Your Support During A Job Search Is Vital

“I’ve always thought that people need to feel good about themselves and I see my role as offering support to them, to provide some light along the way.” – Leo Buscaglia

Whether it be your child’s Little League Baseball Game, a colleague’s candidacy for a new job, a spouse who has experienced a miserable day or a supervisor’s empathy for the work being conducted, your support and belief in the person are needed and vital for ultimate success.  Too often we get so busy and so involved in our everyday life that we forget that there are people, close friends and colleagues who on occasion need a positive word.  For many, our support is their only means to get through a tough day.

It has always been my policy, way before I needed it myself, to assist in anyway possible those who are looking for work.  Not knowing where your future is taking you can be the worst feeling in the world and I have always believed that there is always something I can do to make the situation more tolerable.  I will write recommendations, I will make phone calls and when in a position, I will assist in finding just the right position for those who are in a transition period.  I have even hired a qualified friend who was out-of work for 2 years for a position.  There is nothing more heartwarming and satisfying than assisting a friend or colleague who needs help.

During these difficult economic times, we all know of people who are aggressively looking for their next great stop in their career.  If anything, the old adage “by the grace of God go I” should always be top of mind.  We all need encouragement and support during our lifetimes and let’s face it – to receive you must also give.  I am very thankful for the numerous people over the years that have been there for me and my family.  During difficult times you truly know who those people are.  These are the people who have priorities that include assisting their fellow man.

I am not an out-going religious person;  I believe that the relationship between you and your Lord should be something kept close to your heart. However, I have been really touched by those who have contacted me over the last few months and mentioned that my blogs have assisted them during their difficult times.  I can’t believe that more than 7,000 people are now in one way or another following these postings.  It has been cathartic for me and if I have been of assistance along the way, I truly have been blessed.

I have been truly blessed, friends and colleagues who have called and written on a regular basis just to check in and see how I am doing.  These are the people who I will go to war with and will remember until my dying day.  These are the people who can get you through a difficult time as well as rejoice with you when ultimately you succeed – and yes, though at times it may seem improbable and unlikely, we all will succeed.

A recent e-mail humbled me deeply.  The colleague mentioned what value a posting of mine was for him.  He is very close to finding a new position and if an encouraging word gets him over the top – good for him!  We all have different talents and abilities, let’s use them to help others.

Your friends, colleagues and contacts are asking for nothing more than your support.  Life is much too hectic and we obviously have 1,001 things on our daily agenda, but we can always find the time to assist our fellow man.  A good word, a pat on the shoulder or even a kick in the pants goes a long way.

I still remember a colleague a few years ago who was between positions.  I was one of many who pointed him in the right direction and I was rewarded with a great bottle of wine upon being hired.  Though he died soon thereafter at a much too early age, I am comforted in knowing that my little assistance during his hour of need was appreciated and made his final months a little easier.  Life is much too short – be there for your friends and colleagues because in the very least, someday you will need your friends and colleagues to be there for you.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association executives (ASAE) since 1986.  He currently is between positions and has taken the opportunity to author more than 75,000 words and 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

Do What You Have To Do

Careers are planned and made by hard work and perseverance but unfortunately extenuating circumstances can makes those plans obsolete and irrelevant.  The Great Recession of 2008, which technically ended at the end of 2009 is still showing it’s ugly head and for many is the determining factor in our future plans.

Too many very good and talented people have been on the sidelines during these past few years and the “so-called economic recovery” is pitiful at best and continues to force individuals to forget about future plans but worry more about day to day solutions that can get them to their next position in life.  It certainly isn’t an easy task but there are creative means to taming that weakened employment beast.  It takes a lot of work and a bit of shrewdness to get the attention of employers and decision-makers.

I’ll say it one more time – It is a full time job in finding a new job.  It certainly can be frustrating and demoralizing at times but no one is knocking at your door to hire you – Lord knows many of you have tried that technique with miserable results.  You need to work at finding your next employment and you need to make sure that you stick out above the crowd when candidate decisions are being made.

*  No one is hiring individuals who are unemployed.  The old dictum that it is much easier to find a job when you have a job is more relevant today than ever before.  It is a buyer’s market and employers can be very particular when hiring a new staff member.  It behooves you to make sure that you have done something with your life since leaving your last assignment.  Make sure your resume doesn’t have a gap that you can’t explain.  If it has been awhile since you were gainfully employed it is now time to either put out your Consulting Shingle or volunteer with a deserving organization, maybe even as a Board Member so that you can at least show some activity during this downtime.  You need a title for that resume.

If you think it is tough for you, can you imagine what it is like for those just getting out of college?  I am very proud of our son who graduated smack in the middle of the worst economic situation since the 30’s.  He graduated in December, 2008 from a Big Ten School with a great GPA and a degree in Finance – his timing has always been impeccable.  For the last two years, he returns stateside next week, he has been teaching English in South Korea.  It has been a remarkable experience for him, he has grown and matured beyond belief and his tenure abroad looks wonderful on his resume.  His goal is to get an MBA, but of course a year in the finance field starting this fall will certainly help him to accomplish that lifelong goal.

To a future employer you are a busy individual who is no longer with that previous position but Lord knows you have kept yourself busy and have added skills in the interim.  With a resume title of Consultant, Board Member, Volunteer or Advisor you will be able to explain away what you have been doing the past few months and you can also highlight the new skills that you have attained that will assist you and a new organization at your next stop.

Like ripe fruit, your talents can go bad if you don’t continue to develop them.  Your field or industry is changing rapidly and much has happened since your recent departure.  Make it a point to keep abreast of the changes that are taking place around you.  It is important to name drop during interviews and it helps knowing where those names are currently residing.

We all must do what we have to do during these tough economic times we find ourselves in.  Unless you are ready to retire at a much too early of an age, it is time to get out there and make a difference in your current situation.  Keep active in your field, update your abilities and most importantly know what is happening around you.  This too shall pass and despite the hardship and pain, this will make you a better person and a better employee at your next employment stop.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) since 1986.  He currently is between positions and has taken the opportunity to author more than 75,000 words and 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

One Man’s Record Earthquake Is Another Man’s Minor Shake

After much of the East Coast experienced a 5.8 earthquake earlier this week, we must ask the question: Has the world come to an end or was it just another August news day on the East Coast?  It is typical that if anything happens in New York or Washington, DC that of course it is the number one story of the day for the rest of the country, if not the world!  We all know that ESPN stands for East Coast Sports Programming Network don’t we?  I know that the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are good teams that have paid fortunes for their players but last time I checked there were a few other good teams out there to watch as well.  There is life west of the Potomac and Hudson Rivers.

This is not a tirade on two of my favorite cities but it does put everything into perspective – One Man’s Record Earthquake Is Another Man’s Minor Shake!  As we speak, most Californians are making fun of the concept that a 5.8 earthquake can make such news since they eat breakfast practically every morning with more powerful shakes than that episode originating from Central Virginia.

Be it in typical office communication or in a marriage or during a job interview, it is quite obvious by what has occurred this past week that sometime descriptions of what has taken place might just not be as accurate or descriptive as you might want it to be.  Those who do international travel know the difficulty in communicating with natives, even if you know the language – but sometimes it is even more difficult communicating when you are both speaking the same language (or at least we think we are speaking the same language).

Most failures in communication occur when individuals are not as clear as they can be when describing a fact.  It is also important to recognize that language and certain meanings have changed over the years and now can be construed much differently.  A great example was describing to my adult son of a funeral that I had attended and stating that the person who died was a partner of a friend.  His response was “I thought he was married?”  I guess I should have been more specific in stating “business partner” but of course he was not as accurate as he could have been either because by now asking “I thought he was married?” does not take into account numerous states that allow same sex marriages.

Language and communication are evolving matters and something we all need to pay attention to on an on-going basis.  What might have been a perfectly acceptable phrase a decade ago might now be insensitive.  And of course the context of everything said does matter.  The receivers of communication can’t always determine the intent of what is being said so a relationship can be strained and wars can be started over a comment that was never intended to insult or criticize.

Perspective and intentions do matter, but since we cannot look into your hearts and minds we receivers of communication must always extrapolate what you really wanted to say or write.  Because communication in today’s world is so instantaneous and can be so damaging across varied and immediate formats, it is imperative for all who communicate verbally or in written form to think twice before you speak or proof-read that e-mail or text one more time before you hit the send button.

And to those on the East Coast, I know that it was a frightening experience, I know that there is damage to homes and we certainly empathize with those who need to repair their residences, and that the Washington Monument now has a crack or two, but it is difficult to account for such a high alert attitude and non-stop nationwide coverage from those who close offices and head for the hills when snow is predicted by the weather man during typical winter months.  Remember – perspective, intent and intensity are always important in any communication and in any relationship.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) since 1986.  He currently is between positions and has written more than 75,000 words or 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

Charting A Future Course

As a candidate and interviewee we all stride in attempting to make our experiences and backgrounds as unique and marketable as possible.  When you are one of many, you are looking for a way to stand out from the crowd.  In a final interview your uniqueness is something that can ultimately make you the winner in the employment marathon.  Please note that I use the term unique in a positive manner.

It is vital to make a memorable impression in the first few minutes of the interaction.  You want the decision-makers to think of you as certainly someone distinctive and not the “run of the mill” candidate for this very special position.  To achieve memorable status you do need to be prepared to present “your brand” and direct the conversation to a place where you are comfortable in sharing your thoughts about yourself and your ideas for the future of the organization you are hoping to lead.

To succeed in an interview you must have done your homework.  Obviously you will never know all the peccadilloes within an organization but you must provide an image of knowledge while also being comfortable enough to ask questions.  Relevant questions can also provide a positive image for the candidate; it gives the decision-makers the impression that you did your homework while not coming to conclusions that may not be on target.

A unique and tangible means for search committees to remember you is to provide them a peek into your thinking process and how you analyze situations.  I would advocate for your consideration – a packet of materials that is not much different than a sales presentation that you would be distributing during a sales pitch.  This slickly packaged and formatted packet should include:

*  Resume

*  LinkedIn Profile

*  References

*  Any articles and positive treatises that may have been written about you and your abilities.

*  A blog or article you may have authored that can describe your management style or Leadership abilities.

*  A well-written 30 or 60 day Plan of Work that you will follow upon being hired.

The Plan of Work is key to answering some of the questions that may come up during the interview process.  By putting down on paper your thoughts about how you will proceed right after your start date gives the impression that this opportunity is more than just your usual “run of the mill” job.  You are aggressively pursuing this job and it is a position that you believe is right for you and most importantly a great match for both parties.

You want to be as specific as possible in your Short Term Plan of Work; in many ways this is your game plan for your early tenure on the job and as we all know – those first few weeks on the job are vital for what is to come.  A Plan of Work answers the usual interview question:  What are your impressions of this organization and what would you do to improve it?  Again, with a document in hand it is important to provide the decision-makers the impression that you are a serious thinker and that you have already contemplated this question rather than the usual impromptu answer that most candidates provide to such an inquiry.

The advantage to such a packet is that you have already organized your battle plan for the interview.  You have contemplated some of the interests that you know will come into play and you have put all your experiences and plans for the future right in front of the search committee in a professionally packaged portfolio to see.  Such a packet will give you a sense of comfort going into the interview because for a change you will be able to emphasize your thoughts regarding the organization and your abilities while still spending prep time getting ready for that usual question out of right field.

And don’t forget the take away aspect of the interview.  You have provided the decision-makers with something to consider about you.  All the other candidates – they only have a resume and personally handwritten notes from the search committee members to remember you by, but for you they can assess your abilities with a document that is impressive and is of professional caliber.

To get the attention of a search committee you must find a way to be different.  Planning and thinking of the future of the organization is a positive means to getting that attention.  The sales packet with a Plan of Work might not be appropriate for every job opportunity available to you, but it certainly is a great approach to organizing your thoughts for what could be a memorable and positively decisive interview.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of fellow by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE).  He currently is between positions and has taken the opportunity to author more than 75,000 words or 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

Good Enough Managers Might Just Be The Best Of The Lot

Aaron J. Nurick, Professor of Management and Psychology at Bentley University has written a new book, The Good Enough Manager:  The Making of a GEM that may finally put to bed the claim that you always need to over-achieve and do your very best to be an outstanding Leader.  Dr. Nurick’s premise is that Good Enough Managers (GEM) make the best leaders because they don’t micro-manage and allow their employees to succeed by finding a balance between being a laissez faire administrator and doing everything themselves.

The author contends that perfectionists or micro-managers stifle creativity and makes the worst managers.  In a survey that he conducted of 1,000 business school alums, Nurick determined that a Good Enough Manager is the antithesis of the “uber manager” who is demanding, over-bearing and rarely produces any better results than the individual who allows his staff to find their own pathway to success.

“The GEMs are characterized as empathetic and attuned to their employee’s emotions, while at the same time reassuring, stable figures who remained confident in uncertainty.  The GEMs turned employee shortcomings into learning experiences and inspiration for creative thought.  Many of the employees remarked that their best managers often remained a touchstone for them long after the end of the formal reporting relationship.”

A Good Enough Manager (GEM) embraces the role of teacher and mentor.  It isn’t all about him; rather it is all about the staff and what they accomplish as the successful end-result.  The typical GEM gets to know their employee as an individual rather than a commodity.  He believes that it is vital to know all aspects of the employee’s life – even away from work because by knowing the individual you can relate to their needs and get the best out of them.

GEMs also help employees find strengths they may not immediately see and have determined that today is not the only concern; that with a little insight and empathy you can mold an employee for the future and even better results down the road.  Finally an effective GEM allows the freedom to fail while the employee is given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.  The best managers afford the opportunity to take risks in a safe environment without the fear that one error will result in termination.  Failure is a great learning experience while calculated risk is the determinate for future success.

On the flip side of the equation, poor managers (non-GEMs according to the author) interfere with the employee’s autonomy and because of a lack of trust will inevitably make the job more difficult and less rewarding for the employee.  Another poor manager trait is that we are all in this just for me; all the credit needs to fall on the shoulders of the manager and it unfortunately is all about him.  If you are looking for a team effort or a good personal feeling about your work – this is not the kind of manager you ever want to work with.

Deficient managers also partake in destructive office gossip and politics – it’s an approach that can keep him on top while making life miserable for everyone else.  Because such a manager is opposed to all forms of confrontation and has an aversion to direct feedback or one on one interaction, it is very likely that he will use inner-office politics and gossip to maintain his power while diverting attention away from his personal and management deficiencies.

Ultimately poor managers forget that their employees are people with their own lives and agendas.  These managers are not opposed to calling on a weekend or late night for an update on a project which could have waited until the next morning.   This is just one more tactic to illustrate that they are in charge.  They demand to know all the details and unfortunately will slow down the process because of their lack of trust.

Because we are all living in an extensively stressful and anxious environment on a daily basis within our offices, it is vital for Leaders and managers alike to use all the assets available to them.  The people who work alongside you are those assets; assets that can make the organization successful and the manager look quite good if you allow them to do their job.  We all strive for perfection but in today’s world, good enough may just be the right approach to success.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) since 1986.  He currently is between positions and has taken the opportunity to author more than 75,000 words or 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transitions and association management.

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

Sometimes It Is A Surprise – Even For You

“Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known” – Garrison Keillor.

Though we have all heard it numerous times and I believe I have written it on various occasions in this blog but earlier this week I lived the experience of “never say never” and “never give up” when I interviewed with a recruiter for a job that I had thought fell off the face of the earth months ago.  I barely remember applying for the position, probably three months ago, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise to receive an e-mail requesting an interview.  It was definitely a great way to start the week.

Though an interview is not a job offer and unfortunately too many job seekers have gone through numerous situations such as this before, what this experience details is that though you might not have heard from the search committee or recruiter in the last few months regarding a particular job that you have an interest in, that doom and gloom is not always the end product.

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

What I have learned from this episode is that though we do not want to annoy the decision-makers, that it probably is worthwhile to periodically keep them aware of the fact that we are still available and that we remain interested in the position.  An e-mail with very few expectations is probably the way to go into such a situation.  If it has been awhile since you last corresponded with the search committee or recruiter, consider attaching the latest updated version of your resume and or any other pertinent information about yourself that can update your candidacy since you last communicated.

Though it seems like a never-ending process (from the candidates perspective) with not much to report in the interim; the search for a new Association Manager can take upwards of 8 to 15 weeks for each particular opening.  Of course that’s all dependent on the kind of pre-planning that took place within the organization and whether the previous manager and Board of Directors planned for this transition or that it was a total surprise from one or both of the parties.

“I know that God will not give me anything I can’t handle.  I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much” – Mother Teresa.

Strength of body and mind, vigor and perseverance are traits necessary during a transition period.  Maintaining your self-confidence during times of stress and anxiety is not easy.  Selling yourself as the best candidate for an available position is not the simplest task around, but it does become easier with time and experience.  For those who are introverts such a task can seem quite vexing, but it is amazing what one can do when necessary and who knows – you might find that inner salesman that you thought always loomed within you!

A job seeker must ponder the future in daily intervals.  Plan for today and who knows what comes to pass tomorrow?  The problem with making grandiose plans is that you unfortunately do not have control over many of the deciding factors within the equation.  Control what you can; control and maintain a positive disposition because eventually this too shall pass.

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.  Some come from ahead and some come from behind.  But I’ve bought a big bat.  I’m already you see.  Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me.!”  – Dr. Seuss.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) since 1986.  He currently is between positions and is taking the opportunity to author more than 75,000 words or 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

Have You Looked In the Mirror Lately?

Robert Kaplan, Professor of Management at the Harvard Business School has authored a book that says it all by its title:  Looking In the Mirror:  Questions Every Leader Must Ask.  In a recent article in the Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge, author Carmen Nobel dissects the new book by focusing in on Kaplan’s belief that great leadership in not all about having the right answers but is about asking the right questions.

“Most leaders spend a lot of their time looking for answers.  Very often, they may feel isolated and alone.  I want to help them refocus their attention on framing and then discussing the key questions that will help them regroup, mobilize their team, formulate a plan, and move forward.”

The author organizes his thoughts by asking his own questions about Leadership skills and aspirations.  “Show me a company or nonprofit or government in trouble, and I will almost invariably show you a set of leaders who are asking absolutely the wrong questions.”

+  Have you developed a clear vision and key priorities for your enterprise?  Do you and your fellow employees have the same clear vision for the organization?  Are your key priorities the same as theirs?  Often Kaplan reports that employee priorities are significantly different than those professed by the Leadership.  It is vital to synchronize those efforts.  Three to five priorities need to be detailed and emphasized by all and eliminate those that don’t achieve success for the organization.

+  Does the way you spend your time match your key priorities?  Too many times we find ourselves too busy to even plan and contemplate.  We all know that busy work isn’t always priority work.  Find the time to prioritize and then share those thoughts with the team.  “When someone asks you to spend time on work that doesn’t match your key priorities, the right action is probably to say no.  Once you have a better matching of your time with priorities, you’ll want to encourage your direct reports to do the same.”

+  Do you coach and also solicit feedback from your key subordinates?  It is not easy being isolated at the top of the pyramid.  Though many organizations have flattened their org chart, you are still left with few if any individuals to assist you on your daily adventures.  You certainly are there to coach your direct reports but who is there to coach you?  Kaplan recognizes the value of gaining feedback from others within the organization.  “Leadership is a team game.  You have to solicit help from others or you’re likely to under-achieve your potential.”

+  If you had to design your company today with a clean sheet of paper, what would you change?  Organizations do lose their way; sometimes success directs the organizations wildly but much too often reaction to failure can steer the entity beyond its planned purpose.  Take the time and create systems that will allow you and others within the organization to contemplate the current organizational situation and what and where it should be in the future.

+  Do you act as a role model?  Whether you like it or not, you are a role model at your organization and you must act accordingly.  If you cut corners or have questionable ethics, others will notice and shadow your actions.  A Leader will take the opportunity to display positive traits in the desire for those traits to be replicated .  Make sure you act as you speak – no one appreciates a hypocrite.

+  Are you reaching your potential and being true to yourself?  If you don’t really know yourself, how can you be an effective Leader? Know your abilities and know your failings, it is important to improve on both.  “In the end, it’s not about meeting everyone else’s expectations … it’s about reaching your unique potential and developing your own leadership style.”

+  Recognizing Your Passions.  Are you enjoying what you do daily?  Are you jumping out of bed every morning ready to take on your next assignment?  If it has become a grind and your not enjoying yourself or the job any longer, it is time to reevaluate.  Just because there are tasks you don’t like to perform doesn’t mean they just disappear.  Those tasks need to be completed and if you prefer not to do them, then you must assign them to others.  After all, I don’t like to do my taxes but that doesn’t mean that the IRS will look the other way when I don’t file them on time.  As a Leader, if you don’t enjoy performing a function, or more realistically there are others who perform the task better and more efficiently, then make sure you assign such matters to those who can complete the task.

Looking at yourself in the mirror can be an arduous task; you may not like what you see!  You know yourself best and to achieve success you must be honest with yourself and make the appropriate changes within before you take on the organization.  Ever wonder why there are many more followers than leaders?  If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.  Dig deep to find your true talents and most importantly don’t be frightened away by failure; it is a wonderful learning experience.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) since 1986.  He currently is between positions and has written more than 75,000 words or 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

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