March 26, 2009

Find Your Own Darn Motivation...

Motivation seems to be the theme of the week. It seems like every day this week, I have dealt with, heard or read about one issue after another regarding motivation.

I had a wonderful, motivating (there's that word again) talk with my girlfriend about her reasons for signing up for, and running in a 10k. Then, after a day of a complete and utter lack of any and all motivation, I decided to watch an episode of The Doctors, this TV show that I sometimes DVR about real doctors discussing real life medical issues. This particular issue also dealt with motivation on some level. What is it about motivation that really gets people going?

I had a conversation with a girlfriend who found the motivation to register for a 10k after not running for years. She said she was tired of watching other people do the one thing that she had once loved doing so much. She has a naturally competitive spirit so it was hard to find her motivation. From the day she set her mind to start running again to the time she ran her first 10k, was less than 2 months. Her motivation was internal. She wanted to feel good about herself again, she wanted to compete, and she wanted to get healthy.

Then earlier today, I had an episode of The Doctors that I have DVR'd playing in the background. They were discussing the motivation to lose weight and be fit. Their discussion revolved around why people can not lose weight and what they need to do to reach their goals. Each person was asked why they want to lose weight. Their answers didn't much matter as the feedback was the more whole foods, fewer fats and exercise more. But, the whole purpose was for them to understand why they wanted to lose the weight. The thought was that the right motivation would lead to success, regardless of what that motivation was. The bottom line was that the people questioned could not be motivated by anybody else (they couldn't be losing the weight for their spouse/partner, revenge, etc.) but they had to be motivated by themselves (health, personal happiness, improved confidence, etc.). If they had this internal motivation to lose weight, then they would be more likely to successfully lose the weight. Man...I should have been paying more attention to that episode, but that's another story for another day.

Now, I just had this long, 2-hour conversation with my brother about his life and what he is doing with it (not much) during which point he told me that he was thinking of joining the police academy. Now, most of you would probably say that this is great, especially in this day and age where jobs are scarce and crime is on the rise. But, let me just say that this is the same brother who I had a similar conversation with a few weeks ago when he, out of the blue, told me that he was going to join the military...AGAIN!!

Let me back up and give you some history. My brother is the baby of the family and all his life, he has been my mom and his dad, by my husband and I, and even now, by his girlfriend. My brother (we'll just call him Bill), was a great kid growing up; he made straight A's and B's in school, was on the Honor Society, Future Business Leaders of America, and both the English and Spanish Junior League, in addition to playing football and basketball. In all respects, he was headed to college on a silver platter.

Then, sometime in his junior/senior year, he lost all motivation. Bill nearly flunked out of school, lost all desire to go to college. He became a slacker, drinking all the time and doing other intoxicating things that I will not divulge in this forum. He was living with me by this time and yes, I will admit, that in a lot of ways, I enabled him (read above...I have already wholeheartedly admitted to coddling the boy). He hopped from job to job with no real direction in life. He never kept any job long, either because he got bored and stopped going, he was too inebriated and stopped going, or he was sick because he refused to take care of himself properly, and stopped going. See the pattern here? Oh, he was fired from plenty of jobs, but mostly, he just stopped going. He couldn't find the motivation to find a "real" job, he couldn't find the motivation to stay in school (he completed a semester and got it...he STOPPED going), and he certainly couldn't find the motivation to clean up his act and do right. Of course, after way too long (5 years) and way too many heartaches (countless), I had to kick him out. Cruel and unusual...maybe, but I like to call it tough love motivation.

That was over 2 years ago. Since then, he met a girl, rented a room in a house, worked at Cracker Barrel, moved to Delaware to live with my mom (with the girl), stopped working at Cracker Barrel, started working at Subway, got the girl pregnant, had a baby, stopped working at Subway, and got a job at Friendly's...all in this same time. So, now my 25 year old brother had a girl, a baby and a dead-end job. So, what does he do? He calls me for advice.

Back to my brother and his desire to join the Police I said...a few weeks ago, it was the military. See, right after 9/11, when my brother was 18, he got all patriotic and decided that he was going to join the army and go off to war "to fight for his country". Now, I am all for patriotic symbolism, but I do not think we all need to rush out and join the military and for my brother...that was the last thing he needed to do. He just doesn't have it in him. Anyway, I was right...he didn't even make it through basic training. Now, I don't know the whole story but it was something about not listening and failing to respect the commanding officers. Needless to say, he was "less than honorably" discharged...whatever that means. forward to a few weeks ago… He calls me (not long before the baby is born) and is going on and on about how he doesn't know how he is going to support his son and how his job isn't paying him enough and how he wishes he had stayed in school...blah, blah, blah...nothing I hadn't heard a million times before. So, he proceeds to tell me that he is going to try to join the military again...this time the Air Force but he is afraid they will not accept him because of this Army record. I tell him the best he can do is try and that he needs to figure out what he wants to do with his life. Our conversation goes like that for probably over an hour before I was able to get off the phone.

So, fast forward again to this week… My brother's baby was born a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, my nephew was born prematurely and is still in the hospital. My brother is complaining about how hard it is and how he has to drive two hours to go and see the baby (they live in a very rural area of DE), and how the commute is killing him. He then proceeds to tell me that he thinks he is going to try out for the police academy. I told him I thought it was a great idea (honestly, I thought it sucked, but I wasn't going to derail him from pursuing SOMETHING to do with his life). He constantly asks me if I think he should go for it and if I think it's a good idea and so on and so forth. So, this is what I tell him...

I tell him that I can't make that decision for him, that he needs to figure out what he wants to do in life and that only he can find the motivation that he needs to succeed in life. He proceeds to tell me that he is really not that motivated but knows that he needs to do something so that he can take care of his family. I go on to explain to him that there are different things that motivate us and that what motivates one person is not necessarily going to motivate the next. For instance, some people are motivated by success, some by fame, and some just are motivated by their internal feeling of self-worth. Some people are motivated by external, money, etc. I told my brother that his son is a strong motivating factor and that he can certainly be motivated to do what he needs to do because of his son. But, I told him that he needs to determine what that motivating factor was and then he needed to act on it.

See, basically, we can all TALK about what we want out of life, what we are going to do, what we are going to accomplish, how we are going to accomplish it, and what our dreams look like. But, it is up to us to set these plans in motion. It is often fun to plan, but normally not fun to actually do. Anatole France once said, "To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act." We are all good at dreaming, in fact, we often do it without even trying. But acting takes work and it is often an uphill battle to be successful. True innovators...those that are really successful at what they have set out to accomplish, had to fight to get to where they are today. Oscar Wilde once said, "Anything worth doing is worth fighting for." I explained to my brother that nothing in life worth doing comes easy and that he would need to fight for what he wanted. I don't know if he took my advice. The last I heard, he is still working at Friendly's and hasn't even inquired at the police academy, but I have come to learn that it is his life. I can give him all the tools and advice in the world, but only he can take that information and do something with it. I liken it to a drug addict or can provide them with the tools (in the way of support groups, rehab, and the like) and you can beg, plead, reason, and persuade until you are blue in the face, but it is only when the addict finds their own motivating factor will they change their ways and come clean.

We all have something that motivates us. Find out what motivates you...

What You Know About Dating Can Help Your Career...8 Tips to Use to Prepare for Your Next Career Move

One of my biggest guilty pleasures in recent years is watching The Today Show, and more specifically, The Kathie Lee and Hoda Show. Well, I happened to be watching today during one of my tacit moments of "me time" and tuned in just in time to hear them discussing a recent survey that was conducted on men and dating. Supposedly a study was done by Women's Health magazine, in which over 700 men were asked to vote on the Top Do's and Don'ts of the First Date. While I did not agree with all of them, such as "Women Should Make the First Move", I did agree on most of the issues. I even added a few of my own, and as I was doing so, realized a direct (ok…maybe not so direct) correlation between dating and job interviewing. These same dictums can easily apply during that all elusive job search. If you want to get what you want out of your career search, then heed the following:

1. "Order the Steak Already and Stop With the Salads!!" - Just like in dating, too much time is spent putting up a facade and ballroom dancing around issues. We go into interviews or promotion negotiations with the mindset that we will take what they offer and that we are lucky enough just to be here in the first place. NOT!! You have worked hard to get that interview, raise, or potential promotion. You have to believe that you are worth it, because, quite frankly, if you don't, who will? If you want to get what you want, then you have to ask for it...right up front with no pretensions. This can apply to salary, promotions, a raise, etc. Know what you want before you go into the meeting and ask for it. Be prepared to be shot down, but know that you won't be disappointed because you didn't ask for what you want. The old adage stands true...You Never Know Unless You Try.

2. "It's a Turn-on When Woman Insist on Paying All or Half of the Bill" - Now I would never in a million, trillion years advocate that a woman pay the bill on a date (I know that this poll had to be written by men...but I digress), I do believe that sometimes interviews and the process can be much like dating, and like dating, socialization is volley for the course. It may do you wise to take your supervisor/manager to be out to lunch/dinner to learn more about each other from a social perspective, outside of the rigorous, bureaucratic confines of the office. It is important to know who you are "going to bed with" outside of the professional aspect, because the truth of the matter is that people typically spend more time at work with their bosses and co-workers than they do at home with their families. Do I condone becoming mindless drone workaholics? No...but the fact still remains. In the latter stages of the hiring process or promotion process, you may suggest meeting for lunch/dinner (the opportune time for this would be during the actual offer phase...anytime before that may seem like petty bribery) to discuss details. If, especially if, all goes well, then it may be wise, even advisable to pick up the tab, or at least offer to split the tab.

3. "Prefer to Figure Perfect Date Spot Together" - People in relationships, even fledgling ones, like to feel as if they are making decisions together and that no one partner is holding all the chips. The same goes for your career. Understand that locking that job or promotion is very much like a tango, with each partner leading and lagging at the precisely choreographed opportunities. Dating is a give and take and there is a lot to be learned from that in your professional life. Lay your cards on the table, make it known what your needs are, while also making it clear, in quantifiable, no uncertain terms, why you are worth it and what value you bring to the proposition. Accept that there will be some negotiations and prepare to meet in the middle. Whenever you come to the table, you always want to slightly pad your offer, so that there is room for negotiations. That way, when you figure out the perfect "spot" together, each partner walks away satisfied.

4. "Don't Flash Flesh - Most People Prefer Mystery" - I can't think of truer words being spoken (well, I probably could, but not right this context). There is nothing tackier or more revolting than showing up for an interview scantily clad, over-scented, and highly coiffed in the hopes of arousing your way into a job or promotion. If that is your modis-operandi and it has worked for you in the past, more power to you, but please understand that at some point, it will backfire, and you will burn rather than glow. People...get this through your hairspray laden heads...You want to know that you have received a job/promotion/raise because you deserved it, because you were worth it!! If you get the reputation of being a seductress/gigolo, then who is going to take you serious and just how far will your career go? Depending on the job (obviously, there is more creative license for jobs that are just that...creative) dress conservatively. A dark suit is always in fashion and while I don't think you necessarily have to wear stockings and close-toed shoes (unless you work in a conservative industry such as law or finance), I do still believe in the maxim of minimal make-up, polished hair, no perfume, and unfussy accessories. Nobody wants to hear your bracelets jingling around while you talk or get nauseous from the sickeningly sweet fragrance your sporting.

5. "Would Rather Have a Second Date Rather Than a Meaningless Hook-up" - I think this little pearl of wisdom applies to both parties equally. There is nothing worse for an employer or potential employee than to feel like time has been wasted on what amounts to a meaningless hook-up. I can't over-emphasize it enough...Know what it is that you want before you go on that first date!! Try to have a pre-interview conversation by phone to discuss some of the basics about the position. i.e. detailed job description, pay range (most would argue to not talk money on the first date, but why waste your time if they can not meet your requirements or you, theirs?), flexibility (tele-commuting, flex-time, etc.), and so on. Know what you are getting yourself into and if the requirements or specifications of the position/company are comfortable to you. Don't waste your time or theirs going on an interview for a job that is not even in the ball-park of your needs. It is better to know up front than to forage in the garden of meaninglessness.

6. "Great Date Without a Lip-Lock" - Yes, you can have a great first date without "sealing the deal". Aside from the initial phone screening, which is like the of the interview world, the first date is the time to really delve into the specifics about the job. Just like you would get history on the other person on a first date, such as where they grew up, how many siblings they have, and if they ever had a purple nurple (ok...maybe this is just me), you want to do the same to, and expect the same from, the company that you are considering working for. This does not mean that you have to leave the table in a committed relationship. The idea is to simply get to know one another to see if there is any chemistry and if a second date is in order.

7. "Blackberrying is Offensive" - As is any other form of distraction. Why somebody would be texting, twittering, or updating their Facebook status on a date, let alone a job interview is beyond me, yet it still begs to be discussed as it is happening all the time. It should go without saying that the first thing you want to do prior to stepping into the building for the interview (better yet...before you even step out of the car) is to turn your cell phone off or at least to silent. There is nothing worse that you hear "Yankee Doodle Dandy" blaring out of somebody's cell phone in the middle of an interview. The same goes with any other distractions. Please don't bring your laptop to the interview (unless of course your job is that of a web designer or graphic artist where a virtual media presentation would be appropriate), and make any notes discreetly. Come prepared with questions. There is nothing more annoying than asking if you have any questions and waiting for you to look inside your faux Tumi, Dooney, or Gucci for your pad of questions. Review your list beforehand and know what you want to say so that you can look studied and prepared for the interview.

8. "Don't Tell Me About Your Last Date" - Of course you want, and actually need to talk about your previous job(s) but please...and I can not iterate this more...DO NOT TELL MORE THAN WHAT IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY!!! The one thing that I learned from my husband (if it can be equated to JUST one thing) is to "never volunteer information". Just like no date wants to hear about how your ex was a psycho and that you had to take out a restraining order on him/her and now sleep with a baseball bat under your bed, no employer wants to hear all the negative comments of your previous boss/company/position. If you left under less than desirable circumstances, do your best to put a positive spin on it. I am not advising that you lie but I would limit just how much you divulge. For instance, if you were fired because you were under-performing, then say something like..."I did not feel that the position was a good fit for me, and while I feel that I gave my all to the position, I do not feel that what I was providing and what I was receiving from the position was ideal. I am now looking for an opportunity in which I can fully use my background and experience in (XYZ) to further benefit ABC Company in furthering their goals to be 1) industry leader, 2) cost leader, so on and so get the picture. I always say that while I have had positions that I absolutely despised and worked for companies that I have loathed, that I have learned something from each and every one of them, whether they were a good fit or not. This is what you should be conveying to your new, potential boss. Nobody likes a whiner.

Interviewing, like dating is not perfect. There is no exact quantitative formula. It is truly n learned art form and the more practice, the better at it that you become. With these tips, a bit of preparation and a little assertive backbone, you will make your way through the mosh pit of job seekers to the front of the stage.

Good luck!!

March 24, 2009

So, You Want to be a Blogger Too?

I am always receiving interesting emails and phone calls, especially once people see that I am more than a pretty face. Yes, I actually work and blog and go to school. Why people find this surprising is beyond me, but oh well. So, anyway, yesterday, I posted my latest blog excerpt to my Facebook page and almost immediately received a Wall post from an associate of mine. Her question was quite simple really, "How did you get into blogging". My answer, while still simple, could not be as easily conveyed, upon further reflection. See, what I told her was the simple and easy truth...I love to write and was always looking for my creative outlet. Since I had something to say and feel very knowledgable about what I do (HR) then I felt it was prudent for me to share my knowledge with all who would listen.

Again, upon further reflection, I realize that it is not as simple as it seems on the surface. Yes, we all have something to say. Yes, blogging is a great form of modernistic expression. Yes, it is important to find your voice and find your audience. It is all of these things, but it is more than that. Blogging is a way to brand yourself, to create your image, and to mark your place in your field/industry. I recently read a post on Careerealism all about branding. The author stated in the most poignant of ways..."Social media has the ability to make the single greatest impact on your career identity" (Thanks sparktalk!!). I couldn't agree more. In this day of interactive resumes, video interviews via Skype, and "googling" prospecive candidates, it is very important to brand yourself to ensure that you are putting your best foot, or in this case, face forward. Your brand can change whether a prospective employer or business acquaintance contacts you or passes you by.

Branding is very simple. All you have to do is answer one very simple question...What do you want others to see? Yes, you may be a killer snow boarder with abs of steel and a dog name Blaze, but is that what you want plastered all over the net when potential employers are looking for you? And trust me, they will look. Now, I am not saying that you can't have a personal life or that your personal life is not content for the web. It is, just not when you are trying to brand yourself. Even though most psychologists/psychiatrists wouldn't agree, multiple personalities are in order. As a matter of fact, in the virtual world, multiple personalities are probably best. All I am saying is don't make your personal identity your main identity, unless of course, your personal and career identities are one in the same. For instance, you're in a band or are in some other creative niche, where what you do is TRULY who you are.

What does all of this have to do with the key point, which is blogging? Well, let me give you some history...when I first starting blogging and twittering, I approached it from a very personal perspective. I created a blog about me and who I was as a person, such as my children, my childhood, my family, etc. Very meaningful, but personal things. I twittered about the same...again not relevant at all to who I am from a professional perspective. Had you read these blogs are followed me on Twitter back then, you would not get a true sense of who I was and what I did. I had to sit back and think about who I was as a brand and what I wanted others to see. So, now I blog about my passion and I tweet from a professional standpoint. My blog still contains personal posts because I don't think you can have a career without having a life, but my point is that my brand is now relevant and identifiable. If you read my blogs or follow my tweets, you instantly know who I am, what I do, and what I'm about. That is branding in a nutshell.

The whole point to blogging is analyzing your passion, determining your audience, and writing useful, timely, and relevant information. You want a following. Otherwise, what is the point? You want people to read your blog, you want people to comment on your blog, you want people to talk about it and forward it to their friends. Blogs are living breathing things...a community, if you will. There should be banter and rhetoric, a sort of give and take to it. You post, your followers comment, you post another blog based on the comments you receive. See the pattern? Without this, your blog dies and with it, so does a piece of your identity. As my associate put it, "it gave me inspiration". Your blog should do the same. Whatever it is that you write about...whoever your audience, you blog should inspire, motivate, persuade, or simply inform others.

So, go find your voice and then blog about it!

March 23, 2009

Breaking Into Human Resources...It's Easier Than You Think.

I received an email recently through my LinkedIn profile. One of my connections, a woman currently working in the Real Estate field, was unsurprisingly looking to make a career change and wanted to know how to break into Human Resouces, having never worked in the field. Below is my advice to her. This advice would apply to anybody looking to get into the HR field from other industries.

"Being in real estate you are, no doubt, used to dealing with people and connecting with them. The same success traits that are necessary in real estate, i.e. networking, understanding people's needs and selling your services, are all traits that will serve you well in the land of HR. As far as breaking into the profession, my advice would be to network, network, network. Make real contacts in the field, do research on HR policies and practices and find a ground floor opportunity that will allow you to get your feet wet. Understand that, as with any career transition, you will have to start slow and most likely at the bottom, but if you are willing to pay your dues and show your worth, then it should all be fruitful in the end.

I am not sure why you are looking to make the switch and to what area of HR you are more inclined to focus on but your first step should be to answer those questions. Think of why it is that you are attracted to the field of Human Resources and what it is that you feel you can bring to the field. This was, you will gain a better understanding of what area of HR you will want to pursue. The easiest way to break into HR is to become a recruiter. Most have little to no knowledge starting out and can quickly learn the ropes of the profession. (Side note: I am not saying that recruiters are inexperienced here. What I am saying is that there are many entry-level recruiter positions that do not require experience. As a matter of fact, this is how I entered into HR myself.) Join professional organizations in your area and the national association, Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). Then submerse yourself in all of the information that you can find to better acclimate yourself to the field.

True HR professionals have also received training or have furthered their education in the field of HR. SHRM offers many certificates in HR, as do many local colleges and universities. You can also obtain an undergraduate or graduate degree in the field of Human Resources Management or Human Resources Development. Gaining your degree can not only further your personal experience in the field but will also show prospective employers that you are serious about your career transition.

Whatever you decide, I wish you much luck and please feel free to reach out to me should you have any other questions."

The above advice can ideally work with any career transition. The key is to research the field that you are looking to transition into, network with those in the field to determine what education, training, or experience is necessary, and then obtain said education, training, or experience. Remember that you will most likely need to start at the bottom and work your way up but, as I mentioned, if you are willing to put in the effort, and the time, a career transition just may be on your horizon.

March 22, 2009

In a Time of Recession...Learning is Key

Everybody knows that we are currently in a recession...even if some are afraid or too in the dark to actually speak the word. Companies are going bankrupt, people are losing their homes to foreclosure, and unemployment is at an all-time high. In these difficult times, it is so important to distinquish yourself from the crowd when job-hunting among the masses. Amid stories of low-level jobs receiving hundreds of applications for one position and McDonald's turning down a woman with a bachelor's degree because "applicants with Master's degrees are applying everyday, there is no better time than now to further your education, learn new skills, or earn career advancing certification. I have decided to do just that.

As some of you are probably aware, I recently completed the grueling, but worthwhile task of attaining my SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) certification.

My certification proves to the world that I am proficient in all areas of Human Resources and have attained the highest level of credentials in the field. The SPHR also proves to others that I am committed to the long-term furthering of the field. I decided to pursue my SPHR because, even though I have been in the field for over 13 years, I did not have the necessary tools to prove my experience. In the running against thousands of other HR professionals, I had to prove myself and had to prove that I was just as experienced and qualified, if not more, as others in my field. The same can be said for anybody else, regardless of the field you are in. I know many of you are griping about how little time you have...between work (for those lucky enough to still have jobs), family, and personal obligations, what time will you have to further your education? Well, just think about all of the time you WILL have once you lose your job and can't edge your way out in front of all of the thousands of other people competing for the same job as you. Are you starting to see things my way yet? Ahh...I thought you would. Today, there are so many options to consider when going back to school. You could certainly pick up a few classes at your local community college, or obtain your Master's degree at your nearest state of private university. But for those that are looking to save time and gain some flexibility, there is a plethora of online offerings to be had. There are universities that only exist online, such as University of Phoenix, Capella University, and Devry's Keller Graduate School of Management. What most people don't know is that more and more traditional, brick and mortar colleges and universities are now offering online programs as well...some even offer the entire program online. Prospective students should check out Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, which offers online certificate, as well as Bachelor's and Master's degrees completely online. Florida State University in Tallahasee, FL offers both undergraduate and graduate progams online, as does Indiana State in Terra Haute, IN. There is a wealth of information on online course offerings on the premier education website, Peterson's. Here you can not only find out about traditional and online course offerings, but also specialty schools, such as nursing and technical schools.

I urge each of you to take a long, hard look at your background and your experience and determine if there are ways in which you could improve your chances of future success. Whatever happens and whatever you choose, may your path be long and fruitful!