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

Networking: Know Your Community

networking“Software developers don’t schmooze. They talk about code & problems they’ve solved. Then they share their code.”

I was chatting with a friend at a church social about networking and meeting people when he popped this gem out. I thought this was a perfect summary of what I’ve referred to before as “networking with content”.

This topic comes up for me a lot, as I work with a number of new students every year. We preach that networking is critical to success in their search and discovery process (and it is). But we NEVER mean “go have a bunch of empty, value destroying meetings with important potential supporters.” Schmoozing doesn’t work in the long run.

So what does “effective” networking look like and what is relevant “content”? (Hint: it doesn’t mean you have to have vast experience or knowledge, but it does mean you have to be interested and interesting…) Continue reading

Building Relationships: Don’t Make People Come to You

“Phil, don’t make people come to you. Go to them.”

That’s a piece of advice my Dad offered years ago that still resonates and drives my own practices as well as my teaching and advice to others.

My Dad was a really good “people person”. He was a leader at every level in his life. A four year class president in high school, fraternity president in college, rapidly promoted executive and a church and community leader. He was intuitive about others’ needs and how to get a lot out of them. (I actually had a former employee of his come up to me at his funeral several years ago and tell me “I hadn’t seen your Dad in over 25 years, but when I worked for him he changed my life and I wanted to come pay my respects.”)

Me pausing while I get emotional….OK, I’m back.

I actually can’t improve on his simple words, but will expand on what he meant and translate it into “management-speak”.

He didn’t just mean “meet at the other guy’s place” (although that’s part of his point). The deeper point is “go find people”. He was talking about concepts like “management by walking around”, “social network theory” and “servant leadership” before management books were written about them. Continue reading



Step 1 – Know Your Interviewer

Step 2 – Planning for Success

Step 3 – Performing to Win

Digging Deeper to Explain What You Did (STAR Technique)

Answering “so tell me about yourself…”

What Makes You Special?

“Case” Interviewing / Case Interviewing Feedback

Networking & Job Search

Business Networking Strategy: Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3

Student Job Searches

Networking “with Content”

Resume Basics

Job Searches in Tough Times

Job Search Stall Points

Summer Internships

Career Planning & Management

Figuring Out What You Want Part 1 / Part 2

Start Your New Job Strong

Getting Your Raise

Planning for Success: Starting Your New Job Strong

One of the most important things you can do as you enter any new role is get off to a strong start. Initial impressions stick with us and can be surprisingly persistent.

Think about it from your own experience. When you’ve decided somebody is capable and something they do is odd, don’t you tend to give them the benefit of the doubt? Conversely we tend to kill people when things go wrong if we have a neutral or negative impression of them.

Whether your goal is to be CEO or to have really interesting work with relative autonomy, you need to earn the right to that role. Some people also just seem to be well thought of and get those kinds of opportunities.

So how do you start off on the right track to be in the favored crowd? Continue reading

Networking Coaching on K102

I recently had the opportunity to help the K102 Morning Crew with their “I Need a Job!” series. Donna and Muss were great. I focused on helping contentest winner Sarah think about professional networking. Here’s a link to highlights of our session.

This got me interested in perhaps doing some video blogging. It’ll be a holiday break project. Look for more in the next month or so.

Business Networking Strategy Part 3

In my last several posts (Part 1 – Strategy , Part 2 – Tactics) we’ve covered what I think of as short term networking strategy and tactics. We used a job search as the classic example. Think of this as “the sprint”.

Now let’s get into how to build longer term healthy habits that can help in a variety of ways. Here you need endurance. Think “marathon”.  

All of the prior advice applies (obviously). Here I’ll be focused on the things that change when you’re talking years rather than months for the time-line.

We can call it “networking for life”.  I can imagine a Tony Robbins style infomercial selling my series of compelling DVDs. The secrets unveiled will transform your life. I just need you to give me your money…or read on 🙂

One illustration of how little we focus on good habits and head-down we can get in our day to day life is an experience I just had updating my linked in profile. I was consistently asked “am I looking for a job or ready for a change?” by friends and colleagues.

No. I’m happy with my job, but am working to stay on top of it and not let it drift. I also figure up to date info on my profile is potentially useful to others. It’s the same idea on the relationship side. Harvey Mackay wrote a whole book on “digging your well before you’re thirsty”.  I use the term all the time when suggesting to people some of what I’ll get into below. That my maintenance activity was seen as signaling change by my network says a lot about where people put this in their priority list.

The point is to not ignore staying connected until you need something. That is more parasitic than mutualistic and won’t inspire commitment from others.

Continue reading

Business Networking Strategy Part 2

Here’s the continuation of advice on building networks. Part 1 can be found here. A note, these are more “things to make sure you do” than “numbered steps”. They do follow this relative order, but please don’t get hung up on it. You can quibble with the order I put some of these, but that’s missing the forest for the trees.

1 – Develop your strategy. (This was most of the last post.)

2 – Determine who to reach out to first

You have to pick a place to start. To pick, I’d think about your relationships as concentric circles. Each ring is based on your own definition of “closeness”. I’ll leave it to you, but there are logically fewer people in the inner rings.

My first ring of relationships is close friends (and family). After that, you have people you know well and trust and who feel the same about you based on regular interaction (work, church, non-profit organization etc.) You have colleagues you are on good terms with, but aren’t necessarily close to after that and so on…You get the idea. Work your way out.

Write down lists of who you believe would meet with you based on the strategy you’ve laid out. I’m big on developing a tracking sheet to document your lists and activity. More on that below.

Continue reading

Business Networking Strategy Part 1

I’ve written several posts about elements of networking in the past, but never gotten straight at networking strategy at a higher level. I’ll split this into 2 posts this week due to length…

First, a few simple diagnostic questions:

How often do you get called with a new job opportunity or sought out for advice?

If it’s rare, you have a network problem.

Do you have a lot of others you can call for advice or to help with a critical introduction?

If no, you have a network problem.

Networking is among the most written about topics in business. My quick search of yielded 17,500 results to “business networking”. These included best sellers like Never Eat Alone and Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty as well as random tactical cut and paste guides like How to Succeed in Business Using LinkedIn: Making Connections and Capturing Opportunities on the World’s #1 Business Networking Site (I’m not making this one up…it’s a whole book!)

If it’s so well covered, why do we struggle with it? Just go read hundreds of pages about it and do it. I think it’s a mix of lacking both urgency and confidence. Many fail to fully appreciate the importance of developing a strong network. They know intellectually that it matters, but other priorities intrude. As for confidence, I get a lot of “why would they want to talk to me?” type responses from students and professionals.

I’ll briefly lay out some thoughts on how to approach both a short term networking strategy (for example a job search) as well as how to develop healthy networking habits for the long term.

Continue reading