Welcome to SixFigureStart®

Career Coaching by Former Fortune 500 Recruiters

Some men have thousands of reasons why they cannot do what they want to; all they need is one reason why they can. – Willis Whitney

What is the why behind what you do and what you strive for? 

Are you getting a better life for your family?  Are you changing a market?  Are you changing the world? 

Sometimes you don’t need to worry about the How.  Get back in touch with the Why.  The rest is just tactics.

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Book Review: In-N-Out Burger by Stacy Perman

If you like business books and biographies, “In-N-Out Burger” by Stacy Perman is an exhaustive foray into the Snyder family business that became this beloved food chain.  I love books like this because you can see the obstacles and hardships up close.  Sometimes there are explicit lessons and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to share in the insights.  Sometimes, it forces you to think about how you feel and where you stand in your business or career and life decisions. 

Is staying small the way to go for a business with widespread appeal? 

Is family succession the right thing?

Does promoting from within reward long-term hard work or breed insularity?

In-N-Out grew up around a time when women didn’t play prominent roles, but has this changed now for them and for the other businesses with the same history?  Or is there too much of an ingrained culture there and elsewhere for women to make inroads?  What advice would I share with my daughters seeing how much ground women need to catch up on?

If you like the food chain or are a foodie in general, this is a good read.  For the general public, it’s somewhat long and dry but it’s thorough and clearly well-researched.

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Play Good Defense In Your Job Search

In a previous column, I talked about the importance of being proactive in the job search.  In my encouragement of playing offense, I do not dismiss the role of good defensive moves.  Defense keeps the players in the game and gives them a chance to win.  Good defense keeps you in a thorough, thoughtful and proactive job search so you get a job that you want and not just any job you settle for. 

The first coaching session I have with clients includes a 60-point checklist around career items AND a 40-point checklist around life items, most of which are NOT career-related.  Why?  There is no way I can coach someone on their career and not take into account the other aspects in their life that will influence their ability to focus, their willingness to do the work of the job search, their risk appetite.  Having a solid foundation in the other, non-career related aspects of your life (e.g., relationships, personal finances, health and well-being) is good defense and critical to keeping you in top job search form.

I also ask about money in the first session because it dictates how much time and energy someone has to focus on their search:  how much savings?  What other cash is coming in?  Are there freelance or consulting prospects to take financial pressure off so we can focus on what is best for the long-term career?  A solid cash position is good defense.  I’ve seen too many jobseekers let fear and desperation dictate their job search choices.  Get the money part taken care of as a separate focus of your search with temp work or consulting, but reserve some energy for long-term career investment.

Finally, there is the temptation to run as hard and as fast as you can from the start, with no time off and no rest.  Some people think this means they’ll be faster to market and get ahead.  Rest and reflection is good defense.  When you push too hard, you may come across as pushy.  You may push in the wrong direction and not realize it.  You may burn out before any of your efforts have a chance to pay off.  Remember that your search is a meeting of your efforts and what the market will bear.  You have to be able to stay in the search (game) long enough for the market to come and meet you. 

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert, writer, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart (www.sixfigurestart.com), a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters.  Caroline is a co-author (along with Donald Trump, Jack Canfield and others) of the upcoming “How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times” due out March 2010; Bascom Hill Books.  Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline most recently headed University Relations for Time Inc and has also recruited for Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, and others.  Caroline is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs, a life coach (www.thinkasinc.com) and a columnist for CNBC.com, Conde Nast’s Portfolio.com, Vault.com, Wetfeet.com and TheGlassHammer.com.

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Let us choose to believe something good can happen. — J. Martin Kohe

What would happen if you focused on the upside in the decisions you make?  Would you take more risks?  Would you feel better?  Would you make different choices altogether?

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What Are The Market Prospects For 2010?

I often get market-related questions:  what are employment prospects; what are the hot industries; who is hiring.  Keep in mind that employment statistics for your career planning are not worth following.  Fears of 10% unemployment are misplaced.  The statistic you care about is either 0% or 100%; are you employed or not.  The next question to ask is, “Are you in the job you want or not?”  So regarding market prospects for 2010, the short answer is, “Why should you care?”

Focus on your individual career.  Yes, all things being equal, I would pursue growing over shrinking industries.  But all things aren’t equal.  It is more important to know your values, skills and interests and align them with the correct industry, function and company, rather than picking employers and force-fitting yourself into them.

Let the market react to you.  The market is invaluable in that it does provide guidance on what your skills are worth and how you are perceived.  If you are aiming for certain jobs or titles or salary levels and not getting a first meeting, you need to find out if you are off-base with what you are targeting or simply not positioning yourself properly for what you want.  Rather than reading market news and trying to incorporate that into your planning, act on your best plans, collect market feedback specific to your activities and adjust accordingly.

Go for the ideal, not the available.  The reality is that a career is always a coupling of what you bring to the table and what the market will bear.  So I don’t dismiss the importance of what is available in the market.  But markets expand and new markets emerge, so when you look at what’s available now, you are not seeing the full possibilities.  When you aim instead for your ideas and look for a way to bring that to market, you include market expansion and creation in your potential outcomes.  Going for the ideal gives you more opportunity.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert, writer, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart (www.sixfigurestart.com), a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters.  Caroline is a co-author (along with Donald Trump, Jack Canfield and others) of the upcoming “How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times” due out March 2010; Bascom Hill Books.  Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline most recently headed University Relations for Time Inc and has also recruited for Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, and others.  Caroline is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs, a life coach (www.thinkasinc.com) and a columnist for CNBC.com, Conde Nast’s Portfolio.com, Vault.com, Wetfeet.com and TheGlassHammer.com.

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Play Offense In Your Job Search

As most of us have football playoffs on the brain, it’s helpful to look at the lessons that translate from the sports field to the job search field.  The idea that offense wins the game is particularly relevant in this job market where anxiety and uncertainty about the market abound.  It’s easy not to fault jobseekers for playing it safe.  I have even advised jobseekers to remember that Bold Job Search Moves Are Not Required.  But while I don’t suggest every job search tactic be the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass, the reality is that defense just keeps you in the search, but offense gets you the job

Reviewing your resume over and over again for typos is defense.  Positioning your resume with the language and detail that gets you the job you want is offense.  Positioning is proactive.  You are targeting specific opportunities and putting yourself out there to attract these.

Rekindling old contacts and reconnecting with friends is defense.  You are maintaining your network, and while that’s good, it’s incomplete.  Seeking out those people who are specific decision-makers in your areas of interest and developing a relationship with them is offense.  You are proactively (there’s that word again!) making opportunities for yourself, rather than relying on whomever you happen to know or come across.

Scouring the job boards and filling out applications is defense.  You are covering your bases, but you are reacting to someone else’s (the employers’) moves.  Identifying specific companies that you want to serve, researching their pain points, and positioning yourself as the solution is offense.  You are not waiting for something to open up.  You make something open up.  You make the employer realize that they have a need, and you fill that need, and you proactively (more proactive behavior!) make the match.

Playing offense does not mean being risky or reckless.  It just means being thoughtful and brave enough to do those activities that will make things happen for you, rather than let things happen to you.  If the dream job is the goal, where are you on your field?  What are you going to do to score?  You can’t just block your competitors.  You yourself must enter the end zone, cross that finish line, or make that play.  It’s always your move.  Get on the offensive in your job search.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert, writer, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart (www.sixfigurestart.com), a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters.  Caroline is a co-author (along with Donald Trump, Jack Canfield and others) of the upcoming “How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times” due out March 2010; Bascom Hill Books.  Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline most recently headed University Relations for Time Inc and has also recruited for Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, and others.  Caroline is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs, a life coach (www.thinkasinc.com) and a columnist for CNBC.com, Conde Nast’s Portfolio.com, Vault.com, Wetfeet.com and TheGlassHammer.com.

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So many people end up fixated on doing things right, that they end up doing nothing at all. — Wright Brothers

Are you doing something?

Filed under: life coaching, ,

SixFigureStart in KoreAm on The Young and Unemployed

“There is definitely a sense of anxiety for students, recent graduates,” says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, co-founder of SixFigureStart, a career-coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters. “People are hearing that jobs are picking up, but they’re getting mixed messages. And, a lot of them have some very big decisions to make—having to settle down or move back home.”

Read more of my job market insights, as well as anecdotes from Gen Y jobseekers in Smriti Rao’s The Young and Unemployed:

http://iamkoream.com/the-young-and-unemployed/

Filed under: career coaching, resource recommendation, , , , , , ,

Book Review: Busted by Edmund Andrews

What happened to Patty?  I was totally left hanging, and the fact that I care is a testament to the engrossing storytelling in Busted:  Life Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown.  Andrews is a NY Times economics reporter who covered the mortgage market and yet found himself a near bankrupt participant in the housing market collapse and subprime mortgage mess.  His firsthand perspective gives a human angle to the often faceless coverage of the housing market. 

This is an engaging read (I feel bad saying enjoyable given the very real and miserable circumstances of the author that led to this book).  It’s an important read:  a warning for people living on the edge financially; an inside look at the real consequences of lapses in judgment; some food for thought about how we (since we all are feeling the aftershocks) got into all of this housing trouble.   Busted provides a valuable inside perspective on one of the most defining issues of our time. 

Finally, Busted  is a love story.  So, special note to Mr. Andrews:  what happened to Patty?  Even a little footnote would have closed the loop!

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Outrageous Job Search Moves For 2010

The job market, while stabilizing, is by no means robust.  For the long-term unemployed, it will be even more competitive now as the employed but unhappy get encouraged by the improving market outlook to take a chance and start looking.  For the employed, many will find that despite the happier reporting the market is still extremely tight.  If you aren’t motivated to launch a hard-charging job search, you will get easily discouraged by this market and may be tempted to settle.  Yet, this would be a mistake.

Great things are only possible with outrageous requests. – Thea Alexander

Instead, focus on getting the job you love, not just any job.  In difficult times, it is not enough to go after just any job.  Getting just any job will be difficult, and you won’t have the interest to see it through.  But a job that you really care about will be just as difficult, and you will have something extra to get you through the ups and downs inevitable in every tough job search.

Focus on the intangibles (e.g., boss and colleagues, office culture, room for growth), not just on the basic job elements (e.g., title, salary, security).  You want to like where you work, and you want to establish career momentum.  Aiming for being lucky enough to get a job is not going to be high enough to get anything.  The higher you aim, the more likely you get more.

Focus on the long-term, despite the short-term urgency.  I absolutely coach my clients to be realistic about their cash position and personal circumstances, which may require that they take consulting, temporary or even less-than-ideal full-time jobs if their obligations dictate that.  There may be moves you make in the immediate term that will move you off your idealized long-term path.  But then you must immediately get back on there.  Don’t get complacent in your underutilized role.  Keep with the search, and dial it up a notch now that you have regained some breathing room.  It is a big mistake that many jobseekers make to get a comfortable job and forget the urgency to push for something more.  Remember you are managing a career, not any one job.

It may seem counterintuitive (and outrageous) given the tight market to recommend you shoot for the moon.  But that stretch is what you need to get anything accomplished when times are difficult.  You may as well stretch towards the direction you really want to go.

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