Never Ask Your Job Search Client THIS Question

“How’s your job search going?”

Seems innocuous enough, right? And to be sure, some days it may be a safe question. But more likely, it will elicit a number of emotions and thoughts that can put the client into the Red Zone (that state of fight-flight-freeze-frantic-fearful-frustrated). The question may lead to the client…

> Getting defensive

> Feeling shame

> Berating him/herself

Instead, here’s a suggestion for a different type of question that a colleague of mine at the Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business came up with recently:

“How much of an opportunity have you had to focus on your search?”

The question can bypass or alleviate the potential for the defensiveness, shame, or berating. From here, the coach can follow with comments/questions such as:

> You’re in the right place now… let’s look at how to get some traction going.

> What’s worked best so far? … let’s look at how to leverage that and add any other strategies as well.


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Dealing with Downward-Spiral Memories

Memories can appear from out of nowhere. The brain can bring them up in 1/16th of a second. We may see, smell, hear, think, taste, or feel something and it mysteriously serves up a memory that discourages and derails us.

When that memory is negative, consider this sequence of steps so that it doesn’t undermine you or keep reoccurring:

Greet It
Don’t deny or tamp down the negative memory. Note that “greeting” a memory is very different than “welcoming it with open arms”! Simply be reflective and aware that the memory is there.

Give it a New Label—Positive, Compassionate, Developmental
Relabeling negative memories can help keep them from re-appearing. It’s as if the old memory will stay there until you do label it with something positive, compassionate, and developmental in nature. Perhaps this is because the brain has a positivity bias. If you refuse to re-label the memory as positive, you’re working against your biological nature. Once the label is positive, the memory doesn’t need to keep coming back.

For example, the old label might be: “this situation was embarrassing.” The new label might be: “This situation is where I learned that I was only trying to protect myself by turning to [name the ineffective behavior], which didn’t really give me what I’d hoped for. I now know that I can respond differently if that happens again.”

Giftwrap the Re-labeled Memory
Now that the memory is no longer negative, wrap it or cushion it with a positive emotion, e.g., gratitude, peace, love, etc.

Go to a Strength
Finally, handpick one of your core strengths that you’ll lead with if similar triggers re-appear that originally caused the negative memory. For example, if Strategy is one of your strengths, what will your strategy be for responding to triggers.

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Listen Responsibly! Heroin & Music Effects On Brain

Do you have a song that just sends you into the stratosphere?

I have a few…several from Adelle’s latest album…several from Maroon 5…several from Il Divo…and a number of classical pieces. When I cue these up, in a matter of seconds, I’m bouncing, smiling, and soaring.

And now we have scientific evidence of why that’s so.

Researchers at McGill University used a drug that dulls the ‘hedonic’ system of the brain, blocking specific opioid receptors—the same receptors that are excited by heroin.

They then played music to test subjects—pieces that would normally be described as their favorite songs—but with the opioid receptors blocked, the test subjects responded with little emotional reaction. “It’s not doing anything for me,” said one test subject, even though he knew he loved that particular song.

Bottom line: the phrase, “music is my drug,” is true.

So, be responsible and pump up your play list … on your next coffee break, on your commute, as you begin your next team meeting. A happy brain is a brilliant brain!


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How to Exit the Hamster Wheel of Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance—the discomfort that comes from holding two competing beliefs—can create a stall or standstill for your coaching clients.

It might show up in forms such as…

> A client who wants a career in the arts but has family/spouse/parents who are pushing for medicine/engineering, and yet the client wants to honor these people
> A client who knows he/she should be networking, but doesn’t make time for it
> A client who wants to work for Apple or Amazon or Goldman Sachs, yet doesn’t have the experience/competencies/GMAT to compete.

From a coaching standpoint, it’s important to stay curious and compassionate, and first observe the dissonance, such as:

> “The tension is there…you are leaning toward x career yet want to honor your parents.”
> “I get it…you know that networking is important yet how to find the time isn’t totally clear yet.”
> “It’s like it’s not adding up…you want X, while the recruiters want Y (a GMAT score of…).”

After naming the tension and getting some input from the client, follow with action strategies:

> “Let’s talk about how to reconcile that.”
> “Let’s explore some ways to make that happen / take control.”
> “Let’s strategize on how to lessen that gap / create a bridge-job plan.”

This helps the client to take steps to reconcile the dissonance and exit the hamster wheel!

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