Wednesday 29 February 2012

Answers to Unemployment 2: Tuning into your 'straight-line'

I am what some people refer to as a ‘helping professional’. For whatever reason - intrinsically - I care about how others do. So what does this mean to you? Helping professions form an umbrella of terminologies most often involved in making people feel better, be that physiologically – e.g. osteopaths, physiotherapists and massage therapists, or psychologically – e.g. performance coaches, NLP practitioners, psychotherapists and hypnotherapists. As a Career Development Coach, I dare say I fall into a slightly separate camp: sociological wellbeing. A field where I help people fit into society more comfortably; to instil clarity in how a person might make their contribution to their community whilst drawing upon all of their career attributes. It is almost certainly impossible to exist without a sense of livelihood and meaning in one’s life and it is because of this that ‘career sustainability’ and a true sense of conviction of purpose sustains us over the long haul of a modern-day career.

Every person I have ever worked with has their own demeanour. They emit a very individual signal to the outside world. They transmit all of their innate faculties on a particular wavelength that is utterly unique. Every person we ever meet receives this hidden signal. They then make a judgement on the basis of the signal they receive. This happens whether we like it or not. It is part of human nature that we assess people and situations as we arrive at them. This instinctual reaction is an important component in our self preservation reflex. We are all hard-wired to ‘fight or flight’. It is just the way things are. Selling ourselves effectively relies heavily upon our accepting this fact.

It is for this reason that I wanted to share this blog; in order to not only help people understand their own transmissions, but to help them tune in to the fact that we are all transmitters – we smile, they smile/ we frown, they frown. Alongside this self-preserving life skill I also wanted to transmit another, equally important, signal: when landing a job, what is the path of least resistance? In the context of career planning ‘the path of least resistance’, a subject I have written about previously, means:

How do we land our next job in the most timely, painless and efficient approach available?

You may have seen the excellent animated movie ‘Happy Feet’; a film about a baby penguin who cannot find his voice in a society where singing is accepted as the only way to make a contribution. As it turns out, the central character, ‘Mumble’, is a dancer. As Percussionist, Evelyn Glenny, hears through her bottom, Mumble 'talks' through his feet. No penguin has ever danced and not sung. Without spoiling the plot for you, he endures a painful journey as an outcast before making a dynamic impact and making his mark in his penguin community as his inner rhythm comes to the surface.

He has tuned-in to his own, deeply personal and utterly unique identity. In so doing he has learned how to resonate in society and be accepted by others. Ultimately, he constructs his self-esteem from within to integrate himself into society. The trial is that first he had to discover himself; to uncover where his true skills lie and the put them out to the rest of the world in order to be accepted. A similar question befalls each of us. Tuning in to the answer is nothing short of your personal meaning of life! At least, why each of us, as individuals, are here. ~ Don’t kid yourself this is a question you don’t have to answer.

In terms of the basic building blocks of society we have all got to identify where our skills lie before we are capable of selling ourselves to the rest of society and making our own contribution. To do this effectively, we have got to audit ourselves:
·         What are we capable of?
·         What are our ‘career attributes’?
·         What kinds of knowledge do we have a preference for?
·         What are our work-related values?
·         How does our personality impact upon our career choice?
·         What fields am I passionate about?

Once we’ve completed this foreboding personal evaluation – bear in mind this will be a lifelong task - we’ve got to learn to package our personal attributes in such a way that other people will buy-into them quickly, with crystal-clear clarity – just like tuning-into a music station on the radio. When job-seeking, this can mean the difference between success and failure and therefore forms the basis of the most efficient route to market; or, in other words, ‘The Path of Least Resistance’.

Let’s take a look at the radio metaphor again. Radio signals move in squiggly lines called waves (they’re one form of electromagnetic radiation on a broad spectrum). The better our radio is tuned into these varying wavelengths, the better our reception; the more crisp the sound will be. When we’re on the labour market we are giving-off our own signals in the form of transmissions, exactly like a radio mast does. We’re radiating our inner energy outwardly and a tough fact of life is that we ought to feel good about the signal we transmit!

In the complex landscape of the employment market the more crisp the signal we transmit, the easier hirers will find it to recognise our suitability for a particular job. Put simply, if you are failing to get hired you are either: failing to transmit a clear signal. Not putting enough positive energy into transmitting your signal. Or your transmission is going in the wrong direction. Workers in so-called “dead-end” jobs seem to be the people who haven’t got to grips with their ‘Straight Line’. They given-up on self-determination. They don’t see the point. It’s in their body language. They’re not prepared to meet life head-on. They don’t see the greatness that lies within all of us once we’re tuned-into our innate career attributes. At least, yet!

Let me recap: The straightest line between where you are as an unemployed person, and your getting hired, is all about connecting your clear signal with the hirer’s ‘receiving dish’ via the shortest possible route.

In the stampede for jobs you are competing in a vicious marketplace, of that there can be no doubt. I have been there. Job seekers need to be seen to be conventional, well-balanced and capable workers… at the same time as being seen as outstanding in a pile of CVs amongst a shortlist of candidates. This can be a deeply frustrating balance to find for any applicant.

What wins results in my 15 year experience is your passion, enthusiasm and charisma. Like it or not these are all essential signals to give-off if we’re going to stand-out in a shortlist. They are all forms of energy. Visualise yourself transmitting passion, commitment, conviction of purpose and a real intention to win and you will prevail in the battle to land yourself your next job. I’m afraid we all need to accept that this process is all very Darwinian. It is down to “the survival of the fittest”. This is not intended to be an elitist point, merely a fact of life that is worth pointing-out.

Beware of going to market prematurely. The job market is obviously not a bottomless pit of opportunity. We cannot afford to squander job openings by being ill-prepared. Therefore, don’t go to market until you have a convincing signal to transmit. Don’t go to market until you understand it yourself. If you haven’t bought-into it, who will? Self-belief is both your keystone and your watchword; without it your apparent fear will be a contagion shadowing your every move.  

Carry out ‘due diligence’ on your market sector and seek to obtain as much information as you possibly can by talking to people in your chosen field about the work they do.
·         What kind of skills do they possess? What do they particularly love about their job? What do they hate about it?
·         Which companies operate in the industry that you want to work in?
·         What kinds of job titles do people working in your chosen field use to describe themselves?
·         Do these words appear on your CV or covering letters? Are they obvious?
·         Have you made it easy for The Hirer to visualise you in post?
·         Have you connected-up all of the dots before you go to market?
·         What are your ‘unique selling points’?
·         What is your proudest achievement to date?
·         Which are the Top 3 companies you would most like to work for?
·         How will you answer the Number 1 interview question: “Tell Me About Yourself?”
·         What is your personal portfolio of success stories?
·         How will you answer the question: “What is your greatest strength and your worst weakness?”
·         How will you ensure you build positive rapport with your Interviewer?
·         How could you shortcut the whole hiring process and land a job that you love?
·         How do you write a speculative letter to your dream company which makes sure you get to meet them?
·         What are the ‘insider tracks’ to the hidden job market?

So, tuning in to your Straight Line is about looking at yourself and making sure you are damn good at selling yourself before you go to market and damage your chances of landing your dream job. Your ‘Straight Line’ is about transmitting important signals confidently. It is about side-stepping and short-cutting the agonies of orthodox job search techniques. Preparing your self-marketing material before you go to market takes a huge amount of the pain out of job search. Rejections are hard to take for anyone. By tuning into your ‘Self’ and understanding what it is that you do best and packaging those qualities in a way which makes people want to buy those career attributes can draw the straightest, shortest line between where you are now as an unemployed person and landing your perfect job.

My final piece of advice would be a warning: none of the above are easy. Introspection and self-understanding is an excruciatingly challenging life task. But every one of us has to do it. Every one of us can help other people with their toughest life decisions and help others piece together there self awareness. But as soon we turn the cameras around on ourselves, it can be like watching a blank screen. The excruciating irony is that this forms part of the Human Condition. Self-understanding and personal audit is possibly the most challenging life task we will ever carry out. This is why using a Career Development Coach can be incredibly helpful in short-circuiting this very arduous task and easing our way forward.

I go and see Osteopaths, Sports Massage Therapists, Swimming Coaches, Golf Coaches and Structural Integration Therapists to get my body performing efficiently. I go to NLP coaches, hypnotherapists and, on occasion, Psychotherapists to get my mind working at peak performance. I know that aligning myself is a difficult challenge to do alone. In the same way, integrating oneself into a vastly complex and ever-changing labour market can often benefit from specialist information, advice and guidance.

Whatever you do, tune-in-to who you are before you expect anyone else to.  

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Soul Destroying Job Search

For those who can remember the bad old days, I left school in 1980 and endured the failing youth employment policies of 'Youth Employment Programmes' and the dreaded 'YTS' (Youth Training Schemes). For those younger readers, I’m afraid ‘the system’ for getting young people into work was about as ineffective as it is today!

It would be hard to think of a more lacklustre and innovation-less process to inspire young people about their career plans. Yet here we go again using a sausage factory approach to solving the challenge of getting more NEETs (a young person not in education, employment or training) into the workplace and off welfare payments.

Back then, I remember working as a so-called Assistant Professional Golfer 'thinking' I was on a credible training scheme, but basically I was working 60 hour weeks for £12.50 and being taken for a ride. When I look back it would be hard to imagine how a young person could be taken advantage of to such an extent, but policy-making seems to be cyclical or we have very poor memories as to what does and doesn't work.

What doesn't work is churning young people out of school without a viable and sustainable career plan. I've argued with the entrenched attitudes of old-fashioned teachers in common rooms stating that young people go to school to learn, not to develop a career plan or decide what to do with their lives! I'd say we're teeing young people up to fail if they leave school clueless about where their strengths and weaknesses lie and exactly what career attributes they possess to offer a future employer. Yet I know school after school who churn-out young people ill-prepared to even make a decision, let alone have any real idea about what goes on in the world of work outside. They are effectively ‘institutionalised’ and it can take them years to adapt to the realities of the world; which comes as a huge shock to many.

Fair enough, the careers profession has failed miserably to develop a credible presence in society as all people ever do is talk about who awful their career guidance was when they were at school. Well, I need to tell you, my early career guidance may have been dreadful, but I owe my livelihood to an inspirational Careers Adviser, who I have thanked in posts elsewhere. (My main aim has been to develop a tangible and non-esoteric approach that gives people traction quickly; without the touchy-feeliness associated with many career guidance approaches.)

In terms of Soul Destroying Job Search, we need a career plan if we're to stand a chance of jumping the obstacles between unemployment and a worthwhile job…and surviving this trial of attrition! People derive meaning in their lives in a vast diversity of ways. No two people are alike! Self-confidence stems from self-understanding, self-acceptance and formulating the ability to see oneself doing well in the world.

As I bang on and on about, people with a sense of purpose in their lives are charismatic. They attract positive attention from others. They're simply attractive. It's not rocket science, yet thousands and thousands of people get into their mid-life and have no clue about where their career attributes and strengths lie.

On a day-to-day basis many millions of unemployed people, the world-over, sit in front of a pc screen in search of a job. Statistically, this is rarely where their next job lies. I’d suggest switching computers off and going and talking to people about how they made their career decisions. How did they uncover their career strength? What skill do they make the most use of on a daily basis? What do they like least about their job?

If you ask your contacts for a job, you might risk embarrassing them. If you ask them for job-related information - especially the people who demonstrate a passion for their work - then there are few people who would turn you down.

The exciting stuff happens when you find someone who shares your interests, shares your passions for work and you have career attributes in common with. These are the potential gatekeepers to helping you land your next job. You won't have to ask, they'll recognise the right potential in you and do what they can to assist. A shared interest can form a powerful bond.

Your challenge is talking to enough people to get you to the person who shares your interests and can help. But rest assured, it has to be better than banging-your-head-off-a-brick-wall, in isolation, at home with your pc, in solitary confinement, with no money. This is what I recognise as a 'Tail Spin'!! And it is a pain-filled, bad news story for everyone.