Human Workplace was founded by Liz Ryan, a former Fortune 500 HR SVP and the world’s most widely-read career adviser. Liz is the architect of the Human Workplace vision and a highly sought-after public speaker. Liz Ryan is among the top LinkedIn Influencers, a contributor to Forbes.com and many other publications and the beloved career guide to millions of people around the world.
What happened to the working world I grew up in? It is gone. You used to get a job and keep that job for years. Now most people change jobs every few years, and not always of their own choice.
It used to be easy to get a job. It used to be easy to brand yourself. It’s so much more complicated now!
New grads struggle to convey their value to employers. Experienced job seekers Work hard to differentiate themselves from other candidates.
On the job, there are always issues and challenges. Where do you go for help with your career and work place challenges?
Our mission at Human Workplace to reinvent work for people.
A big part of that mission involves educating and empowering working people, jobseekers, and new and established entrepreneurs. We are here to support everyone who goes to work or wants to go to work. That includes you!
We invite you to join our CEO Liz Ryan, a former fortune 500 human resources SVP and the worlds most widely read career advisor, in a special event taking place on date date date.
This free event, called CAREER SURVIVAL IN 2019 AND BEYOND, Will teach you a fresh mindset and new ideas to power your career in 2019 — whether you were jobhunting, looking to advance at your current role, or looking to do something new and different!
Join us for an empowering hour of mojo boosting career guidance and encouragement From the worlds favorite career advisor – Liz Ryan!
1) To get new ideas for your job search, career change, or 2019 career plans
2) To learn how to brand yourself, how to pick the right career path for you, and how to find a job that deserves your talents
3) To learn the three most important elements in your career success
4) To understand how the working world has changed, and how to thrive in the new millennium talent marketplace
5) To get a massive dose of Mojo and encouragement for your 2019 career adventures!
Q. Liz, Do you also have a HUMAN WORKPLACE club for employers?
A. Everybody is welcome to join the HUMAN WORKPLACE Club! We are excited about offering new products and services for employers next year. In the meantime, please feel free to share our content and community with your workmates and managers!
I was not yet in the working world when I heard my first story of job-related tragedy. A lady my parents knew had lost her long-term job very suddenly. The experience messed with her in a big way. My parents were worried about their friend.
At the time my parents’ friend lost her long-term job, I had only had kid-type jobs that I didn’t care about much. I loved the kids I babysat for and liked some of their parents. The post-babysitting jobs had mostly been boring and borderline insulting retail and fast food jobs.
I knew both my parents had a higher-level attachment to their jobs than I had ever had. I could hear it in their conversations over dinner.
Once I started working full-time myself I saw how a good job can grab hold of you and suck you in emotionally and intellectually. That’s a good thing, I believe. It’s good for us, our employees, our customers and our families and friends when our jobs mean more than just a way to pay the rent.
It’s fun to dive into your work and love it. It’s empowering and makes you feel triumphant, knowing that you’re doing what you should be doing not only for your employer but for yourself. It’s a great feeling. When a job like that disappears or turns sour, it’s a devastating event.
There’s a different kind of job-related pain that hits you when you have a job but you know it’s not the right job for you. There’s a third flavor of career pain that strikes when you work your tail off for years chasing a promotion and it doesn’t come through. You feel bilked.
One day it hits you that your career is in your own hands and no one else’s. You may have the world’s greatest manager, a terrific person you admire and respect. That’s a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t mean you can lose sight of your career. It’s still your career. It’s still your journey.
Over time the message sinks in that it’s up to you to take charge of the rest of your working life as well as your goals, your dreams and your income. Every bit of that weight rests on your shoulders, but when you get the message “It’s really up to me” the rest of your career may feel less like a weight, and more like an opportunity.
It can be scary to step into the unknown. It can be scary to change jobs, change careers or step out of the full-time-employment world altogether and start your own business.
I was one of the most dyed-in-the-wool corporate people I knew, for my entire full-time career. I laughed at the idea of working for myself. “Not me, honey!” I said to anyone who suggested that I strike out on my own. “I’m not interested.”
It took time for me to see that it wasn’t that I wasn’t interested, but rather than I was too scared of the prospect of self-employment to even have a conversation about it.
I thought self-employment would be too hard, and too frustrating.
I didn’t want to have to answer the question, “Can I make it on my own, without a corporate structure to support and guide me?” I realized I’d have to answer the question one day, or always wonder.
It finally hit me that I had skills and talents I wasn’t using because no one had invented a job that called for them. Why would I want to be limited to performing jobs that had already been invented? Maybe that universe was too small.
I had to invent the job I wanted to do and that I saw a need for.
You may be in the same situation. You may decide to start consulting full-time or part-time and take control of your own career. It might be a little scary, the way every cool and exciting adventure is scary at first. You take a step, and the fear abates every so slightly. You say, “You know what? I can do this!” and then you take another step.
Is this the right time to take a step for yourself?
If your job search isn’t working it’s not because you aren’t smart and capable. You are. It’s because recruiting is broken. It doesn’t work for job seekers, and it doesn’t work for hiring managers either.
I’m an HR person so I’m allowed to tell the truth about the brokenness of the hiring process in most medium-sized and large organizations. We are all allowed to tell the truth about it, and we must!
If we keep our mouths shut, nothing will change.
Here at Human Workplace we teach employers how to recruit people the human way. However, as a job seeker you can’t wait for organizations to adopt that approach. That might take years. You need a job now!
If your job search isn’t working, it’s not a reflection on you. It’s just that you have been doing what you’ve been trained to do since early childhood: namely, following rules. You’ve been following the rules, and that’s the number one reason your job search isn’t working as well as you hoped it would.
You have to step outside the traditional job search framework to get hired. You can’t lob applications into Black Hole recruiting portals and wait around for someone to get back to you. You can’t go on countless interviews only to be ghosted and left hanging for weeks in radio silence.
You have to take control of your job search. You have to brand yourself specifically for the jobs you want, and then go after those jobs whether employers have job postings or not. Hiring managers have pain even when they don’t have job ads posted. Your task is to find hiring managers and reach out to them directly with a document called a Pain Letter. A Pain Letter is a device we invented here at Human Workplace. It replaces traditional cover letters, but a Pain Letter carries a lot more weight than a cover letter ever could.
Along with your Pain Letter you’ll send your hiring manager — that is, your possible future boss — a copy of your resume. It won’t be a traditional, boring resume but rather, a resume that sounds like you. It’s called your Human-Voiced Resume, another Human Workplace improvement on the traditional, broken job search approach and mindset.
You can learn how to write your Human-Voiced Resume and Pain Letters, how to brand yourself, reach out to hiring managers, and interview with confidence. You can step out of the broken, outdated job search mindset and break a few rules to get the job you deserve!
There’s a lot going on at this time of year. In many workplaces it’s year end and people are going crazy. Even in organizations whose fiscal year doesn’t end in December, it’s still a hectic time. On top of whatever is going on at work, the winter holidays are approaching. All that activity can be nerve-wracking.
At the same time, this is the perfect moment to stop and look at where you are in your life and career. A new year is coming. What has 2018 done for your life, and your career? Here are questions to ask yourself:
What did I learn in 2018?
What did I do for the first time in 2018?
Who did I meet in 2018 that I’ll continue to spend time with next year?
What did I conquer or accomplish in 2018?
Some years feel triumphant and others feel tough, or even deflating. Sometimes we get to the end of a year and realize that we don’t want another year like the one that is almost over.
You might be in the perfect spot right now, or you might be stuck in a box that’s too small. You might be bored at work, or overworked and underpaid for what you do. You might need bigger intellectual and creative challenges.
Life puts us in situations where we have to make a move. Making changes grows our muscles, but it’s scary. It feels risky to move away from what you know, even if it’s obvious you’re tired of it.
2019 might be a huge year in your life. You might take a giant step, one you’ve been dreaming about for ages. You might spend 2019 in reinvention, reflecting and deciding where your path leads from here. You might take small steps and learn from each of them. However you get out of the tiny box that is holding you back, just be sure you get out!
Job-seekers know they’re going to be hit with the Big Three traditional, brainless questions at nearly every job interview. The Big Three questions are:
What’s your greatest weakness?
With so many talented candidates, why should we hire you? and
Where do you see yourself in five years?
These are all stupid questions, but most job-seekers know how to answer them by now. One question that still throws job-seekers for a loop is the question “So, tell me about yourself!”
It isn’t a question, of course – it’s a request or command. In this column, we’re calling it a question. However we classify “Tell me about yourself!,” you’ve got to have something intelligent to say when you hear it.
Often, it’s the very first question you’ll get as the interview begins.
What do you say when they ask you to talk about yourself? You could start with your childhood, like this:
“I grew up about ten miles from here. My parents had a farm. I studied Mechanical Engineering in college and over the past ten years became a Product Engineer.”
You could talk about where you are now in your career, like this:
“I’m an Online Marketing person, with a focus on ecommerce sites and online merchandising.”
When you’re asked to talk about yourself, you have no idea what the interviewer is looking for. Have they read your resume, or are they asking you to talk about yourself so they don’t have to read your resume? Most job-seekers find “Tell me about yourself” a hard question to answer, if only because you don’t know how much of your story the interviewer wants to hear.
Here’s how we coach Human Workplace clients to handle “Tell me about yourself.” You’ll start your story with a very short answer we call an Answerette. Then, you’ll switch gears and get to the meat of the matter – the reason you’re there at the interview in the first place.
You are there to learn about the Business Pain lurking behind the job ad. We call this technique Spinning the Table. The interviewer asks you a question (“Tell me about yourself”) and you’re going to turn it around to begin asking questions of him or her, instead.
You have a mission! You aren’t asking questions just for fun. You want to find out what the job is really about — beyond the basic blah blah blah described in the job ad. You want to find out where the pain is, because once you’ve got the hiring manager talking about his or her pain, the conversation can go to a completely different place.
Once you’re talking like humans about real Business Pain and solutions, you’re in a consulting conversation. At that point you’re as different from the typical Sheepie Job Seeker as could be. You’re going to make an impression on a hiring manager then, and just as importantly, you’re going to see whether this person is someone you could work for, or not.
Will the hiring manager be comfortable with you Spinning the Table? That remains to be seen. If you use the technique I’m about to describe and the hiring manager doesn’t like it, you can back off and go back to answering his or her questions. Or, you can conclude “This is not the job for me” and politely excuse yourself to go find a nice gelato.
Only the people that get you, deserve you!
Here’s how Spinning the Table works. The interviewer will ask you the “Tell me about yourself” question. You’ll begin to answer with a brief Answerette and then pause. You’ll ask the interviewer if it’s okay for you to ask a question about the open position. You’ll have a Pain Hypothesis ready — don’t ever go to a job interview without a Pain Hypothesis! You’ve got to have an idea of what’s keeping this manager up at night.
JIM, A MANAGER: So, Lynda, please tell me about yourself!
LYNDA, A JOB-SEEKER: Sure. I started out in Sales and became a Marketing Manager about six years ago. My approach to Marketing really springs from what I’ve seen that works to get customers interested — I see Marketing as priming the pump for the sales process. Jim, can I ask you a quick question about this Online Marketing Manager role?
LYNDA: I see that you’ve really expanded your online presence over the past year. It’s impressive — you’ve got sixty thousand Likes on your Facebook page, for instance, which is something a lot of companies your size would envy.
JIM: We do? That’s great. Our Social Media Coordinator, Brittany, is really good at that stuff.
LYNDA: I’m curious how your online marketing feeds into the sales process now. How do you see that intersection?
Lynda’s Pain Hypothesis is that Jim is willing to invest the cash to hire an Online Marketing Manager now because new-customer inquiries are decreasing. Jim’s company is private, so Lynda couldn’t find any sales figures online, but she notices that all of the product reviews she can find are two to three years old.
The company’s Facebook page with 60K likes is only nine months old. Somebody got the memo that said ‘Social and mobile are where your customers are’ is Lynda’s guess. Still, are all those Likes on Facebook translating to sales leads? Lynda intends to find out. She wants to learn more about the Business Pain Jim is facing, so she’s about to spring her Pain Hypothesis on him.
JIM: That’s a great question. We’re new to online marketing. We haven’t really been involved in social media until this year. Brittany’s social media projects are the first volley in that campaign, you might say. We’ve been very focused on things like Facebook Likes —
LYNDA: — and waiting for them to turn into sales leads, maybe? That’s a common issue.
JIM: That’s it! Sixty thousand Likes is a lot, but we also give away samples in exchange for Likes and do all kinds of contests. The intersection isn’t quite there yet — that’s high on our list of 2015 priorities.
LYNDA: And how do you see that priority becoming real, Jim? How do you envision that bridge being built, between social media presence and Facebook Likes, and actual sales in the door?
JIM: Ah, there’s the rub, eh? What are your ideas?
LYNDA: (That’s it! That’s the big pain point. Jim has invested whatever he’s paying Brittany, and not seeing an uptick in sales. He’s willing to hire one more person — me, potentially – to build the bridge that will take his audience from clicking LIKE on a Facebook page to ordering something.) Great question! This is always fun for me. I have ten thousand questions to ask you, to help me understand where the break is occurring. Sixty thousand Likes on nine-month-old Facebook page is a lot, Jim. People know who your company is. They just don’t have enough pain to place an order, or they don’t see why they need your product. That’s my expertise — figuring out why that is and solving the problem. It could be that your Facebook page is currently reaching people who will never be your customers.
It might be that folks don’t understand how your products could help them, or it might be that they’re getting a lot of good stuff from you guys already, for free, so they think there’s no need to buy.
JIM: I sometimes feel that way! We give away so much.
LYNDA: That becomes addictive on both sides of the equation. If Brittany is recognized and rewarded for getting more Likes on the Facebook page, she’ll have more incentive to give away free stuff and your customers will have even less incentive to plunk their money down.
JIM: How many sales leads would you say we should have had from those sixty thousand Likes?
LYNDA: One percent would be six hundred. How many leads do you typically convert, as a percentage?
JIM: About thirty-five percent.
LYNDA: So that’s about two hundred new customers. How large is the average sale?
JIM About eight hundred dollars.
LYNDA: So what’s the number, then, of sales that are left on the table right now, unrealized?
JIM: You mean eight hundred times two hundred? Geez, that’s a hundred and sixty thousand. I could use those sales this quarter.
LYNDA: We should keep talking, in that case.
What happened in this interview? The power dynamic completely shifted. Lynda helped Jim rise out of “I’m the manager, and I’ll ask the questions” mode to become a guy with a problem — Lynda’s favorite type of person to meet! Lynda only did the same thing she’s done hundreds of times with internal and external customers.
She asked questions. She didn’t offer solutions. She showed Jim a path, instead — she showed him enough of her process to let him know that she knows what she’s doing.
Most job candidates wouldn’t have the nerve to Spin the Table the way Lynda did. They’d sit in the chair like a good little Sheepie Job Seeker and answer Jim’s “tell me about yourself” question in the conventional, sheepie way.
Lynda doesn’t play like that. She’s been around the block. She knows that if she can’t get a person to lift the veil and talk about his or her problems, she can’t help them anyway. In this case, Jim knew that he had a wise counselor in his office, so he dove right into the conversation. The managers who can do that are the ones you want to work for.
It’s hard to say whether job hunting becomes objectively more difficult as we get older or how much our thoughts and feelings about our job searches enter the picture. Certainly age discrimination is real. I’ve lost count of the mature job seekers who have told me that the minute they walked in the door a much younger interviewer’s face fell, as if to signify, “Oh no, you’re much older than I thought you would be.”
We can’t be surprised that in organizations full of very young folks, an older newcomer might unsettle people at the very least. Not many of us have been taught or coached in inter-generational communication. If people are naturally comfortable with folks who share a lot of attributes with them, we can’t pretend to be shocked that it might be harder to get a job in a company full of Gen X and Millennial people as we get older.
However, as an over-fifty job seeker you have strengths you may not even be aware of. You have your work experience, of course, but you have much more than that. Age brings wisdom, but only when we feel it. You have life experience and the adaptability that comes from facing and surmounting adversity over and over through the years.
The key to your job search after age fifty is your belief in your ability to solve a hiring manager’s pain. All managers have problems. They hire someone to fill a spot and perform certain duties, but more than that they hire someone to handle things and keep problems from cropping up. The more you get in touch with the problems you can solve for your next manager, the more confident you will be on the job search trail.