My lesson on overcoming obstacles is in progress. When I see anyone on crutches in the future, I will open the door for them, help them carry anything they want, carry their coffee to their office, and simply say, “I know what you’re going through”.
We all face obstacles but breaking my ankle gave me a whole new perspective and has made me think about the many clients I work with who face their own obstacles, many much more difficult than my broken ankle.
Here are 4 tips on helping our clients deal with their obstacles.
LESSON 1. Ask for help and advice.
I decided as soon as I was crutching around the house that I was going to ask for help. Even the simplest of things like opening a door were sometimes difficult for me. Five days after breaking my ankle I was presenting a pre-conference workshop at a conference in New Hampshire and knew I’d need lots of help there.
Our clients, who are looking for work need to know when to ask for help. A good friend and former colleague was at this same conference and is ready to make her next professional move from her current position. I asked if she had told anyone here that she was looking for a new job?
She said, “It feels weird to have that conversation.”
I said, “You need to tell EVERYONE you meet here that you are looking for work. Just ask them if they know of anything open or expected to open. Give me some of your business cards and I’ll pass them out as well.”
Then I introduced her to a person at another university who offered great advice AND told her about a job search that had recently failed and had reopened. I waited for my friend to give her business card to my contact….wait…wait…She’s leaving with no business card!
I proclaimed, “As my client’s agent, I must insist that you take her business card.”
Ask for help and advice. It’s free and most everyone you meet is willing to help. This can be help on resumes, LinkedIn profiles, cover letters, interviewing, and networking.
P.S. Later that day my friend texted me to let me know she discovered another lead from her networking.
LESSON 2. Think creatively.
I love my coffee in the mornings. How do I get my coffee from the kitchen to the t.v. room? The first few days I filled my cup halfway and then “crutched” very slowly, swinging the crutch in the air a few feet ahead on my good side, then moving 6 inches at a time. I gave up on the t.v. room and just made it to the kitchen table. Then I got creative. I remembered a small thermos I had with a strap on it. I pour my coffee in the thermos and drape it around my neck. I can go anywhere now!
This same friend of mine who was looking for work had spent all her time looking & applying for jobs at HigherEdjobs.com and was frustrated. It always feels like you are busy looking for work when you are looking and applying online. But remember, it is you and thousands of other people looking and applying online. The competition is fierce. I suggested to her that networking at the conference was key (see Lesson 1 above), but that she might also take a day off of work and set up informational interviews with a variety of people on different campuses here in Maine. Buy them a coffee or a lunch or simply visit with them for a half hour. In one day she could easily to get four campuses: two in the morning and two in the afternoon, maybe more. She needed to do something different.
The obvious and easiest ways to find jobs are the obvious and easiest ways for a reason. EVERYBODY is doing it. Think creatively.
- What can you do to find the jobs BEFORE they open?
- What can you do that is different than what everyone else is doing?
- If someone was looking for work at your place of business, what would you tell them?
- Take that information and flip it for ways to get inside information for you.
LESSON 3. Prioritize.
One thing I found being on crutches was that I simply could not do everything I wanted to do each day. Fortunately, after my conference presentation, I was whisked away to visit my dad in Florida which helped with slowing things down, but I still had to prioritize. I had 3 online classes going on and had hoped to begin marketing for 3 more upcoming ones. I had to really sit down (I have done a LOT of sitting these past few weeks) and ask myself, “What is the most important tasks that need to get done? And how do I do them?”
When you are in job search mode, make a list of the three most important things you need to do each week and make sure you DO them each week before you do anything else. I create “To Do” lists and once I’ve made my list I assign a 1, 2, or 3 next to each item on the list. I do the “1’s” first before I take on anything else. Then move to the “2’s”. If there is time, I get to the “3’s”. Eventually, the “3’s” move up a number or I realized they aren’t that important. As Steven Covey says “Put first things first”.
LESSON 4. Optimism and believing in yourself.
When I visit my dad in Florida we go fishing for half a day. OK, how does one crutch into a boat? Dad asked if I thought I could do it? I said, if an 89-year-old man can get into that boat, I will too! Obviously, I needed help and had to be a little creative to not screw up and end up in the ocean, but I did it. I even got out of it at the end of the afternoon! (Which actually was harder than getting in).
When people are looking for work and the job search is not working out as fast as they had hoped, you really need to stay positive and as upbeat as you possibly can. Your attitude is contagious and sensed by everyone you meet. If you network & communicate with people and you are unhappy and frustrated, it comes through to people over the phone, in person, and in interviews.
Find ways to stay positive. Trust me, I am sick and tired of this cast on my leg and at times can feel myself getting frustrated, but I have to keep saying to myself that I can still get around, I am still healthy and have many friends, and that this is indeed temporary. I recommend writing a grateful journal or a thankful journal daily if you are feeling frustrated with your job search. This focuses your attention on the positive things going on in your life, not the negatives. (see my blog on Happiness here for tips http://bit.ly/peakcareershappiness).
We all face obstacles and transitions in our lives daily. It is not the obstacle or transition that is the problem, it is how we deal with it. When working with clients, remember to encourage them to ask for help, think creatively, prioritize their tasks, and to stay positive. The job will come and you’ll be a happier person in the process.
Do you have other tips for overcoming obstacles?
Jim Peacock is the Principal at Peak-Careers Consulting and writes a monthly newsletter for career practitioners. Peak-Careers offers discussion-based online seminars for career practitioners focused on meeting continuing education needs for CCSP, GCDF and BCC certified professionals as well as workshops for career practitioners and individual career coaching.
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