Author Archive: cfsuthe1

Try a Little Appreciation

By Cynthia Sutherland

Deliberately adopt an attitude of appreciation.  When you intentionally appreciate aspects of your life, it starts you on your way to feeling good. 

And when you feel good, you will be inspired to positive action.  Others will notice.

From Wikimedia Commons, Scroll, in the public domain

From Wikimedia Commons, Scroll, in the public domain

This time of year, many of us are automatically led by the holiday season to focus on our blessings.  We’re told to identify positive circumstances, family members and friends, and what they mean to us.  We may or may not “feel” those blessings. It can be just an exercise, but what if you take it seriously?

As a catalyst, there are always stories about someone worse off than we are who has a positive attitude and achieves against great odds, or someone better off who shares their blessings with others less fortunate.

Yet here you are: still unemployed as you move into this season of Thanksgiving.  So it may make it a little harder to imagine the light at the end of that tunnel.  Or to appreciate the job search, or other aspects of your life right now.

But I say that not feeling appreciation promotes a very conditional view of life. “If I get this job, I’ll be happy.”  “If I achieve that success, I’ll be happier.”  “If I have that relationship, then I can love life.”  If…if…if.

It often is that way, though, a learned behavior from the time we were very young.  We cried our eyes out for the truck or doll that we wanted at that moment.  And when we got that toy, it made us happy for a minute.  Then we moved on to the next item we had to have to be happy.

Have you tried recently, just for kicks, to act happy, or to appreciate certain aspects of your life, just to see what would happen?  I have.  It really starts some positive juices flowing, you begin to feel better, and your outlook on life shifts – even if it’s just in the moment.  And your outlook about your job search will shift to a more positive view as well.

Make a list.  List the things, situations, people, foods, anything that you like.  Then think about why you feel good about the items on your list.  When you do, more reasons, and more things will come to mind. And you will start to feel some real appreciation.

You could do the same thing about all those things you don’t like, but that will make you feel bad. Our normal analytical selves assist us in doing this every day.  But we’re not looking for a pity party, or pros and cons, just a way to uplift your spirits.

A feeling of appreciation builds on itself if you let it.  Return to the list the next day and add to it, or start a new list each day.

After a time, you will move more automatically to think about how great your life is, how blessed you really are.  And you will realize that you are gaining more knowledge about yourself and others as a result of what you experienced in your job search.

Next year, your list can be a retrospective about what you learned in your job search process, and how wonderful people were in helping.  And you will be ready to help the next person who may just be starting their search process.

Cynthia Sutherland is a senior human resources professional, focusing primarily on diversity and inclusion and work-life.

© 2013 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

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Basic Beliefs in Job Search

By Cynthia Sutherland

“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”

-Bruce Lee   (From www.brainyquotes.com)

Peace, love and happiness From Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

Peace, love and happiness
From Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

The first thing I learned about job search is not job search techniques (I learned those, too), but that job search involves solidifying – or shifting – beliefs about yourself.

I learned the following ten basic beliefs for a successful job search from the Job Search Circle. This group is the primary collective that I participate in to enhance my job search skills, and to remind myself how important it is to stay grounded during the search.

Most importantly, the networking and teamwork gained from participating in a job support group builds understanding about the intangible aspects of job search – about yourself.  I would never try to go it alone.

This list comes directly from the Job Search Circle:

  • Believe in yourself.  You are not your job search. (That’s a constant necessary reminder.)
  • Believe in your uniqueness.  You define the job; the job doesn’t define you.
  • Believe that you are a winner.  Convey this by your positive attitude, energy and enthusiasm.
  • Believe that you add value.  Know how your accomplishments and experience have positively impacted the organizations you have worked for.
  • Believe you are successful.  Success is all about what you can contribute.
  • Believe in your ability to make a difference. Cultivate a mindset of helpfulness and help others regardless if they help you in return.
  • Believe in your ability to learn.  Improve yourself; update your skills. (Now is the time to focus here.)
  • Believe in the gift of transition.  You have been given a gift of time – don’t waste it. (You may not see this right away, but this time allows self-reflection and re-connection.)
  • Believe in the abundance around you.  Be grateful for what you have.  (An attitude of gratitude is what will create resilience and positiveness.)
  • Believe you will land the right job.  Trust the process.  Embrace ambiguity and learn from it.  Stay positive. (Landing the right job is a by-product of your positive beliefs.)

Cynthia Sutherland is a senior human resources professional, focusing primarily on diversity and inclusion and work-life.

© 2013 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Glass Half Full

By Cynthia Sutherland

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

-Albert Einstein  (from brainyquote.com)

Half full or half empty? from Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

Half full or half empty?
from Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

I re-organized my home office this week.  I found a memory card for a former work colleague who passed away in 2010.  The card was tucked away among some items that I designated as “in process.”

My colleague had a chronic illness for several years.  She continued to work until a few weeks before she died.  It wasn’t so much that she was devoted to work, or even that she had to continue working.  Like most of us, though, she did need to continue working for practical reasons.

Yet I remember that she said she continued to work mostly because she really liked her job, and work projects kept her mind on things besides her illness.  It was a grace she gave her family, friends and co-workers. It allowed all of us to view her as more healthy and happy during her physical evolution.

I say all this because seeing the card again made me reflect about what I liked about Shari:  She really saw her glass as half full, always.

And that made me think about whether I see my world that way.  And also, that it is important to feel positive.  That’s true particularly now, when I’ve been in job search mode for some time.

I realized that often I do see my glass as half full, but not always.  When I let myself get drawn into doing whatever it takes to “find a job,” my glass feels half empty.  But when I see job search as a life growth process that is leading to the next great step, I become energized, and then my glass IS half full.

It seems as if job search is a process that encompasses two ends of a stick.  One end involves getting “a” job, and the other end lets the search process flow forward in a way that is true to one’s personality, values, needs, and the direction you want to move towards.  To me, this end of the stick means not just moving to “one” destination or the first job that comes along, but remaining open to better possibilities.

I really feel positive when I let things take their course and take action when I’m inspired to.  When I listen to others’ opinions or let myself get swayed by the view that finding a job is about taking as much action as possible, or settling for whatever job one can find in this tough economy, I don’t feel quite as positive.  And that’s my signal that my success involves focusing on how I feel.

So over time, I’ve realized that I need to stay true to myself and tune out the chatter.  Then I can trust the process to lead me to the best destination for me.

Cynthia Sutherland is a senior human resources professional, focusing primarily on diversity and inclusion and work-life.

© 2013 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Are You Ready?

By Cynthia Sutherland

The culture of work and jobs is shifting.  I want to be part of the evolution rather than reminisce.  I’m navigating the job search environment and re-imagining my world view. It’s validating to re-construct the job picture and plan forward. 

My personal goals are shifting too: more personal, less career focus. Your focus may be different.

Headdrawers, from Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

Headdrawers, from Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

I am a human resources (HR) professional.  Last week I participated in a local HR conference.  This conference was another catalyst that brought home to me how huge the economic, social and political changes have been in the last generation.  There is no turning back.

I heard again last week how important technology, social media, gamification for engagement, and instant feedback have become in not only engaging a young workforce but changing how work is approached overall.  Millennials have made their mark.

I also heard that successful organizations are flatter so they can be more nimble; that includes remote work and more flexible work styles (yea for that).  And that means workers really need to accept not being so upwardly mobile.

It’s becoming more common to be “de-jobbed,” moving among projects or contract jobs – with fewer employer-provided fringe benefits.  There are still many companies that have long-term career employees.  But I see this paradigm changing rapidly.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (more commonly known as “Obamacare”) will provide necessary financial supports to many people as these shifts occur.  There are changes in how employers view providing retirement and other benefit programs to their workforces as well.  Minimum wage employment creates a different story and other needs.

My work function in HR is evolving because of these shifts. Critical business changes have led to innovative work solutions as well as routinizing business processes.

So I have to move along with that or choose a different path.  No doubt you have been impacted similarly, certainly if you’re in the job market.

Of course, one’s personal rate of change (and willingness) moves differently than recognition of business realities and what your career shifts need to be.  You can jump on a new train or even leave the station entirely.

A lot of factors go into these choices.  I am accustomed to change, so I find the work shifts exhilarating if financially exasperating.  But personally, I want to add more personal satisfaction and focus less on re-charging my career.

I’m giving myself the latitude to re-focus toward my dreams.  While I am looking for a new “job,” I AM playing on a modified field.  Maybe it’s not yet my “field of dreams,” but I think that dreams can be made here.

Cynthia Sutherland is a senior human resources professional, focusing primarily on diversity and inclusion and work-life.

© 2013 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

The Small Stuff

By Cynthia Sutherland

When you’re searching for a job, input from others, i.e., “You didn’t get the job,” seems like a big deal.  This feedback can be viewed as a “no” vote.  But it’s really a nit in your life. You can see it that way in hindsight, too.

Floral Heart, from Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

Floral Heart, from Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

Oh, yes.  If you’ve been on a job quest for some time, and you’re invested in time deadlines or a job target for attaining a job, a rejection can be a shock to your system, your self-confidence, and a postponement of your financial goals.  But that’s true only if you can’t see that one particular job – or even this period of your life – is small stuff.

There are at least two situations within many that come to mind to help put this into perspective.  One involves Olympic hopefuls.  The other involves Dick Cheney and his heart.

Olympic hopefuls participate in ongoing performances and competitions, all geared toward their ultimate goal:  getting into the Olympics, and then winning a gold (or silver, or bronze) medal.  Olympic athletes practice and commit to their quest in their earliest years, and often end their careers (with or without a medal) long before you and I would even think of retiring.

I’m currently watching ice skaters on TV competing for a spot on the next U.S. Winter Olympic team.   There are a lot of losses and flubs in the short-term, even injuries, before their skills are perfected and a peak performance is reached.  Success, and even winning, involves their attitude and confidence as much as their ability.  And luck is part of that, I suppose, which I view as honing one’s positive attitude so that a win is the next logical step (so, not really luck).

The other situation that impressed me recently is Dick Cheney’s discussion of his heart transplant.  In his new book, Heart: An American Medical Odyssey, covered in several recent interviews, Cheney said that since his surgery, he “doesn’t sweat the small stuff anymore.”  He consciously appreciates each day, thinking about what actions he needs to take to live life to the fullest. Cheney says he enjoys each day as if it’s his last.

Dick Cheney’s attitude affected me powerfully. I admit that I’m not a Dick Cheney fan.  But you don’t need to share his views to be inspired by the impact that reclaiming his health and a normal life had on his outlook.

If you let yourself be inspired by such situations and consciously adopt a positive attitude, it would save a lot of emotional tension.  And the demeanor you portray to others and to potential employers would be so much brighter.  Your attitude is always apparent, anyway, even if you think you can hide it with professionalism and bravado.

When placed into perspective, this period is only a blink of your eye.  That’s what all my friends who have landed say in hindsight.  Really.

Cynthia Sutherland is a senior human resources professional, focusing primarily on diversity and inclusion and work-life.

© 2013 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Your Job Search Team

By Cynthia Sutherland

Job search is an independent and even a solitary venture.  After all, you are the one who needs to do the work to find a new job.  But…you’re definitely not alone on this journey.

Others – even strangers – can offer kindness and insights at an opportune moment; this can occur in unexpected ways, and even lead to a different career outcome.

Discussion in the Park, Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

Discussion in the Park, Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

Job search is a time to be more resilient, creative and resourceful by stepping out of your comfort zone. You can use this period to connect in new ways with your family, religious practices or spiritual beliefs, long-time friends, professional groups, volunteering, etc.

And since you’re in a dynamic and changing life period, it is inspiring to tap into people or situations that challenge your old assumptions. Most surprisingly, there are individuals you don’t know at all who may reach out to you (or you reach out to them) – even in a fleeting way.  They may motivate you to leap forward after you’ve been going in circles.

I’ve had several people connect with me out of the blue with information that generated a string of connections that led to a potential job, interviews, and even discussions that re-shaped my job focus.

And the people that I’ve found to be the most valuable resources are those that I’ve interacted with in areas initially unrelated to a job search conversation.  For example, I was discussing how a picture could be framed, someone walked into the shop, became part of the discussion, and it led to a job referral. That happened in my veterinarian’s office as well.

Another discussion occurred with an employee (former schoolteacher) at a bookstore that led me to re-think whether using other job skills would lead me to a different type of career.

These friendly encounters gave me a boost in my singular quest.  And they made me realize that building real connections, not just “me-focused” job contacts, are the most important part of my life journey.  It showed me that there is an interesting community that can broaden my thinking if I’m ready to listen.

Yes, there are people I’ve known for years who faded as friends and colleagues during my job search. But for any closed doors, I’ve been disarmed by kindnesses and conversations and help from extraordinary people I didn’t know before, and built some new friendships. I feel better for it.

If you’re open to guidance, the job search process can be a revelation, not just the solitary task of finding a job. And that’s what this journey is really about.

Cynthia Sutherland is a senior human resources professional, focusing primarily on diversity and inclusion and work-life.

© 2013 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Shifting the Job Search

By Cynthia Sutherland

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”  Joseph Campbell

“Not all those who wander are lost.”  J. R. R. Tolkien

Sailing_Discovery of Land, from Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

Sailing_Discovery of Land, from Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

A friend of mine just started a part-time, “permanent” job. She was excited because she was out of work for a long time. And work was an important part of her identity and social structure.

This job was on her anticipated path at this stage of her career:  still in the game, wanting to make another significant contribution, but resigned toward accepting less, for now.

Even so, it appeared to be a challenging job in her field, one that allowed her to use her extensive job skills and background, work independently from home, and potentially make a positive impact. And it left time for other ventures.

Yet this job didn’t pay well. Is that the new normal? Still, it had future potential. So the job situation was OK with her – at first.

Well, what happened? Her new boss began micro-managing, calling at all hours of the day and night, seven days a week. What was supposed to be a very part-time job quickly became a set of full-time expectations.

Here was a new job that turned out to be immediately different than what my friend thought she had interviewed for. Yes, she’s thinking about quitting already. But she will discuss the work situation with her new boss to see if it can be salvaged.

This job was going to provide some of the means for moving forward. But another more pleasant journey can take her there as well. Or, she could wander for a while until she discovers a new path.

Job change inevitably becomes a catalyst for re-tooling our life goals.

Did she “settle” for this job? Probably. But I think she just hoped that she could perform some interesting work while sorting things out, and she crossed her fingers.

What started as a job search became more of a life satisfaction journey. My friend realized gradually that there IS more to life than work, and work needs to be satisfying in this mix.  I identify with that.

What priorities motivate you? Will you “settle” short-term or long-term? Or, not at all?

Cynthia Sutherland is a senior human resources professional, focusing primarily on diversity and inclusion and work-life.
© 2013 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Creating Your Future

By Cynthia Sutherland

“You can’t create the future by clinging to the past.” So says a recent Delta Airlines TV commercial. I agree. We create our future by defining desires, setting goals and moving toward them. You create with small steps or a big leap.

In job search, the goal is often to find a new job – quickly. But since a job choice has implications for your future, it pays to be clear about what you really want going forward.

A fork in the road, by Nicholas Mutton, from Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

A fork in the road, by Nicholas Mutton, from Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

You may believe that this job market limits your choices. At the same time, you do have leeway in choosing your career (and life) direction.

I have friends on various career paths, those who:

Deliberately retired early to be true to their desires. I know, they could somehow afford to, and many can’t. But those I know who adjusted their lifestyles stayed true to their life goals. I admire that, knowing and holding to your life goals.

Took the first job that came along. It’s scary to be out in the job market. They responded to time and financial pressures. Some of those job gambles paid off; some didn’t. They or their new employers miscalculated “fit.” Or the new employer reorganized (again) and eliminated their jobs after a short time.

Waited and angled for the same or next level job. Some achieved those goals of “more of the same.” Good for them. But did they think about what they wanted? And some are still looking because the job market re-defined the value of a lot of careers.

Embraced a different mix of volunteer efforts, part-time or temporary jobs, and even internships in mid-career. Some enhanced their skills or changed direction by going back to school, adding certifications or degrees, or even started entrepreneurial ventures.

Defined what they wanted in a career as they went along, trying things to see how it would go. They refined from what worked and discarded what didn’t. I think Generation Y is known for this attitude toward serial jobs and careers. But other generations are learning from them AND the economy.

More often, though, we toddle along and stick with a job choice because it’s comfortable. We settle.  But some have a clear and undeniable talent that must be pursued. Or they nurture a desire for a different path that just bubbles up at some point.

And when a career choice is made for us, e.g., being disconnected from a job involuntarily, passive styles suddenly change. Now we need to actively make choices; that’s really an opportunity. You can feel the elation when you deliberately set new goals.

Where am I in all this? Job change led me to a process of reinventing myself. It’s ongoing. I previously chose a career-oriented path that was satisfying, very typical for baby boomers. But a job shift caused me to re-think my life goals, not just job choices.

That led me to adopt the mixed path: some volunteer work, looking for part-time or temporary work, and moving into some new directions, like doing a little consulting, and writing for fun.

Mine is not a unique path, but it responds to the times, the opportunities, and activates new possibilities.

Cynthia Sutherland is a senior human resources professional, focusing primarily on diversity and inclusion and work-life.
© 2013 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Two-Way Networking

By Cynthia Sutherland

Do you find job networking productive? You may not be able to control others’ responses to your efforts, but you can guide and influence people. And you can learn how to be more effective by practicing two-way networking.

Hands put over another, from Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain

Hands put over another, from Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain

You may be uncomfortable with networking, that introvert/extrovert thing. But job search is a time when you need to step out of your comfort zone. And career networking must be ongoing these days. It’s a changed work world.

A key is that the target of your networking may not understand the value of networking, mentoring or “paying it forward.” So you need to guide the process. Alternatively, you don’t want to go overboard by using aggressive and self-centered tactics.

It’s helpful to understand what job networking is and is not. Networking is a comfortable conversation with a goal in mind, e.g., gathering job leads and learning how to reach insiders, hiring managers and recruiters.

Job networking is not a cold calling sales technique; that’s a one-way street. Like any interaction, networking is a means to converse, build a relationship, however brief, and provide something in return. It’s a two-way street that answers the “WIFM” – what’s in it for me, your target.

One of the simplest books I’ve read on job search, and networking, is by Orville Pierson. It’s called The Unwritten Rules of Highly Effective Job Search. The most important job search technique Pierson describes is networking, which he says is “just plain talking to people” in the context of a project plan and job target list.

Recently, I was part of a planning group. In a session, a leader surprised me by mentioning being uncomfortable when approached by people “in transition.” The leader I spoke to had risen quickly in a one-company career. (How typical will that be in the future?) “Why?” I asked.

I was told that job seekers cornered leaders at events to ask for help in getting a job. The leaders didn’t know the individuals or their circumstances, so the requests were viewed as awkward. That’s why a two-way conversation is important in networking.

To summarize:

Networking is a “two-way” street: Know when to give and how to take. Remember “WIFM.”
Guide networking targets: Even senior leaders may not be familiar with networking techniques. Plan the interaction; lay groundwork; make it a two-way situation.
Contact people you know first. Build your circle from that. That’s Orville Pierson’s advice.
Use common sense: Follow-up but don’t hound networking targets if they don’t respond.
Do your homework on the organization before contacting a network target.
Know targets’ knowledge of the search process. External/internal recruiters are savvy about the search process. Others may not be, even leaders and hiring managers.
When you land, don’t just move on. Pay it forward. Be open to networking in your new role. And use networking to advance your future career and job choices.

Cynthia Sutherland is a senior human resources professional, focusing primarily on diversity and inclusion and work-life.

© 2013 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved
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“Up in the Air” – A Good Thing?

By Cynthia Sutherland

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Michael Jordan

(Michael Jordan Statue, United Center, by T.H. Shriver, from Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain)

(Michael Jordan Statue, United Center, by T.H. Shriver, from Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain)

I’m not really a professional team sports fan. But I’m from Chicago. So I learned a little about the talent and success of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. I was also fortunate to personally see Michael Jordan up in the air. I saw him play in person several times during his winning seasons.

There’s nothing like experiencing someone’s skills, and success, first hand – unless they’re your own.

And when I read Jordan’s quote I also thought of my current job search – and life planning – activities. My search is affecting my whole life (and my choices). It certainly makes me feel like I’m “up in the air.” Yet that’s been more positive than not.

I identify with Michael Jordan’s efforts to hone his skills AND his courage to follow his dream. Do many of us do that as we go along in life, or do we just adapt?

Jordan was told early in his career that he would never become a great basketball player. Like him in this way, I was striving to succeed and move forward with the career and life I wanted. But with a job change, I’m making voluntary shifts in my thinking and preferences.

At the beginning, I pursued professional education and certifications to update my human resources professional skills. As current as you may think you are, there’s always more to learn about your profession. It felt good to achieve that.

But being in job search provided more time, and the will, to plan what I really wanted next, not just seek my next job or sameness. For me, my job search effort has become more about the journey than the destination.

Yes, I am spending time re-tooling my job skills and competencies. And I’ve learned some necessary job search techniques. That’s a constant process. Beyond that, I’m re-calibrating my life goals, or maybe the timing. Change changes you.

Now I’m taking the opportunity to pursue a variety of jobs that I was drawn to previously but didn’t really consider, including working on my own. I’m also re-evaluating if/when I prefer to retire, how I can give back to my community, looking at short-term jobs, writing (always wanted to do that), and taking more time with key relationships. Re-invention is fun and invigorating.

It really is freeing to review your life in mid-stream. I’m sure that you’ve heard that once the job search is concluded, people say that “I’m in a better place than I was before.” Or they hope they are. Sometimes that’s a better or different job, small personal shifts, or it can mean deliberately jumping toward a different career or life choice. That’s what I’m doing now.

Cynthia Sutherland is a senior human resources professional, focusing primarily on diversity and inclusion and work-life.
© 2013 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved