Posts Tagged ‘hard work’

Book Review: Crush It!

A friend of mine strongly suggested I read Gary Vaynerchuk’s CRUSH IT! awhile back. I finally picked up the copy I bought a few months ago and cranked through it on a flight to the West Coast.

I think it was worth the 2 hours to read if you are looking to start your own business, are curious about the evolving field of social networking and/or are trying to figure out how to develop your personal “brand” (I hate this term, but can’t think of a better one and everyone else talks this way.)

The book walks through a process of being honest with yourself about what you really like and then how to turn it into a personal platform, with an almost singular focus on on-line avenues to drive awareness.

“Are you Living, or just earning a living? You spend so much time at work, why waste it doing anything other than what you love most? Life is too short for that.” ( Page 3)

Major points of his that resonated with me, many of which I’ve hit on over time include: passion matters, it’s hard work to be successful and it takes time, networks matter for building scale etc. He does a nice job of walking through a logical process for building your platform and does it with a snarky tone I appreciate.

Here’s my critique: I think he overdoes the on-line bit. Perhaps, this isn’t necessarily a fair point, as he’s explicitly making his case for the on-line opportunities currently available to those with passion and acumen. But I see tremendous value in good old fashioned personal relationships. Knowing, trusted relationships are a part of a successful career/business. (I don’t think he would argue this point, I just think it is lost/missed in the book.)

Similarly, not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur or to run their own business. Many find fulfillment and happiness in larger organizations. I still think that his suggestions for building awareness for yourself and your passions is important advice. Just recognize that for many it may remain a hobby or passion or that the platform and intent may be different.

For example: If you are happy working for large organizations (because they have capital, have large teams, offer global opportunities, offer benefits…whatever), then his advice about building your personal brand still applies. But the purpose will be creating demand for your services, as opposed to demand for your e-tailing business. It will be less about tweets and more about a great linkedin profile, attending conferences etc. to build professional reputation.

I recommend taking as look at CRUSH IT! if you’re interested in cranking your career engine up.

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What Makes You Special?

I’ve run out of power on PowerPoint for the week, so the much anticipated Part 3 of Building Good PowerPoint will follow next week. This week it’s back to career observations…

I was chatting with a student last month about their job search and I kept finding myself coming back to a consistent point that I don’t think I’ve made clearly enough in the past.

It’s important to know what makes you special or stand out and be able to show it. Stated in business speak, “What differentiates you?” or “Why would I hire you over the next person in line?” for a given opportunity. This student was too focused on elements of his profile that weren’t going to shine for him relative to others. But in my mind he had some important factors that could overcome this.

Lots of people have good grades, leadership positions and good work experience. Those are “table stakes”. You don’t get opportunities without that.  As a hiring manager, consultant looking to staff someone on my projects or mentor deciding how much to support or whether to even meet with someone there are several things I was looking for as differentiators that broke ties and got people in the door.

So what matters and how do you show it?

The biggest ones for me were always commitment, drive, “spark”, curiosity and then a little something extra in some area of passion. Consistency matters in tying the impression together too.

Commitment and drive

Are you going to do what you say? I don’t want to need to worry about it after I give it to you. If I give you a connection, will you follow up. If it’s a task is giving it to you the same as “it’s done”. Another way of saying this is “have you done hard things successfully?”

Evidence – Do hard things well. We’re all impressed with things that require sustained, difficult effort. I can think of dozens of things that would fit the bill here, but they aren’t just “VP of Communications for XX club” or “Volunteered for XX non-profit 5 hrs a month”. Those are fine and admirable, but I’m talking about deeper commitments.

I mean things like: Eagle Scout, Peace Corps, Teach for America, marathon finisher, founder of a non-profit etc. These are all above and beyond and/or represent out of work commitments. All require sacrifices of some sort and are hard to do.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  ~Thomas Edison

“Spark”

Is there something about you that is engaging? Do you make me want to continue to chat and explore topics with you? This one is a bit more subjective and varies. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, but you need to show some form of this to some body along the way.

Evidence – Be engaging and conversational. Be “present” in discussion. As I said, this is waayyyy more subjective than most of the other criteria I lay out. It falls into the “you know it when you see it” category.

“Most great men and women are not perfectly rounded in their personalities, but are instead people whose one driving enthusiasm is so great it makes their faults seem insignificant.”

 Charles A. Cerami

Curiosity

Do you want to know how things work (and then improve them)? Order takers are fine, but most people want people working with them that are able to reach their own insights, not just be told what to do.

Evidence – Have you pushed to learn/become expert? For example, several of my students over the years have gone outside the business school and taken difficult programming classes to learn how to work with data better. A lot of people would say “so what”, but not their potential employers. They are impressed with the students acquired skills and the extra effort it took to go get them.

Do you consistently want to know how things work or why they are the way they are? If yes, you probably have lots of examples you can show from work or school. Where did you go beyond to turn up an insight that mattered?

Professional Passion

People reveal a lot about themselves when talking about their passions. It’s my observation that if you are at least average in talent and burn for something, you can make it happen. You just have to keep pushing on the flywheel until it gains momentum.

I have a number of students and colleagues over the years that have gotten unbelievable positions based largely on their passion and drive. They were smart and capable, but so were others. They made jobs out of nothing by impressing leaders in their field or firm. It was HARD work and involved lots of sweat equity both networking, “church work”, writing, studying etc. but they did the work.

They could do the work and sustain it because they were genuinely interested in it. This is my larger point. Slaving away at something you think will pay well but aren’t that interested in will leave you unhappy in the end. While genuine interest makes it fun and sustainable. It feels a lot less like “work” if it excites you.

Evidence – There are many ways to show this, but a few that come immediately to mind include: 1) being present at industry events like conferences or subscribing and being current on relevant literature, 2) finding ways to participate or do work outside of day-to-day responsibilities. (For example, taking on small projects for free to help potential mentors out.) 3) Blogging or actively participating in an industry community.

Several of the examples above (taking classes etc. also apply – as there is admittedly overlap in these categories. Alas – I struggled to make them MECE, but couldn’t.)

Consistency

This matters in making the case for a genuine passion. If you’ve been plugging away at something for a long time or can talk at length and in depth about it – you’ll convince me of the sincerity of your interest.  If you can’t, I’ll remain unpersuaded.

It’s important to show effort beyond your “day job” to show (rather than tell) me.

Conclusion

I see too many people (in my opinion) try to figure out the formula for getting certain jobs. In particular the difficult ones that have very high standards like consulting firms and iBanks. The discussion ends up being a bit of a litany of “dos and don’ts” that have little to do with the individual in question.

Trying to figure out who you think someone else wants you to be is a fool’s errand. It ends badly. Much better to have found something you’re excited about and have authentic discussions with potential supporters. If you can’t summon reasonable interest, why are you interviewing?

This DOESN’T mean don’t understand the process and criteria – again this is base requirements. I just mean don’t lose yourself in the process. You’ll do better and stand out more in any process if you shine through. And if you shining through doesn’t carry the day, you at least when down on your terms. I think it’s more likely to help than hurt you.

And, if you can’t show the passion –  at least the other characteristics should help make your case anyway.

In the end, there are several implications and payoffs from showing the traits I’ve described above.

  • You’re more likely to land in a spot that is a good fit for you, both personally and professionally.
  • Even if you don’t get the position, but make a great impression you may be surprised at other opportunities or connections people are willing to help with.
  • It turns some people into your champions. Someone has to want to fight for you at least a little to get in the door.
  • It may well network you into “non-competitive” positions. (ie: ones where you are the only candidate.)
  • It’s easier to remember your story when it’s authentic.
  • You’ll be refining your pitch continuously, rather than having multiple stories that never quite gel.

 So what has worked for you in standing out or what do you notice in others?

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Dealing With Ambiguity and Murky Questions

One of the biggest differentiators I see among people is their ability to deal with ambiguity. We coach people to work with clients or bosses to understand what expectations are, but I worry that we go too far or the message is taken too literally. A professional that wants a dynamic career has to be able to balance understanding expectations with an ability to create a path on their own.

I really struggle to articulate what I mean because there certainly is an “it depends” quality to this discussion. What I’m talking about here is the ability to face a murky situation and make headway. I am NOT suggesting people ignore or not seek feedback on direction. But often you are being asked to figure it out because people don’t know the answer. If they did, they wouldn’t be asking you.

I want to talk about several different ways this struggle can play out.

Thought Process

First there is the situation where people really want to put effort into the problem, but there are cognitive reasons they are floundering. I would cluster the “flounderers” into two broad (and unscientific) categories, linear and abstract thinkers.

Linear thinkers want to know the straightest line to the answer and put together a clear Gantt chart and work plan to grind out the answer. The problem is often that the question isn’t even clear. There’s a natural iteration and struggle in projects or situations that are fuzzy. You have to be willing to work the situation, material and people through some fuzziness and not know exactly what the output will look like. You have to be willing to remain patient and positive while working through rounds of starts and stops etc.

The abstract folks are often the opposite of the linear gang. They are so focused on all the interesting combinations and permutations of the problem space or the situation that nothing ever gets committed to print and lots and lots of interesting conversations result in little if any progress. There’s often a reluctance here to “commit” to any specific path because we might not know and there could be a “better” or more ideal answer etc.

So what’s the solution? Recognize your own style and that of the group/team you’re working with. Commit to putting your ideas in print, but recognize that it will iterate A LOT the more ambiguous the question. I’ll talk more about iteration below. My generic answer to most of these situations is to put a timeline on it and start committing ideas to print and circulating them to others for iteration.

The iteration cycle is critical and often where people fall down. They mistake being asked a question with needing to answer it by themselves. Getting good thoughts in front of people early leads to more cycles of improvement and depth in the final product.

Lack of “Appropriate” Effort

The second scenario is when people either aren’t really trying or don’t know what “trying” looks like.

A common situation that I see is a basic lack of understanding of how hard it is to get things done and the level of effort (my “appropriate” above) truly required. People often want to know the straightest path to “the answer”, not understanding there are no straight paths. You will burn up a lot of time on some paths that don’t play out, but that is unavoidable. We can use tools to limit it and improve productivity, but the iteration I talk about is staying on the problem and continuing to push even as some solution paths don’t pan out.

Generation and iteration are the keys here, along with having a personal sense of stick-to-itiveness. You need to be unwilling to settle for weak answers. I see people stop at the first obstacle or early on when there are ways over, under or around the obstacles. Merely finding some web content and pasting it into PowerPoint isn’t what I’m talking about. You have to challenge yourself to keep asking why does this matter?, what are the implications? etc. You’ll often have to go create data and analysis.

I’ll conclude with those who don’t really try and dismiss them summarily. If you aren’t committed to a problem or situation, you won’t solve it, the end. So you need to decide are you in or out and owe teammates or colleagues clarity if you’re not in.

So, how this can play out in career path?

Most people I work with say they want to be challenged and have lots of responsibility, but often want to be told what/how to do it. In my experience it rarely works that way. You need to be comfortable with charting a course if you want success in organizations. There is rarely an algorithm to spit out answers to difficult situations. People who succeed regularly solve these problems by sticking to them in creative ways. Get to the point where you are open to feedback, but in lieu of it are able to proceed confidently on a course of your own devising and sticking with it until the problem is solved.

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Sharks Sink

…if they stop swimming. I know this because I have 3 children under the age of seven and have become incredibly knowledgeable about sea creatures, dinosaurs and transformers. It turns out that they don’t have swim bladders like most fish. If they stop moving they sink.

I think many people (including me) are a lot like sharks. Some people are content to be in an entirely stable, relatively unchanging situation. That’s wonderful if you are one of those people. I’m not and I know I have a lot of company. For the rest of us, we’re usually looking for some new challenge. It may be personal (learn the guitar) or it could be professional (achieve a career goal), but whatever it is there tends to be something.

Having stipulated that many of us are seekers and often restless in our desire for something new, I want to hit on a challenge I see a lot of people face as they try to achieve these dreams. Many mistake “dreaming” for getting off the couch and making the dream happen.  If you find yourself thinking “I really wish that…(fill in the blank)”, but can’t think of anything you’ve done in the last few weeks to make that wish more likely then you’re not working at it. You’ve stopped swimming and are sinking.

So swim.

I’ve written in the past about exploring interests and beginning transitions. All that advice still holds. It can be as simple as calling a mentor and asking advice. Don’t have one? Then find one by asking for some introductions to people that seem interesting. Most people will give you a little time if you are polite and flexible about their schedule. 

I also think that if you can’t get yourself going on something you should reflect on whether it is either important or useful for you. I tell students of mine that when you’ve been told what to do to achieve some goal and can’t get yourself to do what you KNOW you need to do, then you’ve answered an important question. You must not have wanted it that badly.

Another important outcome of action is wisdom. I am a HUGE believer in active learning. You can read, meditate, think and do all sorts of wonderful mental activities. Ultimately to progress, however, you have to actually do something. Young people tend to undervalue the importance of grinding. Sticking to a problem and following it through is what yields comprehensive knowledge and wisdom.

I see so many want to do a 4 month project on some business topic and then be an “expert”. Guess what? Until you’ve lived through the consequences, struggled with the client impact and had to adjust course based on more data you haven’t really learned. Or at least not the right lessons.

I love this quote from Dr. Frank Crane, a Presbyterian minister and author of a series of essays early in the 20th Century.

“Out of action, action of any sort, there grows a peculiar, useful, everyday wisdom.  Truth is rarely found by the idle.  Nor is it the result of deep and long study.  It is a sort of essence that is secreted from a concrete deed.”

So if you are fully content with where you are, awesome! (I mean it). I am always admiring of people who have found their place. For the rest of us, if you have things you want to get done then you need to swim. Otherwise you’ll sink, falling short of whatever dreams you may have.

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Making Things Happen

I just had a link to this ebook sent to me by a friend. Read this and tell me you can’t get going on a search in tough times.  http://charliehoehn.com/2009/07/14/announcing-my-first-e-book/

Charlie paints a compelling picture of clear strategies for getting connected to great work. It’s about being assertive, showing value and making people offers they can’t refuse. The traditioanl process works for some, but if it’s not working for you, don’t be a victim. Re-frame and get going.

I was really proud of my students this summer who took “non-traditional” (ie: unpaid) internships. Many of them ended up with work that was as good as or better than they would have normally and as this ebook points out, it was more on their own terms.

I disagree with his point about the value of graduate degrees (I’m biased I guess, I teach in an MBA program). Not everyone is equipped to be as entrepreneurial as Charlie is and need some structure and support on their journey. Grad degrees are great for the people they help and a waste for people who aren’t interested or are self-sufficient.

But that’s quibbling, the principles here are important ones and I encourage you to take a look.

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Competence

Never underestimate the power and value of competence. You could substitute “professionalism” here probably, but I like competence better.

I have to vent a little, as I’ve has a string of personal frustrations lately that their heart are issues of people either not caring or not taking the time to get things right.

Case 1: I return from my lovely vacation at the beach and take my puke-stained mini-van (my 6 yr old couldn’t handle 24 hrs in the car!) to the high end car detailing shop. I wanted the car strip cleaned…I mean really nuke it. I paid >$50 for the interior detail package.

I’m in a hurry, as we had just gotten back and I had to get dinner and run other errands before getting home. I wait 45 minutes, which doesn’t bother me as it’s a big job. I get the keys returned to me and drive home. It turns out the back wasn’t vacuumed (sand everywhere) and a few other visible defects were obvious.

Should I have checked while there? Sure. Should I have to? No.

Competence…

Case 2: We just sold our old house. After a drawn out sales process given the economy, we finally had a buyer. While we were on vacation the check from the deal didn’t clear with me 1500 miles away and relatively helpless to move other money around. I have NEVER in my personal or professional life been so angry. I went crazy with my real estate agent and our closing agent. I ended up unavailable later in the day when people returned my calls, so my wife had to spend 3 hours on the phone with 3-5 different parties to get it squared away.

It turns out the title company mis-printed every check that day. The real issue to me isn’t the mistake. We ALL make mistakes. It’s that we had to literally yell to get any response and that no one in the process would own the case.

Competence…

I hear so much talk about the need to be a “star” and a “leader”, all sorts of aspirational descriptors of wonderfulness. Well, in large parts of my career I’d have settled for people just doing what they were supposed to do.

I want to be clear, that in my world “competent” does not mean average. It means “good” or “professional”. It describes the colleagues who understand their role, do their best most of the time, are practical and focused on the end goal, don’t get too caught up in the silly stuff and (most importantly) are NEVER going to bail before the job is done.

In my program at the Carlson School, I have 5-7 student consultant teams every semester. Teams all do well and we have happy clients, but there’s always “turbulence” on a few teams. I would say the #1 gripey feedback people have about others when things go poorly is lack of commitment and/or follow through. It’s rarely that someone couldn’t do their work, rather that they DIDN’T. And in the worst cases, without any advance notice. Often, all it would take to at least buffer the problem is a little warning and then doing some make-good helping at some later point.

Some people just never get this. They also fail to anticipate the future reputational consequences. You want to be the person everyone wants on their team, not the person no one wants.

I sometimes wonder in what universe it’s OK to just not do what you said you would.

At some point in the murky past my uncle, a successful small town businessman, offered the following (paraphrased) advice. “Stay in one place and be competent and you’ll never have to look for business.” His point was that most people move around too much and/or aren’t as reliable as we might want them to be. (How bad is it that my wife is in love with our deck builder because he returns calls and shows up when he says he will?) If you put both together, you’ll do OK.

It comes down to acting the way we all know we should and yet a lot of people can’t seem to muster:

  1. Do what you say you will.
  2. Follow through. Most of the time, it’s as simple as returning a call.
  3. Be good at what you do.
  4. Care about the result.
  5. Care about the impact of your work & commitments on others.
  6. Be respectful to others.

I could go on, but will stop. I’d encourage you to think about how important it is to be “competent” if you strive to be a star or a leader…or even if you just want respect.

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Advice from a CEO

A former student sent along this great interview with Gary E. McCullough, president and chief executive of the Career Education Corporation from the NYT. I thought this was a great summary of many themes I try to convey in my teaching and writing. Be good to others, have a plan but be flexible in manging your career etc.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/09/business/09corner.html

I’m back in the saddle after a nice vacation and will be posting regularly starting this week…

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Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers

When I was growing up, my best friend Pete’s dad always told us we needed to “work, work, work”. It’s such a family joke, that when one of Pete’s kids was born his mother in law joked whether the baby needed to get right to “work, work, work.”

 

I was reminded of this and a few other things in reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success. If you are at all interested in history, cultural influence on macro patterns of development, education and economic development then I highly recommend Outliers.

 

Gladwell sets out to understand what explains “outliers”, which he defines as individual success stories that lie well outside the norm and cannot be explained by normal circumstances. The conventional approach to explaining these successes is a Horatio Alger-esque emphasis on the rugged individual’s personal capabilities and persistence. Gladwell asks us to pause and consider whether this is really what’s going on in most cases.

 

His answer is fascinating and points to several critical factors that tend to tilt the field in certain groups and people’s favor. The point is not a deterministic rendering of “it is what it is”, but rather taking the deeper findings and applying them to creative solutions that lead to enhanced opportunity for everyone.

 

Two major factors that he describes influencing outcomes are opportunity and hard work. The latter is heavily affected by one’s cultural situation. These seem obvious, but there are patterns to certain groups’ successes that are alternately discouraging and hopeful.

 

“Opportunity” is very subtle…

 

Bill Gates is a classic example of entrepreneurial zeal. But how did a such a young man go so far so fast? It turns he was probably one of only a handful of teenagers in the US who had access to nearly unlimited computing time as was his friend Paul Allen. Both their school and the University of Washington offered almost unique access. Personal computing was on the verge of taking off. They were uniquely placed to see and exploit a new technology. There literally were not many people who could have been Bill Gates. Most didn’t know enough about programming.

 

Gladwell demonstrates that an unusually large number of computer innovators were born within 2-3 years of each other (Gates, Allen, Jobs, Ellison, Joy, McNealy etc.) They were born in a Goldilocks moment if you will. Old giants don’t see opportunity while a whole new ecosystem is emerging. A similar explosion of large scale entrepreneurship happened in the 19th century with railroads, steel and other infrastructure. A similarly tight range of birthdays bounds that generation’s giants.

 

Certainly others had similar opportunities and didn’t become Bill Gates. But the number of people who did is in the hundreds or thousands, not the millions. Very few people had the confluence of influences and market opportunities that these entrepreneurs did.

 

Hard work matters, but not all hard work is the same…

 

Gladwell convincingly (in my opinion) shows that “genius” is over-rated relative to work and softer emotional intelligence characteristics. Many studies show there is a magical threshold of ~10,000 hours of effort that tends to define “mastery” of a discipline. Additionally, certain factors bear a heavy influence on one’s ability to get to these levels of mastery.

 

A major factor is culture. Each of us is rooted in a particular culture that carries tendencies to views on a wide array of subjects. Gladwell focuses on views towards work effort and type of work.

 

First, how consistently and hard are you inclined to work? There’s a “stick-to-it-ivness” required to get really good at things. Studies he cites point out that in music, art, math and most disciplines there is no clear correlation between natural genius and success. Instead people who really grind to get better do.  Those who don’t, don’t. Read the book for details.

 

Second, what kind of work are you doing? Working really hard at menial labor won’t get you ahead. He explores the difference between Irish or Italian immigrants and Eastern European Jews in late 19th century New York. One group brought experience in skilled labor (clothing/sewing/knitting) and turned that into an explosion of entrepreneurialism in the garment district. Were they “smarter” or harder workers than other groups? Probably not, but they were urban/city dwellers in their home countries and brought commercially viable skills with them. Their hard work allowed them to get ahead because of the skills they brought with them from Europe (an intersection of opportunity & hard work).

 

Third, where you’re from matters. Different agricultural traditions lead to different views of effort and focus. Rice farming requires incredibly precise work year round from the entire family unit and if you are more diligent and more precise than your neighbor you will most likely have higher yields. Wheat farming is much more seasonal and outcomes are driven by natural factors beyond a farmer’s control. There are implications for the attitudes towards success and hard work that develop and they persist long after leaving the field or even the native country.

 

So what?

Gladwell offers a number of interesting implications, in particular for education. Read to find out the results KIPP schools get from applying this continuous effort based view to changing the school calendar and curriculum. Hint: It’s pretty impressive or he wouldn’t be citing it.

 

Part of why I liked the conclusions he reached is that it meshes with my views on hard work and creativity. A major determinant of long term success in my mind is effort. Continuous creative effort generally overcomes a lot of obstacles.

 

 

It also speaks to the need to stick with things longer than many modern students want to. Everyone wants to rotate through jobs quickly to “learn faster”. It’s important to remember that you have to actually do something for awhile to really learn it. There is a distinct difference for me in offering consulting advice to businesses after I had to run my own. I have a much better understanding of what I know (and don’t know). So stick with things long enough to actually learn some deeper lessons.

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Job Searches in Tough Times

I’ve really never seen anything like this job market. It’s cliché at this point, but no one I know has either. So what do you do about it? I’m going to focus on searches for students in this post.

 

First, take the long view.

 

We all have hopes, dreams and expectations. They can relate to career path, personal satisfaction, salary or all of these and more. I have written on this in prior posts. I encourage you to not lose sight of your long term dreams as you work through the current situation.

 

Second, confront reality and assess where you stand.

 

If you have no current position, nothing in your hopper and are “career shifting” then at this point the conventional summer of full time position through career services isn’t likely to work out for you. (It might, but the odds have dropped at this point).

 

So, you know how talented you are and yet no one has externally validated this with an offer yet. What’s going on? A few ideas to balance here. One is “don’t freak out”. It’s the worst job market in decades and so there are certainly external factors working against you (ie: you are still a talented person with prospects, but it’s going to be tougher than you had planned on). The other is don’t let that paralyze you. Some people are getting jobs and regardless of the environment, the clock is ticking and you need to get something going.

 

A few common situations I’ve been seeing include:

 

Situation: “I can’t get interviews”

·        Is it your resume? Have several people review your resume. If no one will talk to you, something is going on.  I have written on resume basics in the past and you can reference my earlier post for deeper thoughts on this.

·        Is it you? This doesn’t mean you are defective. Rather I’m asking you frankly to assess your likelihood of getting certain competitive positions relative to competition in this tight market. You may have the sweetest resume in the world and are trying to switch careers, but as an employer I just don’t see it yet. My advice on how to handle will follow. Fundamentally you need to develop alternatives.

 

Situation: “There’s nothing available in my discipline/target company/industry”

·        Really? My first thought here is that I don’t believe you yet. What is your data for this assertion? Nothing listed at the career center isn’t a credible answer. It isn’t representative of the broader market. Many more companies DON’T come on campus than do.  “I’ve talked to 50 alumni at 25 companies and they all say there’s nothing” is a much more credible answer.

·        What if there really isn’t anything? You need a combination of creativity, flexibility and relentlessness to dig up or manufacture something.

 

Third, DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING!

 

Do you feel better making progress, any progress or sitting on the couch worrying? This is supposed to be a rhetorical question. I’m often surprised by what people perceive as “adequate effort”. I’ve written on “starting strong” and “it’s your career” in the past and the same principles apply.

 

Develop alternatives

 

I am definitely NOT saying give up on plan A. However it’s important to develop plans B through Z in this environment. So sit down and think about what kind of alternatives come to mind (FYI – these are not mutually exclusive and should be considered in common).

 

Categories might include:

·        Re think your role expectations: same job different industry, same industry, different role, same everything, smaller non traditional employer

·        Re-think your expectations on compensation: take a part time position or project role, take an unpaid role, put multiple things together to be covering your expenses but still advancing your career goals

 

Dig deep & wide

 

Be resourceful. If you are not communicating with >10 people per week at this point, what are you doing? It’s a numbers game. You need to generate a decent idea hopper. Go to the alumni database, go to the career center, search linked-in profiles, use your pre-existing network…Whatever you need to do to develop a contact list to connect with in search of opportunities.

 

This isn’t a “blame the victim” theme. The current job environment sucks, but it sucks for a lot of people. What are you doing to advance your prospects?

 

View this as an opportunity to build a foundation for life-long relationships. You ought to be regularly creating new relationships and nurturing existing ones. Develop the discipline now.

 

It’s always amazing how “lucky” people who grind appear to be to others who don’t understand their effort level.

 

Don’t be put off by rejection

 

You will hear a lot of “no’s” from people. From each encounter, develop a sense of what the market is looking for and continually refine your story and be more creative in finding scenarios that are potentially appealing to employers.

 

Be pragmatic

 

You want to shoot for the opportunity or situation that best aligns with your goals, but you need to get something.  

 

·        Realize what strengths you have in your background and leverage those in creative ways.  Understand that you are more likely to get placed in things that look more like what you have already done. This doesn’t mean “settle”. It means understand the dynamic here for potential employers and be clever. Try to create hybridized positions that allow you to take partial steps towards your destination while leveraging your strengths.

·        Having said that, it is most important that you get SOMETHING relevant that either creates a long term hiring opportunity or is clearly aligned with your future placement goals. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. I see too many people looking for “perfect” when they actually don’t have enough experience or context to know what that is. If it’s good and relevant, jump on it. You can shape it only if you get it.

 

So, keep your chin up and keep moving forward.

 

Please share good examples you have that have been successful for you or your friends or any questions you have regarding more specific advice.

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Book Recommendation: The Adventures of Johnny Bunko

Daniel Pink (A Whole New Mind) was recently recommended to me by a friend and former classmate. He feels Pink hits on an emerging trend towards different kinds of work and skills emerging. Then I put it together. Pink had also written The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, a manga style graphic novel on career management that I had seen reviewed in a few places. I decided to pick it up.

 

It’s great.

 

Pink lays out an entertaining, sometimes funny and most importantly brief overview of some core career management concepts.

 

Pink uses Diana, a magical career coach/sprite, to deliver the key themes in a step by step process. While torturing Johnny as he bumbles through trying to advance his career, six key themes are revealed as summary lessons learned from each “chapter” of the book.

 

1.      There is no plan

2.      Think strengths, not weaknesses

3.      It’s not about you

4.      Persistence trumps talent

5.      Make excellent mistakes

6.      Leave an imprint

 

For those who have read some of my posts or know me you can probably guess why I appreciate this piece. The positive, engaging, “find yourself” message that Pink delivers while also encouraging activity and progress lines up with my world view.

 

I have given a copy to all of my students and they all have said it was a fun and quick read. I recommend it to those who have grown up reading comics or who groan at the thought of reading hundreds of pages to understand a few key principles.

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MorgannCarlonMorgann Carlon
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RT @millerphiller: Carlson School faculty Kathleen Vohs on what boxer shorts can tell us about women's motivations: http://t.co/LGA1FPc0Nc
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RT @millerphiller: Carlson School faculty Kathleen Vohs on what boxer shorts can tell us about women's motivations: http://t.co/LGA1FPc0Nc
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Carlson School faculty Kathleen Vohs on what boxer shorts can tell us about women's motivations: http://t.co/LGA1FPc0Nc
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