storytelling

The Illusion of More

Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little. Epicurus

 

A brand new college grad with his mortar board on says to me: Gotta get into grad school!

Comment to me after my 94 year old uncle passed: So sorry he did not make it to 95

Parents remark at their daughter's wedding: Now for my grandkids!

First question in an interview with me: How long do I have to do this job before I might get promoted?

Never enough. Never good enough. 

One of the greatest distractions in life is this uneasy and ultimately sleep depriving feeling. It can motivate and haunt you. It can dominate our thinking and our actions. We see it in our social media, we see it in our credit card statements, we see it at work and talk about it with almost everyone. It is a silent and powerful under current that defines our lives. Wanting MORE. More please

Some believe this constant desire and pursuit for more is rooted in our biology — that it helped us to survive. Some believe that this pursuit is fundamental to a capitalistic society that requires consumerism, propelled by the media, culture and of course, all of us aid and abet the crime of MORE

It is true that our survival instincts and competitive nature have brought us great progress and material luxuries. But when we lose ourselves to the MORE, that requires an intervention.

According to Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, income does predict happiness—but only up to $75,000 per year.

The infinite and never satiable goal of a bigger, better, and more expensive version. We do live in a Big Gulp, Super Size, Monster truck, Power Ball,  iPhone 10, All you can eat, Botox filled world that is relentless and unyielding. It is an epidemic.

The yearning for life and wealth shows no signs of aging even as a man grows old. It does not weaken with age. It is a lifelong disease. The man who gives it up finds happiness.  Dharmasutras

I have come to appreciate Marie Kondo's popular and simple advice about Tidying. I have read her book and saw her speak recently. For me the essence is--Look at your things, things you did not remember you have, so many things--Look at each one of them and ask, "Does this spark joy in me?" If it does not, then get rid of it. Give it away to someone who needs or wants it. We should be surrounded by things and people that spark joy in us, right?

A desire arises in the mind. It is satisfied; immediately another comes. In the interval which separates two desires a perfect calm reigns in the mind. It is at this moment freed from all thought, love or hate. Complete peace equally reigns between two mental waves.– SWAMI SIVANANDA

Regardless of what we believe to be at the root of this constant wanting, it takes a conscious and deliberate effort to experience contentment or satisfaction in our lives — to fully appreciate life, people, and the activities we engage in. To stop and smell the roses, as my Dad used to say. To interrupt the impulses and the continuous thoughts that undermine our sense of self and the present.

Yes meditation helps a lot. Anything to disrupt the pattern and bring the world back into focus.

One of my favorite books is Instructions to the Cook describes the Zen Buddhist concept for the supreme meal. The supreme meal is when we live our life fully, wholeheartedly---a fully expressed life.

So the first principle of the Zen cook is that we already have everything we need. If we look closely at our lives, we will find that we have all the ingredients we need to prepare the supreme meal. At every moment, we simply take the ingredients at hand and make the best meal we can. It doesn’t matter how much or how little we have. The Zen cook just looks at what is available and starts with that.

And we become what we say. We evolve into our narratives. So when we say MORE, to ourselves and to others, that's what we believe and that's what we become. 

Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate what they already have. Buddha

This is most evident in interviews and conversations. How people always tell me they are looking to make a change because they want more. The most over-used term is "growth" followed by "opportunity". I have learned these are code words for more money. Some souls are looking for meaning and fulfillment, but most want the "opportunity to grow".  Grow to do what or be what?!! We may never know. 

Here's what kills me. Many people have read the same blog posts :), received the same coaching and have the same routines, answers and presentations. And when the vast majority of the walking dead say, "I am looking for a place where I can (continue to) grow." I always ask, "What are your top priorities for personal and professional growth?" This is a stumper. The vast majority of people I meet say that the cause, the issue, even the industry "doesn't matter"!!! I wish I was kidding. They can't articulate what "more" they want. Money is embedded and hiding in these abstract thoughts of more. But what is most often avoided is any self awareness, authenticity, and or introspectiveness to identify what more they want to become.

More is superficial when disconnected from the "P" words of passion and purpose.

How much is enough?

 

The Illusion of More        

Don't need a thing
To do our thing
We have what we need
To pursue what we heed
Everything before us
Nothing between us
The more of our world
Is the distraction
The less of ourselves
Is the attraction
When we forget me
We build on the we

The more takes from the now
It carries us to the next
Without gratitude or grace
It abruptly changes our place
For here is this moment
So full and complete
It's a shame we might waste it
So we can compete
For the more of tomorrow
And miss this special time
Are we deaf to the music
And what's left of this rhyme

No things is our aim
In the end
We are all the same                                           jek

 

There are a few MOREs that deserve our attention:

More peace and social justice

More time with people we love

More solitude, silence, and soul nourishment

More effort to be kind and non-judgmental

More altruism where we give and help without any expectation

More joy, awe, and wonder.

Let's enjoy what we have . Let's find and nurture the spark of joy around us. Let's interrupt the nonsensical wanting impulses. No more. 

Thanks for reading. John

 

 


Peek a Boo! I See Me

Infants don't understand the concept of permanence. It is an essential stage of cognitive and sensory motor skill development. We have all done this with little kids. We hide our faces with our hands and then reveal our faces and say Peek a Boo! And the kids are astonished and amazed. Like a magic trick. They laugh uncontrollably because of the surprise.

And when toddlers cover their faces, they think they are invisible.

When we grow up we are still confused about what is real. We think we are invisible. As adults we hide our own faces and our feelings We become quite clever in masking our true selves. And the mask can become the face. Peekaboo

I meet many people at many points in their lives. Junctions, detours, shifts, inflection points, crossroads--all names for the same thing---Life! Every moment considering choices is about change. Anyway, I try to use these moments to see if I get clues about what they really want. Poker players call it the "tell". A sign given off by facial expression, body tics, and or inflection that gives away a truth.

I recently met with a younger man and he was babbling on about who he was and his impressive background ( I remember when I use to show up and throw up) He said, "I want to help people." (When I hear this it takes every ounce of my control not to say, "Yeah "people" that narrows your career choices!") Instead I said "Which people?" And after a series of these back and forths. He spoke eloquently about "helping people overcome what he had overcome." I stopped him and asked him to tell me how he felt. I told him how I felt. It was pretty emotional. His eyes, inflection and body language did all of the talking. And we built a small rhetorical campfire and sat down to explore this personal story. He thought I read his mind, but he opened his book and read from his heart. I was moved.

That honesty about what matters gives me a view of what I think is the soul. The true self who hides in the costume and mask department of our minds. It is a bit of a game of hide and seek I play with others and myself. To get the souls to come out and play and share.

It reminds me to be vulnerable and empathetic in the way I listen and think. It helps me immensely. And I know it has an impact on others and the dimensions of conversation that ensue.

I am convinced that we unconsciously let others and ourselves suppress so much of our potential and our soulfulness. The heavy blanket of expectations, political correctness, not looking stupid, not making other people uncomfortable, not being good enough etc etc.

Sheryl Turkle and her fascinating book, Reclaiming Conversation:

My research shows that we are too busy connecting to have the conversations that count, the kind of conversation in which we give each other our full attention, the kind where we allow an idea to develop, where we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Yet these are the kinds of conversations in which intimacy and empathy develop, collaboration grows, and creativity thrives. We move from conversation to mere connection. And I worry that sometimes we forget the difference. Or forget that this is a difference that matters.

In our daily conversations, it starts with so called small talk, exchanges where we move our lips and sounds tumble out of our pie holes. Classic example is "How are you?" and you reply reflexively, "Fine. You?" and a thousand unthinking variations. But our robotic chatter is not limited to these informal seemingly meaningless verbal transactions. They now consume most of our time. Like bad texting exchanges that say nothing. We partake in a lot of live face to face superficial texting through our mouths. 

We say words and others say words we neither listen to or fully comprehend what pablum spews back and forth. It is not that we are uncaring souls, but we have rehearsed our routines like inadequate amateur versions of Robin Williams' improv group of personalities. We pull something from our inner hard drive and it plays without much thought.

How do we disrupt this pattern if we want to have more interesting and meaningful conversations? How do we show our empathy and compassion for one another? Who starts the real conversation?

Do we have the time and patience? Do we?

And yet we want help. We crave and cry out for mentoring for guidance for support--on our terms, just in time, convenient, fast and simple to assemble. We want life and career advice that comes out of an IKEA box, or fits into a 3 minute YouTube. Not a revealing conversation.

Love Akuyoe Graham's advice to me about enjoying the taste of the words. Meaning that you take the time and thought to savor what you say. You sense the words you speak, their weight, their intention and you convey those thoughts with your face and your body.

Am I there, present, vulnerable, open, attentive, listening, more interested than interesting? That matters. And can make way to real conversations.

Theodore Zeldin from his book Conversation How talk can change our lives:

Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they just don't exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn't reshuffle the cards, it creates new cards. It's a spark that two minds create.

How many conversations do we have like that? Wouldn't that be good?

In my analysis this real conversation is a meeting of the minds and a meeting of the souls. 

It takes both sides to make this happen.

Peek a boo (excerpt from my poem)

I see you

Then you’re gone

I see what you want to be, what you try to be

I see what you want me to see

I saw something

The glint of the sun through the clouds

I felt you

A warm breeze on a summer eve

Something real and fleeting

Like a poltergeist

The warmth and chill of presence

I feel you

Peek a boo

But just like that you disappear

From right in front to out of sight

Are you gone or just hiding?

What are you afraid of?

When will I see you again?

Maybe it’s me

Am I scaring you?

Peek a boo

I see me

Like a mirror image

That glimpse of you was a glimpse of me

I want what you want

And your words are the words I want

I hear me through you

Peek a boo

You are changing me

Am I changing you?

An open heart opens the mind

We are changed

We try to be invulnerable and see no flaw

We become vulnerable and see the light

Peek a boo

I learn from you

When I was teaching you

Peek a boo

You mentor me

When I was trying to mentor you

You helped me 

Did I help you?

Peek a boo

I saw you

And you see me

I need you

And you need me

Come out to play and let’s be                                                          John E. Kobara

 

We must help others and ourselves explore and share our truths, our souls. 

If we see it, acknowledge it, welcome it. And embrace it. 

Build a campfire and listen to each other's stories. We have so much to learn from one another. 

Thanks for reading. 


What is your story? Understanding your narrative and where it is taking you

I have found that people do not appreciate their own stories. There is such a premium placed on amazing, dramatic, tear-jerkers that average stories, just stories about who we are and what we want are relegated to the "boring" file. So these stories are neglected and unformed. Yet I have found that every personal story told is fascinating. 

Our stories are helpful to others so they can help us. But our stories can reinforce our own behaviors and actions and become self fulfilling prophecies. Greatest-story1

Not talking about your interview technique or even how to sound clever at a cocktail party.

I am talking about what you say to yourself and how that reveals itself to others. 

The classics: "I am not good at math." "I have a terrible voice." "I can't even draw a circle." "I can't even boil water." "I am such a terrible public speaker."

Whether you like it or not these are part of your story and become part of your reputation. 

What are you good at? What are you most confident about? Are you risk averse? Are you afraid of failure or looking stupid?

You can become what you say you are and not become what you don't say. 

What are you telling yourself about you?

I made a woman and a young man cry recently. I didn't mean to.

It was my interpretation of their stories that got them choked up.

The gentleman was testing his pitch for a new venture he was thinking of starting and I told him that people want to invest in you who are you. I gave him my version of the hardships he had overcome.

The lady was looking to make a very serious career change and I asked her to tell me why? She struggled with her answer. I summarized her rationale, qualifications and the value she would add. 

I loved their stories. Basically I told them their own stories. I gleaned from them what they were saying and I crafted the stories--positive stories. I have no special skill or technique. I listened to them and read their resumes. These were uplifting meetings for all of us. To see people's potential and share it with them was inspirational for me! When your story is set free and it resonates with the protagonist it creates vulnerability--like a secret was told out loud. It is liberating. It can be cathartic. It is empowering.

And your story evolves, if you allow it. If you keep an eye on the possibility ahead you can edit your story.

One of the many benefits of mentoring and networking is to work on your internal narrative. What story is guiding how you live and what you do. The greatest gift is to ask someone you trust: "What do you see in me?" 'Where do you see me going?" 

Steve Jobs advice from his famous commencement address still rings true. "Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly already want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Hearing your inner voice out loud gives it life and freedom far from the tyranny of others expectations.

Is your story fraught with limitations, excuses and pessimism? Or is it nestled in optimism, opportunities, and lessons? 

"I have few options." "I don't have the right (education, job, mentor, financial condition....)" 

Or

"There are so many things I can do and learn." "This problem is going to teach me new things." 

It is a choice. The story you tell. 

Stories we tell ourselves and others define our well-being. Depressed individuals often have deeply ingrained internal stories such as ‘I’m never good enough,’ or ‘My father told me I should have been a doctor.’  Versus athletes who visualize success and use mantras like "You have been here before. You know what to do."

From Phillipa Perry's book How to Stay Sane "The meanings you find, and the stories you hear, will have an impact on how optimistic you are: it’s how we evolved. If you do not know how to draw positive meaning from what happens in life, the neural pathways you need to appreciate good news will never fire up. We need to look at the repetitions in the stories we tell ourselves, at the process of the stories rather than merely their surface content. Then we can begin to experiment with changing the filter through which we look at the world, start to edit the story and thus regain flexibility where we have been getting stuck."

Take control of your story. Own it. Interrupt the negative audio loops. Open it up. Tell your truths. Talk about it. Listen to other people's assessments of it. Edit and enhance your story. See the possibilities over the problems. Your story is amazing. Sometimes you just have to get out of its way. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Your Future--Nothing or Everything

When I was younger and even more sarcastic (How could that be John?), I was in an interview and was asked my least favorite question: "What is your 10 year plan?" Even back in the pre-hisoric times of my youth, this was a stupid question. I know what the interviewer wanted. "Where are you going and how does this job fit into your plans?" But most interviewers ask clever robotic questions that are part of a list and do not think about the question's intent but more about disrupting the poise of the interviewee----but I digress. Crystal-ball

So, as I am prone to do, I turned the tables on my interviewer. "Great question. I think it is impossible to predict the future. If you tell me what the next 10 years will be like then I will tell you what my plan is?" As you can imagine, this did not go well. I did not get an answer nor the job! But, as we know better today than ever before, the world is evolving and shifting faster than we can plan for it. Favorite quote: "If it works it is obsolete."

Like a skeet shooter or a NASA engineer who is planning the landing of Curiosity--you got to think about the trajectory, and aim where there is nothing now. So if you can not predict the next 10 years, how do you plan? How does it feel when you aim at nothing? It is far better to aim at nothingness with an idea than to accept the nothingness that is on its way to you. Of course, experience is a great teacher. It gives you a sense of where you are going. But where are you going?

I am in a constant process with people who seek my time to predict the future and their futures. This is a process that is fraught with great dangers. I listen and tell them what I hear and sometimes my willing and volunteer victims see the future--their futures. The futures that have hidden within themselves. 

How are you trending? In other words, where is your trajectory and momentum? Are you getting better, in what, how? And what is your next milestone? And where are you slipping? When you plot these coordinates you will be able to see your trajectory--not your aspirations--but where you are heading. Still confused?

Your ascendancy has to be tangible it can't be just a dream. You can't rely on luck or some divine intervention. You have to push ahead driven by your heart and your curiosity. Yes your next career might find you but you have to recognize it. 

Many people tell me they will run a non-profit in their future, but are taking no steps to scaffold that possibility. Many people will have better lives in the future. Many people tell me they will give back later, volunteer more later, get involved down the road. Why not engage now in what you care about? Busy? Too busy? To think about your future or aim at the nothingness where you want to be. Listen carefully and you can hear a the magma of a volcanic regret heating up. A regret that will pour lava all over your your beautiful green grass dreams.

Your future is coming up the path and it passes you everyday. Then a new offramp appears and disappears. It never stops.

The next 10 years are going to be your best ones, if you think about your trajectory. If you fill in the nothingness of your story with the steps you are taking to explore your future.

The future is already here, it just isn't evenly distributed.  William Gibson

I just talked to a 25 year veteran of a dying industry and he knows he waited too long to shift but he is ready now. I talked to a 26 year old who is having a "pre-mid-life" crises. I talked to new divorcee who sees this change as her opportunity. I am coaching multiple college aspirants about their educational plans. And talked to a dear friend who is recovering from a terminal illness that "surprised" him. 

All of them are focused on their futures differently. You don't want tragedy to get you focused. But we use what we have. You want to take control of your future and begin to trot out your future narrative--your story. Where is the protagonist going? And test it with mentors and your network.

How are you trending? Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where are you going? What do you want?

One thing is certain, absolutely certain--don't wait. Don't procrastinate! Don't every say you will deal with the future later. Because the future will have come and gone.

You have everything or nothing ahead of you--which will it be?

Thanks for reading. John

 


Is Your Virtual Fly Open?

I can remember like it was yesterday my most embarrassing moments. When I was a 6th grader I gave a class presentation on the attributes of Argentina. The first question I got from a girl in the front row, "Why is your fly open?" Suffice it to say that it slightly undermined my wonderful talk about llamas. :)
Yet as I meet people  or prepare to meet people, I Google them and see that their virtual fly is wide open.  UNC fly is open
One of the greatest trends in the world today is the ability to promote and present oneself to the world. Like all reputational and brand matters you take control of this process or it controls you. 
Whether you like it or not you have created and not necessarily curated an online presentation of yourself . What is your online presence right now? What is your online reputation? Your online brand?

When someone Googles you, they get search results and there you are. I know some stuff is out there that you can't control but there are also things you can. Like your photo.

So most of your networking is being done without you. This has always been the case. Your reputation precedes you. Your brand has attributes and travels around especially when you are not there. Social media and the world wide web just makes this process faster and further outside of your control. 
Each of you owns a social media company---YOU! 

Here's what guru Seth Godin says:

All of us own our own media companies now. We each have the ability to speak up, to tell our stories, and if we're good and if we're lucky, to be heard.

Too often, though, there's no signal. You may be pumping noise through your social media outlets, but noise isn't signal. It's merely a distraction. You're talking, but you're not saying anything, at least nothing that's being heard.

You get to choose your story. If the story you've chosen doesn't get through, it's up to you to fix that. Pick a story that reflects your work, sure, but also one that resonates with the receiver.

The point is you are the protagonist of your own reality show. Take control of the script. What is the story you are trying to tell? 

Consider these facts:
The company Adobe now sources more than half of its new hires via LinkedIn. Tech companies report that a full two-thirds of corporations use Facebook to bring on new talent, and 54 percent of organizations use Twitter to learn more about a candidate. Companies now are actively trawling the www waters for interesting fish. To recruit. To reference check and to network. 

So they checked out your Linked-in, Facebook or Twitter pages-- what do they see?  Your Fly is Open

Is your virtual fly open? Don't be embarrassed because you didn't check. :)

Here are a few examples of what I saw last week:
  • Linked-in page with a job title for someone who was fired a year ago!
  • Bad photos, Not just unattractive but weird and quasi inappropriate
  • I Googled a 39 year old professional and nothing came up! Nothing. No Linked-in.
  • Bad photos!
A few quick reminders and suggestions to polish up the olde online brand:
  1. Google thyself-- Just to check what others see. 
  2. Get a Linked-in account--If you are a serious job networker you must have one and use one. 
  3. Update your social media sites--Keep them up to date or take them down. Just lunacy to see Linked-in sites that look abandoned and neglected--there goes your brand.
  4. Consider starting a blog or a personal website to actively post relevant videos, papers, opinions, articles that you have created. 

Conduct a quick audit. Develop a strategy for your story. Take control of your brand management. 

Visibility is the key to success. It always has been. Can't see you, can't promote, or hire you.
I use to give career talks about speaking more or writing more to enhance your brand and your opportunities. Still good advice. But today you have to also actively manage your virtual media company. Your visibility has to differentiate you not disqualify you.
It use to be said that all publicity is good publicity. But that is no longer the case. The only good "publicity" is the publicity that is accurate and advances your story.

Or you can tell me how busy you are and hope nobody notices. 

Rest assured people and companies are networking with you, without YOU--right now. So, is your virtual fly open? 

If you need more proof of this, see the great infographic from mashable below.
Thanks for reading. John
E-rep-infographic


Are you Entrepreneurial? I Doubt It.

Our brains are not always connected to our mouths. We say stuff that sounds good that gets embedded in our hard drives and flows out our pieholes without any awareness of the meaning of these words. I meet lots of people who tell me their dreams, goals and ideas. I listen to the words they use. Robotically spoken words that have become de rigueur to sound smart and modern. Apparently if you are human with a pulse you now have certain traits because everyone now utters these attributes as their own. Here are the top 2 that have become commodities and to me suspicious:

  • Entrepreneurial
  • Creative/Innovative
These words once meant something important and special. No longer. 

What people really like is being in environments described by these words. Everyone loves to work in "entrepreneurial", "innovative" or "creative" organizations. But that does NOT make you these things. This is the confusion.

Breathing the air in Africa never makes you African. Being around talent does not make you talented. Being the son of an artist has never made me artistic. :)

First of all you have to prove with evidence that you are any words you use. Like Robin Williams, you would have at least 5 stories queued up ready to "ad lib" your proof that you are what you say you are. I know this sounds basic, but most people don't have any proof ready so there is nothing behind the curtain. In my experience these people are not evil purveyors of deceit, but they usually have not filtered what is directly flowing out of their craniums. So they do deceive themselves. These words and many others are part of their memorized routines, reflexive habits that occur well outside of their consciousness. IAmEntrepreneur1240-copy

When you use these words and all of you do, please be prepared to defend them with other words and examples you have thought about.

Let me just focus on Entrepreneurial. This one bugs me more than the rest. This is a sacred word to me. I know and have worked with true entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are friends of mine. And you are no entrepreneur! (you know who you are)

Success is going from one failure to the next with enthusiasm. Winston Churchill

Are You Entrepreneurial? This means you like taking chances; you take risks; you embrace failure and love to iterate. You are driven by passion and the problem you desire to solve. Most entreprenuers have been fired multiple times. They quit cozy jobs with dental benefits to pursue a passion or an audacious concept with no benefits.  Entreprenuers have glorious stories of failure. They have some stories of success. They always have side projects they are building in their proverbial garages. You are not entrepreneurial sometimes. You can't just turn on your entrepreneurial talent. It is in your DNA and it manifests itself everywhere you are. 

So if this is not you and you have no proof, stop saying you are entrepreneurial!

Big difference between claiming to be entrepreneurial and wanting to become an entrepreneur! It's great to aspire to be an entrepreneur. Seek them out as mentors, engage in entrepreneurial ventures, and explore your entreprenerial side. Try it on for size. The bug will bite you or not. You will know when it happens. Then this term will be true for you. Only then will you understand why true entrepreneurs recoil at hearing imposters cheapen this way of living and working by recklessly and irresponsibly adding "entrepreneurial" to their list of words in their resumes.

Let's also help others stop using these words when they are not true. Evaluate the words you use and be prepared to back them up with deeds.

Thanks for reading. John


Resume Reboot

Nobody should be the victim of their own resume. 

Odds are you have neglected your resume. It is a poor reflection of who you are, what you have done and where you are going. I see so many horrific resumes! This is your key marketing and networking document whether you like it or not. Once you come to grips with the fact that this document will probably determine how your career path goes, hopefully you will spend more time updating it than the few seconds it takes to read it. Yes, the average resume is read for just 8-10 seconds. However updating your resume will take hours. But it has been my experience that few people update their resumes regularly and then slap one together when they need it.

I have joked that I send my resume to my mother for mother's day because it makes her beam with pride.

We all know that a resume is not whole truth, but it can't contain lies. Big difference! Resume

Every resume should be re-booted and renovated. For if you have not learned anything, accomplished anything, or done anything over the last x years since you updated your resume, you should go straight to the unemployment office and not collect $200. Every resume needs to be updated.

How do you differentiate yourself? How do you tell YOUR story? How are you interesting?

Here are 10 easy basic steps to evaluate and tune up your resume:

  1. No Career Objective--Save your customized language for the cover letter. Listing a generic job goal hurts you.
  2. Chronological Only!--No functional resumes! These look like you are trying to hide something! No one can read these and figure out what you did and when. Use months to show employment periods. 
  3. Lead with Education If You are Young--New grads have to tout their degrees. But people out for 5 years or so put education at the end.
  4. One Page for New Grads Only--If you have no substantive work/professional experience, then use a single sheet. But if you have accumulated real and relevant experience then you can go to two or more. After three, you better have cured cancer!
  5. Describe Your Employer--If the reader does know the company/organization they assume the worst. Add a couple of sentences that describe the unique qualities and mission of your employer. You can take it off their website. Some employers are well known, but most are mysteries.
  6. What Did you Do with your Job  Responsibilities?-- List the duties of what anyone would do in your job, but add bullets that relect the accomplishments you achieved. What did you do with the job that was beyond the average occupant of this position? Did you bring in money, save money, create innovations, solve problems.....? How did you add value?
  7. Nothing Fancy--No special fonts, no colored paper, no images/logos or photos of you! Remember most resumes are input into systems and fancy formatting gets re-arranged and makes your resume look really bad. 
  8. Add Internships, Volunteer Work, and Other Activities can be Integrated--When relevant to a particular job, you should include the substantive roles in and amongst your work history. If you chaired a major board or a committee of the company, then list it as a "job". 
  9. Remove References Upon Request--Never list your references at the end. You will want to give the hiring organization a customized list of names that reflect their interests and requests. Taking off the obvious statement "References Upon Request" will give your more space. 
  10. Great Cover Letter--Very important that this never is a generic note that feels like a mass mailing form letter. This is a great canvas where you will paint a picture of yourself that you want the reader to get. What is your story? Tell it so the reader does not have to guess. Plus you can mention who referred you to this job/organization. Being referred is the most powerful thing you can do. That referring name differentiates your resume/application from the others. Plus, they have to remember what they did with you in case there is follow-up!

Time Gaps--You were laid off 8 months ago. You been on maternity/mommy leave for a couple years. Unless you were just on the couch, you were doing something besides applying for jobs online, right? Any consulting, volunteer work, internships become more relevant especially at the top of your resume. Recent studies show you will get way fewer call backs when there is an extended gap at the top of your resume. Duh!

Proof Readers--Have your confidantes read your stuff for readability, typos, grammar, formatand to help you present the best case. They know you and they will also push you to brag appropriately. 

Resume Resources--Many online free resources. I like Rileyguide.

Please reboot your resume. Get it into to shape to represent you well! Impossible to network without one.

Thanks for reading. John 

 


The Preference for Your Own Potential

Things that grow are generally better. Whether you are trending on twitter, the equity in your home, your GPA, or your sense of well-being.

Things with potential growth are considered the better investments. Every financial investment, every hire selected considers the upside of the candidate.

Think about the recruiter for your favorite NFL team in the Super Bowl. Consider the incredible track record of Kevin Rose, arguably the best picker of start-ups. Or the admissions offices of the top universities. They require evidence of past performance AND evaluate the future trajectory of the candidates. How do these experts balance the value of track record with the upside of potential?  Potential

Recent research out of Stanford and Harvard called: The Preference for Potential revealed:

When people seek to impress others, they often do so by highlighting their personal achievements.  Despite the intuitive appeal of this strategy, we demonstrate that people tend to prefer potential rather than achievement when evaluating others.  Indeed, compared to references to achievement (e.g., “this person has become a leader in the field”), references to potential (e.g., “this person could become a leader in the field”) appear to stimulate greater interest and excitement, which translates into more favorable reactions.

It makes sense that there is this preference and bias for potential, especially in hiring and promoting. In any investment of time and money you should expect growth and a greater return. Upside matters! The intangibles become very influential. Desire, passion, and character add credibility to potential. 

The fact that you have done it in the past is not enough to prove or demonstrate potential for the future. Competence is a starting point.

Some may say that this smacks of ageism. That younger candidates have an advantage in the race for  potential. Probably true. But if you need experience AND potential, then youthful enthusiasm is not enough. The question is how can you translate your achievements into an adaptable investment that is relevant now and into the future? How are you able to show that your skills, knowledge and abilities are in sync with the future needs of the organization and the industry?

The future is not what it used to be.  Yogi Berra

"What have you done for me lately?" is morphing into,"What will you be capable of doing later?"

We tend to over focus on our past achievements. We start to believe our own press releases, rest on our laurels  and forget our potential. We rarely talk about our own potential. We hesitate because of our humility and our uncertainty. Deep inside we know what we are capable of and what we want to do, but if no one knows but us, what good does that do?

Do you see the trajectory of your career? Can you describe it?

I meet many people who can not describe their potential at all. 

What is potential that is invisible? 

Untapped potential is a sin. I think the greatest indictment a person can hear is "you have so much potential" and not know what they are talking about.

Get to know your potential. Start by finding role models of people that are doing what you think you want to do. People who are doing what you want to do and doing it the way you want to do it. Connect with these people.

Continuous effort--not strength or intelligence--is the key to unlocking our potential. Winston Churchill

Dive deeply into your work and your field--even if you are uncertain if this is THE one. 

Then start to push yourself to gain more experience, confidence, and understanding of your potential. You will discover your strengths and your weaknesses. You will better define what you want and don't want. 

Other people want to be associated with people who are growing and knowledgeable about the trends, the field. People who are well connected, well-read, and well versed. In other words, people who take their careers seriously--people who want to be leaders in their field. 

Maybe you don't know exactly where you are going but you see yourself moving up the ladder. Then act like it! Read the trades. Follow the industry thought leaders. Join the industry associations. Take on visible roles at your employer, in the industry. 

Potential can't be a latent undefined blob within you. It is revealed by your actions and your words. You show it and people see it. If it is a genuine pursuit of your interest in the field, some may see you as a "climber", but if you are not showy and egotistical, then the preference for your potential will be realized.

You prefer potential in things and in others. Now hold yourself to the same standard! 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Sabotaging Yourself in Interviews

I think it was Dennis Miller who said he has a rare case of ADD/OCD. He says he is afflicted with constantly changing what he is obsessed about. :) 

Hmmmm maybe all of us suffer from this......

Every week I get to hear how people intend to improve their live, pursue new careers, and search for their next resume filler. I can now predict what what most people say. Not sure where this downloaded verbiage comes from, but the vast majority utter a pablum of memorized (read non-authentic words) about their future. These words inevitably and inexorably sabotage their chances to achieve their goals. Let me explain.   Self-Sabotage-300x300 (1)

I was recently interviewed by a executive coaching site to provide some advice to their subscribers. One of the questions was:

What three interview questions are the most effective? 

  1. Why do you want this job?
  2. Why are you leaving or left your last job?
  3. How will this job advance your longer term career goal?

I try to get to the candidate's story--the story of goals, passion, and self reflection. The true story, not the half truths of a resume--but the inner thoughts and persona of the candidate.

Intuitively we know that the job of a candidate is to differentiate oneself. It is the ultimate marketing challenge of telling the interviewer/employer what sets you apart from the sea of "qualified" humans who seek the same spot. Right? 

Here are the typical and predictable and yes, you guessed it, worst answers to my questions:

  1. Why do you want this job?  I love what (employer name) does. Seems like a place I could make a difference. Really looking for a place to grow. 
  2. Why are you leaving or left your last job? My current position/place of employment limits my mobility. I  am looking for new opportunities where I will have more mobility and opportunity. 
  3. How will this job advance your longer term career goal? Eventually I want to head my own/division/company/non-profit and I see this position as helping me achieve this. 

Why do we spend so much time and energy demonstrating why we are like everyone else? Why is our pitch-- our story, our marketing materials--resume and cover letter, and our approach to interviews like every other candidate?!!

Laziness, apathy, perhaps ADD/OCD and our rush to act, play leading roles in this regression to the mean. We want quick solutions--so we plug in generic phrases and ideas to to keep the engine of progress going--even if the result is mediocrity.

Not sure how these oft repeated answers get embedded in our brains and process but I have seen this pattern over and over again. Reading these answers you get a distinct idea that "this job" is not the focus of this conversation. You learn little about the person. Everything in these answers speaks to the future--what the candidate will need to advance. No attention is paid to learning and contributing to "this job". No expression of awareness of what the candidate needs to advance in their career--in other words what they hope to achieve/gain to lighten their intended path. 

  1. Why do you want this job? How does this job align with your purpose? Everyone wants to "make a difference and a place to grow". What are your personal reasons to work here?
  2. Why are you leaving or left your last job? This is a delicate and important question that needs to be addressed. Layoff is an answer that requires details. Dissatisfaction with the job, the growth, the purpose need attention and inform the question above. Lack of prep on this question demonstrates lack of readiness to move on. 
  3. How will this job advance your longer term career goal? Another softball question that tees up your chance to solidify your answers above. This is the space you use to talk about how you expect to grow, what opportunities that you found lacking in your previous job you hope to uncover here, and what areas you hope to hone, refine and master to become more confident. In other words, "How will this job challenge you?" Is this merely a stepping stone. This is not the place to say, "I want to be the head of (employer)." Or some other ambiguous ambitious sounding words about becoming the head of something. Often "this job" will probably not lead to this goal (even if you believed your own answer) raising serious doubts about your understanding of "this job" and your attention span for "this job."

Cover letters, interviewing, networking, mentoring, answering questions, and telling your story are more about vulnerability and authenticity than regurgitating your quals and resume. 

Otherwise your auto-pilot average answers to the questions unwittingly sabotage your candidacy.

Get compulsive and obsessive about your story--your real story. Invest time into it and develop the words that convey your ideas and your candidacy. Let your greatness, goodness and needs shine!

Thanks for reading. John

 


The Write Stuff and the Write Thinking

One of the reasons I decided to create this blog was to write down my ideas and share them with others. Writing has become an exercise in articulating my commitments to myself and to others. It has become a habit that enables me to discuss my thoughts and to commit them to written words. Ideas that swirl around in our heads can evaporate and are only meaningful if they are held in captivity and examined in writing. 

In our minds we are legends. :) We are very collected, poised, ready for anything. We can think we are pretty awesome. :) But the reality is we need to evaluate what we are doing, where we are going, and the big differences between what we intend and what we do. 

My son is off to Yosemite to hike for a week with members of his senior class. I have encouraged him to journal. I told him to try not to write about what he did and saw, but about what he is thinking about. Not necessarily profound thoughts but just his current thoughts. My daughter is studying abroad and her lengthy e-mails on her experiences are very insightful. She has become a very good writer because her words describe the emotional and intellectual content of her experiences. Writing will help them and anyone who does it. It is not a student exercise, it is a life habit.Escher

We all need to write more. More about who we are and who we intend to be. We need to write our career ideas, our relationship commitments, our bucket lists, and our goals. That's why I developed the SWIVEL_(new_2012)  to assist people in capturing in lists and brief written expressions what they want to strengthen in their lives. 

A few sample questions from the SWiVEL to prompt you to write.

  • What three things do I have to change in my life? Things I have to improve or work on?
  1. _________________________________________________________________________
  2. _________________________________________________________________________
  3. _________________________________________________________________________
  • What three issues, causes, or things am I passionate about? Things that are meaningful to me.
  1. _________________________________________________________________________
  2. _________________________________________________________________________
  3. _________________________________________________________________________
  • What am I curious about? I would really appreciate some help exploring/learning about these subjects.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Write to yourself so you see and hear who you are.

There are studies that show that writing goals improves goal achievement. Did we really need a study to prove this? The act and process of writing deepens our commitment, even more so if you share it.

Have you ever seen FutureMe.org? Where you can write your future self an e-mail. You can write anything. Describe how you will be different, what you have accomplished, or how you have changed.....The point is any time we write, we are writing to our future self about the past. Writing helps us understand the past in the future. 

Ink your commitments to yourself. Write it down. And feel free to change it and make it better as you get more perspective through your networking and mentoring experiences. Literally comparing notes with others can bring powerful results. Sharing your well thought out questions and ideas will always yield more insights. Relying solely on your your ability to talk---your adlibness, your glibness is safer and easier and a bit more dangerous. You probably have well developed verbal packages that both falsely defend your actions and protect your ego. These need to be tested in the laboratory of writing. Write and read what you are thinking and I guarantee your thinking will change. Written words demand precision and accuracy. They summon the editor in you to make the words convey what you are thinking. 

 So move your thinking to the write! Type it, scribble it, just write more. Your personal narrative will improve and be more believable and more authentic! Your questions will be more potent. Your connections with others will be more meaningful. Write!

Thanks for reading. John


Your two-sided career mouth

It is hard to understand what people mean--when they say conflicting things.

I want to go to grad school, or travel, but we don't get off the couch.

I want to win the lottery but never buy tickets

I want more but I don't want to do more

I want to meet my soul mate but don't want to meet anyone

I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.  Robert McCloskeyTwo mes

I meet a lot of people who confess things to me about their careers. And in that moment of honesty they say confusing things. Things that come from different sides of their mouths. I get to know in that instant the doubter and the doer, the courageous and the cowardly, the fearless and the fearful.

What I want to be and what I really want to be

What I hope to be and what I have to be

What I tell my parents and what I tell myself

Love people but not personnel

Enjoy selling but not sales

Value diversity, but no amongst my friends

Like change (read variety) but not change management

Love risk but want a guaranteed salary and retirement

Want new experiences but only the ones I choose

March Hare: …Then you should say what you mean.
Alice: I do; at least - at least I mean what I say -- that's the same thing, you know.
Hatter: Not the same thing a bit!

Pick your storyline and stick to it. Your story is all you got. Who you are and where you are going. Impossible to get help from anyone or make connections when your storyline is untold, inconsistent, or worse, conflicting.

Why do we take jobs we don't want, to impress people we don't like, to buy things we don't want? Deepak Chopra

Because we get distracted and settle for what looks good, or what others tell us or what just happens. Because we are NOT pursuing what WE want.

Time is meaningless to those who say things they don't mean. And in the meantime, time marches on and as Les Brown says, ..You fall behind in your bills and your dreams.....

We look to find our lives by exploring the new. We look for inspiration from other people's lives. Yet our inspiration is within us.

This is where mentoring and self reflection can be transformational. Making sure you know your story by telling it to yourself and to others you trust. To get feedback and direction.

We are creatures of habit who have thoughts and goals that often don't align with our actions. Either we have to wake up to these conflicts or we have to get help in understanding them.

Speak your possibilities.  Eric Saperston 

And if you do speak with your heart you will make connections to yourself and the world around you. The sooner you close one side of your mouth, the sooner you will have a clear idea of what you have to do to become who you are.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”  Dr Seuss, Oh the Places You Will Go......

Thanks for reading. John


3 Perspectives on Our Opportunities

1. Tsunami of emotions and the power of WE

As we watch the ongoing tragedy in Japan, we are conflicted. Our hearts are pained by the images and stories that we are engulf us through the news. We feel helpless. We do not know what we can do. We can send money, but is that enough? Doing nothing seems wrong. Our desire to help expands and our ability to help is constrained. As in all traumatic events, we think of ourselves. How lucky WE are. I was in a conversation this week where we were urged to launch a campaign here in LA to get people to prepare for the BIG ONE in Los Angeles. We want to help, but it did not harm us. The horrible thing about this conflict is that it freezes us, it prevents us from doing what is human--to help each other. It is what I have called the Brentwood Triangle. So proud of my kids because they made donations to help the Japanese recover. We have to give. There are many wonderful organizations you can support with the confidence that the money will get to where it is needed now. Here's what my foundation recommends.

I must tell you these articles, columns and blogs that are telling people NOT to give to Japan, because they are "wealthy" or "they don't want our help" or "they have not asked for our help" are painful to read. Inhumane. The more we think about "us" vs "them" the more we divide ourselves. The world is not only flat it is inextricably interconnected. We are them. Our destinies are tied to one another. We give to help ourselves. There are no victims or perpetrators or enemies--there is only us.

If we have no peace, it is because we forget we belong to one another.  Mother Teresa

2. Be a Seller then a Buyer

Looking for a job, applying to grad school, promoting a cause...

Too often we resign ourselves to just the role of the seller. Hat in hand we humbly or not so humbly push our ideas, our "wares", and our personal agendas. We feel lucky if people are interested and are recoiled by declination and rejection. Often the seller is in a position of weakness. I used to joke about this when I was dating. Guys have to sell by asking for a date and the Gals are the ultimate decision makers as the buyers. The buyers have great power (unless there is a monopoly)if they exert it. They can always walk and go somewhere else. The seller has to sell and promote.Buyer seller

My point is that once you have options, you have to become a buyer. My daughter Jenna got into a bunch of grad schools and they offered her financial packages. We talked and determined which of the schools were her favorites. Mind you she has choices for which she is almost indifferent about. But the differences are not insignificant. A school back east a school close to home. Travel and living expenses and of course, the weather! We strategized and I told her to call her two top schools and see what else they could offer her to persuade her to go there. At first she hesitated and then she agreed. Her first instinct was this was wrong or not appropriate. I assured her this was perfectly up front and normal. I told her, "You are a great student that is in demand. You are now the buyer. You have what the schools want. Now it s time to turn the tables and use your power." The schools both increased their packages, one by 80%!

The lesson here is when you know what you want and have just a little leverage, you have to sell less and become a discriminating buyer.

Unless you are destitute or in grave financial straits, your buyer mindset should be dominant. Feeling empowered and confident in what you are offering. Being in control of your destiny and your journey. Seeing down the road and the consequences of your decision. Avoiding the expedient and embracing the excellent. Doing everything you can do avoid settling. Looking to see if an employer, a boss, a donor, a partner is the right fit is vital. Selling AND conducting due diligence on what will be best for you and your needs have to be intertwined. Just selling will never get you what you want and what you need. Just as in dating, after the party manners and things start clicking, the buying begins.

3. What is your story?

I literally start every interview and many new encounters with this question. An open ended, soft ball question that begs the respondent to talk. After a brief moment of humility, many people launch into their story. In interviews, it is an attempt to allow the candidate to fill in the blanks and between the lines of the carefully constructed truths of their well written resume. Those that flunk the one question IQ test, merely recite everything on their resume and just what's on their resume. Crazy. Kinda of a name rank and serial number response. These same people also define themselves by their job title, when  asked "Tell me about yourself." The fact that they are a father of twins, a trombone player, little league coach and on a prominent non-profit board are left standing on the alter of betrayed opportunities.

I interviewed this young man last week. I started with THE QUESTION. And he preceded to tell me about his education, job experiences, and accomplishments in chron order. He was poised and well spoken. Only thing is he did not know his story. And in his lack of preparation he made up things. He was not lying, but winging it. His new story begged questions and raised doubts. It was unclear where he had lived and where he worked, what he did and where he was going. Unfortunately his story ended with our interview.Stories

Your story, a brief but reflective articulation of:

  1. Who you are. What makes you different. (stuff you care about)
  2. Where you have been
  3. Why you went there and why you left
  4. What you are doing now. (And if a candidate, why this position fits into your game plan)

If well prepared, not memorized, then the story makes sense out of a resume (hopefully does not conflict with it :) and gives dimensions to a person that you are trying to get to know or help others get to know you. The story has to be authentic, it need not be clever.

As Peter Guber, big shot Hollywood producer and author of Tell to Win, differentiates story telling from telling a story with your heart and with purpose. Anyone can tell a joke or a story, but how do we engage people in conversation, captivate their imagination for a moment, and move them to action? To think, to vote, to buy, to care, to hire....Guber evangelizes about being in the "emotional transportation business." He's right we are, if we are successful.

Here's several of the key takeaways from his book:

  • Capture your audience's attention first, fast and foremost
  • Motivate your listeners by demonstrating authenticity
  • Build your tell around "what's in it for them"
  • Change passive listeners into active participants
  • Use "state-of-the-heart" technology online and offline to make sure audience commitment remains strong

Love the state of the heart technology! Bottomline, prepare and speak from the heart and your stories will transport you and your audience to new levels.

Thanks for reading. John

 


My Top 10 posts

Here is my holiday weekend special, my top ten posts. These are the "best" of the 160+ posts I have made based upon an arbitrary, random and indefensible combination of my preferences, other people's comments and what continues to be the set of questions I receive. They are listed in chronological order. Enjoy!

  1. You Don't Know Who You are Sitting Next to. Contains a couple of my favorite stories about meeting people by getting to know the people around you.
  2. Weathering the Storm and Defining the Moment. How to convert serious challenges into opportunities to define your life and your next chapter.
  3. Networking with Top Management and Other Intimidating Species.Connecting and conversing with your boss' boss and other senior executives can be tough, but it's much easier than you think.
  4. Finding the Right Mentor. You need a mentor but want to find someone who can help you adapt and improve. How do I find that person?
  5. Telling My Story. All of our lives take twists and turns, but if we can not make sense out of our past and what it means to our future, no one else will. What is your story?
  6. Resumes that Get Interviews. A lot of conflicting and confusing info on this topic. How does your resume have the best chance to stand out from the pile?
  7. Starting the Conversation. You want to meet people, but just initiating the conversation can be hard. How can I make that process more natural, comfortable, and effective?
  8. The Art of Shaking Hands. In addition to what you say, the way you greet people says the most about you. No second chance to make a first impression.
  9. Ambitious without Ambition. We all want more in our lives and in our careers, but what do we want? Focusing your ambitiousness has to a goal.
  10. Amazing Who You Know But Don't Know. All of think "new "people will be key to our next opportunity. We all know so many people, but we don't KNOW them. Starting with your existing network is easier and more productive.

I continue to try and address what's on your mind and what's preventing you from moving ahead in your career and life. Let me know what other topics you want me to address.

All of these posts and much of what I discuss involves the following principles. The more you connect with others, learn about them and their needs, the more you learn about yourself. If you mentor others then you will be mentored. Making your network diverse in its points of view will give you new perspectives. Push yourself to reconnect with people you care about, people you work with and people that you see everyday but never talk to. The world becomes smaller and much more manageable!

 Thannks for reading. John 


Stop Lying! To Get a Job and To Yourself

We tell lies when we are afraid... afraid of what we don't know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us.  But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger.  ~Tad Williams

Lying is so complicated. You have to remember who you told and who knows. It is an endless process to avoid the truth.Telling the truth is much different than not telling a lie. It starts with little lies we tell ourselves and others. And it can lead to self deception. In the end, we have to ask ourselves, are we who we say we are? Are who we think we are?

Don't make up stuff about yourself, especially about your education. If you did not complete a degree or don't plan to, don't say otherwise. Pretty shocking how many people I have met who lie about their academic records. They just brazenly make false statements about their education. Everyone knows that academic records are checked, so what is the point. It is a deal breaker in job offers and brutalizes your brand. Offered a job to an extraordinary candidate. He was a VERY qualified candidate. His routine background check showed that he had not earned a BA. When we informed him he said he would clear it up and we never heard back from him again. Not sure if it was embarrassment or fear. If he would have told us that he was working on his degree, we would have figured out something. He lied and ran. Don't say you are going to get a graduate degree unless you are planning to. In an informational interview I met this bright young lady who was highly recommended to me. She told me she was "going to get her MBA." I quickly asked her when she was applying and how did she do on the GMAT. She was surprised by the questions and became quite flustered. She looked at me and sheepishly said, "Do you have to take the GMAT?" YIKES!

Don't misrepresent why you left a job.Was it a layoff? A restructuring? A poor fit? Was it amicable? Tell the story. Leave out all of the gory details, but explain what happened in a credible way. This is my favorite--"I just left because I outgrew the position." Yeah, you just quit in the middle of the recession without another job because you were not challenged. Huh? Jon Lovitz, as the pathological liar on SNL used to say, "Yeah, that's the ticket!"

Don't name drop. Don't exaggerate who you know and how well you know them. The world is small and getting smaller and lies will be unceremoniously unmasked. In my strange and wonderful career I have shaken the hands and "met" many important people. I would never say I "know" them or drop their names in conversations. People tell me they were referred to me by people I know. Then I find out they don't know the person who referred them. Not good form. I was just introduced to someone and before we shake hands, she says "You know so and so don't you." The name shocked me because I did know this person but they were fired for excessive drinking at work! Needless to say this meeting did not go well and my impression of her, and her judgment, were damaged.  

Don't lie about your compensation requirements hoping you will work it out in the negotiations. I always ask what is "your minimum salary requirement." I require an answer. If someone says, "Its does not matter" or "I am totally negotiable." Then we expect they really want the job and money is secondary. Just had a candidate tell us this and then when the offer was made, he told us his minimum salary, which was 20% higher than we  were offering. Don't ever hire liars, they will never stop lying.Stop-lying-to-yourself

Here's the biggest one. Stop lying to yourself. Stop telling yourself and others things that are not true. Things about your plans and your future. Start talking about what you REALLY want. And start taking steps to understand these things better. Know thyself! And then make it happen.

It is not enough to tell the truth. You have to reveal yourself. You have to express what is unique about you. Why knowing you, hiring you, helping you is worth it. What makes you tick. What makes you happy. What you want and where you are going. I see thousands of resumes, then I meet the person. I do not want to hear the recitation of their resume. I know literacy is an issue but provide me with the amazing stuff that is NOT on your resume. So I say "tell me your story." Or I ask about the "other side of the resume", "what you do when you aren't working". Repeatedly, I get these very bland answers like, "I read a lot." or the ubiquitous "I like to travel." I know they are interesting and have compelling stories and personalities, but I rarely hear them. But when I do, it separates them from the pack. It makes them memorable and real. The world is filled with competent people like you, just not enough interesting ones.

The hardest tumble a man can make is to fall over his own bluff.  ~Ambrose Bierce

Networking and mentoring like all relatiuonships require truth and transparency to work well. They require trust that is only built upon the strong bond of understanding each other. You are so much more than a resume and a series of jobs. You are a light that is shining on a future---your future. There is no one else like you. So why lie. The truth about you is pretty compelling stuff, more than you think. ean it. You just have to express it and articulate it. You have so many talents and unfulfilled dreams. People love other people's dreams and destinies. You have to talk about the real you and stop lying about a you, you may be pretending to be.

White lies, little lies, and lying to not offend people are things we all do. Dumb lies, that enhance our standing with others need to be curbed. But deceiving ourselves, now that is a crime that has to stop.

Like all of my posts, we have to help those we mentor to adopt these principles. So, if you are a fountain of truth and transparency, teach others how to know and transmit their truths.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Re-inventing Yourself to Get Back to Work--The 360 Degree Job Search

More than ever I am having conversations with former execs, managers, and senior professionals who are in protracted searches for the same level positions they held. They are using their existing resumes and applying for the same titles, same/similar industry, and certainly the same compensation. They are exasperated but undaunted despite the lack of results. The overused quotation from Einstein is apropos here, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Albert

I hear many focused and definitive statements like these:

"I will not accept a position below Sr VP." I have to make more than $100,000 to live." "I have never been paid below this level. "I will never apply for a position below this level/salary."

But it is basic marketing 101 to evaluate your strategy when things are not working. Focus can become myopia. You have to change it up. You have to expand your search to jobs and industries and sector outside of your current world and where there are more prospects. You have to start looking 360, sideways and down instead of just in the same places. This inevitably starts the conversation about position, title and compensation. What is a lateral move? What is beneath me? What will compromise my entire career?

Settling for something lesser is not preferred but may be necessary. It may require huge changes in your lifestyle. Downsizing or rightsizing your life is probably smart now. Just like the entire business community that has cut back jobs, maybe one of yours, and is now prudently hiring at a very slow pace.

Looking for a new job is a brutal experience, especially if the search yields few leads and fewer interviews. It can be frustrating and discouraging. It triggers all of the worst feelings about your competence and confidence. Been there and it is no fun. The sooner you can get back to work the better.

Ladders When I was laid off I had to re-think my career and my life. I took a serious pay cut to re-build my experience in a new world--non-profits. So far, I have taken three pay cuts, two demotions, and 1 lateral move to make career changes. You have to go down the ladder to climb up another. It is just the law of nature. It is the method of surviving and sustaining your professional career.

You have to swallow your pride and your irrational ego and find a path that makes sense. Not working is the worst strategy. A big and growing gap between your impressive position and nothing raises more questions than not filling the void.

Piecing together a new career after a set back is one that all employers will sympathize with. When you show your desire by doing what is necessary, your story is more compelling.

You say you are creative and innovative. Then re-invent yourself!

The candidates that are having success are using a combination of volunteer work, consulting, related but "lower level"jobs , and education to fill in their resumes---to stay fresh and to keep the rent paid.

Hard to even get a look or a call back if your time between jobs is approaching a year and you have nothing on your resume.

Customizing your resume and your cover letter may be more important when you shift directions in your job search. I have advised many people to remove items from their resume to make them more aligned with a new industry/sector and/or lower level position, so they don't receive the dreaded "overqualified" response.

  • Align duties and achievements with the job requirements
  • Remove degrees or additional information that give you "too much" experience or education
  • Shorten your work experience to the last 10 years or so

In times like these you have to reach down and unplug your vanity and get back into the game. Demonstrate your resolve, your creativity, and your resilience and you will look and sound like a candidate worth hiring. With your new resume and targets, connect to your network to get new leads and feedback. Seek advice from your mentor. Hopefully, this re-energizes your search and opens up your eyes to opportunities and optimism.

Thanks for reading. John


Networking to our Future through our Past

Re-acquainting ourselves with ourselves can be the most powerful experience. Clearly the elements of your uniqueness, your passions, and but it may be your story and your genealogy that paves the most revealing paths to expand and diversify your network. We are all multi-faceted, multi-talented multi-racial----we are all immigrants, we are all diverse---probably more than most of us understand or know. Just the discovery process of asking your parents, grand parents or any relatives will give you insights into who you are--and I promise will set you on a new networking journey.

Went to the opening of Kip Fulbeck's new exhibit called Mixed Race. Check out the book. Multi-racial Americans are the fastest growing demographic/ethnic group--that will be again confirmed by the 2010 Census.

My mother's family traced her family back 1100 years! And in Japanese families, these family trees always lead to a famous Samurai! And of course so does ours. That inspired my own roots search. I went to Japan with my best friend Willie Banks, who happens to be African American and is more Japanese than me. I wanted to find Kunta Kobara.:) Believe it or not Willie was my interpreter, like a sitcom, quite the site! Just imagine Japanese people talking to me, my mouth is not moving, and a perfectly accented response is coming from Willie's lips towering above me. We traversed my grandparents homeland and met some of of my Samurai relatives. I confronted my past and my friendship with Willie deepened. My view of myself was altered.Samurai

In Hawaii, most everyone is "hapa" meaning part Asian and other races. On the islands, there is a pride in the number of ethnicities one claims. Some used to say they are chop suey like the made up Americanized Chinese dish that combines many ingredients.

One of my parenting goals is instilling pride in our children about their heritage. My kids are hapa. Half Japanese, a quarter Korean and a quarter Irish, Welsh and German. Kind of a sukiyaki, kim chee, irish rarebit stew with a splash of sauerkraut.

We want them to appreciate their lineage, but if you have kids, their identities are their own.  They care less about race and ethnicity than us adults. They are smarter! No matter what you do, birth order matters. Our oldest daughter Jenna enjoyed a comprehensive education about her histories. And my youngest Bobby, also got a good dosage to help him form his self-concept. This story tells the tale of our middle child, Malia. For and knife

I took my three heirs to a local Mexican restaurant. We are munching away quietly and Malia, about 8 or 9 years old, says, "Dad this food is really good, what is it?" "Malia, it's Mexican food! We have it many times", I retort. ","Oh yeah," she says, "because we are Mexican." My brain freezes and instantly turns to panic. I have done such a bad job as a parent! I quickly recover and assert, "No no no, we're not Mexican. Nothing wrong being Mexican but we're not." I pull my plate to the center of the table in front of Malia and Jenna knows what I am going to do. Jenna takes over as the big sister. She takes her knife and lays it down the middle of the plate and says, "Malia this is you", pointing at the plate. Malia looks on with curiosity. Jenna points to left half of the plate, "this half is Japanese, you are half Japanese", picking up her fork. She lays the fork across the knife to form a cross on the the plate. Malia points to the other side, "What's over here?" "This is you too", pointing at the top right quadrant, "You are also a quarter Korean." Jenna's forefinger glides down to the bottom right corner and finishes, "Oh this is you too, you are also a quarter Irish, Welsh and German." Malia was carefully following Jenna's place setting lecture and a look of understanding washed over her face and she exclaimed, "So we are not Mexican!"

Parents can only do so much and frankly are only one source of information! The process of discovering who we are forces us to network beyond our parents. To network with our families. Network with people we truly care about or relatives we don't know. Those discoveries will trigger conversations, questions and inevitably interests that will expand our universe dramatically.

And those discoveries lead to new interests and other networks you previously were unaware of.

Right now your concept of yourself is limited. It always is and always will be. Because the process of understanding who we are is never ending. I meet people who settle on their identities, on their possibilities, on their destinies and it makes me crazy. They don't even see the incredible potential others do. Part of that process is the comprehension of where our chromosomes have been. Not to understand our differences but to fully appreciate our commonalities. Do you really know who you are? Make this discovery part of your life's quest to understand your history and your network will expand in ways that will open your eyes to the future.

Thanks for reading. John


Email and Phone Interviewing: Think and Sync

When there is furious competition for scarce few jobs, employers invoke intuition, subjectivity, and instincts to govern their decisions. Assessing talent has to be done quickly. Otherwise, you lose the great candidates. Great candidates are perishable and the not so great have a much longer shelf life. Quicker and "more efficient" filters to determine which candidates move ahead are being instituted. Job openings are precious and making a mistake would be inexcusable. Being smart and fast is vital. That position has to be filled with someone who "fits" to keep up with the increased workloads of the surviving employees and the great desire to keep the ship afloat and moving ahead. Scarcity

A friend's brother, who I have been coaching thru job interviews, just had his 6th phone interview for the same position! He was not prepared for this. He is anxious to meet the people in person, but has had to endure protracted inquisitions with teams of telephonic interviewers. It has tested his ability to remember that each successive group had not heard his answers before. Without body cues and facial expressions, he learned he had to listen, think before he answered, and confirm he was in sync with the interviewers.

Everyone knows why this is happening. Everyone understands that there are a lot more qualified people chasing a fewer number of jobs. Interview and selection processes have changed with these circumstances. However, many candidates have not adjusted their approach to respond in kind. They just prepare their resumes, cover letters, and interview the same way they always have. And many hit the buzz saw of change and don't know what hit them. The key is to think and then sync.

Business computer and phone Email and phone interviews are just two of these changes.

E-mail interviews: Either a follow-up to your online application or just a regular interview step, email is being used to clarify questions about your resume and your qualifications. This is a quick test of your writing ability. Can you write about yourself and about your candidacy? Writing clearly and completely is a must. Here's a sample of e-mail interview questions.

  1. Why did you leave your last position?
  2. Why are you applying for this one?
  3. What is your minimum salary requirement?

Seemingly innocuous questions. But how you answer matters. Short terse answers show you do not care. Long rambling ones show you can't write. Thanking the sender for the opportunity and crafting a few pithy sentences that directly address the questions is the goal. Think and sync.

Phone interviews: Your preparation here is no different than for an in-person interviews. In fact, they carry more weight because they determine whether you advance. Most phone interviews are trying to see if the candidate is a fit. Increasingly, these are group phone interviews. Multiple people to listen and participate, again to speed up the process and gain consensus. The big difference is using your ears to connect to the interviewers.

Some basic tips:

  1. Schedule the interview when you are in a quiet place and ideally not on your mobile phone.
  2. Write down the names of all of the participants on the call, so you can address them by name and then thank them at the end.
  3. You smile while you talk. People can't see your face but they can hear your smile.

Here's more on etiquette and tips for phone interviews.  

In the end, all interviewing is about thinking and syncing. Listening to the question (or reading), answering it, and verifying you answered it. Did you help the questioner understand your unique qualifications and what makes you a great candidate? Did you express yourself in a way that helps the reader/listener get to know you?

Knowing your story and your BIT is crucial. There is no substitute for practicing your answers to questions you know will be asked, so you can be confident and comfortable.

This new world of supply and demand gives the prepared candidates an edge over the under-prepared. The positive candidates a better chance over the hesitant ones. Whatever interview process they throw at you, you should think and sync. If you do, you will distinguish your candidacy and show off why they should meet you in person. 

Thanks for reading. John


What is your story? Developing an authentic and compelling story to advance your career

Your story is the truth, wrapped with your hard work and passion, guided by your dreams, that helps people understand who you are where you are going.

 

Your story is so much better than you think. The crazy way our lives evolve, the experiences we have encountered, the things we have learned, our achievements, our failings, our dreams--are unique, intriguing and much more interesting than we acknowledge. In fact we tend to conclude that our stories, our lives, are pretty much the same as other people's--translation--AVERAGE and BORING.  I constantly hear this from young and old, new graduates and PhDs, sr execs and mid-level managers. The result is we don't tell our own stories at all or well. This is more than tooting your horn without blowing it. Really this is about pride in who you are, how you got to this wonderful or challenging chapter in your life. As a friend of mine says, "It is what it is." Necessity is a virtue!Tell your story and tell it well.

It ain't brag if you done it. Walt Whitman

As the interviewer, I usually say, "tell me the (your name) story." It is my version of tell me something about yourself. This is where most people do something really dumb they begin reciting their resume or look like the question is about astro physics. They think this is an innocuous question, but it is the easiest sounding hardest question of all. 
 
Putting together your story takes a lot of work and practice. However, the benefits to you and to your career are enormous. Your stories:
  • Give you confidence through self knowledge and awareness
  • Bring humanity to your resume  
  • Make you memorable 
  • Set you apart  
By understanding your story you will be able to talk about the themes, values, and goals that weave together your life so far. When you reflect and remember, the reasons why your life and your career have evolved are clearly understood. Your answer to the question, "Tell me about yourself." Is not a spur of the moment or robotic response--it is your personal and compelling story. 
 
Here are the basic steps you should take to write and tell your story:
  1. Take a comprehensive inventory of the chapters of your life---Chronological may be easiest. Major events, memories, and turning points that began in your childhood. Times you recall that shaped who you are. Make notes about your feelings, expectations, your frustrations. Each of these chapters may contain multiple stories. Of course, list your jobs/positions, your volunteer gigs and what you learned, accomplished, and experienced. These stories need to have vivid dimensions so people will experience that moment with you. A young lady I work with, described the lessons she learned doing insect research standing in cranberry bogs.  When I heard her say this my mind immediately formed a picture and that significantly enhanced our conversation. It may have been a moment with your mom on the porch, or a trip you took to a far away place, or what a boss or mentor told you. Aha moments that reveal you and that revealed clues to your journey/path. They do not have to be dramatic, just meaningful to you. I use a simple excel spreadsheet and start listing things under a time period or a job. Not complete sentences, but attributes and lessons that trigger that story.
  2. What are the themes that emerge from the inventory?---Are you an educator/teacher, a leader, an entrepreneur, a risk taker? Has technology, metrics, research, and/or presentations been your competency? What emerges as your passion(s)-- mentoring your subordinates, pro-bono work, helping a specific type of client, advancing knowledge in your field? What gives you joy?
  3. What defines your career path?--- How did you choose the opportunities and who helped you? What motivated you then and now? Have your motivations been consistent or evolving? Are you someone who likes new projects? Or executes the details of someone else's vision? The SAR method of discussing a situation, action, and response is a great structure to tell your stories. 
  4. Practice Practice Practice---What begins to emerge is your story and an inventory of other stories. Now you have to begin using your story---saying it out loud, ideally to others. You can recite it into a tape recorder or tell it to a confidante for feedback. The ultimate test will be the next time someone says, "Tell me about yourself." 
Storytelling for a job interview
Specifically applying your story to a specific employer or job is the next step. Interviews, if you are lucky to get one, get right to the point now. They are competency and behavioral in the questions. Yes, they are also looking for fit with the team and the culture of the employer. But does the candidate have what we need in skills, knowledge and abilities and can he/she apply them is the focus.  
 
Joe Turner in his article about interview stories recommends you use these questions to shape your story inventory: 
  • Examples of when you either made money or saved money for your current or previous employer.
  • A crisis in your life or job and how you responded or recovered from it.
  • A time where you functioned as part of a team and what your contribution was.
  • A time in your career or job where you had to overcome stress.
  • A time in your job where you provided successful leadership or a sense of direction.
  • A failure that occurred in your job and how you overcame it.
  • Any seminal events that happened during your career to cause you to change direction and how that worked out for you.
You now have a work in progress story about you and a growing list of other supporting stories. Lining up the stories that apply to the employer and the specific position is critical. You know about the job duties and required qualifications, you have networked to learn more about the culture and environment, you have networked further to get an internal recommendation to insure you get a look and hopefully an interview. Put yourself in the interviewers shoes and pose the questions you would ask the candidate and align your stories. Which ones are relevant to this opportunity? Especially revealing to employers are personal stories about how you handled change, made choices under pressure and lessons learned from mistakes and failures.
 
For the more confident and sophisticated, you will have stories about different aspects of management that reveal your skillset. For example having a stories about strategic plans, financial models, HR, marketing, change management, dispute resolution etc will be extremely helpful for follow-up questions and when you have committee interviews. To be able to relate how you worked with the various types of departments represented in the room of interviewers can be very persuasive. 
 
There are a lot of resources out there for you. Here is a comprehensive online resource that will give you much more help and guidance on how storytelling propels careers. Get over your feelings of story inadequacy or thinking that a job well done speaks for itself. Hah! Learning and appreciating your story is a pre-requisite to to any interview process. You can not always rely on your improv skills or "thinking on your feet". You can anticipate the questions and you can have the stories at the ready. In the end, this is about making a great and memorable impression that demonstrates competency and ability. As you become more comfortable in how to tell your story, you will see that your life has not just been a string of randomness and serendipity. Your story has a past and it has a future and the road ahead becomes more clear when you understand where you have been. 
 
We need your story. Tell it!
 
Thanks for reading. John