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A lot has been going on here, and I know that I haven’t been posting much lately, but you’ll soon be seeing a whole bunch more postings here. I promise.
One of the activities that has been keeping me busy is that I completed a video for the Spirit at Work Creative Video Contest, and I need your help! Please watch the video below (or go to https://vimeo.com/groups/spiritatworkcreative/videos/39671085), and click on the “Like” button that’s shaped like a heart in the upper right hand corner of the video. There are 35 videos in the contest, and the 10 videos that get the most Likes before June 2, 2012 will be judged for a grand prize of CDN$7,500.00. There are many good videos in the context, but mine is the only one that is dealing with the issues of career and spiritual development. It might not be as flashy as some of the other videos, but I think that you’ll like the content.
Please share it with your friends and get them to “like” it to! Thanks for all your assistance!
As many of you have probably experienced, cover letters bring fear into the hearts of most job seekers. People who can write eloquently on any subject given suddenly freeze up when they have to write a few paragraphs about themselves. The old “I don’t know what to say!” phrase comes out and people get paralyzed I would say that the reason for this is people don’t know the purpose of what they are writing and why.
As I’ve written before, a resume’s job is to speak for you when you’re not around to speak for yourself and to show you’re a professional in your field. It’s like an advertisement for you, just like any other company would have an advertisement for a product. A cover letter is your opportunity to show that you are a good match for this organization and to highlight your writing skills. A resume is your advertisement and your cover letter is trying to close the deal of getting you in the door to demonstrate to them that you’re the best candidate.
I like to say that a cover letter should answer three questions:
- Why am I interested in your company? 99% of all cover letters start with some version of “I saw your ad and I’m perfect for this job.” it might be dressed up in different language, but it’s the same blah, blah, blah. Can you show you’re different? Why is this particular organization interesting? Do you know anything about the product or initiatives they’ve completed? Can you mention any people that work there that know you? How does this fit into your career path? Give them something to show you e done done homework and this isn’t the 17th of 32 cover letters you’re writing today.
- Why Should They Be Interested In You? The hiring managers want to know that you’ve already got the skills, knowledge, and experience they need. What are the stories of your past experiences that show them that? Choose two or three and tell them in a way that connects your experiences with their needs.
- We’re A Great Match! We Should Talk! What’s Next? You made the match, now ask for the interview. Most people say something to the effect of “I’ll be sitting here in the dark until you get back to me.” You need to say you’re looking forward to speaking with them about the opportunity, or something to that effect. Also make sure you include all the ways that they can get in touch with you (e.g. phone, email, Skype, etc.) Also, if you are looking in another city, you can say “If it is convenient, I will be in New York City from March 12-19 and available for interviews”, so that they don’t have to ask you when you’re available.
So, how are you selling yourself?
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?
Many times when I first talk with a client, it’s because they are frustrated because they’ve been sending out resumes, usually dozens a day, for months, and they’ve gotten little to no response from their efforts. My first question to them usually is “So, what are you looking for?”. The usual answer to that is either “anything” or “I don’t know”.
If this is the case, it’s no wonder that no one is responding. People hire others because they need help and you’ve let them know how you can help them. If you don’t know who you’re searching for, then you won’t know what to do to help them. Otherwise, you’re shooting into the deep void hoping to hit a target you can’t see.
The reason why so many people panic in the job search is because they feel out of control and don’t feel prepared for what’s ahead. My answer us to “get a clue” and do some research to find out what it is you’re looking for. Granted, to hone your goals, you might need to work with someone like me to tease out your goals, but many people can just start doing tea search and that will help.
I like to say there are two ways to do research:
Dead & Alive
Dead Research means that you don’t get any response when you ask a question. This is anything in print. You can get a lot of information that way but it’s static.
Live Research means that you get a response when you ask questions. This is actually talking with people. You will always get more up-to-date and dynamic information this way, and you will also be building relationships. Informational interviews, networking events, etc. are great places to find out more information if you are focused on what you’re looking for and have a plan.
Most people hide behind their resumes and computers and never get out to talk with people. This is one of the main reasons that it takes people so long to get a job. If you don’t do your research, you’ll be the “deer in the headlights” and not been seen as an asset.
So, do you know what you’re stepping into?
I tend to work with a lot of people who I would classify as “creative entrepreneurs“. These are people who tend to develop things and work on a more project based process. I would include in this field not only novelists, screenwriters, filmmakers, actors, musicians and the like, but also ministers, yoga teachers, and others whose work tends to be in the more consultancy tradition of having many projects to do that starts and end.
As these type of careers tends to need to have a solid track record in order to succeed, it usually takes creative entrepreneurs a while to develop their portfolios of work, and they will need done other means of supporting themselves in the interim. I like to say that they need to have their creative career, and also “their career that supports their creative career”. This parallel career is different than a day job.
When you say the phrase “day job”, you are sending out two messages:
- First, you are stating that you don’t care about this work and don’t plan any advancement in this role, and
- Second, you’re implying that your creative work is not important enough for anyone else to value.
I say that a “career that supports your creative career” is one that you also enjoy and can see some upward mobility in, but that also gives you the money, time and energy to do your creative work. If you have a job that is paying the bills but makes you exhausted at the end of the day, it’s not supporting your creative career.
You could also say that if you have s life outside of work, you need to have a career that supports that.
So, how is your career supporting you?
This post marks my 100th blog post. I started in December 2009, and wanted to get myself into the practice of writing (I’ve joked that I’m writing my book a blog post at a time). I’ve written about a lot of things, but the themes, as best as I’ve been able to keep to them, is the listening to one’s own authentic self and then seeing how that can be manifested in the world. As my professional area is career development, I’ve also shared my philosophies about how one can best identify what is mist precious and to state your best case about doing that for others. I’ve gotten a few comments here, and many more in person or other venues, that people have appreciated what I’ve had to say and it’s helped them in their professional journey.
After having written so much, I’ve learned some things about myself and the process, and how people have reacted to my words. Some of my learnings are:
- You’d be surprised at what gets the most comments. Topics that I thought were the most benign can sometimes get the most heated debate.
- There’s always something to write about. Even if it’s what you had for lunch, if it makes you think about something bigger in life, it can be a blog post.
- You’d be surprised who is most interested in your writing. Someone random will tell me that they follow my blog every post and have gotten a lot out of it, and I didn’t think they even knew about it!
- Writing a blog is fine, but you have to get people to read it. There’s a lot of things to read, and the struggle is getting eyes on your words.
- Forcing yourself to write is a good practice, like doing many other things that you know are good for you but take effort.
- Writing about events in your life can be cathartic, in that it forces you to think through things and present them in a way that shows your reflected on things and how you want to be seen.
- Practice makes perfect. Keep doing things and you’ll get better at them.
So, what have you learned from doing something 100 times?
I have heard many a job searcher complain that they could do anything if just given the chance. “I could do that but they just don’t know it yet!” It is like job searchers think that they are pounds of clay that just need to be molded by the right hands to make a beautiful vase.
The main problem with this approach is that the job seeker is focused on their experience and not that of the hiring manager. Let’s instead look at it from that point of view.
Imagine that you are a manager, and you need some help. You’ve got a lot of responsibilities and you are probably covering a part of someone else’s position (which is why you need help). In addition to that, now you have to make the extra effort to find someone to help you. What you’d really like to do is blink your eyes like Samantha in the old Bewitched TV show (or wriggle your nose like Barbara Eden in I Dream of Jeannie) and have someone magically appear that is perfect for the position and can take all this work off your desk.
Just to enlighten you, as much as people don’t like looking for a job, managers don’t like having to do the search. Everyone doesn’t like the uncertainty of it. That said, the manager wants to know three things that will instill some confidence that you are the right person for the job. The more you can make it obvious that you’ve got all these things, the easier it will be that they are making the right decision in bringing you on
The three things that every hiring manager needs to know about you are:
- Do You Have the Skills, Knowledge and Experience That I Need for Someone in This Position? Do you know what’s expected of someone in this role. If you don’t have what they need, then you are guessing about what to tell them to give them confidence.
- Will I Want To Hang Around With You All Day? Most people spend more time with their co-workers than their family daily. While I don’t have to be your best friend, I want to know that I can go out to lunch with you once in a while, have a pleasant conversation and get along with you. The hiring manager can’t tell this from a resume and cover letter.
- Will You Drive Me Crazy? Almost everyone has the experience of working with someone who is brilliant, intelligent, creative, etc. but is sobbing who you would never what to work with for the rest of your life. We all know the Prima Donna concept, and no manager wants to work with someone who will need as much work to support as it will with the results of their actions. Again, this can’t be gleaned from a resume.
So, how do you get them to understand that you’re great to be around and won’t drive them crazy? Same as how you figure out which restaurant has good service and which frozen dinner doesn’t taste like cardboard: references from trusted sources. If the hiring manager knows of people you know and they can speak to the fact that you are professional, aren’t a raving lunatic, and work well with others, I’m going to have more confidence in you. That said, you need to build up your relationships with people who the hiring manager might talk to before the job opens up. You need to be seen as credible to people all the time, and not just when applying for the job.
So, what relationships are you building in your professional field that will help you in the future?
Tomorrow, I’ll be at the 3rd New England Xpo for Business at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, one of the largest Business to Business (B2B) events in New England. There will be numerous workshops that will be presented by industry experts, as well as many companies looking for business connections. I went last year and learned a lot (I’ll be at a lot of social media workshops!)
While this event is not one that I will particularly one that I think I’ll be finding particular customers, but you never know what opportunities will come up. Last year, I was interviewed by Jennifer Shaheen, the Technology Therapist about how to utilize social media in your career development. Check that interview out here. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone and try something new and talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to.
So, what are you changing up? Where are you going that you normally wouldn’t tread?