Monthly Archive for July, 2008

Career Advice: The Job Interview is Your Time at Bat

After months of searching for a new position you have finally been invited to come in for a face-to-face interview. What are you going to do to maximize your chances of getting an offer that will advance you toward your career goals.

First, decide whether or not the job would advance you toward your career success? Sometimes people interview just to see what’s in the job market. If you are not serious don’t waste everyone’s time. Besides, it could backfire if your present employer hears you are interviewing.

Remember that a job interview is a two-way process. It ought to be a time when two parties seek to gain a better understanding of each other and why it would make sense to get together.

Go into an interview with two objectives in mind. One is to gain a full understanding of the prospective employer and the position – both positives and negatives. The second goal is to get an offer.

Be prepared. This sounds too obvious to mention. But a surprisingly large number of people go waltzing into an interview unprepared, depending on luck and charm to carry the day.

Know as much as you can about the company, the position and the person who will be interviewing you.

Have a game plan. Determine the key points you want to make. Structure your presentation in terms of the needs and interests of the employer. Stress your achievements in a concise and orderly way. Many people flunk out because they are unable or unwilling to speak positively about their achievements. An interview is about career success; it’s not a time for false modesty.

No matter where the interviewer takes the discussion, return over and over to your major sales points.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Many times applicants fail to ask pertinent questions for fear of appearing to be too “pushy” or negative. To the contrary, your willingness to ask questions shows preparation, interest and a healthy state of self confidence. Such questions might include: May I read a job description? Why is the position open? Where would I fit in the overall organization? What are the opportunities to move forward on my career path?

Ask about salary after you see there is definite interest on both sides. However, don’t inquire about vacation time and other perks until an offer has been received.

Be prepared to answer tough questions, even if they come out of left field. What are your weak points and strong ones? Why do you want to change jobs? What do you think of your present employer, boss, co-workers? Have you ever been fired? Why? What is your present salary? What do you expect to be paid if you are offered the position?

Never show impatience or irritation. If the interview is going off track and you are losing interest, it is far better to bring the discussion to a graceful end, than to let these feelings show and leave a bad taste.

The importance of personal appearance cannot be overstressed. Know the environment and dress accordingly. Lean toward the conservative in dress. Sit up straight, even if the interviewer is slumped over like a wet noodle. Don’t fidget. Make and keep eye contact. Have a shine on your shoes.

Recognize the interview may begin in the reception area while you are waiting to be ushered in. Look and act like you mean business and expect to get what you want. Don’t kid around. Get a feel for the environment.

Make your best case. Avoid overselling. Show positive interest, but don’t appear to be overly anxious. Provide all the information requested, plus the points that you think are important. However, avoid giving answers that are too long and complicated.

Be very sensitive to the timing and pace of the interview. If you sense you have overstayed your time or that the interviewer has lost interest or reached a negative decision, take the initiative to bring the visit to a close. When you leave, express your appreciation for the opportunity to visit and then leave in an orderly fashion. Never, never hang on for one more run at selling yourself.

Always follow up the interview with a “thank you” note whether or not there is mutual interest. Never burn a bridge behind you.

These steps won’t guarantee an offer, but they surely will improve the odds for career success.

I wish you career success!

Ramon Grennwood, Head Career Coach
Common Sense At Work

P.S. For more career coaching such as this visit my website www.commonsenseatwork.com

Career Advice: Ambition Demands Discipline, Hard Work To Pay Off

Ambition is a sanctified ideal in the folklore of successful careers. Just the word – as in “She has always had a lot of ambition” – evokes a degree of respect and admiration.

Job Tip: However, ambition is not inherently a good and a positive force. Ambition can be used or abused. It can even become an excuse for failure. It all depends on how it is employed.

There’s good career advice to be learned from the way Clifton, a young man I knew early in his career, mismanaged his ambition.

Clifton had been in his job less than one year, and was frustrated by what he saw as his lack of progress.

“I am ambitious,” he declared repeatedly. “I will be a success, but I will never make it doing these little insignificant things day in and day out. I could do a lot more; they just won’t give me a chance.”

Career Advice: Constant Complaining Is Deadly

Joe, Clifton’s supervisor, believed the young man had potential, which hopefully could be developed and saved for the organization. But his constant complaining was getting to be a problem.

Joe called Clifton in for a performance evaluation and career counseling. The meeting soon became a confrontation when Clifton began to push his case.

“I am still doing the same old things. I know I’m paid less than the others in the department. It’s just not fair,” he began, ignoring the compliments he had been paid at the beginning of the conference.

“Clifton, you have been with us for only eleven months,” Joe replied. “You are the newest salesman; everyone else has been here at least three years. They’ve worked their way up the ladder.

“You are making fine progress, but, let’s face it, you are still short on experience. Give it a little time. You are at the beginning of your career path.”

Joe complimented Clifton again and went on to suggest that his work habits needed some improvement.

“Clifton, you are late most mornings, and you are out of here right at five o’clock. And, frankly, I think you could improve your performance by devoting a little time at nights and on weekends to learning more about your job.”

“You are not being fair,” Clifton bristled. “The company is not paying me as much as it pays the others. I work the hours you pay me for. Sure, I see you and the others staying late, but I don’t have anything to do, and besides, as I told you, I am not married to this company. You pay me and I will show you what I can do.”

Clifton’s Expectations Over The Top

“I am ambitious. I expect to be a Group Manager in six months. I just can’t wait around forever.”

Joe saw the discussion was dead-ending. He made what he thought was a fair offer.

“Let’s expand your responsibilities. You become an Assistant Group Manger. Work with Bill Davis. You will learn a lot from his experience. We’ll provide you some special training. However, I can’t give you a raise now, since our budgets are frozen, but if you do as well as I know you will, I can promise you an increase in three months.”

“That’s not fair,” Clifton charged. “Everyone in the department knows Bill is past his prime. I would just be running his errands. That would make me the laughingstock. I don’t think that is much of a promotion, certainly not what I deserve.”

Clifton never recovered from that discussion in the eyes of his supervisor. He soon left the company.

Clifton learned little from the experience. He continued to use his “ambition” as an excuse for his failure, telling everyone things hadn’t worked out at that company because he was “too ambitious to wait around there to be promoted.” He has never learned to convert his feelings into sustained efforts on his behalf and his ambitious.

Job Tip: Ambition Is Not Dreaming

Jack Douglass, a hard charging advertising executive, on the other hand, puts the subject of ambition in clear perspective:

“Ambition is not dreaming and talking about where I want to be and when I want to be there. Ambition is knowing where I want to go, how to get there, and being willing to do what it takes to reach the goal. The key is to combine ambition, which means desire, with initiative, which means action, hard work.”

Real achievers guard against mistaking restlessness for true ambition. At times, the feelings may be the same, but common sense tells us they are different. Restlessness leads to career problems. Ambition, coupled with initiative and hard work, leads to career success.

Fulfillment of ambitions requires patience on the career path. Shortcuts between a person’s ambitions and their fulfillment rarely exist.

The realization of true ambition requires a combination of three ingredients, which seem contradictory. One is strong, aggressive confidence as in “I will be successful”. The other is healthy humility, which translates into a willingness to admit, “I have a lot to learn; I will make my best effort to learn so that I earn and I am prepared to make the most of my next opportunity.” The third ingredient is hard work.

I wish you career success!

Ramon Greenwood, Head Career Coach
Common Sense At Work

P.S. I invite you to visit my website for more common sense career advice such as this: www.commonsenseatwork.com>

Career Advice: Do You Want To Be Boss?

Help me here. Am I missing something?

I have just read the reports from two national opinion surveys concerning employees’ attitude toward their bosses. The results surprised me. At the same time, I see good news for ambitious men and women who are interested in achieving career success.

A study conducted by the Business School at William and Mary University showed that only 21 percent said they would like to have their bosses’ job; 66 percent gave a resounding “no” to the question; 13 percent were undecided.

Another survey, this one by OfficeTeam, a staffing service firm, found a whopping 71 percent declared that they would rather not take the helm.

Does this mean that over two-thirds of the work force don’t want to accept increased responsibility? Do that many not want the rewards that go with higher responsibilities?

Career Tip: These results fly in the face of everything I have experienced on my long and varied career path, working in organizations of various sizes and purposes, both private and public. Maybe I have overestimated the level of ambition in the world of work.

Three Facts Of Life

Along the way, I have learned these three facts about career success:

1. Organizations cannot exist and thrive for very long without a hierarchy of bosses. We humans need structure in our endeavors and structure can’t exist without bosses.

2. Bosses get the rewards. The higher up the ladder, the richer the rewards: bigger paychecks, company cars, the corner offices, the perks of power and the prestige.

3. Rewards go to those who reach out to get them. Those who get to be bosses do so because they recognize and act on this reality.

I have never seen a successful organization where these facts didn’t apply.

Career Tip: This Is Good News

Why do I think there is good news in all of this? Because I see opportunities being unmet by those who are not willing to work for the rewards that go with responsibility and position.

This leaves the door open for is the multitude of very bright, ambitious and energetic men and women who go to work everyday, striving to advance and become boss.

The career path from the first day on the job to the corner office is not easy. But the way is wide open for those who have what it takes to make the trip. That means Opportunity with a capital O.

I write my free semi-monthly newsletter, “The Career Accelerator,” E-Books and articles for those who work at building successful career. (To learn more about these publications, please visit my website at Free Career Advice.)

If I have misread the meaning of these surveys, then I am wrong in believing what I write and my readers are wrong in taking the time to read what I write.

I wish you career success!

Ramon Greenwood, Head Career Coach
Common Sense At Work

Career Advice: Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Leader?

If you aspire to be a leader you’d do well to consider the 10 basic requirements for leadership compiled by the world famous Menninger Foundation’s Center for Applied Behavioral Sciences.

1. Courage-to assume responsibility and make mistakes.
2. Trust of oneself and others.
3. Ability to communicate-upward, laterally and downward.
4. Intuition–the ability to make decisions from the heart and the gut.
5. Concern and understanding for people at all levels.
6. Sense of purpose for self, associates and organization.
7. Sense of timing – when to move, when to hold back.
8. Integrity.
9. Sense of humor; ability to laugh at oneself and with others.
10. Ability to love oneself and others.

How do you rate?

To subscribe to my free semi-monthly newsletter, The Career Accelerator, go to Career Advice.

I wish you career success!

Ramon Greenwood, Head Career Coach
Common Sense At Work

Do You Dress For Success?

Like it or not, your style of dress on the job is a critical factor in your opportunities for a successful career. That’s according to a survey by Robert Half International’s Office Team Division, that shows 93 percent of executives believe a worker’s style of dress influences his or her chances of getting a promotion.

This means dressing according to the prevailing style among one’s co-workers. If the style is business attire, don’t buck the system and show up in jeans and running shoes. The reverse is true. If the style is casual, go for it; but don’t wear flip-flops, ragged jeans and an outrageous T-shirt.

By the way, the survey showed that a mere 4 percent of Gen Y workers want to wear business attire.

For more on such career advice, I invite you to visit my website: www.commonsenseatwork.com>

I wish you career success!

Ramon Greenwood, Head Career Coach
Common Sense At Work