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If Your Boss Was a Cooked Egg…

While at my sister’s house last week,  I found myself watching Family Feud. The question that was asked is: “If your boss was a cooked egg, how would you describe him or her.”

Here are the responses. Who wants to guess at what the last answer was?

Strategies for Developing a Career Path that Works

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” – Steve Jobs

“The things to do are the things that need doing, that you see need to be done, and that no one else seems to be doing.” – Buckminster Fuller

Maybe your job is not what you thought it would be, or you want to ratchet up, or you are burnt out, or something else seems more interesting…or you just got fired.

Consider these strategies to find a job you can love, even if it’s the one you are in:

  1. Nothing is wrong with you if you have not yet discovered your “passion” or “mission.” It can be as simple as “helping myself while I help others.” You can do that in any job.
  2. Nothing is wrong with changing jobs if:
    • There is no opportunity for creativity or growth.
    • You can’t earn more where you are at.
    • You want to work closer to home.
    • You dislike your co-workers, boss, or customers.
    • There is illegal or unethical activity going on.
    • This isn’t the third time you quit in the last two years.  If that’s the case, maybe you are the problem.
  3. Nothing is wrong with changing careers if:
    • The “story” of your career does not match up with the “reality” of your career.
    • You have grown far in that career and look to learn something new.
    • There is the possibility of working in a career that allows you to earn more or work in alignment with your passion, mission, etc.
    • You are financially set and want to do non-profit type work.
  4. Get out of the “grey zone” of uncertainty. Give yourself space and time to define your ideal career situation. Think both vertically and horizontally. For example, I’d like to be a lawyer for an environmental non-profit or I’d to be a games programmer at Electronic Arts.
  5. Interview people with your ideal career. Invite them to a coffee or lunch, or even offer to pay for their time.  Ask what they want and don’t like about their job.  Discover their story of how they came to be in this position.  Ask what they think the future holds for their career.  Last, ask what advice they would have for you.  I wish I had been smart enough to do this when I was younger.  Keep asking until somebody says yes.  It is worth the effort.
  6. Meet with a recruiter. Again, offer to pay for their time.  Ask for an evaluation of your resume, and what they believe your opportunities are and possible compensation levels.  Steps 4, 5, and 6 are all about gaining clarity.  Get facts before you make a career decision.
    • P.S.  See if they can run your resume through a resume screener to make sure you are using the right buzzwords. An example you can use yourself is https://www.jobscan.co/
  7. Don’t fear seeking part-time, temp or consulting work. Get your foot in the door and show them how amazing you are.  Do that, and they will want you as an employee.
  8. Don’t quit your day job until you have agreed to a new job. Then leave your company gracefully.  Provide them with two week’s notice.  Don’t bomb them on Glassdoor.  Don’t do a YouTube dance video. There is no good reason to create enemies.  Just move on.
  9. Get creative! Showing your resume online is not enough anymore.
    • Use your LinkedIn and Facebook contacts.
    • Use your alumni and school contacts.
    • Show up at industry association meetings.
    • See if your industry association has a hiring page, many do.
    • Knock on their door. This approach works best with smaller companies as you might get to meet the owner or president.
    • Network, but when you do, spend your time learning about them. See how you can help them.  That’s what gets people’s attention, not being needy.  Besides, needy is creepy.
    • Don’t forget the Yellow Pages.
  10. Know the companies that fit your career path. Many cities have a business publication that identifies the companies in your area. Then systematically figure out how you will approach them. Make your job! Send the owner an article you wrote or a blog post.  Mail it to them.  Offer to have a meeting to see how you can help them.  I have often got work by doing this.  “I’d like to meet with you for an hour to check your head and share what I know about ____.”
  11. Know yourself. Look for a career that fits you. Know your skills and motivators.  Take a few career assessments.  Take a few skill tests (see shl.com).  The better you know you, the more focus and confidence you will have.  One simple way to focus is to identify the five things you do best and circle the two things you enjoy doing best.  Find a job or career that focuses on those two things and you will find work nirvana.
  12. If you are out of a job, then make finding a job your whole priority. Make it a 5-day week, 40 hour-week job. Be relentless. Go all in!
  13. Keep learning. Lynda.com is a great resource for learning and free if you have LinkedIn premium (which you want if you are job hunting). Research companies, trends, challenges, etc.
  14. Create a week in the life for yourself. Three years from now, when you are doing work you love. What does a work week look like?  Spend a few hours noting this future with clarity and then bring that future into the present.  I have learned that you get what you ask for – just not when or how you would expect to get it.
  15. Be prepared. As the saying goes, success results from preparation meeting opportunity. Being prepared for an interview means researching the company website, news articles, LinkedIn profiles, Glassdoor reviews and more. Practice your interviewing skills with friends.  Interviewing is a sales job so know the questions you can be asked and how you would answer them.  Short and sweet answers are best. Also, be prepared with questions you may want to ask. Don’t ask questions you can find by researching Manta, Hoovers…or the company website. Consider questions such as:
    • Why is the position open? Did someone quit or get fired? Is it a new position?
    • How would you describe the company’s culture?
    • Where do you get your greatest satisfaction in working here?
    • What frustrates you working here?
    • What are the common attributes of your top performers?
    • What drives results for the company?
    • How does your performance appraisal system work?
    • What would you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?
    • In one year from today, how would you know if my hire was a success?
    • What training programs do you offer employees?
    • Do you publish career ladders for the position?
    • What percentage of managers are promoted versus recruited?
    • What is the most exciting thing happening at the company?
    • How often does the CEO meet with the management team?
    • What type of company social events do you have?
  16. Follow up, even if they don’t. Send a written thank you note and ask for the job.
  17. Last, don’t stress about the future even if you are in a financial squeeze. Cut expenses to the bone and focus on taking action in the present, the only real power you have.

Download the Career Strategies PDF

Resources:

https://www.livecareer.com/ -resume builder, job search, more.

http://jobboardreviews.com job board directory

http://www.jobhuntersbible.com  from Dick Bolles, author of What Color is My Parachute

https://www.shl.com/en/  a great place to test your skills

https://www.asktheheadhunter.com/- great advice on job hunting

https://www.careercloud.com– job hunting advice

https://www.job-hunt.org/– job hunting advice

https://www.forbes.com/video/4573540723001 video from Forbes on avoiding the resume black hole.

https://blog.linkedin.com/2016/10/06/now-you-can-privately-signal-to-recruiters-youre-open-to-new-job– as the URL suggests, how to use LinkedIn

https://www.donphin.com/tools/– last but not least, some tools I’ve created that can help

 

Do You Have Your Hiring Act Together?

“The number one secret to having a great company is to make sure your managers hire great employees.” – Jim Collins

How good are you at hiring? Better than the competition? Most important how good do you want to be? Top 25%?  Top10%?

Everyone tells me about how hard it is to find talent today. The mistake with that thought is the part about “finding” employees as opposed to “attracting” them.

When we find our self in desperate hiring situations we can make big mistakes. We will hire somebody we like just so we can get it over with…and go back to our more important jobs. We can forget hiring is the most important job a manager will ever do. (See Collins above.)

Just one bad hire can set a company backwards. When I ask the CEO’s I speak to “how much did our last bad hire cost you?” They start at $50,000.  They have often said more than a million dollars!

That’s just one bad hire.

Here’s a short checklist of things you should be considering if you want to hire great employees.

    1. Get super clear about who you want to hire. Is that desire in writing and driven to a checklist? Then test and assess towards those criteria. Bottom line is if you want an experienced 3rd baseman, with a .300 plus batting average, who is good in the locker room too…you must hire for that!
    2. Do what you can on your social media sites, web page, etc. to brand a great employment experience story. Like they do at Zappos or Southwest Airlines or In-N-Out Hamburger.
    3. Take a checklist approach to hiring. Checklist are one of the best ways to avoid system variances. And bad hires. You can see my hiring checklist template here.
    4. Create a great hiring experience. From the moment an applicant looks at your website until the moment they are hired.
    5. Make sure your managers know how to treat and interview job applicants. Do they know how to prepare for interviews? Do they have the skills required to do them? Do they know what compliance questions to avoid? Do they know how to rank and rate job applicants?
    6. Last, have a good follow up process with job candidates so they know where they stand. Nothing is more frustrating than putting in a resume and not hearing back within a few days. How’s about they hear back within 24 hours! Don’t lose a great candidate due to indifference.

None of this is rocket science… yet half the companies hire better than the other half. Then there’s those rare companies who hire in the top 10%… and build great companies in the process.

What Will You Do to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone?

“Only the mediocre are ever truly comfortable.” Paulo Coelho
“If it’s not hard, it’s soft.” – Ice Cube.It is soooo easy to get comfortable. On the couch…and with your job, your company, your marriage, your health, etc.

We all seek comfort and security. It feels so safe. Like being cradled.

But… it is a trap! It’s how you grow old and irrelevant…at any age. It will deaden your motivation, engagement and drive. It will eliminate the dreams of your youth. You will become a zombie…in your comfortableness. Breathing all right; but not alive.

When we are too comfortable for too long we are guaranteed to get run over by people or companies not interested in being comfortable!

Yes… I hear you say…but I put so much effort to get this point why would I put that at risk?

My answer is so you live a full life. To the end. So you have no regrets or remorse about playing all in.  So you set an example.

We all have our comfort zones. My question is what will you dare to do to get out of your comfort zone??

  • Will you dare to have a great career?
  • Will you dare to try a new project?
  • Will you dare to have a great marriage?
  • Will you dare to do a great job of saving and investing money?
  • Will you dare to do a great job of managing your health?

A great filtering question to ask: Is this thought or action based out of a desire to avoid pain and discomfort?  Or, is it based out of a desire for continuous growth?

While jumping out of planes is one way to do things, you don’t have to leap out of the comfort zone. Just take one step at a time. That builds muscle and confidence.

And don’t worry. You don’t have to go off into orbit. You’ll know if you’ve gone too far. But you will never know where that boundary is until you meet it!

Here’s 10 ideas for your daring to step out of your comfort zone:

  1. Go to lunch with somebody very different from you.
  2. Say “no” to doing something. Eliminate, automate or delegate it.
  3. Wear something funky, fun, bright, unique. Give them something to talk about.
  4. Go to the library for three hours of uninterrupted time, where there are no distractions and flush that idea out.
  5. Find a group that likes to do fun an different things.
  6. Stop saying you are busy. Doing what? Filling up space?
  7. Show one person per day you care about them for 30 straight days.
  8. Send 5 handwritten notes.
  9. Read or watch something different. Remember, profound thoughts, those aha’s, come from outside your comfort zone.
  10. Make your own list of 10 things you will do over the next 10 days to get out of your comfort zone.

Please let me know what you’ve dared do to push your boundaries!

 

PS if you are in SoCal get thee or thy HR person to my Great HR workshop in June. More info here. That will get you outside your comfort zone!

How Would You Define Your Company in a Few Words to Job Seekers?

I believe in the importance of branding the employment opportunity. That’s why I found the directory of tech employers on TechMeme to be interesting. Some of them make sense to me; a few don’t at all.

I wonder how they come up with and test these branding themes.

If you ignore the company names, which ones attract your interest? Why?

What would you put for your company’s theme?

While it is important to frame what work your company does, I would also put something about the employee experience… especially on a hiring page!

Do you think any of these are cool enough to put on a T-shirt?

 

 

Some of my ideas:
DriveAI- The thrill of advancing self-driving technology.
Expedia- Come join the travel revolution!
Snap- Great work you want to SnapChat about!
Tell me some of your ideas and what you would say about your company?

Who’s Happy at Work?

To work we love, with delight we go. William Shakespeare

There has been much discussion about happiness, engagement, inspiration and those other “soft” attributes of work. We are constantly reminded of the Gallup survey indicating 72% of employees are disengaged. According to a Money Magazine poll roughly 54% of those surveyed said their job is “okay”, 26% said “they can’t stand it” and 20% felt it was their “dream gig”. Other surveys talk about what jobs have the happiest workers, what cities have the happiest workers, and how much you have to earn to be happy.

Is anybody happy yet?

What can we make of all of this? A few thoughts:

  1. As Abraham Lincoln once said “People are about as happy as they choose to be”. How is it so many people allow themselves to work at jobs they can’t stand, where they are disengaged, or even worse? How many of these people try to educate themselves so they can move to a job where they can be engaged and happy? Many people like being victims because it gives them something to complain about. They would rather be unhappy. I say let them work someplace else. (I can see the ad now: “Are you unhappy at work? We hate the work we do …but we are good at it. None of that happy slappy nonsense here. Would like to be around a bunch of other unhappy people… who just so happen to be good at the work they do? If you are competently unhappy then we are the place for you!”)
  2. Who is hiring these people? And why? Apparently Zappos is not. After initial orientation and training they offer their employees something like $3000 to get up and leave. The math is clear: if you have a less than engaged $30,000 yr. employee they will be at least one 10th less productive, so there is the $3,000 right there. Plus employees are there to bring an ROI so it’s really more than a $3000 offset… and who wants that cancer in the workplace anyway? Bottom line: don’t hire disengaged unhappy people and if you accidentally do, provide them a severance and get rid of them.
  3. Don’t ignore the reality of the bell curve. Most employees a more intent on being comfortable then they are anything else. They want to make enough money so they can live comfortable by cultural standards, watch TV, eat junk and hang out with friends. Less than 10% of employees have any desire to be great at what they do. As they say, there’s plenty of room at the top.
  4. Perhaps the best idea is to hire people already happy, knowing it’s an internal choice. Then put them in an environment where they can be happy growing and contributing on it ever improving basis. For these people mediocrity is death. If they’re not doing something exciting or meaningful there’s no opportunity for them to be happy. But if they are in that sweet spot they will be the most valuable of all employees.
  5. Pay a “fair day’s wage”. This means you pay at market rate or better. Remember: “when you pay peanuts you get monkeys” …and disengaged unhappy employees.
  6. Last, look at what makes you happy…or not happy… in the work you do. Others probably are similarly affected.

Here’s to you happiness, Don

Designing Your Ideal Career Plan

The beautiful Mary Kay had it right when she said “Most people plan their vacations better than their careers.” I find this an accurate statement. On the occasions when I’ve asked a group of employees how many have a career plan it is rare to have more than one out of ten respond they do.

Everyone else spends more time planning their escapes than their career.

This business about career planning is true no matter your level at the company. Business plan, department plan, marketing plan…of course. Personal career plan…probably not.

Q: Why bother making a career plan?

A:  You get what you ask for.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Here is an excellent opportunity to work on your career plan…think about the all of it…and encourage others at your company to do the same.

What goes into a good career plan? Consideration of all the wants and needs that must be addressed in the diagram.

Give yourself the time and space to venture into your amazing future. Meditate on it. Journal on it. Talk to experts about it. And get super clear about it.

The schematic above shows how interrelated your career plan is. Let’s break down each one of these subjects… none of which are “in order”.

Personal situation – Your career plan will be different if you are 20 or 60. If you are single or married. If you love your job or hate your job. I can tell you that your career aspirations can cause damage to your personal life if they are not in alignment. I litigated cases for over 70 hours a week and sat on non-profit boards at the same time. The people who paid the price for those heroics were the people who mattered most, my wife and children. Hence the divorce. And a lot of pain.

Never forget the impacts your career choices have on the people you love most in your life…including you.

Career Goals- it seems as if career planning is much easier once we are clear on our goals. You may have the goal of running a successful law firm or get that V.P. role…only to find yourself exhausted and divorced and bankrupt…just like I was. Because I didn’t think about the all of it and have a career plan in alignment with it.

To do it right you begin with the end in mind. Both short term and long term. Think of how you would like to see your career in a year or two from now. Then think about your ideal long term career aspirations. A plan may be to land a steady job at a law firm right out of school, be on a partner track in five years and eventually be a top partner at one of the top law firms in the city. Or a plan could be to be a great barista within three months, manage the place within a year and own a franchise within three years. Just make sure if you get it…it’s want you really want and not somebody else’s idea for your life.

See the document I did Visualization Techniques for Success to help with this process.

Market demand – Your value in the market place depends on numerous factors including the industry you are in, your location, availability of skilled labor, competition, economy, etc. It is always helpful to know how you can increase your value in the market place and if you can’t then what market place will be best for your career? If your goal is to be in hospitality but you intend to stay in South Dakota I guarantee you’ll have limited career opportunities.

One way to get past assumptions and find out your value in the marketplace is to pay a recruiter for an assessment of that value…even if you are not looking.

Job description – This document defines who you are… whether you like it or not. And if you don’t like it then change it. Seriously. A lot of job descriptions are out of date and non-sense. Bottom line is to create a job description in alignment with the work you are doing. PS a good place to see job descriptions, career paths and more is https://www.onetonline.org

Company plans – Is it company on a growth path? How does it expect to continue to grow the bottom line? Can you see them doing well for another five years? What have they told you about the company finances or direction? If you work at a public company this information is readily available. At a private company you owe to yourself to find out what you can.

Career ladder – Assuming there is one, does the career ladder do a good job of defining the opportunities at your company and how does it align with your career planning? If the company has no formal career ladder process then understand what the informal process is. Don’t assume anything. Ask until you are clear.

Succession planning – Excellent companies do this and the poor ones don’t. There’s a natural flow of employees through any organization and managing it is either random and chaotic, or organized and well managed. Either way, find out where you fit in the scheme.

Performance management – Our career is greatly influenced by how we are managed. Are you 100% clear about expectations, tasks, goals, etc.? Do your performance management conversations come frequently enough? Are they focused on helping you to improve performance? Are you asking for the resources and support you need to perform at your best?

Your skill sets – Nobody’s going to hire me to manage their Excel spreadsheets. I can hardly drag myself to manage my own. Therefore it would not make sense for me to engage in a career path as a CPA. It’s important for you to understand what you’re good at and what you enjoy doing best. A simple exercise: write down the five things you think you do best from a skills standpoint and then circle those two things you enjoy doing most. Those two items are your sweet spot and you should try doing it more than half the day.

Compensation structures – How does the money line up with your career plan? One way to get compensated more is to stop doing low value work. For example if you are paid $100,000 per year you are paid roughly $50 per hour. You disservice yourself every time you do $25 per hour work. Even if you’re good at it. And can do it in your sleep. And won’t mess it up. And you won’t really have the time to train or show somebody else how to do it. And on and on and on.

You can’t become more valuable more until you stop doing low value work. Figure out how to automate it, outsource it, delegate it or eliminate it all together.

So there you have it. A diagram and a checklist to consider. I’m sure I missed something on the list but this is a good place to start.

Here’s to you great career, Don