Posts Tagged ‘Career Coaching’

Are You Doing This on Interviews?

September 29, 2008
When it comes to job interviewing, by-the-book advice is easy to come by.  But these being far from by-the-book times, it is with great pleasure that I share an inspiring client story about the power of approaching an interview differently.

What made the difference for the career changer I’m about to introduce was his recognition that a job interview isn’t simply the culmination of weeks and months of networking…
A job interview is a relationship-building opportunity itself.

True story
*: Four months ago, Roger contacted me for career coaching.  During the course of our work together, he landed 3 rounds of interviews at the very company he most wanted to work for, vying with 2 other candidates for his “dream job”.
Roger recognized the position might be a stretch based on his prior experience and technical skills, but he felt firmly “in the running”.

After a nail-biting couple of weeks, Roger received word that he had been turned down for the position.  Disappointed but undeterred, he and I put our heads together, keeping in mind the value of relationship building.

During the interview process, Roger had established great rapport with one interviewer in particular named Stan.  Roger felt Stan would be upfront with him about the decision that had been made, so he decided to call Stan.  He asked Stan for feedback, expressed his interest in keeping in touch, and requested pointed advice on resources that could improve his chances next time.  This was Roger’s initial way of building on the relationship he had begun to develop with Stan in the interview room.

While Roger continued to apply to a number of job openings elsewhere, he made a point to buy the books Stan recommended and to enroll in a class after work.  Each step of the way, Roger e-mailed Stan to let him know he’d taken his advice and how well it was going.  By taking the initiative to keep in touch, Roger continued to build that relationship.

Fast forward…Well, wouldn’t you know what happened two weeks ago?  Roger received a call from Stan, asking him to interview for another position that had opened up on his team.  This time, Roger was the only candidate…and this time, he landed the position.  Furthermore, on his first day on the job, Roger already had a relatively established relationship with his new supervisor, one built on mutual respect.

Granted, things came together pretty nicely for Roger.  Interview candidates aren’t always able to get honest feedback from employers, or witness the timing work to their advantage.  But Roger’s story is a great reminder that regardless of outcome, a job interview is an opportunity to establish a relationship with a key member of an industry.  Once we dismiss the perception that an interview is a pass/fail evaluation, we lower our anxiety, increase our confidence, and put the interviewer at greater ease, too.   Essentially, we make room for big things to happen!

Warmly,

Jen


*Permission was granted to share this story, and names have been changed.

Jen helps people to set goals and then exceed their own expectations!
Her personal & career coaching programs are custom-designed for students and professionals.  Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Financial Times, Smart Money, Forbes.com, Time Out New York, and on The Today Show.

To learn more about Jen’s private coaching services, or to schedule an introductory session, please contact Jen directly:

Phone: 914.617.8283
Email: Jen@JZBcoaching.com

Visit Jen on the Web at  www.JZBcoaching.com

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Make Follow-Up a Snap!

May 16, 2008

Sometimes there’s no way around it. You can’t seem to reach the business contact you’re calling directly, and you must leave a voicemail. If it’s your first time reaching out to a particular contact, it’s a good idea in the voicemail to allow yourself some room for follow-up right off the bat. After you introduce yourself briefly, leave your phone number and a good time to reach you. This is where you can add: “I’ll also send you an e-mail, in case that is a better way for us to connect.” This way, your “stage 2 follow-up” is already in place.

(see today’s full article below…..)

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Have you noticed that as tough as it can be to “put out initial feelers”, it’s often the follow-up with new contacts that presents the real hurdle?

If you’ve ever been caught wondering what to do after you’ve put yourself out there and haven’t heard back, you are not alone. It’s likely that each of us — whether we are looking to grow a business, land a new position, advance in our chosen field, or just make a new friend — can relate to feelings of discomfort around following up. We’ve all asked ourselves the same questions: Should I call or e-mail? How can I be diligent without being too pushy?

Months ago, I worked with a client (I’ll refer to as Sally) who had a goal to land a new position in a competitive field, and would often find herself STUCK when leads seemingly went cold. Sally told me she would hesitate to follow up if she hadn’t gotten a response to an initial e-mail she’d sent, her mind filling with a litany of possibilities:

“I think to myself, perhaps the person never received my e-mail; perhaps she hasn’t opened my e-mail; perhaps she’s too busy to write back; or, worse yet…perhaps she isn’t interested in me! (??!).”

This last thought stops many of us from taking further action, and has us dropping the very leads that could be instrumental in reaching our goals.

So, how can we make follow-up more comfortable…and effective?

Three things…

1) Recognize e-mail for what it is. While it may be less intrusive to send an e-mail as a “first step”, it is important to consider the other side of the coin. E-mail is a largely anonymous and more passive means of communication (than say, picking up the telephone). From the perspective of the person receiving them, e-mails are an easy medium of communication to ignore. Not even to mention that many people won’t even open e-mails from people whose names they don’t recognize.

2) Gain permission in advance to follow up. If e-mail is the mode you feel most comfortable using initially, consider requesting permission for a follow-up phone call inside your initial e-mail. By doing so, you invite conversation and effectively put an end to wondering what to do if an e-mail of yours should go unanswered. At the very end of your initial e-mail, include a “call to action”, such as: “Feel free to e-mail me at this address, or I’ll give you a call Wednesday morning to discuss further.” When Wednesday morning comes around, if it turns out that you haven’t heard back, it is no longer a question of whether to follow up or not; rather, following up is a commitment you have made to that person.

3) Consider placing a phone call first. Unless you know the person does not like to receive calls or is very difficult to reach, an initial phone call allows you to learn and do several things that an e-mail does not. For starters, when reaching out to a new contact by phone, you can ascertain quickly if this person is indeed the correct one with whom to move forward (better to know upfront than to send an e-mail to the wrong person). Secondly, his or her tone on the phone allows you to gauge a person’s general interest level immediately. And lastly, time permitting, you can engage in a give-and-take conversation on the phone, the likes of which would be nearly impossible via e-mail. Many times, folks find they come away from one phone call with more insights and leads than they ever could have gained through e-mail alone. Added bonus: A phone call positions you for more productive follow-up. After speaking with you by phone, a person is much more likely to open your subsequent “follow-up” e-mails, simply because you — the SENDER — are now recognizable.

There is, of course, one notable drawback to using the phone — the possibility of not reaching the person directly (see above).

My client, Sally — who used to spend time & energy wondering what to do when an e-mail of hers went unanswered — had this to report recently, which I share with her permission:

“…Jen, I realize it all shifted when I began placing phone calls before sending e-mails. This let me determine if the hiring managers: a) were still there, and b) were receptive. By establishing a more personal connection by phone, I noticed they took my ‘follow up’ e-mails more seriously…And not for nothing, this new way of operating gave me valuable practice making phone calls. Three months later, I’m writing to you from my brand new office!”

If you’re game for experimenting in the coming weeks by including “calls to action” in your e-mails or by swapping e-mail for the phone, I’d be curious to know how it goes. Let me know! I would love to hear from you.

Cheering you on!

Jen

Learn more about Jen’s career coaching services at www.JZBcoaching.com

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A Good Problem to Have

April 11, 2008

It’s a rare person among us who sits around thinking, “What problems can I create for myself today?” Most of us spend our days on the lookout for how we can best avoid problems, preferring to act when we’re fairly certain we’ll be successful, or at least incur the fewest headaches for our efforts.

It may be counterintuitive, but recognizing “good problems” to have — and allowing them to happen — is a key to personal and professional fulfillment.


THE EVIDENCE:

Have you ever noticed that as a group, folks who enjoy the greatest achievement and satisfaction (with the least accompanying anxiety) often share a common view of challenges?

1) Simply put, they welcome good problems to have in the pursuit of their goals. In fact, these folks tend to view challenges as opportunities which indicate and spur growth. They know that most goals worth pursuing come along with a fair share of hassles. And so, they get good at spotting those challenges that are necessary and useful along the terrain they wish to travel. Rather than dwell on the hassles, these folks place their focus firmly on the potential upside the hassles herald.

2) Perhaps even more importantly, these same folks rarely spend time forcing themselves to come up with the solutions to anticipated problems in advance. This way, they don’t waste energy, and they don’t hold themselves back from taking action altogether. It isn’t that these folks ignore the potential downside to problems. Rather, they trust they will “handle it” and find solutions when the time comes. They know that their first solution may not be the best one, but that won’t matter. After all, part of the growth that problems create is ingenuity when it comes to solving them.

GOOD PROBLEMS TO HAVE:

In a former life, the producer I worked with at the hit HBO show, The Sopranos, taught me the value of this approach. Her favorite response to anyone’s “what if” questions was, “Now that would be a good problem to have!” (When problems did occur, she’d respond in the moment with useful solutions). I remember we were kicking off the 2nd season of the show with a screening at The Ziegfeld to an invitation-only crowd that we had overbooked. I asked her, “But what if we have to turn away people at the door?” to which she responded in customary fashion, “Now that would be a good problem to have, wouldn’t it?” She saw the value that lay in the short-lived hassle of crowd control. No further mention was made of the “problem” as we got busy on preparations for the special event. In fact, the “problem” did surface the night of the screening, and after we performed some damage control and made a few quick arrangements to accommodate some extra guests, the press covered the event to glowing reviews as a star-studded, standing-room only affair. It was then that I realized one of the things which made this producer so talented — she knew how to direct her energy towards the results she wished to create (while recognizing the gold in the inevitable hassles along the way). After six terrific, Emmy-award winning seasons, her mindset couldn’t have been more productive.

As a coach, I sometimes notice clients holding themselves back with the intention of avoiding a hassle they foresee lurking around the corner. Recently, a client was wrestling with whether to attend an interview for a job she wasn’t sure she wanted. “But what if they offer me the position?” she asked me, to which I heard myself reply, “Now that will be a good problem to have, won’t it?” Once we discussed it in greater depth, the client realized all she stood to gain by inviting the “problem” to occur, including: the opportunity to learn more about the company, extra practice interviewing, a chance to surprise herself and be surprised by what the company might have to offer, and increased self-confidence. (It turned out the hiring manager agreed with her inclination that this wasn’t the position for her, but he was so impressed by her that he offered her another position that was beyond what she could have imagined!)

PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS:

So how do you put this concept of seizing on “good problems to have” to work for you?
Consider the following questions next time you’re starting a new project, taking on a big goal, or making a transition:

  • What would be a good problem to have happen here? How can I make it occur?
  • What hassles am I trying to prevent, avoid, or solve upfront? By doing so, how might I be holding myself back from taking action?
  • What else could I be doing with the energy I’m currently using to focus on problem-avoidance?
  • What problem might I need to allow to occur to get past this stuck point?
  • What strengths must I recognize in myself in order to feel comfortable moving forward on this?


And remember, puddles are made for splashing!


Jen

Visit Jen and learn more about her personal & career coaching services at www.JZBcoaching.com.

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