Find Your Dream Job, Episode 169:
Treat Your Career Like a Business, with Bev Jones
Airdate: December 12, 2018
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.
I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the publisher of Mac’s List. It’s an online community that connects talented professionals with meaningful work.
I believe everyone can find a job they love. But to do that, you need to learn the skills to build a successful career. From professional networking to personal branding, you’ve got to get good at job hunting.
This show helps you do this. Every week on Find Your Dream Job, I interview a different career expert. We discuss the tools and tactics you need to find the work you want.
This week, I’m talking to Beverly Jones about how to treat your career like a business.
Bev Jones is an expert in helping professionals enhance performance, address career challenges, and continue to grow.
In our conversation today, Bev tells me there’s no longer a well-trodden path for any career and a job you thought might last forever may disappear soon.
Bev says opportunity still exists, however. But it requires you to take charge of your career.
That means you need to stay up to date with technology, learn new ideas, and meet people. Good things happen to those who take these steps, says Bev, in our interview.
In her career coaching work, Bev has found that one skill is always useful no matter what your job. She shares her secret weapon later in the show.
Want to learn more? Listen in now at the Mac’s List studio as I interview Bev Jones about why you need to treat your career like a business.
Bev Jones is the author of “Think Like an Entrepreneur, Act Like a CEO: 50 Indispensable Tips to Help You Stay Afloat, Bounce Back, and Get Ahead at Work.” She also hosts the NPR.org podcast, Jazzed About Work.
Bev helps professionals enhance performance, address career challenges, and continue to grow. She regularly writes and speaks about leadership, communication, and strategy.
She joins us today from Washington, DC.
Bev, thanks for being on the show.
It’s a delight. I know you have a very popular show so I’m so pleased to have a chance to talk with you again.
Well, you’re kind to say that. Our topic this week is one I know our listeners have a lot of interest in. It’s why you need to treat your career like a business. Now, Bev, what do you mean by that?
Well, I think it’s perhaps a departure from how careers used to be treated in the past. It used to be that almost everybody felt that, in their line of work, there would be some kind of ladder. They could work their way up and do one thing and then there would be a next logical step.
That day is gone. It doesn’t matter if you’re working for the government or a big organization. Wherever you are, it’s up to you to provide the energy and the opportunities that are going to keep you moving.
There are going to be surprising developments. That’s just how careers are today, just as there are in a business.
You need to treat your career like a business but how do you do that, Bev? What advice do you give to the clients that you work with?
Well, part of it is taking responsibility and not depending on somebody else. Even if you have a mentoring boss and a supportive organization. Just like the owner of the small business, every day it’s up to you to go out and listen to your customers and listen to the people you’re trying to impress.
These could be the people you’re having a job interview with. These could be people who will call you now. It’s very much like having customers who have needs and it’s your job to listen to them, spot the opportunities, and make the pitch.
You take responsibility for seeing where the needs are and, if you have to, invent something new. Learn something new. Find a way to keep responding to the needs that are around you.
That sounds like a full-time job in itself. Are there strategies that you see people do? Do you have examples of clients you’ve worked with who’ve done that exceptionally well?
Yeah, I think when you’re talking about something like this, you’re really talking about an attitude shift and a habit shift. The shift you want to make is to pause and notice, pause and listen. I’ve had people learn how to do that by just taking a few minutes every day. Maybe they’re in the Starbucks line, so they’re kind of stuck there.
They just pause and chat with someone next to them and try to listen and try to look for something about this person so that they can connect. Maybe they work on connecting with their barista.
The idea is to get out of your own head and your own anxiety and your own to do list, and develop the habit of pausing and engaging in what’s going on around you. Then, trying to come up with a way to interact in that situation. You can practice that in little tiny pieces. I’ve had lots of clients who’ve shifted their perception.
Another way to do it is, wherever you are, learn something new. When you’re in a learning mode, it changes how you approach the world. Say you’re going for a job interview and you’ve been learning a new technology, or you’ve been learning a new part of your industry, instead of sounding tired or anxious or whatever we might normally sound like in an interview, you’ve got something extra going for you.
You’ve got something to be excited about and you’ve got something where you’re noticing things that are fresh. Learning something new and also pausing and looking for opportunities to engage, whether it’s just being more engaged in the regular boring meetings you go to.
That can create the shift and all of a sudden you’ll spot things you wouldn’t have noticed before.
Tell us more about the benefits of this mindset shift and acquiring this habit of learning new things. What do you see with the clients you work with happen when people start doing those things?
You mentioned finding new opportunities; tell us more about that.
I’d be happy to. Really, it varies greatly because, you know, I have quite a varied client base.
Let’s say somebody is disengaged in their field; they aren’t enjoying their work, they’re thinking about leaving but they can’t get it together to have a job shift. That’s sometimes the situation that people are in when they turn to coaching.
What I often do, even if they’re really thinking about a shift, is I look for ways to get them energized about where they are now, because that’s going to carry over to their job search. What I’ll do is ask them to notice something like, “Who seems to be the most engaged and having the most fun at your office? Notice them and come back and report to me how it is that they interact in a meeting.”
It just depends on the situation but I will ask them to notice something, notice something that’s working. It may be, notice what are the biggest trends you learned in this conference? Or it might be, who’s the most successful person that you know in this kind of field?
If you could get people to notice, then that noticing – noticing a trend, noticing how the industry is shifting, noticing what other people need – once you start looking for openings for activity or action, those are opportunities that you can find a way to address.
The energy, if you’re practicing that in your day job, that energy of noticing and responding, that habit of being aware and looking to engage, that habit is going to carry over to your job search. It really is amazing how often, what happens is, clients all of a sudden are having more fun at work and a new opportunity opened up because someone asked for a volunteer and they said yes.
Just because that was part of something they were noticing. They make that shift and all of a sudden, headhunters call or they look at Linkedin and see a job opening that they wouldn’t have looked at before but because they’re trying to be more noticing, they think, “I have got to try for that.”
All of a sudden the person has opportunities for a shift and also opportunities to reinvent themselves where they are. It tends to happen in a holistic way if you changed your attitude and changed your energy levels by noticing more and looking for opportunities to engage more.
I know you work not only with executives on career coaching but also with business owners as well. Are there other habits that you with see people who are running their own businesses that can be helpful to job seekers or people who want to improve their careers?
Absolutely. One of the problems that small businesses have, and I can identify with this, there are parts of your work, if you’re in a small business, that you don’t like much. I really don’t like billing, I don’t like the accounting and financial parts, and those kinds of things.
We have to learn how to motivate ourselves to keep moving on the things that you don’t want to do. One of the ways I work with people is, first, I have them schedule it on their calendars in small blocks and to keep up a pace of small things of these things that they might be putting off.
What happens if you take a tackle in a little way something you don’t want to do? You’ve accomplished it. That burst of energy you get from accomplishing it makes you a little more motivated to do that next time.
Managing your motivation and managing the pace at which you do the least interesting or least exciting things is a really important thing for small businesses and it’s the same in any job I think. Learning that you can motivate yourself by breaking things into little successful steps.
That keeps you moving in the right direction when there might be times that you’d otherwise get bogged down.
You mentioned the value of learning new things and then changing your mindset, particularly to engage people, sometimes in the most routine settings, like standing in the line at Starbucks. What are your other tips that you have for people thinking about their career, Bev? For meeting new people, what’s your advice there?
Well, first of all, I know from listening to you, Mac, that you are a proponent of networking, networking, networking, and I totally agree with you. If people have trouble getting started, what I find sometimes is, it’s helpful for them to visualize their current network and their potential network.
See how much opportunity there is with people that they’re loosely connected with. The way I think about it is that your network is like a series of concentric circles spreading out around you. As you get further out at the circle, the connections are going to become less but those can be the vital ones.
I think my husband and I and a few people are in the center circle. Then the next circle is friends we know pretty well. Then further out, maybe business colleagues. As you get to the later circles, there are people you’re connected with and you might not even know it yet.
They’re the people you went to school with, maybe they’re just alumni from the same colleges you went to, or they’re people that live near you, or they’re people who work in the same field and belong to the same organizations.
Any time there’s a loose connection like this, that gives you a starting point for building a relationship. Whether it’s through LinkedIn, like a lot of people are doing now as I’ve already mentioned, or whether it is being more comfortable at an industry cocktail party because you have an open line.
If you look at the expanse of these circles spreading out, even if you have a fairly small circle from day to day, you’ll find that there are a number of people that you’re connected with. Almost everybody responds if there’s some kind of connection.
I do that with Ohio University. I’ve been active as a alum there. I look on there and I see somebody’s bio and I see they went to Ohio University and I want to reach out to them. Maybe it’s for my podcast or maybe it’s I want to help somebody make a connection. Maybe I’ll look for someone who was in the same college.
Whatever it is, I use the Ohio University calling card and I very seldom am turned down. I always respond to people who do that with me.
I love the mental map image that you’ve painted there, Bev, about networks, and with you and your husband at the center of it and your points about tapping into all the different communities that you’re part of. I want to talk more about that after the break.
I know you’ve also got one skill that you strongly encourage people to develop that can make or break a career. I want to talk more about that as well.
We’re going to take a break and we’ll be back in a moment with Bev Jones. We’re talking about why you need to treat your career like a business.
I love making this podcast for Mac’s List. It’s one of the high points of my week. And I appreciate you joining me here on the show every Wednesday.
If you’re like many of our listeners, you probably set aside time every day for listening to podcasts. And while we only publish Find Your Dream Job on Wednesdays, you don’t need to wait until next week for more career advice.
There are dozens of great podcasts out there about work and job hunting. But finding them can be hard.
Apple Podcasts has more than 500,000 shows in the United States and only a fraction of these programs appear on the Apple Podcast charts. Unless you already know about a program, you might never find it.
I’ve got a resource that can help. It’s the 2018 edition of our Top Career Podcasts Guide. You’ll find 78 great career advice shows from around the world.
I’ve listened to every one of these programs and I recommend them highly. Each offers valuable advice about work, job hunting, and carers.
Get your free copy of Top Career Podcasts Guide today. Go to www.topcareerpodcasts.com.
Many of the hosts of these career shows have been guests on this program. Discover yourself why I invited them to share their job hunting advice with you. Go to www.topcareerpodcasts.com.
And now, let’s get back to this podcast.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio and I’m talking with Bev Jones. She’s the author of the “Think Like an Entrepreneur, Act Like a CEO.” She also hosts the NPR.org podcast, Jazzed About Work. She’s joining us today from Washington, DC.
Now, Bev, before the break we were talking about relationships and networking. I want to talk a little more about the how there. As you point out, we’re all at the center of these great networks of people. Often, we don’t know how to leverage and serve our networks as well as we might.
Can you give us some of your best tips about how to tap into those relationships but also how to be of service to others?
Well, one tip that I think allows you to do both of those things is working on your listening skills. I mentioned that earlier in another context but listening is really, I think it’s a great leadership superpower that sometimes we’re tempted to take for granted. Sometimes we even teach ourselves to not listen.
When I was in law school we were encouraged to, in classes, to be thinking about what we were going to say next. The tendency was we got better at ignoring what the student next to us was saying and getting ready for our comment when the professor called on us. I think my whole first year at Georgetown Law School, what I really did was shift my listening to off and learn how to practice what I was going to say next.
That is absolutely wrong in most of life. If you’re leading people, if you’re getting interviewed, if you’re at a cocktail party, if you can calm down that inner voice that’s thinking about what you want to say or wandering around wondering what’s for dinner and instead refocus on what the other person is saying and actually listen.
It’s almost like meditation where you notice your mind is wandering and you take it back. If you can do that, then that gives you a tool that you can take anywhere to any kind of event. When you call somebody up, you’re looking for a connection because you want to find out about a job, the tendency is to think, “Oh, I’ve got to make a case. I’ve got to make a case. I’ve got to sell my self. I’ve got to do this and do that”
When the strategy that often seems to work is to say, “Is it okay if I ask you questions for just a couple of minutes about your field?” And if you listen attentively and your comments show that you’re listening, you might find a person wanting to talk longer. Because we need to be listened to and if you think about it, sometimes we go for days without anyone seriously listening to us.
If you’re the one that can deliver that, that real attention, you have a leg up in any kind of social encounter.
It does require a change of mindset. In my thirties, I went to graduate school at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. We used the case study method. Everyone focused on getting what we called “airtime”, getting the attention of the professor and trying to speak as much as possible during those classes.
You can imagine, and I’m sure you had this experience in your law school as well, you get all these competitive people together in one room scrambling for “airtime.” It was hard sometimes to get a word in edgewise.
To your point, people weren’t good listeners and it is, I have found, a valuable skill as well.
It’s a valuable leadership skill also, Mac. I think that when you are in an interview and you aren’t responsive, you aren’t asking questions, you aren’t focusing on the person who’s speaking, they may question what kind of leader you’re going to be.
There are all kinds of research now about what makes a great team and what makes a great team leader. Team leaders that are really strong tend to listen more than they talk. They tend to be good at encouraging everybody to contribute.
One of the things smart interviewers are doing is noticing if somebody has a good listening style because that’s going to be predictive of how they’re going to be on a team.
Good listeners ask lots of questions, don’t they, Bev?
They do. They don’t have to be brilliant questions. They just have to be authentic, genuine questions and sometimes they have to draw a little bit of connection. Years ago, I was a young lawyer in Washington and I got involved in lobbying. I hadn’t worked at the Hill, I hadn’t had that kind of lobbyist background.
Suddenly, I was going to fundraisers and events like that. Nobody wanted to speak to one more young lawyer. They were all hanging around waiting for the congressmen to arrive. I was trying to learn and I needed to be there, so I would give myself a game to play.
Try to find something to connect. I was new, I was fresh, I didn’t have great insights over the issues we were working on initially, but the game I might play would be, “You can’t leave tonight until you’ve gotten three people to tell you about their dog.”
I would look at my watch and say, “I hope the congressman is coming soon. I have to let out my dog.” If nobody responded I would move to somebody else. Someone there might say, “Oh, me too. This is the toughest thing about all these parties is I have to get home to the dog.” And I’d say, “What kind of dog do you have?”
I’d get the whole life story of the dog. That person, because I’m a genuine dog lover, we had an authentic conversation. What would happen is the next time there’s an event and there aren’t many people I know, the person who has the cocker spaniel (who’s whole history I know) will come over and give me a report.
Asking questions doesn’t mean you have to be brilliant, it means you have to be real. You have to find something you can be genuinely interested in. Have the conversation be authentic.
I think every pet owner who’s listening is going to identify with that story. Today, of course, people will bring out their phone and show you pictures of their dogs.
I was at a conference last week with somebody I don’t know particularly well, but the subject of dogs came up. I have one, too, and we spent fifteen to twenty minutes talking about our respective dogs.
To your point, we created an authentic connection and I think that’s valuable whether you’re running a business or you’re thinking about your career and possibly your next move.
Are there other ways that you’ve seen the business owners you’ve worked with create those kinds of connections, Bev? That can be helpful to listeners who are thinking about their career or their job search?
Well, another thing is, look around and see if there are any ways you can help. When people are starting to try to consciously network, sometimes they are in it because they need help and they can become a nuisance because they ask everybody for help. They’re handing out their card or they’re linking up in some way.
One really good technique is to look around, no matter where you are, and see if you can do your bit. If you’re at an event and there are people who are standing alone looking awkward, you can help by introducing yourself. Even if you’re awkward, they’re going to be so grateful that you’re talking to them.
If somebody needs to help pick up the coffee cups, if somebody is asked to volunteer for the next meeting, if you look for opportunities to help, that always give you an entree. It demonstrates your open spirit. It’s a very useful technique at the same time.
In the context of networking, the great networkers are always looking to connect one person to another. Saying, “Oh, you’re interested in this? I’ve got to introduce you to my friend, Joe. He’s interested in this too. I think there are some things you guys could talk about.”
There are many opportunities to be helpful. Whether it’s finding invitations or pointing out opportunities. If you help other people build their networks, it’ll build yours.
Now, I know many of the business owners you work with, it’s a hard job, even though they’re the owner, any business has its ups and down. Getting customers, losing customers, finding great people.
What lessons have you seen from working with those business owners who are struggling with those ups and downs that would be of help to job seekers? Job hunting is hard too, isn’t it, Bev? With lots of ups and downs.
It is. What I say sometimes is, it’s kind of a numbers game. What you want to do is play all longshots. If you realize that you don’t have to make every sale, you don’t have to win every prize, you don’t have to come out ahead in every job search because there are lots of reasons why it might not be the right fit. What you have to do is try enough times.
If you recognize that maybe it’s going to take ten calls to make a sale and you’ve had eight without any good results, what you’re doing and learning is you’re putting in the time and you’re playing with numbers. Sooner or later, the numbers always start turning up wins.
It’s very often a numbers game. There are going to be some failures to get to the wins and that’s always the case if you’re in sales and often in life. You don’t win every time.
Well, terrific advice, Bev. Now tell us, what’s next for you?
Well, I’m having fun with the podcast that you mentioned, Jazzed About Work. It’s really about how people can engage in work. That’s going to continue for a while.
How you stay excited about your job, that’s part of the theme for my next book I’m working on kind of slowly. I’m continuing to love the coaching part of my job and I’m associated with the School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University. That’s exciting.
I feel like I have a nice mix of projects and jobs. I just keep looking to invent the next thing and it gets better and better.
It sounds like a rewarding mix of work and projects. I know people can learn more about you, your show Jazzed About Work, and your book, and your consulting practice by visiting your website at clearwaysconsulting.com.
Bev, thanks for being on our program this week.
Thank you, Mac. It’s really been fun and it’s wonderful to talk with you.
It’s been a pleasure. Take care.
Well, one of the images I took away from that conversation was this mental map, this picture that Bev drew of networks. With herself and her husband at the center and all the relationships that she has, both personally and professionally. I think that’s a good picture to have. Often I meet people who say, “I don’t have any contacts.”
Of course, we all have contacts. I think what’s really often the challenge is people don’t know how to connect with those contacts. I thought Bev had terrific advice about how you could do that. I was really impressed by that.
Bev, like me, is a podcast host. She’s one of dozens of career podcast hosts I’ve met in the last three years who have wonderful advice that you can use to move ahead in your career and find your next job.
That’s why we published our annual guide, Top Career Podcasts. Bev is in there, along with 77 other great shows. I hope you’ll consider downloading it today. If you’re like me, you may be a podcast addict. We’re only on the air every Wednesday.
If you need good information for the other six days of the week, there are terrific shows out there that offer it. Go to topcareerpodcasts.com.
Join us next Wednesday when our special guest will be Joel Quass. He’ll explain why you need to think like a hiring manager.
Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.