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I just returned from my college reunion at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. I won’t tell you what number reunion it was for me, but I’ll just say it was “a big round number” as I like to call these things. We had about 30-35% of the graduating class back, and, while this is the third time I’ve been back to College Hill, it is the first time that I was there where I felt like I was fully present. I think that a lot of people step into sites that were scenes from earlier in their lives and they revert to the person they were there, and stop being the person they are now. I’ve done that in the past, and was working really hard to be present in the fullness of who I am now.
One thing that I think is the norm for any college reunion is drinking. I think I had more in 30 hours than I normally have in a month! I was lucky to be staying in campus housing so I didn’t have to drive anywhere. In some ways I think that is to numb yourself from feeling everything as well as to try to relive your old activities, and get away from the staid live of the present. I got to see a number of friends that I was close to while I was a student, including choir buddies (I sang most of my time there are was a
member of numerous singing groups), roommates (Eric, I swear I will go to Wellesley soon in the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge. Thanks for following!), suitemates (great to meet your family Dave!), and even people I never talked with while I was there. I even met someone who I never spoke with in my four years on campus to find he lives a little over a mile away and might be interested in my career consulting (yup, it’s a tax deduction right there!). I even got to go rock climbing for the first time in my life. They certainly never had that when I was on campus!
I also tried to do some thing that are being true to me. There was a yoga class that I took, and I first did yoga on campus where I was the only student to an upperclass woman from Brazil. That, and the health food store in the village of Clinton were things that got me to think about health issues and set me up for the 26 years that I’ve been a vegetarian. These were the seeds that grew to make me who I am now.
A really new thing for me was that I got to attend a GLBT Alumni gathering. I was not out to myself then and very few people on campus were. Now they have a building where they have programming and are very visible on campus. In talking with a number of the current students, it sounds like it’s not always the easiest thing, it’s a lot different than my time. I also got to meet other GLBT alums and find out that there’s a GBLT Alumni group! It’s amazing to think of being all of myself there. (Note: another gay alumnus of Hamilton wrote a great article for the New York Times about his experiences at reunion, which mirrors a lot of what I’m saying here.)
There are three things that really struck me while I was there:
- One of my fellow alums was there who really made an impression on me. I didn’t know her that well while I was on campus, but we knew each other enough to say hello and chat. She’s obviously had challenges in her life as she was walking with a walker and utilized an iPad to type out what she had to say that couldn’t be relayed in hand gestures. She was in yoga class with me, and was everywhere during the weekend. I know that she had some assistance, but she was very self determined and was definitely showing up fully as she is today. I didn’t get to speak with her much, but I did tell her she if a very strong woman.Thank you, Classmate, for your presence.
- A friend of mine that I’m still connected on Facebook asked me what it was like being gay in college and if I was out, did I hide it from people, etc. She said it must have been very difficult and she felt badly that she couldn’t have done something to make it a better experience. This was totally unprompted and really made me feel cared for. It was something small, but made a big difference in my heart.Thank you, Friend, for your presence.
- While I was not out in college, there was a guy who was. He was an athlete and well liked, and was really the first colleague that I had that was out. I didn’t have the words for it at the time, but I realize now that he was the first guy I had a crush on. Unbelievably, he was there and I got to say thank you to him for being out, and that it made a difference to me even though I didn’t come out then. He said it was awkward, but he knew that he had to do it. I wish I could have been that brave.Thank you, Role Model, for your presence.
I was working hard at being present and being me authentically while I was there. This is difficult in lots of situations, but by forcing myself to do that, I gained some strength and that I can be more me in any situation and can take that into my future.
So, are you being present even when it’s tough?
I am proud to announce that I have a new home base for seeing clients and holding workshops at the Theosophical Society of Boston, whose offices are at 21 Maple Street in Arlington Center. It has generous parking, as well is on four different bus lines of the MBTA.
I will be able to see one-on-one clients in a quiet, cozy setting, but also have the availability to run more workshops, which you will be seeing more of in 2012.
To quote from the their website:The Theosophical Society (TS) is a center of learning where people can explore, with freedom of thought and inquiry, many philosophies and spiritual practices. The TS offers a wide range of lectures, workshops, study groups, and meditation practices. The goal of the programs presented at the TS is to promote ways in which all of us can communicate and cooperate with each other. As part of this goal, we:
- seek universal truth;
- honor and respect other spiritual points of view as well as those who hold them; and
- recognize that each and every one of us are expressions of the same life and that our well-being is linked: whatever happens to one of us happens to all of us.
As anyone who reads this blog consistently knows, this philosophy is in line with what I espouse here on The Spirit-Work Connection. I’ll probably be providing some programming for them, as well as doing my other programs. They have lots of interesting programming there, so check it out!
While I’m thrilled to have a home base, I will continue to meet with clients via the phone, Skype, and in other locations convenient to all involved.
So, when will you be coming to see the new home?
As I stated in my last post, most people don’t think about telling the stories of their lives in a compelling way that shows how what you’ve done makes a difference in the world. In this post, I’d like to give some help in how you can make your stories of your background more engaging to your target audience (You do have a target audience, right? It should be the hiring manager.)
Knowing my audience (namely you), I like to tell my stories in ways that you can relate to. As most people have had the experience of going to a movie, that’s the metaphor that I’m going to use. The job of the screenwriter is to write the story in a way that brings you in and keeps you engaged. That’s done in two ways:
First, when the movie starts, you (the viewer) are trying to figure out who the characters are, how they are related, where they are, what time period they are living in, etc. A good screenwriter supplies the CONTEXT in this first scene. It allows the viewer to relate the experiences of the characters to the viewer’s life.
- You need to supply context of your background to the reader of your resume or the person you meet at a networking event (and especially in an interview). If you did something in a different city or in an obscure organization, you will need to supply the context so that the hiring manager will understand how what you did there relates to their needs. Easy ways to do that are with names they understand (such as “I worked in the Obama administration”. If you worked with Joe Bagadonuts and they don’t know Joe, it doesn’t help) and numbers (How many of those press releases did you write? How many people attended that event you organized?)
Second, imagine you’ve finished the movie and are walking home, and you can see the movie playing in your mind. You meet up with a friend and you tell the story again. If the screenplay was written well, you can do this.
- You need your story to be VISUAL and REPEATABLE. Most people make their stories so boring and vague that people can’t see it. Imagine I were following you around with a video camera while you were doing your work. Would I see you “assisting the manager?”. That can mean just about anything. If you instead said that you “Compiled a report on the top 100 companies in the social media marketing field for inclusion in annual report”, that might get me to see a bit more of what you were doing.
When you start your job search, you are in charge of how you develop your character in the mind of the target audience. If you tell the story poorly, the audience will make up their own minds about who you are, and that might not be what you want them to think.
So, what story are you telling and are you the star of your own story?
I like to say that a major part of the job search process is storytelling. The exchange of ideas that happen in any search to find the right fit is going to involve stories from the point of view of the employer (e.g. Job descriptions, describing company culture, etc.) and the job searcher. You need to know what stories you want and need to tell (Hint: 5th grade science project is not a story you need to tell). You have many stories from you can tell, but you need to figure out which one are the important ones and then how to tell them in a compelling way.
I’ve found that although most of us have been listening to (and maybe telling) stories most of our lives, many people don’t know how to structure stories in a way that really is effective. I like to say that you should organize them in ways that people are familiar so that they don’t have to figure out the structure, but just focus on the content.
So, what form are people most familiar with across cultures?
Most fairy takes have a very basic structure that works well for job search purposes:
- Our Hero Enters the Scene: Usually there is a little back story to the story. What does the Hero see when entering? This is the Situation.
- Our Hero Has A Quest: Upon understanding the Situation, the Hero does something to change the situation. It can be a duel, a test, or something, but the Hero takes some Action to change the situation.
- Our Hero Leaves the Scene: Once done with the Action, the Situation has now changed. Hopefully it’s Happily ever after, but there is a Result.
When you are telling the story of any experience in your life, it’s as real as a fairy tale to the listener. You have to let them know the Situation you walked into, what Action you took to change the situation, and what Result came from your action. This is to show that you actually made a difference in your being there.
Hiring managers want to know how bringing you on can help them out, so you need to show that you’ve done this in the past. If you can’t relate it to them, they won’t believe it. (Note: these stories will have to come across not only in your resume, but any online presence, your networking, your interviewing, etc.)
So, what stories do you have to tell, and is it something that will make a difference in my life?
I see a lot if people who send out volumes of resumes to posted jobs, and are frustrated that no one responds. “If they only realized how great I am!” I can hear them cry out in their souls. “Why don’t they give me a chance? I could be great!”
I’m here to explain the two main reasons why this doesn’t happen:
- You are among hundreds of people who the hiring manager doesn’t know who haven’t explained clearly how you can help out relieve the hiring manager’s problems, and…
- The hiring manager has no idea if you are a crazy maker, diva, problem child, etc. that will make the work environment a living hell for the duration if you’re hired.
This is not to say that you are any of the above, but the hiring manager wants to avoid that at all costs. (Think about the co-worker you have that drives you crazy and you wish would quit. Now imagine having to manage that person. You’re life would suck on so many levels.) If you’ve given me reason to know that you’re a capable and talented potential employee, then I’m more likely to take a chance on you.
How can you do that? Well, look at your own experience. When you have to make a decision on something that you are unsure of, what do you do?
Check your trusted references.
For you, that might be friends, certain magazines or websites that have good advice, etc. You need to find out where the hiring manager looks for references, and make sure you’re seen as competent there first before the hiring manager asks about you.
How to do that? Identify your targets first, do your research, and get out and talk to people. Much more effective than sitting in your pajamas and sending out dozens of resumes daily.
So, how are you getting known by the people who need to know you?
As I, and just about any other career professional, speaks about getting a job, the subject of networking comes up. This usually sets people onto fits and squirming. Some people naturally network like they’re breathing, and others act like they would rather pull their eyelashes out one by one than network.
I’ve found that this is often the case because people have this preconceived notion as to what networking looks like. Usually it’s the really slimy guy that shakes every hand in the room and gets as many business cards as possible. This guy is not interested in getting to know anyone but just looking for contacts to use later for his own benefit.
Let me tell you know: THIS IS NOT NETWORKING!
Networking is about the mutually beneficial social connections that you have with people. The example above is more like a drive through trip to McDonald’s: very fleeting and only memorable if they were a problem.
Real networking is getting to know people who have similar interests to you so you can share knowledge and show yourself in the best light. You do the same thing if you’re looking to get more involved in the model airplane club or getting into the latest startup. You want to impress people with what you’ve got to offer, and different people impress in different ways:
- Extroverts impress by energy
- Introverts impress by focus
To use an analogy that I find striking, extroverts are like bombs. The make a big noise and everyone knows they have arrived (speaking as an extrovert!). Introverts are more like a augur drill. They are on and consistent but they keep going. It is with the consistency of message and focus on particular people that really is the strength of introverts and make them shine.
If you know what your goal is, and continually work every angle (usually behind the scenes!), introverts can usually build trust very effectively. Here’re some examples of how introverts can network better than extroverts:
- At a “networking” event, figure out in advance what information you want to gain, and ask the staff at the reception table if they know anyone who has information on that and see if you can get an introduction.
- If there is someone who is a thought leader in your field who is writing in numerous social media, follow and like them, read up on their thoughts. You will then be knowledgeable enough to either retweet, comment, write about, and in other ways make yourself known in a subtle way. Keep at it!
- Ask for individual introductions to people who may know more people in the chosen field than you do, and might have great insights. You might have to go through the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” to get to the right person who is a hogging manager, but your persistence will pay off!
Note to Extroverts: These work for you too!
Get out there and practice. It’s the only way to get better at it. Make your 100 mistakes as soon as you can, so that you can have mastery over it.
So, what are the ways you network that are comfortable for you?
Here are the top articles/posts that I’ve seen over the past week that interest me, and hopefully interest you!
- Change is in the Air: 7 LinkedIn Tips for Career Changers: Thinking about changing your career? Here are some ideas about using LinkedIn to help that along.
- I found this Rumi poem, Inner Sunrise very moving & appropriate for careers and spirit.
- Networking Is Still The Best Way To Find A Job, Survey Says: It’s still true. Your connections/references are what help you get jobs.
- “Biggest Loser” Marci Crozier meets with fans: I love the Biggest Loser, and Marci Crozier is really connecting her life experience into her work passion.
- Sonic Yoga Tango!: An example of someone promoting themselves when they have a portfolio career. Just like a resume, you need some way of demonstrating your skills. Here’s a great example.
- The Shortcut to the Shortcut: The 4 Key Principles of The 4-Hour Body: I haven’t read this book yet, but Tim Ferriss is demonstrating his skill and showing his value!
- Cool Slackline Stunt Competition: Really amazing feats by young people doing crazy things on a new version of tightrope walking, but this goes far ahead of that. Shows what focus and passion can accomplish!
- Straight men kissing more: Interesting cultural phenomenon that shows that when homophobia is lessened in men, it allows them more freedom to express themselves in different ways.
- Raw Faith: What looks like a very interesting documentary about a Unitarian Universalist minister at one of the largest congregations in the country. What happens when you decide to not be a minister anymore? I found this one after reading Marilyn Sewell’s great article in the Huffington Post called The Theology of Unitarian Universalists.