I recently attended a Webinar put on by The Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation. They are a 100 year old national nonprofit organization that studies aptitudes and human ability. They offer a full battery of hands-on, experiential aptitude tests, available at their eleven offices around the country (including Seattle). These tests require a person to do a wide variety of tasks, such as assembling blocks, remembering numbers, solving puzzles, and listening to tunes. Paper and pencil tests are kept to a minimum. Some are given individually by a trained test administrator and others are given using audio-visual equipment.
Although expensive, these assessments can really be helpful in providing objective information about your natural strengths and abilities. They can be an effective tool in providing career direction because they are focused on what kinds of things you naturally do well (or don’t).
Aptitudes are inherited traits or innate abilities, and are also the result of your early development. They don’t change the way your interests do, which shift and evolve throughout life as you learn and as your experience grows. Their research has shown that a person's aptitudes stabilize at around age fourteen, and remain so for the rest of life.
What they are not:
An IQ score
IQ scores are probably of limited value in career selection, while aptitude test results form a pattern, showing your various strengths and weaknesses. Two people can have identical IQ scores but very different aptitude patterns.
Interest or personality tests
The Johnson O’Connor aptitude tests do not consist of answering self-perception questions or filling out forms. It’s hard not to answer an attitude, perception, or interest question based on your mood or opinion, or as you feel it ought to be answered. Instead aptitude assessments are based only on how well you actually can do a particular task.
While I find personality tests hugely helpful in finding the right work for oneself, I like the idea of coupling those with the Johnson O’Connor assessments. And if you have a strong interest in a particular career or occupation, that is very, very important. But aptitude test results might be able to indicate which aspect to explore that would best suit you. Being a doctor is not the only role in the field of medicine, just as working in a classroom is not the only way of teaching.
One of the stories shared on their website is about a woman, Teresa, who graduated with a BA in Communications who took a marketing job after college. She hated it. Then after 3 years, she randomly applied to a posting for a private investigator position and when she was offered the job, she looked back at her past aptitude testing results. She found that detective was one of the suggested careers for her, right after attorney! So she decided to take the job. In the end, this career change paid off for her both financially and in terms of her job satisfaction. She eventually landed as an investigator referring cases to the City Attorney or DA’s office for criminal prosecution.
Here are some of her responses to questions about her aptitude testing:
Q: What was your impression of the summary discussion session? Did anything in particular stand out?
Teresa: There were several funny things. The reviewer, when he reached the musical section, said I could play the radio or play the drums. That cracked me up because I've always thought I was tone deaf, as is most of my family. I play drums on Rock Band. He also told me that I probably shouldn't consider becoming a surgeon because I'd cut right through the body. I have a poor sense of space as demonstrated by my test results from the wiggly block test. I wasn't surprised that I had good finger dexterity.
Q: Did you learn anything new about yourself?
Teresa: Yes, that I was good at problem solving and critical thinking. I can see now how I would have been a good diplomat and probably a good government spy. I use my diplomacy skills in my current position. A co-worker described my job as “getting everyone to hum together.” That's an accurate description. I was born a natural critic. That's not a label I would have applied to myself, but I'm sure others have. I appreciate what I do well and give myself a break on those aptitudes that I am challenged by.
Q: How often have you used this information to make decisions?
Teresa: The information helped me make the most important decision of my life. I've referred to the information over the years especially when I've thought about returning to college.
First Impressions and Job Search
Recently Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, posted on LinkedIn about Two Snap Judgments People Make When They First Meet You. He based his article on Amy Cuddy’s research—she’s a psychologist at the Harvard Business School. Amy is well-known for her Ted Talks on “power posing,” and one of her most popular talks is on how Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are. Worth watching!
The information in the article indicates that subconsciously, people base 80-90% of their first impressions and snap judgments on the following two questions they ask themselves about you:
It’s important to note the way in which these two judgment factors play together. In order for your competence to matter, people must trust you first. If there’s no trust, people actually perceive competence as a negative! As Amy Cuddy said, “If someone you’re trying to influence doesn’t trust you, you’re not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion, because you come across as manipulative.”
It has been shown that first impressions are made in a matter of seconds and that they are very, very difficult to change later. First impressions can be so important in a job search effort.
Tips on the Art of the First Impression
Let the person you’re meeting lead the conversation. You can ask good questions to help make this happen. Trust and warmth are created when people feel understood, and they need to be doing a lot of sharing with you for that to happen.
Use positive body language. Using an enthusiastic tone, uncrossing your arms, maintaining eye contact, smiling, and leaning towards the speaker are all forms of positive body language.
Listen actively. Concentrate on what the other person is saying, rather than planning what you’re going to say next or jumping in with solutions. Thinking about what you’re going to say next takes your attention away from the speaker, and hijacking the conversation shows that you think you have something more important to say. Instead ask insightful questions, which means that you’re really paying attention.
Make sure your phone is put away. It’s impossible to build trust and monitor your phone at the same time. Even a quick glance at your phone can turn people off.
Find time for small talk. It’s not a waste of time – for example, research shows that starting meetings with just five minutes of small talk gets better results.
Come prepared. When you can, find out about the people you’ll be meeting and/or the company they work for. People love it when you know things about them that they didn’t have to tell you. Just knowing simple facts that you took the time to learn from their LinkedIn page or company website demonstrates both competence and trustworthiness. Finding something you have in common can be even better.
Love Your Work
As a coach helping people with career transitions, it’s become very clear to me how crucial it is for us all to find work we love. Most of us have deep desires for work that allows us to tap our creativity, do something good for the world, or become so deeply absorbed that time no longer exists. And of course it’s important to accomplish or produce something. In fact, a career coach will remind you to keep track of and document your accomplishments for your future resume and interview-answer repertoire!
Finding work we love is of utmost importance. But also worth considering and often overlooked is this: finding love for our work.
There are many ways to love your work—here we will spotlight the pleasure of the process of work. This requires taking notice—as it is not often talked about and isn’t valued much. Instead we are thinking of our deep longings around work, or are focused on the practical side (such as how much salary we make), or we stick to the typical association of work and pain (Thank God It’s Friday). Talking of simple pleasures may sound light, and it’s true that they can be subtle, but they deserve some recognition for their potential contribution to the quality of our lives. Beauty and pleasure play a role in job satisfaction, fulfillment, and contentedness.
It’s part of Spirit to crave lofty goals and peaks of success, but it is the Soul that wants the present, the tangible, the ordinary, and a rooted attachment.
Some simple pleasures:
These types of joys may be passing, even rare rushes. Relishing them doesn’t mean you ignore problems at work or that these pleasures will be enough. But they just might help lead you to a life work, or make it more likely to find your life work.
Speaking of ME...
Job search and career change require us to talk to others about ourselves in a positive, convincing way. How comfortable we feel venturing into the language of self-promotion and “impression management” varies by individual. How much actively shaping one’s image is useful for making us seem more competent and capable and how much is too much?
One study that looked at resumes and cover letters, found that bragging could be broken down into varying levels of intensities.
In a mild form, someone might credit other sources about their qualities. For example:
Well, my staff tells me they like working for me more than any of their prior supervisors because, they say, I'm fair, listen to their point of view, and provide clear performance values and feedback.
At a moderate level, self-promotion might sound like this:
“I tripled my product’s reach.”
And extreme language includes superlatives about oneself such as “beyond compare.” These are cases where a candidate might indicate they were exceptional, superb, or outstanding.
Medium intensity forms of self-promotional bragging were found to be effective at influencing an evaluator’s perception of a candidate’s fit for the job. When resumes were intensely self-promotional evaluators were less likely to see the job applicant as a good organizational fit. Too much bragging was seen as disingenuous. These findings were similar to previous findings in the context of job interviews.
Too much talk about how great you are stops further conversation from happening. Not much follow up can occur around a statement like “I won employee of the year and other managers always tell me what a great job I’m doing.” It sounds a little fearful and even childish. But if you share your story such as “it was challenging to go to school while I was working full-time; it took a lot of focus and sometimes I felt like I was barely making it through,” there is more activation around who you are, and curiosity or imagination are opened up. It’s a human story that others can relate to.
In fact, impression management is not always about people trying to make themselves look better. In some cases, giving negative information could lead to a positive assessment. For example, I found one study where a college applicant that acknowledged worse-than-perfect grades was ranked higher than one who didn’t but had an identical transcript.
When you get the advice to talk yourself up, and let them know you are the best they’ll find, remember that moderation seems to work best and that telling your story with good manners will strike the right balance.
A Good Time To Ask For a Raise
SFinally, it’s a good time to ask for a raise! The job market has the lowest unemployment in 18 years and wages at last are picking up. Don’t wait for your annual performance review to see if you are allocated an increase. Schedule a time NOW to meet with your boss to request a pay raise.
Take these steps to ask for a raise:
1. Research what an appropriate pay increase would be, using sources like Glassdoor's salary calculator, the LinkedIn Jobs page, www.salaryexpert.com or the Bureau of Labor Statistics as a guide. Also, have conversations with people in your network with similar backgrounds. This will be helpful to establish the amount you’ll ask for and also can be used to back up your request, such as “according to my market research, the pay range (or you can use midpoint) for Business Analysts in Seattle with 7 years’ experience is $x-xx.”
2. Make a note of your quantifiable accomplishments from the last 6-12 months. Also list skills and qualities you have to contribute to future company projects and goals. The idea here is to be able to give examples to show how you are an asset to the company and build a compelling case for a raise. You will want the person hearing or reading these to think, “They’re adding so much value to the company. This seems like a totally reasonable request given all the money they have saved us (or made us).”
3. Send an email to your manager to request a meeting. This will give her/him time to consider the possibility for a raise and check with HR or management if necessary. Below is an example email message, parts of which are borrowed from www.thebalancecareers.com:
Subject: Meeting Request
Dear Mr. Matthews,
I am grateful for the opportunity to work for you as Development Coordinator for XYZ Nonprofit. Over the past two years, my responsibilities at XYZ have grown significantly, and I not only consistently complete all of these responsibilities, but I do so with an exceptional quality of work. I would, therefore, like to respectfully request a meeting to review my salary.
As you know, my salary has remained the same since I was hired in 20XX. Since then, I have happily added some duties to my workload that have allowed me to contribute even more to the company. For example, I volunteered to develop a quarterly newsletter, which resulted in a 15% increase in donor response to online messaging. I also recently completed a graduate certificate program in grant writing.
I believe that my increasing contributions to the company and my new qualifications justify a pay raise. I would love the opportunity to meet with you to discuss a raise in my salary. I look forward to hearing from you.
5. In the face-to-face meeting, restate the points made in your email, adding more examples and details about both your accomplishments and the specific skills you have that they will need for future projects. Be brave and say the words “I would like to request a pay increase.” Then leave a pause, or silence, that delivers the message. Consider the conversation opener below from fearlesssalarynegotiation.com:
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me about my compensation. As I mentioned in my email, I would like to ask for a raise. Based on the work I’ve been doing and some market research I’ve done, I would like to ask for a raise to [your target salary].
Since my last salary adjustment, I’ve done things like [one of your accomplishments] and have gotten some great recognition like [one of your accolades], so I think I’m ready for this raise.
Can you help me with this?
6. It’s a good idea to expect a “no,” so that you are prepared to respond appropriately to that. If you sense too much defensiveness, it may be best to take control and tell her/him that saying “no” is ok with you. Being at ease with “no” can open up the conversation to a real give-and-take. It tells your manager you are capable of talking rationally, are flexible and open to hearing from them, and prevents you from making bad decisions because of a need to feel safe and liked. And remember that you are planting a seed for future possibilities.
7. End the meeting well. Sometimes your manager will say “It’s just not a good time right now” or “I don’t think you’re quite ready yet. Let’s revisit this later.” In this case, establish a clear plan so you know exactly what you need to do to improve your case and establish a time frame for when you can revisit the topic.
8. Follow up. If you your manager says they will check into it, be sure to continue to ask. You can forward the original email and change the subject line to Salary Adjustment Discussion—follow-up.”
Not long ago I was working with a very bright young woman who had recently moved to the US when her spouse took a position here. Still working on her English language skills, she expected to be ready soon to apply for positions as an agency recruiter, since that was the work she had done successfully for several years in her country of origin. As we moved through an interview practice exercise together, I realized that she wasn’t providing any examples of experience recruiting “passive” candidates. After we discussed it, it became clear that she did have that type of experience and we concentrated on weaving that information into her interview responses. She had not stopped to consider what the currently critical skill set was, something that the local market demanded. And what with Seattle having such a low unemployment rate, it’s absolutely necessary to know how to find job candidates who are not actively looking.
It may seem obvious that a job seeker should know what an employer is looking for, especially if they are already working in that industry. But certain job requirements can be excluded, omitted, unstated or understated in position descriptions and easy to miss! Here’s why:
Here is another example. My client was thinking about how to let a hiring manager know she was interested in a job change into a newly created position at a branch of the company where she worked. Although nothing was mentioned in the proposed job description, upon research and reflection about the industry in general, it became clear that the employer was in a situation where they desperately needed new business in that area. This new position would likely come with a heavy requirement to address that need and fill that gap. She would want to ensure she focused on her accomplishments in that arena, when describing her qualifications!
These are situations where your online research, information interviews, and networking at professional meetings will be a big help. Find out about the current trends in the field, in the role, and in the job title duties to ascertain what skills and abilities your potential employer(s) are looking for now.
Industries That Can’t Find Workers
The May Jobs Report reflected that there are currently more job openings than we have people unemployed. That’s a tight job market! In this article, Axios indicates that many industries are really struggling to recruit the younger employees you might think would be attracted to their good pay and great benefits. Here is a sampling of the “jobs no one wants.”
Summer Reading – Career Memoirs!
If information interviews are aimed at helping you learn whether or not a certain career or role is right for you, memoirs about careers might be their friendly cousin. No need to schedule a meeting or prepare your targeted questions – just an enjoyable way to consider possibilities.
These books all currently exceed a 3.5 rating on Good Reads.
Imagine your job interview is going along fine – you’re giving satisfying and well-crafted answers. You’re 20 minutes in, gliding through, then the next question comes up, and your mind goes totally blank. Brain freeze.
What to do?
Recently, a Harvard Business Review article came out with a finding that “many employers are biased against job applicants who have temporarily stayed at home with their children, even preferring laid-off applicants who have been out of work for the same amount of time.”
Opting out of work to care for children “signals a violation of ideal worker norms to employers—norms that expect employees to be highly dedicated to work.” Opt out applicants are perceived as less committed to work, less reliable, and less deserving of a job than are unemployed applicants. Employers may be concerned about stay-at-home parents’ prioritizing family over work and worry that such an applicant will decide to leave work again or that they will face difficulties transitioning back to work.
Using fictitious resumes, this study revealed that stay-at-home parents were about half as likely to get a callback for an interview as unemployed parents and only one-third as likely as employed parents. It is worth noting that the employers in the study viewed both stay-at-home applicants and unemployed applicants as less capable than continuously employed applicants (perhaps thinking their skills had declined while they were not working).
But many parents do just this – take time off working to care for kids. A study from 2015 reported that over the past 20 years, 18-20% of mothers did not work for pay, in order to care for children for one or more years, compared to a peak rate of only about 1.2% among fathers. (Flood et al. 2015)
If you opt-out now but plan to re-enter the market at some point, you’ll need to address these issues! One approach is to return to a past employer that already knows you are committed to your work. Another is to do some things while at home caring for children that will improve you as a candidate later. You can demonstrate that your skills are current, because you are still engaged professionally. You are reliable and committed because you carry on with commitments even while “staying at home.” You are comfortable with transitioning back and forth from parenting to professional life by having outside obligations and accomplishments. You are dedicated to work even while you take time for family.
Here are some specific ways to be able to show these skills and qualities: