Author Archives: bryandilts

Roadblocks and gatekeepers on the road to success

Faster access to our computers from home made all the sense in the world. One man was standing against my recommendation. Everyone else loved it. The big boss hid from the debate, citing Jim and the cost as reasons to not go forward with it. It seemed like spite, but we had been friends. Why was Jim sabotaging me? Why wouldn’t he listen to reason?

A year later, as technology advanced, a much cheaper and faster access method was installed. I also gained some perspective. Jim wasn’t an SOB, he was a guy with an opinion. I watched him turn out to be right every single time he took an unpopular stand. It might take a couple of years to be vindicated, but he was always right. Management had learned to ignore Jim at their peril.

Jim was a gatekeeper. He could be reasoned with. He would accept proof. He changed his mind when it made sense. Jim only seemed like a roadblock when you were wrong.

The roadblocks are the folks who are mean and spiteful. They can stop a project by getting in the way or going slow. They literally may kill a plan just because they don’t like someone on the team. They stay in place because they know enough of the right people that they can help advance or hinder careers. They help their friends and shaft their enemies. 

Be careful who you define as a gatekeeper and as a roadblock. Ask around. What do your coworkers think of the person in your way? I was wrong about Jim when I thought he was a roadblock. He was a smart guy who was a very respected gatekeeper. 

Something to do today

Is someone getting in your way? Ask around. Are they gatekeepers or roadblocks?

The right words to end an interview

I once had a candidate end an interview with “How soon can I take my vacation days?”. Unsurprisingly, that did not end well. The CEO was already planning on hiring him. That candidate didn’t get the job.

When you end your interview with the wrong words, your interviewer often says, “They didn’t want the job. They never really expressed an interest in it. So we are offering the job to someone else.”

I rarely hear this about my candidates because I tell them exactly what they should say right before they leave. It should always be a variation of, “I want this job.”

Examples

“This is the kind of company and job I thrive in. I think we could work well together. Can we set up the next step in the interview process right now?”

“I have really enjoyed talking with you. Thank you for interviewing me. The job is something I would definitely like to do. Based on everything you have learned about me so far, is there any reason you would NOT hire me for the job?”

“I would like to work here. I enjoyed meeting the team. I can do an outstanding job here and I really want to go to work for you. Can we set up a time for our next meeting right now?”

“This is a great job. I would love to work with you. Can I have the job?”

“This is a great job in a great company. When can I start?”

If it all seems a little too gutsy to you, then go back and read the second paragraph. 

I only occasionally hear, “He didn’t want it enough”, from employers. That is when my candidates do not ask for the job.

Something to do today

Do you have a list of all the jobs you have applied for and the people you have talked to? That is another good list to keep in your job journal.

Prove your worth on your resume

The first paragraph of most resumes states: I am hard working, a team player, a great contributor, an original thinker and will make you money. 

In an interview every candidate makes the same assertion.

Why do so few people prove it?

I used to work with a salesperson in a national company. She was in the top 5 salespeople of her company. She never told me. She didn’t put it on her resume. Her friend finally told me. She had absolute proof of how good she was compared to others, but she never used it. To her credit, she did talk about the dollar volume of sales she made. She just never said how much better than average she was.

I work with engineers who know exactly how much money they saved their company, and they don’t write it down. They don’t mention it in interviews.

CEO’s and CFO’s fail to mention how much money they made stockholders.

Why? They have been taught not to brag. 

If you don’t prove how good you are, you look like every other candidate. 

Who is going to hire you? There are ten candidates. One proves how much money he can make you. The other nine say they are team players who want an exciting job.

Which candidate were you?

Something to do today

Keep a special folder at home or work where you prove how much money you saved, how many customers you helped, the money you made and how much faster things work now. Write a summary in your job journal every week.

The best workers can still lose their job

Some economists say that outsourcing jobs to China increases high paying jobs and wages in the US. Jobs don’t have to be outsourced to China. Here in Harrisburg, PA, a significant amount of high paying programming jobs were moved to California.

Even if it’s good for the economy in the long term, in the short term the reality is that workers get hurt when jobs are outsourced. 

Why California? It costs even more to get work done out there. How can that be economical? I can understand someone wanting cheaper labor and moving labor to China, but California makes little sense. 

In truth, a PA company was bought by a CA company. The PA company hadn’t been competing effectively, but still had a loyal customer base. Instead of letting the company run itself into the ground, the owners were able to sell to the CA company. 

The CA company got more customers, the customers got a better and more reliable service, and the PA owners were able to sell out before it got too dire. Everyone wins… except for the workers in PA.

For the economy, there is nothing better than capitalism leading to the demise of a company for the benefit of another. For a new jobless worker, there is little that is more terrifying.

Those workers did eventually find new jobs. It’s been years now. Were they all the best in their field? Of course not. However, the best of them still lost their job. 

It doesn’t take getting fired to lose your job. Jobs are outsourced all the time. 

When a company dies or the work is outsourced, people either re-train or retire. They use the new skills they learned to find new, better-paying work. 

Ship, Listing, Galapagos Islands, Sea

Are you getting new, valuable skills at your current job? In a dying company, there are people who will re-train themselves long before the company sinks, then use that to get a new job. It’s better to train and leave early than to wait until you’re up to your neck in water.

Something to do today

Write down a list of skills you’ve developed at your current job. What skills are your coworkers developing that are not on your list?

Four ways to save a bad reference

I was told, “My former boss is giving out a horrible reference. Everyone calls him even if I don’t put him on my reference list because he is so well known. What can I do?”

There is no good way to resolve this, but you probably knew that.  

The way I did it with one particular person was, as a recruiter, to offer to do the reference checks myself. As the former boss slandered my candidate I nailed him down about actual job performance.  Did he get things done on time? Yes, but… Did he get them done right? Yes, but…  Did he come to work on time? Yes, but… Did he get along well with the other workers? Yes, but…  

Then I told the new employer everything. I said, “It appears this boss is incredibly vindictive, because when you pin him down about specific job performance, he gives a good reference. Yet he continually says he hates the candidate. Plus the candidate’s other two references are excellent.”

The new employer also called the boss, but since I had set a pattern, the new employer knew what he had to ask. My candidate got hired.

Four things you can do when your previous boss has a vendetta against you:  

  1. Go through a recruiter who will back you up.
  2. Tell people at the point where they will check references that so-and-so has a vendetta against you. Give the reference checker specific questions to ask that prove you did well. If you can, also prove you did well using written work evaluations. You can even give the reference checker a few people to call about the boss and his vendetta against you. 
  3. You may have to get a lawyer to call your former employer and tell him to shut up. It will merely be intimidation on the lawyer’s part, but it is worth a try.
  4. Give a lot of references, excluding him, and hope they don’t call him anyway.  

There are not a lot of options. None of them are perfect, but they are always applicable. Whether or not they work, they are worth a shot. 

Something to do today

Save all your evaluations from work. Check your email for any older ones that you may have. Make copies and save them. You never know when you will get a brand-new boss who wants to get rid of you. It is always valuable to be prepared.

Pick and choose the right opportunities

Erich Hartmann shot down 352 planes. He was lucky. He was on the Soviet front in WWII. The Soviet MIGs and Yaks were no match for his plane. “Paule” Rossman taught him how to carefully pick a target and then wait until everything was in his favor before attacking. Hartmann was most proud of the fact that he never lost a wingman, the plane he fought with as a partner. He contented himself with, at most, one victory per flight.  

Hartmann had all the skills of a great pilot and managed to be where he could make the most use of his skills. He also listened to his mentor. At the end of the war he was ordered to move his squadron to the western front and fight the British and Americans. He refused. He disobeyed the order. He felt it was suicide for his entire squadron.

What projects should you accept?

Assignments at work may help your career, mean very little or be useless. One major contribution of a mentor is to help you figure out your priorities. What assignments should you chase after? Which should you accept? Which should you refuse to do? 

Find a mentor or two. Ask the most successful people you know to help you choose your priorities. Successful people get successful by ignoring and refusing unimportant but urgent tasks.

How to say no without being fired

The most important word you may ever learn to say to your boss is, “No.” In work situations you may need to say, “These are the other things I am working on. Which of them shall I drop to get that done?” Don’t forget to use the critical winning phrase, “That is a critical assignment. I’ll have it done in two days if you give it to me.”

Hartmann became the greatest ace of all time by carefully choosing the targets, missions and battles he would fight. He even refused a dangerous order. He risked getting shot for disobeying. If he could pick his priorities in a split second in life and death situations, you can pick your priorities at work.

 Something to do today

List your boss’s priorities at work.

List your priorities at work.

Make a list of the things that will get you a raise or promotion the quickest.

Compare the lists.

Now find a mentor to bounce your ideas off of.

Get a promotion by stacking the odds in your favor

In The Millionaire Mind the success of many German aces is credited to a flyer who had a weak arm, “Paule” Rossmann. In the days before modern airplanes, brute strength often determined whether fighter pilots stayed in the air or were shot down. Rossmann had a weak arm and decided he preferred life to a glorious death. He decided to carefully pick his targets and opportunities instead of going into testosterone charged death matches. That pilot had over 80 kills because he only attacked when all the odds were in his favor. 

The plan is simple. Study things out. Get above your target. Make sure the odds are in your favor. Wait a little bit if you have to. Then commit everything you have to win the day. 

You need to do the same thing as Rossman. Become a student of success in your field. If you want to be a great technician, salesman, manager or CEO you need to study people who are performing better than you. Why were they given opportunities or promoted? 

I am often told, “I can’t get promoted because I refuse to play politics.” 

If that is how you feel, you are welcome to your injured pride. You may NOT be able to succeed where you are. So quit and get a new job. If you have had 3 or 4 jobs and you always have the same problem, look at yourself. In all likelihood you are the problem in that situation.

Take some time to honestly evaluate why you don’t succeed. Are you playing to a weakness? Do other people REALLY outperform you? Are you guilty of taking on yourself ALL the jobs no one else wants? Have you positioned yourself to lose?

If you are not sure what the problem is, time to swallow your pride. Call up some of your old bosses. Now that time has passed, ask for their help. Tell them you have come to realize that you have some problems. Humbly ask them, “You were my boss. What keeps me from succeeding the way I could?” Then just listen. Take notes. Swallow your pride. 

Asking your old bosses for help even works for wildly successful people.

The idea is simple. Study things out. Get above your problems. Make sure you know what you do well and compensate for what you do poorly. Wait a little bit as you get prepared. Then re-commit everything you have to win the day.

 Something to do today

Only do this if you recover quickly from sharp criticism!

Do you have a boss that hated you years ago? How about one that loved you? Call them both and humbly ask for their help. Tell them you need perspective. Write down what they say. Meekly say thank you at the end of the conversation. 

Salary negotiations shouldn’t be poker

Some people object to my open and honest style of negotiating. They tell me that Texas Hold ’em is the ultimate negotiating style. 

Someone starts out feeling like they pulled off a quick trick on the other guy. What’s next? Do you want to pull another trick? Stick it to them again? Bluff them? Intimidate them?

Do you really want to start a job with those attributes pinned to your shirt?

In this salary poker game you have some cards only you can see. You share some more cards with all the players. You put on a personality at the table. You try to look as harmless or intimidating as possible. When you get your cards you do your best to give small signals of fear, lust, greed or anger. You design your signals to trick your competition into doing something foolish. If you have a great hand you try to appear weak so others will bet stupidly high. If your hand is weak you consider bluffing and making others think you are much stronger. Or you fold and stop betting. You wait for a better hand. 

In poker there is only one winner. You are out to defeat everyone else and amass all the chips. It is a game for the proud, powerful, greedy, deceptive and analytical folks. Sure, it can be played for penny ante with friends, but that is not how the game of legends is played. 

I don’t gamble. I don’t like tricking the other guy. I put all my cards on the table and try to figure out what will work best for everyone. 

Remember, the way you negotiate is the way you will be perceived by your new boss. Do you want to come in as a poker player who always hides his cards, bluffs when he can and goes for all the chips? Or do you want to come in as a team player? 

 Place your bets and play your cards.

 Something to do today

Time to write your accomplishments for the week and month in your job journal. Make a report for your boss that gives him all the information he needs for his reports to his boss.

How to get more money in your job

Some people need a new job to get more money. Others just need a new attitude. For more money, often you just have to ask.

I get calls from people with golden handcuffs occasionally. They are paid so well or have such great bonuses that all they can get by switching jobs is a drop in pay. Often they don’t appreciate it. I have to honestly tell them what the job market is like and ask them if they want to earn less at a new job. Only one in twenty says, “Yes, I’ll take a drop in pay.” The others get a quick lesson on either growing where they are at or being content at being overpaid.

Others are underpaid or paid their market value and want to earn more. Changing jobs for a 3% raise usually makes no sense. You could easily get that in the next year just by being patient. Often you could get a raise like that in a few weeks by presenting your case to your boss and their boss. So try that first. Present your accomplishments and a list of things you have done in the last few years. Prove you are worth more and give them 3 months to react.

If you really can get a 10% raise or more by leaving the job, the problem is different. You still need to present your case to your bosses. They may give you the raise and solve the problem. Give them 3 months to work on it after you present an air tight case that includes your specific contributions, not just your responsibilities.

During those 3 months keep your eyes open for a new job. Check out what the market really is like. After 3 months go back to your bosses and ask if you are going to get a raise. This is an important step so that they know you are serious. If they say, “No,” then start looking for a new job.

Some people really do need a new job to get more money.

Something to do today

Thinking about getting a new job? Call a recruiter who specializes in your field or in your geographical area. Ask them what the going rates for someone like you are.

Negotiating salary and perks at a new job

Negotiating is the art of getting what you want while giving away what you want less. 

A good recruiter can help you negotiate. He can find out all the details before the offer is given to you and get important problems fixed. He can give away the things you care less about. He can negotiate for you before the final offer is put on the table. A good recruiter can put pressure on a company that you will never see. If you have a recruiter, be blunt and honest with him. Don’t lie and say I need $80,000 when you are hoping for $60,000. Tell the recruiter the truth. Then accept or reject an offer based on its merits, not on your greed for more.

Shaking Hands, Handshake, Skyline, City, Hands, Welcome

If you don’t have a recruiter, you have to do exactly the same thing, only directly with someone at the company. 

  • Find out all the details 
  • Talk about details before a final offer is on the table
  • Give away the things you care about less for the things you want the most
  • Pressure. Let them know your priorities and what will make you walk away
  • Be blunt and honest
  • Tell them what you really want
  • Accept or reject an offer on its merits, not greed

Every one of those points is about communication. Negotiating a salary is about communicating. Go at it with the desire to understand and inform and you will come out ahead. If you go in with a desire to pillage, you will lose.

Something to do today
Get the book, How To Win Friends And Influence People. It may be the best practical book on communicating that was ever written. If you’re feeling a bit short on time, get it as an audiobook to listen to on your commute.