Is your job search agile?

There are valid, non-linear approaches to projects that are used every day in many businesses. Could such a structure assist you in your job search?

In an Agile methodology, people are valued over process, change to the initial plan is treated as a ‘given,’ and iterating back (and back again) to update and improve a deliverable (such as a resume, LinkedIn profile, etc.) is expected.  You aren’t expected to know how useful something will be, until you first make use of it.   If you’d like to bring more of these dynamics into your job search, please read further.

Agile’s first tenet is that “People are valued over process.” This means that people should not be put under too much stress, as that will make them less productive.  Although you won’t get away from all stress in job search, the emphasis is that YOU (and your sanity,  well-being, etc.) are valued over, say, staying up extra late just to update your resume for the 10th time because it may not be perfect.

Also, a team-based approach, and being physically co-located with people on your team, are highly valued Agile aspects. These types of work environments enable the high amount of communication and information-sharing necessary for a successful Agile approach.  You may have heard that staying in touch with other members of your Job Search Work Team, and “networking”  with others to share information, is critical to helping your transition.  Those points are very consistent with Agile.

Many ways to climb the mountain

Many ways to climb the mountain

Building something that is ‘good enough’ for now, realizing that you can return to improve it later, is another dynamic of Agile.  To me, editing an existing document is always easier than trying to make the first draft perfect. For your (Agile) job search, you first have to complete an iteration of something before you can go back and improve upon it.  Trying to “hold something back until it is error-free” tends to hide errors that you aren’t seeing yet (because you aren’t using the deliverable).  Only by completing an iteration can you learn what works, and what isn’t working, so complete an iteration, no matter how small it may seem.

The more traditional form of project management is called ‘waterfall,’ and is much more linear in approach.  Here, a full project plan is created for the project, and  the emphasis is upon executing to the initial project schedule, and large changes to that plan are discouraged.  Waterfall works best for projects that have been done previously, such as building a house, or planning a banquet. Although you may led a job search previously, the dynamics can be significantly different each time.

Agile is recommended for projects whose details are not sufficiently clarified at the beginning of the project or journey.  We know that job search, and uncertainty are very good friends.

I witnessed many folks in transition beat themselves up for not having the ‘perfect’ resume format, credentials, or interviewing techniques.  Agile methodology may provide a good structure to build your job search efforts and progress, as it seems more aligned with handling the dynamics of job search.  You can find out more on Agile with an easy online search.

Allan Channell is a new ‘Blog to Work’ contributor.  He has experience in software development, project management, and interests in communications, Tai Chi, and humor.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

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Presenting: You

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us – a day of family and feasting, football and the potential for another famous game: question dodging.  I hope that even in the midst of job search everyone within reach of this post can make a list of things for which they are thankful.  (Writing this sentence has reminded me of the simple prayer that was used to start each job search meeting at a faith based group that I attended last year.  The prayer was non-denominational, but made a point to remind each job seeker to be aware of the things that are going right in their life.  I really liked that.)

 

The idea for this post came to me as I was searching the newsfeed on Yahoo and came across a Mashable article.  I like this article because it is succinct and also has some concrete information – Mashable: Cover Letter Keywords – even though it still doesn’t reduce the subjective nature of the whole job search process.

 

Job search is smack in the middle of self-promotion territory – a place that many of us feel very uncomfortable visiting.  Add in the pressure of family members kindly or salaciously asking for a status update at the Thanksgiving table and, well, yikes.

 

public domain image

public domain image

The descriptive words that this article suggests makes the self-promotion more of an exercise in self-description.  I am capable, I can do this and this and this.  Here are examples of times that I did these things.  Say it with me, I am capable.  I can think of things that I do well.  I can think of things for which I am thankful.  I can enjoy the opportunity to see family and have a great meal at Thanksgiving.

 

Beth Anne Reed has a background in Customer Relations, Process & Project Management and a deep interest in Written Communications.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

There’s no laughing in job search!

During the upcoming holidays, several job search networking groups will focus one or two sessions on enjoying the camaraderie of the group. Be sure to take advantage of these sessions, for they are not held often enough.

I admit that when I first encountered such a session, I was somewhat taken aback. “WHY aren’t we focussing on job search topics? I REALLY need to be generating more call-backs and interviews… Aren’t these folks taking this job search seriously?”   (I had so much to learn… )

Honest discussion, and laughter, are signs that you are not only connecting, but also interacting with the people around you.  As the meeting’s discussion topics may not focus primarily upon job search, your time can be spent getting to know the people for who they are (and not just what they are looking for in their next role).

Having fun during job search is allowed

Public Domain Image                                                                     Having fun, and laughing, during job search is allowed

Do you demonstrate an interest in helping the people you already know at these sessions?  If so, your relationship will become stronger than had you simply exchanged business cards.  And, always be prepared to let others know what you are looking for, and how they may be able to help you. Discussions on an individual level are often more detailed than those presented to larger groups.

At these meetings, there is always the opportunity to greet new attendees, and introduce them to those (in the room) who share similar experiences or goals.  Helping people make new connections is another way to strengthen your network.  The ability to develop conversations quickly, with others you’ve just met, is a useful skill to have for networking.  (More on this in a future post.)

These are ways to exercise your networking skills.  In my first transition, as my networking skills improved, I noticed that my phone screenings tended to last longer, and that I more often stayed until the ‘final round’ of hiring discussions.   Was this a coincidence?

So, allow yourself to be more relaxed during these holiday networking sessions, and appreciate them for the opportunities they provide.

Allan Channell is a new ‘Blog to Work’ contributor.  He has experience in software development, project management, and interests in communications, Tai Chi, and humor.

Even More Than Witches

The skills most recently used in your last role – the ones that are first in people’s minds when they hear of you- may not be the skills sought by your next employer.  Make sure you represent your full set of skills and abilities.

 

I grew up near Salem Massachusetts. (Yes, the ‘witch trial’ city of Salem.)  During that time, Salem seemed challenged to appear more appealing, welcoming, and friendly, as “The Witch Trials” tended to contradict that ambiance.  Starting in the 1980’s, Salem decided to invest in its underutilized waterfront (and other areas of the city), and emphasize its large, rich role in early American history.   For over the last 20+ years, tourism has boomed.

 

Salem offers more than witch history  National Park Service Photo (Public Domain)

Salem Offers More Than Witch Trial History
National Park Service Photo (Public Domain)

 

The Witch Trials were not the only noteworthy happening in Salem’s history.  Before New York City superseded it, Salem was the main trading port to Asia.  Many Revolutionary War events occurred in Salem.  The National Guard was founded there.  Evidence of these events had been available, but they became much more visible, and easier to appreciate, after the town decided to emphasize these other historical aspects in its advertising and renewal.

 

For individuals, being without a job can seem so all-encompassing, that it can be awkward to separate your personal identity (and personal sense of value) from that employment status.  While you are in transition, are you refreshing your other skills and abilities that may have been under-appreciated?  Make sure that you are able to advertise all of your previous experiences and skills, and not just the one or two skills that may initially pop into people’s minds.  You may be surprised at the warm reception you receive.

 

Allan Channell is a new ‘Blog to Work’ contributor.  He has experience in software development, project management, and interests in communications, Tai Chi, and humor.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

I finally had enough of passing by the messy pile of job search stuff gathering dust on a shelf in the living room.  Ten months’ worth of people’s handbills, flyers, presentation print outs, notes, book summaries (and a couple of self-published books hawked by authors that I met), and seminar ephemera.  Thankfully I had already done a first culling at the time of collection and anything deemed unhelpful had been put on the recycle pile.  If I hadn’t made this initial determination, one shelf would not have been enough.  There is a lot of information out there about job search.

 

I didn’t get rid of much this time around.  Some of it could be useful to me to generate a post or two here.  Or I can pass on other bits to people I know.

 

public domain image

public domain image

When there is so much information to be found on a topic, how does a person decide what is useful (wheat) versus what is unhelpful (chaff)?  When it comes to information, it isn’t as simple as threshing wheat.  All a person needs for wheat is an understanding of what parts are edible.  Information culling or threshing requires effort in advance.

 

What is wheat for me might be chaff for others and vice versa.  I have to know what I am looking for, at least a bit.  I have to know at least how to recognize something useful.  To do that, I have to have an idea of where I am going.  But I can’t narrow things down too much or I might realize that I got rid of something potentially useful if I change course.  Hence the pile of stuff.

 

How do you decide what might be useful in your quest?

 

Beth Anne Reed has a background in Customer Relations, Process & Project Management and a deep interest in Written Communications.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Effort, Dedication, Achievement: which to recognize, which to celebrate?

If your primary goal in job search is to ‘get hired,’ then every day until you are hired, you will have failed.  (So, how about adjusting your goal?)

This point was first presented to me in a speech by Orville Pierson, author of ‘The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search.’  He emphasized how each day in job search is repeated failure until you are instantly out of job search.   Regardless of how close you may be to receiving an offer, until you accept an offer, you are fully in job search.  After accepting an offer, you are instantly, fully out of job search.

I recall a North American Olympic ice skater who, after receiving a score much lower than what seemed reasonable, was quoted as saying” “That is how it is: If I wanted purely objective scoring, I would have been a speed-skater.”  The fact that success levels would be assigned through a subjective means was a given, and she kept this awareness in her mind.   Similar subjectivity exists in job search, and this is an important fact to keep in mind.

 

Public Domain Image

There are many ways to interpret things. (Public Domain Image)

 

Your effort, dedication, and approach toward finding your next role tells a tale about you.  You may earn certifications, formally volunteer your time, or informally help others, while in job search.  It is your choice whether you recognize these efforts as valid endeavors while you seek your next role.  I’ve had many discussions with people in transition who struggle to accept the value of their efforts.  Although these efforts may not directly get you in front of a hiring manager, they do make you a stronger candidate when you are engaged in an interview.

Having a primary goal such as ‘Making myself better equipped, more valuable, and visible to prospective employers,’ can keep you focussed during your pursuit, and ensures personal recognition of your actions along the way.  Remember that job search completion is reliant, at some level, upon someone else’s judgement.  This is not a clear-cut, objectively scored competition, it is subjective.

Allan Channell is a new ‘Blog to Work’ contributor.  He has experience in software development, project management, and has interests in communications, Tai Chi, and humor.

Make your choice

Finally, the month of October is here. I realize that the month is almost over. But I must say that it is my favorite month in my favorite season of the year. One of the things that I like about this month is that the leaves on the trees are turning those beautiful colors of yellow, orange, brown, or bright red. I don’t like having to rake them before I mow our lawn, but I do like that this means that the end of the lawn-mowing season is near.

October brings with it, of course, Halloween. It also brings with it, at least in even-numbered years, this thing we call an “election”. It is true; elections for political office actually take place during the first week in November. But since the month is October, it means we are in the midst of an election campaign season. What this really means is that on or about November 10 we will not be receiving any more of those campaign ads (or, as we might call them “handbills”) in the mail. It also gives us hope that we might not be receiving, on our answering machines, those robocalls telling us to vote for this candidate, or against that one, by Thanksgiving.

Picture_01

“Vote, and the choice is yours; don’t vote, and the choice is theirs”, is what I remember hearing on the radio during one of our country’s presidential election campaigns years ago. That is the point of this week’s posting. That message, years ago, was simple. You have a choice. You can choose to vote for this candidate or that candidate. You can even vote early. Or you can choose to not vote at all.

For us job-seekers, this is a kind of role-reversal. This is the one time we get to pass judgment on a candidate for a job, just like Recruiters, Hiring Managers, and Human Resource professionals pass judgment on us job-seekers when we apply to one of their jobs.

One similarity is this. They receive résumés and cover letters from us, just like we receive campaign ads in the mail. The difference here is; we don’t have to read the campaign ads before we deposit them in the wastebasket. What those who receive our cover letters and résumés do with them is anyone’s guess.

One thing we don’t do is this; we never put any negative comments about ourselves in our handbills, résumés and cover letters. And candidates for public office never say anything bad about themselves. Their competition will gladly do that.

I would like to ask this question. What if we “campaigned” for our next job in the same way that politicians campaign for their “jobs”?

Think of it. Our handbills would look like those paper campaign ads that we receive in the mail. Not only could we give reasons why a company should hire us, we could also try to give reasons why that same company should NOT hire any of our competition. Of course, since we do not know the name(s) of our competition, we would have to refer to our competition simply as “our competition”.

Or, to switch things around, what if politicians campaigned for public office the same way we “campaign” for our jobs? The content of each of their handbills (oops, I meant “campaign ads”) would be cut in half, because they would not be bashing their competition. This would also decrease the frequency of their mailings. It is something to think about.

So, are you voting, or, are you not voting? Make your choice.

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

Idea Well Run Dry

I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks, I felt bad about it but my idea well was dry and feeling bad just dried it up further.  Until I decided to look at the problem from a different angle – there are plenty of times in job search when the well runs dry or threatens to do so.  (Ah-ha I could write about that, although there was a scary moment when I sat down and tried to retrieve this whole thought string and it wasn’t coming back to me.)

 

When job seekers gather they often fall into business buzz speak, so the question of what is in their pipeline is bound to come up.  What prospects are you working on, what might be close, what new things are going in to your pipeline?  All of the activity seems to run in cycles, and sometimes the previous cycle seems to be closing down without anything new coming along.  The well (or pipeline) is getting awfully dry.

thinking

What to do to fill it up again?

 

Just like my idea problem, worrying about the problem just makes it worse.  I have no ideas, why don’t I have any ideas, when am I going to have another idea, I really need to have another idea…  Not exactly productive thinking.  I pushed all of this to the back of my brain, enjoyed the splashes of fall color for a few days and a thought wandered in that dry spells occurred all too frequently when I was in job search and did I remember how I handled them?

 

Obviously nature helps me to reframe my thinking.  A brisk walk is good for a lot of what ails us.  Increased blood flow and a little green therapy create new brain flow.  There might have been leads that come back to mind that you might have intended to follow a bit further, say.

 

Trying something new might get you through the dry spell.  A seminar, networking meeting, informational interview that someone suggested that didn’t spark your interest at first.

 

Setting a challenge for yourself is a good one, I find.  I pick something that is just outside my comfort zone – this is how I went to my first networking event.  Or I have reviewed the way that my most recent prospects came in and pick a method that I haven’t used to find a new prospect.

 

How do you get through a dry spell?

 

Beth Anne Reed has a background in Customer Relations, Process & Project Management and a deep interest in Written Communications.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Diving in, without expecting a ‘Thank you’

It is interesting where lessons are learned.  At a Wisconsin water park, I rapidly learned two lessons which emphasized the benefit of quick action, and recognizing the value of your own work (regardless of others’ perspectives).

 

While walking in the pool, from the corner of my eye, I noticed a 7-ish year old boy come down the slide with a big scream of “WAHOO!” as he propelled feet-first into the water.  After a few seconds, I realized that I hadn’t seen him come up, so I turned around, questioningly, to face the area of water he’d just entered.  “People float… kids come up” I told myself as I scanned that area as the next second or two passed.  Just in case… I took a step in that direction, still anticipating that his head would imminently bob up above the water surface.  After yet another second, I took another step… and then received a splash from the lifeguard’s dive into the water to rescue him.  I was close enough that I could hear her say “You are OK, you’ll be OK” as she transported him onto the edge of the pool.

Public Domain Photo

Public Domain Photo

This was Lesson 1:  You’ve gotta dive in.  Especially while in job search, it is not enough to have “good intentions” or “anticipate that things will go well” without your active, deliberate, participation.   The longer you ‘look around’ to consider, and prepare for what is occurring, the less likely you’ll be involved in meaningful activities (and results).  The more prepared you are to dive in when you see a need or opportunity, the more tangible will be your influence on that situation.

 

After the boy was settled, I watched the lifeguard walk the boy to his (I assume) father, who was sitting at a table close to the pool’s edge.  I remember seeing him reading a newspaper, and looking up while the lifeguard presented the boy, along with an explanation of what had occurred.  I was amazed when I saw him respond by raising his hands in the air with a “Kids will be kids, what can ya do?” look, before motioning for the boy to get back into the pool (by himself).

 

Shortly after this, I walked up to this life guard and told her that, I wanted to extend her a “Thank you” for having saved the boy, as it seemed that one had not been provided by the dad.   After thanking me for my comment, she added that she’d been a life-guard for a few years, and had gotten used to that type (lack of) of a response from the parent/guardian.

 

This was Lesson 2:  Recognize that you can present, or offer, someone an extremely valuable item or proposal, and they just may not be very receptive to it.  Their response is not within your control.  Regardless, you need to keep providing the value that you provide.  You cannot be dismayed by anyone – be it companies, hiring managers, phone screeners – who may not express much interest, at that moment, in what you offer.

 

Have you ever had a sudden, unexpected lesson present itself to you?

 

Allan Channell is a new ‘Blog to Work’ contributor.  He has experience in software development, project management, and has interests in communications, Tai Chi, and humor.

Shame and Shadows in Job Search

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Cynthia Simmons

Twenty years ago, loosing your job felt much worse than it does today, because it happened much less frequently. It may have been caused by personality clashes, politics, bad luck, or not measuring up with job skills. Instead of outsourcing or company restructuring.

Fast forward to five years ago, and lots of good people started loosing their jobs for lots of reasons, including a major recession. So people who found themselves “in transition” were in excellent company. Even now, the recession lingers, and I think that wonderful, seasoned, and talented professionals are still not getting jobs, not rejoining the employed sector of our economy.

Many people are feeling “less than” they actually are. When self-confidence disappears, shame may insinuate itself into that empty space.

Noticing feelings of shame in job search and facing them are tremendously important. Shame can cause your steps to drag, and your head to hang low. It can also stop you from acting at all. It can exist as separate metaphysical place, separate from the land of the “living.”

When I consider “shame” further, I think of more destruction it causes: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I will never forget how I felt when I saw a woman sitting on a bench in total abject shame, in a French city where I was on vacation two years ago. What I saw was self-exhibited, public shame. Her shame was a visible weight, holding her down, keeping her totally still, as if she weren’t breathing.

I saw a woman not so young, maybe a little plump, wearing a pastel dress. She sat on a bench with a sign in her lap asking for money. Her legs were carefully arranged before her, not crossed, her knees close together. Modest and decent. Not a loose woman.

I couldn’t see her face, because she was looking down at the ground. It appeared that asking for help, publicly on the street, had cost her honor.

Another connection I see is to something I read in Ursula LeGuin’s book The Language of the Night.1 In her essay “The Child and the Shadow,” LeGuin analyzed a Hans Christian Anderson story about a man and his shadow. The man allowed his shadow to leave him—that is, he gave his shadow permission to seek out a beautiful young woman he was too shy to court. By giving power to his shadow that he would not own for himself, he became his shadow’s shadow. And then he lost his own life.

Negative emotions can have terrible costs. Challenge yourself, and confront your own shadows.

1. Ursula LeGuin. The Language of the Night. Essay “The Child and the Shadow,” Susan Wood ed. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1979), 61.

Photos credited to the morgueFile.com

Cynthia Simmons is a publishing and communications professional.
© 2014 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job. All rights reserved.