business people group at office

If you are an executive who has been slogging along at a job search without a strategy, you can feel like you have hit quicksand with no way to get out.

Stop wasting time on what doesn’t matter. There are three things you need to get right:

  1. Know Yourself – have the self-awareness to realize your strengths, preferences, work style and skill gaps
  2. Know Your Audience – understand how to present yourself to the right people in the right way
  3. Reach and Convince Decision Makers – find and persuade them to hire you or create an opportunity for you

These three “pillars” of your search can guide your direction and help you invest your precious job search hours in activities that will pay off.

I detail these three essential job search elements in my recent article on Forbes (click here) and give in-depth guidance to help you get to the bottom of them in my book, Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Value Proposition Workbook (click here), including an entire chapter on personal branding.

amsegal-0111-croppedAnne Marie Segal is an executive coach, resume strategist, Forbes Coaches Council member and former practicing attorney. She is the author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals and Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Personal Value Proposition Workbook (available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and local booksellers). To reach her, click here.

Image credit: Adobe Stock.

 

Close-up Of A Tired Businessman

While misery on the job can seem insurmountable at times, breaking down what you can control — and therefore change — can go a long way toward improving your happiness at work before it gets worse.

“The biggest problem comes from disengagement,” said Anne Marie Segal, founder of Segal Coaching in Stamford, Connecticut. “Employees will feel unsatisfied and start to separate their goals from the company’s, and then start to ask, ‘Why am I here?'”

– By Sarah O’Brien, special reporter for CNBC’s personal finance team

To read more at CNBC.com, click here.

Image above: Adobe Stock.

 

When I was growing up, I never understood the fascination with celebrities. My mother would take me to the grocery store, and I would see print magazines spilling off the racks, full of minute details about their lives. This was back before the Internet, of course. Now we visit websites, download videos and podcasts and follow Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter feeds of our favorite larger-than-life personalities.

What is it about the people “the world” admires that is different from the average Jane or Joe? What gets at the heart of making someone into a success? These were questions that interested me at a young age. As I grew up, I learned that fame and success were often unrelated. There is a whole other class of people who are highly successful and receive more private accolades and other forms of praise (compensation being only one).

As I was working on my second book, Know Yourself, Grow Your Career, I approached this question from another angle. Rather than asking what are the hallmarks of success, I asked how someone can create success from the inside.

The conundrum is always this – how can we do what we want to do and also find a way to make that into a career? If you have young children, you will see that they naturally find things they like to do. Sports, music, art, performance, cooking and other talents emerge. As parents, we can encourage these tendencies, and we often judge whether a child is “actually talented enough” to make a career of something. I hear parents say all the time things like, “Yes, Tim is really good at soccer, but I don’t think he’s good enough to make a career out of it.”

Most of us appreciate, in the context of children, that these judgment calls are important on one level but can be very limiting on another. They can help children develop an appropriate level of risk aversion, and most parents mean them in this vein. But sometimes these comments can take away the very things that give a child joy because they are focused on a bright-line test: the yes-no answer of whether one can make money and success out of one’s passions.

If we could fast-forward twenty years in Tim’s life, we would get to see what happened with the soccer. Did he continue to play? Does he still love the game? Is he athletic in other ways as an adult? What carried through from his early interests into his adult life?

Beautiful girl enjoying nature

We often view those who achieve success and fame with a lens of sentimentality and a sense that living with purpose, in touch with our interests and values, is out of reach. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If I return to my initial question – what do we admire about celebrities? – it is essentially this: they are doing what they love. (Or, at least, they appear so from the outside.) The average Joes, Janes and Tims, on the other hand, have foregone what they love in the service of what they can tolerate and get paid to do.

Now let’s avoid the pejoratives here. Soccer isn’t necessarily a higher calling than lawyering, for example. A kid who loves soccer can grow up, become a lawyer and love his career and life. This means his interests have changed. On the other hand, a kid can love soccer, be told it’s child’s play and he needs to “get serious.” He then looks around, latches on lawyering because of one influence or another (without thinking it through) and end up with a career and life that he abhors.

I’m talking to that second Tim. As a career coach, I get calls all the time from people just like him. They chose careers so removed from their interests, talents and strengths that they are floundering, just treading water or completely overwhelmed in their jobs. It’s hard to talk about concepts like thought leadership or career advancement when they can’t even see a future for themselves beyond the current week.

If you are in that place, here’s a glimmer of where to start. Think of what you loved as a child. Drill down into that. If it was soccer, was it the feeling of being part of a team? Was it the adrenaline rush of a goal? If it was guitar, did you feel “one” with the music, loving the vibrations rushing through your body? Did you achieve a sense of peace that you find difficult to replicate in other areas of your life?

These are just ideas. Rekindle and regain a connection with your deepest desires – or find new ones – and ask yourself what speaks to you when you connect with them. Then, from that place of feeling centered and whole, ask yourself how you can build out your life and career from there. 

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, author, resume strategist, member of Forbes Coaches Council, mother of two middle schoolers and former practicing attorney. She is the author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals and Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Personal Value Proposition Workbook (available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and local booksellers).

Image credit above: Adobe Stock.

 

Eight Core Qualities of General Counsel and How to Achieve Them is my most-read article on this blog, receiving many hits per day and more than 2,500 views since it was published in the late summer of 2016. (Click here to access the article.)

As a coach, I often receive requests from General Counsel, Assistant General Counsel and other in-house attorneys – as well as law firm partners and others who wish to obtain those roles – to coach them on building their capacity and visibility as a business partner within an organization.  Both of these aspects are important – exercising the right proactivity, judgment and skills and being recognized and rewarded by the Board and senior management for such contributions. This involves not only building relationships and moving outside of what is commonly called one’s comfort zone – a lawyer with excellent substantive legal skills – but also learning how to position oneself as a strategic member of the leadership team.

AdobeStock_131225997 (woman GC or CEO).jpg

To succeed as General Counsel, you need not only to build relationships and move outside of what may be your comfort zone – a lawyer with excellent substantive legal skills – but also position yourself as a strategic member of the leadership team.

I intend further explore the expanded General Counsel role in the coming months, so please subscribe to my blog or sign up for my mailing list if this is a topic that moves you. In the meantime, I have started to compile a list of articles around the web from recent years that have addressed the evolving General Counsel role, which I am posting below to help you explore and master the expanded General Counsel relationship.

If you hold a CEO, CIO, CFO, COO, CTO, General Counsel, law firm or other role and would like to post another resource in the comments or join the conversation, I appreciate your input.

I may update this list from time to time. Thanks in advance!

Attorneys – General Counsel and In-House
Vision, Judgment, Capacity Building and Leadership

Eight Core Qualities of Successful General Counsel and How to Achieve Them,” Segal Coaching Blog, Anne Marie Segal.

So You Want to Be General Counsel? How to Maximize Your Chances,” ACC Docket, David M. Love III, Mark Roellig.

Do Lawyers Make Better CEO’s than MBAs?,” Harvard Business Review, by M. Todd Henderson

The General Counsel as Senior Leader: More than “Just a Lawyer,” Korn Ferry Institute, John Amer.

What GCs and CCOs Can Learn from Each Other,” Thomson Reuters, Thomas Kim.

An Open Letter to GCs and Law Firms,” ACC Docket, Daniel Desjardins.

General Counsel: Guardian and Conscience of the Company,” Forbes, Mark A. Cohen.

The Rise of the General Counsel,” Harvard Business Review, Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

General Counsel’s New Role: Business Strategist,” Forbes, Brian Jones.

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, writer, resume strategist and former practicing attorney (including as a law firm partner and Deputy General Counsel of a private equity and hedge fund). The majority of her clients are senior attorneys, and she has coached hundreds of professionals across law, finance, engineering, technology, marketing, non-profits, government and other fields.

Anne Marie is also author of Master the Interview and the newly published Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Personal Value Proposition Workbookavailable at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other retailers. 

Click on a sharing option below to share this post on LinkedIn, Twitter or other social media sites. Please leave a comment if you want to join the conversation or share an article, video or other resource for the list.

Image credit: Adobe Stock.

If you are on Goodreads, here’s a chance for U.S. readers to enter the giveaway for a signed copy of one of my books:

Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Value Proposition Workbook

Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals

To learn more about my books, you can visit my Amazon Author Page at amazon.com/author/annemariesegal.

Two Books

Rope fraying

What are your weaknesses?

When I prepare clients for interviews, this is almost invariably at the top of people’s lists of questions that they are not prepared to answer. When they do have an answer, it is usually one of the “Top Three Answers” to the question or some variation thereof:

  • I am a perfectionist (i.e., my own toughest critic).
  • I work too hard (i.e., can’t take a break, vacation, disconnect).
  • I am a people pleaser.

The problem with these answers is two-fold. First, that they are highly overused. Second, they don’t appear to indicate any self-awareness or reflection (even if one of them is, in fact, your greatest weakness).

It is important not to underestimate this question. While many interviewers do not bother to ask it because they believe the answer will be too rehearsed, others take the answer very seriously as an indicator of whether you will be a fit in an organization and your level of self-reflection. While you should strive to find a true weakness, it is also important to put a positive spin on it and explain what you are doing to work on fixing the problem, with examples of steps you have taken to overcome them.

While you should strive to find a true weakness, it is also important to put a positive spin on it and explain what you are doing to work on fixing the problem, with examples of steps you have taken to overcome them.

Here are sample answers about where your weaknesses may lie, in the hopes that they inspire an authentic response on your part:

  • Over the years, I have found that I don’t delegate work as much as I should. I have always believed in the mantra, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” However, I am realizing that I need to spend more time training, mentoring and building my team. In the last year, I have made this a priority. [Be ready to give examples.]
  • I was never one to pay much attention to so-called “office politics” [or, I am not one for small talk] but prefer to put my head down and do my work. At some point, I realized that this would only get me so far, so I am now actively seeking out leadership [or collaborative] opportunities and focused on building relationships [across departments]. I have headed up three important projects in the last year, and I am now part of a working group that includes the CEO and other senior management.
  • For a long time, I was very specialized in one area, but in the last year I realized that I needed to broaden my experience in order to grow. Lately I have taken on projects from other groups and incorporated some volunteer work into my schedule in order to cultivate a wider range of skills. I never thought – being so highly specialized would be a weakness – but I can see now that although I have become an “expert,” a broader range of experiences are what I need to understand the big picture of what we are trying to achieve as a company and how I fit in.
  • I have been lucky to have a very broad range of projects over my career, but I realized that I had become too much of a generalist. Sometimes you really need to get “in the weeds” on certain points, and lately I have realized the importance of having a specialty, which was frankly something I resisted. To do this, I first got certified in [X] – which was a six-month process – and I’ve also become involved in [name relevant organizations] and sought out projects that can deepen my knowledge in the area. [If prompted, have examples ready. Of course, this answer is only relevant if your specialty relates to the target position.]
  • I have learned a tremendous amount by being the only person in my company who focuses on my area, but at times I have gone to conferences and other events and seen how much deeper my understanding would be if I had a team of people committed to the same goal. So I consider it a weakness that I haven’t had this exposure. I realize that the next step in my growth is to join a team with many people working on solving the same problems, so we can mentor and bounce ideas off each other, which is one of the reasons this role is so appealing.
  • I have had great success managing smaller teams of people, up to eight employees as I do currently, but I haven’t yet had the opportunity to manage a larger team as I would in this role. I know that I am ready for the challenge, and I have been actively seeking out other managers who do work with larger teams to discuss the challenges of scaling up. What I have learned is….
  • Early in my career, I wasn’t very focused or quite sure what path I wanted to follow. I took a few different jobs, but none of them was the right match. I finally realized that what all of these roles were missing was that I didn’t have a chance to connect with the ultimate customer. As soon I moved over to the sales side, everything clicked. I sometimes wish I had known from the beginning what I wanted to do, but the truth is that all of these experiences have helped me understand various aspects of the company and become a better salesperson as a result.
  • My biggest weakness is that I am completely deadline-driven. I don’t do as well with downtime, although I have learned to create my own deadlines to get things done. For example, I have found it very effective to break projects down into component parts, so rather than thinking of an overall deadline, I make a calendar for myself with interim dates that I need to finish certain points, so that I can keep on track.
  • I consider it a weakness that I have never been very good at public speaking. Earlier in my career, it didn’t matter as much, because everyone liked my work product, and so I focused on that. At some point I realized that if I was going to become a leader in my field, I needed to interact with larger groups of people across all levels. So I started to take some presentation classes and also volunteer for panels with experts in the field. I figured that the best cure to my fear was to get out and do it, and I am frankly surprised that it is working out even better than I had hoped.
  • Honestly, my greatest weakness is that I still don’t know my way around the corporate culture. I have had two great internships in college, but I haven’t completely settled in. The good news is that I am very open to learning more and a quick study. Also, I’m fortunate to have had some really good experiences that taught me how to work across generations and build good relationships from day 1. [Be ready with examples from volunteering, travel, family life, etc. As a younger employee, by the way, being able to bridge the “Millennial-Baby Boomer Gap” is huge.]
  • I would consider it a weakness that, as I am sure you have seen, most of my experience is in another industry. I have spent the last few months getting up to speed on [name of new industry] in anticipation of the change, but there is nothing that replaces actual hands-on experience in the field. Fortunately, I have two good friends who both work in [name of new industry] who have been very gracious with their time, and I also have [name any other research, connections or background that is relevant]. I know that I can hit the ground running, because…. [If you have additional time, you can discuss leadership and other transferable skills that are cross-industry.]
  • It could be perceived as a weakness that for over twenty years I have worked at the same company, especially now when job changes are much more common. And it’s true that I will probably never be as innovative as someone who has jumped from start-up to start-up, for example. But I have realized that I don’t always need to be an “ideas man.” I can hire people for that. What I have is a really strong grasp of the fundamentals, how to execute and how to grow a company. The other thing I have learned is that even the “same company” is a different company after twenty years, and having moved across different functional areas, I have certainly seen how business evolves. [Elaborate and give examples.]

These answers, as you may see, follow a certain formula: (1) identify a weakness that is specific to your professional trajectory, (2) discuss what you are doing to improve, (3) highlight something that may be obvious to your interviewer already, based on your resume, (4) are not roadblocks for you in the target role (e.g., not being a good writer in a job that requires extensive writing) and (5) characterize the “weakness” as a growing pain along the way to advancing in your career. All of these three points can be absolutely true, obviating the need to sound rehearsed, if you study your own career with some detachment.

Imagine that you were a third-party consultant evaluating your own career path to date with a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. Everyone has each of these – S-W-O-and-T – and if you can see your own, you will be much further along in your career. At the same time, the more you consider “strengths” and “weaknesses,” the more you will see that they are often two sides of the same coin. Someone who thrives on being a “people person” may not do well in a job that involves a lot of solitary thinking and problem-solving, while an introvert may not take as well to a role that requires teamwork on a daily basis and does not allow for any “alone time.” These are generalizations, of course, and the goal is to figure out where you fall in this analysis, both to help your interviewer decide if you will be a fit and to help you sort out your best career environment, one that plays to your strengths and does not call on you to continually execute in areas of weakness.

In the context of interviewing, the beauty of a real answer to this question or others is that the true answer is not something you need to struggle to remember when you are in the interview room. If you have been actively managing your career, you will already have these insights and only need to work them into a few sentences, with examples, that you can present into the interview.

If you have not been in the driver’s seat in your career but instead treading water lately (which happens to the best of us), creating your “weaknesses” answer will not only be helpful for your interviews but also be a step in making a roadmap for where you would like to go next and how to get there.

This post is an excerpt from Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals.

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, writer, resume strategist and former practicing attorney. She has conducted individualized interview prep coaching with scores of clients across law, business, information technology, marketing and other fields.

Anne Marie is the author of Master the Interview and the newly published Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Personal Value Proposition Workbook.

Image credit: Adobe Stock.

Book Cover Front-Back

I know many of you have been eagerly awaiting my second book. Here it is!

Know Yourself, Grow Your Career provides a framework to reconnect with and enhance your skills, talents, interests and values and construct a personal value proposition that advances your own career goals while meeting the needs of employers, clients and others who may hire or invest in you.

If you would like to know more, check out:

Twenty five percent (25%) of the profits for sales in September and October 2017 will be donated to the Houston Food Bank and Save the Children.

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, author, resume strategist and member of Forbes Coaches Council. She is the author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals (available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and through local booksellers) and Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Personal Value Proposition Workbook.

Image credit above: Olly/Adobe Stock.

#pvp