Know Your Stuff

It always intrigues me how people look outside themselves as soon as they think about making a change.  If you’ve spent any time or thought thinking about finding a job, you’ve probably bought more books on interviewing than you’ll ever read and talked the ears off of your nearest and dearest.

Most interview books tell you how to practice for the interview as if it was a test.  I’m not saying this kind of preparation doesn’t have value – it does and, if you’re lucky, you might even be asked one or two of the questions/answers that you’ve rehearsed.  Other books promise to help you find your dream job and to “find your bliss”.  Well, they have their value too.  After all, hope and aspirations are what our civilization was built on.

Interestingly, few truly focus on YOU, the EXPERT on your candidacy.    Preparing answers to questions you may or may not get asked feeds into your fears and, while you’re playing the guessing game, will also add a hefty portion of worry, doubt and anxiety to boot!!

I say control the things you can!.

In times of change simplicity gets my vote every time and the following Skills Inventory technique is one that I have found works for every candidate no matter where you are in your career.  The best part is that you can do it wherever you are as long as you have a pen and blank paper!

Here we go:

1. Take a piece of paper and divide the page in two columns. Label one of them Education and the other one Dates. Next step: list the schools/colleges you attended and qualifications obtained under the first column and dates attended/graduated in the second column.  Also make sure to list any achievements whilst at school – Swim Team Captain? Editor of the School Paper?  you get the gist.

2.  Take another piece of paper and divide it in three.  This time label the columns Jobs, Dates, Responsibilities.

3.  List every single job you have had and the dates you were there. While you are at it, include any volunteer positions or internships (if applicable).  In this instance – the more detail, the better.  The more self knowledge you have the better equipped you’ll be to ace the interview.

3. Now list all your responsibilities under each job. Now list the skills those responsibilities translate to.  Start with the tactical/technical skills and expand it to softer ones like communication and people management abilities.

4. Beyond What you did, Where and When you did it – think about the impact you had.  What are the things you are proud of?  Did you save money?  Drive revenues?  Solve problems/remove obstacles? Keep high standards during tough times? What mistakes did you make?  What did you learn from them?

Once this is done – take it in – look at the experience you bring to the table.  Appreciate your talents.  Don’t be modest or critical – give credit where it’s due!

How do you feel about yourself?  Are you surprised by how much you’ve done/can do?  Did life get so busy that you forgot?  Do you feel confident that you can now clearly talk about your experience and why someone should hire you?

Do you feel good about your abilities but glum about the prospect of doing this job “forever”?!  Then take another sheet of paper, divide it into two columns, label one Current Job(s) and the other Ideal Job and list all the skills in the first column, copy the skills you ENJOY doing into the second column and add new ones – you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water! – keep what you love doing and build on it by finding experiences that expand your horizons and abilities.

Have fun with this foundational step – it should be fun and clarifying – next blog: how to match your existing skills and aspirations to finding the right job.


Giving Good Phone Or Setting The Scene For Your Phone Interview

I often find motivation and learn lessons from experts in fields that are, at times, complementary to mine and, often, completely out of the box.

My goal, when reading these “How To” books, is to find one, maybe two tools or tips that I can implement quickly and that will have the greatest positive impact.  Given my tendency to work at warp speed and my natural impatience, this means I flick through and read only what interests me the most.  Benefit to you is that I am a walking version of Cliff’s Notes.

I’m currently obsessed with David Allen – in fact, he’s my Productivity Hero.  I’m reading his book – “Getting Things Done” – and it’s great!

Allen talks about a 4-criteria model for deciding what to do in the moment (buy the book and check out page 192 for full info).  It’s brilliant and simple.  So much so that I’m “borrowing” it and creating a modified version tailored for the phone interview.

If you are actively job hunting or have had the good fortune to receive a call from someone like me, the likelihood that your first interview will be by phone is almost 100%.  Every step in an interview process is a means to an end and, until you are hired, one step MUST lead to the next if you want the job.

The phone interview is a first impression that you can’t afford to get wrong so pay it the respect it deserves, set the scene and follow this 3-criteria model to ensure success.

1.CONTEXT: this is all about the where and what.  If your goal is to make the best impression, then make sure you aren’t calling from your car and/or on your cell in a bad cell area.  Trust me, “can you hear me now?” gets frustrating and old REALLY quickly.  Think that taking the call outside, around the corner from your office is a good idea – think again – nothing is less conducive to a good interview experience than competing with the sound of gale force winds or traffic in the background! Think you can juggle picking the kids up from school or food shopping and speaking to the VP, Recruiting at that company you are dying to work for?  Think again! In fact, if you aren’t in a quiet, focused environment using a land-line phone, in front of your computer where you have your resume and internet browser open then you aren’t setting yourself up for success nor are you valuing anyone involved in the interview process – including yourself!

2.TIME AVAILABLE:  we live in a microwave society where even 48 hours in a day wouldn’t give us enough time to get everything done.  Interviews need to be planned for and that includes managing your time.  DON’T cram your phone interview in between other meetings – allow for the probability that your interviewer could be late to the call and the possibility for the call to go longer than planned if you’re knocking it out of the park.  An interview needs to be treated like a cable appointment – allow for the widest window of time possible!

3. ENERGY AVAILABLE:  THIS is really important to get right.  Energy and attitude are everything.  If you aren’t a morning person then don’t agree to a crack of dawn call (or in person interview for that matter), if you are typically running on empty after 4pm DON’T schedule an interview then either.

Interviews are like tests you can’t really study for but you CAN give yourself a huge helping hand by making sure that you are, at minimum, in the right place, with the right tools and with enough time and energy to put your “best phone” forward.  I think you deserve that much – don’t you?



Insider Career Advice From Wendy “The Headhuntress”

Ever wish you could spend an hour with elite executive recruiter Wendy Doulton? In one week, Wendy “The Headhuntress” Doulton is coming to Bravo with all of the straight-talking career and interviewing advice she shares with only the top candidates in the world.

Wendy’s advice isn’t always what candidates want to hear…but what they NEED to hear to get the jobs they want.

Her one hour special airs on Bravo Monday, November 14 At 10pm Et/Pt

Play the video next to this post to get a sneak peek of Wendy in “The Headhuntress” right now!

More information [From Bravo Press Release]


One Hour Special, Featuring Search Firm Guru Wendy Doulton, Airs Monday, November 14 At 10pm Et/Pt

New York – With record unemployment continuing to make headlines, everyone could use a personal career coach. But only Bravo has the expertise of Wendy Doulton, star of their upcoming special, “The Headhuntress,” premiering Monday, November 14 at 10pm et/pt. As founder of the Katalyst Career Group, Doulton is known for her no-nonsense style and impressive list of Fortune 500 clients. And with over 15 years of industry experience, including in-house positions at Yahoo, DreamWorks and Google, Doulton has been an executive recruitment resource for a wide range of industries including digital media, entertainment, fashion and music. She knows how the career game is played and her sharp tongue makes it clear that she isn’t shy about voicing her opinion – whether critiquing a resume or trying to place the next great CEO, Wendy Doulton follows her gut when it comes to satisfying her clients. Her keen eye for talent has led to associations with some of America’s best known brands . And although some may describe Doulton’s tactics as unique, her results are unquestionably successful.

YOU ARE What You Tweet – Rules of Engagement for the Digital Age

The 2am Tweet telling the world your boyfriend’s a wanker, the not-vague-enough Facebook rant about your boss…just remember times have changed. There’s no way around it. And just like the Hello Kitty tattoo you got when you were 18, some stupid decisions are permanent. In the modern world of constant connectivity, the things you say and pretty much everything you do is irreversibly cached in some way shape or form and can be found if someone wants to find it. If you don’t realize by now,  what you say, and WHERE you say it matters.

I know what you are thinking, “Anyone with half a brain would take EVERY precaution to not broadcast their private business in the first place.” (Clueless on the subject? Go here first.) But what seemed like a good idea after three POMtinis can be frighteningly damaging in the cold light of day! If you are foolish enough to broadcast your dirt in the first place, trust me, your mistakes are just waiting be discovered. So how DO you turn it around and make sure the first thing that comes up in Google isn’t an unflattering web picture of you passed out in the bushes? Google yourself. And do it often. Edit/delete/remove anything negative you can. Come up with an answer for everything else. You don’t know what you don’t know, and if you don’t see what’s out there about you, you just simply wont be prepared to handle it. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. You have GOT to take charge of your own reputation.

Think Ahead And Just…Don’t.

What may have seemed like an opportunity to make a quick buck when you were a gorgeous, but starving 20-something year old WILL come back to haunt you when you are interviewing for that next big career move. Forewarned is forearmed:  please, please, PLEASE don’t let yourself be the subject of sexy “modeling” pictures, or anything else that could damage your reputation.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking that it won’t be found – chances are fairly high that if it’s out there, someone will find it….eventually. Tick someone off at work and, before you know it, your co-worker has morphed into an undercover spy with a vendetta just waiting for the perfect time to plop an incriminating dossier on your boss’ desk.  Background checks are par for the course, and Facebook, Twitter, MySpace are a corporate recruiter’s DIY detective kit.

A good rule of thumb: anything you wouldn’t want your Grandma to know about shouldn’t be discoverable by future/current employers or co-workers.

And remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure…

So How Much Damage Can Really Be Done in Only 140 Characters?

A little Tweet never hurt anyone, right? WRONG.  Even worse, the impact could be greater than just you.  Ever read about the ad exec who accidentally “f-bombed” all of his agency’s biggest account’s Twitter followers? (See the story here.)  He THOUGHT he was logged in to his own account. OOPS!!  What became a massive, life-changing slip up probably took all of three seconds to execute and probably a lifetime to correct. Not only did he lose his job, but got his whole agency FIRED from their biggest account.

Notes to self: 1. DON’T be stupid and careless 2. DO MIND YOUR P’s & Q’s on Twitter and Facebook 3. DO REMEMBER – not all advertising is good advertising. Make sure your words, message, and tone present exactly the kind of image you want to portray to employers – this applies to your “personal” account too!!   4. Make sure your virtual self is a true representation of who you really are -  DON’T masquerade as an  executive by day and a sex blogger by night!!

Your “personal” Tweets (and all other comments you make online) are PUBLIC information – you may as well put up a billboard or take out a full page ad on the front page of the NY Times!

SO REMEMBER! THE PEN AND TWEET ARE MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD.  What seems like an “in-the-heat of the moment “event can have a lifelong, negative impact. Mouthing off on Twitter might feel great for five minutes, but the words you choose can impact your life forever. You decide if that’s positive or negative. Use that power wisely.

If the shoe fits…Finding the job that works for you

You wouldn’t wear a size six shoe if you are an eight and a half. So why would you take a job that you know isn’t a good fit? Even the most gorgeous Manolo Blahniks won’t fit if they aren’t your size. I don’t care how hard you try to get them on…all you’ll be doing is causing unnecessary pain.

What’s important in a job is not what it looks like on paper, but that it meets your specific needs. Different jobs/companies/opportunities may make sense at certain times of your life and may not at others. A job that is just perfect for someone else might be your career made in hell.  Horses for courses, I always say – It REALLY is about finding the shoe that fits and being honest with yourself.

I once took a job because I could wear pajamas to work – not that I DID, but I COULD!  The point being that the fact that I could wear what I wanted spoke volumes about that company’s corporate culture. It was fun, creative and funky – at the time, nothing mattered more. After a while and the birth of my son, the novelty wore off and it couldn’t quite rationalize the less than market-rate salary and 90 hour weeks. It was the perfect job for right then, but as it turned out, not for forever.

Maybe you’re a new mom, and require a job that will allow you the flexibility to stay home a couple days a week with your infant. Maybe you’re just out of college, are still living with roommates, you’re footloose and fancy free but ready to explore the world – getting paid to travel, stay at swanky hotels and travel for free might sound like fun! Maybe the title on your business card means more than the job you do – take the VP job if that’s all that counts!. WHATEVER it is you really want, right here, right now, get clear on it BEFORE you dust off your interview suit. In fact, do it before you send out your first resume or cover letter.

When it comes to career nirvana and getting the right job for you,  you’d be amazed to see what truly matters.  Stop judging a job by its title/salary/status.  Focus on what success looks like and feels like to you.   Visualize it – what are you doing, wearing, saying?  Who are you speaking to? What does your boss look like?  How does he/she act?  What about your colleagues?  What does your office look like – where are you sitting?  I’m sure you see where I’m going by now.   YOU get to define what being happy and fulfilled in your job mean.  Don’t focus just on the packaging. Give it substance and weight . Make it mean something to you and own it!.

Everything that glitters isn’t gold! Dig deeper. Get clear about what you really want, but be careful what you wish for ’cause you might just get it!

Potential Isn’t Enough

Potential is one of the “must-haves” I look for in candidates, but potential alone is NOT a good predictor of success. It’s positively crazy-making when you look at the number of people with exceptional potential who never fulfill it. They never figure out how to translate the gifts they were born with into anything real, and often go through life wondering why no one ever gave them a chance. Please…

The reality is that in life and in work, you have to create your own opportunity. Period. I don’t care how talented you are…there is no excuse to not figure out what you really want and do what you need to get there.  Potential alone might get you hired in your twenties, but if by the time you are thirty your potential hasn’t materialized into results? Trust me, you will have A LOT of explaining to do. And by the way, nothing is more depressing than seeing a talented twenty-something turn into a deadbeat, dreamy loser by their late thirties with nothing but feeble excuses.

And don’t even get me started on the excuses…an excuse is potential’s pathetic, enabling friend. I mean, come on. Does it even make logical sense? Oh, poor you – “They” just won’t give you a chance. You “deserve” some great opportunity to just fall in your lap. Sorry, it’s not “them” creating your reality, it’s you. Just like there is no such thing as a free lunch, there is no such thing as any kind of real success without hard work and discipline.

Read the biography of any great CEO or entrepreneur and you will see very distinct keys to their success. They are so obvious, you’ve got to be blind to miss them. Great careers, great businesses, great leaders wouldn’t have gotten there without these three things:  1. potential, 2. focus and discipline, and 3. unwavering stick-to-it-ness.

So how to you build the bridge from potential to success? First, you need to think like a successful person. Successful people do a good job because doing anything less just feels wrong – doing their best is a part of their DNA. They continually work to exceed their own highest standards. It’s not about the actual job they are doing at all…it is about doing a good job at being the most exceptional version of themselves.

The saying “Fake it til you make it” has never been more true.  No matter what job you are in today, do it to the best of your ability – to your very highest personal standard. Even if you hate the job, think of this as strength training. Discipline and focus are habits that can be learned and they are an essential part of the success formula. Smart, less-talented people know this and work harder to compensate for the potential they don’t have. I promise, changing jobs won’t mean a thing until you learn how to do this. And what better place to learn from your mistakes than in a job you don’t want? No one ever feels bad about putting in solid work. Give it your all and just go for it. It will become a “highly successful habit” that will help you excel in your next position.

Potential is not only a gift, but a responsibility. You just don’t have the right to play the blame game. It is your responsibility to bring your unique value to the world. If you were blessed with talent or potential, you owe it to yourself, and honestly, everyone else to do something with it. Potential is really only something of value if you back it up with the substance to achieve success.  People overcome incredible odds…disability, abuse, personal tragedies, and worse to become gold medalists, change-makers,  captains of industry…You control where your life goes, not the other way around. Take the reigns here. You have more control than you think!