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Jul 082011
 

It was one of those beautiful Asheville summer evenings. The sun was setting; the air was cool—perfect convertible weather. Top down, Kathy and I were on our way to a hip new bar in the River Arts District.

“I may have gotten this break up thing down,” I said to Kathy.

“Oh?”

“Yeah, Tomas and I talked last weekend, and we’ve decided to shift our relationship from dating to a friendship. I’m pretty jazzed about our new status.”

“And Tomas, how does he feel about it?’

“He’s in perfect agreement. He needs more ‘me’ time right now too. We both know it will be an adjustment. We’ve promised to keep the lines of communication open.”

Kathy looked skeptical. “You know, it’s pretty unusual to make this kind of shift without some kind of ‘time out.’”

“We talked about that, but we didn’t want to do that. Of course, that could change.”

“I’m impressed,” Kathy said. “Why do you think you’ve been able to do this? It sure hasn’t worked for you in the past.”

Kathy was right; rarely had I remained friends with an ex-lover.

“Two reasons,” I began. “First, Tomas and I are in similar places. We’re both going through major life transitions. And we both need a lot of time to ourselves right now. Being in a relationship was a distraction. Now we can focus on what’s really important.”

“Which is. . .?”

“Our friendship. You know, we’ve decided we’ll probably be more intimate as friends than we were as lovers.”  I laughed.

“That’s pretty great,” Kathy said.

“I’m proud of both of us. At the same time, I’m not naïve. I know it’s going to be tough, especially when one of us starts dating. I just hope we can work through it with lots of honesty and communication.”

“Makes perfect sense.”

“I guess we’re lucky. Not every couple can turn a break up into a friendship. But when romantic relationships run their course, a friendship can follow if the couple still love each other and have similar interests and values.”

“And maturity,” Kathy added.

“Right! OK, sweet pea, enough about me. What have you’ve been up to?”

Jul 082011
 

My heart went out to Melissa. She was in pain.

“I can’t sleep,” she said. “My mind is racing, and no matter what I do, I can’t make it stop. My emotions are all over the place.”

Melissa and I were sipping Margaritas and munching on chips at our favorite neighborhood Mexican dive.

I totally understood. When I had my big break up two years ago, I tried to control and crush my crazy thoughts and roller-coaster feelings, but that only increased their charge. Instead, I found that by observing them with curiosity and without judgment, like clouds they gently floated by.

My therapist helped me with this sage advice:

“Ask yourself what’s not okay about this moment, then note your answer,” he began. “If it’s not okay, then think of your mind as a garden; your job is to pull out the weeds. An obsession? A weed. A fantasy? Another weed. A thought about the future? A memory of the past? Weeds. Keep pulling the weeds until one flower remains: this present moment.”

I saw how my mind worked—all the crazy stories I made up in my head. I noticed them when my ex and I were together, and I observed them now that we were apart. I learned to welcome them and use them as a kind of restart button to become present. When I caught myself in a fantasy or another form of “crazy thinking,” I could remember my therapist’s wise question, “What’s so bad about the present moment that you can’t be in it?”

I could also observe my emotions. Like my thoughts, I used them as a vehicle to become more present. When I felt sad, I asked if that sadness was based on a memory or future projection, or if it was what I was actually experiencing at that moment.

I learned that sensations are a clear pathway to the present. When I listen for the sounds around me, see my surroundings with what the Zen Buddhists call a “beginner’s mind,” and follow sensations in my body to track what I’m feeling, I sink deeper into what spiritual guru Eckhart Tolle calls “the power of now.”

I wanted to share these experiences with Melissa but caught myself. The timing wasn’t right; Melissa was still too raw. The best I could do for her now was to simply listen and empathize. “You must be exhausted,” I said.

Jul 082011
 

Sherry and I were sipping Manhattans at one of our favorite hangouts. Outside, the bitter winter wind was blowing, stirring up the freshly fallen snow. The scene reminded me of a Christmas snow globe I had as a child.

Maybe it was the weather, our friendship, possibly the bourbon—I was feeling warm and cozy.

“Tell me about your ideal partner,” I asked Sherry.

“That’s easy,” she said. “He’s tall, stocky, and in shape. He’s within four years of my age, spiritual, and kind. Smart, considerate, and totally in love with me. And that’s just for starters. Do you want me to go on?”

I laughed. “You’ve thought about this.”

“Thought about it? Ha! I’ve written an ideal partner profile.”

“That’s a great idea.”

“I thought so too, but not for the reasons you think. One day I had an epiphany: my list was far more valuable than a simple wish list inventorying characteristics I want in a soul mate. By studying it, I could discover those parts of myself that I’ve had disowned.”

“That’s heavy. Tell me more,” I probed.

“I’ll give you an example. One of things on my list is a man who is gentle and strong. Well, I’m gentle and strong. It’s time I accepted that about myself.”

She continued. “I also listed that I want a man who’s good with money. Why am I projecting that onto someone else? I need to buckle down and get better about managing my money.”

“So, it’s all about becoming whole and not looking for someone to complete you?” I suggested.

“You got it.”

It’s no wonder why I value my friendship with Sherry. She’s one wise woman.
We continued our conversation until late into the evening, but I couldn’t wait to get home and write my own ideal partner profile to see what disowned aspects of myself are waiting to be reclaimed.

Jul 082011
 

Charlotte had finally broken up with her boyfriend of four years. All her friends—including me—were relieved. “Bob” had been bad news. Now Charlotte was sitting in my kitchen, sipping a gin and tonic, and confessing that she was considering going back to him.

The mind has a funny way of spinning reality. I remembered my own break up. Observing my mind-talk, I was surprised at how often my thoughts grew into tall stories. In one, my ex desperately missed me and wanted to get back together. In another he was actively dating and had totally forgotten about me. At times, I would even tell myself our breakup was only temporary. My girlfriend Kelli set me straight.

“You’ve been thinking that getting back together is impossible,” she said. “I’d like you to entertain the idea that it’s not.”

She continued. “Jump into the fantasy that you’re reunited and see how you feel.”

I took her advice, and afterwards I felt like I’d been sprayed with cold water. There was no going back. We had split for a reason, and that reason had not changed.

“Tell me what would be different if you two got back together,” I asked Charlotte. “What has changed?”

Charlotte thought a moment, “Nothing really. I just miss him.”

I totally understood.

“Missing him and getting back together are two different things,” I pointed out gently. “Imagine being back with Bob. Go ahead. Imagine it!”

She closed her eyes.

“OK,” I said. “You guys have been back together for five months, and you’re having dinner at your condo. How do you feel?”

“I have a knot in my stomach,” she said.

“Do you still want to get back together?”

“No!” She laughed.

Going back to your ex is a fantasy many people entertain after a break up, no matter how bad the relationship was. Most agree it’s a bad idea. “Putting sour milk back in the fridge doesn’t make it drinkable,” my girlfriend Kelli likes to say.

Jul 082011
 

My friend Justine is a single mom with two special-needs kids. As if that’s not enough, Justine is a busy solo-entrepreneur whose business is just beginning to take off.

“I get so overwhelmed, I want to shut down,” she confessed. It was martini night at one of our favorite restaurants, and Justine I were taking full advantage of the special.

I sympathized. Many  people—especially women—I talk to these days are feeling stretched to the max.

“Everything seems to be a priority,” she continued.

Recently, I created a simple formula for determining priorities that I’ve begun to share with clients. I wondered if it would help Justine. I asked her.

“Please! Anything! I’m desperate.”

I began. First, question if you really need to do the project in the first place. Review return-on-investment, passion, and purpose. Begin by thinking of the three as interlocking circles; then look for the place they met.” I explained that for each option, she should consider:

Return-on-Investment: Does the effort and expense justify the amount of money the new project will produce? For example, when I analyzed writing another book, I had to conclude no. Writing is hard work, and it’s time-consuming. Yet books seldom generate a great deal of money.

Passion: How juiced am I about the project? I love writing, but writing a hundred-page book right now seems daunting.

Purpose: Finally, does the project support my mission: helping professionals stand in their power by becoming the full expression of all they are? Depending on the topic, it could, but so would a number of other vehicles that are less time-consuming, more fun, and offer a higher return-on-investment.

I crossed writing another book off my list.

“That’s really great, Randy, but who has time to do all that introspection?” she asked, laughing.

It struck me that maybe the best thing I could do for Justine right now is to just listen and be sympathetic.

“You’re one of the busiest people I know. I don’t know how you do it all,” I said. “How about another round?”

Jul 082011
 

My girlfriend Vivian and I were having coffee at our favorite downtown coffee shop. Vivian was looking for work, and she was frustrated to the point of tears.

“I can’t tell you the number of ads I’ve responded to, and nothing. I haven’t gotten one response!” she wailed. “What am I doing wrong?”

“Sweet pea, you might as well drive down the street and throw your resumes out the window,” I said. “These days, more than 60 percent of jobs are found through networking for information. I can’t think of a better way to find a job in this crazy economy.”

I suggested that she begin by listing her contacts. Her contacts could include:

  • Past employers, coworkers, direct reports, suppliers, and salespeople
  • Friends
  • Her parents’ friends and her friends’ parents
  • Family members and neighbors
  • Community contacts in groups such as social clubs, sports teams, and civic organizations
  • Professional organizations
  • Former professors and alumni groups

“Once you compile your list, commit to contacting a set number of people each week and ask for a brief appointment. Most clients set a goal of e-mailing five people a week.”

I reminded her that the primary objective when networking for information is to learn. As such, her first duty is to listen. I recommended that she ask these questions:

  1. How did you get started in the field?
  2. What attributes, skills, and education do you think someone needs to be successful in your field?
  3. What advice can you give me about my job search?
  4. Would you keep an eye out for me for any appropriate openings?
  5. Who else would you recommend that I talk to?

“During the course of the interview, you’ll want to share your unique selling proposition and no more than three criteria from your ideal work environment list. Your ideal work environment is an environment that encourages you to be your best. You may need to adjust your unique selling proposition depending on the person’s responses,” I advised.

Finally, I suggested sending a thank-you note to each person. In that note, she should reinforce her unique selling proposition and provide a few details about the position she’s seeking. She should also ask for the person’s help in identifying suitable openings and referring her to other people to talk with.

Finally, I suggested following up with referrals right away, within twenty-four hours if possible. “Stay in touch with your expanded network throughout your job search. A phone call, e-mail, or handwritten note every six to eight weeks should do it. When you do land a job, send a thank-you note to anyone who helped you. In it, express your desire to return the favor.”

Vivian looked overwhelmed. I saw that I’d given her too much information all at once. Smiling, I said, “Let’s take it one step at a time beginning with your list. Are you ready?”

My girlfriend Vivian and I were having coffee at our favorite downtown coffee shop. Vivian was looking for work, and she was frustrated to the point of tears.

 

I can’t tell you the number of ads I’ve responded to, and nothing. I haven’t gotten one response!” she wailed. “What am I doing wrong?”

 

Sweet pea, you might as well drive down the street and throw your resumes out the window,” I said. “These days, more than 60 percent of jobs are found through networking for information. I can’t think of a better way to find a job in this crazy economy.”

 

I suggested that she begin by listing her contacts. Her contacts could include:

 

  • Past employers, coworkers, direct reports, suppliers, and salespeople

  • Friends

  • Her parents’ friends and her friends’ parents

  • Family members and neighbors

  • Community contacts in groups such as social clubs, sports teams, and civic organizations

  • Professional organizations

  • Former professors and alumni groups

Once you compile your list, commit to contacting a set number of people each week and ask for a brief appointment. Most clients set a goal of e-mailing five people a week.”

 

I reminded her that the primary objective when networking for information is to learn. As such, her first duty is to listen. I recommended that she ask these questions:

 

  1. How did you get started in the field?

 

  1. What attributes, skills, and education do you think someone needs to be successful in your field?

 

  1. What advice can you give me about my job search?

 

  1. Would you keep an eye out for me for any appropriate openings?

 

  1. Who else would you recommend that I talk to?

 

During the course of the interview, you’ll want to share your unique selling proposition and no more than three criteria from your ideal work environment list. Your ideal work environment is an environment that encourages you to be your best. You may need to adjust your unique selling proposition depending on the person’s responses,” I advised.

 

Finally, I suggested sending a thank-you note to each person. In that note, she should reinforce her unique selling proposition and provide a few details about the position she’s seeking. She should also ask for the person’s help in identifying suitable openings and referring her to other people to talk with.

 

Finally, I suggested following up with referrals right away, within twenty-four hours if possible. “Stay in touch with your expanded network throughout your job search. A phone call, e-mail, or handwritten note every six to eight weeks should do it. When you do land a job, send a thank-you note to anyone who helped you. In it, express your desire to return the favor.”

 

Vivian looked overwhelmed. I saw that I’d given her too much information all at once. Smiling, I said, “Let’s take it one step at a time beginning with your list. Are you ready?”

Jul 082011
 

My friend Vivian lost her job. It wasn’t because of poor performance; Vivian was great at what she did. The economy had forced her employer to lay off 20 percent of their workforce.

We were sharing a turkey sandwich and a Coke on a park bench. It was spring, the air was warm, and the dogwoods were in bloom. It was one of those gorgeous days that reminds me why I love living in Asheville.

Vivian seemed oblivious to our surroundings. She was freaked; it had been ten years since she last interviewed for a job. She asked me for advice.

In addition to being everybody’s gay best friend, I help professionals package, present, and promote themselves. Over the years, I’ve helped more than a few clients become more successful interviewers. I even wrote a tip sheet on the subject. I shared it with Vivian.

Before the interview:

  1. Determine your unique selling proposition, which is made up of the three things that separate you from the other people who will be applying for the job. Perhaps it’s your business contacts, educational background, or your ability to influence, motivate, and inspire. Maybe your education or training gives you an edge, or your years of service in your industry. Whatever your unique selling proposition, be sure to inventory case studies, examples, stories, or other proof to support your claims.
  2. Develop criteria for your ideal work environment, especially those five to six “non-negotiables.”
  3. Research the company, organization, or agency that is interviewing you.
  4. Based upon your ideal work environment inventory and your research, develop questions about the position for the interview.

During the interview:

  1. Don’t forget your “million dollar question”: “Let’s say we’re in your office a year from now, and you’re telling me I’ve done a terrific job this past year. What did I do?”
  2. Remember the 70/30 rule. During the interview, spend 70 percent of your time listening and only 30 percent talking.  Practice active listening skills:
    • Make a commitment to listen.
    • Listen to understand first.
    • Don’t interrupt. Write down questions or comments for later.
    • React to messages by using strong eye contact, nodding, taking notes, and asking questions.
    • Listen with your eyes as well as your ears.
  3. Think on your feet. Adjust your unique selling proposition to match the position, but only if it’s true and you can back it up.
  4. Work in your unique selling proposition at least three times during the interview. Use it once at the beginning to frame the interview, again when you answer questions, and finally at the very end of the interview as a summary. “If there’s nothing else that you remember about my qualification, I hope you’ll remember…”
  5. “Flex” your communication style to match that of the interviewer. For example, if he or she is formal and to-the-point, be very professional and concise with your answers. If she or he is extremely personable, relax and take time to build the relationship.

At the end of the interview:

Send a thank-you letter that again reinforces your unique selling proposition.

Send any requested follow-up material immediately. It’s an opportunity to show you are responsible and will follow through.

If your interview is conducted by phone:

When the job search takes you to another state, your first interview may be by phone. Making a strong first impression by phone can be accomplished as long as you approach the telephone interview with the same professionalism as you would a face-to-face meeting. Consider these two tips:

  1. Create the ideal interview setting. Find a quiet place and remove all distractions from your desk. Turn off your computer, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door, and spend a minute or two before the interview to gather your thoughts.
  2. Stand up. It will give your voice more power and allow you to think clearer.

“Do you think you can do this?” I asked Vivian.

“I know I can. Thanks!”

My friend Vivian lost her job. It wasn’t because of poor performance; Vivian was great at what she did. The economy had forced her employer to lay off 20 percent of their workforce.

 

We were sharing a turkey sandwich and a Coke on a park bench. It was spring, the air was warm, and the dogwoods were in bloom. It was one of those gorgeous days that reminds me why I love living in Asheville.

 

Vivian seemed oblivious to our surroundings. She was freaked; it had been ten years since she last interviewed for a job. She asked me for advice.

 

In addition to being everybody’s gay best friend, I help professionals package, present, and promote themselves. Over the years, I’ve helped more than a few clients become stronger interviewers. I even wrote a tip sheet on the subject. I shared it with Vivian.

 

Before the interview:

 

  1. Determine your unique selling proposition, which is made up of the three things that separate you from the other people who will be applying for the job. Perhaps it’s your business contacts, educational background, or your ability to influence, motivate, and inspire. Maybe your education or training gives you an edge, or your years of service in your industry. Whatever your unique selling proposition, be sure to inventory case studies, examples, stories, or other proof to support your claims.

 

  1. Develop criteria for your ideal work environment, especially those five to six “non-negotiables.”

 

  1. Research the company, organization, or agency that is interviewing you.

 

  1. Based upon your ideal work environment inventory and your research, develop questions about the position for the interview.

 

During the interview:

 

  1. Don’t forget your “million dollar question”: “Let’s say we’re in your office a year from now, and you’re telling me I’ve done a terrific job this past year. What did I do?”

 

  1. Remember the 70/30 rule. During the interview, spend 70 percent of your time listening and only 30 percent talking. Practice active listening skills:

    1. Make a commitment to listen.

    2. Listen to understand first.

    3. Don’t interrupt. Write down questions or comments for later.

    4. React to messages by using strong eye contact, nodding, taking notes, and asking questions.

    5. Listen with your eyes as well as your ears.

 

  1. Think on your feet. Adjust your unique selling proposition to match the position, but only if it’s true and you can back it up.

 

  1. Work in your unique selling proposition at least three times during the interview. Use it once at the beginning to frame the interview, again when you answer questions, and finally at the very end of the interview as a summary. “If there’s nothing else that you remember about my qualification, I hope you’ll remember…”

 

  1. Flex” your communication style to match that of the interviewer. For example, if he or she is formal and to-the-point, be very professional and concise with your answers. If she or he is extremely personable, relax and take time to build the relationship.

 

At the end of the interview:

 

Send a thank-you letter that again reinforces your unique selling proposition.

 

Send any requested follow-up material immediately. It’s an opportunity to show you are responsible and will follow through.

 

If your interview is conducted by phone:

 

When the job search takes you to another state, your first interview may be by phone. Making a strong first impression by phone can be accomplished as long as you approach the telephone interview with the same professionalism as you would a face-to-face meeting. Consider these two tips:

 

  1. Create the ideal interview setting. Find a quiet place and remove all distractions from your desk. Turn off your computer, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door, and spend a minute or two before the interview to gather your thoughts.

 

  1. Stand up. It will give your voice more power and allow you to think clearer.

 

Do you think you can do this?” I asked Vivian.

 

I know I can. Thanks!”

My friend Vivian lost her job. It wasn’t because of poor performance; Vivian was great at what she did. The economy had forced her employer to lay off 20 percent of their workforce.

We were sharing a turkey sandwich and a Coke on a park bench. It was spring, the air was warm, and the dogwoods were in bloom. It was one of those gorgeous days that reminds me why I love living in Asheville.

Vivian seemed oblivious to our surroundings. She was freaked; it had been ten years since she last interviewed for a job. She asked me for advice.

In addition to being everybody’s gay best friend, I help professionals package, present, and promote themselves. Over the years, I’ve helped more than a few clients become stronger interviewers. I even wrote a tip sheet on the subject. I shared it with Vivian.

Before the interview:

1.Determine your unique selling proposition, which is made up of the three things that separate you from the other people who will be applying for the job. Perhaps it’s your business contacts, educational background, or your ability to influence, motivate, and inspire. Maybe your education or training gives you an edge, or your years of service in your industry. Whatever your unique selling proposition, be sure to inventory case studies, examples, stories, or other proof to support your claims.

2.Develop criteria for your ideal work environment, especially those five to six “non-negotiables.”

3.Research the company, organization, or agency that is interviewing you.

4.Based upon your ideal work environment inventory and your research, develop questions about the position for the interview.

During the interview:

1.Don’t forget your “million dollar question”: “Let’s say we’re in your office a year from now, and you’re telling me I’ve done a terrific job this past year. What did I do?”

2.Remember the 70/30 rule. During the interview, spend 70 percent of your time listening and only 30 percent talking.  Practice active listening skills:
a.Make a commitment to listen.
b.Listen to understand first.
c.Don’t interrupt. Write down questions or comments for later.
d.React to messages by using strong eye contact, nodding, taking notes, and asking questions.
e.Listen with your eyes as well as your ears.

3.Think on your feet. Adjust your unique selling proposition to match the position, but only if it’s true and you can back it up.

4.Work in your unique selling proposition at least three times during the interview. Use it once at the beginning to frame the interview, again when you answer questions, and finally at the very end of the interview as a summary. “If there’s nothing else that you remember about my qualification, I hope you’ll remember…”

5.“Flex” your communication style to match that of the interviewer. For example, if he or she is formal and to-the-point, be very professional and concise with your answers. If she or he is extremely personable, relax and take time to build the relationship.

At the end of the interview:

Send a thank-you letter that again reinforces your unique selling proposition.

Send any requested follow-up material immediately. It’s an opportunity to show you are responsible and will follow through.

If your interview is conducted by phone:

When the job search takes you to another state, your first interview may be by phone. Making a strong first impression by phone can be accomplished as long as you approach the telephone interview with the same professionalism as you would a face-to-face meeting. Consider these two tips:

1.Create the ideal interview setting. Find a quiet place and remove all distractions from your desk. Turn off your computer, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door, and spend a minute or two before the interview to gather your thoughts.

2.Stand up. It will give your voice more power and allow you to think clearer.

“Do you think you can do this?” I asked Vivian.

“I know I can. Thanks!”

Jul 082011
 

Vivian was despondent. Two days earlier she had learned that she was going to be laid off. “I haven’t written a resume in more than ten years,” she cried. “I don’t have a clue on where to begin.”

Vivian had come to me for advice. In addition to being everybody’s gay best friend, I help professionals package, present, and promote themselves. I’m told I’m pretty good at it.

“Sweet pea, you’ve got to stand out,” I began. “Research shows that only one interview is granted for every two hundred resumes received. Plus, most employers rarely take more than fifteen to twenty seconds to review a resume.”

Vivian groaned.

“No worries. You can distinguish yourself in five ways.” I rattled them off. “First, customize your resume for each position. Next, focus on employers’ needs, not your own. Third, use bullets often and begin each with an action verb. Fourth, create your resume in MS Word so that it can be easily e-mailed and posted on the internet. And finally, conduct a test to ensure that it can be faxed.” I’ve given this advice many times.

I continued. “Always include a cover letter, and remember that cover letters give employers their first impression of you.”

I told Vivian about my first cover letter; I wrote it when I was just out of college. It was so good I still use it today. It begins, “The attached will prove that I can do an excellent job for you and for me. It will demonstrate…” I then list three bullets summarizing my unique selling proposition. Unique selling propositions are skills, attributes, experience, or education that sets you apart from your competition.

I end the letter with a handwritten P.S. that directs the reader to an item in the resume. The P.S. reads, “I think you’ll be particularly interested in…”

When it comes to writing resumes, I don’t profess to be an expert, but I do advise clients to begin a resume with a summary of qualifications composed of three to five bullets that showcase their unique selling propositions.

They should follow this with a section entitled “Accomplishments.” In it, list no more than seven to ten bullets that outline the top accomplishments in your career. These should be proofs that reinforce your unique selling propositions.

Proofs can be case studies, results, statistics, testimonials and other stories, but the best proofs contain problem-action-results. Begin by stating the problem that existed in your workplace; then describe what you did about it; and, finally, present beneficial results. This is not a time to be modest.

    Here’s an example: Turnover had reached an all-time high at 36 percent. I conducted a confidential survey of all staff, drafted a list of twelve recommendations, and presented them to top management. Ten of the recommendations were accepted and implemented. Turnover decreased by 76 percent within six weeks.

“Trust me, sweet pea, these first two sections are crucial. It’s the top half of your resume that will determine if you get an interview or not.”

“This is so helpful, Randy!” Vivian said. “Now I’ve got a place to start.”