It’s Not Just Luck: Increasing Your Odds for Early Career Success

I was fortunate enough to be invited by the University of MN Alumni Association to partner with friend Carleen Kerttula to deliver a webinar last week on setting yourself up for early career success. I have attached the link for anyone interested in listening when you have a chance. Thanks to friend and UMAA officer Jon Ruzek (@JonHigherEd) for the opportunity. The talk starts at about 4:40 mark.

Move over Martyrdom: A Working Mom’s Tips to Sanity

Phil Profile_2012-crop2I want to introduce you to my friend and colleague Maggie Tomas. Maggie is an outstanding career center director and skilled advisor. I asked her to begin contributing to this site because I think she has a distinctive voice when it comes to working mothers and their careers. I hope you appreciate her voice. And her posts are almost as long as mine, so there’s that…

“They will be happy if mom is happy.”

Words that chamaggie & girlsnged my life. They came out of the blue, from an unexpected source, at a time when I was struggling with one of the more weighty decisions of my life.

Should I go back to work? The question ended up turning on my own understanding of fulfillment. But let’s back up and start at the beginning and see if there’s anything to take from my own experience… Continue reading

Taking the Initiative and My Favorite Metaphor

skiingI love metaphors. The spark of an image can light up whole new understanding for me almost instantly. It’s like a light bulb turning on (see!). So I collect them and over-use them as code for concepts when I teach, consult and work with my team.

“Leaning in”, as it were…

One of my favorites is a skiing image my instructor Dave painted for me more than 5 years ago. A very patient and effective teacher, Dave always tries to visualize things in multiple ways for different learning styles. This is particularly important as you try to help a bunch of 40 somethings figure out how to navigate a slalom course using skills that are not at all natural to them. There’s a lot of teaching people to do counter-intuitive things. Continue reading

Career Choices: Putting Yourself in the Right Environment

square peg 2A recent New York Times article “A Natural Fix for A.D.H.D” hit on an important point I think many people overlook in considering career choices. Namely, “what am I well suited to?”

In my experience, I see too many people who try to fit their square peg into a round hole career-wise. Professor Richard A. Friedman (clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College) points out is that in many cases the lack of fit is literally hard wired into us.

“Recent neuroscience research shows that people with A.D.H.D. are actually hard-wired for novelty-seeking — a trait that had, until relatively recently, a distinct evolutionary advantage. Compared with the rest of us, they have sluggish and underfed brain reward circuits, so much of everyday life feels routine and understimulating.”

Continue reading

Start Small to Win Big (or Fail Quietly)…

green shootsI don’t know about the rest of you, but I have had to learn to avoid making some goals virtually unachievable from the get go. Lose 20 pounds! Improve efficiency by 35% in your area! Grow your business by (ridiculously large) percent!

The chasm between where you are and where the dream might put you can seem really wide. Some folks are great at ignoring obstacles and blindly plowing ahead, sustained by some mix of endless optimism or ignorance. Most people I know can’t do that, nor do I think they should. One person’s dream is another person’s fool’s errand.

So how do I have big dreams or goals, make progress and NOT kill myself, my colleagues or those around me? Start small! Continue reading

Interviewing: Defending Weaknesses

All artwork/posters are wholly-owned imagery made by Getty Images.  Images numbers are on property release.,People who “win” in the interviewing process almost invariably are effective at what I would call “defending perceived weaknesses.” For any desirable position, the competition will be fierce. The margin between the candidate who gets the offer and “1st runner up” will be slim. Eliminating concerns can be as or more important than proudly highlighting strengths.

I remain surprised at how unprepared many candidates are for what seem to be obvious questions that poke and prod around their metaphorical soft underbelly. Stated differently, “how could you NOT know I was going to ask about that?” Continue reading

Career Decisions: Renewal and the Power of Choosing to Stay

green shootsSometimes, almost leaving makes you appreciate what you have even more.

Just recently, I had an opportunity to consider a new role in another organization. The process of working through the decision to stay or go personally and with my family required a fairly exhaustive analysis and a good deal of introspection.

We decided to stay.

In the aftermath of taking what was a fairly emotional family decision I have felt a sense of renewal and clarity at work. I am more encouraged about our prospects, recommitted to several ambitious goals and find that many things that had been irritating me don’t bother me as much. Or at least I’m more patient with them. Why?  Continue reading

Career Exploration Part 3: Phil’s Recent Journey

fish bowlsThe prior two posts (pt 1, pt 2) in this series laid out how to determine motivation, define potential pathways and then make progress.  At the risk of being self-referential, I’ll lay out my own journey over the last 3-4 years to show how I have applied these principles to two different journeys. The first is my current job which I would characterize as a “lateral” move and the other is a start up I am working on that I would put in the “divergent” category.

I find it helps to be specific in giving examples. But as always, please be creative in recognizing these as principles, not rules and apply them as makes sense in your life.

As a reminder, the steps in questions are:

  1. Determine motivation: Why am I seeking change?
  2. Define pathways: What are three “alternate realities”?
  3. Get going!: How do I start?
  4. Make progress: How many bridges do I need to build or cross?
  5. Choose: How do I make quality decisions along the way?
  6. Repeat.

Lateral Move: Assistant Dean

About two years ago, I moved into my current role as Assistant Dean for MBA programs at the Carlson School of Management at the University of MN. In some ways it was an obvious move but in others, not so much. Continue reading

Career Exploration Part 2: Test Alternate Realities & Build Bridges to Your Future

fish bowlsIn my last post I laid out a process first few steps to take in finding new opportunities. In this post I’ll offer some advice on how to get going on the ideas you generated.

First a reminder of the process:

  1. Determine motivation: Why am I seeking change? (Part 1)
  2. Define pathways: What are three “alternate realities”? (Part 1)
  3. Get going!: How do I start?
  4. Make progress: How many bridges do I need to build or cross?
  5. Choose: How do I make quality decisions along the way?
  6. Repeat.

Continue reading

Career Exploration Part 1: Build Alternate Realities to Explore

fish bowlsAuthor’s note – As usual, this post started small and has become a multi-post monster. What began as the concept of “alternate realities” that I often use as a frame for discussing how to move forward in a career search blossomed into how to think about exploration more broadly. So we’ll spend a few posts in the coming weeks on some core ideas and a methodology for how to systematically lay out and begin building future opportunities.

Ever wonder how some things just work out professionally for a friend or colleague? Have you thought about why interesting opportunities seem to pop up for them, often times “non-obvious” ones? Are you looking to find more fulfillment but are reluctant to just jump into something you don’t understand? Continue reading