Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What is Your Specialty?

I just finished reading a book by Debbie Ford called The Secret of the Shadow. One of her key points is that every one of us has a “specialty” that is unique. This specialty, she argues, is the contribution that each of us has to offer to the world. I agree. I believe that we are born with particular gifts and talents, which are unique for each of us, and that we can choose to build those into skills and competencies, and through the process of our life’s journey make our contribution.
My experience tells me that most of us have a deep yearning to know and express our specialty and the degree to which we are able to do so, is also the degree to which we find a sense of satisfaction and meaning in our work and lives. Short of that, we will always feel like something is missing or incomplete. It is clear that many people, for many reasons, are working and living in ways that are disconnected from their specialty. This, naturally, has consequences for our work places, communities, families, and of course, for those particular individuals.
The interesting dynamic here is that we don’t have to know or fully express our specialty to be happy. But we do, at least, need to be on the journey to finding what it is and be on the look out for ways to express it. Whether this is through paid or non-paid work, through hobbies and extra-curricular activities, involvement in our communities, our lives take on a fullness when we are moving towards the knowledge and expression of our gifts and talents. And for those who have real fears and barriers about this knowing or expressing, I’d suggest that working through these is their major life work.
I see many clients and people with whom I have more casual contact, who are disconnected from their specialty. They are oblivious, unconscious, in denial, or making choices according to what they “should” be doing. I know that many, if not most of these people, are either mildly unhappy or deeply depressed, even as they appear outwardly successful. They often don’t come to terms with their issues until something major happens to them or they reach a point in their lives when they can no longer bear the pain or burden of being so disconnected from their truth. At that point, change can begin. As I advise all of my clients: Begin now.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Sunday, May 17, 2009


A few words to current graduates.

I was driving on the UC Berkeley campus today, taking my daughter and her friend to the public swimming pool. Once I got near campus, it became very apparent that it was graduation weekend. Even though the traffic was frustrating, it was a positive sight seeing all the recent graduates and their families walking around with smiles on their faces. I saw joy, relief, hope and excitement in their eyes.

My daughter, who is seven, asked me what was going on. I told her that people were graduating from college. She replied by asking, “What are they going to do now?” I responded by saying that they face a world of opportunities and a world of challenges all at the same time. And that the choices they make in the next few years, will have a profound impact on the long term quality of their lives.

I feel I have insight on this matter for two reasons. First, I graduated from college in the early nineties, when the economy was slow. Myself, and many of my peers of that time made some poor work decisions, because we felt we just needed a job, any job. And second, as a career coach, my specialty client population is mid-life, mid-career professionals, who often come to me because early on in their professional lives, they put enormous time, energy, and commitment into jobs and careers they ultimately found unfulfilling. Eventually the need to change out their predicament becomes dire.

So, here are a few words to the graduates I saw on campus today. First, don’t be too picky. It’s great to have long term goals. It’s also a good idea to pursue opportunities that stick as closely as possible to those goals.

However, we’re in a tough job market right now. Plus, we’re going into the summer months, when hiring tends to slow down anyway (it’s a good time to take that post graduation trip). Thus, if one really needs to work, then it doesn’t pay to be too rigid in your requirements. Maybe the job doesn’t need to be exactly on your chosen career path, but if it’s related, perhaps you can savor picking up skills in the short term that will help you down the road. The job also doesn’t necessarily have to pay you the optimum of what you were hoping to get. I believe, if one makes the right choices, and gets the right exposure, the money will follow. Finally, the job doesn’t have to be with the perfect company or organization. Right now, given the market conditions, if one finds an opportunity with a solid organization that is reasonably stable and provides opportunity to learn and grow, I say jump on it.

The other side of this point is not to sell yourself too short either. If one takes just any type of job, because it’s a job, or maybe because it pays well, but doesn’t offer any substantive professional development, or exposure, you may end up making a costly mistake. One could find themselves spending several years in a dead end job that offers no transferrable experience. In a situation like this, one may end having to start over a few years from now, having to take a new entry level position, or a cut in pay. Or, if one is not willing to do that, then they may fall into an alternative career path that wasn’t planned or greatly desired. This is basically the scenario I described earlier, which leads to mid-life discontent.

In general, I believe it’s always good to strike a balance. In the current environment, it’s healthy to be flexible and prepared to make some concessions, yet it’s also equally important to consider how your short term job decisions might impact your long term career plans.

--Steve Hernandez

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Q2 Job Market Update

Here it is! The job market...........NOT GOOD!

Anyone surprised? The good news is the worst is behind us, we will see better days before the end of 2009. Through the summer of 2009 we may not see any significant jump in job growth, the best case is a small increase to current activities in Q3 early Q4. Once we see a jump we anticipate that a steady increase of activity will continue through next year and hopefully beyond.

The recession started Q4 2007, approximately 18 months ago, at that time the West Coast was not effected like the East Coast. We had seen a steady decrease in jobs from Q1 2008 with a significant decrease in jobs last September. The West Coast (Bay Area) should recover before other areas of the country because we are/were better prepared for the down turn plus receive more venture money than anywhere else in the world (approximately 1/3 of all VC money) see SJ Mercury Article ( ) and (

Who will be hiring? Most companies are selectively hiring now, but once there is a clear path to growth all will open requisitions that have been on hold. Industries to target can be the ones who received the most investments in 2008:

Software $4.9 Billion
Clean Energy $4.65 Billion
Biotechnology $4.5 Billion
Medical Devices/Equipment $3.46 Billion

These 4 industry segments represent more than 61% of all investments by venture capitalist in 2008 (

Not to sound like a broken record but jobs that are technical are always the ones that are in demand. Jobs that are not core to the business or drive government/industry compliance are going to be hired later as they are not must have positions.

If you are a hiring manager and want to take advantage of the abundance of great people the time to move is now through August. Once the market turns the competition for talent will increase greatly with no warning signs. If you are a job seeker you need to work hard at networking with people you know to get in front of the right hiring manager. Effort is as important as the wording on your resume - both are keys for success in your job search.

Please contact me if you have any questions, happy hunting!

Bryon McDougall

Friday, May 1, 2009

Job Search Revisited

Last week I facilitated a workshop for a group that has just been laid off from a well known Bay Area company. May of the participants had been with this organization from 10 to 30 years, and several had been there since graduating from college. Suffice it to say, what most of them knew about work was connected to a company that will very possibly soon be out of business altogether.
As you can guess, most of the participants were overwhelmed and felt ill prepared for the impending job search. Their resumes, besides looking and feeling dated, were loaded with industry jargon and acronyms. They had almost no understanding about the transferability of their skills or how to begin articulating their accomplishments in terms of added value for a potential new employer. And, needless to say, the concept of networking was something they were dreading with a fear that was almost palpable.
Our two hours together was to help them begin tuning up and getting ready for an efficient and effective job search. Their major expressed concern was the state of the economy and it took them awhile to realize there were a number of things they needed to do regardless of how the how high the unemployment rate was. Once they began to accept the reality of their situation, they went to work on updating and upgrading their resumes. We talked about how to reframe their skills in language that others would understand and they learned how to build an accomplishment-based resume that highlighted both their skills and the results they achieved.
As they began to realize that most people get their jobs through the connections they have (or are willing to make), the power and importance of networking became apparent. They discussed about how much networking they would need to do and the consensus was: do as much as necessary to get in front of someone who has the power to hire you. For some, those already well connected, this might be several, and for others, who have few meaningful contacts, networking might need to become a near full-time effort. Many in the audience were not happy with that prospect.
The last part of the workshop focused on interviewing. Most of the participants couldn’t recall the last formal interview they’d had and when I asked if they’d ever heard of a “behavioral” interview, you could almost feel the panic in the crowd. After calming them down and assuring them that a good interview, regardless of style, consists of telling your story in a clear and compelling manner while emphasizing what you can and will do, you will more often than not, conduct a strong interview. With that as our final topic, they went on their way, better equipped to conduct an effective job search.
Best wishes.

Mark Guterman