What is a “job”?

This week at JMS I explored the origin of the word “job”. I was not happy with what I found. The most consistent references point to a French root word “gobbet”. This translates into morsel or “piece”. Hence a “job” is a “piece” of work. It struck me that it also suggests a piece of our life.

So if we start with a “piece” (job), that doesn’t sound very fulfilling. For most people, the job never is. But then I started thinking about a progression. Ok, you get past a “job” and land a “position”. Wooohoooo! You know what a position is; title, perks, rewards, expense accounts, etc. Now we’re getting somewhere. But a funny thing happens. For some, the position becomes their identity. For others, the position becomes a yoke of relentless burden. Finally, both courses usually lead to the same end; burnout and frustration.

However, there is a final and perhaps more significant stage. What about “Purpose”? Everyone I have met who seems to be living with a divine purpose usually never exhibits any of the symptoms of the other two conditions (job and position). Why? I submit to you that we are all created with a specific purpose; a slot in the puzzle of life. This is a state of being where our unique and wonderful attributes can mesh with the rest of humanity. I use the phrase “God doesn’t make any junk”. When He made you, He had a purpose. 

Your challenge today is to get out of the “job” mentality, abandon the “position” mindset, and seek your true and real PURPOSE. Then and only then will you find satisfaction in the work you may choose to do.

Are We Heading in the Right Direction?

Recent events in my marketplace, main street employment organization called JMS seem to suggest the economy has taken a pause from its downward spiral. Job seeker landings are on the rise. Could it be that employers are starting to realize the “wait and see” strategy needs to be abandoned? Are the actual market forces making companies return to a focus on generating revenue rather than “keeping their powder dry”?

Regardless the cause, it’s good news for people between jobs.

On another front, we are seeing a significant shift in the methods hiring managers are using to find new talent. Because the supply of job candidates has outpaced demand for open jobs, old procedures for job posting are not working well. What I mean is that every hiring manager I’ve spoken to in the past 12 months has said they shudder to think about posting new jobs. Why? Because the responses are overwhelming. So, I am hearing HR professionals describe new techniques of “fishing” rather than posting. They are using web tools like LinkedIn, QuietAgent and others to browse for talent. The employer can search by keywords, titles, and company names (i.e. the stuff in a resume). Then they pick a short list of likely candidates that spark their interest.

Therefore, job seekers need to be more Internet savvy about building profiles and posting information about experience and qualifications. In the end, people still have to build relationships once a connection is made. Face to face meetings like job interviews still remain as the primary moment of truth.

Are You a Happy Pig?

No, not trying to be mean. Yesterday I shared with my audience at JMS, the story about the “Pig of Happiness” by Edward Monkton. This is a short story written and illustrated as a gift card, but the storyline is profound. It is about a pig who decides to stop being like all other pigs. He chooses to become happy. When all the others around him are fussing about the weather, their conditions, and life in general, he decides to be “happy” instead. He goes about spreading this light among all the barnyard animals. Pretty soon a funny thing happens. The whole barnyard gets happy. Things make a huge turnaround.

As simple as this story is, it reflects a serious lesson for all of us. Whether you are employed or unemployed, there is a choice you can make daily. Do you choose to be happy or not? Circumstance and bank account should never impact true, real happiness. We CAN be happy regardless of the situation. Are you a happy pig?

Oh and by the way, once you make your own decision for happiness, did you know it attracts others? Try it out for a while and see what you find.

Are you really a “people person”?

When I coach and counsel job seekers, I am often confronted with the age-old term “people person”. What is that exactly? I have a friend who is an HR professional. He tells me they use the tag line “Oh good. If you are a people person, we can pay you five people a week. Will that be OK?”

But seriously folks. Most of us know where that concept came from. Originally when someone said they were a “people person” it meant they could deal with others in a positive way. It also likely meant they liked doing that.  Do you think people really do that anymore?

I fear the truth is we have lost some of the drive, desire, and ability to truly relate with people. Oh of course some of us are really good at it. But I don’t see where we teach that anymore. Instead, it seems young people are being encouraged to get better with computers and automated interfaces, but they do not get the same encouragement when faced with facing a live specimen.

Let’s rally together and do something different. If you struggle with making new friends, try baby steps first. Try simply saying hello to someone at the grocery store. Wave to a neighbor you haven’t spoken to in a while.

Let’s try to be a “people person”.

Challenging People

When was the last time you dealt with a “challenging personality”? We all have our stories about the store clerk or the person ahead of us in the checkout lane or the co-worker in the cube next door. We regale ourselves in telling these stories on and on when the audience is right.

Or do you have the ability to “challenge people” in a positive way? Can you see something amiss and graciously, politely suggest another thought pattern or approach to the situation? Can you do this in a way that people appreciate and value? The ability to help someone make a small life change is a true gift. Yet I think it is a skill we all can learn and sharpen.

Job Loss is Tough

Recently speaking to my group at JMS, we were visiting the idea of trying to stay focused and positive while dealing with career transition. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald (he should know given his life struggles) –“Vitality shows not only in the ability to persist, but in the ability to start over.”

Sometime we just may have to start over. Things don’t go as planned; life happens. The best plans just don’t work out (I had an entire industry collapse around my ears, while holding the bag on a small privately held enterprise). So the cards dictate a new start; not a “do over”. Lord knows I would never do over what I did before.

No, it’s important to learn something from the life lesson and focus on a new beginning. Set a new course. Many great leaders have done nothing more but stay confident, stay bold, stay dedicated to the core values you believe.

It’s HOT Here

OK maybe global warming is on the rebound. At least in the greater Houston area, we are experiencing hotter than usual days with no rain whatsoever. As we say here in Texas, “even the jackrabbits are carrying canteens”.

I’ve been trying to act like none of this is happening though. I’ve been doing yard work (fired the yard guy to save a penny), playing golf in sunlight (more like the heat lamp at a fast food joint), and otherwise moving about despite the record high temperatures. Yes, I’ve lost a few pounds doing so, maybe even over-metabolized some vital organs, who knows. But it makes for a challenging aspect of these latest days.

Living in denial of this heat is sort of like saying the financial crisis is really not happening in the US. But the question is what can one person really do about it? Obviously our elected leaders think they have some ideas. Ok really? Maybe we can turn them loose on the whole global warming thing once they mop up this fiscal spill on aisle three. At least that what seems to be the approach; “let’s mop a little here, and a little more over there”. Oh yeah and “spade ready” is important too. Last time I heard the idea of spade ready was when my old dog died. Is that where the country is today?

I don’t think so. My friends are trying to be resilient, faithful, and hopeful. Kind of like enduring a blistering heat wave. Keep drinking the water and take a few showers to cool off now and then. Otherwise keep doing what you have to do. It takes too much energy to complain. I choose to keep pushing ahead, heat and all.

Sales Minded job Search – Revisited

Last week while speaking at a conference, one attendee took me to task when I talked about having a sales minded approach to your job search and your interview. Where the discussion went then is not important right now, but I confess it made me think a bit. OK…time’s up. No, I am not changing my opinion. Yet the point does deserve some clarification.

When I say “sales minded” I am not talking about snake oil or used cars on corner lots. I am talking about high trust relationship selling where the presenter (the job seeker) leads the buyer (the hiring manager) into a “buy” decision. People don’t like being sold to, but they LOVE buying. 

This comes from making a solid connection with rapport, establishing a good understanding of the buyer’s need and your solution/value proposition. Then, as any good high dollar sales pro can do, LISTEN more for the rest of the need. Listen twice as hard  as you speak; easy to do since we are equipped with two ears and one mouth.


Long week, but great week. I had the good fortune of meeting with members of the PMI Houston organization during their annual conference at the GRB in Houston. This was a super group of folks. I met people from all walks of the certified project management world.

After three very intense days of workshops, panels, groups, and breakouts, it seems the attendees went home with renewed energy.

Topics of my two days of speaking centered on networking and interviewing skills; lots of debate and reaction to the key topics (this is a good thing). I often feel it is difficult to cover so much ground in so little time as is afforded by these seminar-type formats. Nonetheless we soldiered on! I hope folks got the key points:

  1. Networking requires giving first by getting involved.
  2. Interviewing needs to be a sales oriented transaction, but it should be a high trust sales effort, not a used car approach.

BTW, goodbye to April. We shall miss you until next year.

Know Who You Are

Today at JMS we had a great round of discussions. Here are some of the highlights:

1. Shrug off the “negatives”  People in job transition need to find ways to shrug off the “negatives” like “bad day, tough interview, feeling stress, etc.” You can do this by coming to your group networking events with a conscious decision to project a positive attitude. In other words, don’t bring other people down too. Decide that you can be the one to bring a happy face, a smile, and a good word.

2. YOU are NOT your JOB. In today’s culture, too many people find an identity in what they do or the title they carry. Lose that and you lose it all. Why? Because that’s what we learn at an early age. The best thing you can do for yourself is spend some time finding your center and reminding yourself who you really are.

3. Anyone read Ecclesiastes lately?Old book with a great message. King Solomon wrote his autobiography here only to clearly claim that for all the searching and yearning (money, wisdom, sex, drugs, and rock and roll – yes that’s basically what he claims), none of it answered his big questions. “Who am I? Why am I here? and Where am I going?” Rather he came to the overwhelming conclusion that the key to life is knowing God and doing His will. Plain and simple. Job seekers (and all of us) need to connect to that idea.