Thursday, October 28, 2010

Living in Overwhelm with a Broccoli Spear

When big change or travail is upon you - working two jobs because the company won't replace. . .having an impossible project deadline. . .doing an extended, scary job search - most days you just want to slap somebody, or you walk around clutching a broccoli spear.

This was my friend who was giving a dinner party for 30.  "I'll do the seder this year," she bravely offered.  She called me in a panic at 10:00 AM the day of.  "Help!"  I grabbed two others and the three of us spent the next hours chopping, cooking, setting, getting it ready.  Anytime I saw her she was walking around, stunned, carrying the same broccoli spear.  She was in overwhelm.

If you find yourself similarly gripping a green vegetable, try these daily strategies to do your necessary work:

1.  Sing sad country songs, or whatever else helps you relieve stress:  Exercise, meditation, journaling, reading weepy historical fiction.  Take care of yourself so you can take care of everything else.

2.   Chunk it.  Divide your day into chunks, and work a chunk at a time.  You might plan by the hour what you'll do.  You could do my 1-2-3 method.  I pick three things I want to do in succession.  I do them.  I do another 1-2-3.  The day goes by and I've accomplished amid chaos.  Pray to be shown the next right thing.  Make a list.  Create little bites so you can eventually get that elephant eaten.

3.  Keep your eyes on your own work.  Move your focus from the larger world to JUST THIS.  Keep your eyes down so you don't see the dishes or vacuuming you'd rather do than make a networking call.  Turn off the television.  If it's Oprah, it distracts you from necessary work.  If it's news, it distresses you.  If you're at work, keep a whiteboard with your 1-2-3s in front of you.  Avoid what isn't mission-critical (you'll be tempted to do exactly the opposite).

4.  Sleep on it.  Exhaustion and worry can keep you awake, but put your bod in the bed early so you're at least resting.  If you've exercised during the day and meditated in the evening (not to mention your warm milk and honey before bedtime), you might have an easier time of it.

5.  Call somebody.  See your coach.  Find a friend you can call, just for five minutes, to vent, and then get back to work.  Go chase Bambi on November Saturdays with your pals.  That human connection can be magic when you're in overwhelm.

6.  Remember you'll get through this.  It has an end, and every day you're closer to it.  People who sell hear a lot of "No."  Successful sales people see a turndown as bringing them one step closer to "Yes."

You have good reasons to be in your emotional state.  Just remember you have more tricks than just broccoli spears in your kit bag.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How Clients Create Successful Change

When you decide to make a Big Life Change - career, weight, partners - you are quickly daunted by all the little changes the Big Change requires. . .and you don't like it!  It's why dreams fade unrealized and crummy jobs remain what we show up for each day.

My clients who make successful changes do the following:

1.  "Discipline is remembering what you want."  "Keep your eye on the prize."  Pick any folksy saying that appeals.  Clients decide what they want and stay focused on it.  They never lose sight of the destination.

2.  Have a bumper sticker.  In his book of the same name, Bob Meehan recommends having a symbol with you that reminds you of your goal.  It could be a safety pin, a buckeye you carry in your pocket, a 3 x 5 card with words you frequently review, a laminated photo of the family whose future you intend to improve.  One client had a Buddha.  I had a tiny stuffed bee (to remind me I had a BHAG (big hairy goal).  Another carried a small action toy.  Each time they saw it, it brought them again to center, where the dream and determination lived.

3.  Have a trusted other.  Is it spouse, friend, coach, spiritual director, group on the same path?  It's someone who cares to listen, to have your goal as shared desire, to prod, to encourage, to remind you:  You're great. . .and You can.  Keep going.

4.  Respect the time and distance, and look back once in awhile.  Important change always takes time, and it happens a class, a dollar, a step at a time; our culture doesn't wire us for that.  Life change can happen now on us, and we'd prefer that, in some ways.  Then we'd like to write the book about how THIS happened and we changed immediately; (but please, God, no pain or loss of limb, okay?)  Keep your head down, your spirits up; carry just enough courage for today, and move forward.  Keep track.  If it's a big project, list the to-dos on a white board and cross through as you complete pieces.  Re-meet with someone who can marvel at your progress and remind you to look back and see how far you've come.

5.  Be patient for half-time.  Much of your change misery lies in your beginnings, when you have all the journey to go.  You need the most cheerleaders here.  Once you hump over half, it's downhill. . .or at least there's more done than there is to go.

6.  Ditch the nay-sayers.  Some spouses and friends are great in change; others are frightened and want to pull you to the safer harbor they don't realize is no longer there for you.  Go to Tuesday coffee with people pitching in the same boat.  See your coach.  Don't talk to your parents unless they're firmly and helpfully on your team.  Be careful who you tell.

7.  Don't quit.  Especially as you begin, the world seems to conspire against your achieving.  Funding disappears.  No one says "yes" for informational interviews.  You can't find a part-time job.  Your credit card bills look scary.  Early-day roadblocks are absolutely predictable.  This is all a test of your determination.  Go back to Number 1:  Remember what you want; Number 3: Work with a trusted other; and Number 4:  Take it day by day.  Whatever you do, don't quit, if this means as much as your heart says it does.  As British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said at Harrow School in 1941: "Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never."

Are You Really Ready to Change?

You're thinking of a big life jump.  Are you up for changing?  Your daily life would suggest not.  Most of us want stability, a measure of security, foods we like, people we can depend on.  We work hard to build our world like that.  It gives us an underlying sense that we're okay.

Life, of course, throws blistering curve balls:  job loss, aging parents, teenagers to raise.  Now we don't feel so hot.  We tackle change like this with more resoluteness than joy.  We aren't sure what needs to be done.  It eats up our time.  We're afraid of both process and outcome.  But we deal with it because we have to.

Choosing to change has one additional hazard.  The universe isn't demanding it of us.  Your heart may not be wholly in it.  Our midnight resolution melts in the more demanding dawn.  Go on.  Test it.  Decide that, for one week, you'll brush your teeth with the other hand.  Feel the resistance, the meaninglessness of it, the pull of the more familiar? 

See what you face with change?  It's a kicker.  It's not easy.  Be prepared, as you venture into the new you're choosing, for the mule kick you and the universe will give your spirit.

Next blog:  How to change like my clients change.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Think Before You Go to a Recruiter

I dream I’m giving a speech to a convention of recruiters.   They rise and applaud as I approach the dais, wiping away tears of gratitude.  Why?  I had persuaded job seekers to STOP CALLING THEM.  Then I awake, go to work, and the first client of the day asks, “Should I go see a headhunter?”  The dream fades.

That question really means:  “Please direct me to someone who will do the work FOR me so I don’t have to.”  It doesn't work that way. Search firms work for the client, not you. You can't go to a recruiter and say, "Gee, I thought if I could look at the jobs you have, I could figure out which ones I’m qualified for.” They’ll take the resume and smile sweetly; but if you don't look like a job order they already have, it hits the round file when you leave.

If you’re a garden-variety worker, most recruiters aren’t interested in you.  They get paid between 10 and 35% of the hired recruit’s first year’s salary.  Companies don't spend money like that unless they can’t find candidates, or they’re rushed to make a huge hire or they don’t have the staff to do it.  Plus, most recruiters specialize in one or two areas:  computer programs, creative people, human resource managers, CEOs.  Their attitude is, as executive searcher Annie Gray told me, “Don’t call me.  I’ll find you.” They troll their sources:  directories, former placements, friends, colleagues, source-filled Rolodexes, and the Internet.  Sourcing is an art, and hard, hard work.  Their fees are called “contingency” (they get paid only if they find someone) or “retained” (they get paid for presenting qualified candidates.)  A few work on an hourly basis. 
Some employment firms ask the job seeker to pay a fee, usually several thousand dollars.  These are bottom feeders who go after the unskilled, unsophisticated, desperate or lazy job seeker.  They don't produce the desired result, though their hand is out for your ready cash.  The dog work remains yours to do.

If you want to use a recruiter, do your work first.  What kind of job are you seeking?  Which recruiters specialize in what you do?  Tell the recruiter about yourself in 20 seconds. You might get lucky and become a candidate, but only if you're a hard-to-find candidate who called the right firm.  Statistics say only10% of seekers get a job through recruiters. The grind is yours:   figuring out what you want, making networking calls, scouring the want ads, trolling the internet and scrambling to get an interview. 

It ain’t glamorous, but the process works.  I'm actually encouraged when clients ask me about headhunters.  I've learned it's their last hopeful swipe at the easier way before they get down to the serious business of job hunting.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

We Are All Derivative

(This is not about my next book.  It's about how to succeed by imitating successful people.)

I am writing my next book.  The process is always the same:

1.  Clear the mental deck of the demons shouting:  "You can't do this! You have nothing new to say!  You have no talent!"

2.  Read books on the topic to learn how other authors deal with it.  Decide my unique contribution.

3.  Surround my work area with books that make my heart sing, as Author Xandra Bingley does, hoping their spirits will jump into her writing.  I have Jack Canfield, Annie Lamott, Stephen King (his book on writing) and the memoir of the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. 

4.  Put a one-inch picture frame on my desk, as Annie Lamott says.  Sit down and write, same time every day, to get into the discipline.  Only care about filling the equivalent of that frame each day.

5.  Find the best writing time of day.  Attorney and mystery writer Michael Kahn writes at night after his kids have gone to bed.  My time is early, early morning before the day's noises beckon.

6.  As author Dan Poynter recommends, get a three-ring binder, with chapter dividers to hold the writing, write the back cover copy, and begin writing wherever I can.

7.  Write till it's done.

Did you notice how many authors I'm imitating? Few of us are ORIGINALS who actually create something new.  Most of us are DERIVATIVES who found inspirational somebodies to imitate.

Whether they want to be a professional speaker or a coach or a successful CEO or educational administrator, my consistent advice to clients is:  Look around in your business.  Find the successful ones.  Get to know them.  Do what they do.  (That means joining their same organizations, going to conferences, getting involved.)

If you don't know the career you want, start building a list of people you admire:  Jack Welch, Wayne Dyer, Winston Churchill, Oprah.  Read what they write.  What are they doing that you admire?  What habit or attitude of thought would you like to adopt as your own?  Once you begin creating the INNER successful you, you'll see a more eager and confident OUTER successful you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Are There Any Advantages to Studying Abroad?

(From the forthcoming book, Starting Over, by Rose Jonas and David Finkelstein)

Anyone looking at the American economy is asking when the recovery will happen.  Some projections say not till 2018, despite peppier news releases saying it's over now. Anyone believing the U.S. will have the same lofty perch on the world market swing is delusional.  Whether the recession ends sooner and the economy roars back to its old heady self, outside your front door is a world marketplace.  If you have any ambition, but can't bear to leave Paducah, you are living in yesterday.  Does my bias show about the benefits of international studies?  Good!

It makes complete sense to study abroad.  You will give yourself a broader world view.  You will see better how the world comes together.  You can make decisions for yourself, outside the whacked American media, about the state of the world. 

You will think of yourself as being more cosmopolitan, and understand you're part of a planet, not just a county.  You will make friends in other cultures who may help you one day.  You will feel proud about the challenge you mastered of living in strange-to-you places.  You will have an appreciation for all you have, and an altered view of what life means.

How to study abroad?  The easiest way is through your school.  They ALL have summer or semester programs.  In them, you typically live on some city university's campus with other Americans.  You often have chances to tour this country or travel to others.  Do it! This is the most expensive way.  You pay your regular tuition, PLUS travel and accommodation and other fees in the country.  It also offers you the least chance to BE in that culture; the faces you study with all look like yours.  Find ways (safely, of course) to be out of that environment.  I asked a woman just returned from a trip to Eastern Europe if this had been a cruise.  "No," she said.  "I don't like them.  You only eat with Americans."  Well said.

You can also get your degree at Oxford, the Sorbonne or the University of Dubai.  That's a more complex decision/enrollment/acceptance possibility.

A cheaper, more exotic, possibly scarier way is to find the university and classes in the foreign city you want, find out if your school accepts those credits, apply, go there, find a place to stay, and immerse yourself in your environment.  Do this if you're an adventurer and know the language of the country-to-be.  (A repetitive but informative book on this method of study abroad is The New Global Student by Maya Frost.  Her website is:

Americans often choose England, Australia, Canada because of the language ease.  These are still quite different cultures.  Even if you choose the easy way, get out in the culture as much as you can.

You will have a blast.  You'll never forget it.  You'll use the experience in ways you can't even imagine now, and you'll be more attractive in the job marketplace.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Starting Over

So many people in this job market have come to career crossroads. Is your job gone forever? Do you grit your teeth when you walk into the office each morning; you just can't take it? Do you now believe that education holds the key to your advancement? You have to start over.

I'll have more to say about deciding what you want to do, about the education or training or internships or volunteer work that land you the new job; but this is about getting that first new job; about starting over in the new career, when you bring all your knowledge and skills to a place that dismisses you as "the new guy."

The worst part about starting over is starting over. You are at the beginning in terms of experience HERE, but you're not necessarily young. People don't treat you with the respect you deserve. Your ideas don't get heard. You went through all that hassle for THIS? If you've had internships or done part-time work in the field while you were being trained, this "apprentice" time can be shortened.

The best suggestion: Get over it and get going. There's nothing to be done except get through it. Put your ego aside and look around. This new-guy treatment of you isn't mean-spirited. You simply have no credibility here. You may have had decades in science or theatre or financial advising, but that's not what we do here, honey. These folks have no reference point for your previous expertise and they don't value it. There are two good lessons here: (1) You will go through this anytime you change a job. You will always have to figure out a way to become a member of the new pack. The group always muscles you around before saying "C'mon in!" (2) The only thing that matters to an organization is that you provide value to the people, the task, the goals. What you are, intrinsically, is of little interest to the organization. Its essential question is: "What can YOU do for ME?"

Be patient and cheerful. Give the organization what it values.

I'm Ba-a-ack!

Took the summer off to work on the next book and travel.

I'm back!