Saturday, May 17, 2008

How Long Will It Take?

One of the most frequent questions I get about career coaching is “How long will it take?” I’m tempted to respond with, “It will take however long it takes.” While true, this is not a helpful response to a sincere inquiry from a person needing information on how much longer they will have to deal with the pain or anxiety of whatever transition they are going through.

The reality is there is no way to say how long coaching will take. There are three reasons for this. First, if your issues or questions are simple and straightforward (for example, “I need to update my resume,” or “I need to practice for an upcoming interview.”), I might be able to accurately answer that it will take a session or two. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that even these direct questions can open up other areas of discussion (for example, “I keep getting stuck on the interview question, ‘What are my career goals.’”). If your questions and issues are more complex (“I’m unhappy at work and don’t know what to do about that,” or “I’m applying and interviewing for jobs I’m qualified for, but keep getting rejected.”), we may need to meet for several or more sessions and even then you may still have significant work to do.

The second reason for the indeterminate length of career coaching has to do with the discipline you bring to the process. Obvious though this might be, the impact of career coaching does not happen in our sessions, but rather results from the action steps you take when you aren’t meeting with me. It has to do with the regularity of your out of session work, the lessons you learn from that work, and your ability to apply those lessons as you move forward. The more adept and disciplined you are, the quicker the process will move.

A final and less obvious reason, but at play no matter what’s going on for you, is that most of this process is not in your control. There is also a great deal of non-rationality in the process and given the vagaries of the current job market, you can do everything right and get poor results, and conversely do everything wrong and get lucky. Many people, even seasoned professionals, get frustrated by this aspect of the process and often act out in unprofessional ways (Instead of the follow up inquiry, “I’m checking to see where you are in the hiring process,” becomes an exasperated, “Why didn’t you contact me on Friday as promised.”). Recognizing that you have limited control is a key to moving through the process both more quickly and more smoothly.

Regardless of how long it takes, the career coaching process can help you to feel more hopeful about your future, as well as teaching you strategies and techniques for achieving your goals. Feel free to contact Steve Hernandez ( or me any time with your questions and inquiries about career coaching.

Mark Guterman

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Quarterly Job Market Update

Last quarter my update was more or less status quo when compared to the previous quarter in regards to employment opportunities in the Bay Area. Most people I talk with were asking about a recession which translates to companies thinking there are more people available and people thinking few companies are hiring. At that time we did not see any effects on employment from the overall economic condition. The layoffs in the Homebuilding, Mortgage, Real Estate and Airline industries has increased the unemployment rate but has had no material effect on the candidate pool for CPA's, MBA's, IT and HR professionals.

Three months ago Alchemy had the same number of opportunities available compared to the previous six months. But the number of jobs we have available now compared to my last blog entry have come down slightly (less than 5%). We see slower growth across the board although some companies are growing quickly. The companies that are growing more quickly and have a market presence may be seeing more candidate applications now than at anytime in the previous 6 months. If you are trying to get into one of these high flyer's your are in a very competitive situation. The slower growth businesses are focused on more critical hires and may try to reduce costs and get by with what they have in an attempt to increase profits or to prepare for what might happen with the economy in the coming months. Don't be surprised if these companies are highly selective as they are not typically in a rush to make a decision. This will likely change once the capital markets become less volatile and the economy has an over all sense of stability. The need for additional human capital will be more evident and the number of qualified people will likely not change.

There are many good jobs available, if you are in the market and know you want to move now is a good time. Corporate hiring typically slows down from the beginning of July to early September. The slow down is due people not being available to interview and managers waiting until their vacations are over before bringing in new people to the team. If you wait you may find that there may be fewer options and the options you have will not come to offer stage for weeks after your initial interview.

I hope this helps, please reach me if you like to talk about your current situation.

Bryon McDougall

Sunday, May 4, 2008


A few weeks ago I listened to a program on NPR called America's Labor Challenges The program was primarily focused on the economic landscape of today’s American workplace. It talked a lot about the financial disparities between corporate senior management and the average worker. It also focused much attention on the decline in worker benefits, and the challenges today’s worker will have laying the foundation for a fruitful retirement. The program offered useful, thought provoking information, but painted a dismal future. After listening, I felt pretty discouraged.

Later on, on my way home from work, I listened to NPR again. I heard more depressing information about our economy: job loses, retail store closures, increased real estate foreclosures, rising gas prices, inflation, etc., not an uplifting way to end the day.

While I was listening to this program in the car, I thought about how many other people in the Bay Area, and the entire nation, were also hearing the same information. I then thought about how this information, combined with all stresses in both our work and personal lives, can feel so overwhelming. It was certainly weighing on me. So, I shut off the radio, and turned on my iPod instead. To me, that action represented an effort on my part, though minor, of intending to be happy.

The events I just described motivated me to write about how being happy at work, or in life for that matter takes effort. For most people, happiness in any capacity usually doesn’t come knocking on the door. We have to make efforts to attain it. When it comes to our work lives, environment, demands, and market conditions can make it especially difficult to find emotional satisfaction. This makes me think of that saying, “if work were fun, it wouldn’t be called work.” What does that mean? Perhaps we agree to this outlook, so we don’t have to accept the challenge of intending to be happy while at work.

The next time you’re having a rough day, and are feeling cynical about work and the system we live in, here are a few things to think about, that may help you feel better about your circumstances.

n You could be living in a third world country where just having a job is treasure.
n Does the work you do stimulate you, challenge you, make you feel good about yourself? If so, hold on to that. Doing the work you do, makes putting up organizational annoyances worth it.
n Is your work meaningful? You may have to put up with many ridiculous roadblocks on the way to trying to get your job done, but in the end, what you do has a positive impact on the world. That’s why you do it. Focus on that.
n Does your work enable you to make a good living, so you can afford life in the high priced Bay Area? If so, hold on to that.
n Does your work give you the flexibility to pursue meaningful activities in your personal life? If so, hold on to that.
n Are there people at work who you consider friends, who make you laugh and feel good about yourself? If so, reach out to them in your times of crisis.

The point of this list is to say that despite all the challenges and work-related misfortunes that we might encounter, there are always ways to make ourselves happy. We just need to have the intention. However, if you look at the above list, and see nothing that applies to you, it may be time for a change.

For more information about job change and career development, visit:

--Steve Hernandez