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John Jeffrey Lundell
Success Doesn't Just Happen ©
Success Doesn't Just Happen ©


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3 Reasons Why “Sell Yourself” Can Be Lousy Advice for the Background-challenged job seeker

We’ve all heard it, used it, or tried it in some fashion, “get out there and sell yourself!” And it has its place, like any other tool in the tactical job search toolbox. Yet all too frequently, sell yourself turns into a sort of “pump-um-up & push-um-out the door” mantra.
This is not to say that encouraging someone to present or promote themselves is a bad thing, certainly not. Clearly there are lots of well-intentioned helpers out there trying to make a difference in the lives of many struggling with low self-esteem and limiting life experiences.
Nonetheless, relying too heavily on clichés like “sell yourself” can not only be counterproductive, but flat out lousy advice. Here are 3 reasons why:
It Leads to Reactivity
You wouldn’t think so, after all, self-promotion in this way seems like the poster-boy of proactive behavior. But soon enough the self-promoter will find out that real success is about something beyond “them” and that strategies built on the illusion of selling themselves, isn’t enough. Then what? They’ll be ill-equipped to deliver what the employer really wants and needs, which will feed right into old habits of reactive behavior.
It’s Not About Them
In fact, no one is really interested in “them” or the time they think they’re selling. The REAL rules of the Marketplace dictate it’s about other things. Success for all parties comes from the ability to get along with other people and NOT about each of us as individuals. Furthermore, seasoned managers don’t need an advanced degree in psychology to know there’s a correlation between significant background problems and unaddressed/unresolved personal issues that can impact THEIR workplace environment.
It’s About Service
It (re-entry success) is about what someone can do. The service they are capable of providing. This must come FIRST. Other things, including strategic self-promotion, will come later. Being proactive, having and implementing a plan, and knowing that it isn’t about “them” pave the road to success. And yes I know, there’s a pressing need to get a foot-in-the-door. But there are more effective ways to do this by demonstrating an understanding for what really counts, service.
There is in truth one sale that does have to be made. And it turns out that it does involve selling yourself. This sale is the one made by the challenged seeker internally. They, like all of us, must buy into themselves. Call it confidence, conviction, nerve, or guts. Both the helper and helpee will benefit from more emphasis on this internal sale than the external quick fix variety.
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5 Ways to Make a Lasting First Impression - when you have a background problem

Before discussing the 5 Ways, let’s delve into the why - you - someone with a background snag, must make not just a lasting first impression, but a great one. Simply put, you must because the one made by the paper or digital you, is probably counterproductive.
“Wait a minute,” you might think if you’re an ex-offender, “what about Ban the Box? I know making a good impression is important, but they won’t be asking me about my record on the initial application, so there’s no paper or digital 'me' to automatically dislike, right?”
Not quite.
Anything about you that’s somehow perceived as “off,” incongruent, or not completely likable, will be magnified when your background problem is discovered later in the hiring process. This will practically guarantee you won’t be the first choice.
Regardless of whether or not you are pursuing a position covered by Ban the Box, keep these 5 important considerations in mind.
Make sure there’s alignment between you, your Job Search Objective, and the position you hope to get. This means that you and what you are out to accomplish, must line up in a practical and common sense manner.
Be prepared to appeal to those tasked with vetting you for the available position. Avoid blowing past this, especially if you’ve been off the market for a while. They must see you as “a fit” for you to succeed.
Don’t over-do it or under-do it. Be polite, professional, and authentic every time you interact.
You must be the same and act the same, each and every time. No off days or “winging it.” None. Always the same; in dress, demeanor, and detail.
Being appropriately persistent produces its own reward. However, persistence also shows your interest and desire. Job search is just like writing fiction, don’t tell me, show me!
One more thing; think of each face-to-face first impression as setting the stage and tone for each relationship developed as you re-enter the workforce. And make no mistake, your success may ultimately depend on the first impressions you make. Never allow these crucial interactions to “just happen.” It’s your show and the whole thing should be proactively orchestrated, just like a theatrical event.
Stay tuned.
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Don't Be A Re-Entry Wolf In A Rising Tide

The economy is improving and so is the job market. Fed Chair Janet Yellen thinks so, setting the stage for an interest rate hike sometime soon.

In the meantime, criminal justice reform has gained momentum. If desire meets action, the result could be a substantial increase in the number of ex-offenders hitting the job market over the next couple years.

Combine an improving economy with this type of reform and one of John F. Kennedy’s favorite expressions jumps right into your lap, “a rising tide raises all boats.”

Awesome, right?

It depends.

If the goal is racking up placement numbers, well game on. But if truly successful workforce re-entry is the objective, consider the rising tide scenario in terms of “more options” for the job seeker.

Silly me. Why should it be any different this time around, especially given our all-consuming, everything digital culture. Fact is, front end placement numbers are way easier to accumulate and measure than all that messy longitudinal study data.

But enough preaching to the choir. Think of things from the perspective of challenged seekers hitting an improved job market. Those that know what they want will incorporate available options in stride. Those significantly compromised will flounder, as they always do, unless they get the right assistance.

That leaves the many in the middle. Here’s where a rising tide and truly successful re-entry, may not mix.

Lots of folks in this group will have no plan and no Job Search Objective. They will grab. And heaven forbid they should receive “encouragement” from a re-entry worker lured by an easy placement. The job won’t last, won’t be liked, and won’t be leveraged into something better. Always? Every single time? Of course not, but the choir knows exactly the song I’m singing.
If you indeed want to help, then dig in. Triage your population and get real about who needs what. Get out of the way of those that can help themselves and appropriately refer those that can’t. And see yourself as a shepherd (really) to the majority in the middle. They will need help planning and targeting their efforts. They will require WORK.

Keep in mind though, assisting this middle group is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where stuff can really happen. So be strong and avoid the temptation to become not the shepherd but the wolf, picking off the low hanging fruit of an easy placement created by a rising tide.

Stay tuned.

John Jeffrey Lundell is a Career Strategist, Relationship Trainer, author, and speaker. He lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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5 Reasons NOT to blindly charge after "Companies That Hire Felons"

All of us assisting background-challenged job seekers must decide where we stand on the subject of: “companies that hire felons.” Not infrequently it comes at us from a challenged seeker looking for a silver bullet.
“Hey, you got a list of ‘companies that hire felons?’ Give it to me so I can start shooting off resumes.”
Or something along these lines.
There are organizations that generally fit into this category but it’s hardly so cut-n-dried. I’ll tackle this in another post. In the meantime, here’s my response.
“No, I don’t walk around with a list in my back pocket and here are five reasons why I think charging down this road needs a bit more consideration.”
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Cycles of poverty, incarceration, drug use, abuse...

I hate these kinds of cycles. But fact is, they exist and persist. And one of the reasons they do - and some of you aren't going to like this - is because there are entire "industries" built around them. Let's call them "cycle ancillaries" employing hundreds of thousands of fixers and helpers of all sorts, tasked with doing something about ending this or that cycle. Read more...
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Criminal Justice Reform Needs Simple Triage Approach

If I had a symbol for re-entry triage, I'd use it. But I don't, so the medical symbol (what most people think of when they hear the word "triage") will have to do. It refers to assigning degrees of urgency to wounds or illnesses to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients or casualties.

Now think of this concept in a social vs medical context. More specifically, as a way of determining what services people need as they leave one situation and enter another - for example, leaving prison/re-entering society or coming off the street/entering a homeless program.

But of course, there's no assurance that any triage procedure will take place when it comes to leaving prison or coming off the street. Furthermore, there may be antiquated or partial systems in place, that continue to be used month in and month out, regardless of effectiveness.

Here's a simple three step triage procedure I have used and instituted. It places people in one of three categories:

Those that can help themselves

Determine what support they'll need, do your best to get it to them, then GET OUT OF THEIR WAY so they can do it. 

Those that cannot help themselves

Don't ignore the obvious, don't pretend your program can do things it can't, don't dump on another program. If someone is physically, mentally, or chemically compromised and NOT able to function independently, then find the resources needed and refer them. NOTE: I get it, this is hard because the resources aren't there, the referral process doesn't work, etc.  I know. But don't make the problem worse by ignoring, pretending, or passing them on.  Find a way.

Those in-between

Programs exist around this group. It's the largest, typically comprised of 50-70% of any total triage population. These people don't easily fit into either of the others, consequently, knowing what they need takes time and work. Plan for it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

This simple triage approach has two objectives. First to determine what each individual needs and second to get everyone moving forward as quickly as possible - especially those capable of helping  themselves with a minimal amount of program involvement. 

But moving forward to what? The goal should always be independence and self sufficiency. And of course, not everyone will get there or be capable of getting there. However this goal must not be assumed. Fact is, there's no societal commitment to success in the US, even at the margins of basic self sufficiency. There are just too many competing agendas, philosophies, and points of view; silo programs that don't play well with others; funding requirements, restrictions, and  mandates; and entire industries with vested interests in the status quo or worse.

"Help" should always mean helping people to help themselves whenever possible. A simple triage system can do just that AND provide a model where resources are apportioned based on actual client needs and NOT program desires.

Stay Tuned.

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