Welcome to SixFigureStart®

Career Coaching by Former Fortune 500 Recruiters

Thanksgiving Gift To Our Blog Readers

Happy Thanksgiving!  In appreciation of your readership, we are hosting a free teleclass on Monday, Nov. 30, to Make 2010 Your Best Year Yet, including strategies and tips for setting and reaching your career and life goals:

EVENT:  SixFigureStart:  Make 2010 Your Best Year Yet

DATE & TIME: Monday, November 30th at 7:00pm Eastern

FORMAT: Simulcast! (Attend via Phone or Webcast — it’s your choice)

REGISTER HERE:  http://bit.ly/2aTmfq

Presenter:  Caroline Ceniza-Levine

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Filed under: career coaching, Company news, life coaching, resource recommendation, , , , ,

Book Review: Rick Smith’s The Leap

The subtitle of Rick Smith’s The Leap is How 3 Simple Changes Can Propel Your Career From Good To Great.  Like that catchy subtitle, the rest of The Leap includes easy to digest tips and strategies and real-life examples to clarify and inspire.  It’s a fast read with good content.  The mix of motivational and practical ideas make it especially good for the holidays — meaty enough to share but breezy enough to enjoy.  It’s a good selection for your stocking stuffer list or for your book club — Smith includes some interactive material to keep the reader engaged long after the book.  BUT the key lessons for me from The Leap came in the story behind how I got this book…

Lesson 1:  it’s not enough to be a fan; you have to remember that you’re a fan.  Apparently, I was already a fan of Rick Smith.  I had read his first book, The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers, and while this was before I wrote book reviews, I have it on my personal recommend list.  HOWEVER (and this is key for you jobseekers looking for memorable marketing)  I didn’t remember that  5 Patterns was Smith’s book!  He co-authored it with Jim Citrin, and I remembered Citrin as the author because I had been following Citrin’s previous column in Yahoo! Personal Finance.  So until I got my hands on this follow-up I didn’t realize how much I appreciated Smith’s work.  Don’t assume your clients/ customers/ prospective employers can recall your value at the exact time you want them to (i.e., when you have something to sell).  You need to remind them of your value and get your product in front of them.

Lesson 2:  even well-meaning folks don’t follow through all the time.  The Leap was on my reading wish list because I saw it mentioned on the Recommended Book List of a newsletter I follow (can’t remember which one unfortunately — do you see what I mean about Lesson 1 and needing constant reminders of who you are?).  However, it was just on my someday list.  It leapt (pun intended) to the front of my reading line because the book was physically placed in my hands.  When employers/ customers/ clients don’t get back to you, it’s not necessarily because they don’t like you or don’t mean to get back.  We’re all busy, and we need helpful reminders.

Lesson 3:  don’t discount the power of showing up.  Smith has an illustrious career and a full family life.  This man is busy with other things to do…yet, he somehow managed to find my book reviews, realize I covered coaching-style books, and sent me an autographed copy.  That’s how the book got to me.  A shiny new hardcover, autographed with an inspirational note.  How could I not dive right in and read the book?  Remember jobseekers, put yourself out there.  When you show up, things get moving.  If Smith can do that, with all the things he has on his plate, surely you can contact a few more target companies on your wish list.

Finally, the key corollary to the lessons above is to back up the style with substance.  Put yourself out there.  Be persistent.  Remind people of your value.  Smith did all of this, yes, but with a great book.  The marketing wouldn’t have mattered as much with an average book or a bad book.  The whole thing works because the product works.  Jobseekers, your “book” is your background, skills and experience.  Invest in yourself, not just your search.

Filed under: book review, career coaching, life coaching, , , , ,

Bold Job Search Moves Are Not Required

At a recent workshop, one attendee asked me if she should hand deliver her resume.  This is a tight market.  Jobseekers should be casting as wide a net as possible.  Jobseekers need to go after many positions, certainly more than in a boom market.  Jobseekers may need to expand their geographic horizons just to have more leads.  Now you want to add personal delivery to the mix?

I think this idea comes from the urban legend that every jobseeker hears of the candidate that shows up unannounced, talks their way into HR and gets a job on the spot.  How about the one of the candidate wearing a sandwich board, announcing his work availability?  How about we send unique gifts, perhaps a singing telegram or a cheesecake, to hiring managers?

I understand why these legends persist.  There is a lot of competition out there, and it’s easy to think that unusual moves will be the ones that cut through the noise.  However, I have a news flash:   Bold job search moves are not required.  In the most competitive market, the basics count for much more because basic job search skills and common sense often are given short shrift in the market panic.  Many more jobseekers are out, and the majority haven’t search in awhile.  Their techniques are outdated and sloppy.  If you come in with a clean, tight job search that cuts through the noise:

• Tailor your marketing (e.g., resume, pitch, cover letter) to your specific job target.

• Practice your phone demeanor. You need excellent telephone skills to schedule all these meetings you need to be getting, and first interviews are often done via phone screen.

• Master the common interview questions. Don’t let a real interview be the first time you are saying the key points you need to make. PS: Know the key points you need to make.

• Know how to network and follow-up in a compelling and respectful manner.

Many jobseekers say they already know the above, but I know that’s not true because I saw poor job search skills as a former recruiter and I see them now as a career coach.  Stop trying to be bold.  Start with perfecting the basics.  Good bold moves are when you take the basics and infuse them with your unique personality.  But you can’t do that until you master the basics first.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine, career coach, writer, speaker, Gen Y expert and co-founder of SixFigureStart™ (www.sixfigurestart.com), coaches jobseekers using a recruiter’s perspective of what employers really want and how the hiring process really works. Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline has recruited for Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, Time Inc and others. Caroline is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs and a life coach (www.thinkasinc.com).

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Is It Possible To Over-Prepare For An Interview

In just this past week, several of my clients have sounded tired during our interview practice.  I even got a very detailed response that was related to, but not quite exactly on point to what I had asked.  These are hardworking jobseekers who I know are diligently working through the coaching assignments.  Is it possible to over-prepare for interviews?

Most jobseekers don’t prepare enough.  So don’t use this column as permission to slack off your search.  You still need to research the company, industry and specific individuals you will be meeting.  You still need to stay abreast of current events and be able to engage in timely discussions.  You still need to have the 3-4 key message points that will present you in the best light and position you appropriately for the specific job at hand.  So there is much work to do, and over-preparation is a rare problem.

Still, I’ve seen over-prepared candidates and other recruiters have seen them, so it’s worth discussing.  Over-preparation is when your answers sound rehearsed.  You lose the spontaneity and thoughtfulness in your responses.  Your answers may be relevant but not exactly on point because you sidestep the exact question and instead jump to the points you’ve memorized in your head. 

There is a better balance between under- and over-preparation, and the secret ingredient is listening.  For all interviews, you need to research and prepare your overarching message.  But with each interaction you need to listen to what is uniquely happening at that moment and adjust accordingly.  This means that you laser focus when you have an anxious or tough interviewer.  You let the story structure meander when you have a conversational interviewer.  You are ready with details or you move on depending on your read of what the interviewer wants.  In other words, you prepare in advance a wide range of responses but react to the moment at hand.  Preparation and practice is not a substitute for listening in the moment.  A good interview is a conversation to experience, not a monologue to prepare.

 Caroline Ceniza-Levine, career coach, writer, speaker, Gen Y expert and co-founder of SixFigureStart™ (www.sixfigurestart.com), coaches jobseekers using a recruiter’s perspective of what employers really want and how the hiring process really works. Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline has recruited for Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, Time Inc and others. Caroline is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs and a life coach (www.thinkasinc.com).

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TPE’s Must-Read Books For Women Entrepreneurs

Mike Michalowicz of Toilet Paper Entrepreneur has canvassed women entrepreneurs for a list of must-read books for women entrepreneurs.  My pick is #128, Mother’s Work by Rebecca Matthias.  See the full list at 

 

http://www.toiletpaperentrepreneur.com/blog/mustread-books-women-entrepreneurs

Mother’s Work

Why It’s A Must Read: Mother’s Work by Rebecca Matthias is the story of the founder of Pea in the Pod, Mimi Maternity, essentially the founder of career maternity wear. Business lessons, life lessons and inspiration abound. Plus the anecdote of how she thought one of her young kids ate a cockroach while she was busy on a call makes me feel less guilty as a fellow working mom.

Thanks To: Caroline Ceniza-Levine of SixFigureStart Career Coaching

Filed under: book review, resource recommendation, , , , , ,

Book Review: Marcus Buckingham’s The Truth About You

I like Marcus Buckingham and am already familiar with his work.  If that describes you too, then The Truth About You is a great refresher of the traditional Buckingham material.  If you’re new to his stuff, I would start with the meatier Now Discover Your Strengths

The Truth About You outlines 5 pieces of career advice that are counterintuitive and originally presented.  I welcome Buckingham’s candid advice for readers to take control of structuring their own day to day jobs and long-term careers — to identify what they like to do, to identify what companies value (and therefore what you’ll be paid to do), to pay attention over the long-term so that you continue doing what you like.

The book is so breezy that it takes just an hour or so to read.  It has a companion DVD and special note paper which adds more heft.  I don’t know if I would have enjoyed the book as much had I not already read several of Buckingham’s previous books.  I found myself wanting more specific examples and instructions to put the advice into play.  But all in all, these are great ideas and well worth the time it takes to read them.  This would also be a great book club selection because the ideas lend temselves to open-ended discussion.

Filed under: book review, career coaching, , , ,

Avoiding Burnout From Your Job Search

Recently, I was interview coaching an otherwise very qualified and hardworking jobseeker.  Her vibe was frustrated, closed and all around unpleasant.  Essentially, she was a perfect example of the burned out jobseeker.  When you’re burned out from your job search, your interview responses get defensive.  You come across as an energy drain when you network.  You dismiss leads prematurely because you assume the worst.  Here are some ways to combat burnout before it derails your job search: 

Schedule weekly breaks from your search.  Many jobseekers I see start their search with a flurry of work and then go cold.  Then they restart, only to stop again.  Regular, systematic action is the best pace for your search, so schedule regular, systematic breaks as well.  Maybe a Wednesday afternoon at a museum, or an evening class unrelated to your search.  An added bonus is that these extra-curriculars are great examples of being well-rounded and interesting outside your professional work.

Pick an optimistic job search buddy.  Working with someone is a great way to stay motivated and have built-in accountability.  But beware that get-togethers don’t devolve into pity parties.  It’s okay to be candid if you’re feeling down but you have to move on, so pick a partner who will help you do that.

Celebrate wins big and small.  Keep a tab of the things that are going well with your search – the new people you’ve met, the old friends you’ve reconnected with, those meetings where both parties hit it off.  You should be constantly reviewing your search anyway to find the things that work for you that you can repeat and also to troubleshoot areas to fix.  But don’t forget to celebrate the things that are working also to remind yourself that, yes, you can do this, and it’s just a matter of time. 

We all have been to parties with the guest that just sucks the fun out of anyone they meet.  You don’t want to be that person.  Refresh as needed.  Hang out with positive people.  Encourage yourself with real evidence from past wins.  Avoid job search burnout at all costs. 

Contributed by Caroline Ceniza-Levine of SixFigureStart™. Caroline Ceniza-Levine, career coach, writer, speaker, Gen Y expert and co-founder of SixFigureStart™ (www.sixfigurestart.com), coaches jobseekers using a recruiter’s perspective of what employers really want and how the hiring process really works. Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline has recruited for Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, Time Inc and others. Caroline is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs and a life coach (www.thinkasinc.com).

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From Entrepreneur To Employee

I took this last year to work on a business idea. I’ve had some success but am unsure of the long-term viability of the business so I’d like to start looking for a corporate job. How do I explain my past year without coming across as a business failure?

Many of the people who will interview you, for both informational and job interviews, will not view the transition back to corporate as a failure. So it’s important not to telegraph this by being apologetic or speaking sheepishly of your business. Instead focus on your accomplishments with the business and the revenue that you did generate. Give details of how you estimated the market for the business. Even though it turned out that the market might be too small, it is a valuable skill to be able to research and understand a market. Finally, be excited and proud that you had the courage to go for it when many people stop at the analysis stage. Your level of engagement is infectious, and people will see your can-do spirit and risk-taking in a positive light, regardless of the ultimate outcome.

That said, don’t overplay your accomplishments, or people will not understand why you are walking away. You might come across as unwilling to stay through difficult times – a grit factor that is vital to both entrepreneurs and employees. Be certain to document the milestones you do talk about in case people think you are exaggerating your claims. Clips of publicity and client testimonials are two examples of how you might showcase your business. Finally, give a great reason why you are coming back to corporate that is unrelated to your business. Prospective employers want to feel like you are drawn to them, not running away from your business.

Contributed by Caroline Ceniza-Levine of SixFigureStart™.  Caroline Ceniza-Levine, career coach, writer, speaker, Gen Y expert and co-founder of SixFigureStart™ (www.sixfigurestart.com), coaches jobseekers using a recruiter’s perspective of what employers really want and how the hiring process really works. Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline has recruited for Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, Time Inc and others. Caroline is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs and a life coach (www.thinkasinc.com).

Filed under: career coaching, , , ,

Book Review: Hard Lessons by Jonathan Schorr

I always like reading about industries unfamiliar to me firsthand because success and obstacles have common threads across industries, and looking from the outside in often gives a perspective that is tough to see when you’re waist deep in immediate issues.  Jonathan Schorr’s Hard Lessons is a play-by-play of Oakland’s struggle to open charter schools in the inner city.  Told from multiple points of view — teacher, student, parent, administration — it’s a fascinating story but also a good coaching book.  Some lessons from Hard Lessons:

Progress can take a while.  Schorr spends time describing the difficult start-up phase before and after the charter schools opened.  You can feel how slow and seemingly hopeless the circumstances were.  Yet, because we can see the fruits of plowing through the difficulty, we get the benefit (without the interminable wait) of hindsight and the encouragement that we too can prevail if we want something as badly as some of those parents wanted a good education for their kids.

But just because we push doesn’t mean we have to rush.  Some of the biggest problems came when decisions were rushed — hiring calls where no references were checked, teachers using an approach without training and therefore digging a deeper hole for themselves.  There are numerous examples of haste makes waste here.  It reminds us that even when we want to move things forward, we shouldn’t push things.

Sometimes you need to reconsider options you earlier might have dismissed.  The parents who lobbied so hard against the district schools later aligned themselves with the district when a new administration came in.  Great lesson on how we shouldn’t be afraid to go back, reassess, and perhaps move in a direction that was not ideal before.  Our circumstances change, and we should always adjust for what’s best now, even if that means doing something deemed less than ideal before.

I strongly recommend looking at experiences and stories outside your immediate sphere of knowledge, as Hard Lessons provided for me.  You will stretch your mind, learn something new, and possibly get unstuck on something that currently feels intractable.

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Are We Working Ourselves To Death?

An interesting Fortune article by Geoff Colvin shows that the death rate decreases and healthy habits improve in recessionary times.

http://money.cnn.com/2009/10/27/news/economy/health_recession.fortune/index.htm

The article credits the declining mortality rates to having more time for exercise and cutting back on expensive cigarettes, among other improved health habits.  This is a great reminder to the currently employed that you don’t want to wait for unemployment to start living better!  Do we really have to lose our job to have time to go the gym?

Our jobs are just one part of our lives.  Even if we work a 10-hour day, that leaves a good 3-5 hours AND weekends for other activities.  Balance out the career focus with exercise, sleep, personal hobbies, reading, community and spiritual involvement, taking care of your finances, seeing friends and family, and other activities that will keep you well-rounded, sane, and healthy.  Make a list today of fun things to do, and check one off your list every weekend till year-end.  This week I’ll be at the New York Botanical Gardens for the Japanese Kiku exhibit.  What fun things do you have planned?

Filed under: life coaching, resource recommendation, , , , , ,

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