A Strategy For Making Decisions During Difficult Times

December 19, 2012 § Leave a comment


Decisions Decisions (Horton, Point or Green) by Kev Griffin.

A key part to living a focused life is the ability to make good decisions and it is difficult to make good or timely decisions when we are faced with the unexpected.

In these current difficult economic times, the tightening job market is generating unexpected change on a daily basis. Job layoffs are occurring more frequently and finding a job or changing jobs is very competitive. Also, many of us are seeing our savings and retirement benefits diminish -all of which generates a high level of anxiety.

Changing your perspective will help you manage your anxiety and breakout of the cycle of feeling ‘immobilized’ and get you moving again.

Strategy for changing perspective and getting unstuck:

– Recognize that you are stuck or immobilized.

-Identify as specifically as possible what you perceive to be the ‘challenge’ or ‘challenges’ you are facing

– Clearly outline your goals and the steps you need to take to reach your desired goal

– Evaluate your alternatives & take action to implement the steps to move forward.

Get help from an impartial person who does not have a vested interest in the outcome of your decision. For example, a life coach can walk you through the evaluation process and the steps to help you change your perspective and get moving to confidently make better decisions during difficult times.

From Life Coach Maria Shepard-Smith. Join Maria at the next Empowerment Circle on January 16th at 1:30 p.m.  RSVP with Maria (at) empowerctr.org!

Photo “Decisions Decisions (Horton, Point or Green) by Kev Griffin.  (c) Copyright Kev Griffin and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.


Not Just Used Furniture: Using Craig’s List for Job Searching

August 31, 2012 § 2 Comments

Dude, I’ve so got to find a different job! I wonder if Craig’s List would be a good source.

A couple of months ago, Cindy sent me job lead she found while perusing ads on Craig’s List. I was intrigued as I hadn’t really thought about using Craig’s List to look for jobs. My impressions about Craig’s List were limited to sensational murder stories and people who had gotten some good deals on used furniture – not finding a job. I used some external channels to verify the job posting and it was legitimate so I applied (I didn’t get it).

This week I was reading a story online about a guy who parlayed writing online book reviews into a major business before Google and Amazon pulled the plug on it. He advertised for writers on Craig’s List. For a lark I checked out the want ads on Craig’s List. There were a ton! Now my antenna was pricking. Are these positions legit? Will I become embroiled in some kind of scam if I email these postings? My instinct is to trust but verify, like I did with the earlier job posting. I interrupted Cindy’s crabbing schedule to see what she had to say about Craig’s List for job searching.

Cindy told me she had been using Craig’s List for the last several years as one of the tools in her arsenal for job searching. Because the postings are free, many companies are turning to it to post job openings. She cautioned that searchers should use common sense – if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Job seekers should only be spending about 5 to 10% of their time internet searching Cindy said. Their time is better spent out there networking in person!

Cindy agreed about independent verification and further offered that if she couldn’t identify the company or a specific person with contact information within 30 to 60 seconds, she didn’t spend any more time on the posting. Sometimes she will send a message through the ad seeking more information on the opportunity, but again, keep safety in mind and don’t send too much personal information on those requests. The main point is that you want to know what company is receiving your application so you can customize your cover letter and resume but also to ensure its an organization that aligns with your values!

Cindy said that you need to be able to follow up on applications and resumes that you have submitted. If you don’t know who to network with and just submit your information through Craig’s List, you have no way of knowing where your resume just landed. Here are a few tips from Cindy:

  • Look for company names or website domain names in email addresses or in the job post itself.
  • Take a few minutes to search the company and visit their website.
  • See if they have the job posted on their site and if so, use that as your primary portal for applying. Sometimes there are slightly different application requirements (one may ask for salary requirements and one may not for example).
  • When crafting your resume, you should no longer include personal information such as your street or mailing address (city and state are fine) or especially your social security number!
  • Do include your phone number and email address as most employers are going to call and/or email you.  (While we’re on the topic, use your name in your email, not “hotmama2012” and don’t make callers endure your favorite Little Wayne song while they wait for you to answer your phone.  Make sure your voice mail has a message with your name so those job leads know they’ve reached the right person!)

After you apply through Craig’s List, you should still make sure you follow up with the person to ensure they received your information. Try to identify people in your network who might have connections with the company to help you find out more about the position. Bottom line is that Craig’s List can be an excellent tool if used wisely. Use common sense and verify the information you find on the site. Follow up on your application and utilize your network.

I’ll be checking out this tool now armed with Cindy’s good advice! Have you ever used Craig’s List for job searching? What was your experience?

Going Crabbing: A Metaphorical Tale for Job Searching

August 24, 2012 § 2 Comments

Wouldn’t it be awesome if the perfect job was just sitting on a beach waiting for you to find it?

I am not a fishing person. I grew up in the solidly landlocked areas of Georgia’s Piedmont with little opportunity to fish. I am also pretty squeamish so not really a good trait for someone with a child who wants to go fishing. One of my friends is from New York and she, like me was curious about crabbing. So we decided to round up all the kids and try our hand at it knowing (and to be honest, hoping) we wouldn’t catch anything. Along the way, we learned a few things but I realized it wasn’t unlike job searching.

Tell people what you’re up to. My friend and I had only a rudimentary knowledge of crabbing using baited lines and nets. She mentioned to her husband what we were up to and he (a native Marylander with a bit more knowledge) picked up our starter equipment for us. When you’re Job Searching, tell people you’re looking and what types of positions you have in mind. You never know when someone in your network might hear about an opening.

Get the right tools in place. For crabbing we only needed a net and some twine with a special triangular shaped safety-pin like device to hold our bait. Just a few dollars of investment. Like Job Searching, you can get expensive equipment but it doesn’t necessarily mean your job search is going to go faster. Think about what you really need. Invest where you can get the most bang for your buck. Maybe you need a resume critique or your resume is fantastic but your interview skills need polishing.

Be prepared to filter the advice you receive. We did get a lot of advice from people about when to go, how to do it, the kind of location to seek out. I had also turned to my standby when trying something new, You Tube. We had to filter the information and consider the sources. Same with Job Searching. Be prepared to filter what you hear and read. It seems to me there’s always something on Yahoo about resumes, interviews, and job searching. Consider the source and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Let me add that Cindy, our Career Coach, is a multi-talented lady! Not only is she an ace at Resumes and Job Searching, she’s good at crabbing herself! When I shared with her my story, she gave me some excellent advice about times to go and sites for the best results. Advice I am using to refine my technique.

Pick the right spot. Our first foray wasn’t particularly successful as our original choice of locations was closed the day we went out. We wound up in a less than ideal spot for attracting crabs. We knew it wasn’t optimal but since our goal was really more about getting our feet wet (literally & figuratively) and building confidence in using our equipment. I learned a few things and will be better prepared for our next outing. Job Searching is the same way. If you’re just getting back into looking after a period of time, perhaps you want to start small and apply for a few things here and there. As you build your confidence and experience, it becomes easier and you refine your technique.

Find some company. It was way more fun to be an incompetent crabber with my friend and all the kids around! Same with Job Searching. Let’s face it, you’re not going to get a job offer every time you send out a resume or go on an interview. Over time, that takes a toll on your morale. Find some support from others going through the same thing – either online or in person.

Keep trying. So the first attempt didn’t work out, but we learned a few things. We’re trying again today. Just like Job Searching, you just keep trying. Send the resume out over and over. Sometimes you get a nibble, sometimes nothing’s biting.

If you’re looking for some support for your Job Search, join us at our Free Job Club on September 4th at 10 am. Contact Cindy@empowerctr.org or 410-799-1097 to RSVP or for more info.  You can also find PEC on Linked In and join our online group.

Posted by:  Heather Comstock

Conflict: A Catalyst

August 9, 2012 § 2 Comments

I ran across this wonderful TED Talk from Margaret Heffernan discussing the constructive role of conflict within organizations.

To summarize the video, Heffernan shared the story of Dr. Alice Stewart who was a epidemiologist in the 1950’s. She specialized in the study of patterns and she began looking at the rise of childhood cancers and trying to find a cause. Her partner, George Kneale,was a keen statistician and his role was to review her data and prove her wrong. She used conflict with her partner to strengthen her argument for the cause she discovered which turned out to be doctors using the relatively new technology of x-rays on pregnant women. Unfortunately, it continued to take the medical establishment another 20 years before they stopped the practice. Dr. Stewart knew that she needed her data and analysis of it to be as strong as possible and she used conflict constructively to achieve that.

As Heffernan notes, as individuals, we generally do everything we can to avoid conflict. When there is conflict, it creates stress and we take steps to avoid conflict. But, could we turn this conflict into an opportunity to become stronger? Isn’t that really what change boils down to – conflict?

Now, I am not talking about the useless kind of conflict that goes nowhere (think all the arguments you ever had with a sibling in the backseat of a car on a long trip).

I am talking about the conflict you have when you hate going to work every day because the job is boring. Maybe that conflict is telling you its time to move on to a better and more challenging position.

Have you ever had a conflict with a friend who is asking you to do something different? Is she pushing you to expand and try something new or address a habit that’s not constructive?

Ever had conflict with your children? Isn’t that usually them trying to exert their own influence and independence?

Conflict starts a conversation. I think Margaret Heffernan is right to recommend embracing conflict and using it as a tool to dig deeper and understand the issues. The next time you encounter conflict, can you reframe it and use it to develop an action plan to move forward?

Posted by: Heather Comstock

Sunning Sea Lions and Interesting Reads

August 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Sea lions sunning themselves on the Oregon Coast.

In case you missed this on our Facebook feed, Cindy shared this article: Flexible Careers for Busy Parents 

From WomenWorking.com – how to keep your sanity while juggling multiple tasks.

A pet peeve of mine is being tethered to my phone. Don’t be tethered to yours! 

While this article is about frugality, I would like to note that the staff writer at Get Rich Slowly changed her perception of living a thrifty life and has a completely different view of it. Is there something in your life that you could change your perception about?

Excellent Stuff on Changing your attitude about time management from Mike Vardy.

I ran across this and loved it. Here are 24 concrete ways to kickstart change in your life.

Career Services On Demand!

July 12, 2012 § 1 Comment

As I have been transitioning from staff to volunteer with the Empowerment Center, I have had the opportunity to be a guinea pig for some of the services from PEC to help me understand what Coaching can do. One of the latest developments that we are very excited about is the introduction of the new Virtual Career Center. The VCC is a tool that Lisa, Cindy, & Maria have used before in the past and they really liked it and they knew it would be a valuable addition to PEC.

One of the biggest barriers that was cited in the Howard County Association of Community Services report, “Making Ends Meet” report last year was transportation and access to services.

  • Our area is very car dependent.
  • Services have traditionally only been available Monday – Friday, from 9 to 5 when people are working.
  • The majority of people seeking services are women with small children.
  • Childcare remains a constant challenge for most working mothers.

Women are good at putting everyone else first. That’s why we know when it comes to career advancement and job searching, the above issues prevent women from being able to progress in their careers. Which is why we were so keen to get the VCC up and available. If you have internet access (either at home or at the library) you can do career coaching work on your schedule at your pace at your convenience!

I took some time to experiment with the VCC and then discussed my results with Cindy Virtue, our Career Coach. Cindy suggested that I start with some of the assessment to help me identify things I am good at doing or like. Further, Cindy told me the assessments give me a vocabulary to use on my resume.

I started with a Quick Profile. It is an interactive section that helps you identify your values, temperament, personality, interests, and skills and talents. Here’s an example of a question:

As you went through, it directed you to click on statements and not think to hard about them. After a few minutes, I got results that I thought was pretty spot on with regard to the kind of environment or industries where I would thrive.  I found it mildly interesting that it recommended the banking industry!

I really liked the professional skills assessment. During the assessment I was asked to select a variety of skills that I enjoyed and felt I was good at doing. The results came back.  Again, surprising but not surprising.  Business acumen, who knew?

I completed the Values Assessment and it mirrored the other results I received. As Cindy and I discussed, she said you want to find a job that aligns with your values. Otherwise, you won’t be happy and be there for the long-term. It certainly explained why I’ve done better in some positions rather than others.  Here’s a screen shot of how the Values Assessment was conducted.

The best part of the VCC is that I could start and stop. It saved my progress. I could also see that it would be a benefit if I were preparing for a coaching session with Cindy or Maria. With this background information, it would mean that coaching sessions could be more focused. The VCC allows you to share your information and results with your coach allowing you both to work effectively outside the coaching sessions.

There is way more in the system than I have had time to explore. There’s a Resume Builder and Cindy is raving about the Industry Research section which I am going to try next.

Cindy is conducting a live demo of the Virtual Career Center on Tuesday, July 17th at 10:00 am in the PEC office. Send her an email at cindy@empowerctr.org to RSVP your spot!  You can also help make the VCC available to a woman who cannot afford services with a tax-deductible contribution to our scholarship fund!  

Too Hot To Move?

July 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

As we are deep into the summer, the hotter temperatures are causing me to slow down in the afternoon and its been a good opportunity to catch up on my reading and ponder things (at least that’s the justification I’m using to avoid scrubbing the bathroom).  Here’s a couple things that have recently caught my eye.

How to Handle People Who Undermine Your Success

I always come back to Get Rich Slowly because founder J.D. Roth and his staff writers know that personal finance is more than just money, it’s about defining what’s important to you and aligning those goals.  These are transferable skills to the rest of the world.    Staff writer April Dykman tackles the touchy issue of dealing with people who become barriers to achieving your goals.

If You Don’t Prioritize Your Life Someone Else Will

I ran across this via the Time Management Ninja on Facebook and it really made me think about what I consider “have to” do. The author talks expounds on this quote from Ghandi:  ” A ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse avoid trouble.”

I think that’s enough to keep you busy during the heat and holiday!  Did you run across anything particularly thought provoking recently?  Share it!

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