Overcoming Professional Failures

Edison

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to host a career-based chat for soon-to-be college graduates. Overall, it was a positive conversation and I was excited to provide suggestions to help these students prepare for their future in the working world. As always, I welcomed fellow chatters to connect with me if they ever need to network, brainstorm or just need general advice. Needless to say, I was happy to see that someone took me up on my offer and the discussion got me thinking.

One student brought up her concerns about her future and asked me how I overcame professional failure. It was an interesting thing to revisit, especially because only a few short years ago, I was struggling with my own disappointments and downfalls. As an introvert, it’s not always easy for me to get out of my own head, particularly with less-than-favorable scenarios. But, as always, I find a way to dig myself out and move forward. In the end, those situations were what helped me provide the advice I was able to for this specific individual and hopefully it will allow her to look beyond her own setbacks and know that things do get better if you let them.

Professional failure can come in a lot of different forms and for a lot of different reasons. It doesn’t simply stop at getting terminated. As I considered my own ups and downs, as well as my peers’, I realized that there are many things that people can deem a failure. Aside from being fired, being laid-off is also one that people consider a downfall. Even if it was for reasons beyond them, it’s a terrible feeling knowing that your livelihood is suddenly stripped from you. Counting pennies is never fun, nor is the constant stress from wondering when you’ll get back on your feet. But, failure still doesn’t just stop there.

You don’t need to be jobless to feel the sting of failure. For example, perhaps you were counting on a promotion or working hard to move laterally or upwards within your current company. When you finally put yourself out there, you are shot down. It’s heartbreaking to know that you’re working so hard only to find out that your peers don’t believe in you. It can feel the same way when it comes to performance review-based or annual raises. As long as you’re meeting expectations, it could be expected to get some kind of bump in pay, even if it’s just to manage any cost-of-living inflations. Maybe you are just doing your job or maybe you’re exceeding expectations, even performing duties outside of your role. If you’re denied that raise, it’s hard to stop wondering why you weren’t deserving of it.

A lot of other things can be considered failures aside from the ones mentioned. It all depends on what a person values, needs and expects from their employer. It’s ok to fail and to experience the emotions that go along with it. It’s ok to ride out the sadness, disappointment and pain. The key is to know when and how to move on from it, which some people find it hard to do.

I’m a big believer in letting yourself feel what your body naturally wants to feel. If you are angry or sad or lost, feel that. Let it all out, even if it’s a few hours, days or even weeks. Repressing it isn’t going to help, but neither is drowning in it. After you succumb to whatever you’re feeling, you eventually have to come to a point where you’re like, “Ok, enough is enough.” And that’s the point where you can put it behind you and move on. If you’re struggling to get to that point or if you’re at the point but have no idea where to go from there, you need to remember that your failures don’t define you. That one little moment or one thing will not negate all the progress and success you’ve had throughout your working life. It’s important to embrace that and go with it.

Am I saying to pretend that the failures didn’t exist? Of course not. Sometimes people truly do fail because of something they did. Learn from it. Sometimes people fail for things that were out of their hands. Also learn from it. The important thing is to take those lessons to help you be better prepared for your future. But even so, this shouldn’t be your sole driving force and this shouldn’t be on the forefront of your mind as you try to propel forward. The good you’ve done in the past matters and those are the things that are going to matter in the future. When you are speaking to your next potential employer or your next potential manager (if you’re going for a promotion), you need to think about that. Let that build your confidence and let that provide you with that steely resolve that, yes, you are the right person for this job. Don’t let that little sense of doubt make your conviction wane.

Failure happens to everyone. You’re not the only one, so don’t think that you’re singled out with a big sign on your back that says, “I messed up,” or “I’m not worthy”. You’re not the odd man out and, chances are, you will continue to face these challenges throughout your career. It’s just the way things are. The important thing is to learn how to move forward without letting any of these roadblocks put a hold on your progress.

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Recruiter Training: Are We Focusing on the Wrong Things?

A few months back, I wrote a blog covering the recruiter faux-pas my friends had been experiencing during their active and passive job searches. Coming from a talent acquisition background, I was frustrated with the consistency of bad communications, outreach, general recruitment and interview processes. It brought to light the reasons why candidates are so turned off by the process of finding a job. Being out of the job hunt for a couple of years now, I decided to try a little experiment to see what candidates are facing.

Now living in a city much bigger than Charleston, I believed there would be many more job opportunities and it would be a prime time to do this research. About two months ago, I decided to put my resume out there as an active job seeker. I posted on the mainstream job boards, such as CareerBuilder, Indeed and Monster. I updated my social media profiles, About.me and LinkedIn. I uploaded my resume on more job-specific boards, joined talent communities and applied to a few jobs for good measure. The results were horrendous.

I thought this would have been a no brainer for recruiters. I have a bachelor’s with a focus in human resources and I’ve spent the last 4+ years working in human resources and talent acquisition roles. I even included links to my social media profiles and this very blog just to give a clearer picture of my skills beyond my traditional resume, if the recruiters decided they wanted dig a litter deeper. I was spoon-feeding them. I was making it easy. So why were the results so abysmal?

Out of all the recruiter responses I’ve received, only 20% have contacted me with something remotely relevant to my background. Even worse, not a single person has presented an opportunity that met my distinct criteria (which wasn’t even that picky – I just simply stated a full-time role within 25 miles of my current location). To summarize what I’ve experienced:

  • I’ve received calls about jobs in sales, web development, data entry, filing and entry-level call center
  • I’ve been offered jobs around minimum wage, which living in Boston wouldn’t get me very far
  • I’ve received calls about week-long jobs or 3 month contracts across the country
  • I’ve had non-stop calls from the same recruiters on a daily basis for weeks on end, but not a single email from them
  • I’ve even heard the gimmicky FOMO tactic, “I don’t want you to miss out on this fantastic opportunity!”
  • I’ve had discussions with people who sounded like they were reading off a script, completely dehumanizing the conversation
  • I’ve seen emails with gross misspellings and general spam
  • I’ve talked with sourcers (both internal and agency) that seemed to be clueless on what the job duties were for what they were recruiting
  • I’ve talked to people who had no job descriptions and no compensation details

I could hear the sales-pitch and franticness in some of their tones. It’s just getting bad.

Is it all the recruiter’s fault for being terrible at matching skills and general communications? Of course not. But having worked in agency, RPO and corporate recruitment roles the past, I can tell you that recruiters are trained differently in different environments…. if they’re trained at all. I have noticed over the years that business is rapidly growing and there’s an urgency to find talent, throwing training to the wayside to ensure a fast ramp-up. And the metrics I’ve seen recruiters held to are a little ridiculous. Most of them make absolutely no sense when it comes to ensuring quality talent is being found. Do I understand urgency in filling positions might cause hiccups in process flows? Sure do. But at what cost?

Lack of adequate new hire training and on-going training is causing our industry to become just as bad as the creepy “used car salesman”. Poorly designed performance measurement tools and metrics are causing people to feel like they have to cut corners in order to meet unrealistic expectations to ensure job security. Bad habits are being passed along during peer-to-peer job shadowing and training. In the end, it’s the candidates that are suffering. Also, the companies are suffering when they’re not getting the talent they need. And unfortunately, some hiring managers don’t have the luxury to hold off for the right talent and sometimes they do have to settle for someone presented sooner than later. But, shouldn’t it be the recruiter’s duty to at least try to find the best talent they can in that timeframe who won’t be likely to quit within the first 90 days?

It is a sad state of affairs, my friends. But one that can be fixed. If you’re in a position to implement changes, you need to at least make the effort. Don’t turn a blind eye just because you’re hitting your SLAs and getting butts in seats. Quality matters. Ensuring your recruiters are meeting REAL performance indicators matters. Creating a better candidate experience so candidates actually WANT to call your recruiters back matters. Ensuring the positions you are filling don’t become vacant again in less than 6 months matters.

And if you’re a recruiter reading this, you still can make a difference in your own work. I understand that sometimes you might not have the support from managers or leadership, nor know where you need to go to find it. I’ve been there before – I get it. But there is a plethora of resources out there in our industry that you can utilize to help you fill the voids in your training. Sure, it might be a little extra work to dedicate to independent learning and development, but it’s well worth it if you feel like you can keep your integrity intact.

I was by no means an ideal recruiter and I’m sure I’ve made some of the aforementioned mistakes above. However, the difference is to be self-aware of these things and to take the necessary measures to ensure our industry doesn’t come crumbling down on us, even if that means taking your training into your own hands.

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What Are They Taking With Them When They Go?

When I first considered human resources as a focus in college and as a career path, I always felt the intense desire to be that person that found the potential in others. I wanted to find that perfect person for a company’s needs. I wanted to find that connection and help companies discover a person’s hidden talents that may have been overlooked. I wanted to hone in on those aspects to a person, learn their passions, and help them foster it. I wanted to be the reason why a company had progressive employees. It wasn’t just about talent acquisition for me. It was about improving the internal team. These individuals weren’t going to be just another employee- they were going to be the people that made the difference.

As I got more involved with human resources, I started to realize that in order to succeed, you had to build a relationship. As I thought of my own personal relationships in the past, I thought about the best and worst aspects of them. I recall growing up and having those highly emotional, yet highly destructive relationships. You know, the ones that you feel like you’ve just sunk yourself into a black hole and it will take forever for to build yourself up again. When I matured a bit more, I realized that all relationships don’t last forever and that the best thing I could do is to try to be supportive to the other person in the relationship. Let them build themselves up as an individual so if things didn’t work out, they wouldn’t be left with nothing. They wouldn’t have to start over again.

I feel like these aspects are very similar to an employer/employee relationship. I’m sure we’ve all experienced some sort of negative situation: the employer didn’t care; you hit a glass ceiling; it was a hostile work environment; your employer was underutilizing you; and so on. I’m sure you’ve experienced the times when you were disengaged, dreading to go to work. I’m sure there have been times when you wanted to just give up because it didn’t seem like anyone noticed or recognized your efforts anyway, so why not put in the bare minimum. I’m sure there were also times when you had positive experiences. Maybe you still talk to your previous employers or coworkers. Maybe you also talk highly of them and would have stayed with them if they had the opportunities that matched your professional goals.

As an HR professional, I’m wondering what we’re doing to change these employees’ experiences into a positive one. With the way the world of work has changed, it’s becoming a common trend for employees to move on from an employer within a few years, whether it is voluntary or involuntary. What are we doing to make them feel like they’re a better person and employee by the time they move on? Are we developing those relationships? Are we giving them the resources and tools they need to build themselves up? Are we utilizing their untapped skills so they feel like they’re making the most of their time and effort?

I never wanted my experience in HR to be about “policing” employees. I didn’t want to be the warden of policies and disciplinary action. I didn’t want to be the one putting up so much red tape that employees felt stuck. HR has the ability to do something greater for their workforce. They have the ability to help with career progression. I want to know that my efforts impacted my employees’ lives so when and if they do leave the company, they are leaving with something more than what they came in with.

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Interns Should be More Than Your Coffee Lackey

Many years ago, interns used to be called “apprentices.” In these roles, the mentor would teach the apprentice how to do the job, provide details about the industry, and give a realistic expectations. The mentor took time to add value to the individual they were teaching and, as a result, allowed the individual to gain skills and knowledge to perform well once they were ready to start their career. In present day, interns are joked to be the “coffee lackey” or the “errand runner” for the company they’re “working” at. Sadly, these terms came about because some companies have delegated these tasks to the individuals who initially came there to learn. But how is getting a coffee order right going to help anyone?

As a support system and mentor for some of my interns, I often have a weekly call with them to discuss some of the things they’re learning from the team/department they’re interning in. I’ll attempt to answer any questions, build a support system, and offer some guidance. Of course, I’m always intrigued to hear about their previous interning experiences compared to their current ones and also to hear about their dislikes and likes from each experience. Needless to say, it shocked me when I heard that there are plenty of times when these interns literally were delegated the bare minimum. They’d tell me that these situations didn’t allow them to learn anything useful and that they felt like they wasted their time. More importantly, their experience at the company made them want to rule it out as a potential employer down the line.

What bothers me about this situation is the fact that we’re not doing anything or anyone justice if we aren’t utilizing our interns the best that we can. These interns come to companies in hopes to get a realistic view of what the world of work really is like. They came to put their school studies to practice and build their skills in ways that textbooks and classrooms can’t provide. They’re making a conscious effort to build their resumes so they are an attractive candidate once they’re ready for full-time work. They came to your company because they potentially wanted to build a relationship so you could consider them once you had a relevantjob opening. And how are they repaid for their effort? By having companies waste their time and make them feel expendable.

Here comes the irony: I often hear recruiters and hiring managers complain that there isn’t enough good talent for their entry-level positions. The reason for this is because some companies have turned internships into an opportunity to have someone do the unfavorable tasks that they don’t want to do rather than actually mentoring them. This could be an opportunity to allow them to reach their potential. As a company that has internship programs, it’s your responsibility to help build the talent for the future workforce. If you want great employees coming out of college, then it’s imperative for you to help them build their skills at a time where they are eager and inspired to learn.

Interns come to companies with natural motivation, desire to learn, drive, and ambition. They’re hopeful for their future and are looking up to their mentors to guide them in the right direction. Essentially, mentors of the internship programs are the ones who are helping shape our upcoming workforce. What are you doing to help contribute?

If this topic interests you, be sure to join in or listen to the #InternPro radio show.

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Pairing Formal with Informal Learning

Let’s face it- everyone learns and retains things differently. We learned about this fact during our school years and it still holds true in our professional careers. Some people learn at a faster rate than others. Some gain more from classroom teaching than hands-on training. The point is, one size does not fit all when it comes to learning and development and it would be wise for organizations to recognize this fact to ensure their training initiatives are more effective.

First off, get your formal learning in check. With technology advancing our ability to have more options to be trained, it’s important to remember that formal learning doesn’t have to require people to be trapped in a four walled room. Break down those walls and incorporate new ways to do formal training that goes beyond traditional classroom training. Personally, sitting through 8 hours of classroom lectures did not always help my understanding or retention (not to mention, my attention span). Break up the lectures with some additional learning opportunities. Maybe have your training classes go out in the field or interact/collaborate with people who already do this role within the organization. Let them see formal learning be put into action.

Secondly, it is important to remember that informal learning is necessary, too. Like stated earlier, people all have different learning styles so forcing them to only learn in a handful of ways might limit what they gain out of the experience. Breaking up your formal learning can only go so far so it’s up to you to encourage and empower employees to take initiative for their development. Give them suggestions on what they can do for their independent learning efforts. Let them interact with people in the industry so they can see how to put these trainings to good use. Allow them to join webinars or go to professional social networking groups. The learning world is their oyster.

I will tell you that I personally gained a lot from my informal learning. I often feel like the social media HR groups I’ve participated in (such as the Twitter chat, #Tchat) or the networking calls I had with people I’ve connected with have helped me gain so much more than majority of the training I’ve formally had from employers or schooling. Even researching topics and information to write the posts on my blog have helped me learn an extraordinary amount. I made it a point to ensure I was still learning even when in between jobs so once an employer took a chance on me, I could bring something extra to the table. Even after being employed, I still make the effort to regularly include informal training to accent the formal training I get from my employer. Some of my informal training has even sparked new ideas that will help us offer more to our clients and prospects. It’s even helped our internal team work more effectively.

As an employer, what are you doing to add more to your teaching and training? Have you ever considered informal learning as being a valuable option?

More Links:

Igniting Social Learning #Tchat Preview

Digging Deep into Social Learning #TChat Recap

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Switching Up to a Career Seeking State of Mind

Alright, the economy really did a number on us as employees. Many of us have lost jobs or were in fear of losing it. We took pay cuts, benefit cuts, and worked extra hard to compensate for being under-staffed. Some of us had to take crummy jobs after crummy jobs just to make sure our mortgages were paid and there was food on the table. Some of us even wondered if we’d ever find a stable job again. I say- enough! I’ve been there before and I know it’s rough. But 2013 is a new year and with last month adding over 100,000 new jobs into the mix, we’re hoping things are looking up. With that being said, it’s time to switch gears and start getting career-minded rather than “job to get by”-minded.

Building yourself up to get ready for your career and achieving your career goals does not happen overnight. It is an ongoing process. So, what should you be focusing on to help you get where you need to be? Here are a few ideas:

  • Personal Branding: resumes are becoming redundant and often highlight what you done rather than your career path intentions. It’s time to stand out of the candidate-crowd and get people to know you for what you WANT to be known for. Get involved in activities, groups, or conferences that can help you gain skills and network. Get exposure on social media. Start TALKING about it.
  • Be about it: maybe your personal brand won’t land you the dream job right off the bat, and that’s to be expected. Your relevant skills might be a bit rusty or maybe you need to develop new ones to keep up with the way the industry had changed. Internships, projects, and volunteer work are never below you- remember that. Some people’s pride and ego get in the way from taking on these seemingly innocent projects/roles. But the truth of the matter is; these situations help you build the skills you need to be an attractive candidate.
  • Learning is continuous: so be sure to add to your talking and doing by learning. Think of it as being extremely well-rounded. Your mind needs to be sharp and up to date. Be sure to find learning opportunities, whether it is to take classes, read business books/blogs, or simply join in a discussion relevant to the career/industry you’re targeting. This can keep you fresh and be ready to contribute useful ideas/insight when you have the opportunity to shine.
  • Build your network: doing all of these steps will be pretty useless if no one knows who you are, where you’re located, or what you’re striving for. It will also be useless if you have no idea what feasible options for you are. Build your network of contacts, get to know them and let them get to know you. Simply building and maintaining these contacts can help them reach out to you if opportunity arises or they can even help guide you so you can ensure you’re taking the right steps towards your goal. Your network will be your support, your mentors, your key to opportunity, or just a good conversation.

Your career isn’t a fleeting thing. It is your future, and a long-term future at that. Take care and pride in these steps to help you reach your goal in the most ideal way possible. 2013 will be the year that you will focus in on your potential and strive to be the best version of yourself. Take action!

If you enjoy topics like this, be sure to join #Tchat on Twitter on Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

More Links:

#Tchat Recap

Storify : Lose job, keep career

5 Powerful Career Drivers for the Future of Work – Forbes article by Meghan M Biro

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Say Yes to Continuing Education

In grammar school and high school, we’re taught to get good grades and participate in extra-curricular activities so we can get into our dream colleges. In college, we are once again told to get good grades, encouraged to take on internships, and asked to join clubs- all to help our chances of landing a great job upon graduation. And once we land those jobs, gain experience, and slowly but surely move along in our career paths- then what? Does education and learning just end there because we achieved the “ultimate goal” of getting a job that offers financial security and benefits? Does it just end there?

It shouldn’t. People should be driven and encouraged to do whatever they can to continue to learn. So many people believe that once they receive that diploma or certificate that they’re done. They paid their dues and finally got their careers in check… and that’s that. When I’ve asked people why they aren’t continuing their education and learning, I often got answers such as this:

  • I’m too old to go back to school
  • I’m too busy with work and home-life to take on anything more
  • I don’t have the money
  • I don’t need it
  • I wouldn’t even know where to start
  • I’m too scared to start something new

All are valid reasons and concerns but the reality of it is, skills are becoming outdated, people are being automated out of jobs, and technology is upgrading/advancing so quickly that most of us can’t keep up. The world of work is evolving in some major ways. So, the “ultimate goal” isn’t about landing a job anymore, but more about keeping up.

Like I said earlier, all those reasons are valid but there are ways to work around it. For example:

  • Online school
  • Certificate classes
  • Work training
  • Informal social groups
  • Reading new industry books/blogs in your free time
  • Networking
  • Stretch projects
  • Work shadowing

Education shouldn’t just be a stepping stone or a distant memory- it should be ongoing. The world has so much to offer and we live in an amazing time where we can easily access this. So take advantage of the things that generations before us could not. Become the ultimate asset and more importantly, do it for yourself.

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