Larry Finkelstein

So you’re about to embark on a new job search. Before you check out the online job boards, make phone calls, or update your resume, pause and ask yourself a couple of questions. What are your key strengths, and what matters the most in your life?

The more clearly you understand and can express what you have to offer, the easier it will be to match your desired outcome with what an employer is looking for. “The job search is mostly in your hands,” says Larry Finkelstein, president and founder of the Lambertville-based consulting firm Transition Management Associates (TMA), and author of “ … and then I painted the garage: Getting the job you want in the least amount of time.”

Based on 30 years of experience working as a career counselor and psychotherapist, Finkelstein will share his insights on finding fulfilling work at the June meeting of the Professional Service Group (PSG). “Staying Motivated in the Job Search” takes place Friday, June 28, from 9:45 a.m. to noon at the Princeton Public Library. For more information, visit

Finkelstein will discuss the common factors that exist in every population seeking employment and the techniques he uses to help prepare people for the job search and keep them motivated until they land a job. These techniques include exercises based on cognitive-behavioral therapy, assertiveness training, and reframing, as well as lessons from Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

The opposite of rushing into a job search without preparation is postponing the search by occupying yourself with other activities. His book title, “… and then I painted the garage,” was based on his work with individuals who missed appointments because they were too busy doing other things.

In one situation a client explained that he hadn’t shown up for several of their meetings because he had been painting rooms in his house, and when finished he painted the garage.

To avoid the problem of either procrastinating the job search or rushing into search activities prematurely, Finkelstein has clients develop a purpose or personal mission statement.

The statement involves examining the values and principles central to their lives and identifying goals for the various life roles they play. Finkelstein finds that through this process clients develop enthusiasm and take greater ownership of their job search activities.

The combination of being in touch with your strengths and purpose has a positive effect on the way you perceive situations, a process he calls “reframing.” He gives an example of this technique in his book:

Lou, a job candidate, was questioned about his sales experience (of which he had little) and how he would handle the stress of having to sell as part of the job. Lou answered by first asking a question — did the employer agree that he had a responsible position where (1) he had been persuasive and (2) there was a high level of stress? The employer acknowledged that this was the case. Lou then described parallels between his experiences and that of successful salespeople. This included using his accomplishments that highlighted persuasion, assertiveness, empathy, and resilience. He got the job offer.

Finkelstein, who is a certified trainer with the Covey Leadership Institute, applies Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” to his career counseling. The following is the list of habits and summaries of Finkelstein’s advice for job seekers:

1. Be proactive: Take initiative in pursuing career and job opportunities.

2. Begin with the end in mind: Develop a purpose or personal mission statement.

3. First things first: Determine and follow through on which activities have the greatest impact in meeting your goals.

4. Win-win solutions: Each person you meet is a resource of information and potential job leads. Think of ways you can be supportive of others. It is through a spirit of cooperation that people tend to make the most progress.

5. Seek first to understand, then be understood: You only learn while you are listening, not speaking. Seeking to understand others first allows you to act from a position of knowledge and to gain empathy.

6. Synergize: Through interaction with others, you become more effective in problem solving, drawing on the creativity of your contact network.

7. Sharpen the Saw: To feel competent and capable of making things happen for yourself, you need to be healthy and connected to the sources of energy that invigorate you. Remember to take care of yourself.

As president of TMA, Finkelstein says he has worked with hundreds of people looking for career help, from hourly employees to CEOs, and in all stages of life, from students through retirement age. He has consulted with Fortune 500 organizations, small and medium sized businesses, and Workforce Investment Boards. His clients include people who are out of a job and people who are currently employed but looking for something new.

Advice he commonly gives to all groups is to invest enough time into planning up front, knowing what value you have to offer, and knowing how to communicate your value.

In addition to presiding over TMA, Finkelstein runs the Lambertville-New Hope Activities Meetup group, which has more than 1,800 members and has participated in 410 events to date. One of the group’s most popular activities is the monthly gallery crawl, he says.

Before founding TMA, Finkelstein held executive positions with Right Associates and Minsuk, Macklin, Stein. In his early career he was a probation officer, which involved helping clients find and keep jobs.

Finkelstein grew up in Newark, where his father was a deputy sheriff for Essex County. He holds a bachelor’s in political science from Rutgers and two masters degrees in psychology, his first from Montclair State University, and his second from Seton Hall University, where his focus was on counseling.

“Your career should be an important part of what matters to you, what’s important to you. It should enhance what you want in life,” Finkelstein says.

He finds that embarking on a job search can be an exciting and rewarding experience. “You will have the occasion to learn a great deal about yourself,” he says in his book. “And If you are like most people, this will be the first time you have truly focused on what is important to you. It is time to go after what you want.”

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