What’s Your Midlife Crisis?

Not too long ago, I was at a kid’s birthday party talking with a dad of another child attending the event.  I mentioned that I had heard his family was moving to Maine.  When I asked what prompted the move, he replied, “A midlife crisis.”

As a person who is fascinated by people and what makes them tick, my curiosity was piqued.  I listened eagerly as he explained that he lived in DC for more than 20 years and was a writer at a high-profile magazine for a very long time.  He has dreamed about moving and doing something different for years.

A coach can never resist asking the “big” questions, so I couldn’t help but blurt out, “What held you back all of those years?”  He explained that he was worried about security; job security, health insurance, stability for his children and supporting his family.

Again, the coach in me had to probe some more.  So I asked him, “What changed your mind?”  He said his wife had told him, “If you want to do this, what are you waiting for?  When will the time be right?”  I thought to myself, how lucky he is to have such a wise woman in his life.

When I saw that dad again, the family had found a house to rent in Maine and he had a new job that completely jazzed him.  He was beaming as he told me the news.

So, my question to you is “When will the time be right to make a career move?”

I say, the time is right now.

Does a political negative campaign work…for your career?

In the climate of the election, we are all bombarded with political ads, debates, pundits and the 24-hour news cycle. One of the overarching discussions is attack, defend and go negative. Many candidates assert they will not go negative, in PAC ads or in the debates…and you get the idea. Then all of them do. It is the inevitability of the process. They have to go negative to win.

Politics and reality TV are some of the few places where negativity pays dividends. In the politics of your career, it does not. Negative campaigning, when it comes to interviews, promotions or just office politics, is not a good or viable strategy.

Let me be more specific. I often ask my clients their story. What story do you bring to the table when you talk about your career in an informational or job interview? Many times, people in less-than-ideal job situations define their career in the negative. A client might say, “I found graduate school was not a fit” or “my last boss was not supportive of my work.”

This makes sense for many reasons. They don’t like their job or their career and that negative energy is reflected in their conversations, body language and overall demeanor.

In the world of office politics, it is very easy to get negative. There is a bungled office move, an underdeveloped leadership style, or a bonus freeze, and we understandably get frustrated, complain and commiserate with colleagues.

I get it, but I don’t condone it.

Negativity is like cancer. It spreads and spreads until it consumes you and those around you. I know because I’ve been there. If you are interviewing for a job and you say that your boss did not support you, then a red flag is raised by the employer. If you spread negativity around the office, you are not going to be viewed kindly by leadership, nor are you going to be seen as a leader.

If you find yourself at this place, ask yourself what you can do about it. Is there a neutral angle you can give on your boss? Can you work through your frustrations at work or put that energy into finding another job? What choices do you have? Ultimately, that negativity does not get you a job or win you swing states. All it does is stress you out and create negative ripples extending outward that eventually you can’t control.

So unless your job is to run for office or appear on a reality TV show, stop your negative campaigning now.

Do You Remember the Days Before the Internet?

I do.  It was many eons ago in a land far, far away.  I’m probably revealing my age right now, but I pulled out all of my typed (by electronic typewriter) cover letters and resumes from post-college job applications.  How did I find the jobs to apply for back then?  Did I write each cover letter over and over again by typewriter?  How did I submit resumes before email?

I barely remember the answer to these questions; but as I pondered it, the information came back to me.  Here are the five steps I took.

  1. I went to the public library and used the typewriters or computers (as they became more readily available) to update my resume and cover letter for each job.
  2. I went to the store to buy fancy paper and envelopes.
  3. I travelled to the copy store and copied each version of my resume and cover letter on a copier with my fancy paper.
  4. I went back to the library to type the address on my envelope.
  5. I went home to stuff the envelope, stamp it, and mail it off to the potential employer.

I took 5 long and involved steps to get a resume and cover letter out the door to send to a blind employment opportunity that I found through the newspaper.  That process was about as fruitful as sending in a blind application online today.

Somehow, it felt like the thing I was supposed to do when searching for a job.  How else did one find a job?  When you started out, it probably felt quite similar—whether you used snail mail or the Internet.  The only difference with the Internet is that it only takes 1 step and you don’t need to go anywhere.

My job search formula was 5 steps = much work = no ROI

Today’s common job search formula is 1 easy step = very little work = no ROI

Now take the 5 steps from my younger years and try something else.  Write an email to an old colleague in your field.  Message a LinkedIn contact who knows people in your field of interest.  Find a conference in your field and meet 5 people who might help you find work.  Keep going.

Here’s the new formula: 5 action steps = leads = interviews = jobs

Now I like that formula much better.

Stats Rule

I love statistics. It makes things that feel murky appear tangible.  They provide a foundation for my actions and help me think about things logically.

Here’s a stat for you.  Only 4-10% of job seekers find their job through an online search.

Yes, you read that correctly. Out of every 100 job seekers, only 4 to 10 of you will land jobs through an online application.

Now wait just one minute here.  Am I trying to tell you that those 100+ mind-numbing hours of eye-bleeding Internet searching were in vain?  Well, yes and no.

Your time spent online should give you a sense of what jobs you like and want to pursue. You can also use this information to gather data about the organizations and companies that are hiring and have jobs in your area of interest.

However, you need to make connections through people.  Jobs are won and lost through people and not machines.  So take those next 100 hours, use the data you’ve collected and reach out to as many people as you can through LinkedIn, email, phone, friends or any other means you can think of.

If you are going to do this, spend your time effectively. Don’t bank on being one of the 4-10. Instead, be one of the 90+ people who find their jobs through people.

You never know who is out there waiting to connect you to the next job.