How Long Will This Take? “Two Weeks…”

In the past, I’ve compared looking for a new job to playing the dating game. You’re ultimately trying to find a new spark and connection that will hopefully lead to commitment. This isn’t an easy process. Whether you are dating different people or going on two job interviews per week, the time and energy spent can be exhausting. Most times you want to have an instant spark so you can move on with your new relationship.

The problem is that nothing moves fast. I’ve told you that part before. You can expect to possibly be on the job hunt around six to eight months. But, I wanted to expand on job hunting a little bit and let you in on a little secret. There’s a secret code phrase used in the HR and job hunt world that is thrown around like candy. At first it will give you hope, but ultimately you will know that it just means more waiting. You better get used to hearing one phrase…“two weeks.”

Two weeks. Doesn’t sound that bad does it? It sounds like a perfectly reasonable time frame and speed at which a big decision such as a hiring should take. It’s just like Tom Hanks in The Money Pit though, and “two weeks” starts to become just a saying, not a reality. Two weeks is about the fastest anyone will move, and many times I’ve learned the phrase can be a place holder so they have something to tell you when you ask about the timeline for a decision.

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From the initial contact you have with a potential employer, to scheduling that first interview, to ultimately meeting the hiring manager in person (if you make it that far), you will need to allow at least two weeks. You just have to. You must be aware of that and be prepared to play the long game.

All companies move at different speeds, and more often than not each speed is slower than the last one you encountered. Even if a company appears to be nearing a decision quickly, I can almost guarantee you that just the decision making process alone may take at least two weeks.

You must understand there are many factors at play in a process like this. You also have to remember you’re not always aware of what is happening on the side of the employer or with the hiring manager. The hiring manager may be playing by a set of rules they can’t control that is dictated by internal factors. Maybe something came up personally for one of the people involved and the decision is delayed. This type of information may or may not be relayed to you.

This is why it is important to build a solid relationships with your point of contact at HR. In my experiences, most HR professionals are very helpful and will guide you through the process if you keep in touch with them regularly. Ask questions about the company or position each time, along with the status of the pending decision. Ask them how they are and be conversational. I would pass this advice to anyone. You can never reach out to the HR folks enough while waiting for a decision. It will show your willingness to work for them.

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I recently had an experience where I was interviewing in person for the second time. I felt like I had played all of my cards right and this was going to be the engagement that sealed the deal. I was their guy and was about to begin a new working relationship. He assured me that they were moving quickly because they needed to fill this position to begin some new marketing initiatives. When I asked him “how quick” is “quick” he said I’ll be making a decision “this week.”

That interview was on a Wednesday. Even though I knew that was an ambitious timeline and was a bit skeptical, who was I to not take him at his word. Then Friday came and went with no word from HR. I reached out to HR on the following Monday and was assured no decision had been made. I reached out to HR again heading into the weekend and got the same assurance. But now one week had passed.

The next Monday went by with no word. I reached out on Wednesday to HR for an update and still was told they had no update because the hiring manager hadn’t told them of his decision. So now “quick” is at the ever-popular two week mark. It wasn’t until the following week, nearly three weeks later, when I was finally told of the decision. And sadly for me, I wasn’t the one chosen. However, because of my relationship with the HR contact, I didn’t feel like I was being strung along. I trusted her that there were factors beyond her control delaying the decision.

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I tell you all this not to scare you or come off as bitter or cynical. I’m telling you this to prepare you for the grind that is the job hunt. You can’t allow the long process to get you down. You must persevere and use the tools I’ve been equipping you with to stay positive. For me that has been utilizing my network of support, praying, eating right, working out and writing for outlets such as this one.

Because I have stayed true to my beliefs and my approach, I know that I am nearing a breakthrough in my search. Even if it has taken a long time to make some gains, I feel like I’m about to leap over the goal line for a touchdown.

If anyone else is tired of constantly hearing “two weeks” and would like to discuss how to stay aggressive on the job hunt, feel free to reach out in the comments, on Twitter or drop me a line. As I’ve stated before, I’m no expert, nor do I have all the answers. But through my writing and experiences, I hope to be able to help someone facing a similar situation. If I can help anyone, in any way, I’d be more than happy!

The Job Hunt Is Like Dating

This post was originally posted on Front Office Sports.

As I inch closer to to landing my next full-time job, it’s becoming more apparent every day that I’m playing the field. Yup, just like when you’re looking for the right person to date or settle down with.

Now I don’t claim to be a “player” who was playing the field that much in my personal life, but the parallels are just too striking. In both dating and job-hunting, two strangers come together, seeking to find a spark and commonalities. That rapport will then make both parties want to meet again and eventually be together for a long-term commitment.

Three steps help guide both dating and job-hunting. The first step is researching prospects and trends to find the perfect match. The second is succeeding in building interest and a connection with the other person or company. The third step is agreeing to be together, putting in the effort to fuel a long-term connection.

Sounds so easy right? Well it’s not! Knowing those basics steps will help you navigate your search, but I’m here to pull back the curtain a little further and let you in on my reasons why job-hunting is like dating.

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Nothing Moves Fast
Be prepared for a long chase. A long courting period if you will. Both finding the right employer and the right companion should take time. Not only should it take time, it will. Both of my most recent job-hunts have taken close to eight months or more. I went into this one prepared for it to take at least that long, and it has. It was close to six months before I began to get real strong leads and begin to get interviews.

There are a lot of job postings and a lot of clutter to cut through in order to get noticed and get an interview. You must remind yourself consistently that nothing moves fast. You may apply for a job and four months later you hear from HR. All companies move at different paces and each pace is slower than the next. Stay the course and pursue those leads and in time (usually a long time) the right opportunity will present itself as a result of your effort and perseverance.

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Nothing Will Be Given To You
You can follow my networking tips all you want, but it’s still up to you in the end. You have to work for what will eventually come your way. Nothing will be given to you. You may hear of the “old boy” network or maybe you’ve experienced someone get something you didn’t think they deserved because of who they knew. Well, I can tell you that a situation like that most likely won’t happen to you.

The vast majority of people have to work for all that is given to them. Never approach the job-hunt like you’re a “shoo-in” or that anything is promised to you. Work hard and put your best self forward. Don’t let that Imposter Syndrome creep in. Have confidence in your abilities, connect with others, own your successes and avoid comparing your situation to anyone else’s.

Pursue All Leads
This is the part where, for me at least, the job-hunt has been the closest to dating. You must get comfortable playing the field and pursuing all the leads that you have. In the last month I’ve had phone interviews, in-person interviews, more in-person interviews and even a job offer for a brief moment (more on this later…). You have to get comfortable in telling each suitor that they’re the one. They don’t need to know that you have a variety of suitors. That is your business. If the timing is right they will be the one. But, the timing has to be right. It’s nice to be wanted and it’s nice to have choices, but sometimes the first choice is the one you take if you have to take care of your family.

That said, don’t be afraid to keep the relationships you built intact, and continue to pursue leads even if you accepted an offer. You have to look out for yourself and what is best for you and your family. Don’t get too romantic about a job or job offer. If another opportunity comes along that can better your life, take it. Trust me, you’ll regret not playing the filed and looking to find the best opportunity out there.

The day will finally come when you’re in the right job, for the right reasons, and your contributions will be balanced by support and the opportunity to grow. Much like my marriage, you will be fully invested and eager to put time and work into the relationship. Now, if only I can find a job as “perfect” as my wife.

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Stay Optimistic
This last point may be the most important. I’ve written this many times before, but the best way to further your personal growth is through positivity and proactivity. If you aren’t doing these two things, you will be unprepared to take action when faced with adversity. You must always stay positive and remain optimistic.

YOU ultimately control your attitude each day and how you will react and handle situations. If you allow the grind of dating, I mean job-hunting, get you down then you may tell yourself it’s impossible to find “the one.” You can’t allow the long process to get you down. Use your support system, use your networking, use prayer, use whatever it takes to remain positive.

I know that I am nearing to a breakthrough in my search. Even though it has taken a long time to feel like I am close to the goal line, I have remained positive throughout the entire process. I’ve remained mindful that I’m attacking this challenge the right way. I’ve even managed to stave off Imposter Syndrome when it creeps in.

If anyone reading this wants to connect or discuss how to attack their next job-hunt, feel free to reach out in the comments, on Twitter or drop me a line. I don’t claim to be an expert, or have all the answers. But through my writing and sharing my experiences, I hope that I can help someone facing a similar situation. If I can help anyone through this process in any way, I’d be more than happy.

Four Important Groups to Follow on Social Media

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I don’t claim to be a Marketing and Social Media expert. In fact, I shudder when people use that word or any form of that word (ninja, guru, etc.) to describe themselves.

It’s not that I’m downplaying my skills or anyone else’s, but I think we all can be continual learners and never stop growing in our chosen field. There are some people more knowledgeable than others on certain topics, but nobody is an expert in my mind when it comes to social. It moves too fast for someone to have all the answers.

Do I have strong options on digital and social? Sure! But, I don’t claim to be an expert. I do love to have ongoing discussions on topics that are important to marketers. I’m always trying to read the latest articles from thought leaders, peers and industry executives to stay relevant. As I stated, things change so rapidly with social, it’s important to have these conversations to stay relevant.

That’s why it has always been important for me to follow four certain groups on social media. It’s critical to follow this diverse group of people and brands because you need to make sure you are keeping up with all the current conversations taking place in the industry.

So, what are these groups you ask? Here are my four group to follow on social media.

Professional Connections
This is a group that I have mentioned before in my my writing. You have your subsets of connections (core, lost and acquaintances) that you should be reaching out to consistently. These “living” lists should evolve, but you should make sure that you are connected with these folks on social media so you always have a touch point.

You may find that communicating or keeping in touch on social media is the easiest way to foster certain relationships. During these last few months, I have made a better effort to follow and connect with all levels of my “living” connections list. Keeping consistent conversations on social will allow you to learn about new opportunities (seminars, job openings, etc.) and keep you plugged into the latest news.

You never know where a conversation may lead or how a conversation will help you make your next career connection or advancement. Similarly, by extending your knowledge and expertise, you may help someone else to do the same.

Employers/Potential Employers
This segment is important from a personal branding and messaging standpoint. Following your current employer(s), and your potential employer(s) helps you share and amplify their messages. I’ve also found it incredibly useful to follow the Human Resources accounts for companies that I’d like to work for.

This comes in handy when writing cover letters, answering questions in their online portal and when speaking during an interview. If you can speak the language of your current and potential employers, you’ll have a greater advantage over those that don’t.

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Clients/Competitors
What drives your business to be successful? Other than the hard work of your team, it’s your clients and competitors. Following these groups will keep you focused on their needs and core messages. If you’ve ever worked for a marketing, PR or advertising agency you know that retaining your current book of business is critical.

A good way to make sure their messages are being received (even if you are in charge of their messaging) is to follow them yourself and view their social content against others in the native setting. Another critical part of any business is monitoring your competitors for the same messaging.

Keeping your finger on the pulse of industry messaging will help you to serve your clients better and make sure they’re either keeping pace or leading the race when it comes to their company goals for marketing, advertising and PR.

People You Disagree With
This last segment is a hard one for me and I promise I won’t name any names. But, if you truly want to broaden your social media network and your personal network, you need to follow some dissenting opinions from your own. Now I don’t mean to follow these people if they’re only going to make you mad or you’ll argue with them online. That won’t look good for you or for them.

What has been healthy for me is finding someone who you agree on most things with, but not on all things. Personally, this has brought about provocative and positive discussions that opened my eyes to how other people view certain topics. Even if you never come to an agreement on a certain topic, knowing you can have a serious conversation and remain friends is important.

You will get too insulated and susceptible to group-think if you don’t enter into discussions like this. Trust me here, I’m sure you already know a person or two who fits this description. I urge you to follow them and have discourse on topics that matter to you in order to open your mind to a new way of looking at things.

Following these four segments on social allows me to keep in touch with the current “hot topics” in the industry and foster some great relationships. I can’t tell you how many Twitter, phone, email and LinkedIn conversations I’ve had with people who I consider close friends and colleagues, yet I’ve only met a small portion of them IRL (“In Real Life” for you non-millennial types).

By following a diverse group of contacts from the segments I defined above, I’m confident that you will continue to get value from your social media interactions.

 

People Want To Help

IMG_1127Life is full of challenges. Regardless of the challenges we encounter in life, I’ve learned their weight and impact is lessened when we are able to connect with others who want to help. It may sound cliché, but I’ve found it to be true during my recent difficult timesPeople want to help.

Now, I promise my topics won’t all trace back to me losing my job, but this one is especially compelling to me. I also hope that some of the items I mention here will be useful to others.

Something I wasn’t sure of before I lost my job, but am now, is that people truly want to help when you are in need. While you like to believe your friends and family have the same principles as you, you’re never really quite sure. And, you always hope that you’re never in a situation where you need to rely on others or reach out for help.

But, I kept hearing over and over from friends and family in the last few weeks that they were there for me if I needed help. Many also advised me to reach out to many different groups of people, because they would want to help as well.

I know that in my adult life, from time to time, I’ve seen others struggle and felt compelled to help or reach out. It wasn’t always the easiest thing for me to do; it just felt like the right thing to do. You may not even be asking for “help” but you don’t want to seem desperate or needy.

I think the first step, the reaching out, can be the most difficult for people. People want to help or even just talk about what issues you may be facing, but they aren’t often sure how to begin the dialogue. Therefore, if you don’t initiate and seek the conversation, it may never take place.

So, I hope the following tips from someone who has been on both sides of this situation will help others as they either feel the need to seek help or hope to help others who may need it.

1) Just say anything
Have you ever received a note from someone unexpectedly and ended up being upset about it? I’m assuming rarely or never. You were just happy they contacted you in any way and it didn’t matter the context of the letter. The contact outweighs the context, so say anything! The initial contact will prompt future dialogue.

2) Be honest
The old saying goes — honesty is the best policy. That holds true when you want to reach out to someone for help or to help someone in need. Be honest and forthright when you make contact. Don’t be afraid to be upfront about what is bothering you or if you have a concern for someone else. People appreciate honesty and it will build a solid foundation for your dialogue.  

3) Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you are in need of some help or guidance, just be honest and come out and ask for help. If you are afraid people may perceive it as needy or desperate, don’t. Friends and confidants will be flattered that you feel they can help in any way. I’ve seen first hand in the last few weeks how receptive people are when you seek their help or advice.

4) Reach out to “weak” contacts
Lastly, if you’ve reached out and made contact with your trusted confidants, but are in the position where further networking may be needed, reach out to your “weak” contacts. Those people who you’ve lost contact with or haven’t spoken to in a while. Maybe you’ve had a close relationship before and for one reason or another that contact has lessened. Trust me, they will be happy that you reached out and it will also start a fresh dialogue. It is all about the contact. Then follow what I’ve said above once you make the re-connection: be honest and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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Life isn’t easy. Life throws challenges your way and those challenges usually make us stronger. Along the way, as you face these challenges, no matter how big or small, you don’t have to face them alone. Remind yourself that daily. You are not alone in this mortal coil and you are surrounded by many people who truly want to help.

-Tod

Tod and A Fitness Blog?

IMG_0575(1)This post was originally written as a guest blog  for my friend Megan’s site here:
http://bit.ly/1aLTANY

I sit here asking myself: why is a 33-year-old, divorced, unemployed, single dad being asked to write for a fitness blog? I’m thinking of 20 good reasons why I wouldn’t be asked to write for a fitness blog, but then the reason why hits me. Maybe my article could serve as a good outlet for me to tell my story. And if – along the way – it helps someone in my same or similar situation, then maybe blogging should continue to be a regular outlet for me.

Are there any other 33-year-old, divorced, unemployed, single dads out there? That’s another question I ask myself a lot. Not because I feel sorry for myself, but because just a few short years ago I never would have thought that description would fit me. In fact, writing it twice already, it still sounds absurd. Perhaps you find yourself in your own life changing situation, one that you never foresaw happening. Regardless of the circumstance, the best we can do is hope that our actions and decisions will bring us to a better place in the long run.

Without getting into the gory details, the last six months of my life have been rather tumultuous and some drastic changes have taken place. Some that I chose to make and others that were forced upon me. In the face of all of this change, I realized that I needed to find some stabilizing idea or belief to get me though the adversity I was facing. Yet, how do we implement the necessary changes in our lives to create this stability, to overcome adversity? What do those changes look like, particularly in the fitness realm?

Previous Success
Back in 2013, I committed to working on my health and fitness to be a good example for my young son, and as a way to break up the day working in my home office. The changes I made weren’t drastic, yet produced good results. It just took a little effort and dedication. I lost close to 20 pounds and felt better about myself in the process.

However, that feeling of accomplishment was short lived as my personal life began to change for the worse and I fell back into some bad habits. These habits continued up to, and through, my divorce in late 2014. The hard work and dedication I put in to making myself better physically had all but been erased.

It was then I decided I needed to re-dedicate myself to improving my health. There were things in my life that were out of my control, but one thing I can control right now is my well-being. But, this time I wasn’t sure where to start. My previous success was a guide, but that routine had grown stale and I was ready for a new challenge. This is where my good friend Megan enters the picture.

A True Professional
Megan and I have known each other since 2002 when we began working together at the Illinois State University student recreation center. Even then, she was dedicated to her workout routines and had made living a healthy lifestyle a priority. I had always admired that quality about her, knowing I lacked the same discipline and elf-motivation.

She and I had lost touch in recent years as she began to establish herself as a fitness professional in Chicago and I was living 12+ hours away as a married father to a young son. That said, sometime in the past year we had re-connected superficially on social media. Our conversations were few and far between, but as the thoughts entered my mind about re-committing to my fitness, I felt comfortable asking her for some advice.

A True Friend
It’s intimidating for anyone to admit weaknesses or discuss things that are out of their comfort zone. I was putting myself out there to a certain extent, but I felt like Megan would understand my needs and be able to help me get on the path to success. I’m glad to say that I was right and she has greatly helped me in the last few months.

Not only has she helped me understand my fitness level and also start me on a program that is sustainable for me, but she has been a source of positive energy in many ways. Most specifically, she has developed a great way of thinking positively through adversity and has transferred those ideals to me. She has made me realize that there are positives to be taken from any situation.

What Now?
So, how best to wrap this up with some actionable items — in case there are any other 33-year-old, divorced, unemployed, singles dads out there. Actually, I hope that these tips can be applied by anyone facing adversity such as losing a job, struggling in a relationship, or just feeling like you are in a “life rut” and need some help in improving your well-being.

Consider these thoughts if you find yourself facing hard times and need some structure to help you through whatever you may be facing.

1) It is going to be OK…It is going to be OK!
2) Reach out to your family, friends, former colleagues, former bosses…people want to help
3) Network with your “weak” ties or people you have lost touch with…people want to help
4) Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice…people want to help
5) Write down items swirling in your head, it will help you “un-clutter” the mind
6) Establish a solid sleep and workout routine (the structure is important)
7) If you do nothing else each day, fit in a workout…you’ll feel better about yourself
8) Stay positive and always reflect on the good that you have in your life

I can tell you that putting these thoughts to paper (or word processor) have really helped to reinforce in me that the steps I am taking right now are positive ones that will help lead to a positive outcome. I can also tell you that Megan has played a part in getting me through this, and for that I am grateful.

Megan has been kind enough to let me be a guest on her blog; so, if you’re reading this and unsure about where to start on your fitness journey, reach out to Megan. Her philosophy that “everyone is unique” and “not every workout works for everyone” is one that resonated with me and I think will make many feel comfortable. She is a true professional and also a great friend and I can’t thank her enough for her support during these trying times. Now, it’s time for me to go do some planks….

Tod