…Why Every Career Interaction Is Critically Important

I have a “few projects” that I am working on to get back into corporate. When I responded by asking them to give me an overview, that was when the picture became unclear.

Then the stumbling started and in the end, there was a mishmash of ”give this one a call,” “follow-up this with a meeting,” ” reach out to …”

This was not a strategic-driven approach.

In another incident, I opened the email, it was a short note [one large paragraph] and a resume. This was in response to someone reaching out to me for assistance to help make an introduction to another colleague.

To say I was underwhelmed is an understatement.

What would be your approach?

Both the people who reached out were senior-level, a C-Level leader, and an Executive Vice President. I was shocked. What I conveyed to each of them is, what if I were interviewing you? Would you be impressed with the delivery that you just gave?

Although it was simply a phone call to a friend, every discussion should always be on point. I could almost see their head down in affirmation of my statement.

Yes, the threshold is higher. If you are a senior-level executive and looking to either get back in the game or move to another company, every approach has to show value. Does it convey that you have thought through each approach? Does it convey that you are someone who they should meet, or better still, follow-up with a request for more information?

Every interaction, whether you are in project or career mode, should be used as a pitch. You should always walk away from the interaction, thinking “how did I do?” How did it come across?” Yes, folks, today it is that important.

I remember a few years back when I was watching a performance at the Chicago Improv. I was amazed by the on-the-spot or off-the-cuff spontaneous comments that just came to them as an inspiration. They had to respond to what was given in the scene, and if you did not know better, you would think that they had rehearsed for hours.

Does it equate??

Yes, life is improvisation. Every day, we are afforded opportunities to respond based on what we are asked or the situation we are in. I asked both of these different individuals different questions, and they were so ill-prepared that I could not believe that they had those prior high-level roles.

Their responses simply did not equate with their previous titles, and their responses certainly did not equate with the position they were seeking.

When asked questions in a hiring situation, the people asking the questions are wondering if you will respond with something they expect you to say or something completely unexpected. This means you should not respond with some canned, obvious reply such as “I want to be in HR because I love people.” That gem was from an accountant/finance person wanting to make a career move.

We stand out when we let our inhibitions go and come up with an unexpected story or narrative that makes the interviewer know you are a strong connection. Something like this is a better way to go. For example: “I worked on a project recently with HR and could immediately see that with my finance and data background, that this would be a perfect fit as HR is moving more toward using data as a framework for people decisions.”

In the end, you need to be who you are. Never try to give canned responses in trying to be something or someone who you are not. If you do, your listener will see through you in a heartbeat.

After seeing the Chicago Improv, I did some research on their methods used and came across the technique “Yes.” What this teaches is that you accept the statements and respond by building your dialogue: Yes, and ……………, or, I have given that some thought to that and …………………

Perfect snapshot

I’m always amazed when someone tells me their goals, and there is no specificity to them. Of course, my view of your goal to become an HR manager could be different from your view. But for example, if you say, I want to be an HR manager working in the media industry because I have an intense thirst for digitization and how it will be one of the driving forces in all businesses in years to come, THAT is a perfect snapshot of your goal.

As a blogger, I always try to think of the headline. What is the hook that will draw the reader in? I try to write from that perspective. If I can’t get that in place, I use a snapshot that tells the story and visually build a narrative around that.

When you interact with people, whether it is a business pitch or a career pitch, ask yourself the question, ”Am I being specific? Did I cut out all the ambiguity?”

Look at it every day

One of my techniques is keeping a career document that outlines my goals based on my current state and each action that I am taking as I move ahead. When I sit down at my computer, that is one of the first documents that I open and keep open. I may not update it each time I sign on, but as I click around, I see it, and I think it.

By keeping track this way, I can always review where I am, judge my progress, and make adjustments.

Upon arriving in Saudi Arabia, one of my goals was to get involved with the HR community in the Middle East. Coming from New York, and after working for some esteemed brands, I knew that I had a story to tell that would be compelling.

I wanted to book as many speaking opportunities as possible. After research, I found the conferences and started making connections to the event producers. I had honed my story to the point that I could rattle it off in my sleep.

This whole career thing is a marathon, and as with any marathon, it takes training each day. We can no longer simply cruise on autopilot.

Yes, we have to use every opportunity we get to not only tell our story but to keep it sharp and focused, too.

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