Thursday, June 24, 2010

Relationship Risks...

June 19th, I lost a friend. I didn’t really know this person all that well, but we had a immediate connection, and were just starting to get to know each other at a deeper level. There was a period of time when we just couldn’t manage to get our schedules lined up and we went for a long time without seeing each other, but stayed in touch by phone, text, and email. It was one of the most invigorating relationships in my life.

Something changed in her life, and her perspective was completely changed. Her attitude toward life shifted dramatically from bright, zesty, energetic, and positive, to lost and lonely, depressed, and unmotivated. I tried desperately to help her identify the areas of her life that were her strengths, but every attempt went unanswered. I went out of my way to give her the support she needed, and she declined. We made several appointments to meet, and she missed or cancelled each one. Now it is too late, and there is a major void in my life.

The risk in really getting to know who you are, and what you want, is that you will start to understand how you can help others achieve what they want. And when you do that, it is very easy to get emotionally invested in the process. Like a surgeon who is unable to save a patient, I feel like I lost a friend and I tried everything I could to save her, but was unable.

I know it is not my job to save people from themselves. I led her to the water, but she chose not to drink. I handed her an opportunity to get out from under her situation, and she dropped the ball. I offered her support, and she disregarded my attempts. The worst part is that the last thing I ever received from her was a personal hand-written note that says, “… I can’t wait to see how this whole thing pans out.” Now we know and my heart is broken.

So what does this have to do with finding a job, and discovering who you are and what you want? Well, for me, it is about the personal relationship. The strength of meaningful personal relationships is extreme. It has the ability to propel you to new heights, or drag you to new lows. It is up to you to make sure you do everything you can to have uplifting relationships, even if the person on the other side of the equation is not.

You see, personal relationships are your best opportunity to find a new job, when you find yourself looking. The important thing to note is that these relationships must start well in advance of you ever needing to leverage them. You must start immediately building a solid network of people that may be in a position to help you when you need it most. This means making relationships with people older than you, smarter than you, more experienced that you, and willing to make the time to help when you need it. Then you need to be able to recognize your state of mind, and accept the help when they offer it.

I wish you all the very best of luck when you engage with another person. I hope all your relationships grow into friendships, and those friendships blossom into something special. I was not able to achieve this high level meaningful relationship with this friend, and the void I feel inside is gaping. I wonder if there was anything I could have done differently to affect the outcome to have a positive result, but I may never know…

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Job Hunting Suicide

When I was heading to college, a cousin of mine stuck his neck out and made contact with one of his friends from law school. He made arrangements for me to interview for an entry level File Clerk position when I arrived. At the time, I wasn’t interested in being a file clerk, and especially in a law firm. So I never called the guy, never went on that interview, never met those people, and worst of all, I damaged my cousins reputation and tarnished our last name.

I talk to people all the time about the importance of your personal network. You must understanding that your friends and family, who care about you most, will put you in the best position to find a new job. Back then, I made the mistake of not recognizing the value of that introduction.

I am compelled to write about this topic because I find myself on the other side of the equation now. I have a friend who is looking for a new job. She is in her mid 20’s and uncertain of her abilities. Her self-confidence has been broken a little. Regardless, she is extremely bright, has a great attitude, is coachable, and people love her.

A few weeks ago, I offered to help re-write her resume. We went through a small part of the process, and I gave her some examples of what a good, strong, professional resume should look and read like. I even gave her a copy of my own resume as a sample to follow. Then, just the other day, one of my clients opened up a position that would be absolutely perfect for her. The pay is twice what she made last year, and I have a very good relationship with the hiring manager.

Much to my surprise, when I approached my friend with this information, she was less than enthusiastic about it. I asked her to call so I could give her the description, and I never heard back. It seemed so easy to blow off my cousin when I was her age. Being on the other side, I can tell you it’s extremely painful to have the ability to help, and be willing to put in extra effort, just to watch as it all fizzles out. My friend is still looking for a job and not reaching out for help.  It is hard to hear her talk about how worried she is about her situation.

If you are looking for work, even if you are experiencing total despair, when a friend comes to you with an opportunity, get excited. And, if your friend is someone like me, a professional in the staffing industry, then  get really excited.  When a personal call comes over with a real opportunity, you need to be prepared to move quickly. The power of personal relationships is unbelievable, and can move you in either positive or negative directions. If you neglect the opportunities that come by way of your friends, then your friends will stop making the offer, and then you will be out in the market just like everyone else who has no more friends. Try finding a job then!

I am going to call my cousin and apologize now.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fill the gaps...

When I talk to people who have been out of work for more than 90 days, I share with them the importance of explaining any gaps in employment. The longer the gap, the more explaining you have to do, but any period of time longer than 90-days requires some kind of explanation.

For some, the explanation might be that they retired, took some time to travel, and are returning to the workforce. Another might say, I had a baby and stayed home with my child for the past three years. There are many very plausible explanations that employers will accept. In the event that you don’t have a very good story to tell, you have to create one. The best way to do that, is to volunteer in your community.

I want to tell a story to illustrate my point. This past weekend, I attended the Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Orientation. My initial intention was to go help build houses, because I love to do construction work and this is a good vehicle for me to do it. I also have a personal mission, to have a positive influence and improve the lives of others, and this fills that criterion very well.

After sitting through the orientation, and learning about the organization, how people qualify for a Habitat Home, and the impact it has on families, I found the experience to be simply astounding. Yes, I will get to work with my hands, and yes I will have a positive impact on others, but having done nothing yet, I can tell you that I am impassioned to a new degree.

There was a little boy, maybe five years old, and his mother at the orientation. She shared her experience from the side of the homeowner. Half the room was in tears, the other half was certainly choked-up. Her emotional connection to the value Habitat and the volunteers that helped build her house runs very deep. She explained that she still keeps in touch with many of the people who worked on her house, nearly three years ago.

What I can tell you is this. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to explain a gap, the best way to do that is to find an organization that moves you, that you can be passionate about, that you can be committed to, and that meets your personal mission. The impact you will have on others is tremendous, but the relationships you can build will be invaluable, and may even lead you to a new career.

Remember, employers are looking for the value you bring to an organization. Sometimes having a committed member of the community is an intangible asset to a company. It shows that you have a deep connection to the community, that you are a dedicated person, that you are unselfish, and most importantly, you show depth in character. The best time to start volunteering is right now. Get involved today. Don’t wait until tomorrow, because every day that goes by, the gap gets wider and harder to explain.

I can’t wait to start building homes for people, and I challenge you to find something you can’t wait to do too…

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The importance of a personal mission statement.

Do you have your own personal mission statement? A sentence that encompasses all that you are and all that you intend to do in your lifetime? If you are like most people, the answer is no. And even if you do, is it refined to a point where you can tell it to someone and they will have a full grasp of your purpose in life?

Companies typically have a Mission Statement, a Vision Statement, and a set of Core Values. The Mission Statement is what the customer sees, the vision statement is what the employees see, and the Core Values are the directives to help achieve the Mission and Vision. The Mission and Vision Statements can change over time, but the Core Values must remain the same.

I will challenge you to think about what is your Mission? What is your Vision? And, what are your Core Values. Once you make the commitment to figure out who you are, and what you want, it is easier to develop a statement that will embody your total thought.

The most amazing thing happens when you have a fully developed Mission Statement too. All of a sudden, you will have clarity in your position. You will start to identify jobs that fit your mission. You will find it easier to gravitate toward a career that will help you achieve your personal mission. You see, your job is what you do, but your mission is who you are. Don’t confuse your job with your mission. First you have to write your mission, and then you can go find a job that will align your activities to help you achieve your mission.

For example, my personal mission statement reads:
“To be a positive influence, and improve the lives of others, through meaningful personal relationships”

My Core Values are:
• To provide consistent and impeccable service
• To treat people with respect and dignity
• To exceed expectations

You can see how my job, in the staffing industry, fits with my mission. By helping people find work, I am having a positive influence on the whole world, and I am helping not just that one person, but a whole domino effect of people surrounding that person. The best way I can accomplish my job is through the connections I have and the relationships I have with others.

When you know what your mission is, and you find a job that matches with your spiritual self, then it is really easy to get motivated to get up and go to work each day. I think of my job like this: If I help a man get a job, and that allows him to put his child through college, and that child grows up to be an accomplished and successful scientist who goes on to win the Nobel Prize, then I have achieved everything. That child will never know that I had a hand in his achievements, and I will probably never know about all the success stories that come from my activities either. Just knowing that I can have an indirect effect on greatness is motivation enough.

You need to find something that fills your passion bucket, and the only way to do that is to identify your personal mission and then live up to it.