Why Do You Do What You Do?

Simon Sinek proposed in his 2009 TED Talk titled How Great Leaders Inspire Action that Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, and other inspirational leaders communicate starting with “Why?” His talk is posted on YouTube and has garnered over 15 million views to date. It also led to a best selling book titled Start with Why. With this in mind, I want to challenge you to consider WHY you do what you do: – Why is your company in business? What is its purpose for being and does that inspire you? – Why do you choose to serve the customers you currently have? Have you consciously chosen them, or did they simply have money you needed? – Why are you running or working for your current company? Have you examined other options, or are you simply accepting a default solution to your need for income? – Why are you in the profession that you practice? Is it motivating and interesting to you? To help clarify your thoughts, Mr. Sinek suggests in his book: “By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief. WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?” As seen in this quote, the inquiry applies as well to a business owner as it does to an individual employee or a customer. If you are a business owner, a clear answer to WHY provides you a higher level of guidance that can decouple your thinking that otherwise may be occupied by analyzing the competition to figure out how your products must be modified to stay...

Four Tips for Acing Your Job Interviews

I spoke to a career group last weekend and my speech was titled Seven Critical Career Questions. The questions covered topics that ranged from choosing a profession to improving your interview results. I want to share what I told them about interviewing in this blog post. As I mention in Chapter 14 of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!), “Interviewing has become a performance art and the person who handles the interview process best tends to get the job.” What do I mean when saying that interviewing has become a performance art? Just like an actor auditioning for a part in a play, your job interview is your audition for a part in a company’s daily operations. In each case the desired result is picking the candidate who will perform best in their role. So, here are four tips to improve your performance: Do your research – Be prepared to demonstrate that you have done your home work. You need to be able to discuss the company intelligently and know enough about the interviewers to engage them with your knowledge of them. The company website, Google searches, and LinkedIn are generally helpful. Smile more. The fact is that people many times get nervous when they interview and fail to smile. Smiling more makes you appear friendlier and well adjusted…. even easygoing! Smiling also tends to cause the interviewer to smile, which reduces their nervousness and makes them feel better. Keep answers under 60 seconds – Interviewers are regular people and regular people have short attention spans. Keeping your answer compact will keep their attention. It also forces you to...

Invest in Yourself!

This week a new client came into my office and wrote me a check for several thousand dollars. They could have taken the money and gone on vacation, paid it down on a new car, or bought a new piece of furniture. Instead, they chose to invest in themselves to develop a clear career roadmap and move forward to a better job. Let’s take a closer look at their other possible expenditures: – A vacation might have been very enjoyable. This would have provided them the immediate gratification that many people desire. But, it would not have improved their future. – A new car might also have provided some immediate gratification, too. But it would also result in them continuing to spend money on a depreciating asset. – A new piece of furniture would be nice to have. They could enjoy it for a while, until it blended into the others. And it was sure to depreciate. Yes, the difference in investing in yourself is that you are investing to increase the value … to cause “appreciation” of your greatest asset: yourself. Yet far too few people ever do this. What about you? When was the last time you invested an amount of money in yourself that was in any way comparable to what you have spent on a vacation or a variety of depreciating assets … cars, furniture, clothes, electronics, etc.? For most people, they are their greatest asset. You can invest in yourself and make yourself more valuable. Such an investment can pay for itself many times over. Decades ago, workers assumed that their employers would invest in...

Are You in the Wrong Occupation?

Are you in the wrong occupation? Probably. Here are a few of the top reasons you are likely to be in the wrong occupation: – There are over 10,000 standardized occupations and you have not even considered 9,995 of them – You would consider it wasting you education to go into another field – You are not happy in your current occupation, but don’t have an idea of what you would prefer more – You “fell into” your current occupation when you were younger and never thought about it any further – You are financially comfortable in your current occupation and afraid to change In fact, most people will spend more time planning their next vacation than they spend in their entire lifetime planning their career. So, why not take a moment now and consider five important questions? 1) Do you enjoy the part of your work that is directly related to your occupation? 2) Does your occupation pay at or above what your desire? 3) Are you proud of what you do? 4) Do you feel you are building the kind of career you desire? 5) Is the demand for your occupation growing and the outlook promising? Your answers to these five questions will tell you a lot about whether you are in the right occupation or not. If you are part of the majority of people … the ones who are in the wrong occupation … then finding a better one could be just what you need to kick-start your career happiness. As I mention in Chapter 3 of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!), “Experience, education, certifications, or other historical realities can be potential barriers...

Is It Time for a Proactive Career Change?

When was the last time you searched for a job while employed, found one you liked better, and gave your employer your two week notice? Have you ever even done this at all? If not, you may be living in the past. Whether we like it or not, the average tenure in a job these days is three years or less. Examine the resumes of two or three friends and you are likely to confirm what I am saying. As I mention in my book, “Face the facts. The employer/employee loyalty “worm” has turned. Employers were the first to abandon the longstanding unwritten contract that had promised employment security in return for employee loyalty and hard work. You don’t need to make a choice regarding abandoning this contract because it no longer exists.” There are two basic strategies for dealing with these short job tenures. The traditional strategy is doing the best job you can and, when surprised by job loss, launch a search for new employment. The alternative strategy is to initiate a proactive job search while employed. I meet and speak with unemployed people every week who are not happy about being unemployed. For some, it can take quite a toll. I want you to experience as little of such negative impacts as possible. Making more proactive job changes can help. Here are some times to consider starting up a proactive search: – You don’t get along with your boss and you don’t see this changing in the future – You don’t like your job and don’t see any near-term positive opportunity for change – You are underpaid,...

Can the Corporate Brain Drain Be Reversed?

A few weeks ago, a close relative of mine (a Gen Xer)  resigned his $130,000 a year job. He is a software architect, a profession in short supply. Why did he resign his job? Here are a few reasons: He felt the company management was dysfunctional; the company was milking an antiquated technology; the product that was supposed to be the “next generation” and would save the company was going nowhere; there was not future; he wanted to work on a product of his own that was more interesting and potentially more rewarding. Then, last week, I was in a meeting with another Gen Xer I had never met before. At lunch she told me that, even though things are going extremely well and there are great opportunities for her, she plans to quit her job soon. Why does she plan to resign her job? Here are a few reasons: She realizes that she has no passion for what she is doing; she took the job because a friend needed help and now she feels stuck; she wants to find something that will better align with her interests, even though she is not sure what they are. I saw this in my corporate career many years before. The most talented and motivated get frustrated in corporate organizations. They end up leaving because, other than a paycheck, their employers are failing to fulfill a reasonable percentage of their needs. And that’s OK with most corporations. They don’t even follow HR best practices and conduct “exit interviews”. If they did, they would learn from their management mistakes. But, they don’t. Instead, they...

A Simple LinkedIn Strategy for Career Success

Ten years ago during the infancy of LinkedIn, I created my profile and waited to see what happened. You can guess, right? Nothing happened! At some point I realized that the system wasn’t producing any useful results for me. I was at a crossroads and had to make a decision. Should I give up and ignore it, or roll up my sleeves and learn how to use the system better? I made the decision that I would invest more effort into learning how to grow my network in a strategic manner and better use the overall functionality. So, here I am ten years later. Because I made the investment of time and energy over the past few years, I am now in a position to leverage my extensive network when I need it. As mentioned in the Social Media chapter of my job search book Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!), “LinkedIn is my primary tool for business networking.” LinkedIn can be used for a wide range of purposes. To help you leverage the value of LinkedIn, I want to share one simple success strategy for making changes during your career. Leveraging LinkedIn to Make the Right Connections One of them most important factors in making career changes is connecting with the right people. Whether you want to engage a person who can give you critical information, a recruiter, or a hiring manager, this simple process will help you achieve your goals: – Do your LinkedIn research to determine the “targets” you would like to engage in a conversation. Use the Advanced Search page to identify people by employer name, title, and … most importantly… for only...

Are You a Lame Career Seeker?

I spoke recently to a group of approximately 40 job seekers who were alumni of a well respected and nationally ranked major university. They interacted well, asked questions, and seemed genuinely interested in the topic. I volunteered my time free of charge and made several offers of help to this audience. That’s the good news. Now for the bad news: The majority of the audience was composed of lame job seekers. I can’t say that I was surprised, having volunteered at similar venues for several years and seen many similar groups. But, it is always a little bit of a letdown. Before I go any further and before you become indignant and stop reading, let me explain what I mean by the adjective “lame”. One of the definitions for “lame” in dictionary.com is “impaired or disabled through defect or injury” Lack of Initiative Can Hurt Your Search These job seekers, as well as many of those I have met and conversed with by phone, fit this definition perfectly. They didn’t know what they were doing and were making things up as they went. And, they lacked initiative. Ignorance plus a lack of initiative is an impairing/disabling combination for those who are unemployed or unhappy in their current line of work. Let me explain a little further. While you and I may debate what people are thinking and what their motives are, there is much less room for debate about observable behaviors. Here are behaviors that I observed from the recent alumni audience: I offered them a helpful “How to prepare for a job interview” document and asked them to email me if they wanted a free...

Job Search: How to Reach Anyone You Want

“The quality of your life is the quality of your communication.” Tony Robbins What would you consider the most important factor for success when seeking a new job? A great resume? Relevant qualifications that match the job description? An MBA or other educational achievements? Actually, the most important factor for job search success and your overall career advancement is the quality of your communication. And, fundamentally, the first step in quality communications is engaging people who have the authority to hire you for the job(s) you desire. But, we all know that the current hiring system is designed to insulate job seekers from the true decision makers. Online job postings are the most extreme example. Many require that you blindly complete an application and provide various additional information, not knowing if any human will actually see your information. This is a source of great frustration, which is understandable. In contrast to online applications and other ineffective activities, you know that your best bet is to cut out the “middle men” (recruiters, resume screeners, etc.) and connect directly with decision makers who have the authority to hire you. After doing the research and identifying companies of interest, consider the following actions that provide far higher odds of reaching people who can hire you: – Take the time to research your companies of interest and identify the specific person or people who would most likely be your boss. Various online tools are available, most notably LinkedIn. These are your “targets”. – Take a mental inventory to determine who you know in the companies of interest, if anyone. Review your LinkedIn contacts, in case you have casual connections that you have forgotten. Where appropriate,...

New Year, New Career!

Each new year offers a time to reflect on the past year and set goals for the new one. And this year is no exception. With the economy continuing to improve, more people are likely to seek career improvement in 2015. As I reflected back on clients who were successful in making career improvements in 2014, a few specific ones come to mind…. In January, 2014, my post titled New Year’s Resolution: Quit My Job mentioned the President of a $300 million division. Although meeting 100% of his performance objectives and making over $400K, he felt that he could never make his boss happy. He engaged me to assist with his proactive search for a new job. Within a few weeks, he negotiated an amicable separation agreement that provided several months of severance. Ten weeks later, he landed a comparable position in a new company and collected double pay for quite a few months. This is a good example of what many high performers do. They take action early and typically are rewarded for their proactive efforts. In a subsequent post titled LinkedIn: Improve Your Visibility, Credibility, and Connect-Ability, I provided several suggestions for leveraging this power online system. A little later in the year, I was asked to assist a VP of Sales for a Fortune100 company with strategic LinkedIn and resume improvements. Within three weeks of completion, the VP reported being approached more frequently by recruiters with jobs that were more satisfying. His actions multiplied his options through increasing his LinkedIn visibility and credibility. Later, my post titled What Good Networkers Do… and Don’t Do mentioned a former client whom I had supported in making a transition from being a bank loan officer to starting...

New Year’s Resolution: Get a Coach?

Last week I was contacted by a late-thirties executive who was seeking a career coach. He said he had worked previously with a coach in another state, the result of which was a move to Atlanta with a step up to a Vice President position and considerably more income. I asked him why he called me and he said he was ready to take the next step in his career. He said he had been very happy with the help he received from his last coach and wanted a local Atlanta coach to work with him in making his next step upward. I smiled … outside and inside. A common expression some coaches like to use is “Even Tiger Woods has a coach.” They say this in an attempt to wake people up to the fact that every level of performer can benefit from being professionally coached. Because many people are resistant to change, I believe that this comment tends to fall on deaf ears. Engaging a coach is an action that openly invites change. If you are like the VP who called me and are open to change, then professional coaching may be right for you. Most career seekers I speak with each week are not like my VP caller. They have gaping holes in their thinking when it comes to career planning and career changes. They want some free advice and then, upon receiving it, go along their merry way. But, if you are the exception and are interested in learning more about the benefits of coaching, then professional coaching may be right for you. Coaches seek to determine if a prospective client is “coachable.” Even if you are open to change, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are willing to do the work. It also doesn’t...

Job Search: How to Reach Anyone You Want

“The quality of your life is the quality of your communication.” Tony Robbins   What would you consider the most important factor for success when seeking a new job? A great resume? Relevant qualifications that match the job description? An MBA or other educational achievements? Actually, in my 12 years of coaching career seekers I have found that the most important factor for job search success and overall career advancement is the quality of your communication. And, fundamentally, the first step in quality communications is engaging people who have the authority to hire you for the job(s) you desire. The challenge you face is that the current hiring system is designed to insulate job seekers from the decision makers. Online job postings are the most extreme example. Many require that you blindly complete an application and provide various additional information, not knowing if any human will actually see your information. This is a source of great frustration, which is understandable. In contrast to online applications and other ineffective activities, you know that your best bet is to cut out the “middle men” (recruiters, resume screeners, etc.) and connect directly with decision makers who have the authority to hire you. As a career coach for the last 12+ years, I have seen just about every possible method for making connections. After doing the research and identifying companies of interest, here are my recommendations for improving your odds of reaching people who can hire you. Job Search Actions for Connecting with Hiring Managers – Take the time to research your companies of interest and identify the specific person or people who would most likely be your boss. Various online tools are available, most notably LinkedIn. These are your...

Synchronize Your LinkedIn Profile for a Better Career

I spoke with a job seeker this week who is seven months into his search. After receiving his inquiry and before calling him, I did what many professionals and all recruiters do these days…. I reviewed his LinkedIn profile. What I saw was that he had eight jobs in the last 11 years. Yikes! When we got on the phone, I told him that I had reviewed his LinkedIn profile. He shared his background, which I had already seen (and was frightened by) on his LinkedIn profile. I asked what he wanted to do next and he told me he wanted to be in sales or business development with a technology company. After a few more minutes of conversation, I decided to “hit him” with a question that I hoped would get his attention and be helpful to him. (I do this frequently when I see people shooting themselves in both feet.) I asked him “Do you realize your LinkedIn profile is scary?” He said he recognized that his frequent job changes were not good, so he had just updated his resume to lump some of the work together under a title like “consulting” or something similar. Your LinkedIn Profile and Your Resume So, my next question was “Why didn’t you do the same thing on your LinkedIn profile?” He said he hadn’t gotten around to it yet, but planned to do it soon. Remember… this is seven months into his job search! I tell you this story because I want you to avoid making the same mistake this job seeker made… using a scary resume and LinkedIn profile, plus not synchronizing them. In addition...

MOOCs and the Coming University Mergers

If you are considering going to college or going back to college in the near future, I recommend you read my last post titled How Universities Are Failing Their Graduates, Part 3. I ended it with: “Dinosaurs are dead. Is higher education (as we now know it) headed for a slot beside them in the Museum of Natural History?” Within a week following my post, CNN aired a two hour special entitled The Ivory Tower that was subtitled “Is college worth the cost?” The film brought up some of the issues I raised in my three recent posts. In this post, I want to discuss alternatives to the excessive hype and cost of typical university degree programs. It’s important to note the potential advantages of technical schools and community colleges. For those who are not quite ready to toss all traditional higher education onto the trash heap of outdated societal traditions, technical schools and community colleges are certainly worth a look. Many people can earn reasonable incomes and have productive careers by learning the practical skills taught at technical/vocational schools. Likewise, community colleges can provide targeted coursework at significantly lower costs than universities. But, the David that may slay the Goliath universities appears to be Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. Every revolutionary market concept is besieged by detractors who range from their established competitors (universities, etc.) to the numble minded (“numble” is not a word…but, you know what I mean) late adopters who catch the wave about 15 years later. So what the heck are MOOCs and why should you care? In the simplest terms, they offer flexible...

How Universities Are Failing Their Graduates, Part 3

Cigarette advertising was banned from radio and television in 1971. In addition, while not legislated, many television networks have made it a policy to eliminate advertising of alcoholic beverages… or restrict such advertising based upon the age of program viewership. Both of these actions were intended to eliminate negative influencing of impressionable audiences. With such massive amounts of advertising dollars eliminated, other industries with available budgets were destined to fill the revenue voids. Alcohol, Tobacco, Prescription Drugs and Higher Education Two notable industries who rushed in to fill the void were prescription drugs and higher education. It was estimated that drug manufacturers spent $2.7 billion on radio, television, internet, and similar advertising. This made me wonder what higher education was doing. What I found was, according to the Educational Marketing Group, that colleges and universities purchased over $570 million of paid advertising in the United States during 2013. That made me think… Have we swapped alcohol and nicotine for prescription drugs and higher education? With this rolling around somewhere in the back of my mind, I was driving down a major artery in Atlanta the other day and noticed a billboard advertising an MBA program from a little-known university. A few minutes later, I saw another billboard advertising an MBA program from one of the top universities in town. Later, I pulled behind a public transportation bus that was wrapped in advertising for a third university. Although I have yet to see a PhD advertised above a men’s urinal, I have a sneaky suspicion that it is only a matter of time. Higher Education: A 20 Year Payback? Which brings me to the subject...

Creating a Killer Resume, Part 1

How can you upgrade your resume and get better results in your career and future job searches? Resume effectiveness  is what this series of articles is all about! Having a full-time career coaching business for 12+ years, I have reviewed thousands of resumes and rewritten hundreds of professional and executive resumes. I believe I have seen all of their typical shortcomings and want to share how to upgrade your resume. An upgraded resume can accelerate your career results and improve your future job search strategies. A key point for resume writers As I mention in Chapter 6 of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!),  …  “do not write your résumé in a manner that is most pleasing to you. It is important that you write your résumé in a manner that will be most pleasing to the people who will be reading your résumé.” Can your resume pass the “15 second skim test”? A good place to start in upgrading your resume is to consider what I term the “15 second skim test”. When you submit your resume for a published job, recruiters and other reviewers can be faced with 200 or more submissions. This drives reviewers to set a fast pace that typically gives each resume 10-15 seconds on their first pass, after which they decide if yours should be trashed or set aside for further analysis. For this reason, it is important that you compose your resume in a manner that maximizes your odds of passing this first phase of review. Three steps to a better resume Here is a two-part exercise that can help: 1.  The Timer Test Start a 25 second timer (you are slower than a professional) and skim your resume. Circle all the...