A few years ago, I did a full-day workshop on transition for a group of alumni of Bentley College. Right after we finished lunch, just before we started back again, someone expressed frustration with the inefficiency and wastefulness of traditional job-search practices, and I made the offhand remark, “If I had my way, we’d throw out resumes and stop networking.”
It was as if an electric charge went through the room. Thirty business professionals, all of them well-trained in the standard job-search methodologies, came alive. They knew instinctively there had to be a better way.
I’ve often wished I could have put aside the agenda I had planned for the afternoon to pursue the subject with them. What I suspect would have happened is that they would have told me they keep following the standard practices because they don’t know what else to do. The inability to answer the question, “What do I do instead?” is the reason people looking for work keep doing the same old things and expecting different, less frustrating results.
If you’ve decided to launch a new business venture, you’ll find plenty of books telling you how to go about writing a business plan, securing financing, setting up payroll, etc.
Likewise, if you’ve been laid off or you’ve decided you want to make a change, there’s no lack of information on how to start a job search.
But where do you turn when your start-up activities are completed, and things aren’t going so well, when the initial excitement you felt at owning your own business has cooled, and no one is walking in the door, or you’ve perfected your career marketing package, and the phone isn’t ringing. There are far fewer resources for dealing with the low points in our professional lives.
Fortunately, however, there is The Art of Possibility by Roz and Ben Zander. Ben Zander is conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, professor of music at New England Conservatory, and a speaker on leadership and creativity. His wife Roz is an executive coach and family systems therapist.
In last month’s column I described how a consultative sales approach made it possible for employees who were unaccustomed to functioning as salespeople to be effective in that role.
A consultative sales approach is just as valuable to people who are engaged in work search, whether they have been laid off or have chosen to go out on their own. After all, work search is sales, and many people who find themselves thrown into it feel out of their element.
Yet they can be effective and comfortable in selling themselves if they pattern their work search on a consultative approach rather than aggressively cultivating leads and pushing to close the deal.>
In last month’s column I talked about how educated consumers are bringing about the extinction of the hard-driving salesperson at the same time that businesses are facing unprecedented competitive challenges.
It makes perfect sense for businesses who are trying to stay profitable in this new environment to set the goal of having every employee contribute to the revenue stream. It’s the lifeblood of the organization. But forcing an aggressive sales model onto people who aren’t ready for it is counterproductive. Trying to get “non-sales” people to sell in a way that is not comfortable for them, and is no longer effective anyway, just isn’t going to work.
It leads to the loss of people who have built invaluable relationships with their customers over time, and it overlooks qualities that make them ideally suited for building new relationships that will assure long-lasting revenue streams.
There’s good news for those of us who think we can’t sell. The salesman as we have known him is becoming extinct.
The unprecedented access to information that is available at our fingertips on the Internet and elsewhere is causing his habitat of hype, bravado, and manipulation to shrink, and soon he will disappear.
He’s met his match—the educated consumer.
It may seem odd to be talking about starvation at a time when most of us are indulging in an abundance of holiday food, but the starvation I’m referring to has nothing to do with what we consume by mouth and everything to do with how we nurture our professional growth.
As I write this column (the week before Thanksgiving) I know there are business professionals who hunger for a little time and space to reflect on where they are in their lives, just as people in third world countries hunger for a bowl of rice. The difference is that for the professionals the starvation is self-imposed.
The saying, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got,” finds pathetic voice in Barbara Ehrenreich’s new book, Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream.
As she did in her previous book, Nickel and Dimed, this cultural critic formulates a theory about jobs in America and sets out to “prove” it by going undercover.
This time, instead of cleaning toilets, busing tables, and waiting on Wal-Mart customers for less than subsistence wage, sheposes as a job-beggar in corporate America. She endures an assortment of career charlatans, tweaks her resume endlessly, and sits through a series of demeaning networking experiences, all for the opportunity to sell insurance or cosmetics on straight commission with no benefits.
Unlike the frog who failed to realize he was in boiling water until it was too late, I fortunately became aware that I was chronically tired before the downward spiral this form of self-abuse inevitably triggers had taken me to the danger point.
The breakthrough came when I participated in a leadership program with Joan Goldsmith, where I was introduced to the self-assessment survey in the book Tired of being Tired: Rescue, Repair, Rejuvenate by Jesse Hanley and Nancy Deville (for details, see last month’s column).
It's 3:30 in the afternoon and I am writing this with a large pot of tea beside me. It sounds very civilized, except that I made the tea because I am tired, and I felt compelled to work on this column. Instead of taking a nap, I chose to take a stimulant and fall back into my pattern of overwork.
The good news is that I rarely do this any more, and when I do I am conscious of the choice I am making. For years, I just pushed through my fatigue and remained a victim of my own calendar and “to do” lists with absolutely no awareness of how damaging being a supercharged performer was both to my professional life and to my health.
Every summer at the Nauset Regional School here in Eastham, Massachusetts, the Cape Cod Institute hosts a number of important thought leaders in the fields of psychology and organizational development.
When I moved here seven years ago, I didn’t know that this exciting educational venue even existed, much less that it would turn out to be almost in my back yard, even closer than the beach!
Although the dream of finding and holding on the right job with the right company and never having to look for work again is still alive, there’s an increasing number of people who need look no farther than the contrast between their own and their parents’ employment histories to see that it is more myth than reality.
They have learned the hard way that security is no longer tied to a single company, no matter how impressive its corporate headquarters, stock price, or benefit package.
I was catching up with a dear friend, talking about all that had happened in her life since she was laid off from a company where she’d worked for many years. Although she had been restless long before the layoff, she had postponed taking action (despite my urging), hoping that seniority, a track record of glowing reviews, and being well-liked in the company would allow her to hang on for a few more years, long enough to cross the retirement “finish line.”