Ask a Career Coach: Doug Mayes

Starting today, and occurring occasionally, I’ll be sharing interviews with career coaches and human resource professionals – showcasing insights they have on getting a job in today’s marketplace.  Today I spent some time speaking with Doug Mayes, North Carolina State MBA, Career Management Center, Assistant Director and Career Coach.  He has a great gift for boiling down what matters in a job search and has often influenced my approach for helping job seekers.

Me:  What do people need to understand about looking for a job?

Doug: I think you need to understand two big things – and these understandings are quite involved in getting to actually.

  • First and foremost you need to understand what you want out of a job.  It can be quite a process, but anybody can arrive at that through reflection and introspection and talking to other people. And sometimes through the help of a mentor or coach.
  • Chunk two is understanding what the marketplace has a need for and how you can bring your skills to bear in the marketplace in a way that is compelling and makes people take notice.

To me, if there’s any trick to  it – and I’m not sure that there is – looking for a job is an exercise in communication.  It is a matter of how you understand your value and communicate it in a way that resonates with the audience you’re speaking to.

Me: What do recruiters want from a candidate?

Doug: To speak in the most broad of terms, they want people who can help them solve the problems they face in their business.  You can usually put those problems in a couple of buckets.

  • The first bucket or problem is growing the business and making more money.
  • Problem number two is often saving time or the limiting of money spent poorly — growth in efficiency.

How can we make more money and how can we do it in a more efficient way?  People offer that value in a thousand different ways, but most business problems roll up in to one of those two things.

Me: Why should people reach out to a career coach?

Doug: A good coach can help you in a variety of ways.  I think that they can help you reach clarity about which path you want to go down.  And that’s hard, because most smart people can do a variety of things. So to have the sounding board, somebody who can listen and stimulate some thought – that’s a great reason to talk to a coach.

Another reason to talk to a coach is for inspiration and motivation when you feel demoralized by the mechanical process of finding a job.  I can’t think of any kind of system that is set up to grind on people more than that system – and there are better ways to do it, and that is some of the value that a good coach brings.

The third reason to reach out to a coach is when you are trying to navigate the decision of weighing job offers.  Often a good coach can help you walk through the pros and cons and give you permission to make the decision that you wanted to make in the first place.

Me: Why are you a career coach?

Doug: We spend a tremendous amount of our lives at work. And if people can find a way to find meaningful work for them as they define it for themselves.  This is not about me prescribing something.  This is about a journey that at the end of it – you come up with a more fulfilling life.  I think if more people did that, the world would be better.  I was lucky in that, I have a gift of being able to listen to people and understand where they are coming from and help them reframe their situation in such a way that they look at their lives differently.  I want to help people and I want to help them craft a better life for themselves.  And I can do that in this setting; all day, every day.

Me: What is your favorite business book?

Doug: This is a tough question for me, because I generally don’t read very many business books.  My inspirations often come from other places (like biographical works and the news).  But, I like studying the context in which business happens.  I have  a sociology degree and love economics and I love the environment that business is in.  I think Malcolm Gladwell gives us some pretty interesting things to think about. Outliers is an interesting book, because it teaches us to look at the environment we grow up in – it is about the context of success. So it is a discussion of all of the many things that have to line up in order for a person to be successful.

Check in for more interviews soon or reach out if you have a professional you’d like to suggest for an interview. –


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