Career Coaching & Counseling Articles
Stay ahead of the curve with insights from our CTL Associates.
By George Dutch
As career professionals, we spend a great deal of time listening to client stories. Mining these stories for value can improve our delivery of services. For example, what does it mean when a client says, "I am a people person"? (You may have used the same phrase; after all, we work in a helping profession!) This is a general and vague statement until we probe more deeply to determine its real meaning. Try getting your clients to tell some stories not related to work. Ask them to talk about times in their lives when they are doing what they enjoy most and doing it well. Individuals will often gravitate to what they most enjoy when they are free to do so, especially during their discretionary time. Remember, it’s not what they CAN do; we all acquire competence with skills through training or experience. A natural strength, as opposed to a can-do skill, is something we do effortlessly; something that energizes us; and something that gives us innate satisfaction--in short, when we do it, we make it look easy; when we use it, we are often in a state of flow. As they focus on those events and activities, listen actively. By doing so, we learn more about our clients, their priorities and preferences. This can help us better position and package a client’s value proposition, or better coach them to reach their career goals.
Subject Matter. When a client says they are a people person, are they commenting on a preferred subject matter? That is, are they telling us something important about what they enjoy working with and through on a daily basis? Listen for specific clues to the configuration of their fascination with people. Do they prefer working with individuals one-on-one? Or, working with or among teams? Or, are they interested in broader groups of people, such as people of a particular culture or religion? populations with particular needs or interests? Or, are they interested in the traditions, beliefs, languages, and habits of other cultures? Or, are they people watchers, fascinated by human behavior, by what “makes people tick,” by the way people think or feel, and the psychology behind what causes people to say or do something? Try drilling down into the I-am-a-people-person statement with a few specific questions: How did you get involved with that? What did you do exactly on your own (or as part of a team)? What was particularly enjoyable or consistently satisfying about that? Listen carefully for clues that reveal their natural inclinations, strengths, preferences.
Natural talents. Perhaps it is not people as a subject matter that motivates them; instead, they have a natural helping talent--they enjoy tutoring individuals; or, helping others complete their goals or projects; or, giving advice to others; or, reassuring and supporting others. Do they have a knack for stepping into situations where they see shortages to fill or needs to be met? Do they actively seek out situations to be useful or helpful (if not indispensable) as they step in and aid others with assistance, guidance, support or tangible resources--not as a job requirement but in their own time because it energizes them? This helping talent could be leveraged into certain helping professions, or highlighted in their resume and value proposition. Perhaps they are using an intuitive talent that is only triggered by contact with people. For example, they might have a knack for discerning people’s character quickly and accurately, and usually read people accurately, or are rarely fooled by anyone. Again, this could have a bearing on the kind of work they are suited to do (e.g. credit loan officer, immigration official, police detective, recruiter, counselor, probation officer), or the job skills that should be highlighted in their resume or brand.
Conclusion. You may find a reservoir of revelations behind the simple statement: I am a people person. By using the skills we already have for listening, questioning, analyzing, and synthesizing, we can better position, package and coach our clients for success. They are more likely to succeed if they are motivated, and they are more likely to be motivated when aligning their key success factors with a job that will recognize and reward them for what comes naturally and easily to them. Each successful client is our best source of new and growing business.
By Don Orlando
“Only when the weight of the paperwork equals the weight of the aircraft you are ready to fly.” That inside joke tells you a lot about the role of paperwork in the uniformed services. But of all the forms in use today, most military people will tell you one carries uniquely powerful weight. For Navy and Marine Corp members it’s called the FITREP (Fitness Report). The Air Force and Army rely on the OER and APR (Officer Effectiveness Report and the Airman Performance Report). The Coast Guard uses an Officer Evaluation Report. Since promotion boards rely on these reports, and since one “bad” report can ruin a career, it’s natural for your military clients to offer them as tools to help them transition into civilian life. As a careers professional, it’s important you know how to use them well.
Effectiveness reports are written by and for a very informed readership. Their primary purpose is to help evaluate a military member’s fitness for promotion to the next highest rank or grade. I put those words in italics to make two points. First, the services seek to promote those who display exceptional leadership and potential as officers and NCOs, not necessarily the best “pilot,” “carrier air group commander,” or “drill sergeant." Second, most service people serve in a wide array of different career fields. Every supervisor is very aware how few words he’s allowed on a report. So jargon is as useful and necessary for the planned audience as it is confusing and frustrating for civilian hiring officials.
However, you can help your clients get the most from their reports. Obviously, the most recent ones carry the most weight. Beyond that, ask about the highest level at which the report is endorsed. Generally, the higher the level, the greater the quality of the performance. Ask your clients to use their reports as memory joggers so you can capture all their success stories. Because the reports often contain numbers, you can add power by quantifying results. But dig deeper to get the full impact. Was your client new in the career field reflected in the report? Was she chosen “by name”—sought out by a higher ranking officer for special assignment? Did your client serve in a position that called for a much higher rank?
Lastly, don’t be shy about using or paraphrasing quotes from reporting or endorsing officials. Be sure you indicate which level the praise comes from. The endorsers’ name won’t be familiar to civilian hiring officials. But their spans of control can add significant power to a résumé.
Service members sometimes gripe about military promotion systems. But it’s a rare civilian organization that has as many checks and balances in how they promote their best. Now that you know their unique strengths and weaknesses, please use effectiveness reports well to position your client best.
By Wendy Gelberg
“Introvert” is not a four-letter word – so why do people have so many negative associations with it? For example:
• I was asked in an interview, “If you’re an introvert, is it the end of the world?”
• A man told me he wanted to buy a book on introversion for his wife, but he was afraid she’d be insulted.
• A woman questioned whether it was possible to be both successful and an introvert.
That got me thinking about synonyms, stereotypes, and stigmas. What words do you associate with “introvert”? The Microsoft Word thesaurus offers “recluse.” Ewww! The negative connotations that word has are practically palpable. Along those lines, I frequently see “loner” connected with “introvert” and occasionally “antisocial” (and, sadly, often in stories about people who have committed horrific crimes). There are some words that are less negatively charged – “reserved” or “quiet” come to mind. But still it’s clear that those qualities go against the norm in our culture. And then there’s “shy,” which people often confuse with “introverted.” In fact, the Microsoft thesaurus lists that as the first option, and lists “shy” as the first option for “introverted.” Look at the others: Retiring – Withdrawn – Timid – Bashful – Diffident – Inhibited – Reticent – Reserved – Quiet. When people admit to any of those traits, it’s always in an apologetic and embarrassed manner.
Part of our job as career coaches is to empower our clients, and my mission is to spread the word that being an introvert means having some powerful strengths that, in fact, can contribute to success, leadership, excellent performance, and many other wonderful outcomes. If you do a Google search for “famous introverts” you’ll find lists of highly accomplished people in all areas of life. Also, if you search the biographies of hundreds of well-known people (some of them probably extroverts, in fact), you’ll discover that they are or have been shy but nevertheless are known for some amazing achievements. Shyness and introversion do not have to stand in the way of success – and can even contribute to it.
So I hope the other 50.7% of the population who are introverts will join me and say it loud, and say it proud – “I’m an introvert!”
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