Dream Your Dream Job

I am certain I have written about this previously but, with 290 LinkedIn articles, I hope you will forgive me for not being able to find it and pardon me for repeating myself.

Many years ago a man had a unique problem. He owned a meeting venue. His best client was a woman who regularly filled his largest room, some 250 seats. This was a weekly lecture. It began at 11 AM and was scheduled to finish at Noon, but her audience, all women, stayed an extra 15-20 minutes to speak with her. It was just what any speaker would want and exactly what the owner wanted. Until…

One day a man came to him and said he wanted to rent his largest room on the same day that the previously mentioned woman was scheduled to speak. The man wanted to begin precisely at Noon. The owner explained to him that the room would be utilized until Noon and they agreed that his presentation would begin at 12:15.

Now the owner had to figure out a way to clear the room by Noon so he could have the rows of chairs straightened and the room cleaned, if necessary. If I remember correctly, he came to me for a solution and I asked a friend, more qualified than I, to join me. (He may have called my friend who invited me to join them. It was a long time ago so some details are fuzzy.) We went to his facility, saw the room, and then the three of us took a walk outside.

We noticed that across the street was an apartment building with retail stores on the ground floor, including a shoe store catering to women. One of us came up with an idea. We approached the owner of the shoe store and asked him if he would agree to have a 50% off sale, for one hour, on the day in question, starting at Noon and ending at 1:00. We said we would print no more than 250 coupons which we would place on the seats prior to the woman’s lecture.

Since the owner of the meeting facility would pay for the printing, the shoe store owner agreed. When the women entered the room and saw the coupons, that became the topic of discussion. For the first time ever, they started to leave the lecture before the speaker had finished. The room emptied out before Noon. The sale was a complete success. The store owner was thrilled and offered to do it again.

I remember, when the venue owner called to tell me that the gimmick actually worked, my friend and I had a good laugh. We could not understand the fascination women have with shoes. And we could not think of a male equivalent. Ties? Cuff links?

In any event, the connection between women and shoes has always remained in the back of my mind. On occasion, I have asked shoe store owners to explain it to me. Their answers were usually along the lines of “Women” in an exasperated tone of voice. Not at all helpful.

As my regular readers know, I have lately been reading Freud. During his tenth lecture on dreams, “Symbolism in the Dream, ” in Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, he stated that “the shoe or slipper is a female genital” (emphasis in original). That got me thinking that perhaps women have a subconscious need for shoes. For some reason, this got me thinking about people who want to change careers.

I am sure everyone has heard that in sports the general advice is to think it, visualize it, and then do it. Think about throwing a strike. Picture it sailing over home plate. Then you will throw a strike. Think about hitting an ace in tennis. Picture your swing and impacting the ball. Then you will hit an ace, a ball your opponent cannot return. I advise clients to imagine their upcoming job interview and play it out. Then, in the actual interview, they are usually calm and confident because they have rehearsed different scenarios either with me, a friend, or simply in their heads.

So why not the same with changing careers and literally finding your dream job? Dreams, according to Freud, are expressions of our wishes (“wish fulfillment” to be precise). We dream what we want. (Nightmares are what we fear). And it does not matter if it is a day dream or a sleeping (night) dream, we dream what we want.

When a career counseling client comes to me to discuss changing careers, I always ask about their day dreams. Based purely on personal experience, I know that is a key to what a person truly wants. I had no idea that psychiatry was supporting me and I never bothered (My bad!) to find out. Apparently, I was right. (It’s rare, but it does happen!)

So, since your dreams tell you what you want, if you are thinking about changing careers but don’t know what to do, think about changing careers before you go to sleep and perhaps your subconscious will let you know. Or, if while doing your job you find yourself day dreaming about something else, you may already have your answer. (As for what the items in your dreams mean, that’s above my pay grade! I would not hazard to guess.)

One word of warning: Many times people do not actually want to change careers, they only think they do. They like their colleagues. They like their boss. They like their clients/customers. What they want is a change of responsibilities, something new. In those cases, we work out a written proposal to the employer to expand the person’s duties. Everyone is happy. The boss keeps a loyal employee and the employee keeps working with people they like while making their dream come true.

Pleasant dreams!

How to Eliminate or Explain Your COVID Resume Gap

They are going to ask, so you better have an answer. And it better be a good one because given the choice between someone who worked at anything during the time the government was paying people to stay home, and someone who decided to stay home, it’s the person who did not let their professional ego get in their way and did what they could who will get the job offer.

So how do you explain the COVID resume gap? There are four acceptable justifications for having let the government pay you to not “work,” and they all relate to real “work” you were doing, although (sadly) most people don’t consider it “work.” They should all appear on your resume, listing your responsibilities and accomplishments, so there is no gap! Here they are:

  1. Child care. You had to stay home while your spouse went to work. Nothing wrong with that. Good for you. Or, you are a single parent and had to stay home. More power to you!
  2. Adult care. You had an elderly parent/relative/friend for whom you had to care. Ditto.
  3. Education. You spent the time to further your professional education. You can prove it with certifications in this, that and the other thing. You are now a better employee. Well done!
  4. Death. A loved one died and you had to take care of the estate. My condolences.

All of these should be a source of pride. And when you are proud of something, it will come across in a job interview. What you did was important. Just itemize on your resume what you had to do, your responsibilities, like with any other job. The patience you had to display, the self-control, involved in child or adult care, could be, should be, a ticket to a customer service or trainer position at any forward-thinking company. Education speaks for itself. As for learning probate, it shows, as does being a caregiver, that you learned how to navigate a new (complicated) bureaucracy.

Going back to child care, literally list the skills you taught your children. Instead of watching television, playing video games, or going on the internet, you taught them to be responsible and that (school) work comes first. You taught them discipline. You taught them the value of work. You taught them the importance of keeping to a schedule and a daily regimen. Those are all skills smart employers want in their employees.

And they also want honesty. So if you foolishly just took advantage of the situation and let the government pay you not to work, admit your mistake. Most people can be forgiving. Just say, “I was an idiot. I made a mistake. I know now I should not have done it. I learn from my mistakes which is the only thing I can say in my defense. I don’t make excuses. I never repeat the same mistake twice!”

Depending on the type of professional you were pre-COVID, it just may be enough to convince an employer to give you a try.

Need personal advice? Schedule a free 15-minute career counseling consultation today!

When Building a Team, it’s Not Seats on a Bus it’s Cells of an Organism

Jim Collins, in his classic Good to Great, advises when building a team to first get the right people on the bus, then get the wrong people off the bus and, finally, make sure the right people are sitting in the correct seats. It’s a great visual that even the most inept team builder should be able to understand. And now I propose throwing it away and going back a century, to Sigmund Freud’s 1920 essay, Beyond the Pleasure Principle.

Freud wrote, “One cell helps to preserve the life of the others, and the cell-community can go on living even if single cells have to perish. We have already heard that also conjugation, the temporary mingling of two unicellular entities, has a preservative and rejuvenating effect on both.”

The beauty of Collins’ metaphor is it’s simplicity: When building a team you have to hire the right people for the right job. The problem is, you are not just building a team, you are building a company and a company should be viewed in the Freudian sense of building an organism. An organism is living, breathing and evolving. So too should be your business. A bus is static; it never changes. Not good for your business!

So, instead of thinking that you are filling seats on a bus, perhaps it would be better to think in terms of connecting cells to form an organism that will survive for decades and not decay by rust over decades.

Let’s parse Freud:

One cell helps to preserve the life of the others… When hiring you cannot just think of the hard-skills the person has, their ability to do the job, but also their soft-skills, their ability to help others. Just as one cell helps to preserve the life of others, one employee helps to preserve the careers of others. And by so doing, the company is strengthened and survives. That said,

and the cell-community can go on living even if single cells have to perish. So, if someone has to be fired, resigns or for any reason leaves, the company is strong enough that their loss will not be seriously detrimental to it. Like Freud’s “cell-community,” it will “go on living.”

Many companies rightly take out life insurance policies on their most important employees. If it’s their salesperson who brings in the majority of their business, the policy will give them some breathing room until they find a replacement. But if the person is not a revenue generator, it won’t help all that much. Money can replace money, it cannot replace skills or knowledge. Which brings us to…

We have already heard that also conjugation, the temporary mingling of two unicellular entities, has a preservative and rejuvenating effect on both. So, it all comes down to hiring people who can work together for the common good, which, for present purposes, we can define as preserving and rejuvenating peers. Which means that not only do employees have to work together, they have to be preserved and rejuvenated meaning that the employer has to care for their professional development, keep them motivated and challenged. If not, the organism dies which, in business terms, means selling before you want to, shutting down, or filing for bankruptcy.

So hire to build a living organism, not to fill seats on a bus.

Common Mistakes Speakers Make

For over three years I have been a professional speech writer. I started off using the freelancing site Fiverr, but departed as their rules were simply not worth the bother. (The final straw was when, a month and a half after I had submitted a speech and their system marked the order closed, they informed me that the buyer had reported that I had delivered the speech late. That was incorrect and I proved it with screen shots. They refused to acknowledge that I had submitted the order on time and threatened to dock money from my account. As I had already withdrawn all the money from my Fiverr account, the only thing they could do would have been to remove money from my bank account. I informed them, in no uncertain terms, that if they did that, I would file criminal complaints against them with the authorities. Since the buyer’s claim was ridiculous, and he is a police officer, I demanded that they confirm that he had been notified that his account, which I believe to be the case, had been hacked, and inform me that they had done so. They refused and I closed my account.)

During my time with Fiverr I wrote over well over 200 speeches. Some people asked me to write their speech, providing little direction. Others wanted their speeches edited. Most of those had to be rewritten because of the following errors:

1) Don’t forget your audience. You may have things you would like to tell the world, but the world may not be interested. Too much information can be as bad as too little. I am reminded of two clients: The first, a rape victim, wanted to share details of the attack which no one wants to hear. She wanted, and probably needed, to vent. But that’s why there are mental health professionals. When giving a TED talk about overcoming personal tragedy, you say what the tragedy was, rape, and then how you overcame it.

At the other end of the spectrum was the speech I wrote for a product launch. The speech I was sent to edit merely said what the widget did, what it cost, and how to order it. Hardly what an audience wants to hear. So we added a couple of case studies about how the widget had already helped customers and how, like WD-40, customers discovered surprising ways to use the product that the manufacturer had not realized.

2) Don’t use PowerPoint unless your audience has to see something to understand what you are talking about. Most people don’t remember the slides. I know of presenters who literally spent weeks preparing graphs and flow charts which no human being could possibly follow. The only time I use PowerPoint is if I need to show my audience something, for example, the LinkedIn page where you eliminate the option of showing viewers of your profile similar profiles viewed by people who viewed your profile. After all, they are your competition, so why promote them?

PowerPoint is great if you want to remember what it is that you want to say. In that case, each slide should have no more than six to 10 words. Don’t read them! No one wants to hear your read. Talk about the significance of the words.

Remember, you want your audience to listen to you, not to be distracted by slides with long quotes, funny graphics, or complicated charts with writing so small they cannot be read.

3) If you are no good telling jokes, don’t tell jokes. And if you are speaking to an international audience, don’t use any humor. Humor can be dangerous. What you find funny someone else, even from your own country, may find offensive. So, don’t use humor.

4) Start with a meaningful story. Parables are great! Personal experiences are better. Just make sure to tie the story to the presentation. Thank the people who need to be thanked, then tell the audience what you are going to do and then do it! When you have finished the speech, connect it back to the story. You have to go full circle, so to speak.

5) Finally, end with a call to action. There has to be a point to the speech. You have to want your audience to do something. Tell them what to do. But don’t turn the speech into a commercial for your products or services. That’s it a huge turnoff. You will lose your audience. This is even true for a product launch. It’s a little harder in that case not to make it sound like a commercial but a professional speech writer knows how to do it. If you prove that you are the professional in your sector, the sale will take care of itself.

Follow these five rules and your speeches should be impactful and effective.