First things first

Four Steps to Cope with Change

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
Benjamin Franklin

Joseph-Siffrein Duplessis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Joseph-Siffrein Duplessis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Franklin may have been one of the wisest Americans who has ever lived, but in this case, he was wrong. There is a third certainty:


Some change we initiate, and for good reason: a new job, a marriage, the birth of a child.

Some changes are forced upon us against our will: a layoff, a new boss, the death of a loved one.

One of the maxims in Spencer Johnson’s top-selling business book, Who Moved My Cheese (the book that managers like to give to their staffs before a round a layoffs), is that we must change with the change or risk becoming extinct.

This is easy to say when the change is good. But how do we do this when change is forced upon us?

Let me give you four steps for Coping with Change:

1)  Expect Change

The typical interpretation of the classic Aesop Fable “The Ant and the Grasshopper” is that the ant planned ahead, that he worked all summer gathering food so that in winter he would not starve.

Johannes Moreelse (after 1602–1634) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Johannes Moreelse (after 1602–1634) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Notice that the ant anticipated change, he knew that the good times of summer would not last. He expected it to change.

As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus (left) put it, “Everything changes and nothing stands still.”

The mice in Johnson’s book noticed that the cheese supply was dwindling even before it moved, so they were ready with their next move. The little people did not anticipate the change and were caught off guard.

Expect there to be change, and you can more readily adapt to it.

2)  Choose Your Response to the Change

Sooner or later, you must accept that the status quo is different.

In some cases, it may have to be “later.” Some change is tough to deal with. Embrace your emotions. Allow yourself time, if necessary, to grieve.

All change involves loss. Some loss is good (getting a better job, getting married); some loss is harder to replace (the economic security of a well-paying job, the death of a loved one).

Concentrate on the things you can control – exercise, meditate, pray. Punch a pillow (in the privacy of your own home). Write in your journal (but don’t publish it as a blog). Seek counsel with an objective third party (not someone who is involved in the change with you).

3)  Accept the Change

Don’t rush your feelings, but do understand that the sooner you can accept the new status quo, the sooner you can begin to be successful under the new status quo.

4)  Embrace the Change

All change creates opportunity. Search for that opportunity, be it the pot of gold or the silver lining.

Set new goals under the new paradigm. Establish new habits to work with the new reality.

Finally, pay attention and be ready, because Change will happen again.

Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.


How SMART Are Your Goals?

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery (though in dispute)

The most successful people in life, whether in business, family, finances, or job search, are goal-focused. But just having a goal is not enough. You need to create a plan to reach your goal.

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
– Alan Lakein

They key to creating the right plan to reach your goal, is to have the right goal to begin with. That is why you want a SMART goal;

Image courtesy of digitalart at

Image courtesy of digitalart at

SMART as in intelligent and intentional, but also SMART as in:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

– Specific. The more specific your goal, the more likely you are to achieve it.

A goal to “have more money” is not specific enough.
A goal of “having enough money to retire” is not specific enough.
A goal of “having $500,000 in a retirement account so I can retire” is better, but
a goal of “having $500,000 in a retirement account so I can retire at age 70” is best.

For Job Seekers, a goal of “finding a job” is not specific.
A goal of “finding a job as a [fill in the blank]” is better, but
a goal of “finding a job as a [fill in the blank] with one of these three companies” is best.

– Measurable. How will you know when you reach your goal? The more specific the goal, the easier it is to measure.

If you want to have $500,000 by the time you retire at age 70, simply calculate how much you need to save each year until retirement.

If you want a job as a [fill in the blank] and you get offered another job instead, you can decide whether to accept the job relative to your goal (is it the same type of position but with another company? Or a job with a target company but in another role? Or simply what you can get for now, but you’ll keep looking?).

“What gets measured gets done.”
– Tom Peters

– Achievable. A goal that is out of reach, no matter how well planned, will never be met.

Saving $500,000 for retirement might be achievable, but $5Million may not be.

A goal to be a surgeon because it looked cool on “Scrubs,” but you cannot maintain grades to qualify for medical school, may be out of reach. But perhaps you would be satisfied with another role in a hospital or clinic.

– Relevant. A goal that is not relevant to your values, your interests, and your lifestyle, no matter how achievable, will be an empty victory.

Saving enough money to buy an RV Camper, but you don’t like to drive (or to camp) would be a wasteful purchase.

– Timely. When do you want to achieve your goal? How much time is there between now and then? What do you need to do at each time point? And what do you do if you start to fall behind?

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.”
– Napoleon Hill

SMART goals will help you create an actionable plan, and greatly increase the chances that you can achieve what you want.

What are your experiences with goal-setting? Please share in the comments below!

Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

Four elements of an Elevator Speech

I have established that networking is not about meeting as many people as you can. Networking is about creating added-value relationships.

Still, to create a relationship, you have to meet people.

And when you meet people, you have to have an introduction.

Thus, the Elevator Speech (or Sales Pitch, or 30-second Biography…).

Elevator Speech - what you can say in the time it takes to take an elevator ride

Elevator Speech – what you can say in the time it takes to take an elevator ride

A successful Elevator Pitch should be:

Short – no longer than 30-seconds.

Focused – stick to one topic.

Practiced – not something that you come up with on the spot; otherwise, it risks being neither short nor focused.

The basic elements of a decent Elevator Pitch for job seekers are:

Who you are.

Speak slowly and enunciate so the other person can hear and understand.

Smile and say your name.

Do not hand them your business card or resume! Keep those in your pocket / briefcase / portfolio (for now, at least).

What occupation you are targeting.

Own it. It is not what you want, but what you are. “I am a…,” not, “I am looking for an opportunity as a…”

Keep it forward-looking. Spend no time talking about what you no longer can or want to do.

Keep it focused to one occupation only. As soon as you say, “I also…,” you have lost your audience.

Why you should be considered.

What are the perhaps two special qualifications that you can share that will differentiate you from everyone else who wants to do what you want to do? Do you have a relevant degree and/or certification? How many years’ experience do you have?

Review your STAR stories (you have already created five to seven STAR / Achievement stories), pick a positive Result, and work it into your Elevator Speech.

What you are targeting / what are the next steps.

Here, your phrasing depends on with whom you are speaking:

  • If you are speaking to a hiring decision maker, try something like, “How do you see someone who has my qualifications fitting into your organization?”
  • If you are speaking with someone who is not in your target industry, then say, “I am targeting [THREE OR FOUR SPECIFIC COMPANIES], and would appreciate any assistance you can give.”

Again, practice your Elevator Speech so you can say everything you need to say in 30 seconds. You will know that you nailed when they ask you follow-up questions.

I’ll expand on each of these elements in future posts.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

I want to know what you think. Please connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn, or leave a comment below.

Stay encouraged

Job Search is tough. You submit dozens of applications online and never hear a response. You go to job fairs, and the only companies that are hiring for what you want tell you to apply online. You finally get an interview, only to find out the position has been filled.

Feeling down

It is easy to get discouraged, especially as days turn into weeks, and your budget grows tighter as you try to support your family and bills still need to be paid.

But to be successful, you can’t give up. You have to remain positive.

You may allow yourself time to wallow in self-pity, but to be successful in your job search, you have to snap out of it.

My suggestion:

Success breeds success, so set small, attainable goals.

In basketball, when a 3-point shooter is struggling, a coach will draw up a play to give the player a layup. Gain a little bit of confidence, then he or she can move back and start firing away with confidence.

For job search, start shooting layups. Set small goals such as:

  • Attend two networking events in the next week.
  • Meet and connect with five new people. Follow up.
  • Set up one informational interview next week.

These are very attainable goals. If you want to be more aggressive, then go to it.

Keep applying for the jobs you want, for which you are qualified, but I would not necessarily advise an artificial goal like “5 applications per day.” At that point, you likely are applying for jobs where you are not qualified, then you will not get the interview, and you just get more frustrated.

These in themselves will likely not lead to a job offer, which is the ultimate goal. But as you start checking things off your “job search to-do” list, you will gain more confidence, you will show more confidence, you will be more positive, and will start to have more success.

Time and time again, I hear from job seekers (myself included) that their big break came on or shortly after their darkest day. You have to hang tough.

To quote the great sage, Rocky Balboa, “Life isn’t about how hard you can hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

And don’t forget to visit your mother.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

I want to know what you think! Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below.

Don’t neglect the job searching details

Successful job search requires that you figure out what you want to do, create a winning resume, practice interview questions, and so on. But many employers tell me that far too many job seekers fail because they do not take care of the details.

Employers have not hired otherwise qualified candidates because of one of the following errors:

No contact information

If an employer cannot get a hold of you, they will not wait for you. They will instead make an offer to the next-best qualified candidate.

Make sure that your name, phone number, email address, and LinkedIn URL are included

            at the top of your resume,

            at the bottom of your cover letter,

            in your email signature block, and

            on your business cards.

When you call and leave a voice message, always leave your name and phone number at the beginning of a short message. Yes, chances are high that they have caller ID; however, you must make contacting you as easy as possible for the employer. Do not make them work.

Do not confuse or offend a potential employer

Do not confuse or offend a potential employer

Unprofessional email address

You may have a separate email address that you use for friends and families and to log in to online accounts, but for job seeking, you need a professional address – your name (FirstnameLastname@, or Firstname.Lastname@). If you have a common name, you may need to include a number or a symbol; do not use your age or date of birth.

From a branding perspective, the repetition of your name across all points of contact (email address, resume, cover letter, LinkedIn URL) identifies you with your personal brand. Free email accounts are easily available through Google Gmail, Yahoo, and others.

Answering your phone unprofessionally

Always. Even if you think you recognize the number on your caller ID. And please, re-record your voice message greeting:

“Hi, this is (name). I am not able to take your call right away, but please leave your name and number and I will return your call as soon as possible.”

Having an obnoxious call-waiting song

An employer once called an applicant to make an offer, but the call-waiting song was so vulgar, that she hung up without leaving a message, and called someone else instead.

My own opinion is that any call-waiting song is obnoxious. Take it off. If you insist on having a call-waiting song, make sure it is as non-offensive as possible (but let me know if you find a song that does not offend at least one person).

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

I want to hear from you. Connect with me on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below, and let me know what you think!

Using O*Net Online to consider wage and employment trends

For many, the Great Recession was a Great Awakening, as we realized that employers could not, and would not, provide long-term security. Companies shed hundreds of thousands of loyal workers every month and entire occupations disappeared, some to never again return. This forced millions of workers to consider new occupations. The critical consideration is, for what occupations do your skills suggest you are qualified? There are two other equally critical considerations:

1. Is the occupation viable in terms of wage or salary? Does it pay enough to meet your necessary expenses?

2. Is the occupation viable in terms of number of opportunities?

Career One Stop, linked to O*Net Online, gives valuable information to help answer these considerations.

On O*Net Online, find your state to open the Career One Stop

On O*Net Online, find your state to open the Career One Stop

Assume you want to be a Typewriter Repair Person. Entering “Typewriter Repair” in O*Net Online, you select “Home Appliance Repair.”

Scroll to the bottom and find “Wage and Employment Trends.”

Enter your state (or, the state where you want to live) and click “Go.” This opens the Career One Stop page for this occupation.

Scroll halfway down the page, and find “State and National Wages.

This gives the range of wages typical for this occupation. The Median income means that half of companies pay more than this wage, and half of companies pay less. It does NOT mean that any given company will pay a wage on this range. I recommend looking at the 25th percentile (You have completed a spending budget, correct?) and ask, “Does this wage cover my expenses?” If it does not, then you must either have a plan for additional sources of income to make up the difference, or choose another occupation.

On the Career One Stop, examine the Wage and Trends for your occupation

On the Career One Stop, examine the Wage and Trends for your occupation

Next, look at “State and National Trends” and find two numbers: the Percent Change, and the Projected Annual Job Openings for your state. The Percent Change should be a positive double-digit number, suggesting that the occupation is growing. If you are fortunate enough to find a job in a contracting occupation (negative, or single-digit growth), you are at risk of this occupation ending, and you will soon be searching for another new job.

Be aware that double-digit growth of a very small base still means few projected openings, as is the case for Home Appliance Repair.

O*Net Online identifies “HVAC Installers and Mechanics” as a Related Occupation for Home Appliance Repair. Following the links, the 25th percentile wage is $37K annual ($18/hr), with over 400 projected openings per year. I might encourage our Home Appliance Repair Person to instead consider how her skills qualify her to pursue an HVAC opportunity.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

I want to hear from you. Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below, and let me know what you think!

The Holland Interests Party Game on O*Net Online

When it comes to job search, I tell clients they have to have a single occupation target. You can change your target if your first choice doesn’t pan out, but a scatter-shot approach is rarely successful. Employers want specialization.

This often poses a challenge for my clients. Some have trouble deciding between two or more occupations where they may have experience. Others feel they have no qualifications (an answer I never accept) and truly do not know what they want to do.

Choose your First, then Second, then Third most interesting Work Environment

Choose your First, then Second, then Third most interesting Work Environment

One approach I use is the Holland Party Game.

Starting with the theory that workers are most satisfied in occupations that match their interests (well, duh…), psychologist John Holland theorized that occupational interests can be categorized by the unique combination of six personality traits. Thus comes the Party Game to identify the top-three (of six) personality traits for an individual.

The game is played like this:

Imagine you walk into a room and find six clusters of people. Conveniently, above each cluster is a sign that suggests (broadly) what the group is discussing. Which cluster would you be most interested in joining?

After 15 minutes, the group disbands, but you are just getting started. Which of the remaining five groups would you be most interested in joining?

And then, after that group disbands, which of the remaining four groups would you join?

You have now ranked your top-three interests, and can consult charts to find occupations that may be of interest to you.

Conveniently, O*Net Online manages the game for you.

Click on "Interests" or "Find it Now" to play the Holland Party Game

Click on “Interests” or “Find it Now” to play the Holland Party Game

From the O*Net home page, find “Interests” in the pull-down menu under “Advanced Search.” Next, simply select which of the six Work Environments most interests you. Then, select your second and third interests, and see what occupations this suggests.

Alternately, from the ONet home page, click on, “Find it Now,” and under “Tell us what you like to do,” click “Start” to complete the “ONet Interest Profiler.” You are asked to answer how much you Dislike or Like 60 work activities (it goes quickly). The results are immediate and give you a rank-order of the six Holland Interest Codes, along with occupation suggestions.

Please note, Interest does not mean Qualified. If you want to be an airline pilot but have had zero training, it is not going to happen, at least not right away. But, maybe you would find an interesting occupation with an airline, or at an airport.

Even if you have an idea of what you like to do, you may want to play the game to see what other occupations it suggests. You may be surprised.

But, PICK ONE!, and go after it.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

I want to hear from you. Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below, and let me know what you think!