Katherine Turpin

Your Professional Branding Strategist

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Intentional Interviewing, Part 1

Preparing for a great interview.

Part 1 in a 3-part series.

Research is 80% of a job search, and preparing for an interview is no exception.

Unless you have nerves of steel (or you regularly talk to strangers in high-pressure situations), interviewing is unsettling. I’ve worked with senior managers who are as nervous as a new grad at the thought of talking about themselves. It’s normal: questions are thrown at you, and while being judged, you’re supposed to answer them deftly. It feels like a high-stakes pass-and-shoot.

Good interview skills are useful throughout a career. Use them when you’re seeking a new job (internally or externally); when you’re interviewing someone else; they’re even useful when you’re lobbying for a new idea or cause and need all the influence you can muster.

Even those with high-demand or unusual skills (which means they could bomb the interview & still get the job) need to cultivate good interview aptitude. Someday that knowledge may be less captivating and good interview skills may just save the day.

Good interviews begin with great preparation.

When you take time to anticipate and answer some of the likely questions, you automatically give yourself an edge (and a little relief).

Know your why. What draws you to this company / this job?(hint: it shouldn’t be all about you)
For example:
Meh: “It’s a much better commute than my current role.”
Good: “The job description seems like a good fit for my skills”.
Impressive: “Not only is the job description a close match, but I noticed that your company is doing xxx and that aligns with my values.”

Research, research, research. I agree with Lou Adler, self-proclaimed recruiting and hiring guru, who estimates that research is 80% of a job search. Review the company’s website, but don’t stop there. Google the company and read press releases over the last couple of years. Check out the company’s LinkedIn profile. Look it up on GlassDoor. Has anyone you know worked there? What do they have to say? A candidate who’s done their homework stands out.

Get to know your interviewer(s). Review their LinkedIn profile(s). How long have they been with the company? What’s their (general) background / work history? Do you share LinkedIn connections? Do you and the interviewer have common interests / universities / previous employers? What can you learn about this person (in a non-creepy way)? Note: talking about what’s on their Facebook page is creepy. Don’t.

Take another look at the job description.  Identify the top 2-3 skills. Now jot down examples of your experience as it relates to those requirements. If you don’t have experience with a specific required skill, what comparable skill/experience do you have?
For example:
Meh: “Yes, I’ve worked with x technology.”
Good: “I have 3 years of experience in x technology while working at z company.”
Impressive: “In my current company, I’m using x technology to do y. So far, we’ve been able to <insert a result you’ve achieved>” or “I haven’t worked with x technology, but I have done y with a similar technology, plus I pick things up quickly.” Here are some ideas on how to answer the most-common interview questions.

Put your interview attire together. Try it on, even before you have interviews scheduled. The night before an interview is no time to be caught without clothes you feel great in.

What to wear? I used to say that you can never go wrong with a suit (plus a tie for guys). These days, I think you can definitely go wrong with a suit. For example if you’re interviewing for a creative role, especially in ad agencies. A general rule: the higher the position you’re interviewing for, the more formal your interview attire, at least for the first meeting. Also, certain industries tend to dress more formally.

For an interview with a Big 4 accounting firm, for instance, only a suit + tie is acceptable. In corporate IT, you’ll do just fine wearing slacks (Dockers, for example) and a crisp long sleeve button-down or polo with a white undershirt peeking out at the neck. For women, slacks or a skirt and a crisp blouse in neutral/professional colors is fine. Shoes should be polished and well-kept and dark-colored (no white sneakers, please). Definitely wear socks. Remember, the focus should be on you, not on what you wear. Here’s a fun video about interview wear.

Do your mental prep: Olympic and professional athletes, top business people, and other high achievers spend significant amounts of time envisioning themselves doing well even before their event. You, too, can lay down the neural pathways to your success.

In a quiet setting, relax and close your eyes. In your imagination, go through the entire interview, from arriving at the company (looking sharp and being well-prepared, of course) to asking the receptionist for your interviewer. Now you’re with your interviewer(s). You’re answering questions, seeing them nod and smile and you’re asking a few great questions of your own. You’re connecting with the interviewer(s), feeling relaxed and competent. Things are going really well. They say something like, “You’d be a great fit here. We look forward to further conversations.” Before you know it, the interview’s over, and they’ve said they want you. You’re leaving now, thanking the receptionist on your way out. You feel the satisfaction of fielding their questions well. The fun of meeting someone new and liking them. The joy of acknowledging your nervousness and doing well despite it (because you prepared). Run through this mental movie multiple times before your interview. Seeing – and feeling – success is a powerful confidence builder.

Have you completed the steps listed in this article? Then you’re well on your way to a great interview (and you’ll be far ahead of most others). A little nervousness is normal. It’ll help you be mentally sharp.

If you’re more than a little anxious, though, you must tell yourself that everything will be fine. You’ve prepared yourself. You’ll do your best. And then let it go. Distract yourself, refuse to get stirred up by the moaning and ‘what if’s’ in your head. Keep your confidence high. If not this interview/this job, then something better. But you’re really ready for this, aren’t you? Well done.

In part 2, we’ll cover the actual interview (in-person and over the phone).
Thanks for being here ~ see you again soon! 

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I help mid-career professionals clarify their brands, rock their interviews,
and add a little joy to their job search. Because life’s short.

Got a question?
Here’s a link to my calendar. Free, just for fun.

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.

To Cover (Letter) or Not?

The real scoop on using cover letters today
quiz: use a Cover letter (pick one):

a) always;
b) never (they’re old-fashioned);
c) to hammer home why you’re a perfect fit for the job;
d) a and c;
e) b

I know, right?

Back when resumes were snail-mailed, a cover letter was an integral part of the application process, a genteel ‘nice to meet you.’ Today’s online applications have kicked cover letters to the job-hunting curb. Mostly.

So when DO you use a cover letter? What should it say? And to whom should it be addressed?

correct Answer:
use a cover letter when it’s not immediately apparent why you’re the right person for this job.

For example:

  1. Location (you live out of commute range): use a cover letter to briefly address:
    • What brings you to our fair state? (ie. to be near family, partner got a job or grad school placement here).
      We recruiters are leery of relocating someone JUST for a job, especially when Minnesota has things like…winter;
    • Timing (will you find a job FIRST, then move? How soon do you expect to be local?);
    • Will you be visiting the new metro (ie. be able to interview) before your move?
    • Are you looking for a relocation package (we’ll ask anyhow)?
  2. Job pivot : When you’re applying for a job that’s different than the ones you’ve held, help us connect the dots. Use a cover letter to address the reason why your skills/experience are a fit (tweak your resume, too).
  1. Stepping down:  From CIO to director, manager to sole contributor. Again, help us understand. Keep it short, acknowledging that you’re applying to a less-weighty role. Focusing on the value (experience) you can add while dialing your work responsibilities back, ie. “I’m ready to move from a leading role to a supporting role.”

That’s the ‘when’;
Some tips on what to say

 

  • Select 1-2 key requirements from the job description (don’t just match years of experience ~ find something juicier: talk about similar industry, company size, growth trajectory or how you’ve successfully tackled issues your target company may be facing);
  • Craft a couple of sentences about your experience as it relates to those requirements (ie. “with experience creating scalable processes within a rapidly-growing company, my background should be a good fit.”
  • Invite: “I’d welcome the opportunity for a conversation / interview / discussion. I’ve heard great things about <company / company’s transformation / other buzz>.”

And to whom

  • Do a quick LinkedIn search on the company you’re applying to. Can you figure out who the hiring manager is? If so, address it to that person and say something like, “Based on my research, it seems likely that this position reports to you.”
  • If you can’t figure out who the hiring manager is, see if the job is posted on LinkedIn. If it is, who’s the recruiter listed as ‘point of contact’? Use that name. If there isn’t a recruiter named, address your cover letter to ‘Talent Acquisition’ or ‘<company name> Recruiter’ or ‘Hiring Team’.

put it all together: A template
(you’re welcome)

<Date>

<first last>
<title, department>
<company name>
<city state>

RE: <position title + job / requisition number from the company’s Careers page, if you have it>

Hi, <first name>,

I hope your week’s off to a great start. I’m very interested in being considered for the role of <insert job title> at <insert company name>. With my <insert relevant skill #1>, <insert relevant skill or industry experience> + <insert soft skill>, my background should be a good fit.

I look forward to hearing from you or someone on your team!

Warm regards,
<your first and last name>
c 123.456.7890
<your email address>

Want your cover letter to be read?

Keep it short, relevant and curious/confident (not ‘pick me! pick me!’).

There are no guarantees that your cover letter WILL get read, but when you’ve kept it tidy and trim, it’s much more likely.


I’m a word-nerd + recruiter who loves to help mid-career job seekers refine (or define) their professional brand.

Need some help? Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute chat.

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.

Networking for the Rest of Us

5 Non-Cringe-y Ways to Get Yourself Out There

You’re ready: you’ve got your professional brand tightened up.  Your resume is fine-tuned and your LinkedIn profile represents you well. You’re ready to take the next step in your search: putting the word out.

One of the most cringe-y activities I can think of is <insert dramatic movie music here> a networking happy hour.  First, because it’s hard to hear people talk over the din. Second, happy hours tend to be pretty superficial. And finally, all I want at the end of the day is to get home and unwind.

Happily, there are lots of other ways to put the word out.

Here are five to get you started:

  1. Have a clear message: I think it’s important to have a clear idea of the kind of job/company you’re seeking. “Confidentially, I’m looking for a senior director or VP role in a manufacturing firm that’s headquartered in the Twin Cities” is more actionable than “I’m looking for a new job”. Of course, if you’re not working and anything will do, your message can be just that. But assuming you’re currently working and that you have time to be strategic, clarity will get you farther.
  2. Start with your inner circle: Tell family members and close friends “Confidentially, I’m looking for a senior director or VP role in a manufacturing firm that’s headquartered in the Twin Cities”, followed by a question: “Who do you know that works for this kind of company?” Maybe they don’t have an answer today, but your question will have them thinking. Check back with them periodically to see what bubbles up.
  3. Touch base with former co-workers: maybe you’ve lost touch with them, but there’s a group of people that you’d love to reconnect with, and now’s the time. Use LinkedIn to find them. What are they up to these days? How can you help them? And of course, let them know, “Confidentially, I’m looking for a senior director or VP role in a manufacturing firm that’s headquartered in the Twin Cities” followed by “Who do you know that works for this kind of company?” Again, they may not have a contact for you today, but check back. And be sure to offer your help.
  4. Be curious about people outside of work: your network is larger than you realize, but maybe it needs a little cultivating. Notice and take an interest in the people you see at places other than work: at kids’ activities, at the gym, at sporting or cultural events, standing in line at the coffee shop, at church, during volunteer activities. Take an interest: What do they do? Where do they work? Can you connect them with anyone in your network?

    Dale Carnegie said it best: “To get what you want, help someone else get what they want.”


    5. Get yourself out of your comfort zone:
    no, I’m not suggesting networking happy hours (but be my guest if there’s one that calls to you!). Here are some ideas, though, for putting yourself in a target-rich environment: industry events, Meetup groups (find a topic that’s related to your career), focus groups, civic causes, fundraising for non-profit organizations. For best results, choose something that genuinely interest you. Authenticity is irresistible.

When you’re thinking about buying a certain kind of car, have you noticed that suddenly you see them everywhere? Well, once you start thinking about networking as more than a cringey happy-hour activity (and begin taking action), you’re going to find all kinds of interesting people. Some that will even help you get closer to that shiny new J.O.B.

Happy connecting!

If you’re NOT ready to begin networking (ie. you need help with professional branding), I’m your gal! Click here to get started on your new-and-improved resume + LinkedIn profile.

Not sure if we’re a fit yet? Let’s chat!
Here’s a link to my calendar for a no-pressure-no-strings-attached intro call.

Is Your Job ‘The One’?

(4 ways to find peace if it isn’t)

In every crowd, there’s at least one person who figured out what they wanted to be in middle school and never looked back.

But what if you didn’t (or don’t) have a strong vision for your career? Maybe you fell into a career path (or several) that paid the bills but wasn’t your true passion. It’s served you well. There are lots of aspects you enjoy, but you can’t say you’ve hit upon your life’s mission.

Do we need to find a work equivalent of ‘The One’ in order to be happy and fulfilled? I think not. Here are some thoughts and ideas that might help you relax:

1. Happiness is an inside job (pun intended).

A famous person once said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

We either decide to be happy and appreciate the good, or by default, we feed our misery. Which will it be? Say this to yourself: “Even though this isn’t my dream job, I appreciate the paycheck / people / short commute / stability.”

2. It’s a cultural habit to complain about work.

In the US, at least, people have a tendency to complain about their jobs. It’s an unconscious habit. But part of being human is the need to pay our dues in the form of work, unless you’re a trust fund baby or heir/ess. The problem with complaining is that whatever we’re focusing on tends to grow. If you truly have nothing good to say about this job, change the subject (and skip to #4).

3. If you’re bored at work, learn something new.

Ask someone to teach you part of their job. Volunteer for a new project or initiative. Become a subject matter expert. Attend a conference or trade show. Trade tasks (you give up something you dislike and take on something that a teammate dislikes). Take a class related to your work. Offer ideas on how to improve things.

As a baby copywriter, Alexandra Penney, former editor at Glamour magazine, created a list of improvements and turned it in to her then-boss. When she was called in to Human Resources (thinking she was going to be fired), they asked if she’d like to be promoted (she said yes). Challenge yourself to add value. Or keep doing your same old work, but use your spare time for creativity, education, or a side hustle. Do whatever it takes to keep your creative juices flowing.

It’s human nature to think the grass is greener somewhere else. There will always be a job that’s “better” than the one you have. If you’re an entrepreneur, maybe you love the freedom and creativity, but the hours suck and you’re the last to get paid. If you’re an hourly employee, you love the stability but hate accounting for every hour you work. There’s always something.

Decide to focus on the good and let the rest go.

Do you expect your life partner to be your sole source of fulfillment? Maybe your significant other hates sports on TV but you’re crazy for it. Do you stop watching because s/he won’t? Or do you cultivate a separate friend group for sharing this part of your life?

It’s the same with work: are you expecting your job to be your only source of satisfaction?

4. If you’re really unhappy, make it your mission to find a new job.

A terrible commute, a horrible boss or co-workers, a failing company or a toxic culture? Find something new and leave, ASAP.

If you’re really and truly unhappy, then by all means find work that’s a better fit. But that’s another post for another day.

In the meantime, decide to give your attention to all the things you DO like while you’re earning a living.

After all, what you focus on, grows.

 

Recruiters: Friend or Foe?

Chances are, at some point you’ll have the opportunity to work with a recruiter, either as a hiring manager (for a fee, they help you find the right candidate) or as a job-seeker (they recruit you for one of their searches or generously share their network with you).

Two tips for engaging with a recruiter: “Be nice,” and “Be discerning.”

Be nice, because even though you might get more calls and emails than you’d like from recruiters, at some point in your career, you might need them. It’s easy to say, “No, thanks” or “Thank you, not now”, whether you’re a hiring manager with a job posted or a candidate with hot skills. That very same recruiter you hang up on today might be the recruiter for that job you really want five years from now.

There was once a hiring manager who seemed to take great satisfaction in slamming the phone down on any recruiter who happened to call. He became known for his rudeness.

The years came and went. He was promoted from manager to director. Things seemed rosy as his company grew and grew. But the day came when his very successful company was acquired. Suddenly, he needed to find a new job. But the recruiters remembered his rudeness and stayed away.

Be nice to recruiters. You never know when you’ll need them.

And be discerning, because not all recruiters are equal.

How do you find a good recruiter? The same way you find a good doctor, daycare provider or dry cleaner: you ask people you trust to give you a referral. Are you a hiring manager looking for help in filling a role? Ask other managers in your company, or others in your area of expertise. Google ‘IT recruiters in (your city)’. Look on LinkedIn. Then contact the recruiter and let them know what you’re looking for. Find out how they work, what their most-common searches are, and ask for some success and failure stories.

How do you choose the right recruiter? Here are some good questions to ask:

  •    What’s your specialty / area of expertise?
  •    What’s your process like?
  •    What are your most-common searches? Not all recruiters cover all types or levels of searches.
  •    How do you find your candidates? How do you find your searches?
  •    How many recruiters does your firm have? What’s their average tenure?
  • Do you have references I can talk to?

A good recruiter will have at least five years of recruiting experience and over 500 LinkedIn contacts. They’ll have a professional LinkedIn bio and a crisp, clear head shot. Take a look at their recommendations, too. Are they recent?

A good recruiter will want to meet you, whether you’re a candidate or a client. How can they represent you (or your company) if you haven’t met? They’ll spend at least an hour with you and ask a lot of questions. They may have suggestions on fine-tuning your resume or your LinkedIn profile (if you’re a candidate) or your job description (if you’re a client).

The best recruiters are not afraid to ask the hard questions. They’ll tell you if they aren’t the right resource for you. They’ll respond to your calls and emails, they’ll offer feedback and they’ll be in touch even when you’re not actively looking. They’re relationship builders. When you’re underway on a search, they’re responsive, and they show their leadership by offering best-practices and advice for success, whether you’re hiring or being hired.

Bad recruiters can be sales-y, irrelevant, ineffective and around only when you have something they want, but the good ones are worth finding and holding on to. A good recruiter will be your eyes and ears in the marketplace. If you’re lucky, s/he’ll be your biggest advocate and your secret career weapon.

Creating Your Job: an Interview with Laura Frank

(plus some tips for work satisfaction)

The topics of jobs and work satisfaction fascinate me (What do you do for work? How did you get into it? What do you like about it? What do you dislike?).

It’s a good thing I fell into recruiting ~ I get to talk about jobs and work a lot. It also means I’ve had the good fortune to talk with people who inspire me with their career choices. Laura Frank is one of them.

Why? Because she has had the audacity to follow her own inclinations, creating a body of work that both satisfies AND pays her well. She didn’t just go out and look for a job that fit. She created one for herself.

Laura, who studied physics and theatre in college (more theatre, she says), wanted to get into theatre lighting. Her story of custom-designing a career by following her curiosity is fascinating. Today, she’s lighting huge, high-profile events like the Latin Grammy Awards, concerts (Madonna and David Bowie, to name a couple), films and the Olympics.

Early in her career, she deliberately chose gigs that would allow her to pick up the skills she wanted, even when they didn’t pay well or the hours were sucky. Later on in her career, she took that arsenal of skills and reinvented her work. She found new ways to use her experience. She created (and continues to create) her own job.

Now, maybe in corporate America there isn’t quite as much freedom to craft one’s own job (though I have one friend who’s done just that because she is clever and business-savvy as well as being highly entrepreneurial and a fabulous communicator).

Here are some highlights from my conversation with Laura (but you’re gonna want to watch the interview ~ it’s only 18 minutes long ~ because I purposely left some out):

  • Be authentic: follow your shiny objects.
  • Have the willingness and the expertise to let your career expand naturally. Your job or career doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.
  • Apply for jobs for which you’re not 100% qualified70% + some chutzpah will do nicely.
  • Stay challenged. If you start to feel like you’re doing things in your sleep, let that itch to keep learning pull you out of your comfort zone.
  • Keep 6 months’ of living expenses in the bank. Think of it not as money, but as buying yourself time. Need a respite? Need to stop and learn a new skill? This ‘time’ will support you through it.

Even if you’re mid-career and can’t couch-surf through New York following your curiosity, there are plenty of things you can do right now to move in a direction that’s more YOU.

What can I do? you ask.

  • Observe yourself. What draws you? Can you take one of your interests a step farther? For example, a couple of IT directors I know have started on-the-side businesses that feed their entrepreneurial inclinations. Take a class, challenge yourself to create something (write, paint, mentor, program, volunteer), jump the tracks and invest some energy in the direction of your own ‘shiny objects’.
  • Take back some of your time so you can do this. Be honest with yourself if you’re hearing the ‘but how will I find time?’ track in your head. Even 30-60 minutes a day spent following your own path adds up. Get up earlier. Leave the TV off. Say ‘no’ to should’s. Be lovingly firm and insistent with yourself. This is important.
  • Are you in a soul-sucking job? Can you change things about it? Even little tweaks go a long way when you stand up for what you need. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be NO.
  • Realize that, like a friendship or a marriage, unless you’re Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, no job is going be your everything. Don’t expect 100% fulfillment (hope for it, but don’t put the burden of your expectations on it). Find pockets of delight in other places to balance the less-than-delightful aspects.
  • When you try something new and it isn’t what you’d expected, you must still call it a success. You have new information, you took a chance, and that’s a win.

What I’m saying (to myself as much as to you) is, since we need to work, let your work honor your creative abilities. Do your best to find work that you enjoy. Let it be something that pays well enough so you don’t have to do it ALL of your waking hours. Choose to regard your work as a craft. Learn new skills, add new tools, and experiment along the way. Don’t sleepwalk through or clench your teeth and endure your work.

As much as I would’ve liked to be an heiress or a trust fund baby, my work has given me at least as much as I’ve given it. Way, way more than just the pay.

How do you think about your job? Do you think of it as your craft? Or is it just a means to an end?

In the end, I think work happiness begins inside. And that’s whether we’re solopreneurs, contractors, or fully employed. I think it’s a decision. Choose your work.

And enjoy the interview.

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