Tag Archives: job search

 

The Bourne Effect – If you do not know who you are…

You are Jason Bourne, you wake up in a hotel room in a Middle Eastern country. It’s too hot in your room. You sweat and you just woke up from a nightmare. You are not sure if this nightmare is a memory because you cannot remember who you are. 

How will it be possible for you to connect with anyone? How will you trust others if you do not even know who you are? What if you have changed your identity so often that you cannot even clearly pronounce your name?

This is a challenge and you are probably shaking your head. “This is a movie, it’s not real.”. 
Yes, but there is a truth in this movie that is relevant to your job search in a new country. It might even be true if you are looking for a new job in your own country.

In professional life, we want to hire people we can trust. We want to hire a competent professional who can show us that they managed a similar challenge before. We want to work with people who will be self-starters and won’t need a year to be up to speed in the role.

You need a professional identity before you can enter the circle of trust. Trust starts with you trusting yourself, your knowledge, attitudes, skills, experiences and how you acquire and store them in your brain. You need to be aware of how you relax, how you focus and center yourself when you are in a critical and stressful complex matrix environment. (That’s why we are developing RockMe! at the moment).

I often notice when you come to see me, that you are not aware of most of your competencies. You take them for granted and assume that a recruiter, computer or line manager will already know everything about you when they scan your resume because they are mind-readers and miracle workers.

For them, it is as obvious as all the three-letter-acronyms you have been using on your résumé because English is their native language and they are working in a similar field, profession, and industry. 

What your personal brand should say about you

When we speak about the personal brand it is something unique to you, something that makes people remember your name, that sticks with people and that keeps you top-of-mind when they are looking for someone with your profile. This brand is not just a marketing factor. Putting three labels (professional designations) on your résumé will help a reader to categorize you and put you into the right mental box.

Ideally, you keep reminding this reader of you so that the box is not closed but open, and so that the avatar in the box shines like a Swarovski crystal. Oh, look, here’s Jason Bourne again. Matt Damon is associated with this movie role. He will never be able to play any other role without us thinking: “Oh, that’s Jason Bourne!”.

When I saw “Hidden Figures” and when Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory appeared, I had to laugh. Then, I always waited for him to act like the Sheldon that he is BUT he was playing another role and did that really well. It was hard for me to accept though because for me Jim Parsons is not an identity. For me this guy IS Sheldon.

Imagine you are trying to re-brand yourself. It’s very difficult. Your former career image sticks to your face and to your online trail. I can tell a few CEO’s who won’t find a job anymore because they are burnt.

What is your personal brand?

Your personal brand is not only your name, headshot, twitter handle, trademark, signature product or the funny pink hat. It’s also how you make others feel. It’s what you express with your seven work principles. People should identify you with how you work and how you relate to others.

They should be happy to refer you to others by saying: “She is really competent and helped me on several occasions when I was stuck. She has been my greatest cheerleader.” or “He is true to his values and always seems to do the correct move. He has never let me down.”

How to connect your personal brand with your seven work principles?

As you already know if you have been through HireMe! , we recommend that you develop your seven work principles in alignment with your personal values. An example would be: “I prioritize my clients over my prospects.”. If your personal brand is aligned with your work principles then your clients would say about you that you always take their concerns seriously and that you get back to them in an appropriate timeframe.

If you want this behavior to show, you could ask previous clients to endorse you for this behavior in their personal references and on LinkedIn. You could also try to write a special reference or recommendation about a person in your professional network, without expecting them to endorse you back.

Please tell me how you will review your work principles this week and how you will align them to your personal brand. Then take a break and watch a movie. It’s inspiring.

Guest Blog by Reinild van der Vecht

It’s been three years since I moved to Switzerland following my husband, who got a great job here. For him going to work every day was business as usual. My challenge to make a happy life here has been quite a struggle. I was going to three changes:

  1. The career I had back in Holland needed some reviewing; it felt right to leave and start orientating on new possibilities.
  2. I was pregnant with our first child.
  3. The relocation itself: starting over in a new country.

I started on the third part: integrating in Zurich by taking intensive language courses and following the women’s integration course organized by Stadt Zürich. I enjoyed it! In the meantime I had my medical files translated and changed into the Swiss system of pregnancy controls. Via my husband’s company I became part of the International Dual Career Network (IDCN), where I started orientating on the Swiss job market. Also, I was quite busy organizing our move and the administrative tasks. These first months I had lots to do and to discover.

Then after almost 6 months, our son was born. Finding a new rhythm with the baby kept me quite busy, not to mention all our family and friends visiting us. I made new friends, new moms like myself I met at the “Mütterberatung”, at the integration course and at the “Rückbildung”.

Three months after the birth I was making plans again: I was visiting network events, getting my B2 German diploma, I planned to send out applications and I put my son on the daycare waiting list. By the time he was six months, I remember I felt like he was strong enough to be in daycare and I really needed time for myself. I wanted to be seen as Reinild again, not as ‘just’ someone’s wife or mother.

That’s when the real challenge started.

I applied for several jobs, tried to have a daily and weekly routine with my son and friends, but somehow I felt lost. Looking back, I didn’t really accept the situation I was in. I enjoyed the time with my son, but was missing my professional life. The applications I sent where too different, not very well targeted.

And to be honest, I didn’t send that many…

I decided I needed help. With a coach I researched my situation, my strengths, skill set, ideas and dreams. We brainstormed what jobs and companies would fit and I checked on additional education possibilities. Following an additional educational program at a Swiss university made the difference. My son went to daycare (he was 18 months by then) and I had time to go to school and to study. It was hard because the program was new to me (I was changing industry), everything was in (Swiss)German and making a real connection with the other students was not that easy. But I managed and eight months later I received the certificate and was eager to find a job.

This time, I really took it seriously. I started telling friends what I was looking for. I asked some of my colleague-students for lunch to discuss their careers and companies. It helped me to figure out what I wanted and which job titles and companies fit to that. In the meantime I followed a very hands-on workshop on how to apply and get hired in Switzerland. With a big portion of luck I found a job and I love it!

My lessons learned, which I hope will help you:

  • Take your time to relocate physically and emotionally.
  • Acknowledge your situation and accept it.
  • Make a plan, set achievable goals, be confident that your competencies are valuable wherever you are.
  • Broaden the way you look upon your life and career. I once read an interview with a Swiss director saying: “Es sei nicht tragisch, wenn man seinen Traum nicht leben könne; es gebe immer eine gute Alternative.”

 

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Reinild van der Vecht works as Process Manager at a Swiss cable company. In 2016 she successfully completed the CAS Logistics Strategy and Supply Chain Management at ZHAW School of Engineering. She lives with her family in Zurich, volunteers as treasurer in her local Turnverein Fluntern and is an active member of the Powerhouse Network.

When you are an intercultural coach you have certainly come across an issue with having clients from cultures where high power distance is the cultural norm. Assuming you are coming from a culture with lower power distance such as Switzerland and your client used to live in the Middle East most of her life, it could be that expectations and understanding of coaching are entirely opposite.

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Since the Swiss tend to value modesty and often understate their credentials you could be perceived as either lacking depth, experience or academic stringency. Your client might also expect you as the expert to be rather directive and with the cultural assumptions behind how to get a job in the Middle East expect you to establish the necessary connections and introductions for them. The client might expect you to serve them their new career step, international assignment or local job on a silver plate.
As we know in the current market situation in Switzerland and with the immigration restrictions imposed by the popular initiative of 2014 it has become rather difficult for foreign professionals to find a highly qualified job in Switzerland – unless they speak German in German-speaking Switzerland, French in the French-speaking part or Italian in the Italian part. Southern Europeans from Spain and Italy even struggle. So let alone a professional from the Middle East.
The clients I usually work with all have at least studied to Master level, often have a PhD and most of them have a resume with five to 10 years of relevant work experiences working in Pharma, Consulting or Banking. When their partners are hired into Switzerland by large pharmaceutical companies they are often led to believe that it will be a wonderful life in Switzerland and yes, most of it is true. We frequently seem to make false promises though when it comes to spouse employment. We mention that unemployment in Switzerland is below 4% and has been this low for years. What we often fail to mention though is that expat spouses, local hires and other skilled migrants are not accounted for in these statistics. We fail to manage spouse expectations in the hiring process of the partner and then you as the intercultural coach have to deal with it.
I would argue that my colleagues and I have become better at dealing with this frustration in our coaching sessions but our work is often a fight against windmills. What I have taken away from the last three years as an intercultural career advisor is that I do not connect my client’s success with my own success. In coaching we believe that the client has all the resources to tackle her or his goals. Our success is connected to them being successful and reaching their targets but we cannot make us dependent on the job market.

1) Set the right goals for your success

If I made my success dependent on the client reaching his or her coaching goals I would most certainly be depressed by now. I set five goals for each programs:
a) To give the client the best service in helping him or her achieve goals,
b) To help the client develop realistic expectations of how to find a job in Switzerland,
c) To help the client feel ready for the job market in Switzerland,
d) To make the client feel more settled from a cultural perspective.
e) To activate the client if they get stuck in culture shock or frustration.
With these goals, I am often happy to see that the clients leave each session with a feeling of strength and being in control of their fate.

2) Be aware of how you build trust

In coaching we believe in a trustworthy and eye-to-eye relationship. It could happen that you build trust in a different way than your client from another culture and again it could be that you underestimate the power distance. When you are pushing the client along you might face resistance. When you let the client decide when the right time is to get into action they might procrastinate for too long. I think you need to balance it out. You also need to be very clear about when you are advising and when you are coaching. Still, I often leave my clients a choice if they want to implement my advice. Often for example clients do not feel like networking. It seems too hard and too much time for them to find a job. In my experience, it has been the most effective way to find a job or consulting work here. So, when my client does not want to start with a good networking strategy I let them decide. I will come back to the topic later but I will not push too hard. This could weaken your effect in a relationship with high power distance expectation.

3) Find good rituals to begin and end the coaching cycle

Getting a good coaching agreement in the beginning and having a debriefing session with room for feedback are critical to the success of the program in my experience. In the first session, you can position yourself as an expert while focussing on the client’s needs. You can also tell the story of other clients who went through the program and how they benefitted from it.Explain how in your culture a job is found and what is considered good and bad etiquette in the job search process. In the final session you need to debrief the program and also show where expectations might have cultural roots.

4) Maintain your structure but accommodate your client’s needs

For productivity reasons I try to keep a strict weekly or biweekly meeting structure. While this sometimes is even hard for myself, I see that it helps when you work with more than ten coaching clients per week and run other projects and volunteer work on the side. Often clients not only underestimate the challenge of finding a job here but also the challenge of finding reliable childcare, cleaning staff and learning German. There are good reasons why I accommodate their needs as well. I treat my clients like I expected to be treated from service providers when I moved here. I was often disappointed as they do not seem to understand the idea of going an extra mile for the client. To speak with Will Smith “I go 90, you go 10.” Most of the time when I have started a coaching relationship with being nice, accommodating and giving more for free, I earned trust. When I am strict and business-like clients start to negotiate.

5) Start the relationship with the most respectful form of addressing the client

The hardest clients for me are Germans. That is because I am German and because in Germany we would never start a business relationship on a first name basis. Germany has changed since I left seven years ago and Social Media has accepted “Du” as a normal way of addressing each other. I still find “Du” wrong when I speak to persons of authority such as professors who are 20 years older than me. So I stick to the “Sie” for the start. With Americans it is also interesting. I had a French client who had been to the US for around 10 years and kept calling me by my last name even though I had used his first name in English. I admit I underestimated the US-style having lived in the UK and Australia were I felt it was usually ok amongst adults to use first names. It get’s more confusing when my clients are from Pakistan or India where I would call them by their last name such as Ali or Rajat assuming that it is their first name. And then hardly any country is so obsessed with calling people by their names as Switzerland where you are only true friends once you call each other by a nickname.

 

6) Invite the partner and kids along to meet and greet

Sometimes I do invite the whole family to say hello. It helps me to get a better understanding of the framework and especially in male-dominated cultures it might be helpful to meet the husband when I coach the wife. At the same time, I tell the client politely that they need to ask their partner to stay out of the coaching relationship and back off while the partner is looking for work here. The main reason is that the partner usually got a job here without looking for it. They did not have to go through the hassle of cover letters, testimonials, interviews and networking. They were made an offer based on their previous performance. So their situation is not comparable. Also, they are often in an environment that they already know. Even if they worked for a competitor earlier their job adjustment is happening faster.
These are six ways to deal with high power distance in intercultural career coaching relationships. Let me know how your experience is.
PS: If you are struggling to understand the concept of “High Power Distance” you can review the work of Geert Hofstede or review the seven intercultural dimensions by Fons Trompenaars.
...ask yourself how to make more money...
…ask yourself how to make more money…

How to Solve any Issue

Did you just have one of those days where nothing seems to work and the bread fell down with the buttered side? Or where you just want to have a “quick” cup of coffee and then you drip the coffee all over your white blouse – just before that client meeting?

Then you almost start crying and you cannot even find one good argument in the client meeting why they should work with you instead of anyone else in the market. You start to babble and you know that you have lost them. Or you sit in that interview and the HR Manager tells you “We will get back to you.” and you know it will be a rejection email again.

Neuro-scientists have found out that we have different areas in our brain. When you are driven by fear your most primal part of the brain gets activated. In the “fight” or “flight” mode you won’t be able to develop good solutions to any issue you might be facing right now. Challenges and obstacles will block your mind and you might consider yourself ready for therapy.

While you are in that “the world is unfair”-mode you will not also not be able to come across as strong and professional. Whether you are looking for a new job or whether you are trying to get a promotion at your old job you won’t come across as self-confident as you have been pushed out of your inner “middle”. (In German we say “innere Mitte” and we mean the place where you are at ease with yourself and where you accept your flaws as well as your strengths).

Best is to call it a day, go home and apply this method.

1) Distract your mind with soothing music. Turn on relaxing music on your i-pod, go for a walk or a dance class before you return to your issue at hand.

2) Ask your brain an open ended question such as “How can I serve this client better than others?” It is important that the question starts with “HOW…?”.

3) Do something completely different such as housework or go to sleep. 

4) Set a timer for 25 minutes and write down all solutions that come to your mind without stopping yourself or judging them.

Later you can structure your thoughts and devise an action plan. I have noticed though that the more ideas I write down the better. It does not mean that I have to implement all of them but I need to write down about 20 ideas before I come up with new ones. So don’t stop yourself too early. It’s also fun to do this exercise in a group.

Let me know how you develop your creative brain.