29 May 2017

Archives for July 2016

10 Things That Drive a Career Coach Crazy

career coach


Think he’s gonna hit it?

We’ve seen some great successes lately. People who practice what I teach are finding jobs really fast. On the other hand, people who don’t practice what I teach are driving me crazy. I told one client last week to plan for a two or three-year job search. In this post I will share my list of 10 things that drive a career coach crazy.

Don’t Swing at the High Pitches

God created me for coaching; whether it’s baseball, consultative selling, communication skills, job search or career management, I love to coach. One of the most rewarding things for me as a coach is to see an immediate positive change in the performance of someone I’m coaching.

About 10 years ago, for instance, we had a young man on our 10-and-under team named Darius who was a big, strong kid. He’s the one you hear about who has to have his birth certificate to prove his age. As the hitting coach, I noticed he wasn’t “bracing off,” which means he wasn’t locking his front leg at the moment of contact with the ball. If a hitter doesn’t brace off, his knee absorbs much of the force that should have been applied to the ball. After I taught Darius how to brace off, he showed immediate improvement. He almost hit a home run in the very next game (the ball hit the fence on the fly). We worked on bracing off again the following week. In practice the next night, he hit four home runs over a fence that was 200 feet away. I couldn’t be there that night, but Darius said to my son, “Austin, be sure and tell your dad about my home runs tonight.”

Man, that’s a great feeling!

During the early part of the season, we had an issue that every youth baseball coach faces: our players were swinging at pitches that were up around the bill of their cap. Two of our coaches consistently yelled at the kids when they swung at a high pitch.

It occurred to me that every kid on our team, and any 10-year-old kid who has played baseball more than a week, knows not to swing at a pitch that is so high. So I began to wonder why in the world a kid would do such a foolish thing. One thing I knew for sure: yelling at them was not helping them hit better. The yelling by the other coaches was a classic case of, “The more the parents ‘coach,’ the worse the kids play.”

In the dugout, I began to ask questions of the hitter whose turn was coming up in two spots. For you baseball aficionados, it’s called “in the hole.” You have the hitter at bat, then one “on-deck” and then one “in the hole.” I’d ask questions like, “Which way was the ball spinning?” and “What kind of pitch was that?” and “Without looking at the scoreboard, what’s the count? How many outs are there?” You can learn a lot – and teach more – by asking questions.

I hit upon the solution to swinging at high pitches when we played a game I called “high, low, strike.” The player in the hole was supposed to say whether the pitch was going to be above, below or within the strike zone during the flight of the ball. (We couldn’t read the horizontal location from our vantage point in the dugout.) Some kids called the pitch right after the ball hit the catcher’s mitt. Whoops; too late. With a little practice, most kids made their call when the ball was about halfway to the plate.

One kid, however, called “high” when the pitcher was still holding the ball. In fact, the ball was still behind the pitcher’s back! I said, “Tysen, I know what the problem is; you’re guessing where it’s going instead of reading the pitch. You need to wait until the ball is out of the pitcher’s hand before you know where it’s going.” Tysen’s pitch selection and batting average improved after that, and I am happy to report that, several weeks later, he hit the longest home run I will probably ever see a 10-year-old hit.

Grown Ups Swing at High Pitches Too

You may be wondering what all this has to do with job search.

I’ll bet every person who has been to one JobSeekers meeting knows that he or she is supposed to be networking. Most people who haven’t been to a JobSeekers meeting also know that the best chance of finding a job is through personal contacts – not the Internet. For me to be saying, “You need to be networking more” is about as dumb as, “Don’t swing at the high pitches.”

DAVE, H-E-L-L-O-O-O-! I ALREADY KNOW THAT!

Now I try to assume that most of the people I deal with know what to do. If they are not doing it, we need to search for the root cause. Here is my list of 10 things that drive a career coach crazy:

  1. What is it that causes someone to look for jobs on the Internet for hours every day instead of making personal contacts and going to networking meetings?
  2. Why is it that when people are under stress their decision-making ability is so poor?
  3. What causes someone who is under severe financial stress to make decisions that cause even more financial woes?
  4. Why do people do something as important as looking for a job without the proper preparation and training?
  5. Why do some people (Ship’s Crew, current members, alumni, pastors and this writer) recommend JobSeekers to an unemployed person, and they never come?
  6. Why do some people who are looking for a job fail to check their email?
  7. Why is it that, when we ask new members of JobSeekers to send us their resume, they fail to do so?
  8. Why do people receive networking referrals and fail to follow up on them?
  9. Why do people who do follow up on the referrals fail to call the first person (the one who made the referral mentioned in #8) and let him or her know what happened?
  10. Why on God’s green earth would someone who’s been out of work for a year reject my advice? Whoops, my frustration is showing through; how about this instead: I wonder why some people who’ve been out of work for several months are not open to constructive feedback?

I remember, for example, an employer who asked me to find a match for a PC support technician. I found two people who matched the criteria and might have been available. I emailed them both. One guy got back to me within two hours. He was calling from Georgia Tech, where he had been happily employed for five months. The other, whose last day at work was 11 months prior, never got back to me. Later I found out that he was still looking.

By the way, notice that the person who had the job was the one with good follow up skills! The person with the poor follow up skills had never come to a JobSeekers meeting; how come? He, or someone else who didn’t send me a resume, missed a job opportunity that week.

Even Paul Had Behavioral Issues

All of us sinners can take comfort in the fact that guy who wrote about one-third of the New Testament also struggled with his behavior. Read the words of Paul in Romans 7:15-25:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

What’s Holding You Back? Find the Root Cause

In youth baseball, it may be that the player is not reading the pitch correctly. There may be a fear that if he doesn’t swing, a good pitch is going to go by. Or it may be that he knows he’s going to get yelled at if he takes a third strike without swinging.

Think about things you could be doing that would advance your campaign. What’s keeping you from doing them? Think about things you are doing that are holding your campaign back. Why do you continue to do them?

Don’t beat yourself up for doing (or not doing) something. Being judgmental, even toward oneself, is seldom (if ever) beneficial. Just look at the root cause and work on that. We all have self-limiting issues; we are all in good company. If Paul struggled with his behavior, why wouldn’t we?

See you Friday at JobSeekers, where we are changing our self-defeating behaviors into job-winning habits!

Copyright © 2016 / Dave O’Farrell / All Rights Reserved

A Sharp Focus is Key

sharp focus


Maintain your focus.

Have you ever used a magnifying glass to set a leaf on fire? Looking for a job is a lot like catching a leaf on fire. In both, a sharp focus is key. I’ve noticed that some of you have a magnifying glass, but you don’t know which leaf you want to focus on. Others know which leaf you want, but you aren’t focusing the light properly. Still others focus the light, but you switch to another leaf just before the flame starts.

I looked up “focus” on BibleGateway.com and was surprised to find that the word does not appear even once in the NIV. The Message paraphrase Bible uses the word “focus” 29 times. I selected this one for you, Philippians 3:15:

“So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision – you’ll see it yet!”

When discussing focus with a group of my clients, one pointed out a verse from Proverbs that has to do with focus; here are two versions of Proverbs 17:24:

“A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.” (NIV) and “Anyone with wisdom knows what makes good sense, but fools can never make up their minds.” (Contemporary English Version)

With this in mind, my message to you is this:

1. Make up you mind about what you want to do.

The leaves could represent different functions or industries. There may be several that would make sense for you to choose. In order for you to set the leaf on fire (win a job), you must choose one to focus your energy on. Someone sent me a resume a while back that said something like, “Seeking a management position in sales, marketing, operations, administration, human resources or finance.” Gee whiz, pick one to focus on or you won’t get hired!

2. Build a short list of target companies, organizations or agencies.

Now that you’ve chosen your leaf, decide exactly where you are going to focus the sun’s rays. Don’t swirl the light beam around thinking that you will start a bigger fire. You won’t. If someone woke you up from a deep sleep and asked what companies you’re targeting, you should be focused enough to say, “I’m targeting third-party logistics companies like Exel, UPS Supply Chain Solutions and Eagle Global Logistics.”

3. Work tirelessly and single-mindedly to accomplish your goal.

At first, it will seem like nothing is happening. Be patient. Be steady and strong. Have faith. Remember your past success catching a leaf on fire, or listen to the wise counsel of others who have. Don’t let a failure or rejection deter you. Don’t let the contrary opinion of one or two people sway you. Don’t drop out of the race a few feet from the finish line.

Lewis Carroll, in his classic Alice in Wonderland, says Alice came to a fork in the road and saw the Cheshire Cat in a tree. “‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.’”

In job search, it does matter!

If you are blown and tossed by the wind, you may not reach your full potential – and the job that God has in store for you. It may be that you would have a longer job search, earn less income, perform a less desirable job, work in a hostile environment, make a long commute, or be forced to relocate. Get focused and get results.

Paul of Tarsus was the embodiment of focus. He knew exactly what he was called to do (preach the good news and start the Christian church). He knew exactly who his audience was (first the Jew, then the Gentile), and he was totally focused on his ministry and mission (and he wouldn’t let things like the emperor of Rome, the Jewish leaders, or persecutions stop him). Paul accomplished his mission. You can too.

See you on Friday at JobSeekers; the place where a sharp focus comes into view!

Copyright © 2016 / Dave O’Farrell / All Rights Reserved

It’s Not Who You Are, It’s Whose You Are

 Father's Love Letter


Father’s Love Letter

Some of you have not only forgotten who you are, but whose you are.

A few years ago I was working with Debra, a recently departed quality technician from a local manufacturing company. We were working on her 45-second oral introduction (I am … My background includes … One accomplishment I’m proud of is …) when she said, “I’m not just a quality technician, so I don’t want to say that.” I explained that we are different things to different people. If you are stuck in a traffic jam on Highway 54 because of a 50-foot deep sinkhole, someone from 11-Alive might point a camera at you and stick a microphone in your car window and ask how long you’ve been sitting in the backup. When you see yourself on the news that night the caption on your picture might say, “Fred Flintstone, frustrated motorist.”

Some of you are defining yourself as, “Jerry JobSeeker, unemployed.”

Friends, don’t let a former employer define who you are. Don’t let a particular person at a former employer define who you are. Don’t let the last company who failed to hire you define who you are – or the overworked HR person who hasn’t called you on the expected date. Don’t let the unseen “monsters” in cyberspace define who you are. And don’t let 11-Alive define who you are either.

None of that matters!

With that in mind, I asked Debra to write down some other “I am” statements. I don’t remember them all, but it went something like this: “I am a … quality technician, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, VBS director, Sunday school teacher, college student, program director, office technology specialist, and, I am a child of God.” When she finished she said, “I guess I should have put ‘child of God’ first.”

Notice that she didn’t write, “I am unemployed.”

Sometimes we let our current circumstances dictate our self-image. Man, if you go into a job interview or networking meeting with a poor self-image, you self-image is likely to be worse when you finish because the company isn’t going to hire you and the friend isn’t going to recommend you to anyone else.

With God’s help, you can break the cycle! Here’s how:

1. Remember whose you are – you are a child of God.

First and foremost you are a child of God. You are made in God’s image. As a father loves his children, God loves you and wants to bless you. He wants you to find joy in your life – no matter what your circumstances. He doesn’t want you to be unemployed, at least not for long. He wants you to use the gifts and abilities he has given you to bless His kingdom and to support your family. He wants you to find joy in your career.

2. Remember the good times – look expectantly toward your new job.

Remember times in your career when you were in your sweet spot. Look expectantly toward being in your sweet spot again. When I was in my first job search in 1992, I noticed a huge difference in the way people reacted to me compared to other job seekers. My attitude was, “I’m energized because I am working every day toward a worthy goal, and when I get there, man, it’s going to be great!”

3. Slow down and listen for the gentle whisper of God.

Now that you’ve stepped out of the hectic corporate world for a time, slow down and recharge your mind, body and spirit. Arm yourself for battle by drawing near to God. Pray and read the Bible. Join a Bible study class. Vocalize your feelings to God. Ask Him for the strength and confidence to overcome those terrifying feelings of self-doubt. Find scriptures that encourage you. When you do this, you will begin to hear the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit.

After I read “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale a few years ago, I created 20 Biblically-based affirmations and used them frequently in my job search in 2000. These affirmations, along with the three points above, strengthened me for the battle I fought. The first affirmation is, “I picture success. I have formulated and stamped indelibly on my mind a picture of myself succeeding. I always picture success, now matter how badly things are going at the moment.” To see the whole list, click here.

Father’s Love Letter

I found this out in cyberspace; it’s called “Father’s Love Letter.” Maybe it will help to strengthen you. It is a compilation of bible verses from both the Old and New Testaments that are presented in the form of a love letter from God to the world. Here are the first seven lines:

You may not know me, but I know everything about you. – Psalm 139:1

I know when you sit down and when you rise up. – Psalm 139:2

I am familiar with all your ways. – Psalm 139:3

Even the very hairs on your head are numbered. – Matthew 10:29-31

For you were made in my image. – Genesis 1:27

In me you live and move and have your being. – Acts 17:28

For you are my offspring. – Acts 17:28

Click here to see and hear the entire letter.

BTW, I got the idea for the title from my very first JobSeekers meeting. I came as a participant on 11 February 2000. See you on Friday at JobSeekers, where we remember whose we are, look expectantly to the brighter days ahead, and listen for the gentle voice of God.

* Excerpt from “Father’s Love Letter” used by permission, Father Heart Communications. Copyright 1999-2012.

Copyright © 2016 / Dave O’Farrell / All Rights Reserved

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

Oftentimes, things aren’t always what they seem. A few years ago Marcia Gibson told us her accomplishment for the week was getting turned down twice. The way she phrased it was, “I was blessed this week when two companies told me I could keep searching for a new position. God got them out of my way so I could move more freely toward the job He has in store for me.”

We all fell out laughing, but I think everyone could hear the certainty in her voice and see the conviction in her heart – she actually believed what she was saying!

Marcia was red hot after that and accepted one of two offers a few weeks later.

Her story reminded me of a JobSeeker and OCM client from several years ago who was counting his blessings a year after he was turned down by two companies. Notice that he was counting his blessings a year later – not when he got the news.

Phil interviewed for a promising position on 20 May 2003. He rushed from that interview to another company and another promising position. And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, for the rest of the story:

The first company was BioLab in Conyers. They made the national news 369 days after Phil’s interview when a massive fire tore through their plant. Phil said, “I turned on the TV this morning to see the billowing smoke soar skyward from their massive facility; I thanked God for His divine guidance away from that situation.” As you may have guessed by now, he didn’t get the job at the second interview that day either. Even though Phil and the hiring manager had an immediate rapport (turns out they were acquainted) that job wasn’t a good fit for Phil. The manager called Phil several months later to say that he was about to leave because the company could no longer compete in their niche market.

Phil got a good job not long after that. He kept the faith. Whenever I spoke to him there was always something good just around the corner. It turns out he was right. He concluded an email with this: “I hope this finds you well. I am doing fantabulous. God does look out for us! Dave, thank you for all you have done to help me. I am a richer man today for meeting you and I consider you a friend.”

Friends, don’t give up. God has a plan and a purpose for your life and career (Jeremiah 29:11). He is working for your good (Romans 8:28). Trust God. Sometimes when we think things aren’t going well, he says, “Trust me with all your heart, for I have better things planned for you.” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Things aren’t always what they seem.

The following story illustrates this point. 

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

Two traveling angels spent the night in the home of a wealthy family.

The family was rude and refused to let the angels stay in the mansion’s guest room. Instead the angels were given a small space in the cold basement. As they made their bed on the hard floor, the older angel saw a hole in the wall and repaired it.

When the younger angel asked why, the older angel replied, “Things aren’t what they always seem.”

The next night the pair of angels came to rest at the house of a very poor, but very hospitable farmer and his wife. After sharing what little food they had, the couple let the angels sleep in their bed where they could have a good night’s rest. When the sun came up the next morning the angels found the farmer and his wife in tears. Their only cow, whose milk had been their sole income, lay dead in the field.

The younger angel was infuriated and asked the older angel how could you have let this happen? The first man had everything, and you helped him. The second family had little but was willing to share everything, and you let the cow die!”

“Things aren’t what they always seem,” replied older angel. “When we stayed in the basement of the mansion, I noticed there was gold stored in that hole in the wall. Since the owner was so obsessed with greed and unwilling to share his good fortune, I sealed the wall so he wouldn’t find it. Then last night as we slept in the farmers bed, the angel of death came for his wife. I gave him the cow instead.”

Sometimes that is exactly what happens when things don’t turn out the way we want. If you have faith, you just need to trust that every outcome is always to your advantage. You just might not know until sometime later.

There have been times in my life when I’ve faced loss and disappointment only to find out later that God’s hand was on my shoulder the entire time, that his love was surrounding me completely, and that his plan and purpose for my life were unfolding before me.

One more verse from Proverbs 18:13 before I close: “He who answers a matter before he hears the facts – it is folly and shame to him.” Things aren’t always what they seem. Oftentimes, they are much better than we can conceive or imagine.

See you on Friday at JobSeekers, the place where we trust God – especially when things don’t seem to be going well.

Copyright © 2016 / Dave O’Farrell / All Rights Reserved