Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tips for Job Hunting

Here are some helpful tips when you’re in the job-hunting mode:

1.  Face this challenge with a positive attitude.
Claim the promise of Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Start each day with this purpose and attitude: I have a job today, and that job is to do everything I can to find a job.

Don’t allow yourself to get into negative thought patterns. Make it a matter of daily prayer that God will guard your mind against negative thinking and empower you to keep those thoughts true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable, as Philippians 4:8 admonishes us to do.

2.  Remember that God is still sovereign, in the world and in your life.
He is not caught by surprise at what has happened to you, and he has a plan to turn this experience into good for you.

3.  Establish a daily routine and discipline.
  • Get up early
  • Spend an hour each morning in communion with the Lord
  • Exercise each day for at least half an hour
4.  Designate several hours a day for the job search job that you have! 
Plan each day with a schedule of what you will do that day to move this job search along. Proverbs 20:4 says, “A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.” This job-hunting time is plowing season for you, and plowing is no fun. But you’ll reap a harvest if you do the plowing, so don’t get “weary in well doing, for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up,” as Galatians 6:5 reminds us.

5.  Keep a record each day of what you plan to do and what you accomplish in this job search mode.

6.  Put together a good résumé and cover letter—one that can be customized for each potential employer.
  • After you write the first draft of the cover letter, write down the first word in every sentence and make sure there is a variety in your sentence structure. If you begin most of the sentences with “I,” it has the subtle effect of making you sound self-absorbed or egocentric.
  • Think through the biggest reservation that the company will have about hiring you. Go ahead and ask it as a direct question in the first line of your cover letter, something like this: “Why should ABC Company hire someone who. ..”  Fill in the blank. It might be “someone who doesn’t have any prior experience in this,” or “someone who is right out of college. . .” The next sentence should answer that question in a plausible, positive way.
  • The cover letter should not cover anything that is already on the résumé. For example, the job may not be in any way related to playing the piano, but if you are an accomplished pianist and make some passing comment about it, it shows another side to you as an applicant, which might connect on some other level with the reviewer.
  • Remember to spell the word “résumé” correctly, with the appropriate apostrophes over the e’s, which distinguishes it from the word resume. It shows your attention to detail, to doing things right, and that can be very important. Make sure there are no misspelled words or incorrect grammar in your cover letter or résumé. Don’t trust spell check; ask someone who is very good in these areas to proof it for you.
  • Do not say “References available upon request.” If the interviewer has to call you to get references, they probably won’t because they don’t want to get into a conversation with you until they have checked your references. And besides, putting in some references shows something about you. They should have diversity of gender, ethnicity and position/relationship. If you’re a woman and all your references are women, that could be a red flag—or vice versa for a man. Make sure all contact information is correct and up to date.
  • Your cover letter and résumé should be tuned to the audience or business or culture. A generic objective doesn’t work. Look at the position description. Locate the key words. Re-organize your experience and skills under key words in the position description. That directs the reader’s vision more quickly to what they want to see, and it shows that you want the job badly enough to do some customization of the résumé.
7.  Find or start a support group of people like you—Christians who are looking for a job, or perhaps some who have come through it recently.
The purpose is to encourage each other. You can network together, share your experiences and your knowledge, and most importantly, pray for each other.

8.  Improve your skills.
This is the perfect time to learn some new computer programs, take a course at a local community college, look for seminars in your area that relate to your field—whatever you can do to gain new knowledge and improve your skills.

9.  Find people in the kind of job you would like to have and ask them for an appointment to simply find out how they got their job.

10.  Prepare well for a job interview.
  • Learn as much as you can about this potential new employer and about the position that is open.
  • Think of what questions you might expect and prepare answers.
  • Practice your answers out loud. You don’t need to memorize your answers, but you certainly want to have answers ready as much as possible.
  • Speak with confidence, with a good solid voice, and without a lot of verbal crutches, like “you know” and “like” and “uh” – the more professional you sound, the better, and verbal crutches degrade your professionalism.
  • Get up early on the interview day, spend lots of time praying about it, asking for God’s peace to surround you, eat a good breakfast, and make sure you dress appropriately.
  • The rule of thumb is to dress for one job higher than you’re interviewing for. In other words, go the extra mile in choosing your clothes; be conservative, modest, and appropriate for that job. Darker colors are usually best.
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes early for the interview.
  • Put a smile on your face, stand up straight and maintain good posture, make sure you have a firm handshake, never chew gum, maintain good eye contact, sit still in your seat, avoid fidgeting and slouching, avoid negative comments about previous employers or managers, and above all, listen very carefully to each question and give succinct and direct answers.
  • Be sensitive to the interviewer’s time; don’t get into small talk unless he or she initiates it.
2 Corinthians 8:21: “For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.” This is a time to take pains to do what is right.

Always thank the interviewer for his or her time and depart gracefully. Then establish a follow-up plan. Send a thank-you letter to the interviewer immediately. Keep it short but restate your interest in the position and your confidence in your ability to do the job.

More than anything else, as a Christian in the job-hunt mode, keep entrusting your future into God’s hands.

Here are words of comfort from God’s Word:

Isaiah 30:18: Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him.

Isaiah 40:28-31: Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Remember that the joy of the Lord is your strength, so as Paul reminded us in Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” “Always” includes even those times when you are looking for a job. Offer sacrifices of praise, stay confident in the Lord and keep a positive frame of mind. This could turn out to be one of the most meaningful times in your life, because you will learn to trust God like never before.

Please download our Job Hunting Kit which is loaded with tons of helpful information from a career coach.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Steps to Constructive Confrontation

For most of us, confrontation is not our favorite thing to do. But often we avoid it to our harm and to the destruction of relationships.

How would you describe yourself when it comes to confrontation?
  • I rarely confront anyone about anything because it is very uncomfortable and I try to avoid anything unpleasant.
  • I fear the reaction from the person I need to confront and I don’t want to hurt his or her feelings, so I’m very reluctant to confront.
  • I feel so guilty about myself for so many reasons that I feel as though I don’t have a right to confront anybody about anything.
  • I only confront when I’m really angry, and then it comes out all wrong and causes greater problems.
  • I confront all the time, but I don’t stop to think about how I do it, so it often backfires on me.
Please note that we are talking about constructive confrontation, which obviously infers that not all confrontation is constructive. And it is true that much confrontation ends up making matters worse because it was not done for the right motivation and in the right way.

Have you ever confronted for one of these reasons?
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Selfishness
  • Watching out for “number one”
  • Lack of patience
Even if the confrontation was needed, the wrong motivation and approach would cause it to be a harmful confrontation rather than a constructive one.

Tips for Confronting
Once you’ve come to the conclusion that you truly need to confront a person about some situation, then you need to consider several important elements of a confrontation. Remember that confronting is by nature sensitive and delicate, and therefore needs to be thoughtfully approached. A reckless, speedy, unplanned confrontation can lead to disaster.

Choose the right time.
The timing of your confrontation is a critical point to consider. For example, none of these would be good times for confrontation:
  • You are upset and at the point of tears.
  • The “confrontee” is extremely busy this week.  
  • You spent a sleepless night worrying about it.
  • The “confrontee” just lost his/her job.
  • You are angry.
  • The “confrontee” has had a recent health problem.

Choose the right place.
Not only is the right time important, but the right place is as well. Which of these locations would seem conducive to a constructive confrontation?
  • The cafeteria at work
  • Your cubicle in the office
  • A conference room
  • A restaurant                                
  • In a meeting                                       
  • A private office
  • Over the phone      
  • The lobby at work or church                
  • In a home setting
Here are the basic things to remember in choosing the right place:
  • Choose a private place where you can have a one-on-one discussion without being overheard by others. In a work situation, you may want to consider the implication of calling someone into your office and shutting your door for a confrontation. That could be a signal to others that a confrontation is occurring, so even though it is in a private place, it may still need to be more discreet.
  • On the job, consider an off-site location. That is a good idea, especially in what you would consider “high profile” situations.
  • Consider confronting over a meal. It seems to break down some barriers when we share a meal with someone.
Avoid finger-pointing.
Avoid “finger-pointing” phrases, such as these:
  • You are never on time. . .                        
  • You’ve made the same mistake three times. . .
  • You don’t know how to do this. . .                       
  • You have difficulty getting along with your sister. . .
  • Your attitude is causing problems. . .       
  • You never listen to me. . .
  • You have had your way for too long. . .
Those are all finger-pointing phrases, and notice that they all begin with “You.”  Think of some words/phrases that don’t tend to have that “finger-pointing” flavor, such as:
  • "Perhaps there has been a misunderstanding. . ."
  • "I'm hoping you can help me understand. . ."
  • "If my information is correct. . .
Plan your words.
Proverbs 21:23 reminds us that: “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.”

Guarding your words carefully is always important, but never more so than when you are confronting someone. How you say what you have to say will make a big difference in whether the confrontation is a success or a failure.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Finishing the Race

I write this on the day after the Chicago Marathon, where many of my friends and two of my close relatives ran the race and finished it!  I cheered them on and had the joy of sharing in their incredible accomplishment.  But I was on the sidelines watching instead of running in the race.

My best laid plans to run the marathon this year had to be forsaken when a stress fracture put me on the sidelines.  I had dreamed of crossing that finish line and knowing what must be that incredible sense of satisfaction to have finished those 26.2 miles.  But my dreams were dashed, and I find I’m a little sad this morning.  I didn’t finish the race.

It brings to mind the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:7: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  I didn’t finish this marathon, but the race I really want to finish—and finish well—is the good race of faith.  I don’t want any kind of “stress fracture” to sideline me from running the race that God has set before me.

Hebrews 12:1 reminds us that we each have an individual race: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us

I find I must be continually intentional about throwing off the “stuff” that hinders me.  “Stuff” like laziness and distractions and materialism and pride, to name a few.  They entangle me so easily.  But if I keep my eye on the finish line and think about the great joy of crossing that line and hearing Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” then throwing off some of the “stuff” is not so hard to do.  That’s one finish line I don’t want to miss!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dealing With An Angry Person

When you face some people who are very angry, it helps to have a plan in mind ahead of time in order to handle the situation appropriately. There are five stages to remember in dealing with a person who is angry and irate, and it is important to follow these stages in sequence:

1.      Listen and allow that person to ventilate.
If you allow a person to ventilate, many times he or she will end by apologizing to you or thanking you for listening.

2.      Defuse the anger
Here are some effective defusers:
Keep your voice calm and under control

Use empathy and/or sympathy:
                        --"I can understand your frustration..."
                        --"I certainly can see why that would upset you..."
                        --"I know how annoying that can be..."
                        --"I know what you mean; that has happened to me,
                            and it can be very upsetting.

You can sympathize with an angry person without apologizing.  Whether you owe that person an apology or not, don't be afraid to use sympathy, such as:
                        --"I'm sorry you've had a problem..."
                        --"I'm sorry this has inconvenienced you..."
                        --"I'm sorry to hear about that..."

Agree where possible. Even if it is a small agreement, the words, "I agree," or "You have a good point there," or "I can see what you mean" have a calming effect on an angry person.

Apologize if appropriate.  When an apology is due, it not only is the right thing to do, it also works as a very effective defuser.

Assure the angry person of a response.  It usually has a defusing effect to let this person know that you are going to respond to the situation.  But of course, don't promise what you cannot deliver.

If your attempt to defuse proves unsuccessful, let someone else deal with the angry person.  Many irate people will ventilate on the first person they speak with, but calm down as soon as a second person comes on the scene.  So, as a last resort, when nothing else is seeming to work, look for someone else to help.

3.      Clarify the situation
Paraphrase the situation back to the angry person, minus the anger.  Often that can clear up the exaggerations and the problem becomes more life-sized.

4.      Offer suggestions and/or solutions
After defusing and clarifying, you should be able to go into solution stage.  That will take many different forms based on the situation.  However, I would emphasize once again that you do not go to solution stage until you've defused.

5.      End on a positive note
After you have dealt with an angry person, please remember to have the "last word," and make certain that last word is positive.  "We appreciate you bringing this to our attention."  Or "I'm really glad you talked with me about this." 

One last word on dealing with angry people:  Even though you may have done your part correctly, you cannot control the response of the other person.  So, even if you are not able to totally calm an angry person, as long as you stay in control of yourself, you can know that you did it well.

Proverbs 15:1:  A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 12:18:  Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 16:24:  Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.