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In Focus

Interview: Career Coach Ford R. Myers with TV Host Steve Highsmith

Steve Highsmith – Whether you’re getting out of college soon, looking for a job or changing careers, there’s a natural level of anxiety about your future. We may have some good advice for you in the next few minutes. Good morning. I’m Steve Highsmith, and welcome to In Focus. We’re with Ford R. Myers, author of Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Mr. Myers is president of Career Potential, LLC and is a veteran of America’s largest career consulting companies. Good to see you, Thanks for being here.

Ford R. Myers – Thank you, Steve. Great to be here!

Steve Highsmith – In these tough economic times, is there something really different as compared to times before?

Ford R. Myers – It’s a fundamental shift. There’s an absolute change from the way it used to be to the way it is today. And the work that I do is all about teaching people; helping people to make that transition and to be more successful and more effective with the realities of today’s job market.

Steve Highsmith – When you look at general stress categories that apply pretty much to everybody, can we pinpoint two or three things that are good starting points of advice?

Ford R. Myers – Well, one overarching philosophy, I think, is that everyone – whether you’re entry level, mid-level or senior-level – everyone needs to take more responsibility. They can no longer count on the human resources department, or the industry or the employer to take care of their careers. We have to take 100% responsibility for our own career success. So it means learning new skills; it means adopting new behaviors; it means really having a different mindset in the entire way we manage our careers – not just job search.

Steve Highsmith – Does this mean that we will be less loyal to our employer?

Ford R. Myers – It does, but let’s flip it around. Look at the way that employers are now less loyal to employees. The contract between employers and employees has changed completely in the past 10 or 15 years. There used to be a real bond of loyalty – stay with one company 30 years, retire with a gold watch. They take care of you, you take care of them. Not anymore. That’s all gone out the window in the past decade or so. So, less loyal? Yes. But it goes both ways.

Steve Highsmith – Some people will look at that reality and embrace it. There will be others who are frightened by it, who are made nervous by it, who may even become more anxious. How do you begin to deal with what you’re describing as a volatile environment in which no one cares for me? I have to care for myself and I have to keep learning new things all the time. How do you know what direction to go into? Again, where do you begin?

Ford R. Myers – You begin at the beginning. Small steps; baby steps. When we work with clients, we teach them skills that start small, begin to shift their thinking and give people a new perspective. They’re usually kind of surprised, kind of shocked or maybe even anxious in the beginning. Then over time, they begin to learn it bit by bit. Their eyes start to open they start to see the light. They start to do better; they gain momentum; they start to feel even more empowered. Now, this break of the loyalty bond – the fact that people have to take more responsibility – it can seem daunting. But actually, in the end, it’s liberating because each person takes full responsibility. You’re liberated because you don’t feel stuck or beholden to one organization or one person. You actually have more freedom. You have more say and you have more options in this model.

Steve Highsmith – Do you then look at what you’re doing in each place that you work as a job, or do you still think of it as a career?

Ford R. Myers – Well, each opportunity at each company where you work should be looked at, in my opinion, as an assignment or as a contract. You’re there temporarily. It’s a stepping stone. That’s why the employee needs to have a plan, a kind of a blueprint for their career. We’re not just thinking about JOB JOB JOB, we’re thinking about a long-term career plan, which is established and designed near the beginning of one’s career. And then each job is essentially a way-station, an assignment, a contract on the way towards reaching your ultimate goal.

Steve Highsmith – Well, let’s take a look at a couple of examples. After hearing what you just said, people are going to feel that they’re in different boats, even though we’re all in the same pond of water. The person who is in college right now, for example, is going to be saying, all right, you’re telling me how I should begin. We’ll deal with that in a moment. But in the last few years in particular, we’ve had a lot of 40 somethings, 50 somethings, 60 somethings, who have had sudden career shifts. They might be saying, well, you’re telling me that I need to start from the beginning to have a right plan. I’m well past the beginning. So if you’re in college right now, what should you be doing and thinking?

Ford R. Myers – Well, again, we have to start younger and earlier than we used to. In the old days, like when I was in college, for example, you could do your academic work, you could take the summers off, maybe you’d get a job in the Summer part-time, and you didn’t really worry about it. You just figured, I’ll wait until I finish college, and then I’ll send out some applications and I’ll be alright. And that was pretty much true back in those days. Not anymore. These days, I think the kids in college should start right from freshman year, getting real work experience. Even if they don’t need it financially, they need it from a career perspective. So work on the campus or work during holiday season and Summers in real jobs. You could start low; start at the beginning – but get some real world experience,

Steve Highsmith – Not necessarily in your field – just any job?

Ford R. Myers – Any job that’s going to give you real world experience. You know, learn a little bit about business, learn a little bit getting along with people and working towards a common business goal. Over time, they can actually build-up a resume, even though they’re still in school. And the resume shows tangible accomplishments. Not just “I worked here for three months,” but actual accomplishments so that when they finally get out of school, and assuming they’ve had some career counseling along the way, which is another topic we should touch on, then they kind of have a plan. When they’re graduating, they don’t graduate and ask, “What do I do now?” Instead, they graduate and they have a bit of a plan, even if it’s only for the next three to five years. It’s still a plan. They have tangible experience. They have somewhat of a goal. They’ve gotten some help and some guidance along the way. At least they have a starting place.

Steve Highsmith – What about that career counseling, though? Every college pretty much says it has advisors available to guide the student.

Ford R. Myers – Some schools do have pretty good career counseling departments, but many schools do not. Even the ones who do have decent career counseling departments – they don’t necessarily have their finger on the pulse of the outside world, the real world, the business world. They tend to be a little bit insular, a little bit ivory tower. Now, I’m not complaining about every career office across the nation. Some of them are great, some are not so great. But in my opinion, a kid coming through college should get some counseling. They should check-out their career counseling office on campus, but I think they should go beyond that. I think they should talk to their parents and their parents’ friends. I think they should seek-out counsel in the real world – let’s say talk to some business leaders, go out and do a little bit of networking. These are skills that we used to think only needed to be developed later in life. I think these skills now need to be developed much, much younger.

Steve Highsmith – Are advisors sometimes cookie cutter to the kids? For example, you go talk to your college career counselor, the counselor says, “Well, I think you ought to do this. Take these courses to do that.” Not really knowing what that young person really wants to do or what their real skill-set could be.

Ford R. Myers – That does happen. Another thing that I recommend to guard against that problem is career testing. I believe that every kid coming through college should have a battery of career tests. We do testing in our business. The college campuses sometimes do it, or they can hire an outside service to do it. What that gives students is tangible evidence. It gives them empirical proof of what they desire, what they prefer, what they’re good at, what kind of career direction might make sense for them.

Steve Highsmith – When you say, get a job, though, are you ruling-out internships that might not pay?

Ford R. Myers – Oh, no, I think internships are a great idea, a fantastic idea. It’s not about making the big bucks when you’re going through college. I mean, of course, kids sometimes have to make money, but I’m more interested in the opportunity. I’m more interested in connecting with the right people, and learning something that’s really valuable for the future.

Steve Highsmith – How does any of what you just said differ for the person who is in their 40s or 50s or 60s, trying to still have a good job that pays a good wage?

Ford R. Myers – Well, as you said before, everybody knows there are a lot of people out there in their 40s, 50s, even 60s, who have had disruptions in their careers. It’s been terrible out there. You know, it’s been the worst job market in 80 years, and we can talk about that a lot. I wrote a whole book about this subject. But the point is, when someone’s at mid-career, of course they’re not going to go out and get an internship in a restaurant, or working at a TV station like this. They’re farther along in their careers, they need to make a real living, they need to maintain their standard of living as well as they can. So it’s almost like remedial training. We take a person at that age and quickly try to teach them some of the fundamental skills that they really should have had all along. For example, many clients will come to us and at mid-career, and we’ll start to work with them. And I’ll ask them, “What about your network?” And they’ll say they don’t have a network. They’ll say something like, “I’ve had the same job for 25 years and never talk to anybody except the people in my company.” So that’s a problem. Or how about this? Do you have any updated documents, such as a resume? And again, they’ll say, “No, I haven’t done one in 20 years.” See, this is a problem. These people were not managing their careers. So we have to do some remedial training.

Steve Highsmith – But isn’t the resume overrated?

Ford R. Myers – Yes, the resume is overrated. So then, the question is, why do I need to be so concerned about one? Because even though the resume isn’t the “be all and end all,” it is absolutely necessary, and it has to be great. It can’t be just OK. It can’t be fair. It has to be great. It has to jump off the page. And there are many other tools in the toolkit that also need to be present.

Steve Highsmith – Give me two or three points on how the resume can be great.

Ford R. Myers – Sure. There are different kinds of resumes. One kind of resume just sort of sits there. It’s what I call a “tombstone resume.” It simply lists companies and dates, and what you were responsible for, and your education, etc. It’s factual; it’s just data. The other kind of resume, which I prefer, is the one that really grabs you by the neck. And the reason it does that is because it features real world accomplishments. It highlights where you, as the candidate, went above and beyond, where you produced tangible, measurable results, where you went the extra mile and added significant value. That kind of resume grabs people by the neck.

Steve Highsmith – So I could put where I work and my title, but then I would say, “Led project, increasing revenues by 20% in six months.”

Ford R. Myers – Precisely that, yes.

Steve Highsmith – I want to talk to you now about why resumes are overrated and also get some advice regarding how you present yourself at the interview. Let’s finish-up on resumes first, if we can. So it’s important to make it as unique as you can about yourself, but also tell them why you’re valuable. That’s what you’re trying to tell them – not just where you worked and when you worked there, but what you contributed and that you can make a place more successful.

Ford R. Myers – Yes. State what differentiates you. In other words, every employer gets thousands of resumes, and they all look pretty much the same. Employers are looking for something that stands-out; they’re looking for a resume that differentiates the candidate. And the best way to do that, as I said, is to focus on what tangible value you offered. Where did you go above and beyond?

Steve Highsmith –  So then why is the resume overrated? Because is it almost like in some cases, a college degree? It gets you in the door – then once they see you have it, they don’t care about it anymore?

Ford R. Myers – Yes, that’s true. But it’s actually more than that. Too many people rely exclusively on their resume. They use it as the cornerstone of their search. That’s a mistake. The resume should be thought of almost as an afterthought. It should be almost the least important tool in your toolkit. And the reason I say that is because when you’re applying for jobs online, you’re sending out 50 resumes a day. Well, that is the least effective way to look for a job. It doesn’t work. So in our career coaching with clients, and all the public speaking I do, there’s a big focus on networking. Networking is the one best way to make that connection, to get the job, to move your career forward. So let’s say, I ask you if you know anybody in the shipping and transportation business, and you say, “Oh, yes I do, actually my brother in law.” So now you introduce me to him. If I’m getting introduced personally, I don’t need to send a resume. It would be mistake to send a resume, in fact, because this is a personal introduction. So I’m not going to show-up to the person’s office and shove a resume under their nose. Instead, I might bring another tool, something called a Professional Biography. This one-page document is a softer sell document. It gives a broad overview of your professional background, but it doesn’t scream, “I need a job, please hire me, I’m desperate.” So we teach clients how to have different attitudes at different times, and use different tools for different purposes with different people.

Steve Highsmith – So, if I hear you, also blast e-mailing your resume or going online and doing that, as a rule, is not the best thing to do. Now, there are people who will want my money if I’m unemployed. They will promise me that they can get me a job. How do I know if that’s a good investment or a bad investment?

Ford R. Myers – That’s never a good investment. Never ever, ever, ever, ever pay money to anyone who promises they’ll get you a job.

Steve Highsmith – Let’s say you go on web sites and they show you all these jobs in these professions or in your geographic area. How valuable are those kinds of web sites?

Ford R. Myers – They’re valuable as education. They’re valuable as information. So for example, if I’m poking around online, and I’m seeing that Vanguard investment company, let’s say, has a lot of job openings. Instead of just sitting there and applying to all these jobs online, I’m going to say to myself, “Hmm, it seems like Vanguard is growing. They seem to have job openings all over the place. Who do I know at Vanguard? Or do I know anybody who might know somebody at Vanguard?” While all these people are sending-in resumes and trying to get hired through the front door. I’m going to go around the back door. I’m going to go through my network, through my connections, get an introduction. I don’t care if it’s an introduction to a secretary or an introduction to the President. Somehow I’m going to get my foot in the door and begin a series of conversations.

Steve Highsmith – OK, so I have my resume ready. I’ve gotten in the back door, and I’m beginning to have conversations. What do I need to say, and what shouldn’t I say?

Ford R. Myers – What you should NOT say is, “Thank you for meeting with me today. I’m so glad Steve referred me to you. By the way, I really need a job. Here’s my resume, he said you would hire me.” You should not say that. Not a good idea. No. Because you’re not there for an interview or to get a job, you’re there for a networking conversation. You’re there to learn. You’re there to discover. You’re there to make personal connections and to build your professional network. You’re there to get advice and guidance. Make that person become more aware of who you are, and get comfortable with you. Make a connection so that the other person starts to see, this guy’s pretty sharp. This guy really has a lot to offer. He asks good questions.

Steve Highsmith – Should the interviewee be asking questions too, and what kind of questions?

Ford R. Myers – Tell me about the industry? What do you think are the biggest challenges and needs that are coming down the pike? What would you say are the biggest issues you’re facing at this company today?

Steve Highsmith – Can you ask what they look for in people they bring into their organization?

Ford R. Myers – You could ask, in a general way, “When you bring new people into the company, what kind of traits or qualities does the company look for most? What are the values? What’s the culture of the organization?” See, you’re asking probing questions. You can also say something like, “You’ve known me now for about half an hour. We’ve been talking and I really appreciate your time. If you were me starting out in the field, what advice or guidance would you give a guy like me as I’m getting started?” See, it’s a general conversation. You’re not focused on “give me a job.”

Steve Highsmith – Now let’s skip to a different scenario, where they’re interviewing 10 people in a day. You’re one of them. This is a job interview, and not networking, right? It’s important to know the difference. What do you do there?

Ford R. Myers – Well, that’s a totally different kind of conversation because it’s right out there in the open. They know they’re interviewing people for a job opening. You know you’re there as a candidate. They have your resume in their hand. That’s a very different dynamic. So in that case, you shift into another mode, where you’re connecting your assets, strengths and experiences to the company’s needs, problems and challenges. The only way you can do that is to know what the company’s needs, problems and challenges are. So you should have done a lot of research ahead of time on the Internet and in conversations through your network. Then, when you actually get to the interview, you can be asking questions about the problems or challenges that are most important to the employer. You can also ask questions such as, “If you had the ideal candidate, what would they start doing when they began this job? What would they accomplish? How would you know six months from now that you hired the right person?”

Steve Highsmith – What if someone just lacks confidence in themselves when they look at what their educational background is, if it’s high school only, or if it’s even a college degree, but they see that others have masters degrees? Or their degree is in a field that they haven’t been working in, but they do have relevant experience and training. What if the candidate just doesn’t think she has the academic skill-set and doubts if the interviewer will even look at her?

Ford R. Myers – Well, if a person is truly unqualified for the position, if they don’t have the basic requirements or qualifications, then don’t apply for the job. You’re just wasting everybody’s time. On the other hand, if it’s a little bit of a stretch, if you have most of the qualifications, most of the education, that’s OK, we can all make a little bit of a reach. But it’s important to explain to the interviewer why you might be a better candidate than someone else who has the degree or the masters or five more years of experience.

Steve Highsmith – Where should my cell phone be during all this conversation?

Ford R. Myers – That’s a great question. It should either be off in your briefcase or your pocket, or leave it outside of the building. It’s amazing how many candidates act inappropriately during interviews. We’ve seen videos that are just horrifying when you look at what some candidates do. They’re sitting there drinking water out of a bottle. They’re sitting there taking cell phone calls and texting, or they’re playing with their hair, and it’s just absolutely amazing to me. That’s why people need some training. They need some grooming. We encourage everyone to do role playing before they go into the interview process. Everyone needs to practice, as they haven’t done this in many cases in years. How can you expect yourself to go in and be perfect and a wonderful performer when you’ve never done this or you haven’t done it in 15 years?

Steve Highsmith Give us an inside employment tip.

Ford R. Myers – Well, I’ll give you two quick tips. Number one, get some help. Anybody who’s out there in the market looking for a new opportunity, get some help. Don’t try this all by yourself. And when I say help, you can go back to your college career placement office. You can go to Career Link which exists on the state level and the county level, which is free to the resident. You can also go to seminars and webinars, along with all kinds of information online that’s either free or very, very inexpensive. You can hire a career coach. At any of these levels, get some help. Do something to boost your skills and to really get yourself some momentum in the market.

Steve Highsmith – Should we look at online and social media, because we often tell young people right in middle school, high school and college, be careful what you put on Facebook and Snapchat.

Ford R. Myers – Well, that’s another tip I was going to give you as an insider secret. Social media is not going away; it’s here to stay. It’s not a fad; we really need to embrace it. This is hard for some of the older folks in their 40s, 50s and 60s because they didn’t grow-up with this. So it’s a balance. Of course, you don’t want to be all over social media, on every single platform talking about what you had for dinner. On the other hand, you do want to be present and have some kind of a visibility online. LinkedIn, for example, is extremely important for people who are professionals. You do need to be on LinkedIn, and you do need to learn how to use it well. I encourage every client and every person to have a very professional, very solid LinkedIn profile.

Steve Highsmith – If you were to suggest action steps for anyone of any age, let’s sort of summarize where we can begin.

Ford R. Myers – If you find yourself in transition, or thinking about making a change, you begin by doing what I call a personal and professional inventory. In other words, you stop. You look in the mirror and ask, “Where have I been? Where am I now? Where do I want to go? What’s important to me? What kind of role do I want in the work world? What kind of money do I want to make? Where do I want to live? What kind of environment do I want to work in?” See, we have to slow down in order to speed up. We’ve got to take stock; we’ve got to be intelligent about this and create a plan. Too many people speed right into the job search. They lose their job on a Friday; they’ve already sent-out 100 resumes by Saturday morning. But what are they doing? Where are they going? If you ask them, they’ll say, “I don’t know. I just need a job.”

Steve Highsmith – Once you kind of know what you want to do and where you want to live and what you’re all about, is that the approach and attitude that you carry forward at that point?

Ford R. Myers – Yes. And as I said before, I think everyone can benefit from some career counseling or coaching – whether it’s back at the college or hiring a career coaching professional. I also think people should assess if they’re confused or not. If they need some direction, I think they should get some career testing. You’d be amazed how clarifying it can be for many people,

Steve Highsmith – When you’re in the interview process and you don’t even know how it’s going, but you think it’s going OK – what do you say at the end? How do you wrap it up?

Ford R. Myers – Great question. Here’s what you should NOT say. “Thank you, I hope to hear from you.” That’s far too passive. What you want to do instead is maintain more control. So you want to say something like, “I really enjoyed meeting with you. This was a great conversation. I’m very excited about the opportunity. Tell me, what is your timeframe for making a decision?” And they’ll say, “We don’t know, maybe a week.” And then you would say, “OK, if I don’t hear from you within a week, may I contact you to see where things stand?” They’ll probably say, “OK, sure.” Then I would say, “Do you prefer to be contacted by phone or by e-mail?” And the employer would say, “E-mail is better.” I would then say, “Great. So I’ll contact you by e-mail within a week if I don’t hear anything.” So you see, I’m maintaining some control while showing real interest.

Steve Highsmith – We have to leave it there for now. I’ve enjoyed this interview. It was good. The book is called, Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. The author is Ford R. Myers. For more information, you can also visit careerpotential.com. Thank you for watching. I’m Steve Highsmith. Enjoy your weekend.

About the Author:
Ford R. Myers is an award-winning career coach and President of Career Potential, LLC. He is author of the best-seller, Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Ford’s firm helps clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve! He has held senior consulting positions at three of the nation’s largest career service firms. Ford’s articles have appeared in thousands of publications and web sites, and he has been interviewed on every major television and radio network. Ford has also conducted presentations at hundreds of companies, associations and universities. Learn more at https://careerpotential.com.

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