Katherine Turpin

Your Professional Branding Strategist

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Category: Mindset coaching

For the happy-hour averse

start right where you are :: INTERNAL NETWORKING

 

A few weeks ago, while prepping for a Genesys Works training session, I was pondering the program: these interns have a stunning opportunity to start building their professional networks while they’re still in high school. They learn new skills, showcase their work ethic & personalities and pre-pave the way to college internships and full time employment. I was thinking that a really savvy intern would do well to leverage the heck out of this opportunity to network.

Considering the internship program got my brain firing (because traditional external networking brings to mind cringey, superficial chats with strangers at noisy happy hours, juggling business cards, hors d’oeuvres and a wineglass):

What if each of us networked inside our own companies intentionally?
Duh! A ready-made common ground + a shared mission.

So.Simple! Find and get to know people at your company who are outside your normal work trajectory. Get to know them via a committee or project, working shoulder-to-shoulder. Soon they’ll be able to vouch for your shining personality / skills / work ethic / impact. They’ll become a part of your true network, far more likely to help you if/when you need it (and hopefully, you’ll do the same for them!).

In a job that demands every second of your day, adding internal networking might be the last thing you’d choose. But I think getting to know others makes work more fun and rewarding. And who knows where those new connections will lead? So it’s a little bit selfish, in a good way.  I’ve heard of folks who brilliantly (and often innocently) landed great new jobs and built amazing careers through internal networking. Maybe you have, too.

things you can do right now
(besides being great at your job, which speaks for itself):
  • Volunteer to help anywhere it’s needed. Join committees of all kinds.
  • Offer to research / document / investigate / figure out and report back.
  • If something is wanted or needed but doesn’t yet exist, figure it out or create it.
  • Invite someone you don’t know well to have coffee, eat lunch or go for a walk.
  • Make introductions ~ help connect others. Inclusivity is IN!

In my first year at TCF Bank, I signed on for (almost) every opportunity that crossed my path: my department’s FUN committee, the IT Hackathon planning committee; IT book club, IT donut club, IT ambassador group, IT & Friends (volunteer) committee. I even launched a new club, the TCF Travel Junkies.

I didn’t think of it as internal networking at first ~ I just wanted to be a better cultural ambassador. I’ve never been part of so many initiatives before.  The benefits? They’re plentiful: getting to know great people outside my department  = more enjoyment! When I need an answer, it’s easier to find. Or when I want to get something done, I have a friendlier ear. I get to reciprocate, which also feels fantastic.  Not to mention enjoying the results of our efforts. As far as stepping out of my comfort zone? It feels a little awkward at first. And then, it’s 100% satisfying.

“Your network is not people you know; your network is the people you know who are willing to help you.”  ~~ Sol Orwell

A communication tool is helpful (we use Slack). A core group of networking-minded people helps — there are many in my company who are committed to fostering a collaborative culture. They generously share their connections and are a huge help & inspiration. But even if your company isn’t similarly inclined, you can (and should) branch out.

When you work alongside someone, you get to know them in a different way than if you’ve just chatted over drinks at some industry event. And since we  (usually) have just one boss and one team of peers at a time, we exponentially increase the number of people who know our work when we work on initiatives and projects outside our our normal scope.

It takes extra time & effort to be involved, but it also saves time: answers come more quickly. Folks with whom I’ve worked on projects are more likely to jump in when I need help. There’s a sense of fun and camaraderie.

There’s still a ways to go before I know everybody, but the gap is narrower than if I just did my job day in and day out.

Some bad news: you’ll still need to occasionally attend external networking happy hours. But with intentional internal networking, you’ll need it less.  So start building meaningful connections where you are. Get out of your office / cube / comfort zone and GET INVOLVED!!

I help mid-career professionals figure out their brand, get connected, and launch rockets of all kinds.
Want to chat?
Here’s a link to my calendar for a no-strings-attached intro call.

Wait…Job-Hunting is Like DATING?

How to deal with stuck
(because sometimes it feels like it’ll last forever)

Have you ever been doing everything right in a job search and then suddenly and for no apparent reason things came to a screeching halt?

You got your resume & LinkedIn profile all spiffed up, discreetly let a few friends and former co-workers know you were on the market. You found great jobs & applied to them. Had an interview or two, maybe even the promise of an offer. Things were going great. “What’s all the fuss?” you wondered, “This is easy!”

And then, ghosted.

It happens without warming: a search that’s humming along nicely goes silent. Nobody replies to emails (or worse, you get an inane hard-to-interpret reply). Offers are stalled, all activity just STOPS for no reason.

It can be freaky.  Because Waiting is the Worst.

You want to know what you did wrong. Did the market change and now the job’s being done by robots? Naturally, you want to DO something to end the torture and shake things loose.

This probably won’t surprise you, but job hunting is a lot like DATING: it’s designed to rattle you to your core (kidding, not kidding).

But seriously
  1. Don’t take it personally. Stuck happens. Sometimes it has zero to do with you. Hiring is important, but when a company has an ‘all hands on deck’, candidate interviews are the first thing to get pushed back.  So maybe it’s not you, it’s them.
  2. Walk away for a bit. Cosmically, detaching makes you mysterious and alluring. Oh, wait, that’s dating. Well, it’s also true for job-hunting: something magical happens when you stop pushing.
  3. Date around. Give your mission a little time off (you’ll know when you’re ready to get back to it, because your curiosity and enthusiasm will return).
  4. Once you’re not feeling even the slightest bit pissed off or stuck, take a tiny step forward. Do something silly, like applying for a job you’d never consider: zookeeper or barista or dog park attendant.

    See, you have to show yourself it’s not all that heavy and serious. Like “Tag, you’re it”, then you let it go. Forget about it. A playful touch is super important. Like in dating, “I’m interested, but I don’t NEED you.”

  5. Repeat. And keep having fun, staying curious, not being in a rush.
  6. Remind yourself you have valuable skills and that things always work out: yup, even when there seems to be no movement.
    Because you do, and they do.

Those are arugula sprouts, by the way. I love arugula. You know what else? Seeds take time to germinate. Just like the efforts you’re putting into your search (or dating).

We get tons of social cues to push on (damn Puritan work ethic). So it’s not your fault for wanting to muscle through.

But for god’s sake, when you’re stuck, take a break, will you? PS. you’re not really stopping, you’re just pausing. You’re resting a bit to let things unfold in the best possible way.

 

Does your professional brand need some love? Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute intro conversation.

 

Because Hope is Not a (Job Hunting) Strategy

The old ‘post-and-pray’ model (where Talent Acquisition publishes a job on the company ‘Careers’ page and HOPES that the right candidate applies) doesn’t work well.

We still post, of course, but we’re also reaching out to candidates and actively recruiting them.

‘Apply-and-pray’, the job seeker’s equivalent to ‘post-and-pray’, doesn’t work well either (unless you’re a mid-level developer). You might get lucky if you’re one of the early applicants. But especially at manager- and director-levels, your resume might not even get read unless you’re in the first wave.

I think the way we go about finding a new job needs to evolve.

That’s where marketing steps in.

You’ve heard of marketing campaigns, right? Companies create and run a series of visibility-raising programs to launch new products or to sell more of something.

In other words, while ‘apply-and-pray’ is a possible method (except, hope is not a strategy), there are other more-proactive (and interesting) routes to take.

Here are three:

  1. Create your professional brand 

Which problems do you most often get asked to solve? What kind of work do you love doing (and get paid for, of course)? Where are you happiest and most effective? What are you known for? How do you want to be known?

Are your resume and LinkedIn profile aligned and accurate? Do they clearly showcase your talents & accomplishments?

Once you’ve got your professional brand nailed (and you don’t need to do this with me), TAKING ACTION is important.

Because otherwise, you’re just putting yourself on a shelf and WAITING.

  1. Decide how you’ll market / promote yourself. 

You can do this in lots of ways:

  • Work with a trusted agency recruiter who’ll leverage their relationships (and credibility) to connect you with the decision-maker (but beware: the fees charged by agencies can be a barrier);
  • Find and nurture connections who have relationships with decision-makers inside the company(ies) you’re looking to join;
  • Develop a relationship with the company’s talent acquisition recruiter who can connect you with the decision-maker (best to do this far ahead of need);
  • Get out there in the world and meet new people;
  • Ask how you can help others (really!);
  • Offer your expertise and opinions (by mentoring, publishing LinkedIn articles or blogging, volunteering, attending industry events and workshops);
  • Change your LinkedIn status to ‘open to opportunities’ (passive, but helpful);
  • Participate regularly in ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ relevant LinkedIn posts (especially those posted by people you’re trying to get to know)
  1. Settle in…this is a campaign

Campaigns are not flash-in-the-pan, do-it-for-a-coupla-weeks strategies. Companies, PACs, the military, and political candidates devote significant chunks of time to them.

This requires consistency, courage, and curiosity. But being visible is a worthwhile practice even when you’re not actively job seeking.

Instead of networking in a burst to find a new job, think of networking as part of your career responsibilities.

Decide to participate in the larger community and make new contacts AT ALL LEVELS regularly. Connect with them in a meaningful way, and of course, nurture your LinkedIn network.

I’ve worked with some job seekers who relish marketing themselves & networking, and others who dread it. Guess which ones land sooner? Guess which ones feel more confident in their futures?

I’ve been taking an informal poll, asking every single (former) job seeker how they found their new role.

And do you know what? 99% said they got connected through someone they knew.

 

Need a jump-start on your professional brand? Let’s chat! Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15 minute no-strings intro call.

Ask a Better Question

When it’s time to change workplaces, the question most people ask is, “Where do I find my new job?”

We gravitate to Careers pages on company websites, search LinkedIn, or head to the job boards. It’s pretty easy to search for a title, spend a few minutes applying  / connecting / asking. The hard part is the waiting for a response. Lordy, the waiting is the hardest part.

But what if we changed the question? Instead of “where do I find my new job?” what if we asked, “Where do I find my new leader?”

I think looking for a new leader is a much more interesting proposition.

In the traditional sense of looking for a job, we match skills and requirements. The leader is kind of an afterthought.

When the new leader is a focal point of a job search, the skills and requirements are still there, but the whole question is elevated: who do I know that I’d love to work for? Who have I worked for in the past that I’d really like to partner with again? Who in my current circle of acquaintances knows someone? Who’s a thought leader? Which companies foster a culture of engagement and innovation?

Looking for a new leader could also mean finding a different leader within your current company. If you’re generally happy with your workplace but need a change, could you network internally onto a new team?

Or how about this: who’s solving interesting problems?

The only way you’re going to find out for sure is to start asking around. Sleuthing, making connections, following the thread.

Recruiters do this all the time ~ we find out where the fire is: who’s changing technologies | growing | shedding | transforming? That’s where the interesting work is.

Find that, and then figure out how to get their attention. Know your value proposition. Come with an idea of how the application of your unique skills and experience can contribute.

The most-satisfied seekers are doing more than just looking for their next job. They’re finding great leaders and interesting problems they can help solve.

 

I help people who are 10+ years into their careers better-tell their professional story. Struggling with yours? Here’s a link to my calendar. Let’s see if we’re a fit.

When Your Job Quits You

3 Insights to Help You Maintain Balance

You’ve been let go: your company eliminated your position, your performance wasn’t up to par, layoffs happened. Most of us prefer being the one to decide to leave, but sometimes it happens: we get dumped.

It’s impossible to control the exact timing of finding your next job, but here are three things that are within reach:

1. Keep Calm and Carry On: Process your emotions, especially if this came as a surprise. Mourn, rage, do whatever you need to do. But then, be done dwelling in the story. A therapist I once knew said, “You get to tell the story twice. Beyond that, you’re just flooding your system with stress hormones every time you repeat it. Move on.”

Susan’s VP job was eliminated.  She’s got money saved, and her credentials are strong. Her biggest question was, “At what point should I panic?” Er, NEVER. People will step on each others’ faces to get away when the stink of desperation wafts up.

Desperate people often end up taking irrational action, like applying for all the open jobs at a company, even the ones they’re not qualified for (a surefire credibility-buster). Don’t be desperate.

Ratchet up your self-care: get enough sleep, spend time with encouraging people, get outside, move your body, eat good food, and tell yourself, “It’s okay” and “Things always work out for me.” Do this as often as you need to. Then, put Step 2 into action:

2. Stay busy. Give yourself assignments like ‘attend four Meetups in my area of interest every week’ and ‘have networking coffees with three new people’ and ‘find and apply to six appropriate jobs’.

Take a part-time job or a consulting gig to have some cash coming in (this is incredibly empowering).

Learn something you’ve been curious about but never had the time (extra points if it’s career-enhancing). Write and publish an e-book, volunteer at your kids’ school, help out at a food shelf or homeless shelter (you’ll feel incredibly fortunate). Run a GoFundMe for a cause you believe in. Start a new fitness program. One outplacement coach tells his clients to lose five pounds:  the discipline and feeling of accomplishment shores up their confidence.
Also (this is very important): take time to have fun!

3. Stare the fear down. If you’re awakened at 3am by panic at not having a job, here’s what you do: make an appointment with yourself to think about it in detail at 3pm tomorrow. Then, do your best to go back to sleep. NOTHING gets solved at 3am.

At 3pm the next day, reverse-engineer it, diving into worst-case scenarios: what would happen if you didn’t get a job? Maybe you wouldn’t be able to pay your bills. But would you get hauled off to debtors’ prison? Nope. Maybe you wouldn’t be able to buy groceries. Is there a food shelf in town? Maybe you would lose your place to live. Do you have friends or family who’d take you in?

Go all the way with your fear. Really feel it. Is it likely that any of those scenarios would actually play out? Even if they did, would you die? Not likely.

As Stonewall Jackson, a notoriously bold leader, said, “Never take counsel of your fears.”

Trust me: it’s OKAY to have gaps in your work history. It’s OKAY to pivot into a different job, it’s OKAY to take a bridge job. It’s OKAY to lose a job because a company downsized or closed its doors. It’s even OKAY to get fired (but, naturally, don’t make a habit of this).

Losing a job can feel awful. It can make you doubt yourself or question your value. It can also be an opportunity for reflection and growth. By being launched “out there” into the job market, you’ll learn things you didn’t even know you were missing. People will step up to help in ways you couldn’t imagine, and you’ll emerge stronger and surer.

You’ve got this. And these three insights will help you handle the challenge with grace.

Need to talk with someone who’s been-there-done-that and who can offer some clarity? Here’s a link to my calendar for a 15-minute, no-strings-attached call.

The Elephant in the Room

what’s “old”? some insights (and tips) on DEFLECTING age bias

A vital, intelligent middle-aged woman with much to offer recently told me: “A friend who works in HR said I should plan on this being my last job.”

Ouch. 

I’ve also heard this: “I’d like to look for a new job, but I’m worried about companies passing me up because of my age.  So I guess I’d better just stay put.”  Or, “I’m pushing 50; I need to be careful.”

There’s real fear coming from the 50+ crowd. It’s understandable, given past trends of jobs being outsourced or companies getting rid of tenured workers in favor of younger (read: less-expensive) ones.

So we pull back, not wanting to talk about that elephant in the room, age. Notably, OUR age. We start believing that we need to settle, gratefully accept what we have, sit on the sidelines, be passed up or passed by, lucky just to have a job. Never mind stepping out and looking for a new one ~ with all our experience, we still might not get hired.

is this true?
Not so much: SOME (GOOD) news

 

According to this article from CNBC, the unemployment rate for 55+ workers is lower than the general unemployment rate by almost a full 1%.

And studies are showing that mental and emotional abilities peak at different times. It’s not like we thought, a burst of brilliance at age 30 followed by the inevitable slow decline. There are plenty of role models for hitting one’s stride later in life: people who changed careers or built businesses and made it big later, celebrities who got a slow start, people who didn’t follow a traditional path (if there still IS one).

The rules have been kicked to the curb.  People are marrying + having kids later, living longer, waiting to retire (if they do at all) and reinventing themselves along the way. PLUS there’s a shortage of workers. A pretty rosy picture, all in all.

Still, if you’re “of a certain age”, it pays to be a bit crafty. Be bold, be unapologetic, but be mindful of the possibility of age bias.

In other words, don’t give them any ammo.
How?
  1. Your resume: avoid phrases that lead with decades of experience (“25+ years”) or long-in-the-tooth descriptors. Instead of “vast”, for example, use “deep” or “extensive” or “rich”.  Also, don’t go back for decades with your work history. Especially in tech, the last 10 years or so is plenty. Add a “Prior Roles Include” section if you want to capture relevant earlier titles.
  2. Address the “older workers are more expensive” conversation (at the appropriate time): seasoned workers may be more expensive, but I’ve also heard it eloquently said, “I’m at a point in my life where money is less important: I’m an empty-nester, my kids are out of college, I have flexibility to choose the work I want to do.” This one can be a little tricky, though. Don’t lead with “I’m inexpensive” — you want to be fairly paid for your expertise.
  3. Keep learning + adding new skills: find out what the hot ones are, then pick one up that’s relevant. Not just because I told you to. Be interested in it and have some kind of practical application for it. Udemy has skazillions of courses, cheap. There’s also YouTube (free) and all kinds of interesting problems to be solved in the world.
  4. Mingle with all generations: add younger folks to your network ~ your peers may be retiring. How to find Gen Y’ers / Millennials? Go where they are: mentor, teach what you know, volunteer (find a hackathon or a social engineering opportunity). Bring Genesys Works into your company, get invited to your local high school to give a career presentation, hire college interns. Meetup.com and Evite are full of ideas.
  5. Be mindful of your appearance: stay reasonably fit + at a healthy weight. Walk with a spring in your step (want to see how you look when you walk? have someone take a quick video). Hold yourself tall. Cultivate a personal style (that suits you) based on current trends. This includes shoes, glasses, hairstyle, makeup for gals, your pearly whites. Strike a balance, though. You’re not trying to look like a Millennial ~ you be the best version of you.
  6. Listen to yourself: are you talking like a curmudgeon? Steer clear of topics like illness, surgeries, aches and pains, too many stories about the grandkids or decades-old events, how things were “back then” or “we always did things that way”. Your brain is always listening and will faithfully recreate whatever you focus on. The best part: you can reverse it! Don’t do this for them, do it for you. Read this.
  7. Cultivate a youthful attitude: open-mindedness, focused in NOW, flexibility, curiosity, an appreciation of different perspectives and an interest in new ideas. “Old” is a mindset as much as it is a chronology.

I’ve heard that after age 50, we must choose whether we’ll engage with life or drift toward the sidelines. Even though stepping back might seem appealing, decide to stay interested and relevant, whatever that looks like for you. Put energy into learning, experimenting, and getting outside of your comfort zone regularly. Not just professionally, do this in your life.

Chuck Squires, a 35+ year veteran of Robert Half International, role models this beautifully. He’s retired, but stays connected through mentoring, networking, giving back to the business community. On vacations, he’s off hiking in the Andes or volunteering somewhere. His zest for living is infectious and inspiring.

“There is a fountain of youth: It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

— Sophia Loren

At any age, your network is your best professional asset (keep in mind, your network is the people who will help you, not your number of LinkedIn connections). Cultivate it with consistency, and be sure you’re helping others along the way.

A LinkedIn article popped up in my feed recently ~ the topic: could older creatives compete with younger talent? The headline photo: a middle-aged guy with a full gray beard. He was sitting on the ground, MacBook Air atop his thighs.  Dressed sharp, wearing Clubmaster shades, muscles faintly visible under his rolled-up sleeves, sockless-in-oxfords-with-tanned-ankles. My god, he looked HOT. Experience and perspective + curiosity and energy are irresistibly intriguing.

You have much to offer: your unique perspective, your experience, your skills, your sensibilities. Stay in the game. We need you here.

I help mid-careerists tune up their professional brand.
Embarking on a job search? Gunning for a promotion? Launching a speaking sideline?
I use my recruiting and writing experience to help you get clear.
Want to connect?
Here’s a link to my calendar for a 15-minute no-strings-attached call. 

 

Kryptonite Thinking

Maybe you just need to change your mind

There are times when life flows: appointments synch up, green lights beckon, bank accounts balance perfectly, and interactions with people of all kinds are a delight.

And then BAM! the rose-colored glasses fall away. What was flowing smoothly becomes an oozy quagmire. Interactions are jarring, sleep is disrupted, nothing seems to connect.

What happened?

Everything, and nothing. To paraphrase Max Ehrmann, author of “Desiderata”, “…no doubt the Universe is progessing exactly as it should.”

But if you have more jarring cycles than gentle ones,
the problem could be in your thinking.

What do I mean by ‘kryptonite thinking’? It’s the kind of thought that weakens resolve, rattles confidence, erodes happiness, encourages self-doubt.

Some examples:

  • Self talk: your inner voice loops on things you were told as a child: “You’re not good enough.” “You never finish things.” “Your butt is too big!” Or you’re frequently reviewing things you said/should have said/didn’t say and finding yourself falling short. OR (or!) you’re telling yourself how hard life is, struggle being a measure of worthiness (“I worked SO HARD for all this!”). Sigh.
  • Judgment track:  a running negative internal commentary on what others look like, do, or say.
  • Complaining: do you (even jokingly) natter on: about the weather, the traffic, the government, bad people, things you “hate”?
  • Comparing: looking at “what is” and finding it lacking: your salary should be higher. The house needs work. The expensive vacation was disappointing. Your butt’s still too big, even after all the dieting and exercise.

Here’s the thing:
Do any of these thoughts make you feel good?
Of course not. THIS IS KRYPTONITE THINKING.
It’s toxic. Stop it.

Stop it for two really good reasons: 1) feeling good is better than feeling bad; and 2) what you think about tends to show up.

A short explanation of how our thinking affects “reality”:

  1. All matter is composed of tiny packets of energy. These show up in either wave or particle form.
  2. Experiments have shown that these energy packets respond to observers’ expectations.
  3. When the observer anticipates the location and form of the energy packet, it obeys, converting itself from wave to particle.

They also act in surprising and random ways, sometimes even showing up in two places at once.

Weird but True: human thought affects the world.
= YOUR thought affects YOUR world.

Thankfully it takes a substantial amount of focused thinking + intentional, inspired action to change things here on Earth. But everything begins with thought.

“But won’t the world run amok if I don’t comment / judge / push back?” you ask. No, friend, it won’t. But you’ll feel awful.

The most insidious part is, once you decide how something is, you’re collapsing the quantum field (you know, the part where waves become particles). Instead of limitless possibilities, there is only the thing you decided on, and found lacking.

It’s easy to know when you’re doing kryptonite thinking:  you can tell by how you feel.

When you’re feeling glum and hopeless, or crunchy and judgmental, your thinking is out of synch with possibility. If you’re feeling neutral, at least you’re keeping the quantum field fluid. When you’re feeling happy (especially for no apparent reason), you’re in alignment with creative forces.

So talk nicely to yourself, like you’d speak to your kid or a friend. Watch your habitual word tracks: stop complaining, and if you can’t think of something nice to say… don’t. Pay attention to the ease we enjoy (electricity, heat, available food, water, freedom) and the beauty all around. Say thank you. Make a game of only noticing + commenting on the good.

Feeling happy ALL the time for fear of disrupting the creative cycle of the Universe is NOT required. It’s normal for feelings to oscillate a little.

But to uplevel your native inner state to a more harmonious one, all it takes is a decision to look at the bright side + a little (okay, maybe a lot of) practice. Declutter your thinking the way you’d clear out a closet.

Check in with your feelings.
Does this thought feel good? Yes? Keep it.
If it doesn’t serve, banish it.

Want more? Check out Pam Grout’s amazing bestseller, “E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality”.

You can change your life by changing your mind. I guarantee it.

I help mid-career professionals better tell their story.
I also offer 1:1 “Ask Me Anything” coaching calls.
Curious? Let’s chat.
Here’s a link to my calendar to schedule a free 15-minute intro conversation.

“I hate talking about myself!”

some non-cringey tips for easing into the spotlight

Little kids announce their accomplishments so easily and charmingly (maybe because they’re so dang cute). They’re matter-of-fact and completely unselfconscious.

Most grownups, on the other hand, shun the spotlight . “Oh, it wasn’t just ME, it was a team effort.” “Interviews make me so nervous – I just hate talking about myself.” “Lead a training session? That’s WAY outside my comfort zone!” (= all real-life quotes)

Is this a Minnesota thing? A gender thing? In “Rebel Talent”, Francesca Gino says, “As we climb the corporate ladder, our ego inflates, and we tend to feel even more threatened by information that proves us wrong.”

Voicing an unpopular opinion in a meeting (especially a tense one) can be unnerving. Being the focus of attention ~ giving a speech, teaching a group of strangers or trying something new (like Improv) — alarms most of us.

But a job interview carries a multi-threaded threat: we’re talking about ourselves, with strangers, hoping for a job we really want and we’re the sole focus of attention.

Talk about anxiety! It’s enough to bring out the heart-pounding, stammering, I-can’t-think-straight version of ourselves that we don’t want anyone to see.

 But consider this: if you don’t tell (or show) us, how else will we know?

You could even say it’s a little selfish to keep us in the dark. Your perspective, your path and your skills are unique. So  for the good of all of us, step out of the shadows. It’s cringe-y (but-critical) to show up and help us understand.

It could be a job you’re interviewing for. Or it could be a project you’re about to lead. A new client you’re starting to work with. Or a LinkedIn article you’re about to publish. I know — the spotlight feels alarmingly bright.

Some suggestions:
  1. Reframe it: you’re not asking (for approval, for a job, for the sale, for the audience’s attention) you’re advising (your skills are relevant, you’re the right person for this task, you’re sharing your perspective).
  2. You’re the authority: No one else knows your experience, your point of view, the way you do. You’re the best one to tell this story.
  3.  Get comfortable: you know that person who matter-of-factly talks about their  accomplishments? They do it without apology, which puts everyone else at ease. Be more like them. And (my favorite) most people think about us far less than we believe they do.
What? Get comfortable in the spotlight? HOW??

First, get clear. List your accomplishments. Something like, “I untangled the billing process and decreased my company’s reconciliation from 2 weeks to 2 days”. “I led the charge to consolidate my company’s backup tools from 8 to 1, saving $4.5 gazillion” (I made these up, but you get the idea). When I review work histories with professional branding clients,  they’re often shocked at how much they’ve done, what they know, and the impact they’ve had. You know what you know. Own that.

Side note: in a job search, highlight accomplishments where you enjoyed doing the work.

Second, add context.  Remember how we had to add facts to flesh out a persuasive speech in school? Do that here: add the details. ROI, time / cost savings, measurable impact on customers, improved scores, increased $ revenue. Make it real.

Third, practice. If you’re prepping for an interview, say your accomplishments out loud until they flow.  Tell a mirror. Talk to your dog. Say them to your smartphone, on video. Sing them.  And when you do trot them out in real life, remember to tell a (short) story or give details.

As you speak, watch for social cues. Has the data landed? If  you’re getting a blank look, ask “Does that make sense?” or “Do you need more information?” If they’re good, stop talking.

Think less about your discomfort and more about being a good steward of the data you’re sharing. When you shift focus AWAY from your angst at “bragging” (or being the focus of everyone’s attention) and TOWARD helping your audience better-grasp your message, you’ll find your nervousness falling away.

Some clarity + a little practice will make stepping into the spotlight easier. It’s okay to slip up a little. Be prepared, but give yourself permission to be imperfect.

Don’t you just love hearing different perspectives & stories? All the more when the speaker admits to being a tad nervous or unsure?

It’s what makes work (and life) interesting. So play it loud and proud! We’re all ears.

I help mid-career professionals better-tell their story. Need some help crafting yours?
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