Archive for October, 2013

How Do You React to Pressure?

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

UnderStressPhotoSquareIf you are interviewing for a job, you are probably going to get the “stress” question at some point.The simple truth is this. If you can’t work under pressure, you won’t get the job. If it comes up in a job or promotion interview, there’s a reason you’re asked this question.

Consider that the recruiter is doing you a kindness by telling you if a job is stressful. It’s useful to prepare by developing a story, rather than a series of pronouncements about how great you are under pressure. You’ll need to formulate a story (or two) that shows how much experience you have working or managing under difficult conditions.

If you’re not ready for the question? You’ll feel anxious just attempting to answer it. So, be prepared.

TIP: The most profound way to respond to this question is to thank the recruiter for asking it. Then, preempt their next question. The predictable follow-up is “give me an example.” Jump on it unprompted, to showcase just how stress proof you are (if you are).

Here’s an example of a great response.

Recruiter: “How do you function under stressful conditions?”

YOU: “Thank you for asking. I’d like to share an example with you.  Just two weeks ago, a client of our firm called with a really urgent problem. She had given us the wrong date for her upcoming trade show. The show was actually a month earlier than she previously communicated. I reassured her that we would have some materials for her without a doubt, and that I’d see what changes needed to be made in order to meet her new deadline.  I called it a “new” deadline – to make sure she didn’t feel embarrassed. Also, I made sure I didn’t over promise what we could deliver. Then, I immediately began calling colleagues and vendors to make changes in the project management schedule. Turns out I needed to change the complexity of some of the communication pieces or have her pay rush charges. But all the vendors were pretty good about helping out. When I gave her the choice, the client chose to pay more to get everything done perfectly. So, I put in some extra hours each day and worked through one weekend to get it done. Sure it was stressful but I was really proud to make the event perfect – as if nothing had gone wrong.Plus, we actually made a bit more profit on the job.”

Do you see how the example showed that you handled stress well – without seeming false or self-serving?

The other quality you showcase in this answer is that you didn’t give away the extra work for free. You gave the client a choice to pay more – and that means you understand that making revenue is a business goal. You were also respectful to the client and to your vendors. How good is that for your personal brand?

Stories create memories about you; proclamations don’t. Your personal brand is built by knowing who you are and being able to tell stories that showcase these qualities.

Even if you don’t have a story that directly relates to work or this job in particular, certainly you have a story about managing something under pressure. Your story could be a research report with a tight deadline from a professor or a volunteer event where someone wasn’t able to handle their responsibility but you pitched in to make it happen.

I’d love to hear your stress story – and how you aced it. And, I’ll provide you with some feedback that should enhance your personal brand. Email me at [email protected].  Subject line: Stress

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Why Have You Changed Jobs So Frequently?

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

iStock_000005359781XSmall1This is another awful question brought to you by the same folks who invented: “What is your greatest weakness?” There’s a litany of these tough questions, so be prepared.

You might be surprised that no matter what is on your resume, a recruiter can put you on the spot. Remember, perception is reality. One recruiter might be uneasy with a few six-month stints on your work history, while another looks askance at a few two-year terms.

Don’t get defensive. When the interview gets to why you’ve job hopped, the question is NOT ABOUT YOU. It’s about them and the consequences to them if they hire you and you don’t stick. Recruiters and hiring managers have batting averages to protect. They don’t want to on-board you and have you quit, before enough time elapses so they get credit for making a great hire. Their job is like a sports scout who works for a professional athletic team. Scouts and recruiters don’t make money because they can play the game. They make money because they know how to pick talent that can play the game.

Your past history is one of the few inviolable clues to your future performance. However, recruiters know that your work history is like reviewing last year’s earnings from an investment. Past performance is not a perfect indicator of what might happen under different conditions. Listen to the ads for Fidelity, Charles Schwab, or any financial advisory firm, mutual fund or commodity. The disclaimer about risk tells their whole story.

That’s why you’re in the interview: to tell YOUR whole story. So, be prepared with a good account of what was going on at the time, and be honest. Tip: Write out what you’re going to say and practice it beforehand, so it’s coherent.

Sometimes, it’s painful to let a stranger into a private part of your life that influenced your ability to stay at a job. You’ve got to trust that a compassionate person is listening; someone who wants to help you get this job. Frame that relationship in your mind, so you can talk to the recruiter without being overly self-conscious.

For example, Ronan is one of my career coaching clients who had several jobs over five years. Some of them were part-time, a few were full time, and none lasted longer than eight months. On top of that, he had not finished college. However, he had kept up a personal blog and podcast on fashion for over two years, which showed real commitment because his audience probably didn’t amount to more than ten people. On the strength of that demonstrated interest in fashion, he reached out to a fashion magazine with a web content producer job open. We knew in the interview, he’d be called out for job-hopping.

Clearly, a recruiter would see him as a flight risk, maybe not worth the investment of on-boarding and missing out on another candidate who had a better work history. The truth of Ronan’s situation involved his increasingly ill grandmother. As an only child and only grandchild, he shared the care-giving role with his mother. He was traveling home on the weekends to spell his mom and get time with Nana.  The care-giving and traveling were emotionally and physically exhausting.  Six months before the interview, Nana passed away.

What she had in common with Ronan, beyond their deep personal bond, was her history as a fashion designer for a women’s sportswear company, back in the day. Ronan not only loved fashion, now he felt he was carrying on Nana’s legacy. As he and his mom were going through her things, Ronan only wanted her drawings, photos and the ads featuring her apparel. In his blog, he had done a good job of featuring some of them in a retrospective way. He even had some audio of an interview he did with her before she got really ill.

Your story might not be so heart wrenching. Maybe you were working just to store up enough cash to travel, and you left to explore the world every time you could buy a plane ticket. Maybe you were trying to find your purpose, your industry, or your heart’s desire. Maybe you weren’t sure where you wanted to live. The point is: tell the story that’s behind why you kept moving. Share the reason that you are no longer peripatetic.

Ronan just landed the job of his dreams. He’s being paid three times what he made last year, plus he got a relocation bonus, laptop, and expense account. What success story will you be able to tell, despite your past history?

For a worksheet on how to tell your job-hopping story, email me at [email protected]. Subject line: job hop.

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What’s the Best Answer to the Dreaded Weakness Question?

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

DreadedWeaknessResearch on investor confidence sheds light on how you should answer the worst question you may be asked in a job interview. That would be:

What is your greatest weakness?

You could of course, be honest. The true answer might be:

Fig Newtons
Fine, limp hair with no volume
My right quadriceps
Ryan Gosling
MASH re-runs
The Bossa Nova

Unfortunately, you know the recruiter wants you to reveal some impairment that will directly affect your job performance. And, you really can answer honestly and directly, while using the opportunity to win their confidence that you are the right candidate.

That investor research revealed what type of problem creates a positive impression.  This information is doubly useful because the same type of answer causes people you’ve failed to forgive you ­ and give you a second chance. So, if you’re getting a legitimately bad performance review because you’ve made an error, use the same approach. You’ll keep your job, and maybe get in line for a promotion and a raise.

What type of admission gives you such power when you’re in a difficult spot?

Choose a behavior that you have control over. That’s what is key to a successful answer. Don’t choose an affliction like ADD, a deep-seated personality flaw like jealousy or a chronic condition like, “I just can’t get myself to file papers once a project is done.”

Choose a behavior that is transitory and solvable by you, even if it is a chronic condition. For example,

“Keeping up with changes on social media sites is like drinking from a fire hose for me. The torrent of information is amazing. So, I keep very close tabs on just five networks that mean the most to my company, and I am a master of those. Then, I follow two experts who basically filter the key information on the other sites. I find that if I attend a social media web conference once a month, I remain clued in and connected. It remains a battle that I fight to win, using these strategies.”

Note that the problem is very real and has consequences. There’s also an appreciation – and not fear – of its magnitude: “it’s amazing.” Finally, the strategy is self-determined, and shows critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

When people see you identify the problem, seek to solve it with a realistic approach and concede that it isn’t easy: they like you and they even forgive you, if it’s had a cost to them. The investor research shows that as long as a CEO lays out the situation, understands what the causal factors are and shows that those factors are now controllable: he or she keeps the job. In fact, investors will keep the faith, even invest more and have more patience with the return.

As a potential employee or consultant ­ or one already hired – you are considered an investment. Treat the recruiter or your superiors as valued investors. They deserve your honesty and you deserve a chance to succeed.

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How Five Types of Personal Brands Attract Perfect Clients

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

wpid-photo-oct-18-2012-942-pmYou cannot be all things to all people. As we say in marketing, find a target rich market. Lucrative markets are filled with people or companies that are suffering and have a budget to pay YOU for the remedy you’ve decided you want to offer. You simply need to show up online and on-ground where this ready-to-buy market is, with a clear message about what you do and the unique way you do it.

You can show up on social networking sites like LinkedIn or Twitter, and showcases like YouTube, Tumblr or Reddit (and the list goes on). Getting your story ready ­ and then repetitively messaging your deep interest and
commitment to alleviate the problem you solve is part of the ground work. This is what launches you into the stratosphere of high paying employment, consulting or primacy in your sector, profession or industry.

Of course, you must develop a compelling story ­ some proof that showcases how you have filled a need with an effective, easy to understand solution that is priced right for the people you want to serve. It might be something you’ve done as an employee, consultant or freelance. It might be something you’ve done as a volunteer, a student or an intern. It might be something you’ve done for a friend or family member. In other words, you don’t have to have done before, exactly what you want to do now.

Keep in mind that what pays $200,000 in San Francisco might pay $80,000 in Indiana (but the cost of living varies accordingly, so make allowances for geography as well as the going-rate among your competition). Always know what’s the least you can earn to survive and what’s the most you aspire to be paid. Somewhere along that spectrum will be what you are earn at various points in time, as your personal brand becomes increasingly well-known in the right circles.

Remember to raise your prices as you get busier.

That is a rapid primer on marketing principles for personal brands. But what lies beneath successful personal brands? Really it’s the market positions they carve out and communicate (relentlessly, I might add).

The first step of positioning is deciding what type of personal brand you are. There are five types that have been identified by Laurence Vincent, who works on big product and service brands, in his book Brand Real. I thought it would be worth your time to see if you could characterize who you are, using the same typology. Vincent’s point is the more of these five positions you can “own,” the more likely you are to attract the right target market ­ or several segments of lucrative customers. In personal branding that translates to more ideal clients, deals, job offers, referrals and the like.

Vincent’s typology of five brands are:






Immediately, it may occur to you that Starbucks owns positions in all five realms. Consumers buy the drinks (product), they dig the bohemian ambiance (culture), appreciate getting exactly the half-caf/soy/no foam they desire (service), might buy some instant coffee tubes or beans (ingredient) to take with them, and feel like it’s an escape (destination) away from home or office (which might be the same thing).

As a personal brand, you can offer exactly the same powerful combination of five qualities (or at least some of them). Consider defining who you are in this way, to the audience you want to buy from you or hire you.

1. Product is what you create.

2. Culture is your integrity, intentions and work ethic.

3. Service is the way you deliver what you sell or do.

4. Ingredient is how you add value or fit in to what currently exists.

5. Destination is how people feel when they get to connect with you, perhaps expressed simply as your brand personality.

How are you doing on these five measures? How do you focus them on a target rich environment? That’s the work before you reach out or make yourself known to the community, audience or prospects whose needs you fulfill.

Want some feedback? Send me your self-evaluation, based on these five brand types. I will send you back some insights on what you might do better, clearer or simply more lucratively. Email me at [email protected] – subject line: 5 Types of Brands.

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The #1 Killer of Job Hunting Success? Networking!

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

handing-out-business-cards-410x274On the 19th floor of a Century City tower in West Los Angeles on a Tuesday evening in late summer, 200 people swarmed into a multi-national law firm to “network” with the CEOs of companies and funding sources gathered in another “tech conference.” Attendees who parked in the building were about to have a nasty surprise when they tried to get their cars out of the garage. The two-hour soiree had cost each of them $25 admittance and would bite them for another $32 in parking charges, not validated by the conference.

At least someone would get something from this mammoth waste of time, the garage owner got a bonanza of after business hours income. But not a single person would walk out of the so-called conference with a decent lead on a job or an investment.

I had come upon the scene after meeting with my attorney. We stood watching the hoodwinked attendees mill around the paltry wine and cheese table and then file into small conference rooms, with the hope that introducing themselves would magically produce some interest in hiring them.

The grand wizard of the conference who appeared to be pitching the group on paying for a bootcamp on tech jobs, opened the conference by sharing that he was a “networking demon.” This fraying, graying, portly man invited everyone to give him their cards so he could connect them to “pretty much everyone you ever wanted to meet.” After his spiel, attendees rushed him, thrusting their cards into his hands.

If you believe that showing up at a meeting and handing your card to a stranger, or even standing up and introducing yourself to a group of strangers is going to land you a job: you are as wrong as rain dancers.

Someone like this bloated, self-invented huckster may have told you business card passing nonsense is networking: but it’s not. It’s nonsense. And you probably know it because you’ve done it and you still don’t have a great job, or you won’t do it because you know better.

Throwing your card or yourself at strangers is killing your chances of actually succeeding. It’s wasting your time, giving you false hope and making a really bad impression on those who witness it.

Real networking is much simpler. Real networking is engaging in meaningful conversation. It’s quiet time with one person you are working to understand, to see if you have something in common. It may evolve to a few laughs, as you get together for coffee and then lunch. Real networking might include a book you send or a paperweight with a message, or another thoughtful gift that reminds the other person that you CARE ABOUT THEM. Maybe it’s an invitation to a webinar you know they would like or a blog you know would rock their world.

Is the plain truth of networking dawning on you? It’s simple. Networking is exactly what you do when you are making friends! Because that’s how you actually get a great new job. Someone likes you and wants to help you. And, they like you because you are interested in them, you’re interesting, you’ve got a knack for helping solve problems, a good sense of humor – or you both knit or play tennis. And, you do this together! Like friends.

Networking demon? There’s no such thing. There’s people who collect and throw away business cards. There’s people who put you on a list. But people who can really help you? They are the people who know you.

The big secret of successful networking? Go to the next event or just do your daily errands hoping to make just ONE friend. Then, build a relationship over time – even a few weeks, before you ask about help finding work. Spend most of your time finding out about them and seeing what you have in common. Act on that before you expect anything back.

The odds are with you. If you leave your house five days a week to do anything – even wait in line at the post office: you’ll have the opportunity to really connect with more than 250 people this year. Here’s a bonus tip: avoid all demons.

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