We’ve all seen the studies.  Some indicate that the average person will hold a half dozen jobs during their lifetime.  I saw one survey that suggested many young people will have five or six career changes during their working years.  Another study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor tells us that baby-boomers born between 1957 and 1964 held an average of 10.5 jobs each between the ages of 18 and 40. 

The “Greatest Generation” believed in loyalty.  Many went to work immediately after school (or the end of the Second World War) and stayed with the same company until they retired at sixty five.  In return, most companies were loyal to those same employees; often paying wages to people who no longer increased the bottom line. 

As most Boomers, Gen-Xer’s, Gen-Yer’s, and Millennium Babes know all-to-well—this ain’t your father’s world!  Things have changed.  Today, one of the most important job skills is the ability to constantly affirm your employer’s decision to hire you in the first place.  As a modern day employee, you are also a salesperson—and the product you’re selling is Brand You!

I used to tell my employees that the best job security they could ever develop was to become so good at what they did that I needed them more than they needed me.  So to be a good salesman of Brand You it’s important to learn how to present yourself and validate the job you’re doing.  This usually plays out in the dreaded annual job review.  To do this right, it’s important to know some of the basics.  So class, by way of review, here are some things to remember when they’ve called you in for the annual “chat:”

1. Come prepared.  Bring written notes and documentation of what you have done.  Include sales and production data.  A list of goals that were set at a previous time—and how you have achieved those goals.

2. Do some personal PR.  One of the best employees I ever had made it a point to arrive at every review with a list of the things he had done for the firm and how his efforts had improved our productivity, reputation or bottom line.

3. Remember, this should not be an adversarial meeting.  When an employee goes in expecting the worst—usually that’s what he gets.  Think of this simply as a visit.  Nothing more.  After all, most human interactions go about the way their participants expect them to go.  

4. Don’t be defensive.  A good interviewer may ask some probing questions.  Don’t be put off or offended.  It’s appropriate for a company that invests tens of thousands of dollars in its employees to ask lots and lots of questions.  Anything else would be irresponsible on their part.

5. Be calm.  Answer questions succinctly and with a cool confidence.  Some good interviewers will intentionally try to rattle employees.  You’re the only one in the room who can control your own actions—so do it.  Be pleasant, even if your interviewer is snarling.  Smile even if she frowns.  And if he goads you a little—don’t take the bait.

6. Take criticisms as ways to improve your performance.  Even if your interviewer is honest (or, rude) enough to openly discuss your flaws and inadequacies, take it in stride.  Your best bet is to honestly acknowledge the deficiency and ask for suggestions on how to improve your performance. 

7. Ask for clarifications.  Most interviewers appreciate employees who ask (and write notes) for clarification.  This tells your interviewer that you are taking their comments seriously.  And, it gives you a “to do list” when you leave the meeting.

8. Be truthful.  Answer questions honestly.  Don’t place false blame.  Be straight.  Then no matter whatever happens you maintain the most important thing—a clear conscience.

9. When criticized, avoid making excuses.  Excuses don’t go very far with most people.  Admit it when the interviewer has a legitimate gripe.  NOTE:  It is almost always a mistake for you to blame one of your subordinates.  If you do, your interviewer will feel like his criticism has fallen on deaf ears; or worse, that you don’t understand that anything that happens on your watch is your responsibility.

10. Write a written rebuttal.  If you are convinced that your interviewer is being incorrectly negative in your assessment, consider writing a polite, yet clear, and concise rebuttal.  Ask that it be attached to your interviewer’s report.  (Of course this won’t be particularly valuable if your interviewer is also the owner of the company!)

11. This brings me to my final point: Even paranoid people are right sometimes.  If you get the sense that nothing you can say is going to appease your interviewer, it may be time to check the handwriting on the wall.  There comes a time when the wisest thing to do is brush up the resume and start looking for greener pastures.

Originally posted in Crosswalk Careers on May 8, 2008.


Steve Diggs presents the No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar at churches and other venues nationwide. Visit Steve on the Web at www.stevediggs.com or call 615-834-3063. The author of several books, today Steve serves as a minister for the Antioch Church of Christ in Nashville. For 25 years he was President of the Franklin Group, Inc. Steve and Bonnie have four children whom they have home schooled. The family lives in Brentwood, Tennessee.

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