Thursday, August 16, 2012

Finding a Mentor/Sponsor

Recently the discussion in our job group has turned toward maintaining and advancing one's career. We have some very experienced and high-powered managers and professionals in our group, and all agree on certain principles for succeeding on the job and advancing your career.

First, the obvious: You have to do good work. But how do you know what good work looks like to your new boss on a new job? Easy. Ask. When asked during your interview if you have any questions, one of your questions should be, "What are your expectations for the first few months on the job? What do you see as the highest priorities, and what would a successful new employee look like to you?" Note down the boss's answer, and do exactly that when you get hired.

Second: Look at your boss as a sponsor and mentor, and also look around the organization to find someone at a higher level who can sponsor you and guide your advancement within the organization. The fact is, few people advance within any organization without making friends with people above them. Even better, a particular sponsor or mentor already knows the ropes of the organization at a higher level and can guide you in becoming successful at that higher level.

Note that I am not talking about brown-nosing, although some people would call it that. I'm talking about simply making friends and being a friend to those above you. If you are bright and capable, you will be noticed, and your career will advance. It will advance more rapidly if you find a sponsor, someone above you who is already successful, to be your guide. Look for somebody with whom you have a natural affinity, someone with a personality and interests similar to yours with whom you will feel comfortable developing a friendship.

Also be aware of company politics as you pursue friendships at higher levels. Your boss may feel threatened if you make friends above him or her, so it's important to include your boss in your circle of friends and mentors--do NOT bypass him or her, as that will certainly lead to trouble. In general, you need to make friends with everybody you work with and avoid alienating anyone, especially difficult people. You will always have your critics, since that's just a part of life, but you can minimize criticism and political difficulties by being kind and friendly to everyone.

Chuck Petch (

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Finding Employers That Fit You

Personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs, Strong, and Holland are mainstays of the career counseling profession. By taking a personality test, you can narrow the list of professions whose duties and demands are a good fit for your personality. Many job seekers don’t realize that you can also apply the principles of personality analysis to employers to find those whose operating styles fit you best.

The personality theory and test developed by Dr. John Holland is especially useful for career self-guidance because of its simplicity and direct applicability to the job market. Holland’s test asks questions about jobs and duties that interest you and then groups your answers into six personality categories and associated professions:

  • Realistic - hands-on physical professions: trades, machine operator, engineer, police
  • Investigative - scientific, intellectual professions: lab technician, scientist, analyst
  • Artistic - creative professions: artist, musician, graphic designer, creative writer
  • Social - helping, interpersonal professions: social worker, counselor, nurse, teacher
  • Enterprising - sales professions: salesperson, entrepreneur, marketing manager
  • Conventional - rules, records, and numbers professions: accountant, clerk, banker

The category in which you score highest (and possibly the next one or two highest categories) defines the dominant aspect(s) of your personality. You can see in the hexagonal chart that some personalities and professions are opposites, and others are “neighbors.” For example, Artists usually crave freedom, openness, and self-expression, while Conventionals prefer rules, order, and structure. These professions are opposites. However, Social personalities are “neighbors” to Artistic personalities, so the two are compatible.

How do you know what a business's "personality" is? You can't give everybody in the place a personality test, so the next best way is to assume the personality of the business most likely matches the Holland Code for the predominant profession in that business. An accounting business probably has a Conventional personality type, a graphic design business probably has an Artistic personality, and so on. There will undoubtedly be many exceptions, but it's a safe bet the business will approximately match the code for the profession that predominates there. You can also gauge for yourself if you interview there. 

By looking at the predominant personality of a business, you can get some idea about whether it will suit you. Are you an Artistic personality considering working for an accounting firm? Then you are likely to feel ill at ease in their exacting, rule-driven Conventional environment. Are you a Conventional personality working in a police department? Their Realistic style will probably feel OK to you. Are you an Enterprising personality working for a PR firm or a marketing department? You’ve likely found your perfect match in their Enterprising environment. The more similar your personality is to the “personality” of the employer, the better you will fit with them.

For more detailed information about Holland’s personality theory, visit  
For a free test to find out your Holland Code, go to; the results point you to professions that may fit your personality. Click on the profession for an in-depth job description.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Overcoming Cruelty in the World of Work

There are so many ways in which work in America cuts us no slack, from uncaring and sometimes downright cruel employers, to ambitious cutthroat coworkers, to a very inadequate social safety net when we are unemployed or unable to work. Americans have always prided ourselves on our hard-driving work ethic and strong desire for individual achievement. The flip side of that coin is a kind of cruelty and uncaring intolerance for people who are not built for such a system or who have burned out trying survive in it while facing overwhelming obstacles. In America, sometimes it feels like we kick people when they are down instead of helping them get back up.

To be honest, I was never built for this kind of culture and have spent a lifetime looking for scant comfort to help me live in a society that feels foreign to my nature. Oh, I have professional talents and have done OK in my career, but I believe I could have done much better and contributed much more in more supportive environments than the ones I've found in American private industry. Competition and clawing to get ahead never came naturally to me. I don't think I'm unique. I suspect nearly all of us have faced jobs that we have found meaningless and alienating, or where we have screwed up, or even worse, where we have been abused by unscrupulous coworkers or vicious bosses.

Unemployment can be a time of healing from those experiences. It's a time when we can take a breather, look back at what has happened, and look for a new and different path forward. It's also a time when we can find new sources of comfort and healing, whether it's through counseling or deeper faith practices, a closer connection with friends and loved ones, opportunities to get away into nature, or pursuing education to strengthen personal or professional abilities. Whatever your situation has been, it's good to take the time while unemployed to introspect, to look back at where you have suffered at work, justly or unjustly, and then make a plan to find a better, happier, more positive you.

So here's a big question: Where have you suffered in your career, and what are you doing during this time to make it better for yourself in your next job and in your life? What are you doing to be kind to yourself?

Chuck Petch (

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Beer Connection

Having a beer with a friend got me a job! Recently I contacted an old friend to get back in touch. We met in a local pub and had a couple of beers and an excellent, wide-ranging conversation to catch up. When I mentioned that my contract writing business has been very thin lately, he looked positively cheerful. You see, my friend is a writer too, and he was looking at a large bubble in his workload coming up just a few weeks from now. He was very worried about how he would handle it. Now he had the answer to his worry sitting on the barstool right next to him. We do the same kind of writing, and I am familiar with the technology he writes about, so it will be very easy for him to hand off a big chunk of the job to me for as long as the work bubble lasts. Both of our problems were solved.

The wonder of this "chance" meeting is twofold. First, it points out the value of networking, and that networking is not just something you do by going to dull chamber of commerce meetings or uncomfortable mixers. Just meeting an old friend for lunch or drinks can become a networking experience that leads to your next job. The other wonder is the synchronicity of our meeting. For those of us who believe in God, this was a God-orchestrated meeting for both of our benefit. Even those who are without faith will agree that such a meeting is a very fortunate "coincidence." The universe smiled on both of us while we were drinking beer.

Tell us the story if you have had coincidences like this in your job search. Just hit the "No Comments" button below this post and a window will open, allowing you to add your story as a comment.
Chuck Petch (

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What do you miss?

I realized something today while at the Yuba; aside from the cash flow being absent, I miss the routine of work.

What do you miss?

Laura Papke

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Don't You Give Up !

Persistance. Just a word at a glance, however, once put into action can result in reaching a goal. Case in point, I applied for a position the early part of April, 2012. At first, all looked good; initial interview followed by an observation days later. Then nothing.

This position held significance for me as it meant helping at risk youth to discover positive alternatives to life. A week went by and still nothing.

At this point I began to call diligently every week, on the same day. The gal in human resources soon new me on a first name basis, yet no second interview, nothing.

 Last week I made my weekly call, with the typical response of "we'll keep you on the available and interested list". Upon hanging up the phone and 3 digits into my next follow-up call, the phone rang. It was my good friend from human resources! She emphatically said to me, "Laura, we need to get you up here for a second interview". The rest is history. Upon clearance of pre-employment red tape, I will soon have my start date. Did I mention it was June 24th when I got the news!

Moral of this story.... DON'T GIVE UP! Too many of us get discouraged, followed by depression, in turn leads us to darkness. You matter, you count, you're loved and you're worthy! Keep you're faith, and the rest will follow.

Laura Papke

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Handling Depression

One of the biggest killers of a job search is depression. Depression is very common after a job loss and also if the job search continues longer than we think it should. First, we grieve the loss of a job, and second we fear what will happen if we don't find another job. We may also feel ashamed and unproductive while we are out of work. All of these feelings can contribute to depression.

The problem with depression, besides the fact that it doesn't feel good is that it's very difficult to get anybody to offer you a job if you are depressed. After all, who wants to hire somebody who's a downer? The fact is, you must get your depression under control if you want to find a job. It's that simple.

Let me say up front that I'm not a therapist and am not giving mental health advice, but I've lived a long time and have learned some common sense methods for maintaining a positive attitude. I think those common sense ideas are worth sharing.

So what can you do about depression? The most important thing to do is not to ignore it. If you ignore it, the depression will continue unabated. Instead, you have to recognize it, acknowledge it, and take action to manage it.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I made one of the worst decisions of my life while depressed. I left a great job I'd held for 16 years because I was depressed by a layoff and did not recognize or deal with the depression. If I'd had any sense at the time, I would have found a good counselor and talked through the grief and depression I felt over the layoff of my coworkers. This is the best medicine for depression--get treated by a professional.

It's also important not to over-indulge depression. Acknowledge it, yes, treat it, yes, but after a reasonable time of working on it, a month or two, perhaps, simply put your foot down and determine that you will do everything you can to maintain a cheerful attitude towards life no matter what the situation. Even when you don't feel well, "fake it until you make it." That is, put on a cheerful face and attitude, and often your internal emotions will follow. By the way, don't leave therapy while you do this; keep working on your grief, fear, and depression with your therapist, but make the decision that these emotions will not control your life.

Here are some things you can do to lift your attitude:
  • Start each day giving thanks and counting your blessings for what you DO have.
  • Pray, read uplifting spiritual writing, and meditate on God or positive ideas every morning.
  • Sing cheerful or spiritual songs. Cheerful music can't help but lift your mood.
  • Smile at everybody and even sometimes when alone. It feels good to smile, even if it's forced.
  • Watch comedies and read stories that make you laugh. Laughter really is the best medicine.
  • Make a special effort to be kind and helpful. When you help others, it takes your mind off yourself.
  • Trust God or the universe or whatever you call it. Things do have a way of working out over time.
  • Keep moving forward in life and your job search. Positive action makes you feel less like a victim.
In closing, I want to emphasize something I said in an earlier post: You do not have to let your emotions control your life. Recognize them, understand where they're coming from, and deal with them constructively by taking the positive actions listed above, but don't let them control you. YOU decide how you will behave from moment to moment. If you put on a positive attitude--even when you don't feel like it--your emotions and your life will follow, and things will go better for you. Your positive attitude just might even land you a job!
Chuck Petch (