Kit Prendergast, PCCKit brings you a wealth of expertise and experience as well as a wonderful spirit, energy, and a gift for inspiring you to create the life you truly want for yourself.
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Monthly Archives: October 2011
Stories are wonderful! As a professional career coach, I am asked all the time how you can best present your skills, knowledge and experience to a potential (or current) employer. It’s actually quite simple. Telling an engaging story that highlights your strengths is one of the best ways to do it.
Do you get a little nervous and tongue tied when asked to describe your accomplishments in job interviews, an annual performance evaluation or even in networking events? That’s normal. It’s not that you don’t have anything to say – actually you have lots to say – it’s just getting it out there smoothly, briefly and with enough pizzazz to keep your listener listening.
So try this . . . story telling. Everyone loves a good story. And people remember a good story because it creates a visual image for them. We come alive telling stories and listening to stories. Stories are very powerful but they do take planning to avoid the tale going on and on.
Here’s how to design your story for maximum impact. Think of an accomplishment in your professional life that you are particularly proud of – it’s best if it highlights your individual strengths as well as contributions from a team. Now describe it in one short paragraph using the C.A.R. format.
- C = Challenge (the challenge you faced)
- A = Action (the action you took)
- R = Results (the positive results that occurred)
Now the icing on the cake is to tie the story in with the value you can bring to this new position or the continued value you bring to your employer. This is what your listener really cares about – what can you do for them to solve the challenges they are facing.
Do one story and now do a couple of more. Create a cheat sheet for yourself with the C.A.R. format. For each story hit each of the three points briefly. Practice out loud a couple of times but don’t overdo it. You want your natural enthusiasm to come through as you’re telling the story. If you get stuck call me – I would love to help!
It’s a dark October Saturday night. I’ve persuaded my friend, Yvonna Estep, into joining me for dinner and a “seance” at a small local restaurant. Yes, a seance . . . it’s being hosted by Barb Giacomini, owner of the Daughter’s Cafe www.daughterscafe.com.
Barb’s restaurant is in a old house down by the Truckee River here in Reno, Nevada. Tall oak trees grace the front and as you climb the stairs you enter a house with several beautiful rooms, creaky wooden floors, large windows and a rich history. Barb serves breakfast, lunch and on occasion special dinners such as this night . . .
Barb is an inspiration. She has owned the Daughers’s Cafe for five years but it hasn’t been easy. She is a wonderful cook and the dishes that she prepares for her customers are incredible. But attracting enough customers is always a challenge. So what she does is unique. Barb has figured out how to add unique value to her customers who want more than just to go out for a nice meal. Yes, she knows that people want to enjoy a meal out but they also to have some entertainment as well.
So this is what Barb does . . . she partners up with either the local theater group, our world-renown museum, or the movie theater around the corner to offer a themed dinner or brunch. On this particular night, she did something even more unique. She invited a psychic, Theresa Peacock,www.aboveandbeyondpsychic.com, to come and conduct a seance. And the place was packed – as it had been for each weekend night before. Barb knows what people want and what they are wiling to pay for – she provides a wonderful evening of entertainment and a fabulous meal as well.
Add a Unique Value to Your “Everyday” Service
This is what we can learn from Barb. As a small business owner, think about what you can offer people that is just a little more – something that your customer can “write home about”. Take your time . . . what would be unique? Fun? Meet a need? And then try it out. Make it simple and time limited. If it doesn’t work that’s fine. Try something else.
In this process you stay engaged and motivated to move your business forward. And you are visible – people know that you are in business. While many others are on “hold” during this tough economy you’re out there making it happen. People pay attention – they remember. It says a lot about you,the energy and the spirit of your business!
It’s truly an art . . . the art of making conversation with others. And it takes skill and practice. I got the chance to practice this skill over and over while living in Norway for 6 1/2 years with my husband (US Marine) who was assigned to NATO. Nine countries were part of this NATO command and we attended many formal and informal gatherings over the years. I also had my own training and consulting business which necessitated me collaborating closely with the Norwegians and the ex-patriate international community.
But it was the formal dinner parties hosted by the NATO command that I remember best. They were beautifully planned events held at the headquarters with a mix of military representatives and their spouses attending. These dinner events always started later in the evening and didn’t conclude until well past midnight. So it was a long evening filled with real conversation – no cell phones or texting at this dinner table.
The dinner meal was quite formal and I would find myself seated next to someone new each time. I would usually have a military officer and their spouse on each side of me and another couple across from me. Although, the “official” language was English one had to respect that the other person was speaking in a 2nd or 3rd language. This is truly the art of making conversation. So this is what I became quite good at . . .
Creating a Conversation Bridge: Be Interested & Interesting
What I really learned was to be genuinely “interested” in the other person. I listened closely for who they were, what they had experienced and what I could learn from them. This created a bridge between us. People love to talk about their own lives if they feel someone is really interested – and I am. I engaged my curiosity and just listened to learn. And then I asked questions to learn more. It’s a discovery process.
And then I would be “interesting” as well. The conversation couldn’t be just one way – then everyone is bored. Before each dinner, I would consciously think of several topics that made me interesting – a recent trip, a new work project, an interest in something happening internationally, funny experiences etc. Something that I could contribute to the conversation – after all, we had at least 3 hours to converse. And don’t forget that the three taboo topics politics, sex and religion are still to be avoided in any kind of gathering where you want to make a good impression.
Now it’s been a few years since the whirlwind of living and working in Norway. But one of the many things I learned was that I can make conversation with anyone. I can always find a bridge and spark a conversation about something we have in common. So lesson learned . . . be “interested” and “interesting” and you’ll always have a fascinating dinner companion!
Recently, I have been writing about Job Search Fatigue (for those bone weary job seekers) and Small Business Fatigue (for those business owners struggling to keep their doors open). But there is another group equally fatigued that is easily overlooked. I call these folks the “Last Ones Standing”. The employees that didn’t get laid off but were either shuffled into new positions or left holding down several job responsibilities. They don’t get much empathy or attention. No one is really interested in their stories because, after all, they still have a job.
But maybe many of these employees are more tired that anyone. Everything has changed including losing familiar colleagues and work identities. And they have far less control over their daily work priorities and schedules that the business owners or the job seekers. Would anyone like to switch positions? Maybe not but the feeling of fatigue is epidemic for all three groups.
7 Strategies to Manage the Fatigue
So how do you manage the fatigue, stay optimistic and motivated day after day? Here are 7 strategies to do just that – and these work equally well for the job seeker, small business owner and that last employee standing.
- Take care of yourself physically & emotionally (sleep, diet, exercise and positive relationships).
- Ask yourself “What do I want for myself at this time in my life?” Ask yourself again.
- Rethink your expectations of yourself especially ones that bring stress into your life
- Set intermediate goals for yourself & celebrate when you achieve them
- Decide what your priorities are – what is negotiable and nonnegotiable
- Be willing to change, change and change again
- Stay active, engaged and focused!
Be patient with yourself. You know what works for you and what you need to do to manage the fatigue factor for yourself. If you get stuck, reach out to others. Lots of others are feeling the same and also have good answers.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog on Job Search Fatigue focused on job seekers who were truly exhausted after months of dedicated job searching. The topic hit a cord with many. But it was not only job seekers but also small business owners that responded with their own stories. They described a very similar fatigue that has resulted in some owners simply closing their doors or scaling back their businesses to a skeleton operation. Many have taken on other jobs – full or part-time – to just pay the bills leaving little time to nurture their own businesses.
These owners have been riding a roller coaster of economic news since early 2009 – coming up on three years. Sometimes it’s up and sometimes it’s down. They don’t discourage easily but they will admit that it’s been exhausting for those sole proprietors in the service industries; small family-run businesses and those slightly larger businesses with a handful of employees. There’s just not much room for extended financial losses.
A Powerful Shift in Perspective & Expectations
Over this past weekend, my career coach colleague, Ann Boyer, M.ED, CCMC suggested shifting our perspective and expectations to be more in alignment with the changes in today’s work world. As we talked, we identified a powerful shift in mind set that might just work for you.
So here is something to think about. It is a different way to approach your business growth next year. It is a shift in both your perspective and your expectations. I’m assuming that you’ve pared things down as much as you can – you are slim and trim and still in business.
So start with you having an honest chat with yourself and ask “Do I really want to stay in business?” And if that answer is unequivocally “yes” that you have your end goal. You have the entrepreneur heart!
Next, set the financial expectations aside as much as you can. If you can pay for your rent, your overhead costs and essential house expenses you’re good to go. Worrying about the money, the bills and how things have changed only drains your mental and physical energy. You are reacting from fear and it only holds you back.
3 Ways to Continue to Be a “Valuable Presence”
So for now shift your energy and focus on becoming “a valuable presence” in your community. You actually may have several communities – local, virtual, professional networks etc. But concentrate on your “presence”. You are still here and you’re going to stay.
Do this by concentrating on providing value each day, week and month to your communities. Here’s three ways to do this – do all three since they build and compliment each other.
- Stay Active (with colleagues, organizations, activities etc.)
- Stay Engaged (put energy & enthusiasm into everything)
- Stay Focused (know what is important to you – avoid detours)
And remember you bring “value” in part because you still are here and you provide history and continuity to your community. And on a good day, whip up a list (or send out a survey monkey) of all the value you bring to your customers, your colleagues, bosses etc. You will be pleasantly surprised how others see and appreciate your value over the long run!