Coaching – A Gift for the Whole Family?

It is that time of year when family members are thinking of what to buy a loved one. For many fathers, who have sons in their 20s, that gift may be a trip, a computer, or a luxury item bought at the nearest department store.

Recently, I was approached by a father who was interested in investing in the support of a Career and Business Coach. The father, a former Entrepreneur, who has experience as a Senior Technology Sales Representative, was referred by his cousin, a former client of mine, to learn about my Coaching services for him and his sons, and to determine the value of these services for the three of them.

The father is at a stage in his life – late 50s – in which he is thinking that the next phase of his work career may be his final job before he retires. He has enjoyed his career in Sales and he is interested in finding work, whereby he can make a valuable contribution to an organization, offering his skills and experience to employers. At the same time, he would like to find work for the
last 5 years of his working career in a higher paying position with more management and leadership responsibilities.

“Dad’s” two sons have interests and careers in two different fields. Both young men are university graduates with experience working in their respective fields. One son has been working in the financial industry over the last several years; he is interested in shifting his career path into another industry using a different skill set. Another son, an excellent writer, has experience writing for different organizations. He is looking for more work as a Writer where his
skills, passion and interests are.

All three family members agreed that although they have expertise in their respective fields, they would benefit from the skills and experience of an objective Coach who could collaborate with each of them to work towards and secure their goals.

So 6 months ago, “Dad” and his 2 sons made the trip from another part of the city to meet me for the first time. They were interested in finding out more about the Coaching services that I offer and how these services could benefit all of them. They wanted to know more about my background as a coach, who have been my clients, and what training, skills and experience that I have. I wanted to learn more about each family member. All of us – the family of 3 and I – were interested if there was enough rapport and comfort level for each of them to individually work with me.

We had a very good introductory meeting. I am now happy to say that I work with all 3 of them as Coaching clients. I have focused my Coaching skills to approach the different issues of each client from this family. I have considered the challenges and goals of all three clients and I have provided my expertise as a Coach to meet the needs of each family client to work towards his business, career and life goals.

So at this time of year, when families are considering what gift to buy for their relatives and friends, I recommend that you buy a gift that will be long lasting, forward thinking and helpful to your loved ones to reach their short and long term objectives. Coaching for a family will be a worthwhile gift or investment that can be helpful now, during the holiday season and into the New Year of 2015.


Successful Work Search requires Effective Management of a Major Project

Over the years, I have worked with many Project Managers as their Career Coach. The key 5 components for any Project were recently shared with me by several Project Managers when I worked at a recent Toronto Chapter Career Day Event. Subsequent Coaching meetings with PMI Association members have emphasized the 5 components that lead to the successful closure of a project.

No matter if a Project Manager is managing a large IT or a construction project for one’s Job Search project, similar Project Management steps are required for completion of the project.  As Project Managers, you must see projects from Project Conception and initiation to Closure. You must: 1) conceptualize the job that you are searching, 2) develop a plan of action, 3) begin and conduct the actual work search, 4) manage the daily search and 5) evaluate the progress of the search on an ongoing basis.

Please keep some of your Project Management skills in mind, when you set out to manage your new project, a successful job search.

1. Project conception and initiation

To start a job search, it is critical that you do an assessment of your skills and experience. What have you accomplished in your career, and what are your immediate and future goals? Consider what you have achieved – both academically and professionally. Evaluate the career path that you have taken so far – where would you like to go in terms of your career? Please consider what is important to you when you conduct your work search – your values, interests, motivations, salary expectations and preferred location? What size of an organization are you interested in working?

2. Project definition and planning

Now is the time to plan your job search project.   Chart your plan of action that you will require to reach your goal. What timelines have you set for your work search? What research will you need to do? Will you need to meet people in your field – past employers, members of Associations, networking groups? What information will you need to research to become more knowledgeable about your field of interest, the work outlook and the demands of employers? What organizations are hiring and what will you need to do to effectively market yourself?

3. Project launch or execution

How many people will you meet every week in your job search? Recommendations are that expanding your professional network while maintaining contact with people in your existing network, are key to conducting an effective work search. Depending upon what statistics you read, between 70 -90% of people, looking for new jobs, succeed by tapping into their network; plan your time accordingly. With that in mind, what percentage or how much of your work search time will you focus on building and growing your network – both online and in person? All avenues should be used for your work search – job boards, and company postings. Make certain that your resume, markets your key achievements and results according to the employers to whom you have sent your resumes. Have you test marketed your resume and cover letter to people in your professional network? Do you have success stories that you can share in upcoming job interviews?

4. Project performance and control

Like any project, compare the status of your plan that with the schedule that you set out for your Work Search project. Track your work search process to this point. Are you on schedule? Is your resume according to the expectations of employers for specific jobs? How is your confidence? Is there anything that you can do accelerate the progress of your work search? How many resumes have you sent out?

5. Project close

So your project has been a success and you have accomplished what you set out to do – you have found and secured work in your desired field. How would you evaluate your overall job search? How did you perform in your job interviews? What could you do differently?

After all search project tasks have been completed, you the client can evaluate the highlights and success of your work search project.  Like any project, you can learn what

you have done well and what you would like to improve – after the project is completed and you have secured your new work role.

Research a critical component to goal-setting

(Previously posted in City Centre Mirror

Whether in business or conducting a well-organized work search, having well-thought-out goals is part of the key to growing one’s business and ensuring continued success.

Frequently, I tell my clients who are job seekers to set SMART goals for themselves. Business people and entrepreneurs need to do the same.

SMART is the acronym for goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Entrepreneurs must be willing to establish their SMART goals and then be flexible enough to make changes as required.

Just like a job seeker must assess his position in the marketplace by conducting research about his career and how he/she can fit appropriately in the workplace, a small business person must also determine where and when his skills, experience, products and services will be demanded. Only by conducting thorough research will an entrepreneur know what business goals to develop and how to market his products and services.

So the question becomes, how can an entrepreneur secure key information that will be required to launch and/or grow his business and reach specific goals that are measurable, achievable, and realistic – while being delivered in a timely manner?

Research is key for any business to grow revenue and develop goals. The size of the business, and the owners’ financial capabilities will determine the amount of investment.  

Although research can potentially cost a lot of money, neither job seekers nor entrepreneurs have to have “deep pockets” to compile necessary information, make valuable decisions and prepare a list of goals to follow. You can network with other business professionals and like-minded entrepreneurs. Networking with Subject Matter Experts and can be very critical for re-developing, revising and implementing goals.

It is always advisable to continue one’s research and explore online, at libraries, at trade shows, fairs  and professional associations, as well as governmental and other business publications

After goals are set, they need to be monitored. Ongoing evaluation determines if in fact, goals have been reached, as well as what new strategies, if any, need to be adopted.

After a goal’s timeline has passed, it is a necessity that the goals be reviewed. If the original goals have not been met, all factors should be considered and new strategies need to be developed to ensure success.  

As new information is compiled, all goal setters must be willing to make changes and update the goals so that a new plan of action is taken to ensure that the goals are successfully implemented. For a job seeker or an entrepreneur to reach one’s goals, it is similarly important that a business person demonstrate the flexibility to change and update his/her goals according to new circumstances that present themselves.

Should an effective Career Consultant have experienced Unemployment to be Empathetic to his clients?

Recently, after spending close to 15 years, working with Executives, Vice Presidents, Directors and Senior Management who are in career transition as a result of downsizing, layoffs, moving to a new city or other personal situations, I reflected whether my own experiences with unemployment, have made me a more empathetic Career Consultant.

Growing up in industrial Cape Breton, in the province Nova Scotia in the 1970′s and 80′s, I witnessed the hardship that unemployment can have on families and the community. Although, my father was a dentist, who was self-employed, I observed first hand the impact that layoffs had on everyone – either directly or indirectly as a result of layoffs. The town of Sydney, Nova Scotia had one major employer, the Sydney Steel Plant.

When layoffs were announced on the tv or radio news, I knew immediately how bad the news really was, based on the look on my father’s face. Announcements of more unemployment meant that more people would have difficulty paying their bills. Unemployed men and women, no longer had insurance benefits, and would be forced to make cutbacks including their ability and willingness to obtain dental treatment. My father’s income was often affected negatively by the layoffs.

Fast forward to when I graduated from my Bachelor of Commerce degree at the age of 22 years. After completing my studies, I moved to Toronto. Without a network in Toronto, I was challenged to develop the skills that were required to develop the career search tools that would help me to launch my career. Personally, I was experiencing unemployment for the first time. I prepared my resume and cover letter, sent them to many companies and organizations but I was frustrated when I received many negative responses. There was little support that was available or that I was able to access to help me. Needless to say, I experienced many of the emotions that many people in career transition feel.

As time went on, I, myself,  became an Employment Consultant, worked for corporate career transition organizations, community colleges, as well as other community based organizations. Through extensive training and being mentored by experts in the field, I developed the skills and competencies to be a Career / Employment Consultant.

Like any business, there have been highs and lows. Sometimes, business was busy and sometimes not. During the slow times, I was reminded of many of the emotions – including disappointment and stress – that I experienced when I moved to Toronto.

As an Employment Consultant, I have been on site to provide counsel to clients when they have received the news of a downsizing. I have observed the roller coaster of emotions that these clients have experienced from hearing the news of a layoff through their search and until they secured their new employment.

I have the skills, capabilities and characteristics to be an effective Employment Consultant.
Having experienced many of the challenges that my clients face, I naturally have empathy for their situations. I understand the challenges and range of emotions that they are experiencing as they search to secure work in their respective fields. From an online dictionary, empathy is the “Identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives”.

Empathy is a key requirement to be an Employment Consultant. He / she should be able or to do his best to understand the challenges, frustrations, difficulties and highs/lows of the work search.

Should an effective Career Consultant have experienced Unemployment in order to be Empathetic to his clients?

It is not a requirement that a Career Consultant have experienced Unemployment. It is, however, an asset.

As a result of observing the effects of unemployment on my clients and my own personal experiences with it, I can share with you that I am a very empathetic Employment Consultant.

The Benefits of Mock Interviews

So you worked hard and you were able to get an interview. How confident are you that when you are asked one of the important questions you will give the best possible answer and persuade the interviewer that you are the best candidate for the job?

Going for a job interview without having a mock interview can be compared to jumping using a parachute without proper preparation. (I am not sure how many of you would like to parachute jump but my client and now friend, gave me this great comparison. I am not even sure if she would ever parachute jump herself. lol I do think that analogies of interviews and parachute jumping can be made.)

So many things can go wrong. So many mistakes could cost you that job, and most of them could be avoided by properly preparing and practicing for the interview. By doing a mock interview, you can build your confidence for the actual interview, ensure that you exceed the expectations of the interviewer and the best – and honest – feedback before the real job interview happens.

You should start with preparing answers to the most common questions. Think about your strengths and weaknesses, and some weak points in your careers that may interest the interviewer ( did you have a gap between the jobs? Did you leave a job too quickly? Were you laid off?) . Write the answers and read them out loud. Do they sound good?

Now is the time to bounce them off another person, preferable an experienced interviewer or Career Coach. Only then, will you have a good idea how well your answers are perceived and accepted by others. The ” Mock Interviewer” can point out inconsistencies in your body language with your answers. The Interviewer can share with you the weak points in your answers ( You want to persuade the real interviewer, don’t you?).

Did you effectively express the actions you did in your job and what were the results of your work? By practicing with an experienced interviewer, you will be told what you did not do well and what other things that you are now doing that could harm you in the real interview situations. You do want to find your mistakes in advance and fix them? Don’t you?

“Those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail”, says the proverb. When required, you have to think fast and be “quick on your feet”. There will be no time to think what to say and what to keep to yourself. That’s where mock interviews are invaluable.


Do I need an Executive Recruiter or a Career Consultant?

Is there a Difference between an Executive Recruiter or a Career Consultant?

In the years that I have worked as Career Consultant, I have been asked many times by clients in Canada, and from other countries, if I as a Career Consultant, can find and secure them jobs.

I have told them many times that I am not a Recruiter, rather I am like a personal Career Coach, but I call myself a Career Consultant

I have spent a lot of time fielding questions from potential clients.  When they look on my web site or on my LinkedIn profile, they say they are interested in my services.

When I explained to them that there is a cost to my services, sometimes, they have indicated that recruiters do not charge for their services.

In a discussion with another Career Consultant recently about this, the opinion was shared with me that perhaps in other countries, Career Consultants are not common practice. So at present, it may not be the practice to hire consultants to support them or provide expertise to them. It is something that they may not be used to – the idea of hiring a Career Coach or Career Consultant to work collaboratively with them and provide the support to them in their career search.

Is it only Internationally Educated Professionals who are reluctant to use Career Consultants?

No. There are many people who think that they never need consultants or professionals to support them or provide expertise to them. Some people, rather do their own taxes rather than pay an Accountant who has the knowledge and expertise of the tax laws and ways that they can save money in the long-term. Some people will try to save themselves money from using lawyers, plumbers, electricians and other professionals in specific fields by doing the work themselves, only in the end spending more time – and often wasting their time, efforts and even more money.

None of us, as much as we would like to be, can be specialists in all areas. In the same way, we need the expertise of professionals to help us with our taxes, we need specialists to help prepare our career research tools – resumes, cover letters, and interview skills – and to provide advice and strategies to us in making changes in our careers or finding new jobs.

I know first hand the importance of securing the support of Career Consultants. Before I developed the expertise as a Career Consultant, I, myself, sought out the support of Career Professionals to help me when I finished university and moved to Toronto. Even today, I appreciate speaking to other Career Consultants to get their opinions, guidance and support.

Other people think why would anyone pay for the services of a Career Consultant – after all, is it not the role of a Recruiter to secure a job for those job seekers?

I do recommend that my clients register with Recruiters but job seekers should not expect that this is the only action that is necessary to secure work in their professional fields. According to statistics, only 10 – 15 % (statistics may vary depending upon the source) of job seekers in Canada, actually find jobs through Recruiters.

The majority of other people secure new jobs and work opportunities from conducting effective work search campaigns through making effective messages in e-mails and LinkedIn messages to employers, implementing a very good work search campaign, networking and searching the so-called hidden job market.

Conducting a work search by oneself can be very difficult. By working with a Career Consultant, he/she will be in a better position to ensure that you do everything in your power to maximize your efforts and save you time in your work search. Even in the best of economic times, there can be competition for finding a job. A little money for a Career Consultant can help you to increase your probability of success and make the investment worth it.