Doug Mayes

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. –


5 Job Seeking Activities for When You Aren’t Feeling It

There’s going to be days where you are ON.  You are ready to make connections and put yourself out there – even if you are nervous.

And then there’s those off days.  You gave it all the rest of the week, you had a setback that bummed you out, or something just isn’t working.  You need a plan to keep momentum going even when you aren’t going.  Here’s some ideas:

  1. Source.  Look up jobs to apply to tomorrow (or even all next week).  I am a fan of sourcing separately from applying – it is more efficient.  The only thing required when you’re sourcing is to answer “yes”or “no” when searching through job descriptions. You can throw the yes’s into a google doc or just email them to yourself with the day you plan to apply to them in the subject or body of the email. If you have a low energy start the next day, you’ll appreciate having what you need to do already laid out for you
  2. Read.  Read trade publications, a leadership book, or sift through some good business articles that relate to what you do.  Make an effort to develop yourself professionally.
  3. Share resources.  Found a blog, tweet, book, or job that you think somebody else should know about?  Nothing gets my energy up like giving somebody else a boost.  Try it.  Givers gain.
  4. Organize.  Create a spreadsheet to help keep track of what you’ve done or what you plan on doing this week.  Not a spreadsheet fan?  Consider putting it all in a calendar (either paper or digital).  It’s such a lifesaver to keep track of what you are doing.  You get a realistic picture of your efforts, you have a record to refer to when you get contacted for interviews (what was that job anyway?), and you’ll get more done with a plan.  Schedule it, do it. Repeat.
  5. Thank someone.  Go to your stack of thank you cards (note – good idea to have them because folks are always doing something worth thanks) and start writing.  Whether it’s someone who’s helping you with your job search, someone who needs praise for work above and beyond the call of duty, or a kind note to a friend – gratitude will charge you up.  There’s not a person on the planet that doesn’t appreciate your sincere expression of thanks.

Bonus Idea #6 – write your own list of things you like to do when your energy is low and keep it as a guide for you when a slump hits.  On a rainy day, I’m always grateful to find I’ve left myself a to do list.

Job Search Angst – Application Woes

The Frustration:

“Why do I have to submit a resume, cover letter, AND still create a profile/submit an application for every single employer.  Enough!  It is all on my resume.”

Why it happens:

Employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS for short) to help them manage their hiring processes.  An ATS can help them do everything from providing EEO information to show compliance with labor laws, to making applications searchable (narrowing down from really large pools of candidates to more manageable lists), to managing communications to applicants (thanking them for applying, notifying applicants when the position has closed, etc.), and so much more.  Because of the astronomical amount of applications recruiters receive, they need tools like these to help them on to the next steps in the hiring process (screening, interviewing, hiring, training).  They are such handy systems and solve so many business problems that employers have continued to overlook one big issue:  the user experience of submitting information over and over to every employer’s ATS is just crazy.  It is redundant and time consuming.

It is unlikely that applicant tracking systems will go away or change significantly any time soon.  Unemployment numbers are still relatively high and because of that and the ease of online applications, employers still receive a high number of applications for most positions.  Since the process isn’t broken from their standpoint (plenty of applicants), they are unlikely to push back to their ATS providers to create a better user experience.   For now anyway.

How to Win:

Tool & Strategy #1:  

A reference document with your complete employment info.

For each position you held, list:

  • Address
  • Contact names
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Salary/Hourly pay rate (at start and end of employment)
  • Start and End Dates

Use this reference document to help get through applications quickly. This document doesn’t have to be polished or pretty – it’s just there for you to use as a quick reference.  Save yourself the extra hassle of looking up information more than once.  Helpful hint:  I store mine in a google doc and have a printed version.  This way I can get to the document wherever I’m accessing the internet – and I can copy and paste much of the information I need.  I use the printed version if the form is one  that doesn’t allow copying and pasting.  I just read from and type from my printed document and get through the process quickly.

Tool & Strategy #2:

Complete resume saved as a pdf, a text document, and a word document.  Having multiple formats will save you when it is time to upload your document to a website (and you will always have the version of the document that is preferred by that system).  If the system parses the information into the application for you, sometimes it will indicate which type of document will parse most easily.  Most of the time plain text documents work best – but read the fine print and check before uploading.  Helpful hint:  be sure to carve out a little extra time to customize your resume each time you apply and when you save the modified resume, save in multiple formats using the your name and the name of the company it is slated for.

Tool & Strategy #3:

Separate job searching and applying into two activities that each get their own dedicated time.  To do this, create two separate blocks of time; one for sourcing jobs  and one to submit applications.  For example, during my last job search I looked for jobs in the evening on my smartphone.  I emailed myself positions straight from my phone and the following morning, I checked my email and applied to the positions I had sourced for the day.  Searching and applying are really different tasks, requiring different websites and documents to be open and using different skills from you.  By grouping like tasks together your work will be more efficient.  Helpful hint: set a target number of applications you’ll apply to each day and stick to it (pick a number that is attainable – three a day is a great number if you are applying daily).  Setting a number will help you manage your time more effectively and keep you on track towards your goal (and will help you maintain your sanity).