Tell a Great Story, Get a New Job!

September 21, 2012 2 comments

Looking for a new job? As unemployment stays high and job growth remains slow, employers will continue to hold the advantage in the hiring process. By implementing effective storytelling techniques, you can hold the advantage over the other candidates. Before I dive right into storytelling, however, let’s briefly review the basic components of an effective Job Search Preparation List (from my previous blog posts):

  • A weekly schedule with specific times blocked for conducting online job searches, networking, and follow-up;
  • Fresh, updated resumes that are customized to specific job titles and industries;
  • A completed LinkedIn profile that is professional, interesting, and inviting;
  • Positive energy and enthusiasm, knowing that a new job is just around the corner;
  • Ability to immediately respond to any employer extending the opportunity to interview;
  • Readiness to make a high-impact, positive first impression that sticks!

How do you make a “high-impact, positive first impression that sticks?” This is a very important element to consider as you are exploring your next great role in the workforce. Per Doug Stevenson (Author of The Storytelling Method), “If you want to make a positive impression at the same time you’re making a point, you’ve got to use stories.” Doug also asks this question, “Have you ever heard someone tell a story so well that you were transported? For that moment in time, you were completely mesmerized, caught up in the magic by someone who didn’t just make you hear it, but who helped you SEE It, FEEL IT, and LIVE IT?!”

The stories you must be ready to tell are about things that took place in previous jobs, things that back up the skills and qualifications you wrote about in your resume. Since hiring managers have plenty of good candidates to choose from, expect them to ask tougher interview questions as they try to reduce candidate pools and ensure they hire the right people. If you’re not a natural storyteller, start practicing immediately. Why? Because when the hiring manager asks a behavioral-based interview question (e.g. “Please share an example of a time when you used a particular skill…”), you want to respond smoothly and confidently, ultimately triggering an internal emotional response within the interviewer.

The Bottom Line: If the interviewer(s) visualize YOU in the role, the probability that you will become their next employee (or advance to the next step of the process) increases significantly!

Fortunately, Doug Stevenson will be delivering a live presentation of his renowned “Storytelling For Business” workshop during the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development’s annual “Day With A Master” event on Tuesday, October 9th in Colorado Springs. This workshop will blend perfectly with anyone needing to improve his or her interviewing and/or presentation skills. For more information or to register, please visit http://PikesPeakASTD.org today!

LOVE this new site covering learning and development events from all around the world!

You Don’t Need A Time Machine To Find A New Job

September 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Still trying to find your next job in the classified section of the local newspaper? If so, then you probably fall into one of the following categories: a) You were stranded on an unchartered island for the past 10 years with a volleyball named Wilson, b) You’re rescinding all previous comments about computers being pure evil after seeing your neighbor’s new iMac, or c) You haven’t used social media platforms because you could care less what people are eating for breakfast and fear getting junk email from job search websites.

Given the technology of today, finding and applying for jobs should be quite simple. However, how to find solid job prospects without wasting time chasing random leads is the biggest hurdle for most job seekers. Many unemployed professionals spend 30 to 40 hours a week just looking for new job postings, which indicates that they don’t really know what they’re looking for and/or they lack discipline in their job search approach. I spent over a year actively seeking a dream job doing what I love (which came true this summer). During this time, I also coached 24 unemployed professionals on various aspects of job search effectiveness (21 of them landed a new position in less than eight weeks). The following summary provides a few ideas on how you can be more focused during your job search.

I. Determine Your Job Preferences

First, define one or two specific job titles/roles that match your level of education and experience. Next, identify one or two industries of which you have a strong interest. Finally, identify specific companies that you consider highly desirable places to work. Simple, right? Although it sounds easy, this process takes longer than most people anticipate. One helpful resource for this third step of the process is Glassdoor.com, a website that provides salary information, company reviews, information, CEO approval rating, competitors, etc. Another reference that can help you determine which company characteristics are important is Fortune 500’s list of the “Best Companies To Work For” (published annually). Finally, checkout the blog article section on the website PikesPeakASTD.org. The current President, Brenda Middle, just published an article about finding your strengths that may also help you prioritize your job preferences.

II. Search The Job Search Engines

With literally hundreds of job search engines to choose from, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed with the process. Discouraged too. I recommend sticking to three primary job search engines, as most of the postings are duplicated across many websites.

Job search engine Indeed.com is one of my favorites (apparent sister of SimplyHired.com, which has a different storefront but essentially the same content). This online resource compiles job postings from many sources enabling you to search listings from thousands of websites, job boards, newspapers, and career pages. You can customize your search query by industry, salary range, location, company, etc. Best of all, this website is FREE!

TheLadders.com is an excellent resource for professionals seeking jobs that pay $100,000 or more (note: not all of the listed postings are at that level of compensation). This resource also provides website extensions that are more specialized for particular industries, such SalesLadders.com, MarketingLadders.com, HRLadders.com, TechLadders.com, etc. Sign-up for a free basic account, or upgrade for around $15 to $35 per month to access detailed job descriptions. If you’re tight on cash, I suggest that you just go with a basic account. When you click on any job posting, it will immediately take you to the “upgrade now” page. However, you will see a map on the top left of the screen with the position name and (usually) company name. Free account users can then visit the company’s website to find and apply for that particular position. It takes time to go through these extra steps, but it’s a great way to find great job leads at no charge. Best of all, this website has a fantastic library of articles (such as “How To Write A Great Cover Letter”) that will help a job seeker be more effective in landing their next job.

The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) connects professionals to various job openings within their industry at jobs.ASTD.org. Training professionals can sort results by title, state, ASTD member preferred, CPLP certified, and more. Joining a local chapter (such as Pikes Peak ASTD in Colorado Springs) can also generate local job opportunities through email notifications, new postings listed on their website, and/or networking opportunities.

III. Use Social Media Platforms

Are you “linked-in” to LinkedIn.com? If not, STOP and DO NOT PASS GO until you setup a free professional profile. Use the “Help Center” of the website if you need assistance. Even better, you can register to participate on a live training session via KevinKnebl.com for only about $50. Done? Great, let’s move on… LinkedIn has a variety of job postings, many of which are exclusive to this website. A recently added feature is the option to simply click “Apply”, instantly transferring your information directly to the hiring director, HR representative, or recruiter who originally posted the job. No online questionnaire, cover letter composition, or uploading of your current resume. It’s FAST and FREE.

One warning: As you get more familiar with LinkedIn, you may join various interest groups. Most group pages have a “Jobs” tab, which is essentially a list of links where anyone with a computer can post a new position based anywhere around the globe. I strongly suggest that you avoid searching for a new job here. Most people who post jobs on group pages do not create an informative subject line. Plus, there is no way to filter job titles, location, industry, or anything else for that matter. My advice? Stick with the job postings on the official jobs page of LinkedIn.

Another option that you may have heard about is Twitter.com. Although you probably don’t have a Twitter account (nor will you need one), this is an additional avenue to discover job postings real-time. Instead of going directly to this website, however, I recommend using Twitter job search sites such as TweetMyJobs.com, TwitJobSearch.com, and/or TwitterJobCast.com. The verdict is still out on the quality level of positions posted here. Thus, only spend extra time using this approach if you find these websites to be truly beneficial.

IV. Stalk The Corporate Websites

Remember when I suggested that you identify a few highly desirable companies? With a bit more research, you should be able to name at least 50 companies that relate to your short list. From visiting their websites and speaking with people who work there (through your brand new LinkedIn network), filter your list down to your top 20. Now bookmark the job search page of every one of these websites and check them regularly (with the same frequency that you check the others mentioned above). I’m amazed at how many job postings listed on corporate websites never show up on any of the search engines. This step is very important to ensuring success with the job search. You will discover many otherwise “hidden” jobs, leading to more first interviews.

V. Keeping Track

You don’t have to spend over 30 hours a week looking for your next job. However, you do need to institute a disciplined approach. Commit to reviewing job postings for two hours, at least twice a week. If you are a night owl, the best days are Monday and Thursday nights. Or, for the early risers, Tuesday and Friday mornings are generally best. Either way, the most important part of this process is that you are consistent. Great, you now have a plan. But how do you keep track of your job search efforts? A good old-fashioned Excel spreadsheet will do the trick. For the more computer literate professional, I recommend JibberJobber.com. Trust me and check it out.

The economy isn’t great at this moment, but there are thousands of job openings in every state. You can find a new job tomorrow without using a time machine by consistently applying a focused, disciplined approach. There are many career coaches out there if you need more professional direction and attention. If so, I recommend a coaching session with Don Strankowski at AscendCareers.net, author of “New Strategies for a New Job Market.” If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me directly through the Pikes Peak Chapter of ASTD. Thank you!

To Your Success,

-Tom

Thomas Crouser, Jr.

VP Marketing/Social Media

Pikes Peak ASTD

Dare To Soar: Inspired By Eagles

July 31, 2011 1 comment

Do you enjoy going through the routine of life? Have you ever felt like you were created for so much more? The fact is, most people just don’t know how to leverage their true potential. This blog post is the first in a series about rising above the status quo, finding passion, and increasing personal effectiveness each day…

Eagles are fascinating creatures! They stir our adrenaline and captivate our attention like no other bird in the world. When we see an eagle flying high in the sky, time just seems to stand still. These “King of Birds” overcome the law of gravity simply by stretching their wings. Next thing you know, they’re soaring effortlessly through the sky. While all other birds are busy flapping their wings trying to get from place to place, the eagles just soar through the mist of every storm.

For centuries, the eagle has been the symbol of royalty, power, and authority. Eagles are referenced at least 32 times in the Bible, and they have appeared on statues, flags, and currency for centuries. While Benjamin Franklin strongly supported the turkey, the Founding Fathers ultimately selected the Bald Eagle as the national emblem of the United States of America in 1782. The eagle also has symbolic meaning for most Native American tribes, who still perform the traditional Eagle Dance when they have a need for divine intervention.

A bald eagle.

Image via Wikipedia

Eagles are known for their strength, size, keenness of vision, and gracefulness in flight. An interesting fact is that eagles almost always feast on fresh food. Unlike a vulture, an eagle does not eat what it finds, it finds what it wants to eat! In the same way, we have to be careful when choosing what we consume (remember, we are what we eat!). Our diet has a direct impact on our strength, energy, attitude, and effectiveness. Thus, discernment for our appetite must be clear: we must hunt, find, and consume that which we most desire.

Why do we get so uncomfortable with things we haven’t experienced before? Because, at the very core of our nature, we don’t like change. Yes, I said it: we don’t like change. We spend way too much time conforming, when what we should be doing is transforming! Many of us have wings, but always seem to be flapping them all over the place. Some of us lack passion and act as if our wings were clipped. We are neither hot nor cold, and we splash around in a bird bath of lukewarm water. We want more excitement in our life, but don’t know what we are really passionate about. What do we really need to focus on? To find out, answer these two questions:

1) Each day, what do you primarily spend your time and energy on?

2) Where would you like to spend most of your time and energy each day?

How you answer question #1 will help you to identify the priorities in your life. The answer to question #2 will help you define the gap between where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow.

There is more to come in this blog series, including the topics of Eaglets, Vultures, Molting, and Soaring. If you enjoy this blog, please share it with others. I welcome your questions and appreciate your comments. Thank you!

To Your Success,

-Tom

The Laughing Clown Therapy Company

July 20, 2011 Leave a comment

The Laughing Clown Therapy Company (LCTC) was founded in 2008 by a group of unemployed clowns in Colorado Springs, Colorado. These eight friends had graduated from the American Academy of Performing Arts in Clowning (AAPAC). As former employees of Tickle-Your-Funny-Bone Entertainment, they had produced many smiles, giggles, and laughs throughout the 90’s. Unfortunately, the company went belly-up in 2003.

Jay Reynolds (known as “Jazzy Jay”) had a reputation for being the clown of the group, yet was very savvy in the field of business acumen. In 2006, Jay received the “Excellence in Clowning Entrepreneurialism” award for successfully launching the first online Clown College. He also founded the Pike’s Peak Association of Clown Professionals (PPACP). The group’s mission was to encourage networking, discuss best practices, and swap jokes amongst clown practitioners (most of whom were AAPAC Alumni).

The unemployed clowns were joking around at a PPACP meeting one day when Chuck Jordan (often referred to as “Chuckles”) shared a newspaper article indicating that the art of clowning was running out of gas. The economy had begun to sour, and birthday party gigs dropped significantly as demand for quality clown entertainment slowed. As a matter of fact, public approval for clowns had fallen to the lowest level recorded since 1960 (shortly after NBC cancelled “The Howdy Doody Show”). It was obvious that the squeaky horns and red rubber noses just weren’t as effective at creating laughter anymore. Almost immediately, parents started putting on clown makeup and wearing big wigs to cut costs. These friends with big bulging shoes knew that something had to change!

After locking themselves in a small car for three days, the friends eventually exited and called for a news conference. Led by Jazzy-Jay and Chuckles, the team announced the launch of a new company specializing in the funny business. At first, the reporters thought it was a big joke (they were, after all, a bunch of clowns). When the friends failed to crack a smile, it became obvious that these clowns were actually very serious.

The Laughing Clown Therapy Company created two core business units. The first was the service division, employing a staff of professional clowns who juggled and made balloon animals at birthday parties and weddings. More advanced “Therapy Clowns” provided therapeutic humor for CEOs and adults suffering from depression. The other division of LCTC was focused on manufacturing and distributing fun novelty items. Based on the original success of long-time favorites, such as whoopee cushions, hand buzzers, and fake toothpaste, LCTC quickly became the novelty item business leader.

The marketing concepts and innovation strategies of the Laughing Clown Therapy Company proved to be a huge success. Some of the unit’s best innovations were the pop-proof scented whoopee cushion, self-winding hand buzzer, and fake toothpaste with fluoride (which had received the ADA seal of approval). Incremental innovation was more challenging for the clown talent division, however. Even the elite Therapy Clowns, with advanced therapeutic training (most were chiropractic or massage school dropouts), said they enjoyed their jobs but weren’t properly trained on how to be more innovative.

An employee focus group was formed to study the situation. Six weeks later, the Senior Leadership Team held a special meeting to discuss the report and brainstorm potential solutions to advance innovation. “Examination of our current innovation strategy suggests empty rhetoric and shameless self-promotion,” Chuckles explained to the board members. The executive team decided, after some clowning around, that the best option would be to implement a new employee incentive plan to encourage innovation.

The new incentive plan was finalized just one week later. It outlined specific conditions, goals, and rewards that would encourage the clowns to be more innovative. The first reward would be an instant Funny Money bonus of $500. The next reward, for an employee’s second consecutive winning idea, was a company car upgrade (from the SMART car to a new Mini Cooper). The third innovation reward would be an all expense paid trip to Oz for the clown’s family (air travel provided via hot air balloon), with a private tour of the Emerald City.

The executives hosted a national teleconference to announce the new innovation incentive plan. Chuckles began the call by stating, “The stall in organizational innovation is no longer a laughing matter.” Jazzy Jay then reviewed details of the new incentive plan. He emphasized that every clown at the company was eligible if they had a signed employment contract and were not currently on a LHPIP (Laugh-Harder-Performance-Improvement-Plan).

It is important to note that the executive clowns did consider having each employee sign a “Declaration of Clown’s Honor” to guarantee compliance with the rules. Some feared that this contract could threaten trust while others thought it was as necessary as makeup. Ultimately, they decided not to implement this contract since most of the clowns would have just put an ‘X’ on the dotted line!

Shortly after implementing the new innovation incentive plan, the internal cultural environment of LCTC brightened. The manufacturing and distribution unit stayed busy, and revenues from the service division soared. Ultimately, the new incentive plan was credited for keeping innovation flowing during economic stress. Salaries were raised, benefits were added, and tuition reimbursement was approved for CCEs (Continuing Clowning Education). The friends eventually added a balloon animal division and profits soared. Next thing you know, each of the eight original clowns were spotted laughing all the way to the bank!

Just for fun,

-Tom

SOAR, Don’t SWOT!

February 11, 2011 1 comment

Strategy is a fundamental necessity of organizational behavior. One of the most popular models used to assist an organization with strategy development is entitled SWOT (acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats). “It begins with situational analysis: the process of finding a strategic fit between external opportunities and internal strengths while working around external threats and internal weaknesses” (Wheelen and Hunger 2010, 176).

A new, recently introduced model provides a much greater focus on the positive. It has been labeled SOAR (acronym for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results). “SOAR and SWOT have a ‘both/and’ relationship because SOAR leverages the strengths and opportunities from SWOT as a foundation and then adds aspirations and results” (Stavros and Hendricks, 10). Both approaches can be leveraged effectively depending on the specific situation.

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats)

SWOT is a very helpful tool for organizations. “SWOT analysis has proven to be the most enduring analytical technique used in strategic management” (Wheelen and Hunger, 176). It can help an organization understand potential challenges, consider how prepared they may be, and whether or not they have the capability to react/respond to these potential challenges. “Although SWOT can be used at any level of an organization, it is traditionally employed at the senior management level” (Stavros and Hendricks, 10).

SWOT has strong potential to slow down, or even halt, forward momentum during the strategic analysis process. Based on the structure of the SWOT model, half of the time will be spent focused on the negatives (weaknesses and threats). This is one of the most popular criticisms towards using the SWOT method for strategic planning. “SWOT analysis should not only result in the identification of a corporation’s distinctive competencies – the particular capabilities and resources that a firm possesses and the superior way in which they are used – but also in the identification of opportunities that the firm is not currently able to take advantage of due to a lack of appropriate resources” (Wheelen and Hunger, 176).

SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, & Results)

“SOAR is a strategic planning framework with an approach that focuses on strengths and seeks to understand the whole system by including the voices of relevant stakeholders” (Stavros and Hendricks, 6). SOAR represents a more positive model to utilize during an organization’s strategic planning process, as it can help identify the internal desires of an organization’s employees, what they want to achieve, and even how they will accomplish the goals. “SOAR helps people connect their purpose and values to their work through the strategic conversations” (Stavros and Hendricks, 14).

The basic idea of SOAR is to build organizations around what works, rather than trying to fix what doesn’t, thus attempting to create more of what is already working. Authors Stavros and Hendricks noted research that supports building on people’s strengths to produce greater results instead of focusing time on correcting their weaknesses (quoting books Now, Discover Your Strengths and Strengths-Based Leadership). The SOAR approach integrates Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to create this transformational process through asking questions, visualizing the future to create positive relationships, and build on the relationships… thus enhancing an organization’s capacity for collaboration and change.

Not only is the SOAR method a more positive model, it also seems to be more customizable to organizational situations. “SOAR is flexible and scalable; each organization can design its own approach to fit its needs and culture” (Stavros and Hendricks, 38). There is one caveat, however: the SOAR model is biased towards what an organization can do, instead of which specific areas are opportunities and which they should avoid.

Develop Strategic Plans

Implementation is an extremely important factor to organizational growth. SOAR most closely aligns to this element of execution, while SWOT is more focused on the planning phase. It’s not that SOAR is better than SWOT, but SOAR can create more positive dialogue across many levels of an organization.

“In carefully scanning it’s industry, a corporation must assess the importance to its success of each of six forces: threat of new entrants, rivalry among existing firms, threat of substitute products or services, bargaining power of buyers, bargaining power of suppliers, and relative power of other stakeholders” (Wheelen and Hunger, 110). Most importantly, it is critical that users of the SOAR framework well-define each category as objectively (and as specifically) as possible. Practitioners must be cautious not to let the “A” of SOAR (Aspirations: what do we care deeply about?) turn into “Unknown”… If that were to happen, SOAR would instantly turn SOUR!

In conclusion, SOAR can be used to take SWOT data and apply it – but SOAR in itself is not a diagnostic or orientation tool. For front-line employee sales training, employee-improvement initiatives, or personal development, SOAR is clearly a better fit. This is probably why I am so drawn to it’s potential (based on my self-interest around the field of training and development). For highly effective organizational strategic planning without a tight time line, I recommend that an organization consider a hybrid approach… and just use both!

References

Stavros, J. and G. Hinrichs. 2009. The Thin Book of SOAR: Building Strengths-Based Strategy. Bend, OR: Thin Book Publishing Co.

Wheelen, T. and J. Hunger. 2010. Strategic Management and Business Policy, Twelfth Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

New Year 2011: Welcome to JOBAPALOOZA!

January 5, 2011 Leave a comment

The New Year of 2011 was welcomed with open arms. Around the world, we saw fireworks explode above Sydney Harbour, watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle like a Christmas Tree, and were entertained by a dropping ball in Times Square (sponsored by Toshiba, in case you didn’t notice). 2010 was put to rest without winning the Best Year Ever award. Nor was 2010 the runner-up. I don’t think there was even a consolation prize! 2010, R.I.P.

It is true that a high unemployment rate has continued to negatively impact thousands of professionals including ourselves, our family members, and our friends. However, I have good news: the big event is almost here! Near the start of each year, the flood gates of job postings open. This fabulous event takes place in late January and includes every industry, almost every job function, and virtually every bracket of compensation. I have taken the liberty to coin a title for this grand event: JOBAPALOOZA!

Organizations freeze the publication of many new job postings late in the year primarily due to corporate budgetary constraints. All of these about-to-be-released job postings create the framework of JOBAPALOOZA. With this  exciting event comes responsibility: each and every professional conducting a job search must be completely prepared to answer the call! Included on everyone’s Job Search Effectiveness Preparation List should be:

  1. A weekly schedule with specific times blocked for conducting online job searches, networking, and follow-up;
  2. Fresh, updated resumes that are customized to specific job titles and industries;
  3. A completed LinkedIn profile that is professional, interesting, and inviting;
  4. Positive energy and enthusiasm, knowing that a new job is just around the corner;
  5. Ability to immediately respond to any employer extending the opportunity to interview;
  6. Readiness to make a high-impact, positive first impression that sticks!

That, my friends, is a start (there’s much more to it, of course). JOBAPALOOZA is going to be incredible, with MANY professionals landing that new job. This window of opportunity will last only a few short weeks, and the biggest difference between those who WILL get the job and those who WON’T will be LEVEL OF PREPARATION. So what are you going to do? Act like a Boy Scout and BE PREPARED!

To Your Success,

-Tom