What is your biggest weakness?

This is a popular interview question and one interviewees are advised to be prepared to answer. Unfortunately the answer is usually given with a positive spin: “I am a perfectionist” or “I am too forgiving of others faults” or “I am a workaholic” etc., etc., etc. None of these get to a real understanding and could paint the interviewee as a phony.

We would suggest an alternative question: “What was your biggest mistake?” Followed up with: “What lessons did you learn for this mistake?” The well prepared interviewee would be advised to think through their answers to these two questions. These questions accomplish three things, first a better understanding of the interviewees weaknesses secondly, a glimpse into their willingness to learn and grow from mistakes lastly, their depth of introspection and humility.

Six Degree of Separation

If there is any doubt about the value of your contacts in identifying and putting you in touch with the hiring person at your targeted organization, consider:

Researchers analyzed 30 billion Microsoft Messenger instant messages sent among 180 million people from around the world. They concluded that any two people are, on average, just 6.6 degrees of separation apart, meaning that they could be linked by a string of seven or fewer acquaintances. The database covered the entire Microsoft Messenger instant-messaging network in June 2006, or roughly half the world’s instant-messaging traffic at that time, researchers said. (Peter Whoriskey, “Messagers Really Are About Six Degrees From Kevin Bacon,” Washington Post, Saturday, August 2, 2008)

Your contacts are the ultimate resource to identify and communicate with potential employers. For the skeptics try this experiment, email all your contacts with the following request:

“I am trying to find the name, email and telephone number of the person responsible for hiring at____ (you fill in the organization). If you can’t help me can you ask your network of acquaintances if they or one of their friends can help?” The results will amaze and reinforce the value of developing and keeping in touch with a wide and varied group of contacts. Don’t wait until you need them, start today, and have the discipline to make this a recurring activity!

Networking: The Other Half

We’re all familiar with networking either through social networking sites like Linkedin or through people we know on a local level. Developing and managing your contacts is best when it is part of a daily routine, not when it is used all at once and must carry the burden of a hurry-up job search. This is a one way; self centered approach and has the possibility of leaving your contacts feeling “used.” The other half, which is all too often ignored, is what have or are you doing for your contacts? Does “giving back” sound familiar?

What does giving back mean, it doesn’t mean superficial gestures, it does mean giving real value. You might suggest articles or books you have read that fit their interests. An update on your progress and an interest in what is new with them keeps you both in the loop. Volunteer to help on a particular project where your contact is involved like a blood drive, or a charity function. If you hear of an opportunity that might interest them, pass it along. An occasional call just to visit and check in shows a real interest. The list is endless and only limited by your imagination.

Your contacts will notice genuine acts of giving that have substance—ideas, information, and resources. Networking is a two-way street.

Lost your job—history holds some important lessons and solutions

In these rough economic times many find themselves facing a new experience—unemployed and at a loss for what to do. Three books were written during the Great Depression of the 30’s to address this very problem*.

The central solution for the unemployed is being able to articulate exactly what it is that you can do for an employer, based on actual experiences. We offer two ways to define and validate you unique transferable strengths. Finding jobs that utilize your unique strengths may mean a career change. The good news is that a career which utilizes more of your unique strengths will be more satisfying.

Even in depressed times employers are looking for employees who can make a contribution. Don’t think about careers or jobs, think about how your unique strengths can be presented to fulfill a potential employers needs. Those who do will always find satisfying work.

* Sidney and Mary Edlund. Pick Your Job and Land It! Prentice Hall, New York, 1938

Don’t hide behind your computer screen

With the increase in the number of people seeking re-employment the press and media have spotlighted a number of personal stories. Inevitability when asked by the reporter, “What are you doing to find a job?” The response is sending our resumes and searching on-line job sites. With our Texting, Internet savvy society it has become comfortable to sit at our computer and conduct a job search.

We want to scream at these people—don’t you know that the majority of jobs are found through your personal contact referrals/word of mouth, and a very small percentage of job openings are advertised in newspapers or websites? Hiding behind your computer screen might make you feel that you are really accomplishing something—not!

We propose an 80-20 rule:

  • 20% of your time should be spent in Research-Response Actions (searching the internet, emailing out resumes, looking at newspapers or other job boards)
  • 80% of your time should be spent in Personal Contact Actions (managing and expanding your contacts, talking with your contacts and asking for referral contacts)If you are sitting at home behind your computer screen chances are great that you will still be sitting there next week, month, year. In a 40 hour work week, and yes finding a job is your job, 80% or 32 hours should be spent in Personal Contact Actions. Keep a log of your time, and get out from behind your computer screen

Embracing Career Change

Older workers and retirees are changing careers and finding less stress and greater satisfaction. AARP followed workers over-50 for more than a decade to study career changes and find out how they fared. In all, 91 percent of the study group said they enjoyed their new jobs, a significant bump up from 79 percent thumbs up for their old jobs. Already common, career change among older works is likely to grow even more as the baby-boom generation nears retirement age. The study was conducted for AARP by The Urban Institute of Washington and is based on 1,705 workers nationwide who were surveyed over a 14-year period beginning in 1992. The results were released May 7, 2009.

So what does this have to do with those workers who are under 50? You don’t have to wait until you are AARP eligible to pursue your dream career. As one study participant put it: “If you pursue things that interested you when you were younger, who knows where it can lead? You find out that you could actually go into what you got a kick out of all those years.”

Why wait, or if you are currently unemployed this might be the push you need to embrace a career change and follow your dreams. If you don’t like what you are doing, are doing it for the wrong reasons, feel stuck, want a new outlook on life, or just flat out need to find a career to replace your current vanishing career—define your ideal job, develop the need skill and go for it!

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