What’s S.W.O.T. Got to Do with It? Your Career That Is……

SWOT analysis is a time tested and valuable method to examine Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  It has been used in corporations and organizations for decades as a vehicle to identify areas of potential improvements or growth.

SWOT your career

It also may be  helpful with your own career goals and/or job search strategies. The same principles, techniques and methods are used to reveal  where you are and, perhaps, what direction you should take.  Here is how it works:

Strengths – these are your talents, gifts and strengths which come naturally to you without effort.  It’s important to identify these

super powers so you can enhance them further and use them in more situations.  Whether you are looking for work or a promotion,  you face competition and are well served if you can identify what differentiates you from them.  The answer that is revealed is usually your strength.

Weaknesses – we all have them but sometimes have not identified them in order to work toward improvement.  We don’t want our weaknesses to overshadow our strengths so it’s important to know what they are and design an action plan for improvement.  In addition to awareness and development of an action plan, it’s beneficial to have an accountability partner with whom you trust and can provide you with feedback.

Opportunities – this factor can be personal; you realize, for example, that you have a need for additional training or professional growth or it may be an external situation, within your career field or industry, which presents opportunities for your career.  Be open to recognizing that changing market conditions can lead you to a different career path. Or, perhaps, you explore another area within your career.  These examples are but a few that, when explored, could lead you to your next promotion or an entirely different career field.

Threats – we all have experienced changes in our jobs as well as in the organizations, industries and fields we work.  Often we approach a threat negatively since it represents short or long term pain (i.e. a layoff); however, threats can also be viewed as opportunities.  We all know people who are in a different career now due to being laid off and having discovered a field that would have not been selected otherwise.  Don’t let yourself be surprised.  Be prepared. It is important to identify existing or potential threats in order to stay ahead  – both career-wise as well as emotionally.

I am often asked: “Of the four factors, which is the MOST important” and I reply that I think knowing your signature strengths and capitalizing upon them is the key to success.  If you are, for example, a salesperson and your strength is cultivating lasting customer relationships, congratulations.  You may not have the most technical knowledge, but your clients think you do because you are resourceful, care about customer interests and provide them with what they need.  Each person is unique and most of us are familiar with some of our shortcomings but fail to give ourselves credit for our strengths.

I challenge you to perform a SWOT analysis, identify your strengths and use them in more and new ways.

True Freedom – Career Freedom

As we  celebrate our nation’s birthday and freedom this 4th of July , I encourage you to also take a moment and contemplate  your career freedom.

While we all are familiar with the following famous words, have you ever asked yourself how it applies to you and your career?

career freedom

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – from the Declaration of Independence

Can you have both?

Are careers and freedom mutually exclusive?  Or can they be compatible and used within the same sentence?   While many Continue reading

Recruiters’ Brains When Reading Resumes

Estimates vary on the length of time recruiters and hiring managers spend reading resumes.  Some experts estimate a frightening six seconds but most estimate the average is about 30 seconds. In either case, you have very little time to make your case, prove you possess the qualifications for the position applied for and leave the recruiter “wanting more” – to be gained in the coveted interview.

heatmap of a resume #2

Other studies actually track the eye movement and brain activity of these recruiters as they peruse the resume (or Linked In profile ).

In the examples below, note that the red areas correspond to more brain activity and in the left hand example, there is red at the top third section, but it disappears thereafter – so does the interest of the recruiter as s/he moves your resume to the “No” pile. Continue reading

How recruiters listen

Many recruiters are trained in Motivational Behavioral Interviewing (MBI) – an accepted theory that past behaviors predict future performance.  In those interviews, be prepared to answer a situational question based on real Situations you experienced, your Objective and include your Actions and Results – a S.O.A.R. response.

Recruiters listen for clues – they often read between the lines to determine if you might be telling a true life account, a hypothetical case or a tall tale.

Recruiters listen for clues

Recruiters listen for clues

Recruiters listen to your word choice for indications of motivation, values and attitude

Control & Solutions-Oriented

One such example is language indicating perceived control.  Especially in difficult situations or conflict, our choice of language indicates how we deal in those common work scenarios.

Employers want someone who has faith in their abilities to find solutions.  Believing you can resolve an issue usually precedes searching for one.  One caveat: Employers don’t want someone who bullies others to gain control.

Continue reading

Work: Paycheck or Purpose?

You may have heard the story about the tourist in Italy who comes upon a construction crew.  The first man was pushing a wagon of large rocks.  The tourist asked “What are you doing?” to which the man replied, in broken English, “Can’t you see?  I’m hauling rocks. I carry to there” as he pointed to a pile near a stone wall.

bricklayer

The tourist asked another man, who was taking the rocks and placing them on one another, what he was doing.  The second laborer answered:  “I’m building a wall.”

Finally, the tourist approached a third man and asked what he was doing.  The man, with dark and weathered skin, grinned widely and threw up his hands to the sky, saying “Grazie – you for asking.  I building a cathedral. Molto Bella!”

Interesting responses?  All three men were doing relatively the same job but their perspectives were completely different.  The third clearly had a bigger perspective to his labor job while the  Continue reading

Going up? An Elevator Speech to take you there

Elevator Speech – what is it?

An elevator speech is essentially a short description of who you are and what you do, presented to a key person and takes about 30 seconds or the time it takes an elevator to go up a few floors.  Used for years in the sales and marketing world to “make a pitch”, it is also an essential to job seekers and those who are seeking a promotion.  In those cases, you are the “product”.

The elevator speech is a sound byte to create attention and interest from the listener so you can share more information later in the form of a resume or conversation.

Warning

An effective elevator speech takes time and effort to develop in order to succinctly share the information you want to in such a short amount of time.

  • Who am I?  You are a “solution-provider” of xxxxxxx
  • What do I do?

elevator

Continue reading

Test Your Job Search Knowledge

It’s critical that you know the “rules of the game” when it comes to your Job Search Strategy. Test your knowledge by answering “True” or “False” to the following questions.

  1. There is a huge “hidden market” which you have the power to reveal.  This “hidden market” may be your best target.  T or F ?
  2. Linked In may be much more effective than Job Boards for finding your next job. T or F ?
  3. Mass mailing your resume to potential employers is still the best way to find a job.  T or F ?
  4. It’s best to keep your resume general vs. specific, thus casting a wide net. T or F ?
  5. Asking questions during the interview is a red flag that you may lack confidence. T or F ?
  6. The dreaded salary requirement question is best answered by ” I’m open”.   T or F ?
  7. For job seekers new to the scene, avoid part time positions or volunteer work.  T or F ?
  8. Companies generally use one standard method to interview candidates. T or F ?
  9. For new grads, without a work history, friends and family make the best references. T or F ?
  10. Best resumes focus on a steady progression of more responsible jobs. T or F ?

[How did you do?  You may be surprised but only questions 1 and 2 are true. The others are false.]

 

Contact me at patriciaedwards2@verizon.net for additional information or to schedule a free 20 minute consult.  I’d love to help you accelerate your job search and land your dream career.

Thanksgiving is Good for Your Career

It’s almost Thanksgiving Day and that serves as a reminder of how powerful the spirit of gratitude is to keep you motivated and positive about your career.  This past year, I’ve really focused on increasing my awareness of all the things for which I’m grateful and it has done wonders.  I encourage you to hold on to that “thanksgiving feeling” year round.  Here are a couple of ways you can do that:

  • Three Good Things –

Many people leave work with negative thoughts about their workday.  If done regularly, or over time,  that can significantly hinder performance as well as mental and physical health. One suggestion that positively redirects thoughts  is an intentional time of reflection at the end of each workday. Rather than bolting out the door, take a minute and think of three things that went well and for which you are grateful. In psychological studies, this simple activity has been found to improve optimism, resilience and creative thinking after only three months.  This tip is so powerful that you may consider applying it to your personal life as well.  People who keep a journal of “Three Good Things” by their bedside, and regularly write them down, sleep better and have a higher level of positivism in all areas of their lives.

  • Gratitude Stones –

Even if you aren’t completely satisfied with your career there are, most likely, things that you find enjoyable and appreciate.  With a permanent marker or pen, write a one or two word description of those on a stone and place it on your desk or in your workplace as a visual reminder throughout your day.  Don’t have a desk?  Place one or more of the stones in your pocket and pull them out when  needing a reminder of the good things (or people) at work. Creating something tangible makes an effective reminder to be grateful.

SEEK OUT A MENTOR

Mentoring is not a new relationship.  The concept of having someone, usually with more experience and knowledge, partner with you to help you navigate and manage your career, has been around forever.  Consider the words Apostle, Disciple or Apprentice.  A mentor is simply someone you can go to for advice, encouragement and guidance.  A mentor also provides you with objective feedback and counsel.

Some companies have a formal mentoring program where interested mentees are matched up with more seasoned employees or managers.  Even though more companies are learning the value of a structured program to groom employees, many employees do that have the availability of such an opportunity.

Most people interested in their career development would like to have a mentor but have no idea how to find that special someone.  If that sounds like you, simply ask yourself if you know of someone (in a prior work environment or in an organization you would like to work, an acquaintance you know through networking, an organization or church) who could meet these criteria and simply start your own mentoring relationship:

  • Experience beyond yours so you will benefit from expertise, knowledge, and experiences as well as mistakes and how to avoid them
  • Authentic interest in your career and willingness to offer you candid and honest feedback
  • Confidentiality of discussions, especially when your examples involve people known to your mentor
  • Ability to meet regularly

If you are interested, how do you get started?

  • Just Ask – let’s say you have selected a woman who you know and admire from a professional organization.  Tell her that you are interested in advancing your career and think you could gain much knowledge from her; would she be able to meet for coffee?  Once you meet, you can explain what you are trying to learn from her and would love for her to share some experiences.  Most people, if they have the time, are tremendously flattered and agree.
  • Respect your Mentor’s Time – Agree upon the frequency and duration of meetings with your mentor. Monthly or biweekly meetings work well.  Once you establish a schedule, be prepared for your meetings (whether face to face or by phone) with an outline of topics you would like to discuss.  Depending upon your mentor, she may prefer you send this in advance via email so she can be prepared.

Like most relationships, it takes time to develop an effective mentoring relationship.    You will be amazed at the ideas, insights and confidence gained from a mentoring relationship. In addition to a professional relationship, you will probably make a close personal friend.

WHY A CAREER COACH? BENEFITS FOR EVERYONE

Although there are more Career Coaches than ever before, most people don’t really understand the role or return on investment.  Granted, Career Coaches have reported being busier the last few years, based on our economy and challenging job market conditions; however, even in a booming job market, there is value to having a personal Career Coach at your side as a trusted advisor.

What does a Career Coach do?  The simple answer to the question is “to help you attain your career goals which will lead to greater career satisfaction.”  My motto says it all – “changing lives, one career at a time”.  We all know that if we are fulfilled in our career, we are more fulfilled in other dimensions of our lives.  In particular, your Career Coach will be in partnership with you and focus on these key areas:

  1. Identify Career Goals – studies show that most of us have spent less than 20 hours on our career plans or paths.  I spend more time than that on planning a vacation or holiday celebration.  Once settled into a career track, many of us tend to go on auto-pilot and get complacenet.  We need to take control and manage our careers.  A Career Coach can help you identify your values, goals, aspirations and create career goals as well as a plan to get from Point A to Point B.
  2. Stay Focused & Accountable – one of the most helpful benefits to a Career Coach is to keep you on track, focused on your priorities, measure your success and encourage you to take risks.  A good Career Coach will be direct and provide you with honest feedback.  If you get distracted or fail to stay focused, s/he will  help redirect you, as well as help you to design and execute upon an action plan.
  3. Enhance Signature Strengths – A Career Coach has a variety of assessments available to assist a client identify his or her strengths and opportunities.  These include non-cognitive assessments such as personality and Emotional Intelligence.  After skills have been identified, your Career Coach can help you enhance them in order for y ou to fully use them to your benefit.
  4. Share Knowledge – ask what type of work experience your Career Coach has before you agree to working with her or him.  The more rounded of an experience foundation, the better for you.  Your Career Coach will ideally have experience in the industry or sector in which you are interested and have had the opportunity to work with successful people, within that career or industry.