Learn to Swim

As I was driving to work this morning Bob Dylan was on my mind.  Maybe it was David Longstreet’s presentation last night, maybe it is some of the things going on in the news, or maybe its just boredom on my commute, but I could not get “The Times They are a Changin'” out of my head.  I’ve always thought that particular song was not terribly optimistic – there’s a battle outside ragin’, it’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls. I started thinking about the message of this song.  The more I thought about the lyrics to that song, the more encouragement I felt.

This song is not a woe-is-me, why is this happening song.  It’s a call-to-arms to be ready.  Bob’s right – we need to be ready to swim.  The imagery of the song starts off with a flood.  There’s nothing you can do about a flood.  When the water starts rising you need to learn to swim (metaphorically speaking, usually you’ll have time to get to dry ground).  The message is you’re going to have to take action and move from your position.

That means even if you’re in a job you could never imagine leaving, you need to be prepared to leave it when the flood waters start rising. What constitutes rising waters at work?  Perhaps the company was just acquired.  Maybe you just got a new boss.  Or you lost you biggest client.  Sales are down.  Checks are bouncing.  Despite all the assurance that all is well and nothing is going to change these are situations where waters have started to rise and you need to be alert.

9% of the United States would love to have those kinds of rising waters.  Its always easier to ride out a flood when you have a boat.  Well, Mr. Dylan provides some encouragement for people who are not working in a position where they feel called.

Keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again

Did you catch that first line?  Keep your eyes wide, the chance won’t come again.  You need to be alert to opportunities.  There are doors ready to be opened, but you need to be at the door and willing to turn the knob.  Don’t be paralyzed by fear because of all the doors that have closed behind you.  Don’t sit at home waiting for someone to deliver you a door.  Do things every single day that can help you find and open that door.  Whether it’s a phone call, an office visit, networking event / job club, or researching something at the library or online – you need to be in motion.

And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Bob is asking you to be patient.  Once you put things in motion it’s going to stay in motion.  And you never know who or what your actions are effecting.  For the loser now will be later to win.  Don’t think you’re a loser because you haven’t found a job.  We are experiencing unemployment at levels we haven’t seen since the Great Depression.  The recession was officially over in 2009.  Eventually the economy will recover enough to have more employment opportunities to bring our rates back down to what is considered full employment (~6%).

For the times, they are a-changin.

Who Are You?

My parents Harold and Joyce met at Cornell College in Mt Vernon, Iowa.  Shortly after they were married dad was drafted and Private Templeman served his country for a year in Lawton, Oklahoma.  I was born several years later and I’m certain that I was referred to as ‘the baby’ for at least the first few months of my life.  Each of us has many identities throughout our lives.  Some are permanent, others temporary.  I’ll always be a son, father, and (hopefully) husband.  But my dad isn’t a Private anymore.

Think about your identity.  A big part of who we are is wrapped up in our career.  I was a retail salesman for over a decade.  In August of 2000 I walked out of a store on the Plaza and I haven’t been a retail salesman since.  I took over a decade of experiences with me, but that part of my identity ended.   Frankly, I was tired of being a retail salesperson so it was a relief to lose that part of my identity.   I was blessed.

Many people have to deal with a loss of professional identity when they aren’t ready to move on.  It can be a traumatic and life-altering event.  If you are experiencing some pain from losing some of your professional identity I want you to consider the following:

You are not defined by what you do for a living. There is so much more to who you are.  The next time someone asks you what you do tell them you are a proud parent.  You are a good friend.  You’re a volunteer.

You are not defined by the numbers in your life. Your credit score. Your bank account.  Your age.  The number of employers you’ve had.  The amount of time you’ve been in between jobs.

You are not defined by what others think. You have control over who you are.  You are not cool because that’s what people think.  You aren’t creative because that’s what people think.  You aren’t different because that’s what someone thinks.

Identity is temporary.  Husbands and wives in half of the marriages in our country will lose that identity at some point.  Its sad that some parents lose that identity as well.  There will come a day where I’m not a recruiter or manager anymore.  There will come a day where I’m not ‘That Job Guy’ anymore.  The secret to being comfortable with who you are is knowing that things will change and taking control of how you identify yourself as your life evolves.

I have one final thought on identity.  There is a big part of my identity that doesn’t change.  Its something that keeps me grounded and helps me get through times of ‘identity crisis’.  It is the only constant in this world that I believe you can depend on.  I am a Christian.  I know that no matter what happens to me today, God loves me and has a plan for me.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Even when I try to do things my way, God’s will is done.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

I know that no matter what I do for a living, I am doing it because that is His will for me.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)

You’re in between jobs.  So, who are you?

Quit Saying 'Unemployed'

Quick video with good advice. Enjoy

Game Time!

The last two posts have been about planning.  Putting goals in place and executing the plan.  However, you’re going to find that even the best laid plans need some adjustment.  Football coaches spend hundreds of hours watching film, drawing up plays, teaching the players, and practicing the execution each and every week before a game.  Each plan they put together is a little different – tailored specifically to the opponent.  But when they take the field sometimes those plans don’t work – injury and opponent readiness demand game plan adjustments.   The coaches that win championships are the coaches that can make adjustments during the game.

If your plan includes making five calls a week and you’re not getting anywhere, you need to evaluate who you’re calling and how you’re handling those calls.  Are you making calls to people in target employers or are you calling people who you know and are comfortable calling?  Are you leaving one message and expecting a call back or are you following up with an email and another call a day or two later?  A good rule of thumb is if you want a call back you’re probably going to need at least four attempts to make a connection on a cold call.

If you’ve had six interviews this month and haven’t gotten an offer you should be looking for the reason why.  Don’t be afraid to make a call and/or send an email and ask the person on the other side of the desk why you weren’t selected.   Don’t be disappointed, upset or concerned because you weren’t selected.  Be gracious.  Thank them for their time and tell them you appreciate the consideration.   They need to know that you look at relationships from the long term and hope that somewhere down the road there might be a fit.  Then ask them what you could have done better.  There’s one thing they can do that would be invaluable – ask them to help you understand why you weren’t selected so you can be better prepared next time.

If you’re walking away from networking events, job fairs, and other business-related events thinking ‘that was a waste of time’ you need to evaluate why you’re not getting a return on your time investment.  Did you actively engage with new people at the event, or did you stick to your circle of friends?  Were your expectations too high?  Did you have expectations?  If not you need to set some goals for these events.  Are you following up with the contacts you made at an event?  Do you get upset because the booths at a job fair aren’t hiring, or worse yet, are a bunch of training organizations and multilevel marketing people looking to get something from you?  If so, you probably missed a great opportunity to meet one or two people that can help you get one step closer to the next job.

The most important part of game-day planning isn’t making sure that you’re ready, it’s just getting it done.  Ever see Ray Lewis lead the Baltimore Ravens pre-game?   There is a singular focus on the game.  Nothing else matters.  All the planning in the world is useless without execution.  You can tattoo your SMART goals on your forearm but unless you go out and do them they’re worthless.  At the beginning of every day you need to have a plan.  During that day you need to put that plan into action.  At the end of every day you need to review your performance against that plan and decide what adjustments need to be made.

If you plan, you will not fail.  Now what time is it?

A is for ACTION!

After reading my last post you should have some SMART goals in mind.  They might be short-term, long-term, or possibly both.  Lets start with the long term goals.  Do your short term goals align with the action-items in your long term goals?  If not you might want to re-think them.

Planning Step Two – Details

Lets go back to the vacation metaphor.  You not only have a destination in mind, you have activities planned, people to see, options for meals & lodging, and different ways to get from point A to B.  Would you agree with me that the time you spend in your profession is more important than the time you spend on vacation?  What details do have you planned that will get you to your 2011 goal(s)?

Lets take an example of a long term goal and how you can put together a daily / weekly / monthly action plan to make that goal happen.  Here’s the goal: Find a job.  Is that a SMART goal?  Ok, that was a set up.  It’s NOT a SMART goal because it’s not specific and its not time sensitive.  Here’s the real goal: Find a marketing coordinator or director position before June 1st.  That is a specific, long term goal that is going to have a lot of smaller, shorter term goals attached to it.  Here’s some suggestions for short term goals that will help you achieve that long term goal.

Find and join three marketing related professional organizations by Feb 1st. (s)

Use the Kansas City Business Journal to research and find a dozen target organizations this week. (s)

Make 5 phone calls to people who may be able to help each day. (o)

Put together a portfolio of work in the next 3 days that can be shared with potential employers. (s)

Update LinkedIn profile by the end of the week using industry keywords. (s)

Research job boards each morning before 9am and find 3 unique positions to pursue. (s)

Follow up with all leads on a daily basis, including calls to internet job postings and networking follow up items. (o)

Attend 3 job clubs and one other networking event every week to introduce myself to 20 new contacts per month (0)

You’ll see that some of those goals need to be accomplished today, some of them by the end of this or next week, and I’ve given myself until the end of the month to achieve one of them.  Its important that you have these milestones in place.  One of the most frustrating things you can experience as a job seeker is the chorus of ‘no’ that you hear.  It can be discouraging.  That’s why some of your goals should be something you can do without relying on others.  The listed goals that have an (s) are things that can be 100% accomplished on your own.  The (o) means that you’re going to have to rely on someone else (at least in part) to achieve that goal.

If your goal is to find a marketing coordinator job by June you’re going to need daily goals that will lead to weekly achievements which ultimately will lead to your new job.  You’re going to have frustrations, but you’re also going to have victories.  You’re going to run into jerks, but you’re also going to run across that one person that makes your whole week.   What did you learn in physics 101?  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  It works in the job search – go out and make something happen.  Take action.

Next up – the final planning post: Game Time.

Fail to Plan and Plan to Fail

Now that we’re two weeks into 2011 I want you to ask yourself some questions.  What did I accomplish last week?  What do I need to get done this week?  Now look at the macro – where do I want to be at the end of this year?  How does that compare to last year?  If you haven’t accomplished some of the things you set out to do in the short or long term you probably didn’t have a plan.   This is the first in a series of posts that will hopefully help you put together a plan not only for the short term, but also for 2011.

Planning Step One – Determine your Destination

Your plan should be driven by short and long term goals.  When you take a vacation you don’t just jump in the car and start driving without a target in mind.  Usually the first thing you ask is ‘where should we go’.   That’s the first goal in your vacation – a destination.  Where are you going this year?  If you’re unemployed you’re probably looking for a job.  But what kind of job?  Do you need something that will provide you some income or do you want to find the next step in your career path?  Those are two very different destinations that are not mutually exclusive, you can reach one while continuing to search for the other.

This may be a re-run for some of you, but it bears repeating.  When you set a goal it needs to follow the SMART process.  Goals need to be:

Specific: “Find a job” is a general goal.  “Find a job that suits my ability in the financial services, insurance, or mortgage industry” is a specific goal.  “Generate x dollars in income per month” is a specific goal, simply because it probably falls under the “find a job” general goal.

Measurable: You either have the target job, or you don’t.  You either are generating x dollars of income or you’re not.  Pretty easy to measure those goals.

Action-Oriented:  Here’s where the real work begins.  Given the above goals there will be many other smaller goals that fall under this category.  We’ll talk about them in detail in the next post, but they can include making contacts, applying for jobs, networking, dropping in at a business, and many other shorter term goals.

Realistic:  “Find a CEO job with a Fortune 500 company” is probably not a realistic goal for most of us.  You need to know your skills and how they apply to your target market to know if your goal is realistic.

Time Sensitive:  Generate $500 in income by months end.   Be employed in my field by July.  You get the idea.  You need a time line.  Is it possible to miss the time and still hit the goal?  Absolutely.  Is it harder to hit the goal if there’s no urgency to it?  Absolutely!

Bottom line?  You need to know where you’re going.  You need to understand what its going to take to get there.  You’re going to have to put ‘mile markers’ along the way so you know you’re on the right road and heading in the right direction.

Next post: “A is for ACTION!”

Perspective

The tragic shooting in Tuscon last week has been on my mind this week.  The courage of the parents of 9 year old Christina Green as they told a national TV audience about the living their little girl packed into her 9 years.  The miracle of a woman shot in the head surviving.  The tragedy of lives lost and many others altered forever.  The sadness that a disturbed young man would commit such horrendous acts.

A year ago today a quarter of a million people lost their lives in Haiti.  The entire population of my hometown gone in a blink of an eye.  I watched a special on Haiti last night that made me think the people who perished in that event were the lucky ones.  Massive shortages in basic essentials, lack of access to clean drinking water, human waste in the streets.  People have little hope to rebuild their destroyed homes and the country suffers from 60% (or more) unemployment.  Aid is being diverted from those that need it and sold for profit by corrupt officials and gangs.  The conditions for the survivors are at best miserable, at worst, deadly.  Its heartbreaking.

So how’s my day going?  It’s cold here in Missouri.  Our kids are going to have to make up some school days in May which might screw up our vacation plans.  The Chiefs got knocked out of the playoffs again.  Little stuff, not even worth a mention.

How about you?  How’s your day going?  We’ve lost 8 million jobs in the US since 2007.  Home foreclosure and bankruptcy are at record levels.  I talk to people every day that have been out of work for a year.  But they still have a roof over their head.  Their bellies are full.  They’re wearing clean clothes.  I know marriages that have fallen apart and people who have melted down because of the financial pressures of extended unemployment.  But they haven’t buried a child.

When everything you do seems to work against you, when you think its not going to get any better I want you to remember something.  Your home isn’t rubble.  Your son or daughter is probably a phone call away.  The next time you complain about the government be thankful we aren’t ruled by criminal gangs (politicians in Haiti rely on gangs to get elected, and therefore are beholden to them).  Get up, get going, and give thanks.

Back to School?

Tomorrow my kids head back to school.  My oldest is entering his final semester of high school so its kind of a big deal.  August is traditionally back to school time.  Retailers run their ‘back to school’ sales starting in July, they stock up with new school clothes, school supplies, computers, desks, and just about anything and everything the student needed to prepare themselves for a new school year. (Sidebar – I was in retail for 20 years and everything was alwaysOn Sale‘)

Why no ‘back to school sale’ at the beginning of the year?  My theory is retailers think we’ve already exhausted all our shopping energy buying and returning Christmas gifts.  Janurary is the time for resolutions.  Anyone in the stop smoking / exercise / diet industry can tell you that resolutions can drive just as much business as back to school.

Resolution as defined by Webster is a) resolve or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something. b) the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc. or c) the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose.

I generally don’t do resolutions.  I can only think of one New Years resolution I’ve kept.  This year I have a resolution to clean up my potty mouth.  For those who know me from a ‘Job Guy’ level, you may not be aware of my sailor-like vocabulary.  But its there.  Ingrained in my daily vernacular.  So much so I don’t even realize I’m doing it half the time.

Did you read the definition of resolution?  Its a mental state that causes a course of action that causes you to do something.  You need to decide what you’re doing, and just do it (apologies to Nike).  There is no “try” in resolution.  You can try to quit smoking all you want, but until you resolve to quit smoking you’re not going to quit.  Resolutions require action.  They require committment.  They require a mental focus.

I’m focused on my resolution – less cursing.  Going cold turkey isn’t realistic.  But by being focused mentally when I am using foul language is going to make me more aware and by being aware I can continue to work toward my goal.  I don’t expect to talk like a nun in church, but I do expect it to improve in 2011.

What can you learn from my resolution?  Well you tell me.  What do you need to focus on this year?  What’s something in your life you want to do that requires action? If you have been unemployed in 2010 what can you learn from that experience that you can apply to 2011?  Did you try to make phone calls last year?  Did you try to set up one-on-one networking meetings with people of influence?  Did you try to absorb and apply information from many sources?  Did you try to make job clubs and networking meetings?  Did you try to keep a positive attitude about your circumstances?

Resolve to pick up the phone up this year.  Make a goal to meet with at least 2 people a month that can help.  Write down ideas you learn from others and apply them.  Spend less time on the job boards and more time in front of people.  Put any pain and anger you have about what happened in 2010 aside and look for great opportunities in 2011.

Resolve is an attitude.  Resolutions requires action.  Don’t try.  Just do it.

Vacation

That Job Guy has been enjoying a few days off recently.  Since my company no longer lets us roll paid time off over, it has become a ‘tradition’ to take a week of vacation between Christmas and New Years.  Its a chance for us to get out of town for an overnight or two.  We spent some time in Omaha with family, and will be reconnecting with friends in Des Moines later this week.  Sleeping in, not having to deal with a schedule, staying away from email, reading, blogging……  these are the things that make up a good vacation.

If you’ve been looking for a job you may not think you can afford a vacation.  I certainly don’t expect people who are struggling financially to spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars getting away.  But you should be taking a few days away from your search every month.  Allow yourself some time away from the stress.  Take some time to simply enjoy what life has to offer.  There are hundreds of things you can do right here in Kansas City for little or no out-of-pocket expense.

When was the last time you were at the Nelson-Atkins?  This wonderful museum is free of charge and you can literally spend an entire day and not see it all.  Have you visited the WW1 Memorial yet?  While you’re there stop by Union Station and check out their holiday decor.  The weather is going to be fairly nice this week (for January) so put on a coat and go walk one of the many trails in the city.  Now that Christmas has past there are many charities that need your help.  Volunteer at Harvestors, serve a meal at the City Mission, or maybe give some blood.  My point is simply you need to find some time to relax.  You need to find a way to give back.

Just because you haven’t been working doesn’t mean you don’t need a vacation.  Its always good to sleep in every once in a while.

Today in History – 1940

This post has nothing to do with searching for a job.  It has everything to do with passion.  My mom is a classically trained pianist.  My dad plays guitar.  I grew up in a musical household and have a great passion for it.  I love listening to music, I love performing music.  If I was more of a composer I probably would have made music my profession, but I don’t have that piece of the creative puzzle.  I’m more of a ‘listen, learn, repeat’ kind of musician.

There’s no questioning my passion for all things musical.  Seventy years ago today, a very influential composer and musician was born.  He didn’t have as much influence on popular music as the Beatles or Elvis.  He certainly was never a huge commercial success – early in his career he was told by a record company executive that his music had ‘no commercial potential’.  But he followed his passion, did things his own way and was extremely successful (despite many, many roadblocks and set-backs).  His music has influenced many well-known artists (Paul McCartney says the Beatles drew some inspiration for Sgt Pepper from him).  There’s no doubt he will continue to influence musicians for many years to come.

His story holds some lessons for us.  He had a passion and followed it, despite what others said.  He persevered through many obstacles that could have stopped him.  He was beaten up in the press.  He was thrown off a stage in the UK and spent months in rehabilitation.  Ultimately he was a success.   Musicians and composers from metal to classical to jazz cite him as an influence.  He became a respected leader for his ability and passion.

Don’t let people tell you it can’t be done.  Find and follow your passions and you’ll be successful.  And while you’re at it, Crank some Frank.   Happy Birthday Mr. Zappa.  You are missed.