Hanie is a career coach. She co founded Dragonfire Corporate Solutions in 2012 with her husband George Bohlender. Dragonfire is a management consulting and HR firm based in Kuala Lumpur. Her vision is one, to help organizations to be effective in managing their employees’ careers. Hanie and her team support talents to be efficient by aligning their work-life values, skills, passion, and interests with the organizations they work for. I recently caught up with Hanie to understand better her perspective on how best to face the issues of employment everybody is facing right now.
I see that you’re so enthusiastic when it comes to jobs or careers related topics. I want to know more about it and why the niche is making you so excited. But first, who is Hanie Razaif-Bohlender actually?
I am a kampung girl who hails from a small town called Raub, which is famous for its ground nuts and durian. I spent a good deal of time in the bendang (paddy fields), rubber plantations, and farms in the mountains as a child. Eventually, as a teenager, my parents shifted to the small town where I grew up in a “high performance” household with an Asian Tiger mom and a wise owl dad.
Excellence was the only benchmark. Nothing less. From young, I was exposed to family members who worked at all kinds of jobs and took advantage of abundant opportunities. As long as you set your mind to it and disregarded the noises around you, you were fine. In 1991, I moved to Kuala Lumpur. Sometime in the mid-1990’s I got first taste of being in HR. It was also my first experience of being downsized and the experience was traumatic. That incident, plus the job experiences that I went through after that and the people that I met along the way led me to what I do today.
You’ve been extremely active on social media platforms, especially LinkedIn. Why LinkedIn in the first place?
I do not see myself as being extremely active on social media platforms. Very active, yes. Extremely active? Thank God for social media management tools! Why LinkedIn? I opened my account in 2008 and neglected it for some time afterwards. I only started being active on LinkedIn about 7 or 8 years ago. Maybe I did not understand how to use the platform before then. I did not understand the concept of social selling and harnessing the power of personal branding.
However, I soon discovered that selling no longer needs to be in your face anymore. I dislike cold calls; they are tough, and I dislike having to go through list upon list and endless emails. I have experimented with various social media platforms and I have found that LinkedIn suits my purpose well. I do use other platforms in addition to LinkedIn so my clients have alternative channels to connect with me.
What is Dragonfire Corporate Solutions?
I resigned from my corporate role in 2012 and George, my husband, decided to do the same. We sat down together trying to figure out “what’s next?” I have always been entrepreneurial, and I know I did not want to go back to the corporate world after spending a good five years in the recruitment industry. George was finding it next to impossible to find a job in the industry that he loves (economic development), so, we decided to open our own company where we could both explore and do the things we do well. He wanted a company name with a strong identity and character, just like both of us.
That’s when Dragonfire was born. George’s Chinese zodiac sign is a wood dragon, and a fire breathing dragon sounded apt at that point of time. Dragonfire has evolved over the years and will always be a WIP. It is a boutique management consulting firm, and we are passionate about helping organizations to be effective in managing their employees’ career development. In return, we support talent to be efficient by aligning their work-life values, skills, passions, and interests with the organizations they work for.
Now, let’s get into the story of you being a strong searching-for-careers-done-right advocate. Can you share with me why you are so pumped up about this?
In the beginning, it was all about HR, learning and development, and career transition and outplacement. As we moved along, fine-tuning what we offered to our clients, we discovered that our solutions had always been focused on just what our corporate clients wanted. There was no real alignment to what the other important stakeholders (employees) wanted. Both employers and employees need to align their values, visions, and goals to get to where both sides want to be. People need to take ownership of their own life journey, learnings, personal and professional experiences, happiness, and fulfilment.
Being purposeful when planning our lives allows us to take charge of our own journey. Many people spend more time thinking about what to have for lunch than what about making them happy in their jobs or lives. They then blame everyone and everything for not being successful. Remember my childhood story, where I saw my family members taking advantage of an abundance of opportunities? Nowadays we call it a growth mindset. A perfect job does not exist. It’s in the mindset. It is what you do with what’s being presented that makes it exciting. The lemon analogy, where one makes lemonade when life only gives them lemons, is apt; I suggest, though, that we ought to start thinking about how to franchise the lemonade stand while we are selling our lemonade..
They’re calling you a Career Doctor. How do you describe your journey so far, providing daily career-related hack to your customers?
It was my husband, George, who came up with the “Career Doctor” brand. We both love Peanuts cartoons and one of the characters, Lucy (sister to Linus), sometimes sets up a booth to provide “psychiatric help” (and occasionally some “tough love”) to her lemonade-buying friends. She’s a perfectly loveable character and I found a connection between what she does and what I do, although we help individuals with different aspects of their lives. The journey for the past seven years has been enriching, rewarding, and fulfilling.
In the early years, I worked with many fresh graduates who were just entering the job market. Over the years, my market has shifted to a focus on clients in the midst of career transitions. This has me working with mid-level to C-suite professionals. I also provide career support to senior level and C-suite professionals through career coaching. Very soon, we are rolling out Encore Career, career coaching support for retirees who would still want to create impact in the community with their knowledge. The results I have seen from coaching each of my clients have validated my calling in continuing to do what I do. Each client has their own story to tell, and the challenges they face are tough. The conversations revolve not just around getting the next job, but also about keeping the family alive and seeing bread on the table each day.
Some individuals struggle for independence, to break away from abusive marital relationships. I have seen many grown men and women break down. Some were suicidal. I am glad that the suicidal ones found enough hope to not follow through on what they wanted to do. Both unemployment and depression have risen during the MCO and there is a need for the kind of coaching that I provide that helps people to deal with both in a holistic way.
From your experience, what are the common mistakes most people are doing when searching for a job?
The number one mistake they make is to listen to everyone else and confuse themselves in the process. An example is regarding salary negotiation? Should I get a 30% raise, or should it be 35%? I ask questions that make people stop and think about what they want. “Why not 39% or 32.5%?” That’s me being Hanie. There are ways to negotiate a great compensation package that recognizes your worth. The other common mistakes I see are these:
- They get fixated on the title and the name of the company
- They jump into a job that they do not even understand to begin with
- They jump from a job after realizing that they do not understand what they need to do
- They do not ask the right questions during job interviews
- They go into a job interview with a desperation mindset. Their body language and the words that come out of their mouths are reflections of their minds.
- They are not willing to explore a new role or opportunity or give themselves time to become comfortable with either.
- Finally, they expect that a fantastic job will come rolling along to them without having to make any real effort to land it. Real effort does not mean merely clicking the “submit” button in job portals.
If you are a fresh grad for example, what would you do to find a job right now?
My heart truly goes out to our fresh graduates. Not only will they graduate at a time when there are more candidates than jobs, they also must also adapt to the new normal and must quickly learn new skills to secure a job. Most likely it might be something different from the degree program they took in university. It is like a double whammy! My advice to fresh graduates is:
- Take stock of your financial situation. Are you living on an allowance? If yes, how long for? It might take anywhere from three months to a year to secure a job.
- Have gigs on the side while looking for the job you really want. This way you will learn new skills, have great stories to tell during interviews, and you will lighten the financial burden on your parents.
- Be willing to explore unconventional jobs, roles, or organizations. Go talk to people in the third sector (NGOs), offer to help at events organized by international groups such as business chambers, embassies, associations, and foundations. Explore entrepreneurship.
- Build a strong personal brand on social media platforms. The cyber world can be noisy out there so never forget to take your relationships offline too.
- Find a mentor.
Is the strategy going to be different for retrenched professionals when searching for a job?
A retrenched professional most likely has only themselves and their immediate family to rely on. The job search strategy is different based on the stage of career they are at. However, the crucial question of finance comes first. How long can you sustain yourself until the bread stops coming in? If the timeline is one month, then most likely the job needs to come yesterday. Next, we need to talk about the negotiable and non-negotiable items associated with a job. Example: what kind of job will you consider taking without compromising what’s important to you? Of course, this comes back to the question of what is important to you in a job. Are these negotiable or non-negotiable items? Every client requires a different strategy and approach to their job search.
It’s nasty out there. As you can see, people are struggling at the moment. Hundreds of thousands of them are without jobs. Since we can’t depend much on the government and at the same time we don’t have vacancies to offer, how best, do you think average people like you and me can help them lessen their struggle?
It is nasty and unforgiving. I would like to ask this to those who are on the job market: Are you looking for a job, or are you looking for income? Figure this out and the answer will guide you to your next steps. As for help, I think that business owners and those in the capacity of decision-making have social responsibilities. There will always be a part of a job process that we can outsource. If we can create any kind of opportunities to help them, I am sure this would be helpful.
Do you think entrepreneurship could be one of the answers to this issue?
Absolutely yes. Having said that, I also think that as much as everyone can start a business, not everyone can be great at it. One needs to plan and assess the horizon. You need to ask yourself what you are bringing to the table that someone is willing to pay for. As an entrepreneur, you need to have a higher risk appetite than most, have a keen eye to spot opportunities, and be innovative.
Now let’s go back to your professional journey. How are you thriving in this new normal at the moment?
I must say that we are busier than ever. Alhamdulillah, we are grateful for all the opportunities and the rezeki that has come to us during this pandemic. Personally, I think this is because of our business model which has helped us through these tough times. We have pivoted from a B2B to a B2C model and have invested in equipment and in our own skills to be productive in the new normal of a virtual environment. When our other colleagues in L&D began to wind down from March, we were already booked until the second quarter of 2021. There is still room for improvement and we see exciting times ahead!
What was the biggest challenge you faced when coaching people?
There are many challenges when we coach people, especially about something so important to them. My own lesson is that one can only coach those who really want it, not those who are nominated and have their coaching paid for by others. When someone seeks coaching of their own free will and pays for it with their own cash, they will be more committed to the process. I have also declined potential clients whom I think might derail during the process due to so many reasons, including emotional instability.
Besides personal branding and social media, what else people should do to build their presence out there?
Stay authentic, online and offline. Stay connected with friends and network. After all, social media is only an extension of oneself. The real important stuff comes from you. Keep on sharpening the saw so you stay relevant, as no amount of white washing on social media can cover fluff.
How to contact you Hanie?
On LinkedIn of course by requesting to connect here.