Thriving in Your Career: Finding the Right Fit

Guest Post by Anna Graham Hunter, Career Happiness Coach

Nod if this sounds familiar:

You hear about a position that seems perfect for you – new challenges, a prestigious company, a great title, and a salary range that’s a step up. They call you in and describe all the ways the company is great, why you’re such a good fit, and the many reasons you’ll love working there. After the first interview, you glide home on a high as you think about the possibilities. That night you start planning the wedding and imagining a life of happily ever after.

They make you an offer, you accept, and for the first couple of months, both of you are still feeling the glow of the honeymoon phase. You continue to think the best of each other.

But after a while, you begin to notice that interactions are feeling a little more forced, “off” in a way you can’t quite put your finger on. Some days it’s hard to remember your early enthusiasm, and, like one half of a married couple that’s grown disenchanted, daily habits start to irritate you: the way people talk in meetings, the tone of emails, the way decisions get made, how you’re expected to spend your time.

You remind yourself that this is your dream job. You remember the salary, the title, and the way your new responsibilities will look on your resume.

But after several months, it becomes harder and harder to convince yourself that this was the right move. Your relationship with your boss has started to sour, and you realize that you’ve lost respect for the person you were so excited to work with.

Now the only questions are:

  1. How quickly can you find something else?
  2. How can you avoid making the same mistake again?

Almost all of us have found ourselves in the wrong fit at least once in our work lives. And when it happens, the first thing to go is usually our confidence. We start questioning not only our competence (“If other people seem to be doing well here, what’s wrong with me?”) but also our ability to make decisions (“If I could be so wrong about this, how will I ever trust my instincts again?”).

One reaction to this doubt is to throw up your hands and assume everything is a crapshoot and that you’ll never know if something is going to work out until you get there.

But there is another, better way to choose your next career step, and that is to look beyond the credentials (salary, title, mission) and instead evaluate the ways in which you and an organization do or do not get along.

The three most important aspects of fit to consider are Feeling, Interactions, and Tasks.

  • Feeling is the overall environment of a workplace, from the way it looks to the way it sounds. What’s the energy level? What’s on the walls? How is the space organized?
  • Interactions are just that – how people interact and who you’re interacting with. How do people greet each other in the halls, if at all? Do they pop in and out of each other’s cubicles and offices, or do people three feet away from each other communicate via email?
  • Tasks are how you spend the day. Most positions come with descriptions of what you will be expected to accomplish, but that won’t tell you what you’ll actually be doing all day. Will you spend most of your time on the phone? Working collaboratively with others? Putting out fires? Staring at a computer screen producing PowerPoint decks?

Before you start exploring what your next step might be, you need to get clear on what you want for each of these aspects of fit. You can do this by looking at past positions and organizations and analyzing the components that felt both right and wrong.

Once you know what you want, it can be a challenge to discover whether an organization or position will be the right fit for you, but it can be done. The keys are to ask the right questions and look for the right clues.

By the right questions, I mean non-biased queries that force whoever is answering to be specific. The problem with questions such as, “How would you describe the culture?” is that it allows someone to speak in platitudes without backing anything up (“It’s great – really supportive, lots of teamwork.”)

One of my favorite questions is, “How does conflict show up in meetings and how does it get dealt with?” This assumes that there is conflict – of course there is – but does not give away the answer you are looking for.

Another of my favorite questions is, “What’s the energy like around here Friday at 5:00pm?” It’s impossible to respond in platitudes, and there is no assumed right answer.

Looking for the right clues means thinking like an anthropologist when you visit the office. Observe how the place is organized and decorated (or not). Listen for the noise level. Watch the people and how they interact. Do they seem tense? Energetic? Engaged? Checked out?

By getting clear on what really matters to you when it comes to feeling, interactions, and tasks, and then developing a list of questions and clues that matter to you, you will be able to gauge whether something is the right fit before you take the plunge.

Anna Graham Hunter will be presenting “Thriving in Your Career: Finding the Right Fit”  for Georgetown alumni on May 6, 12:30-1:30pm ET.  Register here and follow Anna on Facebook or visit her website.  Check out Anna’s past webinar for Georgetown:

The Power of Mentorships and Sponsorships: Guest Post by Connie Wong, Co-Founder of Lynxsy

Highlighting the recent webinar “Get the Meeting! Cultivating Mentors and Sponsors to Move Your Career Forward” with Jason Levin (MBA’06):

My blog topic this week will touch on the recent webinar hosted by the Georgetown Alumni Career Services on the important topic of mentorship and sponsorship. Guest speaker Jason Levin, career coach and speaker with Ready, Set, Launch, LLC—and Georgetown alum—provided a helpful framework for understanding how mentor and sponsor relationships differ and how they can be useful in your career journey.

Levin starts off the webinar by focusing on the basics, saying that “the ‘what do you want to do?’ question is the fundamental question that allows you to help others help you.” He encourages you to think ahead and envision the success you’d like to achieve in the next 18 months. Then break it down into what experiences, skills and relationships you need to get where you want to be in this timeframe.

Mentors are individuals who have related career expertise and wisdom to share; they may or may not be employed in the same company as the mentee. Their role is to help their  mentees get a clearer vision of career options and have a better understanding of what they need to reach that next level.

Sponsors on the other hand may have a different background than you, but tend to be someone from within your workplace. This is a person who may directly influence your career path.

You shouldn’t be looking for just one or the other—Levin encourages his listeners to pursue both types of relationships to reap the benefits each uniquely offers.

To learn more about the value of mentorships and sponsorships, including why you should consider giving back, listen to the whole webinar here.

And if working at a startup is in your 18-month career plan, visit Lynxsy to kickstart your journey.

Register here for Connie’s March 12 webinar on Breaking Into Startups for the Non-Coder.

Connie Wong is the Co-Founder of Lynxsy, an organization that strives to match recent grads with non-technical roles at high growth startups. Lynxsy is building a talent marketplace that puts the individuality back into job hiring and searching. They believe that finding the right match takes more than just an interview (it’s kind of like dating) which is why Lynxsy provides a trial period where companies and candidates can get to know each other better before a long-term commitment.

Their vision is to provide a platform that’s not just job-seeking, but career making. A place where startups can find the best junior talent to build the best possible teams, and where recent graduates can get their foot in the door at the best companies to launch their careers. Learn more at http://www.lynxsy.com.

Expectations of a Sales Development Representative (SDR): Guest Post by Carlos Cheung (B’13)

Originally posted at Sales4Startups.

Over the past couple months, I’ve interviewed with several different excellent companies: AdRoll, Square, Stripe, Mixpanel, OpenDNS, Okta, and Optimizely. One of the top things that contributed to my interview success is having a clear understanding of the role I was applying for and the value it brings to the company’s vision. Thus, I hope this post can shed some light on what to expect in the sales development representative role.

As the class of 2014 joins us in the workforce, there will be many graduates seeking employment and trying to figure out where they should start their career. I believe a great place to start your career is in a sales role at a hot SaaS (Software-as-a-service) startup. It’s a good point of entry to build your skills and learn about the industry.

Here are the objectives of a Sales Development Representative (SDR):

1. The main objective of a sales development rep is to utilize emails and calls to qualify and disqualify potential opportunities. Then set up appointments for account executives to close the deal. The KPI (Key-performance-indicator) for this role is how many qualified opportunities you bring in monthly.

2. The secondary objective is to learn about the sales process, company, product, industry, competitors, customer stories, and compelling events (things that happen in the customer’s world that may prompt them to buy).

Let’s take a deeper dive into the SDR role in two parts, audience and action:

(AUDIENCE) The role of a sales development representative (SDR) is twofold: inbound and outbound. Inbound refers to the potential customers who have engaged with your company through its marketing channels. Outbound is you reaching out to potential customers that have never engaged with the company’s product or services, i.e. cold prospecting.

(ACTION) The SDR role consists of lots of question asking and providing information. The role is similar to consulting where you understand what the business is currently doing; seeing if the product or service provided is a good fit for the business; and teaching them how it can help improve their business.

Here’s a presentation to understand the various stages of the sales process and the different sales related roles within an organization: Sales Roles and Sales Cycle.

Recommended Books Before You Start The Job:

These books will help you get a clear understanding of sales and how to succeed in the role. Once you become an expert in sales, those skills will be transferable to wherever you may go.

Major Account Sales Strategy – Understand the purchasing and buying process of the customer

The Challenger Sale – Understand what it means to be a great sales person

You Can’t Teach a Kid to Ride A Bike At a Seminar – Tactics to close the sale

Spin Selling – Understand the type of questions to ask

Predictable Revenue – Strategy to implement a sales team

Other Good Books:

Zero-Time Selling

To Sell is Human

Carlos Cheung is a 2013 graduate of the McDonough School of Business and currently resides in San Francisco.  He works in Market & Business Development at Optimizely, a startup that enables businesses and organizations to make better data-driven decisions through website & mobile optimization and A/B testing. Learn more about Carlos at carloscheung.com or follow @CarloskCheung.

How to Network When You Don’t Know What You Want to Do: Guest Post by Connie Wong, Co-Founder of Lynxsy

Highlighting our recent webinar, How to Network When You Don’t know What You Want to Do

“Networking” has become one of those ubiquitous buzzwords, so overused that people start forgetting it actually ever had any meaning at all. In a basic sense it’s talking on a professional level with people who could possibly help you achieve your long-term career goals. But if having a concrete idea of your future is a prerequisite for networking, what do you do if you just don’t know yet?

Luckily, Career Happiness Coach Anna Graham Hunter helped us crack the code on networking, helping to show that you don’t need to have it all figured out to start forming professional connections. In fact, it’s probably better to start from a more open-minded perspective.

The first step is figuring out what you want to do with your life in more abstract terms. Easier said than done in a world where people in their 30s and 40s are still figuring out what they want to be when they grow up. However, all it takes is a little self-reflection.

In order to discover the general direction you’d like your career to go, ask yourself these three questions:

1)      When have you felt most alive at work and what were you doing?

2)      Which colleagues have brought out the best in you?

3)      In which environment have you been most productive?

Don’t jump to the easy answers. Look within. What you discover about yourself and what you thought about your career may surprise you.

Anna then advises you to use these answers to formulate a “What Do You Want to Do?” Statement. This basically serves as a way to introduce your career aspirations when the answer is still more of a general idea.

To make it easier, here’s the MADLIB-style format:

“After several years of [highlight what you’ve accomplished and learned] I’m now exploring opportunities that will allow me to [describe tasks, people, and environments that comprise your goals in an abstract sense].”

Once you have your statement down, it’s time to start thinking about who you’d like to reach out to. When first establishing a connection, Anna recommends you reach out via e-mail where you should:

1)      Introduce yourself.

2)      Explain your intention (which is to learn more about the recipient’s industry, career history, or current role).

3)      Ask if he/she would be free for a 20 minute call and provide a variety of times when you would be free.

When you finally get on the phone with someone, it’s your job to lead the conversation:

1)      Ask if it’s still a good time to talk.

2)      Thank the person for taking the time to speak.

3)      State your intention.

4)      Use the “What Do You Want to Do” statement.

5)      Ask your first question!

Each person you’re talking to is going to have a different background, career history, and style of advice. Go into the call with the intention of learning. Even if you’re very interested in a particular person’s company, don’t ask him directly about open roles. Instead, you should be confident that if you effectively expressed your strengths and motivations, and a position happens to open up, the person will bring it up to YOU. In this way you’re making yourself the perused candidate rather than the one desperately grasping at jobs.

Finally, Anna recommends at the end of each call asking each and every person, “Who else should I talk to?” This question is the most important step because it’s the fastest most direct way to be introduced to new people who can help you grow in your career. Before you know it you’ll have grown your professional network and you’ll be at the top of people’s minds when that right job eventually opens up.

This post only scratches the surface, though! Check out the full webinar here to learn the complete ins and outs of networking. By the end you’ll have the confidence to build lasting professional connections, even if you’re not exactly sure where you want your career to wind up (and to be honest who is?).

Speaking of which, coming in on the ground floor at a startup is a great way to gain valuable experience in the workforce and can help you figure out what you want to do long-term. Head over to Lynxsy to discover what roles the startup world has to offer!

 

Connie Wong is the Co-Founder of Lynxsy, an organization that strives to match recent grads with non-technical roles at high growth startups. Lynxsy is building a talent marketplace that puts the individuality back into job hiring and searching. They believe that finding the right match takes more than just an interview (it’s kind of like dating) which is why Lynxsy provides a trial period where companies and candidates can get to know each other better before a long-term commitment.

Their vision is to provide a platform that’s not just job-seeking, but career making. A place where startups can find the best junior talent to build the best possible teams, and where recent graduates can get their foot in the door at the best companies to launch their careers. Learn more at http://www.lynxsy.com

Meet Latazia, Future Educator and Inspirer

This fall, the University launched “Georgetown Stories,” a multi-media, first-person, “vlog” (video blog) that will follow 11 undergraduate students throughout the academic year as their Georgetown stories unfold.  Each student’s story will be told through a series of videos, still photography, emails and social media posts with the goal of more intimately connecting everyone in the Georgetown community (both on and off of the Hilltop).  In a series of blog posts this year, ACS student intern Khadijah M. Davis (N’15) will be sharing these stories through the Alumni Career Services lens.

“I believed it was possible to do, so I did it”

Latazia Carter (C’17) is a Government and Justice and Peace Studies double-major from Nashville, Tenn. who has made a good habit of conquering her fears and looking past broader adversity to become a woman for others.

While still an underclassman, Latazia had the incredible opportunity to take a trip to Haiti to help rebuild houses lost after the catastrophic earthquake. While conquering her fear of heights to help rebuild the country, she was able to begin building upon her desire to continue being of service to others.

“Looking back, I should have been afraid, but I believed it was possible to do, so I did it,” says Latazia. “I am not only proud of helping, but I am proud of myself for realizing the effect our minds have on our expectations.”

Moving forward, she hopes to uplift the minds and expectations of students by devoting her life’s work to education justice.

“I want to inspire students to think of the world beyond their current circumstances and to understand the injustices present in society,” says Latazia. Ultimately, she hopes to do so by pursuing a career in school administration and becoming a professor.

Inspiration and Mentorship

Off campus, Latazia credits her mother with being her role model throughout her life. “She has gone through countless traumatic and life altering circumstances, yet she has never given up. Just seeing her alive and thriving makes me feel like anything is possible.”

On campus, she is inspired by her Korean professor who has grown to become one of her closest mentors. According to Latazia, “She is a woman full of wisdom and passionate about living a life that brings happiness into the world. My Korean professor gave me the courage to major in Justice and Peace Studies. I entered college as a Political Economy major, but she questioned my motives. She asked why I was taking it and if I wanted to like or love my major. I decided I wanted to love my major.”

Latazia has been able to identify mentors by “observing and listening to what someone says and does carefully.” A person’s values are important to her. “I would not choose a mentor based on their net worth, but rather the worth they find in the people and environment around them,” Latazia says.

After college, Latazia hopes to find a mentor who inspires her and “takes the time to learn my story as I will take the time to learn his or her story.”

She also would love to be a mentor to others on campus as she is to her younger sister back home. “I have no formal title as a mentor, but I strive to make myself available for anyone who needs my advice. I am also a mentor to my younger sister. She frequently calls to ask for homework help or advice. Growing up, my mother always felt horrible when she was not able to help me with my homework or projects because of her educational background, but now I figured it out. I am glad my sister can rely on me to help her understand things. I am the first person to attend college in my family, but I am confident in my sister’s ability to do the same.”

On campus, Latazia serves as a member of Groove Theory, Gospel Choir, a vlogger on Georgetown Stories, and the Student of Color Alliance Representative for the Black Student Alliance.

Is a Startup Right For You? Guest Post by Connie Wong, Co-Founder of Lynxsy

Highlighting our recent webinar, “Look Before You Leap: The Questions You Must Ask Yourself Before Joining a Startup”

This week I’ve been asked to blog about an informative webinar by the Georgetown Alumni Career Services that examines the soul-searching you need to do before you enter the startup world.

Associate Director Sarah Hay hosted the one hour webinar, with two prominent Georgetown alums and former baseball teammates as featured guests: Joey Graziano and Parker Brooks. Graziano serves as General Counsel & Director of Talent at The Headfirst Companies. Brooks is C.O.O. of a private investment vehicle in New York City that he launched with a business partner in March of 2014. The pair each forged their way into startup success and took time from their thriving businesses to share their stories and insider advice.

Graziano and Brooks began the presentation by laying out what they call “The Big 5”—core questions they deem necessary to meditate on before taking the plunge into the startup world. The webinar covers each of these five questions in depth:

Why do I want to work at a startup?

Why do I want to work at this particular startup?

What stage startup am I potentially joining?

Who am I going to be working with every day?

What is the financial state of the startup?

Brooks’ biggest takeaway? Read, read, read. To follow in his footsteps, get a library card and check out all the books you can on whatever industry interests you. Take your education into your own hands. Graziano shared a different approach, emphasizing the value of networking and making yourself useful to people who can in turn provide you with connections.

Graziano added valuable advice on how to dodge a rookie mistake. He says that during the interview process he sees many young, smart candidates who are promising, but they do one thing that causes him to hesitate. That one thing is talking strategy. Most new hires at a startup won’t be brought in at that level, but rather need to demonstrate a willingness to do whatever is necessary to move the business forward in its early state. It’s good to know that potential employers may prefer candidates who are ready to do the legwork and not just talk big picture.

While the webinar content may resonate more with job seekers that have established work histories, newbies will also find useful insight in the webinar discussion.

This article is only a teaser, listen to the full webinar here to learn more. If, after mulling over the questions posed in this webinar, you decide you’d like to join a startup, head over to Lynxsy to get started.

Connie Wong is the Co-Founder of Lynxsy, an organization that strives to match recent grads with non-technical roles at high growth startups. Lynxsy is building a talent marketplace that puts the individuality back into job hiring and searching. They believe that finding the right match takes more than just an interview (it’s kind of like dating) which is why Lynxsy provides a trial period where companies and candidates can get to know each other better before a long-term commitment.

Their vision is to provide a platform that’s not just job-seeking, but career making. A place where startups can find the best junior talent to build the best possible teams, and where recent graduates can get their foot in the door at the best companies to launch their careers. Learn more at http://www.lynxsy.com

Meet Zoe Gadebegku (C’15), Aspiring Storyteller

This fall, the University launched “Georgetown Stories,”  a multi-media, first-person, “vlog” (video blog) that will follow 11 undergraduate students throughout the academic year as their Georgetown stories unfold.  Each student’s story will be told through a series of videos, still photography, emails and social media posts with the goal of more intimately connecting everyone in the Georgetown community (both on and off of the Hilltop).  In a series of blog posts this year, ACS student intern Khadijah Davis (N’15) will be sharing these stories through the Alumni Career Services lens.

Zoe Gadebegku, the Storyteller

Zoe Gadebegku (C’ 15) describes herself as someone who is passionate about people and their stories.

“Everybody has an edge or something that makes them interesting,” she says.

Zoe has an interesting story herself. Her Georgetown Stories series chronicles her everyday experience as a curious student, tenacious leader and encouraging friend.

The Transition to Georgetown

For many students, the transition from their home town to Washington, D.C. is a culture shock. For Zoe, a French major from Accra, Ghana, the transition from her home country to the District is continuously evolving and has become a large part of her own story.

“My eyes had been accustomed to a totally different political and cultural landscape to that of my peers,” she said. “I’m still learning to laugh at my own nerves and timidity, glorying instead in my difference and celebrating the flavor I was adding to a place I have grown to love.”

Becoming a Writer

Being a woman for others is of much importance to Zoe, who once debated whether pursuing writing was the path for her.

When asked to reflect on her decision to become a writer, Zoe said, “Up until recently, I thought that the best way to make an impact on others was to go into advocacy or social work to ensure that I was doing something meaningful for others. I saw writing as a self-indulgent pursuit because it was something that I loved doing but may not have any direct effect on other people. Now I’ve realized that using my talent and passion for writing can be a powerful tool to uplift others and to spur social change.”

Inspiration

Zoe draws inspiration from a diverse range of writers, but greatly admires women writers of color. She said her inspirations include women such as Anita Desai, Ama Ata Aidoo, Toni Morrison and, more recently, Chimamanda Adiche.

She also notes that she is greatly inspired by alumni who pursue creative fields in film and literature post-Georgetown.

“There’s sometimes pressure to follow a more conventional path after graduation,” she said. “I heard Brit Marling (C’05) speak at the 2013 Senior Convocation, and I thought it was so inspiring that she picked up and moved to LA with two friends to pursue their aspirations in the film industry especially since there was no guarantee that they were going to be successful.”

On campus, Zoe serves as the President of the African Society of Georgetown and previous Editor-In-Chief of The Fire This Time, the university’s premiere multicultural news publication. Next year, she will begin her Fulbright Fellowship in Dakar, Senegal where she will write a collection of short stories on the women she encounters there​.  In ten years, she hopes to be well on her way as novelist that writes the stories that “make people feel something.”

Learn more about Georgetown Stories at www.georgetownstories.com and share your own Georgetown story #georgetownstories.  

Guest Post by Career Happiness Coach Anna Graham Hunter: How to Network When You Don’t Know What You Want to Do

By now, most people know that if you want to make a career shift you need to network. We’ve heard the statistics: between 70% and 80% of professional jobs are found through networking.

Yet for many, many people who want to make a change or find a job, the process goes like this: scour job postings, see “what’s out there,” and apply.

Why – if we all know what we’re supposed to be doing – are so many people doing the opposite?

The answer is simple: they don’t know how to network.

Many readers may scoff at this statement, thinking, “Of course I know how to network! I connect with people on LinkedIn, I meet former colleagues for lunch or coffee, I ask if people know of open positions.”

And, sure, two out of three of those can be semi-effective when the time comes to make a change (hint: it’s not the last one). But none of them are going to get you where you want to go, especially if you don’t know where you want to go.

If you start trying on different positions for size before you’re crystal clear on what you want to do next, you’re liable to talk yourself into just about anything. Admit it – how many times have you seen an appealing job listing and started imagining the two of you getting hitched and living happily ever after? I’ve done it, lots. As have most of my clients.

But applying for different positions is not the right way to figure out what you want to do. Because even if one of those applications does lead to interviews and an offer, it’s not like you chose it. You just threw a bunch of stuff against the wall to see what would stick.

In order to make sure your next step is the right one, you need to be intentional about what you pursue. And that involves talking to the right people at the right time in the right way.

Here are my tips for conducting effective networking conversations when you don’t know what you want to do:

  1. Craft a “What Do You Want to Do Statement” that allows you to explore different options:

“After several years of  . . . [describe your career to date in terms of your accomplishments and what you’ve learned], I’m now exploring opportunities that will allow me to . . .”

The second part of this statement is key to being able to explore a bunch of options. Rather than naming the position, sector, or organization you believe will make you happy, focus on the components of work you know have made you happy. Think about:

  • Tasks that have made you lose all sense of time and projects that have made you excited to get to work early in the morning
  • Colleagues who have brought out the best in you
  • Environments where you have been your most productive.
  1. Talk to creative thinkers and good listeners BEFORE talking to advice givers.

One of the biggest dangers of networking when you don’t have a clear path is getting flooded with advice. People who offer advice are almost always trying to help, but getting suggestions about what you should do next can be deadly when you’re still trying to get your own thinking straight.

The best people to talk to at the early stages will hold up a mirror and help you clarify your thinking rather than saying immediately, “Oh, you should do X!”

Set up these conversations by saying, “I’m in the early stages of exploring what I would like to do next, and I’d love to bounce some ideas off of you.”

  1. Once you get comfortable having these conversations, talk to people people whose work appeals to you to learn more about what they do.

These conversations are often called informational interviews, and they tend to be easy and fun. All you’re doing is asking to learn more about what someone does and how they got there, and for people who love their work, there’s nothing they’d rather talk about.

Invite people to these conversations by saying, “I’m in the early stages of exploring what I would like to do next, and I’d love to learn more about your work and career path.”

After enough of these conversations, your next step will begin to take shape, and you can pursue the path you want to take. By then, you’ll have a network of champions eager to help you get where you want to go.

Did you enjoy this article?  Sign up for Anna’s December 2 webinar for Georgetown Alumni!
Anna Graham Hunter webinar headshot

Anna Graham Hunter is a Career Happiness Coach who helps professionals create their dream careers. A Professional Certified Coach, she spent 23 years in a variety of careers – including education, journalism, politics, lobbying, nonprofit management, management consulting, and executive coaching – before devoting herself full-time to making career happiness a reality for others.  Learn more at http://www.annagrahamhunter.com.