way to prepare to respond to interview questions is to schedule a mock interview with a career coach. If you can’t afford to pay for professional interview coaching, at least print out common interview questions and ask a friend or family member to grill you a few times. Or if you’re more comfortable preparing on your own, sit in front of a mirror while responding to questions or record yourself responding to questions using your webcam.

Interview coaching not only helps you prepare the right words to say, but it also helps you avoid the wrong phrasing. A career coach can also provide objective feedback regarding your body language, level of anxiety, and more.

Overcoming general anxiety and introversion during the interview.

Let me assure you that you’re not the only one who feels anxious about interviews. I rarely work with a client who expresses total confidence before a job interview. Even if you aren’t introverted, you may feel anxious because you haven’t interviewed for jobs in years or because you genuinely want to land the job and don’t want to screw up during the interview.

There are many ways you can ease your anxiety and even overcome introversion. Prepare and practice. Research the company. Dress appropriately, comfortably, and professionally.  Follow every bit of advice in this article and on the videos, and you’ll find that you’re much less nervous. You can also ease your nerves by avoiding cigarettes and excessive caffeine before the interview, getting plenty of sleep in advance, and eating a well-balanced meal or snack with water.

Getting rid of anxiety can help you perform well throughout the interview process and end the interview knowing you have a great chance of being selected to fill the position.

The interview process can genuinely be scary. But there are so many ways you can prevent your fears from standing in between you and your dream job. Reach out to me to schedule an interview coaching session and to up your odds of interview success.

What am I doing wrong in my job search?

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked this question, I’d be working remotely while at the beach on vacation! Frustrated job seekers who’ve been searching for a new job for months or even years obviously want to identify the problems they’re facing. And when working with clients, I am repeatedly asked to help them identify those problems.

There are a few times when I’ve worked with job seekers facing clear discrimination in the job search. Perhaps a company is retaliating against them and refusing to give them a good reference for no factually based reason. Maybe the job seeker identifies as a minority, and recruiters express bias during the job search. But more often than not, when job seekers continue to search for a long period of time and do not land a great job, the problem lies with the candidate’s job search strategy.

I recently recorded two videos to help frustrated job seekers identify the problems in their job search. Hopefully these videos can help you, too, if you find yourself working very hard to land a job but feel like you’re spinning your wheels.


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  1. Take a look at your resume. Almost always, when a client tells me he’s been applying for countless jobs and receiving no interview offers, the client’s resume isn’t working for him for one reason or another. I can help you identify the reasons and fix the problems.
  2. Maybe your resume looks fantastic, but your branding efforts are nil or negative. Are you on social media? If you’re avoiding it like the plague, which can actually harm you more than it can help you. If you’re online but aren’t really taking full advantage of networking and branding opportunities on social media, you may be missing the boat there. Or maybe you’re branding yourself negatively and portraying yourself as the type of employee no one wants to hire. Branding or networking coaching can improve your strategy and up the odds you’ll start landing interview opportunities.
  3. Are you landing interview opportunities but aren’t receiving any job offers? Something is going wrong during the interview process. What is it? Maybe you’re not dressing appropriately. Perhaps you are communicating poorly prior to the interview, and by the time you arrive, the recruiter doesn’t even want to speak to you. Maybe you were running late, and you ruined the opportunity by making a poor first impression. Assess your non-verbal communication skills—what you say without speaking often says more than words. Or maybe you simply need to practice answering common interview questions to discern if your responses are appropriate and effective. Interview coaching is absolutely going to help you.


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  1. Are you getting job offers but keep turning them down? You might need to reassess your career goals. Or perhaps you’re simply applying for positions which don’t list salary ranges, and you’re being offered much less than you’re worth—and don’t know how to negotiate for more.
  2. Lastly, if you’re landing interviews but aren’t landing job opportunities, you should evaluate your soft skills. Employers are looking to hire someone who meets the minimum qualifications and possesses core competencies. But they’re also trying to hire a candidate who will fit in with the company culture and someone who will be a pleasure to work with. Soft skills coaching may be necessary to ensure that you stand out among other candidates (and receive the job offer).

If you find yourself stuck at any point in the job search and are not getting the results you want, reach out to me for help. I want to help you do what you love.

Before an informational interview

You might need to learn more about a career field to determine your degree path in college. Maybe you want an “in” with a particular company. Or perhaps you’re considering changing careers or seeking a promotion into a career zone that’s unfamiliar. Whatever your reasons, requesting an informational interview can feel pretty intimidating. Here are some tips to ease your nerves and help you prepare.


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  1. Ask the right person for the right reasons. Do you know how many people randomly ask professionals to meet with them for 30 minutes for an informational interview yet don’t give adequate thought to why they’re asking? Many—and this is why some mentors and seasoned professionals are a bit aloof when you ask for an informational interview.If you’re going to ask someone for 10 minutes of talk time, be sure you’re asking the right person first. Do you want advice about starting a consulting business? Ask an entrepreneur who’s started her own consulting business. Are you considering leaving teaching as a career? Ask someone for advice who’s already been there, done it, and is happy with the outcome (and ask someone who wishes he’d never left, too, because balance in perspective is crucial when making career decisions).
  2. After you’ve identified a great person to interview, nail down your purpose for the interview. Notice “purpose” is singular—don’t ask more than 3-5 questions unless you’re sending questions via email. And even then, respect your interviewee’s time by sticking to a clear, concise plan. Don’t forget to clearly communicate your purpose when requesting the interview. Most people don’t want to agree to spend 30 minutes with a pseudo-stranger unless there’s a stated purpose/plan or perceived benefit.
  3. As much as you need to be clear and concise, you also need to be flexible. If your interviewee offers you a tour of her company’s manufacturing facilities, by all means, say yes! Does that mean you’ll spend an hour and a half there instead of the 30 minutes you expected? Yes, and that’s fabulous! Leave your schedule open for at least a 2-hour block of time when you schedule an informational interview; however, try to watch the clock and wrap up your line of questioning in 30 minutes unless your interviewee is obviously enjoying herself and rambling. Let her go on and on if she likes. She’s the expert/mentor, so sit back, listen, and absorb her experience and knowledge.
  4. While we’re on the subject of time management, remember to arrive on time. There’s simply no way to make a worst first impression than to arrive terribly late. If you get lost or stuck in traffic, call ahead to let your interviewee know what’s happening. If you’ll be more than a few minutes late, ask if he would rather reschedule or continue with the interview. Be prepared for him to request to reschedule.
  5. Prepare your list of questions (3-5, ideally) and bring a hard copy with you. It’s very distracting to talk to someone while she’s clicking or scrolling on an electronic device. Put your phone down, leave the laptop at home, and break out a pen and paper for informational interviews. This allows you to make better eye contact and display your soft skills, including active listening and mindfulness.
  6. Be prepared to tell your interviewee a bit about yourself, too. Create an elevator pitch and practice in advance to avoid stumbling over your words when he asks you to tell him about your own career background and goals.
  7. If you plan to share information learned during the interview in an essay, an article, or a post on social media, get permission from your interviewee first. And good grief, NEVER record someone without his permission either.
  8. Dress appropriately yet comfortably. If you’re meeting on-site at a company or office, dress professionally (business casual). If you’re meeting for coffee or lunch on the weekend or in the evening, tone it down slightly. But remember, just as when dressing for job interviews, you’re not trying to show off your assets during an informational interview. This meeting is not about you. Don’t try to make it about you by selecting flashy or provocative clothing.Dress comfortably, not just appropriately, because sometimes we can’t predict how far we’ll walk from the parking lot to the building or whether we will climb three flights of stairs. An informational interview isn’t the time to wear new shoes or a tight, straight skirt.
  9. Follow up and express gratitude. This should always be your last step. Don’t walk away from an informational interview, shake hands, and forget to send an email or thank you card (I prefer thank you cards). Connect on social media, too. This makes it easy for you to regularly touch base with your new contact, mentor, and friend.

An informational interview can be a great strategy in your career development or job search process. But knowing when to ask, who to ask, how to ask, and how to pull it off can be tricky. Contact me if you might benefit from networking coaching or an interview prep session.

Dealing with grief in the workplace

Last week, I was called out of class while teaching as an adjunct faculty member. A coworker informed me that my grandmother had been rushed to the hospital. If I wanted to see her, I needed to leave class immediately. I was glad I left after informing my students that I had to tend to a family emergency. My grandmother died less than 24 hours later. That night, after grieving with my family, I received an email notifying me that a good friend had committed suicide. Needless to say, I felt completely overwhelmed by loss, sadness, and grief. The entire weekend, I was certainly unproductive and did zero work.

But that’s what I needed to do. Because I’ve experienced other major losses and catastrophes in the past, I know that to take good care of myself, I need to let myself feel the weight of the loss as it’s happening. If I don’t, it comes back to haunt me later.

Thankfully, my division chair, career coaching clients, and business partners were all very understanding and supportive. I rescheduled a conference call and a call with a client. But I can’t wallow in grief forever. I have a business to run and students to teach. I created this video to share five ways I appropriately cope with grief in the workplace. I hope some of these tips may help you cope with your own personal losses while continuing to work, produce, and grow in your career journey.


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Communicate.

As quickly as possible after you experience a loss or begin handling a personal crisis, tell your supervisor, clients/students, and coworkers about your situation. You can do this in a quick email or text message. When you communicate about the crisis or loss right away, it lets your employer know that you take your job seriously but that you’re going to need help handling your responsibilities temporarily.

Be real, but don’t let it all hang out.

Be honest about your crisis or loss, but don’t share all the sad, dirty details with your employer, clients, or coworkers. Put yourself in their shoes. Would you want to show up at work every day to find one of your coworkers crying her eyes out for eight hours? Of course not.

Seek outside help if you’re overwhelmed with loss and cannot control your emotions. That’s a normal part of the grieving process. We hire experts to help us with many things–writing resumes, changing the oil in our cars, and even cleaning our homes and offices. Why not hire an expert to help you grieve? A therapist can keep you grounded and provide a sounding board while you cope with your loss and help you avoid dumping your emotions on people at work. If you can’t afford counseling, consider attending free grief support groups in your area. And of course, reach out to your mentor when you need to talk.

Take time off.

Don’t beat yourself up for needing time to grieve. Take time off if necessary. Be sure to talk to your human resources department to comply with standards for leaves of absence.

Re-prioritize.

You can’t expect yourself to perform at 100% while you’re grieving. Be realistic and operate in something like survival mode while grieving. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What can I remove from my plate right now?
  • Are there projects or tasks I can put off temporarily (without missing deadlines or damaging relationships at work)?
  • Who can I delegate some of my tasks to for a short period of time?

Extend gratitude.

When you suffer loss, you’ll likely receive text messages, emails, phone calls, and cards from your boss, clients, and colleagues. Don’t forget to say thank you to those who offer condolences or step up to help manage your work tasks while you’re grieving. This will help you maintain strong relationships at work and keep your professional network intact.

Connect with me for career coaching assistance, soft skills training, and presentations on career-related topics.

 

Why manners matter

Have you ever met someone who made a terrible first impression? Chances are, this person practiced manners poorly and lacked communication skills. He may not have had a firm handshake. Maybe he avoided eye contact with you (or worse yet, ignored you while interacting with others). Perhaps the person was attempting to sell you something yet failed because he was so over-the-top, aggressive, and obviously only interested in earning your business rather than getting to know you as an individual.

Manners matter. If you don’t think so, read up on the importance of soft skills. Manners matter to employers; they ought to matter to you, too, if you’re searching for a job or hope to earn a promotion at any point in your lifetime.

Here are five outcomes of practicing good manners. Consider these outcomes proof that manners matter.

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  • You make a great first impression.

We’re all prone to interpret others’ behavior and make a judgment call within the first 20-30 seconds of meeting people. It all goes back to the primacy effect and negativity bias. When you meet someone new, and the person makes a poor first impression, it sticks with you—often permanently, even if the person’s future behavior is completely different (and better) than the behavior he exhibited when you initially met.

This means you need to make a great first impression every single time you meet someone new. One tried and true way to do this is to practice great manners, proper etiquette, and strong communication skills.

  1. You stand out.

Let’s face it. People who go above and beyond to practice good manners are an endangered species. Many Gen Z students and recent grads have faced the conundrum of being kept on a tight leash as children while given unlimited virtual access to the world (and beyond). Under the thumb of ever watchful parents, afraid of tragedies, kidnappings, and accidents, many Gen Z children have been thrown electronic devices to keep them pacified since they were preschoolers. These devices introduced them to social media, video games, and false realities. Many Gen Z students and recent grads feel more comfortable communicating via devices than face-to-face as a result. The same students and grads express a desire to spend more time face-to-face with others, even though their communication skills are often lacking.

If you lack knowledge of how to practice good manners, and you know your communication skills aren’t up to par, seek help to improve these soft skills. Your ability to gain and maintain employment may depend on your willingness to develop better manners!

  1. You brand yourself well.

If you want to stand out to employers, college faculty and staff, alumni, and peers, you’ll attempt to practice great manners. When you interact positively and politely with others, you brand yourself as the kind of person people want to hire and work with.

As I discuss in the video accompanying this blog post, when you practice good manners, you brand yourself as courteous, thoughtful, attentive, kind, generous, helpful, and grateful. The people you meet will remember these great character traits and assets when they think of you. And maybe the next time they learn of a fabulous job opening, you’ll be one of the first people to come to mind.

  1. You build a strong network.

When you’re polite, courteous, thoughtful, attentive, and grateful, who wouldn’t want to hire you? Who wouldn’t want to keep in touch, connect with you on social media, interact with you in discussions, or meet with you for an informational interview? All great employers want to hire candidates who exhibit good manners and strong communication skills.

If you treat others well and make a positive first impression, you build strong, lasting relationships with other professionals, your peers, and your supervisors. Networking is all about relationships. When you practice good manners, connecting with others, building those relationships, and maintaining them is natural.

  1. You improve your self-esteem.

When you take esteemable actions, you gain self-esteem.

When you possess a sense of self-esteem and self-respect, you behave differently in the workplace, particularly in times of conflict. You can carry your head high because you know you’re doing the best job possible. When people gossip, you brush it off because no one else’s opinions define your sense of value or worth. This sort of self-esteem is a direct result of your actions. If you’re doing the next right thing each day at work, and you treat everyone politely and courteously, you can feel calm, comfortable, and proud of the work you’re doing.

At the end of the day, the way you treat others speaks volumes about how you feel about yourself.

If you recognize that practicing good manners and interacting with others positively is a challenge for you, reach out to me for help with soft skills coaching.

How to own your career journey and keep peace with your helicopter parents, too

I spoke to an incredibly bright, hard-working, promising senior in college yesterday. She told me about her summer internship with a major corporation in northwest Arkansas. She seemed excited about the possibilities of applying for graduate school and working full-time after graduation, too. With a solid GPA, plenty of leadership experience in athletics and extracurricular activities, and excellent soft skills, this girl will not have difficulty landing jobs. She’s top talent.

graduation-2276495_1280Whether you’re a college student who has it all together or not, senior year is still an exciting time full of promise if you’re completing graduation requirements and embarking on the next steps in your career journey.

One thing can really slow you down, generate drama and confusion, and inhibit your ability to make clear, strong decisions about your career, whether you’re top talent or not. And that’s a helicopter parent who refuses to stop hovering and insists on interfering in your career process.

Many helicopter parents recognize their children’s lack of soft skills—communication skills included–and inability to make decisions quickly, clearly, or easily. They want to help their children (soon-to-be adults), particularly when it’s time to choose a career path. Our world is evolving, in large part due to the role of technology, and many parents understand this and feel antsy about it. They want to help their children select a career path which provides stability, great earning potential, and solid benefits.

If you have a helicopter parent, it might not make you feel better to hear that your parents have your best intentions in mind. You probably don’t want your parents’ input regarding your career choices, the job application process, or your resume. Even if you love your parents, you may not love your parents’ opinions and steady stream of advice. You just want to own your own career process, whether you make perfect decisions or not.

Brandi Britton OfficeTeam District President
Brandi Britton, District President for OfficeTeam

Brandi Britton, OfficeTeam District President, advises college students to strike a balance when dealing with parents and to avoid shutting them out of the process completely. “It’s perfectly fine to talk through potential job opportunities with your parents. Since they have more experience, they may bring up factors you hadn’t considered.”

Britton also points out the importance of utilizing parents as valuable points of contact when networking. “Family members and others in your network can alert you to job opportunities and help set up introductory meetings with employers through connections. After all, networking still can’t be beat as a top way to get a job,” Britton notes.

Mike Caldwell, Director of Business Careers and Employer Development at William & Mary, suggests keeping parents informed but retaining ownership of the job search process. He offers three tips for college students.

Mike Caldwell
Mike Caldwell, Director of Business Careers and Employer Development at William & Mary

“1.  Inform your parents of the progress in your job search and what you’ve done to prepare. E.g. ‘I recently met with a career coach/advisor who helped me update my resume and structure my search process.’  Parents may assume you need help getting started if you don’t let them know!

2.  Ask your parents to help in specific areas which may be beneficial to your search. E.g. ‘I could really use additional networking contacts in XYZ field. Do you happen to know anyone who might be able to help?’ Your parents may have not written a resume in several years, but they may have great networking leads.

3.  For company selection, ask for input, but realize that your parents may focus on employers who are familiar or have existing name recognition. When discussing your selection process, it may be helpful to let them know a bit about the company or organization.”

Britton also reminds college students that asking parents for assistance on interviews and resumes is fine but cautions students about allowing parents to become overly involved. “Your parents can help you practice for interviews by posing questions that’ll likely be asked. Get their constructive feedback after mock interviews – how were your responses and delivery? Any parental involvement in the job search should be behind the scenes, such as using them as a second set of eyes for materials. Have your parents review your resume and cover letter for typos and to ensure you’ve highlighted key information.”

Ultimately, college students, particularly seniors, must strike out on their own and forge their own career paths. Not all career decisions will please your parents. That’s okay. We all make our own choices since we’re the ones living with the outcomes and consequences of those choices. Today’s college students have a wealth of resources available to them via career services, too. There’s no excuse for making uninformed career decisions, for not having a resume upon graduation, or for being unprepared for a job interview. Students should take full advantage of the career services office on campus, which ought to provide assistance with all this and more.

With the help of career services, faculty members, advisors, and yes—even parents and other family members—you’ll find that landing your first entry-level job after graduation and making career decisions probably isn’t as overwhelming as you thought it would be.

If you reach out to career services and don’t receive the help you were hoping to find, feel free to contact me for resume writing assistance, career development coaching, interview preparation tips, and more.

 

3 steps to take before writing your personal branding statement

A personal branding statement is super short—just a few lines. It shouldn’t take you long to whip it out, right? We’ll see.

A personal branding statement might be one of the most important pieces of writing you create as a job seeker or professional. What is a personal branding statement? A personal branding statement is a brief written statement which explains who you are as a professional and touts your value as a job seeker or employee. In your statement, you toot your horn (without being obnoxious, of course).

Why should you write one? How can you use it? You should write one because you need a personal branding statement for almost every social media site. You can use it on your LinkedIn profile, your Twitter profile, and your Quora profile. You can add verbage to it and convert it into a brief bio. You can use it when writing your elevator pitch. You can include it when writing content for articles on your blog. You can even use it as the signature at the bottom of your email if you like. There are many ways you can use your personal branding statement to brand yourself and help others understand who you are and what you’re attempting to accomplish.

There are three crucial steps you need to take before you actually write your personal branding statement, whether you choose to write it on your own or with the help of a career coach like me.


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  1. Define your career goals.

Do some quiet brainstorming and reflecting about your short and long-term career goals. Don’t think about where you see yourself in five years. You might be a realist like me; that’s a terrible approach.

Instead, think about where you’d like to be in five years if boundaries, finances, health, and family constraints were not concerns for you. Where would you be working? Would you work for others or yourself? Would you live in the same geographic location or not? Create a vision board or at least a vision card or document, jotting down words which capture the ideal career you have in mind. If five years doesn’t give you enough time to plan this ideal career, think 10 years out.

Then bring yourself back to the here and now—where your hands are. Within the next 12-18 months, how can you get closer to that long-term goal? If you feel baffled when considering this question, you might need a career coach’s help in seeking a promotion, a job or career change, or simply some training or professional development to gently push you in the direction of your goal.

  1. Select your target audience.

Who do you want to work with on a daily basis? Are you already working with those people? If so, great. Document your target audience. Once you see your audience listed on paper (or electronically), it’s easier to understand how to write your personal branding statement so that your wording is not too abstract or too concrete. You want to hit the sweet spot and ensure that your audience understands exactly what you’re saying and relates to the way you’re saying it. All good writing does this well.

  1. Identify your greatest assets.

Poll your colleagues, former supervisors, and mentors. Ask them to help you identify your greatest professional assets, values, ethics, soft skills, hard skills, and unique abilities in the workplace. Which problems do people regularly bring to you, knowing you’ll solve them more quickly and easily than others? Work some of these keywords and talents into your personal branding statement.

It’s easy to get stuck when writing a personal branding statement. You may be cursed with verbal diarrhea and find it difficult to limit the number of words you write. If this happens to you, don’t freak out or give up. Just reach out to me for help and schedule a free consultation for branding coaching. I’m a professional writer and a career coach—I’ve got you covered.

Helping, not hovering: Career assistance advice for parents of Gen Z students & recent grads

mom and sonDo you cringe when hearing the term “helicopter parents?” Nobody wants to be that parent—hovering over her child, offering unsolicited advice, attempting to thwart minor failures or skinned knees, and purchasing countless expensive gadgets and devices (because saying no is really hard!). But let’s face it. We’re all guilty of this occasionally–hovering, enabling, and causing  problematic behavior so prevalent in Generation Z students and recent grads.

Many experts in academics, career services, career coaching, and talent acquisition agree that by the time many Gen Z students graduate from college, they are simply not equipped with a strong set of soft skills. They’re often not confident about entering the workforce of today and contributing strongly to employers. Or worse, they’re overly confident.

Rather than spend time pointing the finger at our co-parents, blaming our school systems or higher education programs, or shaking our heads while gazing hopelessly at our own children and shrugging our shoulders, it makes more sense to ask ourselves that age-old question: “What’s my part in this problem? And how can I help ensure that my child is well-prepared for the world of work so that she finds a great job (and retains it) after graduating?”

cindy folmerCindy Folmer, Senior Human Resources Manager at L’Oréal USA, manages, coaches, and trains interns and entry-level employees daily. L’Oréal USA hires over 100 interns each summer. The company offers many of them the opportunity to join the Management Development Program. The program cultivates managers in distribution centers, manufacturing facilities, corporate headquarters, and other locations.

Folmer understands firsthand the challenges facing employers today in working with Gen Z college students and recent grads. “Proper manners, etiquette, ability to engage, and patience are all areas I see as challenges facing recent grads in the workplace. There are attitudes and behaviors, at times, that indicate those just entering the workforce believe they don’t have to put in the effort their parents did to move ahead as quickly. The challenge for employers is to engage this group so they are willing to learn and stay where they are in order to bring value to an organization. We’re committed to meeting this challenge at L’Oréal.” Folmer asserts.

What can parents do to prevent their children from developing attitudes like this to begin with? How can parents help their children develop strong soft skills?

  • Help children develop soft skills by encouraging the soft skill itself rather than by scolding the child for exhibiting its negative opposite. For example, if your child constantly procrastinates and never turns in homework on time, praise him when he turns it in on time. Visit with his teachers to open lines of communication; if you know when he’s submitting work on time, you can more easily encourage him. When he saunters downstairs one minute before it’s time to leave, express gratitude that he’s dressed and ready to go rather than making a snide comment about the way he fixed his hair (or didn’t brush his teeth).
  • Consider a technology-free zone in your home, a tech-free vacation, or a tech-free hour as a family. Model this behavior as a parent. If your child sees you with your nose in your phone, she’s not going to be inclined to put hers away. When you eat dinner—whether at a restaurant or at home—why not toss all your cell phones in a basket and engage in face-to-face conversation? This is a great way to encourage communication skills.
  • Teach children the art of waiting. Although we definitely need to stay ahead in the area of technology, we’ve made it easy for our children to get what they want when they want it. For instance, if they want to watch a specific television show they missed, we can jump onto In Demand,” suggests Folmer.
  • Encourage your children to find suitable career mentors and to explore their career goals early in life. This doesn’t require an extensive, formal assessment. Even elementary students can create vision boards and enjoy job shadowing and site visits. Most professionals absolutely love sharing about what they do, and chances are, your own friends and family members work in various career fields. Supervise this process to ensure your child’s safety, but don’t dictate which career fields your child chooses to explore, or you’ll take the fun out of it.
  • “Encourage them to absorb the pleasure of finishing something instead of jumping to the next activity. Give them something to do that will take time, such as learning a new sport, one they don’t really want to do. On the job, there will be tasks we don’t want to do; we have to do them, though. Then take a look back and talk through lessons learned, challenges overcome, and the excitement of success of each of these,” Folmer notes.

There are countless ways to help children learn soft skills and become confident in themselves. This confidence helps students, upon graduation, become candidates who are sought after by employers.

What if your child is struggling in his job search? How can you help? And should you help?

6950093_orig“College is a time for exploration, to learn, and to show that an individual can do things on their own,” said Matt Krumrie, a professional resume writer and career adviser who works with entry-level job seekers seeking that first job out of college. “Recent college grads should ask their parents for advice – but that’s it. They shouldn’t ask them to come to interviews – that really has happened – or expect them to lead their job search, or mention what they tell them in an interview.”

“Employers want to hire people who can think on their own, make decisions, and show they can get a job done without relying on someone else to always guide them,” Krumrie goes on to say. “When parents hover, or overstep boundaries in the job search, employers notice, and that hurts the job seeker. They wonder how much this will continue if hired, and in reality, it impacts hiring decisions. Once students graduates, it’s time to spread their wings, and show they are their own person ready to make an impact – without relying on mom and dad to lead them.”

Folmer agrees. “It’s very important at the stage of applications for parents to give their kids the opportunity to go it alone. I’ve seen too many kids come into the workplace with no idea how to complete an application. They also struggle with completing paperwork or making decisions. Be supportive, talk things out, and give them the tools necessary to go to the next level of their life.”

Each parent needs to decide the appropriate level of involvement with her own child. Whether you pay for career coaching for your child, encourage your child’s educational institution to offer soft skills training, send a career-related article to her, or offer no career advice and simply love her, the fact you took time to read this article means you’re a loving parent trying to do your best to help her—and she will be just fine in the end, no matter which path she chooses.

Contact me to discuss soft skills training programs, presentations, and opportunities for partnership with your child’s educational institution.

Finding freedom: Forging a new career path

Recently, a colleague introduced me to a group of college students during a presentation about networking skills as “Career Coach, Bethany Wallace, who is going to share with you tips about networking and her story about how she has reinvented herself in her career.”

Wow, I thought. That’s exactly what I’ve done, isn’t it? Sometimes we need to see ourselves through others’ eyes in order to appreciate our hard work, creativity, risk-taking, and perseverance. My mentors and colleagues always help me recognize and appreciate my career achievements.

happiness-1866081_1280One of the most intimidating career decisions I’ve ever made was the decision to leave a fabulous job as Content Manager of College Recruiter in 2016 shortly after starting my own career coaching business. I certainly found lots of career freedom as a result, but the pathway to this career freedom was like a roller coaster—full of ups and downs, and I felt sick half the time while on the ride.

While attempting to decide whether to leave my full-time position, I knew I needed to pour more of myself into my career coaching business to make it grow and give it a chance to succeed. I also wanted more scheduling flexibility. Staying home with my daughter, who was three years-old at the time, mattered to me, as did returning to the college classroom part-time. But the notion of leaving a well-renowned company in the job board industry, which afforded me the opportunity to earn a solid income and provide benefits for my family… ugh. I felt torn about this for months.

I finally bit the bullet and eased my way out of my position, transitioning from full-time to part-time over the course of a few months. While making the decision was difficult, it gave me total career freedom and autonomy. I now manage my own business, create content solely to promote my own business, market and sell my own services, and work directly with my clients. This arrangement might not be a great fit for everyone (or we’d have a nation full of entrepreneurs), but it’s the right fit for me.

Here are a few tips I’d offer anyone seeking more autonomy and freedom in their career.

  1. Live below your means.

Leave yourself open to changing careers—or even changing jobs or relocating—by simply living below your means. If you rope yourself into purchasing a new car every time you earn a small promotion at work, you’re tying a noose around your neck financially. You don’t leave yourself the option to pursue completely changing careers if your values and goals change. If you buy the nicest house you can afford in the best neighborhood of your city, your family and friends will be very impressed. But your options will be limited if you find that over a period of two years, you become increasingly less interested in your career field.

Not always–but often–when you change career fields, you take a step backward in terms of income because you have less experience in that particular field. Setting aside some of your income each month prior to switching careers is a good idea. In addition to saving money, it’s also a good idea to become comfortable with living way below your means. You will feel much less freaked out when you’re earning little to nothing for a while if you’re temporarily unemployed, underemployed, or acquiring clients when you start a new business.

  1. Eliminate as many risks as possible.

To follow up on #1, we’re in a true gig economy. Check out FlexJobs, for example. There are a myriad of great gig positions and part-time jobs available, many of them affording you the option to work remotely. Before you jump ship and start looking for a position in a brand new career field—going for months without income—why not land a great gig or part-time job to help supplement your period without full-time income?

I taught one online course for a community college during the first several months of my business being open. This was a lifesaver. Adjunct faculty members don’t earn much (newsflash for those of you who thought we were highly paid professionals!), but the extra income did supplement our overall family income, and it helped ease my financial fears while I worked diligently to market my services and attract clients.

  1. Stick to your guns in terms of pursuing your dreams and passions.

When you make a major career change—whether it’s switching career fields entirely or starting your own business—you’ll find that you’re surrounded by a mixed bag of naysayers and cheerleaders. Focus on the cheerleaders and ignore the naysayers.

Obviously you need to make calculated, wise, strategic decisions about your career. That’s where working with a career coach comes in. You should also consult your career mentor when facing major career decisions, and you should take other steps to assess your level of contentment, create a budget, etc.

But once you’ve taken the plunge—thoughtfully and carefully—don’t look back. You don’t want to lose momentum by focusing on negative tidbits others feed you about how you are killing your career, or how hard it’s going to be for you, or how unsure your friends and family are about your potential to succeed.

Separate yourself from negative people. Focus on pursuing your original career goals. Map out your career plan in manageable bites so you will not become overwhelmed, and then start pecking away at that plan slowly but surely.

Before you know it, you’ll be doing the exact things you envisioned yourself doing when you began dreaming about your new career. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be doing those things sooner rather than later.

Career freedom is right around the corner—but you have to pursue it.

For help making a career change, reach out to me to schedule a free consultation.

 

Making the most of working with your career mentor

I’ve never regretted one minute spent listening to my career mentors. I learn so much when we meet, chatting over pancakes at Bob’s Diner or pizza in downtown Little Rock. Sure, I do some of the talking–opening up about where I’m at in my career, asking questions, and even sharing about troubling situations in the workplace in hopes my mentors will offer potential solutions. They always do because they’re brilliant women. I picked great career mentors. One owns her own business, consulting small business owners who want to market themselves and attract better clients. The other manages recruiting for a telecommunications corporation. My mentors have been where I am in many ways. They know what I’m going through, and even if they haven’t found themselves puzzled by an identical client or partner, they have likely been in similar situations.

That’s the beauty of working with a career mentor. A career mentor is a mentor you ask to guide you through your career journey–not just from point A to point B during one stretch of your career or while you strive through the most difficult mess of it. Your mentor learns all about you, and your career mentor can give you very pointed, detailed advice. Since your mentor doesn’t work with you in your workplace–unlike a workplace mentor–she doesn’t care about office politics. She only cares about seeing you succeed in the long run. She sees the big picture.

If you already have a career mentor, you’ll want to watch this video with three tips/reminders about making the most of working with your career mentor. You’ll find ways to apply this advice to the relationship you already have with your mentor. If you don’t have a career mentor, think about a few people you admire while watching the video and reading the article. Maybe by the end, you’ll have narrowed down your list.


If the video isn’t playing properly click here.

  1. Remember, your career mentor isn’t a fairy godmother (or godfather).

    Your career mentor won’t float out of the sky, pixie dust sprinkled in her hair, announcing her desire to guide you through your career (but wouldn’t that be great?!). You’re going to have to break down and ask someone to mentor you. Sometimes mentoring relationships evolve naturally. This happens in the workplace and in higher education; you might fall into a relationship with your career mentor if she’s your professor or boss. But most likely, you’ll find someone you admire who works in your dream job or similar career field. You will observe this person to ensure she exhibits character traits you admire. Then you will ask her to serve as your career mentor. Asking can be difficult, but acting against your fear of rejection is important. You potentially have so much to gain from a great career mentor.Also, we can often believe our career mentors are fairy godmothers in the sense that we place them on pedestals. We think they’re professionally perfect. But they’re definitely not, and learning from your career mentor’s failures and defects can be just as helpful as learning from your career mentor’s successes and assets.
  2. If it’s not working, make a change.

    It would be great if everyone’s career mentoring relationship lasted for a lifetime. Some do, and some don’t. If you work with a career mentor for five years, and you find yourself growing apart, accept that it may be time to seek a new career mentor. Some relationships–even professional relationships–are only meant to last for a season. We all grow, change, and develop, and as that happens, we often grow apart. Trying to force a fit doesn’t feel natural and can make a mentoring relationship very awkward. If you’re asking questions and not receiving answers which feel aligned with your values, ethics, or goals, it might be time to seek a new career mentor.
  3. Don’t expect your mentor to serve as your career coach.

    Unless your mentor works in career services, career counseling, or career coaching, your mentor will probably not feel comfortable providing you with detailed assistance with your resume, cover letter, interview preparation, branding, networking, job search assistance, or other areas of career coaching. While your mentor can certainly share her unique experiences in these areas, your mentor won’t pretend to be an expert in an area outside her realm of expertise. And she shouldn’t! If someone comes to me for personal counseling, I don’t pretend for one minute I’m licensed as a professional counselor. I immediately refer that potential client to a qualified professional.Seek your mentor’s advice and ask her to share her experience, but don’t drain her either. Remember that your mentor probably juggles work, family, and personal interests, including mentoring you (and possibly other mentees). Respect her boundaries.

    If you need help determining how to find a great career mentor, how to ask someone to mentor you, or how to seek career coaching help from a professional rather than from your mentor, reach out to me to schedule a free consultation. 

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