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Testing for Emotional Intelligence – Again

May 10, 2016

Filed under: Coaching,Management,observations — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 11:51 am

I’ve written several posts on emotional intelligence, but many people are still confused by the concepts of self-awareness, self-efficacy, and  emotional recognition.

A recent client brought the issues into sharp focus. She is a young woman, who graduated from college four years ago and has had a number of short stints (a year or so) at just-above entry-level positions at Bay Area firms.

Her most recent, was a one-year contract job which concluded four months ago.

She had asked me for help in reviewing her resume and standard cover letter to figure out why she had not been able to find a new job.

She had been offered jobs, but felt they would not provide the salary she needed. She had recently concluded that, “The market has changed. If you’re not an engineer they just feel the supply of people for administrative positions, or social marketing is just so large they don’t have to pay anything.”

She insisted that she was not looking to make a fortune but just enough to support herself and maintain the apartment she rented after she was in her contract job for a few months.

She may be right about the job market, but having lived in the Bay Area for 20 years, I don’t think so.

The job of a good coach and career counselor is to help clients see things from a different perspective.

Could it be that my client was so emotionally unaware that she could not step back and look at the facts from a different point of view. This is the key to one aspect of emotional intelligence: understanding your own strengths and weaknesses.

I suggested she ask herself the following questions:

Why was she able to find positions, but unable to find long-term success?

Was she mistaken that she had a chance at a long-term position at the company when she rented a San Francisco apartment?

With unemployment in the Bay Area and in the nation, continuing to be very low why would there be a sudden flood of folks for the positions she sought?

Was it possible that firms offering her positions really didn’t want her to accept the jobs?

Would it be worth taking a lower salaried position in the hopes that, after a while, you could prove your worth and earn a raise?

These were not comfortable concepts for her to consider. Suggesting that maybe the problem was on her end and that she needed to make some  changes  was not an option.

Emotional intelligence is, in part, the ability to question your beliefs and consider that there is something you might need to change. Perhaps you are not the perfect employee, perhaps its not ‘office politics’ that stalled your career, perhaps there’s a good reason that contract position didn’t turn into a full-time job?

Whether you answer the questions honestly is a true test of your emotional intelligence.

 

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Acing that Interview

July 6, 2015

Filed under: Coaching,Health,Management,Resumes — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 7:46 am

The government tells us that 223,000 new jobs were added to the economy last month. That means that at least 500,000 people probably had interviews.

What was the difference between the folks who got the job and the those who are still looking? Obviously, I don’t know all the factors at play, but I can offer some suggestions to help you ace your next interview.

Dealing with Stress:

Job interviews are stressful. But you need to understand that stress is normal. It’s the body’s reaction to fear. Thousands of years ago our stress reaction, shut down unnecessary systems, to allow us to focus on evading that saber-toothed tiger.Echo-Examiner-How-Strong-was

Today we sweat to cool our body temperature, our heart pumps more blood to critical organs, such as the brain, and our nervous system – infused with a chemical surge –  alerts us to the slightest change in the environment.

This is good, it helps you focus your attention on the person in front of you and the questions being asked.

Knowing that your stress reaction is normal can help you relax.

A simple breathing exercise is one way to reduce your stress. Before you enter the building find a quiet spot where you can just sit and breathe deeply. Focus on your breath trying to visualize yourself as relaxed and calm.

And finally: smile –research shows that this one act, will help relax your mind and body.

What to Wear:

You need to dress like you already belong.

The assumption is that you have done some research before you applied, but now you need to explore the company culture.

Does everyone wear business attire every day? Do most men wear ties, are women expected to wear skirts or business suits? The only way to find out might be to visit before your interview.

At many places in Silicon Valley (i.e. Google, Facebook, Apple) what you wear is much different than your ‘uniform’ for a Wall Street Interview.

The old saying, ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression,’ is true. When in doubt, a suit that says you are serious about the opportunity, is always the best choice. Looking sharper than your interviewer is always better than the other way around.

At the end of the interview I would rather be told, I’ll never wear my suit to work again, than I need a new wardrobe.

How to Act:

I was once told to mirror my interviewer. If he or she reached out to shake hands, fine, but don’t offer your sweaty palm first.

If the interviewer crossed their legs, I could too.

But this is all part of communication – which is 70% visual. By the time you get to the interview, chances are good that you fit the technical requirements to do the job and they are looking more at your personality and ‘soft skills.’

Many times interviewers form an opinion in the first five minutes and then spend the rest of the interview trying to prove themselves correct. Google claims they have developed a system to prevent this cognitive bias, but the statistics don’t suggest their practices insure better choices.

One other tip, make sure you have your own copy of the resume you submitted. You want to make sure your interviewer is reading things correctly.

I parrot my third grade teacher, Miss Opie, when I advise clients, “sit up straight, pay attention, don’t chew gum and speak clearly.” Always be honest and if you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it, and agree to find out.

Many firms are famous for asking brain teaser questions to test problem-solving skills. I think they are less than useful, unless they are directly related to the job. Unfortunately they still exist, despite the fact that there is no evidence they prove anything beyond whether you can solve that particular problem.

I am particularly bad at them, and once when challenged at an interview, simply declined, saying it was not a true test of my ability. Yeah, I did not get the job, but I felt it was probably not a place I wanted to work anyway.

Remember this is a two-way street, so be prepared with questions of your own. Not specifics about pay or benefits, there’s time for that after you get an offer, but about the company and what they do. Maybe even current trends in the industry.

With any luck, the first interviewer will ask you to stay for a while to speak with a few more people – maybe a manager or co worker – so be prepared for a longer stay. Don’t be afraid to stash an energy bar in your pocket or purse to avoid hunger pains. A quick trip to the restroom gives you a break and some time for a snack. (Just make sure you check your teeth before you return)

How do you handle an interview panel? Not easily.

It’s impossible for one person to think as quickly as three, so it’s inherently unfair. Always address your answer to the person who asked the question, and don’t be afraid to pause, and collect your thoughts before you respond. You are not in a time competition.

And, when the panel members start arguing about a question (they always do) stay out of the fight and take advantage of the time, and breathe.

With any luck, the preparation and the talent that got you to the interview in the first place will be your biggest asset. Hopefully, when next month’s employment numbers come out you will be among those with a new job.

 

 

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Career Conundrums

April 18, 2015

Filed under: Coaching,Management,observations,Tech — Tags: , , — admin @ 5:51 am

Everyone needs a career coach. I realize that’s a bit self-severing coming from a career coach, but it’s true.

The thought occurred to me this week when I received LinkedIn requests to congratulate my connections who were passing employment milestones.

What is your next career?

What is your next career?

Everyone has questions, no matter what stage their career has reached.

The new college graduate wonders about accepting a job offer, thinking she doesn’t want to ‘get stuck’ doing ‘that job’ for the rest of her life.It seems to be a revelation when I point out that the job will change quickly, and in the current  job climate, 1 year may be a career.

Young people who have reached the 1-year mark, start to worry all over again about what they should be doing next. They’ve had one boss and are convinced they could do his job.

They see a friend or two changing jobs and wonder if they should be looking too. In most cases they haven’t even bothered to ask their current employer what their future might look like, if they stayed.

I can remember calls from clients who have been working in the same position for 3 or 4 years and have developed enough maturity to question what they want to do next. Some just know, they don’t want to do what they have been doing, but don’t realize how valuable that knowledge is. At least they’re  beginning to understand how lucky they are to have a choice and how many choices there are.

Ask a lot of older employees with well established careers, and they’ll be happy to point out  that they have no idea’ how they got to this stage in their careers, it wasn’t a plan, it just happened.

Then, there are the long-term employees who have worked for the same company for 5 or 10 years, and have actually earned a reputation and may have gotten a call from a recruiter. The knowledge that someone may actually value your skills has to be weighed against what are now, significant financial and family obligations. The decision gets much tougher since it may involves children, spouses, extended family and a host of other issues.

It’s impossible to make decision like that dispassionately, because everyone you talk to, except a coach, has an opinion.

Finally there are people who have spent 20 or more years with one company.These veterans are wondering about all the decisions they have made, and how they just woke up one morning and wondered,  “Is that all there is?” I have yet to meet a client at this stage who doesn’t, at some point tell me, “Ya know, what I really want to do is start a company that…” You fill in the blank.

They are often speak glowingly about their idea or dream and the enthusiasm is infectious. The trick becomes trying to figure out why they haven’t created their new career. Working through the list of why they can’t, is often a revelation and can take several sessions. In the end , they will either realize that they might have a good idea, or that they really just like having the dream.

Whatever career anniversary you’re having, a coach can’t make decisions for you, but we can make sure you ask the right questions.

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Unconscious Bias

September 24, 2014

Filed under: Coaching,Health,Management,observations,Wellness — Tags: , , , — admin @ 11:56 am

A lot has been written over the last year about steps Silicon Valley companies are taking to combat bias in hiring.

In case you missed it, over 70% of the workforce at many firms, is white and male. A recent NYT article details the problem and some proposed solutions.

But I think the issue is closer to most people’s homes than they realize. A recent example helps prove my point.

My ophthalmologist, is the mother of twins , a boy and a girl. I have been seeing her for almost 15 years so I’ve followed the normal trials and tribulations of parenting.

The children are now, at 15, starting to make choices about college and careers. At my last appointment the doctor said the young man had really applied himself and was looking forward to technology/science as a career and was looking at top tech schools.

When I asked about her daughter, the doctor said she found math and science “too hard,” adding,”all my friends just want to get Liberal Arts degrees.” The doctor’s response,”Well, OK, if that’s what you want.”

I was slightly appalled, and my expression must have revealed my thoughts, because she asked, “Do you think I should have pushed her more?”

We had a lengthy discussion, in between eye chart readings. But it made me wonder how many other subtle signals the little girl had received about avoiding math and science.

It’s no surprise the Silicon Valley workforce is overwhelmingly male, if even a professional women, in a field that certainly required some science (ophthalmology), wouldn’t even urge her daughter to consider science and math because they are “too hard.”

Maybe  a short visit with an unbiased career counselor/coach would help break through the peer pressure and produce a few more female engineers for the next great startup.

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Getting Away, Southwest Style

July 16, 2013

Filed under: Coaching,Management,observations,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 2:45 pm

By now most of us are pretty bored with stories pointing out bad customer service on airlines. But sometimes they can lead to a valuable management lesson. At least I hope so, and if not I’m sure I’ll feel better anyway.

Recently, I was traveling from Boise, Idaho to Oakland, California on Southwest. Plane was scheduled to leave at 6:50 p.m. and was, of course, the last flight out to the Bay Area that day.

Unexpectedly I arrived early, only to find that the flight was ‘delayed slightly’ according to the agent at the ticket counter. So, 6:50 departure, became 7:05, then 7:30 and then 7:55 and then 8:30. By now it was 6:00 and the gate area was filled with folks waiting for a gate agent to see if their connections would be O.K. One traveler even unsuccessfully called the airport paging service to ask that an agent come down to the gate area.

Around the time we should have been boarding, an agent finally shows up and promptly walks away to use the rest room. O.k, so nature calls, it happens. Of course, when she returns she is inundated with passengers wanting to know what to do about their connections.

Her first act is to get on the PA system and say, “Look, I really don’t know what’s going on, and until I do, I don’t have any answers. These things happen all the time, but the more you people stand up here asking me questions the longer it will take me to sort this out, so please do not come to the desk area.”

Two hundred shocked passengers retreated in fear.

But, here’s my point. Southwest knew the flight was delayed when they sent her to the gate, don’t you think she should have known what was coming and possibly checked out the situation before she got to the desk?

Flight delays may happen to her all the time, but to most of the ticket holders in the waiting area, it was just a bit more stress they didn’t need.

Eventually, it all got sorted out and people were rerouted and booked on flights the next day…and we made it back to the Bay Area 2.5 hours late. But it sure seems like a manager might have suggested she show up prepared, so that she wouldn’t be treating her paying customers like third graders waiting for recess.

Certainly made me an ex-Southwest customer.

 

 

 

 

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Who am I?

June 21, 2013

As many of my twitter followers  (@eariess) may know I appear on a weekly radio show in Sonoma, CA. As the newest member of the cast, they (Jim and Rick) decided to investigate the interloper (me) for their listeners.

But I also wrote a short note for the hosts newsletter, which I thought I’d reproduce here. (My nickname is Ace–don’t ask why, it’s a long story):

Jim, Rick,

Thanks for the chance to talk to the good folks of Sonoma.

Of course, on the way home, I thought of all the stuff I should have said:
Who is ace?

I am a husband devoted to the love of my life- the Queen- the world’s first Concierge Wellness Consultant
I am a step-dad to two women, who despite my meddling in 10 years of their life, turned out pretty well.
I am, and will forever be, a journalist, newsman and writer, even if I never write the great American novel.
I am a coach who takes pride in helping my clients find the path they want.
I am a photographer, although digital imaging, as it’s called today, will never have the same ring.
I am a gardener, who takes pride in my 100 roses, and the beauty I try to bring to the world.
I am my father’s son, and hope that they have a radio up where he is, so he can listen to me and my good friends entertain a small corner of California.

Thanks,
Ace

You can download the podcast to the show –part 1, the first hour or part 2 ,the second hour.

BTW: The weekly newsletter is worth reading, so if you want to receive it on a regular basis, write to Thisweekinsonoma@aol.com  just note that Ace suggested you sign up.

 

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So You’re a Writer

August 24, 2012

Filed under: Coaching,observations,Uncategorized — Tags: , — admin @ 8:38 am

If you are really interested in becoming a writer, take a look at this list and pay attention.

That’s it, no further explanation is necessary.

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Happiness is Everywhere

April 5, 2012

Suddenly, it seems that we are consumed with the search for one of our ‘inalienable rights.’ It’s not that Americans just rediscovered the Declaration of Independence, or Will Smith’s 2006 movie, but rather, it seems to be the latest social science trend.

Consider it the replacement for behavioral economics the science that became popular after the book Freakonomics tried to explain how economics could explain human behavior. For a few years there was a new book out every month explaining why humans are irrational and how we could be led to do anything with the right incentive.

Now, it seems that happiness, and the apparently futile search for it, has reached the top of the grad student research list. Last month Harvard Business Review (subscription required) focused a whole issue on employee happiness; two weeks ago I received a brochure advertising a full day seminar offered in 8 convenient locations guaranteed to provide me with “effective ways to measure happiness.”

Daniel Gilbert’s “Stumbling on Happiness,” a 2006 best seller may have sparked the recent interest. Gilbert’s book is a well-written and very interesting explanation of how humans define happiness, what it is or is not, and a slightly depressing conclusion that the human mind may never allow us to truly understand what will make us happy. He offers some solace that, at least now that we understand how the human mind works, we will know why we can never  find happiness.

Interestingly the writing style and reasoning of the book is quite similar to many of the behavioral economics books, such as “Nudge” or Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational.”

Andrew Weil’s “Spontaneous Happiness,” takes a different approach, offering suggestions for helping us find happiness. His is a less scientific approach and is more a lengthy essay on his own observations about happiness. He offers a number of suggestions of helpful methods to help his readers achieve a state of happiness.

If you are familiar with Dr. Weil’s work you will not be surprised that his suggestions run range from yoga and mindfulness meditation to more secular pursuits such as social activities or laughter. He even offers an ‘8-week Program for Optimal Well Being.”

Dan Buettner, author of “Blue Zones’ which explores circumstances surrounding the lives of the world’s oldest citizens has offered “Thrive – Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way.” He investigates (and I use that term very loosely) the places around the planet judged to include the happiest populations according to annual surveys.

With apologies to Walt Disney, among the happiest places on earth appear to be parts of Mexico, Denmark, Singapore and San Luis Obispo, California. Even Buettner doesn’t seem to believe that any place in Mexico could be judged happy given the violence, but he doesn’t let that stop him from interviewing the population in an attempt to compile a list of factors that will lead to happiness.

After his trips, Buettner develops a list of “Finding Ways to Thrive” which includes items such as ‘put friends first,’ ‘grow a garden’ or ‘get into teaching.’ While many of his suggestions are valid, and some may apply to a lot of readers, his list is so long and tries to be so inclusive that it’s almost useless in trying to help anyone find happiness.

I have no idea what the answer is. Even Gilbert notes that happiness may be impossible to measure because we all use a different scale. A good friend of mine once suggested that unhappiness is caused by expectations not meeting reality. Maybe the answer lies in taking a more honest look at assessing what your own reality is.  And that’s something a coach can help you figure out.

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Dick Bolles Webinar

November 16, 2011

Filed under: Coaching,observations,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — admin @ 10:04 pm

For the last few years, Dick Bolles, author of the well-known “What Color is Your Parachute”  has offered week-long seminars at his home. Small groups have gathered to explore their own purpose and goals.

Now Dick says he’s too busy to continue with the seminars. He’s got 6 books to finish so he’s ended the sessions until he gets caught up.

But he has agreed to conduct some webinars, where you can hear his views on the current job market, simply by sitting at your computer. Use this link to sign up for the first event, January 13.

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What Color IS your Parachute? – A Review

October 24, 2011

Dick Bolles, or Richard Nelson Bolles- as many folks know him, has been writing his ‘Parachute’ books on career development for 40 years. The latest edition of his signature series continues to be a must-read for anyone looking for a new career or the thousands of career specialists who have followed in Bolles’ footsteps.

You might think that, at 84, the internet or current events might have passed Bolles by, but his 2012 “What Color is My Parachute,’  is up-to date and filled with the same kind of useful information contained in the other 39 versions. In addition to the links I was particularly impressed with his comments about the Microsoft purchase of Skype and what it might mean for distance coaching.

You may not agree with everything he says or suggests, but he lays out sound guidance on everything from finding your mission to negotiating pay.

What you won’t find is any reference to parachutes or colors- a burden that Bolles has been saddled with, since the title of his book was first suggested. When I met Bolles recently he was careful to explain where the phrase came from – an offhand remark he once made about some Episcopal ministers who were going to be out of jobs soon – and that it really has no relationship to his lifelong work.

Bolles uses the tried and true techniques he discovered by accident 40 years ago and combines them now with web resources to create a modern tool for job hunting. His links and references, which are also available on his website, are well worth the price of the book.

They key component of his work is the self-inventory ‘Flower Exercise’ that he suggests everyone use to both define their job search and their skill set. The reality is that you don’t have to wait until you need to look for a job to use the exercise since  everyone should probably do this kind of self assessment on a regular basis.

Starting the search for a new job does not just occur when you are out of work but can happen any time.

Bolles writes in a simple, folksy style that is easy to understand  and very clear. There is no professional gibberish or double-speak that many professionals like to use. It’s just information, suggestions, strategies and real world common sense.

You may not use everything, but it can be a helpful foundation for self exploration as well as practical tips for interviewing and research. I have some issues with his suggestions for trying to research jobs by setting up informational interviews. I don’t think it’s as easy to do as he suggests but I would never suggest that you shouldn’t try.

Bolles, a former Episcopal minister, makes no secret of his faith and its role in his life and career. He makes no apologies, but tries to limit his faith-based approach to the ‘Pink Pages’ in the appendix but it doesn’t detract from his advice and the usefulness of the book.

Bolles also offers advice for career coaches. In fact it seems at times that his book is directed at coaches and not just the average job hunter. But in my mind that just makes it more useful. His suggestions for finding a coach are important no matter what side of the equation you are on.

One note: I bought the e-book version of the book and while it makes it much easier to get directly to the many links listed, it has made a mess of the charts and graphics. Having read other e-books I know this does not have to be the case, but it’s unfortunate. I hope it will corrected, but I plan to purchase a printed edition anyway.

In short, not matter what version you buy, read the book and you’ll be much closer to a successful career.

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