John Hadley's Career Accelerator Blog
Seek Answers to Your Career / Career Search Challenges

November 2021
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What Is Your Biggest Obstacle To Career Growth?
Filed under: General, Career
Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:01 am

I invite you to submit your answers to this question:

“What Is Your Biggest Obstacle To Career Growth?”

Post your answers in a comment to this entry, and then I will write my suggestions for dealing with those issues.

In the meanwhile, here’s an article on Achieving Your Career Potential:

Subscribe to my RSS feed of this Career Accelerator Blog at:

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Building Stronger LinkedIn Connections
Filed under: General, Networking, Career
Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:42 pm

Did you spend time building up a good set of LinkedIn connections?

Have you spent an equal amount of effort keeping those as strong connections?

It’s easy to forget to build on the relationships we have, particularly when we are busy at work, and allow them to slowly wither on the vine. 

What do you think might happen if instead you implemented a regular keep-in-touch strategy with all of your contacts, to keep them fresh and vital?  Do you think that might occasionally mean that one of them would approach you about an interesting opportunity?

Here a thought for how you might approach that…

1. Decide how often you want to stay in touch.  If it were, say, once a quarter, then divide your 1st level contacts by 12 (3 months x 4 weeks), and that’s how many you need to reach out to per week to accomplish that.  Divide up the list into those 12 segments.  (OK, if you want to get technical, there are actually 13 weeks in a quarter.  I was just trying to keep the math simple for you.)

2. If your 1st level contacts are filled with lots of people you don’t know, who just happened to reach out to you or you to them without any relationship, then you might want to first pare down your list into the ones you at least know, before creating the 12 segments.

3. Mark an appointment in your calendar for a half hour each week.  Use that half hour to drop notes to each of the contacts in that week’s segment.

4. Make periodic updates to your Status that remind people you are out there in interesting ways. For example, you could post something about a new blog entry you put up, a new resource you stumbled across, an interesting article you read, …

5. Read the periodic LinkedIn update summaries you receive to see if there is a change, status or other update to someone’s profile that create a good excuse to write to them.

If you just do this much, you will continue to foster stronger LinkedIn connections within a manageable time commitment.

What other thoughts do you have?

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Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?
Filed under: General, Career
Posted by: John Hadley @ 1:40 pm

If you are interested in accelearting your career growth, I’ve written a number of articles on different aspects of this.  The latest is “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”, which I wrote for the Actuary of the Future magazine.  In it I share my own career journey, and key lessons learned others can apply to their own explorations.

I’ve posted over a dozen on my website, and you can download them there.  These include:

Don’t Be Just Like Everyone Else

The GROW Model for Coaching

How To Reinvigorate Your Career In Technology

Have You Found Your Niche?

Catch Yourself Doing a Good Job

Achieve Your Career Potential!

To find them, just scroll down to the Career Growth section on this page of my site:

I welcome any comments you might care to share on any of them.  And feel free to drop me a note at if you have any specific issues on which you would like advice.

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Always Show Value
Filed under: General, Networking, Career, Performance
Posted by: John Hadley @ 11:25 am

“You don’t have to be the first to be a success.  You don’t have to be unique.  You don’t have to be revolutionary.  What you do have to do, however, is give people value.  Give them a reason to buy from you instead of from somebody else.”

Tim Berry, author and founder of multiple companies, writing in the Blog Network, on “Startups:  Unique and Revolutionary, or Forget It?”

This statement is very apt for the job seeker, and for those already in a company, and seeking to accelerate their career growth.  The way to get noticed, and ultimately to get hired or awarded a new opportunity, is to give prospective employers value, and a reason to buy YOU instead of someone else.

The only reason I hire someone is because I firmly believe you will solve the problems I face, and achieve the results I need.  This is the ‘value’ I seek.

Expressing how many years you have been doing something, all of the credentials you have, and the various duties you have performed over the years doesn’t equate to value.  Those are what the unimaginative candidates fall back on, often because:

Unless you get very good at expressing your value in all venues, in a very natural, conversational way that isn’t ‘pushy’, you will always be left wondering why others get hired for the best jobs, or get awarded the most interesting opportunities for which you really wish you had been considered.

One key to doing this is to build a visibility campaign.  I wrote about 7 ways you could start to go about this in my most recent issue of Career Tips.  Write to me at if you would like a copy, or you can review the contents and selected articles from past issues and sign yourself up at

And don’t forget that you can subscribe to my RSS feed of this Career Accelerator Blog at:

Phrases to Kill Your Search #4
Filed under: Résumé, Networking, Career, Search Killer Phrases
Posted by: John Hadley @ 2:13 pm

“I want …”

Your marketing message, your résumé, your cover letter, etc. should all be focused on what THE OTHER PERSON wants, not on what you want.  Your goals will come out in the process of the discussion, but you want to be sure that the emphasis is on why I as the listener or reader should be excited about helping you achieve those goals.

One example is the “Objective Statement” many candidates use to open their résumés.  An objective is all about you, not about what you can do for me.  For a more complete discussion of why these are counterproductive on your résumé, see

Here’s one example, from a real résumé I received:

To utilize acquired skills leading and supporting cutting edge system development and implementation efforts to further my management career within the Insurance/Financial Services Industry.

What message does that send to the hiring manager who reads it?

Including what you want somewhere in your message is OK, as long as you do it in a way that shows why you would be an outstanding candidate for it - then it’s making it interesting to the listener / reader.  It’s equipping them to know how they could help you or refer you.

Just be sure to do it later in your message, after you’ve engaged them.

The best result comes if you only get to what you want in response to the other party’s follow-up question…

Phrases To Kill Your Search
Filed under: Résumé, Networking, Interview, Cover Letter, Career, Search Killer Phrases
Posted by: John Hadley @ 2:13 pm

In my travels, I get to hear and see a lot of elevator pitches, marketing messages, sales pieces, cover letters, résumés, engagement bios, etc.  Most of these include phrases that range from meaningless to unhelpful to seriously detrimental to any attempt to market yourself or your practice. 

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to publish my thoughts on many of these.  I invite your comments, and suggestions as to other phrases that frustrate you.  Drop me an email at, or simply insert your phrase in a comment here, and I’ll promote it to a new topic.

OK, here’s the first:

“I have transferrable skills.”

Ask yourself what the potential hiring manager or networking contact is hearing.

“I hope someone will consider me for something that my skills might apply to.”


“I don’t have confidence to present myself directly for a role I might want, so I’ll simply say my skills are transferable.”


“I’m not willing to commit to any one thing.”

Not exactly awe-inspiring messages, are they?

Instead of saying this, come up with a description of the type of problem you can solve with those ‘transferrable skills’, as relevantly as you can make it to your ideal target area, and then talk about that!


Uncovering Company Culture
Filed under: General, Networking, Interview, Career
Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:34 pm

This is the question that was posed:

“The more you know about a company’s culture, the easier it can be to tell what what you can offer to them if there is a match. I wanted to know how you would go about finding which company is the right fit in an industry:

My response

Face to face networking doesn’t require attending expensive events. It would be a good idea to get involved with a professional association or other networking group focused on your industry / job target, but that is only a piece of networking. True networking is 1-on-1 meetings with people outside of events, where you have their undivided attention for 30 minutes or more to equip them to understand your target, and why you would make an outstanding contribution there.

Attending selected events where you will meet the right sorts of people is a great way to make initial connections to some of the right people, so that you can then follow up and schedule those 1-on-1 meetings. You can also make connections through:

You can reach out through LinkedIn and other social / business media to find people of interest, and try reaching out to them to get a chance to chat and build them into your network. You can write directly to senior people at companies of interest expressing what you might bring to the table for their operations and asking to meet with them. You can read the trade press, and search for press releases and other stories on the industry and target companies.

And, of course, you can go on interviews and ask probing questions about the way the company operates to establish what sort of culture they have.

1 comment
Young People Just Starting Out
Filed under: General, Career, New Job
Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:11 pm

Shelley asked about tips for young people just starting out - a great topic!  I’ll start the ball rolling here, and then you can add your own thoughts to mine.

First off, whether or not you admire your boss, you can learn a lot from him or her.  Observe what your boss does well, and what you think could be done better.  I learned a lot from my early bosses about management, often as reverse role models showing me things I resolved never to do myself when I was a manager.

Watch carefully how different people operate at all different levels in the organization - your co-workers, peers in other departments, your superiors, senior people not in your chain of command, etc.  Watch for communication styles, how they conduct or participate in meetings, ways they write memos and emails, how they direct others, etc.  Look for the best (and the worst) of those, and examine in what ways those differ from your own style.  Figure out what you can do to emulate the best behaviors.

Pay particularly close attention to the next level up in the chain of command - the level to which you would next aspire.  One of the best ways to position yourself for promotion is to model the behavior of those at that level.

Get to know the people around you.  Don’t get sucked into the circles of those who are negative - you become negative by association.  Seek out mentors.

Have deep conversations with your boss.  Find out what your boss is most concerned about, what keeps him up at night, what goals are most important to her.  People often forget that their boss has goals, just as they do.  You have a great opportunity to build influence with your boss if you get to know his priorities, and can then find ways to approach your own work to better align with those.

Think about where you want to be in 5 years, and what skills and experience you need to develop to get there.  Then think about what projects you could take on to develop those.  Make your boss an ally in doing that.  Have career discussions regularly with her to focus on the long term, and options for how you can get the types of experience that will foster your development.

And don’t forget to work on your own personal development.  Take courses.  Seek out opportunities to run meetings, and to make presentations.  Put special emphasis on communication skills, both written and oral.  Those are going to make a huge difference in your career.  Consider joining a Toastmasters club or similar organization.

OK, I’ll stop there for now.  What suggestions do you have to add into the mix?


Don’t forget that you can subscribe to my RSS feed at:

And you will find many useful articles on my website at:

Better to Search While Employed?
Filed under: General, Networking, Career
Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:13 pm

Comment from one of my readers:

“I say “WOW” to the comment “have the courage to walk away from the position you don’t want”.  (From Career Tips, March 2009 - email me at for a copy.)

I find it interesting that one wouldn’t know if they wanted the position prior to the interview. However, I have found that once you’re on the job you may find out the position isn’t what was described and therefore not what you want.  In the current economy it’s an employer’s market where they have hundreds of applicants, so one may feel lucky, blessed or otherwise gifted to have been selected for a position.

I’ve heard it’s easier to find a job when one already has a job.  Do you subscribe to this philosophy and if so, wouldn’t it be better to take a not so perfect position and network in house to get to the position you want or continue to seek the desired position while you’re already in a position?”

My Answer:

No, I do not.  That was the thinking years ago when layoffs were much less common. 

If you don’t have a job because you got fired, or if you have a history of short duration jobs, or if you have a long gap (at least 6 months), then it’s a different story.

Generally, it is much easier to find a job when you aren’t employed, because then you have all of the prime working hours to devote to your search.  The most effective technique for job search is having lots of 1-on-1 networking meetings, mostly with people who are employed, and which therefore tend to take place during the working day.

If your goal is to get into a particular company, then an effective technique can be to find a job that is more or less a lateral move to get in the door, prove yourself there, and then work to get into the job you want.  This can be done whether you are already employed or not.

The challenge is that if the position isn’t one you are truly interested in, it will be harder to sell yourself for it.  Hiring managers want someone who is passionate about their work, and who are therefore more likely to put in the extra time and effort when needed.  If you don’t have that passion, it will be hard to fake it.  This is doubly hard if you are applying for a position beneath what you might qualify for, as then the hiring manager will be suspicious that you are just taking it to get in the door and make a move as soon as possible.

I’ve worked with more than one client who had been out of work 2 years, and by showing them how to market themselves effectively (with a strong emphasis on networking), within a few months both had landed at jobs they were thrilled with, right back at the responsibility and compensation levels they had been at before their layoffs.

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Think Outside The Box
Filed under: Networking, Interview, Career
Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:41 pm

In my August issue of Career Tips, I wrote about the benefits of volunteering to make yourself more marketable, and some potential traps to avoid.  (If you would like a copy, just drop me a note at

Another form of ‘volunteering’ is the unpaid internship or ’sample’ consulting project.  Basically, you are giving a prospective employer something for free to demonstrate the value you can add.  Be sure to make this a quid pro quo - where you are getting something substantive in return.  Your received value could be a reference / recommendation, the chance to build up your skills and accomplishments in a new venue, or even just a commitment to consider you for a future paid opportunity. 

I’d suggest making the value you are going to receive explicit. 

For example, if it’s the ‘consider for the future’ option, then get agreement in advace to a point in time when that consideration will take place.  This could be a time line, like 2 months after you start, or when a deliverable takes place, such as when you complete the project.  By making this tradeoff explicit in advance, you present yourself as a more confident professional, and someone with negotiation skills.  You also avoid the awkwardness of wondering when to ask, having the project just continue dragging on, etc.

Another technique is to simply ask a lot of questions and offer concrete suggestions, demonstrating your insight and the value you can add.  This can get people in a frame of mind where they are interested in helping you, or in getting more of your insight for themselves.  One great example was just sent me by someone who had been struggling with her search for some time:

“Here’s how I landed my job:  I was reading the classifieds, and noticed an attorney’s ad which had incorrectly stated an area of law.  I thought to myself, “does she know her ad is incorrect or does she not know what she’s doing relative to this area of law”.  I decided to call, introduce myself and ask her about the ad. 

She thanked me for bringing it to her attention, and asked me to tell her more about myself.  She asked my availability to come in for an interview, and fewer than 72 hours later we met, and I’ve been there since that day!!”

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Achieve Your Career Potential
Filed under: General, Career
Posted by: John Hadley @ 5:04 pm

When was the last time you sat back and gave serious thought to what you want to achieve in life, and how what you do at work is aligned with that?

Are you doing what you really want to do? Do you still think of your job as a career, or has it become simply a source of a paycheck? Do you get up in the morning excited to go to work? Do you take pride in what you’ve accomplished at the end of the day?

If the answer to these questions is no, it’s time to re-examine your priorities.

Think of what it’s costing you each day to come to a job you aren’t really that interested in anymore, to periodically glance at the clock in the afternoon, wishing you could get home to what’s truly important in your life! And what does that cost you at home—spending eight or more hours a day doing something that leaves you drained instead of energized?

For the rest of the article, visit this link:

Also think about impact it has on your family to watch you working away at a job about which you lack passion.  If you have children, what are you modeling for them about the working world?  You’d better believe they are going to notice your attitudes towards your job and work in general, and that will have a lastimg impression on them and their own behaviors.  For more on this, read this article:

I’d love to hear your reactions to these…drop me a note at

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Rediscovering Your Career Direction
Filed under: General, Career
Posted by: John Hadley @ 1:08 pm

“I am stuck. I cannot figure out which direction to go in.  I am a physician with only 1 year of job experience. The problem is that I am no longer passionate about this specialty. Currently, I am unemployed and quite depressed. What should I do? If you have any suggestions, I would greatly appreciate them.

Thank you for your great career tips on the 4th leg of the 3-legged career stool and all the wonderful work that you do.”

Is it just your current specialty for which you’ve lost your passion, or the medical profession in general?  Is there another specialty that appears to offer more of what you are seeking, and what would be involved in making a switch to that one? What attracted you to medicine in the first place, and what has changed about that?

“I believe that I have lost interest in my current specialty, but I am still interested in the medical profession. I am not sure which specialty offers more of what I am seeking, but maybe internal medicine or one of its subspecialties. It would involve re-applying for residency match program, then at least 3 years of additional residency training. Helping people and my affinity for science attracted me to medicine. 

What has changed?  I don’t think I understood about time restraints in seeing patients and how procedures are more prized than problem solving.

I feel lost lost because I don’t know where to turn. Everyone expects me to be gainfully employed by now.”

Hopefully the article I sent you gave you more to think about – seems like its subject found, and for himself at least, solved the issue of balancing seeing patients, procedures, and problem solving.

Don’t worry about other’s expectations – all that matters is what YOU expect or want for YOURSELF.  Many people go through changes in interests, particularly as they get deeper into a particular area.  There is no shame in that.  Many start out in entirely different careers than they will pursue a few years later.  I’m one of the lucky ones – I’m in my 3rd career, and have thoroughly enjoyed all three.  About 3/4’s of the people I started out with in the Actuarial profession had completely changed directions by the time I achieved my Fellowship 5 years later.

Focus on figuring out what looks more promising to you NOW.  Think about what you’ve learned from your current specialty, and exactly what you did and didn’t like about it, and about the way it was practiced in the particular residency program and hospital in which you were working.  Try to separate what is true generally about the specialty from how it happened to be practiced there.

Now go out and explore internal medicine and its subspecialties.  Set up meetings with other doctors and residents about those subspecialties, particularly those working in them.  Find out what they love about what they do.  Explore with them exactly what it means day to day and how that aligns with what you’ve discovered gets you excited to get up in the morning, and what you’ve discovered you want to minimize.

There is no PERFECT area – all will have plusses and minuses, but if you can find something where there are so many plusses that you don’t mind dealing with the minuses, then that’s a very promising area to explore.

Don’t worry too much about the fact that you might have to go through another residency.  If that is an investment in getting to the place you will be very happy, it’s worth it.  Just do enough exploration first that you feel strongly that this is likely to be the right direction (for now).

And don’t judge it by whether it’s your dream forever.  You will change, medicine will change, specialties will evolve, just as happens in any profession.  Just seek something that is very promising for now…in another 5 years, you can re-evaluate and make adjustments as needed.  In the meanwhile, you will be doing something you enjoy, and learning a whole lot about yourself and your options…

1 comment
Don’t Overlook Fit To Job
Filed under: General, Networking, Interview, Career
Posted by: John Hadley @ 10:20 pm

I was struck by a phrase in a posting about a job as follows:

“Cultural fit will be very important…looking for an all-around athlete that is easy to get along with”

This is a point that many candidates overlook - they are so worried about ’selling themselves’ that they forget to take a really close look at the opportunity, and particularly the culture, to see if it’s a fit to what THEY want.

This is a recipe for disaster.  I can cite 2 specific examples:

1. Many years ago, someone I know was very distracted by family issues that were leading him to make a transition to be nearer family.  He accepted a job, only to realize immediately upon arriving that he really didn’t want that specific job.  He turned in his resignation after only a few weeks.  (The good news for me was that I ended up landing the job immediately after, and it was my Dream Job!)

2. Not too far back, someone I knew was in a panic about landing a job, found a job title that sounded good and sold himself for it through a networking contact.  He neglected to dig into the specifics of how the job was done, landed it, and then called me his 2nd day on the job to tell me how miserable he was.  He quit within a week.  (The good news is that shortly thereafter he landed a totally different job that suited his talents and style very well, and has had great success with it.)

On the other hand, operating from a psychology where you have the confidence to project that you are there to evaluate them as much as for them to evaluate you is a powerful position that produces a much stronger result for you in the interview.

Here’s an article for anyone interested in more on this:

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“Old Hand” Needs New Tricks
Filed under: Networking, Interview, Career
Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:00 pm

“John, I took your “5 Secrets” seminar in 2005, when the software company I worked for essentially collapsed. I then went with another small software start-up, which was acquired last year “at below market rates” and was immediately laid off by the acquiring company.

Since then I have pursued two directions:

  1. My passion, returning to my “roots” — a history in and marketing to the energy industry, and
  2. Small software companies where my senior marketing could help a company grow.
Both industries are hurting, in spite of all the hoopla about energy, so the going has been tough. I’ve been networking extensively in energy and high tech arenas, but am not seeing opportunities. The market is such that companies are picking only “perfect” matches to their requirements, while I have a quite diverse set of leadership capabilities.

I’d really like to get back into energy, but there seems to be a presumption on many people’s part that an “old energy hand” can’t learn new tricks, even though I was creating the new tricks up to 2002, and have stayed in touch with developments all along.

Do you have any suggestions?”

  • What can you do to actively present your diverse set of experiences as an advantage, instead of allowing others to assume it’s a negative (lack of focused, current experience)?
  • Are you clearly expressing powerful results, rather than ‘experience’?
  • What are you doing to show you aren’t an “old” energy hand - to counter the typical concerns someone might have about that - not being up to speed on current developments, not being that good at current technology, being stuck in your ways, not having the level of energy & passion someone younger might, talking about ‘how we used to do things’, etc.?
  • Are you making sure you have an up-to-date appearance and style of dress?
  • It is my belief that there are jobs out there, if you develop a strong, focused marketing message and present it well. Just a few weeks ago, USA Today had a front page article about the boom in jobs in 3 sectors - Health Care, Government and Energy. In fact, I have an older client who is carving out a consulting business in the energy field, and expects to be in 6 figures by year end. He came into it from an IT infrastructure perspective, with no particular background in energy, and has quickly become a sought after expert in his particular niche.

    Good luck!

    Pay (Cut) Negotiations
    Filed under: Salary, Career, Negotiation
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 10:33 pm

    “I am working for a recruiting firm, and have been told that I can stay if I accept a 40% cut in pay until business picks up.  A bucket of ice water in the face does not adequately describe my initial thoughts. I am at a crossroads as unemployment would be more for me after taxes, but I have great insurance with the company that I could not get w/out.

    Any advice? I would imagine there are more questions, please hit me with them! Need an outside perspective on this.”

    This is a very tough situation – I would have described it more like a sucker punch in the gut than ice water in the face!

    You should think carefully about options, longer term goals, etc, and be careful not to simply act out of the stress of the moment. Possibilities that occur to me off the top of my head include:

  • Figuring out a quid pro quo for the 40% pay cut, such as guaranteed employment for 1 year, benchmarks for production that when achieved will trigger an automatic bump back up to the prior salary, a substantial increase in paid time off (which you could use to seek other employment, though you wouldn’t tell them that), variable comp based on increasing your accounts above their current level (so that you can ‘earn’ your way back to your current pay)…
  • Negotiating with them on the size of the decrease (and coupled with any of the above). Get really clear on the results you have brought to their operation and expect to bring going forward for that discussion, and make that front and center in the meeting.
  • You could even try to negotiate a move back to contractor status at the pre-cut pay with a variable bonus based on production above a certain level, which would leave you with a smaller cut after paying for the insurance costs you lose, and would give them the benefit of moving you out of a fixed long term cost.
  • Seeking a new job while continuing to work with them at the lower pay.
  • Negotiating a severance package of some sort, and then going to look for a new job full time.
  • In preparation for the discussion, also try to examine how much they would be hurt if you walked away. What would that possibly cost them in terms of the remaining accounts, relationships, and the need to pay someone else to take on what you’ve been doing?

    If you have a strong relationship with those accounts, what could you do to sell the benefits of your services to them, either as part of the recruiting firm, as an employee with them, as an independent contractor (lower cost), or with another firm? (Obviously, any non-compete agreements with your current boss will affect your options … and if you have those, then part of the quid pro quo negotiation to accept any pay cut should include limiting or eliminating such restrictions until the point they bump your pay back up.)

    Finally, think about:

  • Do you really like the job, the company, your boss, etc.?
  • Does this pay cut affect how you feel about those elements?
  • What does it say about what else they might do in the future?
  • comments (0)
    Figuring Out My “Dream” Job
    Filed under: General, Networking, Career
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 12:52 pm

    “Recently I began attemding an 8 week career seminar. At age 62, I have not had permanent work since 2006, following the 2nd of two layoffs in less than 2 years. I cannot say that I have ever found my “sweet spot” as to doing work that I love. I have also taken several assessment tests over the years.

    There have been some that I enjoyed, though nothing has been particulary challenging or rewarding. I need to find some level of satisfaction, not just a paycheck. Currently I am living on SS, unemployment and temp work, that is usually boring. Whether temp or permanent work (mostly adminstrative with some sales), my supervisors have always been impressed by my professionalism, customer service skills and my normally positive attitude.

    I have made several attempts to start my own buisness. I believe I have an entrepreneural spirit. I have struggled for 22 years both financially and career wise.

    I am convinced that God has a plan, but I honestly don’t know how to set career goals. I enjoy working and the satisfaction of doing a job exceptionally well, but have never really enjoyed the corporate world, working mostly with small businesses. I am happiest knowing I have helped others in some way.

    Can you offer some suggestions to a 62 year old woman who believes she still has something to contribute?”

    Think in terms of small steps that can start moving you towards a goal, rather than trying to first come up with the ultimate goal. Once you’ve achieved some small steps, you can take stock and think about what would move you ahead further.

    Find a few options for things you think you would be interested in doing - not necessarily your ‘dream’ job or business, but things that you could enjoy.

    Seek out meetings with people involved in those things, and have deep conversations with them about what they do, what they love about it, what they don’t like, etc. In the conversation, also talk about what you think you would bring to the table in that area, and do some brainstorming with them. DON’T ASK ABOUT JOB OPENINGS, WHO’S HIRING, ETC. Keep it focused on equipping them to know about you, and brainstorming with them to get advice. In this way you will get lots of information and advice, and will equip these people to become your eyes and ears in the market.

    As you do this, it will start to create a feedback loop that helps you get more clarity on your options, and you will start to feel either more or less excited about certain options, and see how you might shape them differently to tap more into what interests you.

    I would also recommend seeking out some volunteer effort in an area related to one of the options, which will give you some hands on experience that will help you see if it’s a viable option, will build your database of skills and stories to tell in your search, and will build your network – people love helping someone they see volunteering for something important to them.

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    Create Influence With Your Boss
    Filed under: General, Career
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 10:53 am

    When was the last time you asked your boss about his or her goals and challenges?

    Most of the time, we are very focused on our own goals.  We are interested in our boss’s goals to the extent they impact our day to day work.  But do we dig very deeply into our boss’s goals and challenges?  Typically, no.

    Periodically, our boss will tell us about the unit’s goals and how that impacts us.  We may ask a few questions, but we don’t tend to try to deeply explore those - we take them as a given.  We move directly on to how those goals affect us, without thinking too hard about how they impract the boss.  We too quickly accept the answers without probing deeply enough to really understand the underlying issues…or assume we already know what they are.

    This is a big mistake.  We are too quick to accept what seems obvious, and miss subtleties that can help us take our work to a new level.  We also miss a great opportunity to create real influence with our boss. 

    When you first ask anyone about their goals or challenges, you typically get a fairly superficial answer.  It’s important not to leave it there, and take the answer at face value.  You need to peel back the onion, and dig into what leads to that being so important, what factors get in the way of solving the problem, how much that issue is costing the operation, etc.  The deeper you get into it, the more insight you will have into the issues, and the better you will be able to see how you might be able to approach your own work in a way that facilitates solutions.

    You always have options in how you go about your day to day work, and how you prioritize your tasks.  The more you know about your boss’s challenges and what’s behind those, the better you can organize your own work and approaches to show your alignment with those.

    Simply by asking the questions, and focusing on the impact on your boss, you build a much stronger bridge.  You distinguish yourself from the ‘average’ employee who takes these issues as a given, and doesn’t make the effort to understand these issues at a deeper level.

    Think about how much stronger a relationship you could create with your boss if you really understood what keeps him or her up at night, and he or she saw that you attacked your own work in ways that showed you were focused on helping him or her make real progress on those issues!

    Try doing this with others with whom you are trying to have a deeper relationship as well.  For more on “Digging Into Challenges”, see this article:

    1 comment
    Communicating With Your Boss
    Filed under: Career, Performance
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 10:01 am

    “I have been in my current company for almost three years. Recently I was promoted. After the promotion, my responsibility stayed the same. I was told that there will be some increase within the next year due to the tight budget. I don’t really value this as compensation given the above facts.

    I expressed this when the department VP informed me of the promotion before the team meeting. She said that it is obvious that I am not satisfied. Based on her past conversations with me, she felt I always challenged her and wanted something else. She would like to meet with me to know what I really want in a couple of days.

    Now I regret my response, since I had already decided to look for another opportunity in other companies. My decision was made before the meeting, since I couldn’t see my future here. I was viewed as a person who is kind of difficult to manage, since I like to challenge things. With that said, why should I make the situation worse? My relationship with my boss (director) is not that great.

    What might you suggest as a way to convince the vice president that I am satisfied with the current arrangement? What are the most valuable skills and experience the future employer would like to see from a candidate like me?

    Would you please advise the best way to challenge senior management in the future? With my experience here, I now realize that having a good relationship with your boss and working smart are much important than how much you work. How can I have a better result in the future?”


    Whether you decide to stay where you are or not, it is important to retain as strong a relationship as possible with your boss and others at your company.

    You will be surprised at how you may come in contact with them in the future. I’ve several times ended up working with people again at a new company, with both of us at different levels than before and in different levels of authority relative to each other.

    Ideally you would like everyone you come in contact with to think of you as a results-oriented professional they would enjoy having on their team, as that’s how you create the visibility for yourself that generates new opportunities.

    Your reputation for being difficult to manage and liking to challenge things may come in large part from the way you present your ideas. You may be doing so too forcefully in ways that challenge the status quo, in effect taking a ‘frontal assault’ approach that raises your boss’s and others’ defenses.

    A more effective approach is to be very curious about why things are done the way they are. Ask questions about the goals, what’s led to the way something is done now, brainstorming on how the work can be done in a way that still meets those, but also achieves other critical goals (making operations more efficient, freeing up resources for other critical tasks, etc.).

    Often the problem can be as simple as how you phrase the question. For example, asking “Why…” is taken as challenging - it sounds like you are questioning why I’m doing something. Changing the question to “What factors led to this…” makes it less threatening - it sounds more like genuine interest and curiosity.

    In your upcoming conversation, you want to focus on:

  • the results you are bringing to the operation,
  • your desire to continue to bring those sorts of results, and to build on those to produce even stronger results, and
  • what would help you do that.

    The discussion about what would make you more satisfied is a longer term question and focus, which gets into career planning.

    Frame your answer in terms of your longer term goals, and what can be done over time to help you achieve those. Try to make it a brainstorming session, collaborating with your boss on possible ways to change your job focus, add new types of projects or responsibilities, get you involved in new or different initiatives, etc., over time. Talk about time frames for making some of those changes, and time lines for the longer term goals you want to achieve.

    Don’t make any of your requests like ultimatums - “make these changes or I’ll leave.”

    After the discussion, you can then weigh in your own mind over the next days or weeks whether the plans are sufficient to make you want to stay, and then you can keep that decision private - no one needs to (or should) know that you are looking elsewhere until the day you accept an offer and turn in your 2 weeks notice.

  • Excerpted from November 2007 Career Tips.  To review contents of past issues and selected articles, visit

    1 comment
    Misconceptions About An Effective Job Search Campaign
    Filed under: General, Networking, Career
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 4:05 pm

    Posted to a job board:

    “So you lost your job or maybe you just quit, or maybe you are thinking of quiting. The best thing you can do for yourself is get right into an aggressive job search campaign where you can re-direct the energies, the frustration, the emotion and the creativity that you normally channeled into your regular job.

    Here are the ways people are finding new jobs today. You will use most if not all of these methods:
    1) Resume posting on internet Job Boards
    2) Resume submission to employer web sites
    3) Resume mass mailing - sending out hundreds of resumes to recruiters
    4) Networking - cold calling everyone you know and everyone they know
    5) Newspaper classified ads
    6) Targeting selected companies”

    I agree with the sentiment about re-directing energy, etc. into an aggressive job search campaign.  However, I take strong exception to the items listed, or at least their relative priorities.

    Resume postings, submissions to websites, and classified ads are methods upon which many job seekers rely heavily, and are generally a trap.  It is easy to get sucked into spending many hours a day scouring places where you can submit, putting together your submissions, following up and monitoring all of your activity. 

    I’m not advocating you never do these, just that you severely limit the time you spend on them, since they have a very low hit rate.  These are attempts to go through the front door, where you are in direct competition with the hundreds and hundreds of others who are seeing those same postings or ads.  I advise my clients they should spend no more than an hour a day on average dealing with everything associated with ‘internet searching.’

    As to #3 (mass mailing), I have heard people (most often those selling the service) swear by this, figuring it’s the law of large numbers, but frankly, I don’t see a great deal of value.  As someone who has been on the receiving end of such campaigns, I can tell you that I almost always throw those applications away, AND I think less of the candidate from who I receive them.  Unless you make those tailored letters that have no scent of mass mailing, they simply suggest you are (1) lazy, and (2) unfocused in your search.

    On the other hand, I had a client who was trying to make a change to a different role and a different industry.  She compiled a list of 20 hiring managers at target companies (#6 on the list) for the role she wanted.  We talked about what exactly she was going to do to create the strongest chance of interviews, and she wrote to the 1st 9 on her list, with the idea the next wave would go out a week later.  She never sent the 2nd wave, as the 1st 9 letters and follow-up calls secured her 3 formal and 3 informational interviews, and one resulted in the job offer she soughts.

    #6 (Targeting companies), definitely you should do this…the question is, now that you’ve established your targets, what are you going to do about it?

    This leads us to #3 (Networking).  Networking has the highest hit rate of all methods you can use - if you do it right - many times the hit rate of postings to company websites and job portals.  Every job I have ever accepted ultimately came through well as a very lucrative systems consulting practice.

    The problem with what was said above is the link to ‘cold calling’, which feeds into most people’s fear and misconceptions of what effective networking is all about.  Don’t think of it as ‘cold calling’, as that will hold you back.  Networking is about building on the relationships you already have to build new relationships. It’s about describing to everyone you can the target you seek, and exactly why you would be a great asset to that target. It’s not about asking people about openings and handing them your resume, it’s about brainstorming with them and equipping them with a simple message that expresses the results you might bring to the right situation.

    Here are 2 articles that lay out exactly what to do, and what not to do, to make your networking a huge success: 

    1 comment
    When & How To Resign
    Filed under: Salary, Career, Negotiation
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:40 pm

    “I started two years ago as a temp to hire with the belief that my salary would increase when I became full time. It did not and I was already into the position for months, and made the decision to stay because when my review would come then my salary would increase. It did, about 30 cents. Also, I have had enough with bad communication with senior management. I have a good work ethic and do not believe in quitting until another opportunity is available. However, I am looking to go into work tomorrow with my resignation letter in hand. Any advice would be appreciated.”

    There is nothing wrong with quitting without another opportunity lined up, as long as you have the financial resources to afford it.  Looking for a job is much easier when you can do it full time, and are free to meet with people for networking meetings and interivews during the day without needing to request time off from work.
    Even though you feel like you have not been treated well at your current employer, you need to put that aside.  Leave on a positive note, without burning any bridges.  You never know when you might run into some of these people again, and you want every potential hiring manager to see you as a true professional, not someone who says negative things about people / companies they’ve worked with before.
    Next time, don’t simply hope your salary will increase.  Sit down and make a list of what you’ve accomplished in your job, and what results that produced for your employer.  Try to quantify those results.  And look at what your job pays in the market.  Then approach your boss about how much you look forward to continuing to produce results like those, and could you talk about an increase in compensation to reflect the contributions you are making and expect to make in the future.