Activating the best of you!

Dear Coach Joan,

I had an incredibly frustrating six month job search. I followed my wife to Sonoma County for her job opportunity but have had trouble securing a job here myself. Sometimes I’d be asked back for five interviews only to lose out to another candidate. Then I’d make it through two rounds and be rejected.  But after six months of consistently putting myself out there — using my network, going to professional meetings, having recruiters seek opportunities for me, nothing was working.

Then POP. All of a sudden, just after the six month mark, I am now juggling three job offers and I don’t yet know which one to take. I clearly have a preference but the offer from the company I am most attracted to is not as good as the one that would involve a lot longer of a commute.

How can I best manage this situation?



Dear John,

Congratulations for persevering beyond the three to six month mark! In my experience with hundreds of job seekers, most people hit a frustration wall between three and six months. Yet, that is often how long it takes for professionals to get to a job offer.

But you have made it through that period of frustration and have made it to  opportunity– three of them. Congratulations!

But how to choose?

Though no one has a crystal ball, there are certain norms in juggling job offers:

  1. Most organizations expect to have at least one round of negotiations. That means they are not expecting you to accept the first round of terms. They expect you to ask for more and are typically willing to ‘sweeten the pot’ by adding to the offer with a higher base salary, a sign-on bonus, some equity or another way to compensating you. Sometimes they even offer an extra paid week of vacation, a car, paid public transportation, local gym membership and other things. So don’t feel that you will miss out on the job if you ask for more, in the first round.
  2. Do your research. Determine the benchmarks for your industry and for that particular position. It is no longer legal to ask what you made in your last position, but you can opt to offer that information if you like. For instance, say they are offering  a base salary of $75k and your last base salary was $85k, tell them that and tell them that you have clearly earned the higher amount. Go to web sites like to do your salary research.
  3. Buy time. When you are juggling three job offers and one of them is your preferred organization, see if you can say that you are highly attracted to the position/the company but want to ask some additional questions directly to the management. See if they will allow you to prepare some questions and get them in within a few days. Thereby you have some time. Or, just ask them if you can have a few days to think about the offer. Typically you will be given a few days.
  4. Always a Risk to Defer. Do keep in mind that it is always risky when you ask for time to make a decision. Companies typically have 2-3 top candidates and if you say ‘no’ they might quickly go to the runners-up! But if you ask for a day or two, or have questions for them, they typically will allow you a few days. You might want to find out if there is an urgency in filling the role.If there is, you might want to take a ‘bird in the hand’…the offer that has been presented to you, not one that just might come along.

Yes, it can be tricky and nerve-wracking to juggle job offers because you don’t have a crystal ball and because you don’t want to be left with no job at all. But do know that typically you can buy some time and find out which position looks best.

Also remember that you are always a more attractive job candidate when you are employed. I always encourage my clients who’ve had a  long term job search to take a position even if it doesn’t seem ideal. Sometimes it turns out to be better than they thought and if not, at least they are back to regular paychecks and they are much more attractive to the next employer.

Good luck, John, and I hope this information proves helpful to you.

All the best,

Coach Joan

Dear Readers,

I see a definite  pattern. Having coached hundreds of job searching clients for the last 10+ years I’ve observed a very distinct pattern. I’d  like to make you aware of  it because it could be preventing you from getting to your next great employment situation.

When you make the decision to look for a new job you typically go through a process of deciding what kind of job and industry you are looking for. Then you develop your positioning and key capabilities, write your resume and Linkedin profile. You also try to get some good written recommendations and ask people to serve as references. Fine.

Next, you search the appropriate online job listings, contact recruiters,  friends, colleagues, former managers,  and even family members to see if they have any connections for you. Check. And you meet with everyone you can to let them know your interests and capabilities. And you follow up with everyone.

You typically go full steam ahead for about three months, sometimes four or five months.  You have been actively planting seeds and making connections. And you never know when a contact will lead to a concrete job lead and finally the right new job for you.

By 3-6 months you’ve often had a few interviews. And if you get hired within that first 3-6 months, terrific. But it often can take longer, especially if you are 10+ years or more into your career. The higher a position and larger the salary and responsibility level, the longer it typically takes to secure a new job. The rule of thumb is one month for every $10k in income. That means that if you earn $60k it can take 6 months to find a new job.

But it is at about the six month point that I see folks lose steam. They get down on themselves and sometimes even depressed.

That is when the initial excitement and hopefulness wears off and disappointment kicks in. This is when you’ve often had a few promising situations and you might have even come in second place. But in the job search arena, when you’re the runner up, I call that the red-ribbon candidate and as you know, as the runner-up you leave empty handed.

And that is precisely when you need to re-fuel. You need to find a way to keep yourself fresh, motivated and focused.  Think of the runner in the course of their marathon. They periodically need to stop at fueling stations. You do, too! That is when you need to review all of your past accomplishments, re-read all of the recommendations that have been written about you and actually practice discussing your key skills and capabilities. Yes, practice them aloud and say them with conviction. Persevere!!

Many of us are naturally more sprint-players, we like to do things in a focused and quick way.

But when it comes to the job search we need to change modes. We need to get ourselves ready for the long haul.

In some cases I’ve seen it take up to 12-18 full months to secure a new job.

Does that mean you sit on the sidelines and just wait?

Most people cannot afford to do that; both financially and emotionally.

If you are currently employed and looking for a new job at least you have your daily work and your regular paycheck.

But if you are unemployed I suggest that you find a way to get contract work, even a low level part time job, or if money is not an issue, do regular volunteer work to keep yourself involved, with some daily structure and weekly ‘anchor points’. You need to keep yourself fueled for the long race. For some people that means a regular exercise program, a focus on healthy eating, regular sleeping hours, enough socializing, etc. Do what you need to do to stay in top form!

But please, be aware that most people start to lose steam after the 3-6 month point in the job search.

And if you’ve been doing the search correctly and planting a lot of seeds, it is often in the 6-12 month period that those seeds start to blossom.

Keep the faith, the seeds you plant will come to fruition, but they can often take time.

I’ve never seen a serious job seeker, who was doing all the right things NOT get a job after that 12 month period.

Remember, it is a numbers game and it is a marathon and not a sprint.  Please keep well- fueled and ready!

Onward to bringing the BEST of you to work!

Coach Joan

A Career Wisdom Book?
Yes, there is such a thing. I know, because I invented it!
Having worked closely with hundreds of people, getting the inside scoop, and deep insights into many career paths and stories, I am here to report that everyone has good things and bad things happen during their careers. Most have both good and bad people enter their work lives, and experience both
good luck and  bad luck. We’ve made  some silly mistakes, have had impulsive actions, and also some brilliant moves, too.  Such is life. The difference comes down to learning or not learning from our experiences. Thus the need for a Career Wisdom Book.
It’s vital that you examine your experiences, translate them into wisdom and move forward in a smarter way. Without reflection and depth you can repeat the same mistakes and not listen or watch for the same signals — that can be painful and frankly, unnecessary.
A Career Wisdom Book is where we track, log, reflect and learn from our career experiences. I encourage you to start your own!  Integrate your wisdom, become more self aware. Identify and learn from your best practices and don’t repeat the same mistakes.
Here are three categories and examples:
1. POLITICS: You really need to watch which way the winds are blowing at work. Political winds:
Mike was working at a large corporation, managing an accounting team, and really didn’t pay attention when his upper management announced that the company was being purchased by a competitor and that company also had a strong accounting team.
Translation: The jobs in accounting are probably going away.
Mike did not ‘hear’ what was being told to him. He kept his nose to the grindstone and just kept working along. Since he was in the dark, he was not able to share impending layoff news with his team. Three weeks later they were all taken into that little room and given their good-byes.
LESSON#1 – Look beyond your job and your department. See what’s going on with the company. Look at the big picture and realize that as the big picture changes, your job might be impacted.
2. BAD BLOOD: If you and your boss are like oil and water, it is time to look for a new job. If it is very clear, for any reason, logical or not, that your boss really doesn’t like you or your work, look to leave.  99% of the time in those adversarial situations  it does not get better, it only gets worse:
Sally was really enjoying her job in manufacturing and had reached supervisory level. When her boss left and a new person arrived she assumed he’d appreciate her as much as the last boss did. No, in fact she got the impression he didn’t like her from day one. She kept trying to please him but saw that no matter what she did he complained. Eventually he put her on probation and she was laid off before she had the chance to find a new job.
LESSON #2 -When you get a new supervisor or manager, try to  get to know them. If it is clear that you have bad chemistry, quietly start your job search. It probably won’t work out, and better for you to find a good fit now than wait till you have lost your job. You are always more attractive to prospective employers when you are currently employed.
3. KEEP  NETWORKING: Over 75% of new jobs and new opportunity comes from people we already know, people who are already in our network of work, family and friends:
Ken made sure to check in with his favorite former managers and colleagues at least twice a year. That is how he found his last great job. He happened to call his former manager who had just accepted a new position and needed to hire someone. He had no idea that Ken would be available but that one phone call opened the door and Ken happily went through it. It led to the best job he’s ever had!
Lesson #3 – Circle back to all of your colleagues, friends and family members who you like and who respect you. Keep track of them on a spreadsheet or a simple list or on your Linkedin. Make sure to check in with them at least twice a year. I’ll be surprised if new opportunities don’t come your way.
In other words, create your own luck!
 Here are some questions that should prompt entries for your Wisdom Book:
1. What was the luckiest thing that ever happened to you at work? How did you manage that good luck? What did you learn?
2. Who was your best boss? What traits did he/she have that you should look for in a boss?
3. What did you wish you’d paid attention to?
4. Who are the top three great people you’ve worked with and how have you managed those relationships? What did you learn from them? Describe the kind of people you work with best with.
6. Who were the worst people to come into your career life? What did you learn? How could you have better handled those relationships? What are the signs you will now watch out for?
7. What types of work and environments have brought out the best in you? What should you look for in your next position?
Onward to the creation of your Career Wisdom Book.
Coach Joan