Friday, November 25, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Sixty-two

Day 162 - Different Perspectives
I had the chance to view the job seeker’s life through three different lenses today.  
It started with a coffee meeting and free coaching session for a husband and wife who had attended my recent presentation on “Opening and Closing an Interview” in Hillsboro.  They are both looking for work - he was laid off recently, and she is reentering the outside work force after several years as a stay-at-home mom.  Their focus for today’s meeting was primarily to help her get her resume in shape.  We spent over an hour marking up what she had, and giving her some direction as to what she needs to present to potential employers.
Naturally, they were both concerned about how to honestly present their skills (especially her experience) when discussing home-based and volunteer work.  It is my firm belief that even when you don’t receive a paycheck for work that you do, it is still work, and you’re still using important skills.  Like many stay-at-home moms I’ve spoken with, there was an apparent need to justify or rationalize the work that was done in raising children.  I believe that budgeting skills, coordination skills, communications skills, managing and training skills - so many different abilities - are not only transferrable into a potential new job, but are vital to the success of the target organization.  You don’t have to pretend that these skills are marketable.   They are.
My second meeting was with a CFO in transition who has been attending the same job finders meeting on Mondays that I have.  There have been moments during a few of the meetings where he seemed frustrated and annoyed with how the meeting progressed, so when he asked to sit down with me to talk, I gladly accepted.  I wanted to know his perspective on the group, and on his job search, and how the group (and, by extension, how I) could be of greater help.  
I will admit I do not think like a CFO.  I have found that financial executives of my colleague’s calibre often think in “bullet points” - concise structure is often paramount to understanding, and understanding is critical for forward progress.  So when this group’s meetings meander through seemingly directionless conversation, which it often does, he gets frustrated.  Other participants often speak in stream-of-consciousness monologue, and don’t present a clear message of what they are looking for.  As a result, he is unable to think of ways to help or encourage, and feels the meeting is unhelpful to all of us.  He needs greater structure and clarity to perceive value.
Those who process the way I do - and as the moderator does - tend to look instead at the big picture, including the emotional (“touchy-feely”) aspects of the discourse.  We want to be sure all attendees have a chance to talk about what they are looking for, and also how they feel, so we can best help them on all sides of their efforts.  Sometimes job seekers need simply to feel validated in their work to then be motivated to keep their momentum.  We want them to feel good about what they are doing now so they keep doing well tomorrow.
The contrast to my perspective is essential for my understanding as I try to make a positive contribution to this and other job finders groups (especially the one I moderate).  The balance of needs is, I think, the key to adding value to these conversations, so the feedback I received today is very helpful.  
Then I went to the meeting which we had spent an hour verbally dissecting.  My colleague wasn’t able to join us (he had an informational interview to attend across town), so I couldn’t observe his reactions to the conversation.  We had about half the regular attendance (mostly for scheduling issues), which made it far easier to take a looser approach, and I wondered, as I observed the discussion from a different view as a participant, how he would have felt about it had he been there.  Still, though we didn’t stay on topic very well, I felt as if it were a good meeting.
I came away from today’s activities with a sense of greater understanding.  I don’t know exactly how this will help me in my search for my own opportunities, but I suppose we rarely do; only time and reflection can provide that insight.  I’m just glad I have the chance to be the occasional observer and not always be trapped in the trees, unable to see the forest.

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