These stories are true however names have been changed.
Who likes to be interviewed?
Few of us, regardless of position, enjoy being interviewed. Even those who are responsible for interviewing prospective employees generally struggle with the idea of being on the other side of the table. It’s the fear of being exposed to a grilling, being vulnerable and having to ‘sell yourself’. Mary had personally recruited many leaders and team members and been totally comfortable with her process,
but now that the boot was on the other foot she was doubting herself and feeling some pressure.
We’ve found that in these situations the key to releasing such pressure is in making it all about explaining what you have done and less about thinking about how you are going to answer the interview questions. Practising explaining what your work involves is the key.
Mary started by talking about what she ‘usually’ did and that she was responsible for a ‘broad’ range of initiatives. We had no idea what that generalisation meant and knew that any prospective employer would be equally in the dark. It took some quizzing of Mary until she was able to express what challenges she’d been faced with, how she attacked them and what kind of result she was able to generate (this is the well-known STAR methodology in disguise). Only then were we able to talk about how those skills and achievements matched up against the criteria for a position she was keen on - it was as if she’d been offered the keys to the kingdom! After a bit more practice she was delighted that she could now confidently talk about how her experience fitted the criteria and subsequently went on to a formal interview which won her the job. Interestingly, the work we had done together not only assisted her with her application but also helped her understand what she’d liked in her previous position and how well suited she was for the new position.
The truth is Mary was always going to be successful. She’d just never practised explaining what she does to get the results that have made her a success. She has more skills in her toolkit now.
So, what is it about you that best demonstrates your expertise? Which of the employer’s requirements do you meet? Are you ready to be interviewed? Maybe now’s the time to become your own expert at explaining what you’ve done, how you did it and what the outcome was?
Who knows what’s next?
A redundancy after 40 years with the one employer saw Bob wondering what was next. He didn't feel old enough to totally retire, but after the shock of not having a place to go everyday wore off, he did question what he could do. Having specialist skills he was able to undertake some contract work through an umbrella organisation (funnily enough back to where he used to work) for a period of time. With the first grandchild due, he also wanted to be able to put his hand up for regular baby-sitting one day a week. Volunteering was also discussed. Bob didn't see himself working in a charity shop, delivering or providing transport so we suggested perhaps volunteering using his specialist skill-set. A not-for-profit was found, through our network, who were very happy to have Bob on board. Bob said he found this work incredibly rewarding as he was able to help this well-known institution in a very practical way to get some procedures in place and was also able to train the staff to ensure good practice.
He subsequently went on to be a member of the Board and most recently has become their Chair. As one of our alumni Bob is always happy to share his story with our other participants and to talk about the pros and cons of consulting, volunteering and now as a board director. He has also referred his son and his son's partner to our services. They in turn have referred friends. It's how the networking works here in Tasmania.
We don't always know what's around the corner in our career. Mike was a senior manager in a large organisation and had worked his way up over the previous 15 years. He was well known in the business and industry and had a reputation for being good at what he did. On Monday he was driving with the CEO to a meeting and chatting about the $100k loan he'd just signed for renovations to his house. On Tuesday he was called into a meeting with the same CEO to be told that his role had been made redundant - but they'd like him to stay on for 2 months to complete a couple of projects.
He had several reactions: anger that the CEO hadn't trusted him enough to tell him the previous day in the car; dumbfounded that they could do without him; concerned how his wife and family were going to handle the news; worried about his team and apprehensive that this might impact his reputation. And then there was the financial commitment he'd made for the renovations.
We saw him the very next day to talk through his immediate needs, how to cope in the coming months, urge him not to burn bridges, make it work for him and get a plan together. We quickly put together a professional resume and profile, coached him to talk about himself, encouraged targetted networking, prepared applications, took him through mock interviews plus did a lot of active listening (when he needed a safe space in which to vent his ongoing frustrations).
His networking paid off and he was offered a contract working on a complex project in a different industry sector by someone who knew about his ability to work under pressure, problem-solve, keep people engaged and deliver. He's now been permanently employed with that business for several years and loves it. But, he hasn't forgotten the lessons he learnt: if you want to bounce back quickly when change strikes you need to ongoingly upskill, build relationships outside your immediate industry and stay abreast of the job market. It’s about having your pencil sharpened for writing your next chapter.
Widen the search.
Sometimes, when we sit down with a participant just after they’ve had a big surprise and finished with a long term employer their job title hangs in the air as how they define themselves. I’m an accountant, I’m a receptionist, I’m a Project Manager, I’m this or I’m that... but that is way too confining. Here’s an example: have you seen the recent TV ad featuring the dad who drives the Hilux? When he’s a Project Manager he doesn’t stack up too well with the primary student critics but when a bit of action (and Rocky music) is added to his list of what he does – he drives a lot, hits things, builds stuff, breaks stuff, throws things, pulls things, pushes things and then he carries stuff – the students, and his daughter finally understand who he is and what his job entails. Project Manager means nothing to them but now they love Hilux drivers. (If you haven’t seen the ad you might like to Google it).
Matt came in one recent Monday morning. His position as a trade salesman had been made redundant on the preceding Friday. He couldn’t see any opportunities apart from the one other outlet for similar products in Launceston. All his desperation was pinned to a good reputation and the hope that the ‘opposition’ would have an opening soon. The truth is that the same market forces that had made things tough for his ex-employer were also impacting the competition.
It took a couple of sessions but Matt finally acknowledged that his previous position title wasn’t the be-all and end-all. In fact, what was most important was his talent for engaging with prospective customers and his ability to quickly pick up product knowledge. He would be a good ‘fit’ in any role that required those skills - so he began to widen his search range and started talking with a few of the people he’d done business with over the years. They confirmed that he had a great reputation and some offered to keep an eye out for opportunities and leads. Having a better understanding of his skills also meant he looked more broadly across the online job sites – resulting in applying for, and winning, a role he would previously have missed. Matt’s new job involves just as much customer interaction as before, has a mix of existing and new calls and is much more mobile than he’d been, which he’s loving.
Nothing is truer than what you have learnt from your own experience. Taking the time to unravel what that experience contains will give you a wider search area – and you could be surprised by what that will uncover.
Going off island, maybe even overseas.
Most of the people we work with prefer to stay in Tasmania - who can blame them! However, if your local options are exhausted then it's time to look further afield. That's what happened with Dave. An expert in his field, the most interesting opportunities were in S.E. Asia where contracts were being offered for 1 to 2 years. However, it wasn't an environment to which he could take his family. So, we invited his wife, Karen, into our discussions and did some 'family planning'. With several large pieces of butcher's paper stuck to the walls we worked through the impacts on all parts of their lives if Dave took up a contract.
This included finances, children's schooling, planning face-time, holidays, Karen's job and all the additional responsibilities she would have to assume whilst he was away - they even discussed their relationship and how to remain close. Within 3 weeks they had it all agreed to and shortly afterwards Dave took up his first contract, followed by 2 more. Now semi-retired, he continues to consult to the organisation and he and Karen are working on what's next for them.
At some point you might need to look further afield. Keeping an open mind and being prepared to consider it could reap some surprising rewards. Include your partner, family and close friends in the search and discussions; make a plan that covers all areas of your life and keep your network alive back in Tassie.