Job Hunting and Skiing the Trees

When I started teaching white water kayaking I was usually given 10 students and an assistant and off we would go on our merry way to find some mellow moving water. As the students gained confidence and skills we progressed to minor rapids. On reaching the top of a rapid we would park our boats and walk down the bank looking at what was to come. My spiel went something like, “ok guys, you are doing really well and this is suitably challenging for you – you are going to have a blast. Now, what I want you to think about is avoiding the obstacles. See that tree over there, stay away from it. That hydraulic is evil and what ever you do keep your boat away from the pour over, it could kill you.” Then we would get back into our boats, I would demonstrate the line and wait in a position of maximum usefulness at the bottom.  They were sent down one by one and inevitably there was carnage.

It took me a long time to figure out why I was massacring my students. They appeared ready, they had plenty of confidence and enough skills and there they were swimming while I was picking up the pieces. I cannot remember what the catalyst to change was; I think I need to thank an old canoe instructor called Ray Goodwin, the remedy was simple though. Just by reconfiguring the talk along the bank to, “ok guys, you are ready and this is going to be a blast. What I want you to do is to look for your line. First of all, do you see that brown tongue of water there, well put your boat on it. Then head for that flume in the middle and finally follow that v down between the rocks. It will be great.”

What a different result. Smiling kids, dry, upright and full of pride. Perhaps you have a similar story, skiing the trees is my favorite. I start by recognizing I am in a forest, then I look for white and link it together. I have enough evidence to recognize what happens when I look at the trees. Being in the forest is a buzz, now that I know I can safely navigate my way through them I love it. Life is so much more fun and exhilarating. Then there is the added bonus that the snow is often better.

I am going to finish with the words of one of my heros, Yvon Chouinard, climber, blacksmith and founder of Patagonia. “I love recessions for business reasons. Number 1, a recession kills the competition. Number 2, your customers stop being silly and stop buying fashion stuff. They buy things they need and things that will last a long time. They don’t mind paying more as long as it is high-quality. What they do is what we should all be doing, which is consuming less and consuming better.”

It is pretty obvious with the current economy we are in a job hunting forest. What do the patches of snow look like for you, how are you going to link them and what is the high quality you are selling to potential employers?

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Escaping the “But” Cycle

On Wednesday mornings I go to Coach Joan‘s Career Café; it is a supportive place where I gain insights into my own behaviors and how they are either aiding or slowing my job search. Like many who work with people I am far more adept at helping other folk to create change in their life than I am at taking a good hard look at myself so I appreciate this opportunity to reflect on my stuff in a “safe place”.

Today though I had an opportunity to pass on a little insight in a digestible way – that is after all what I do. I was listening to the conversations around the table and there was a general air of defensiveness. How do I qualify this? In one word, “but”.

As a job seeker I am guilty as charged. That little, three letter word sneaks into my conversation and literally smacks people around the head saying, “run away, unless you want an unhealthy dose of negativity.” I do not know of many other words that are quite as destructive and certainly if you are in an interview situation it is wise to think about it’s impact.

What I asked the group to do is an old improv game and I encourage you to find a few friends and do the same.

Have someone start with a short statement, ours was “Oprah is the best talk show host”. Now, in round robin order people follow on from the previous statement starting with the words “yes… but”. It is important to keep this quick fire. After a few minutes adapt the game with each person now starting with “yes… and”.

Do you notice that the energy levels go up in the group when the word “but” is replaced by “and”? Why is this? Does it happen in other situations? Why does it happen and how can we use this information in our daily dealings with people?

If you need more convincing go into an elementary school yard and watch the younger children play.

“I am going to be a spaceman.” “Yes and I am going to be a scuba diver.” Look how the kids interact with each other and the energy they create.

Everyone left the café laughing today and they left thinking and they will change their behavior and they will benefit from it.

Games rule, “buts” stink.

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