Category Archives: Accomplishments

Useful career plans

marines and airplane taking off

Which direction is your career going?

So how do you get the promotion or raise you want?

An usher at the movie theater I worked at wanted to become the lead usher.  After the movie started he would always be the first to grab a broom and start sweeping the lobby.  Once he even told me I was sweeping too early so that 30 seconds later he could grab a broom and be seen by our boss as the boy with the most initiative.  He got the job.  I got laid off.  He had a career plan at the tender age of 14. (He was also a little deceitful, which he didn’t need to be.)

A useful career plan needs to have the long term goals we talked about yesterday as well as much shorter term tactical objectives.  If your 1 year goal is to get promoted to team leader, you have to work every day at short term plans to get there.  If you want to become a partner in your firm, you have to do something different from the crowd every day.

The biggest secret to daily, weekly and monthly career plans is to set yourself up to act like you already have the job you want.  Start acting like a senior technician by getting certifications and asking your boss to allow you into design meetings. Pretty soon you’ll get the promotion.  A partner in most firms is required to be either a leader/manager or a rainmaker/salesman.  If you want to be a partner, act like one.

To start taking over the job you want, you have to have a clear idea of what the job entails.  Your first career plan should be, “I will find out what the job I want entails.”  Make sure you find out what the most successful inhabitants of your target job do. What makes the most successful people different? You should generate a weekly and monthly written plan of how you will find out more about the job you want. Put it in your job journal.

Now write a weekly and monthly plan of how to educate yourself for the job.  List the courses you can take, certifications you can get and books you can read.  Ask the people you admire for advice. The list should go in your job journal where you can add to it later.

Finally, write that weekly and monthly plan on how you will take over the job.  90% of authority is seized, 10% is granted.  Go out and take over some responsibilities.  Even if you are reprimanded for over reaching, your initiative will be noticed.  A plan written in your job journal will focus your efforts.

Remember that boy who wanted to be lead usher.  He was always the first person out in the lobby cleaning up. He wanted to show initiative.  To advance in a technical, managerial or sales position you need to show the same initiative.  You need to be the first person seen doing important jobs.  Make a plan and do it.

Something To Do Today

Just today, seize authority.  Find some important job and make yourself the custodian of that job.  Be the first to start doing it, direct how it is to be done, or ask one of your subordinates to do it.

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Next:     What is “the next big thing”?

The secret to useful goals

evolution of man and goals

Goals should help you BECOME, not help you GET.

One the most important lessons I have learned is:

In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia.

Useful goals

One famous study showed that people with written goals coming out of college earned several times more than people without written goals. But, look at yourself.  If you still have the same written or unwritten goals you had 10 years ago, you are the exception.

Goals change. The real secret is to have specific written goals and expect them to change.

You will do better if you are striving to BECOME something much greater than you are now.  The world reshapes itself around you when you refuse to take the path of least resistance.  If you set 20 year goals that inspire you today, you will enjoy life more today and next year.  Your goals will change because you have grown to the point that you can see more important goals.  You will develop a vision of your future that is clearer and brighter than you have today. That is a good reason to change your goals.

A part of the goals secret is to have goals in the areas of your life that matter most.  Money is important. Job and career goals are essential for progress.  You also need goals about your family growth, social maturity, physical fitness, emotional strength and spiritual development.

For example, your goal could be to run 2 miles in 15 minutes in 2031.  If you really think about that goal, you need to strengthen your legs and knees, not pound them into arthritis.  That goal could inspire you to include bicycling, swimming or rowing in your fitness regime so that your knees will last throughout your life. That goal may change to being able to swim a mile in 2031 because of changes in your health.

A social goal could be to have a network of 1000 people who are leaders in their own field in 2031.  To get there you will have to have intermediate goals of recognizing, getting to know, helping, tracking and staying in contact with those people.  A goal like that would also be a great help to a career goal to become CEO of a company. Later your social goal may change to having a network of 2000 people who will help you fund medical research, and it may include all the same people as your original goal.

Remember, goals change.  The 20 year goals I just mentioned would be great goals for a computer technician, salesperson or CEO.  If you open your mind and see into the future, you will be able to pick out goals for the year 2031 that will help you now, and still matter in 2031.  If your goals are important to you, you will find you achieve most of them in much less than the 20 year, 5 year or 1 year horizon you set.

Something To Do Today

In your journal first make a list of the most important overall aspects of life.  I suggest: money, career, social, physical fitness, emotional and spiritual.  Then list a goal you can work towards BEING in 20 years, 5 years and 1 year.  Each goal should fit in with all the others.  Goals are about becoming better as the world shifts around you.

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Next:     Useful career plans

Later:              What is “the next big thing”?

5 steps to accelerate your job/career growth curve

motorbike-438464_640-pixabay

Now thats a job growth curve!

When I started at EDS I was learning at an incredible rate.  Pay raises came quickly and easily.  By my third year things slowed down.  By my fifth year I settled into a dreary cycle of little new personal growth and cost of living raises. I managed to get assigned to a new team using a new technology and my growth accelerated for a year, then it dropped back to the dreary level. That’s an example of my personal growth curve.

How fast you are growing to get where you want to go is your personal growth curve.  Once you stop growing you are flat-lining.  In hospitals flat-lining means there is no pulse, you are dead.  In your career, flat-lining means that your career has stopped completely and the business world is starting to pass you by.

To get growing again you need to learn, get new responsibilities and get recognized.  At EDS I volunteered and pestered my managers for the chance to use new technology.  Since no one else had a clue and I had read a couple of books on the subject, I got to become the “owner” of that technology.  Preparation and repeatedly selling myself to my managers preceded my advancement.

Whether you want to grow as a manager, salesperson or technician, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Find out what is going to be needed IN THE FUTURE
  2. Study and prepare to fill that future need
  3. Sell yourself repeatedly to get the new responsibility
  4. Excel at your new job
  5. Start over

Step 1 and 2 can always be done at your current job.  Often they will pay for the training and help mentor you.  Step 3 should be attempted with your current company. Sometimes it just can’t be done where you are.

Companies have their own growth curves.  At a company that is flat-lining, your chances to grow will be limited.  While you are preparing to grow, open your eyes.  Is your company ABLE to let you grow?  Do you need to move to a company that is changing its growth curve while you change yours?

A job change becomes a career enhancing move when you move to a company whose growth curve will allow you to accelerate your own growth curve.  If you are willing to learn and grow, you will have growth in your career.  If you are willing to change jobs when necessary to re-accelerate your career growth, your future has no limits.

Something To Do Today

What is going to be needed in the future?  What interests you?  What will help you accelerate your growth curve?

Don’t expect your boss to magically know what you fail to tell him repeatedly. Expect him not to understand.  Even if he sees you doing something new he may not recognize what it means or its usefulness unless you have told him five or six times in the last six months.

Each Friday is the time to write down what you did this week and this month in your job journal.  Give a report to your boss in a format he can use for his own reports to his boss.

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Later:

How many times have I got to tell him?

Useful career plans

What is “the next big thing”?

How to find the biggest trick for success where you work

Are you trying to be successful doing the work that successful people throw out? What successful people refuse to do? Then hard work won’t help you.

Man pushing huge straw bale by hand.

How can you succeed doing all the wrong stuff?

This true story is about more than salespeople. It is about accountants, programmers and managers too.

Paul, beginning his job in sales, told me, “My manager seems to be able to make a sale every time we go on a call together. All the people we visit want to buy. He sells as much as everyone else in the office put together. When I take the leads he gives me, I can’t get them interested at all. What am I doing wrong?”

Paul was doing nothing wrong. His manager was visiting only high quality leads. Paul was visiting everyone that his manager didn’t pick for himself. His manager got the golden leads and Paul got the brass. Worse, Paul refused to look for the best quality leads in what he was given. He just went out and visited everyone.

Successful salespeople, accountants, programmers, managers, secretaries and septic tank cleaners all know what sales leads, jobs, duties and knowledge are most important.

Pick out the most successful person you know who is doing the job you want. Invite him out to lunch. Ask him, “What do you do that is different from less successful people?” Take notes. Don’t let him stop with one quick answer. Ask about what he reads, what he does, and the jobs he refuses to do.

If you really pry, you will find out that he no longer does a lot of things he used to do. Ask him, “What have you stopped doing because you no longer have the time to do it?” You’ll find that successful people really do work differently. They are picky. They find ways to get drudge work assigned to others. They study particularly difficult problems so that they are assigned the most interesting projects. They also invite themselves into meetings where thorny issues are discussed. They go prepared with fresh information. That’s how they get reputations as problem solvers.

If you want to become a guru, act like one. Do what the gurus do. Just as important, find a way to get out of the work that successful people throw away.

Something To Do Today

Make that call to a successful person doing the job you want next. Find out what they attribute their success to. Also find out what they no longer are doing.

How to answer unasked interview questions

scared kid in a bag

If the interviewer won’t ask, answer anyway.

Séances and interviews sometimes have a lot in common. Primarily, no one really believes in the person being interviewed.   The answers are suspect.  Everyone involved is afraid to act on what they heard.

Interviewers believe you may lie about the following questions:

  1. Will you work hard?
  2. Can you do this job?
  3. Will you make the team better?
  4. Do you want this job?

Because they don’t trust your direct answers, they ask a lot of indirect questions.  There is only one way to answer.  To be believed you must give concrete examples.

Give concrete examples

You must be enthusiastic, positive, believable, happy and self-assured.  But, that’s not enough.  They won’t believe you unless you give concrete examples. Examples in the last year or two are most effective.

Let me help you come up with believable examples.  Write down the answers to these questions:

Will you work hard?

When did you work late?  Did you get in early regularly to finish a project?  How often did you carry a beeper?  What assignments did you volunteer for?  Who did you take over for when they were on vacation? Did you travel out of town on assignments? How much work did you do from home after hours?

Can you do this job?

What parts of this new job have you already done in your old job?  When did you work independently on applicable tasks?  How do you do research on related problems? Who did you mentor that had these responsibilities?  Which similar projects did you manage? How big was the team you worked on?  Did you lead a team doing this kind of job?

Will you make the team better?

When did you take over for a team member? How did you deal with a difficult coworker? Did you work late to help someone else? When did you back your manager in a tough call?  Were you a mentor?  What questions did everyone come to you with?  Which team awards did you win?  Why did they pick you to lead a team?

Do you want this job?

(Be careful NOT to complain and whine.  Don’t beat up your old team or boss.) What will the new job let you learn?  How much can you bring to this company?  Why will you be able to hit the ground running? Can you start in 2 weeks?  What do you like most about the team members you met so far?  Which facts about the company appeal to you most?  Which specific projects sound fun?

If you have answers to all these questions, you can turn your interview from a séance into a fact finding session.  Give short specific examples and you will be believed.

Something To Do Today

Take a notepad and jot down specific proof from the last two years. How have you absolutely proved your answers to the unasked questions?  Write down undeniable examples.

Take those undeniable examples with you to review right before your next interview.

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Later:    Other most common interview questions – traps, money, intimidators

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What they would have to say to ask you the question they really want:

I’m not intending to imply insult or judgment here but I am curious to know in order to be able to respond to your posts in an appropriate manner, so please forgive what appears to be, but in fact is not intended as, an insulting question:  Are you stupid?  (Shore)

The most common interview questions – asked and unasked

interview mouse trap

Yes, that question is a trap. Get the cheese without danger.

 

Have you asked, “Why didn’t I get the job when the interview went so well?”

Often it is because an interview question was answered wrong.

The most common interview questions are:

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Will you work hard?
  3. Can you do this job?
  4. Will you make the team better?
  5. Do you want this job?

Only the first question is usually asked straight out.  The rest are so obvious that interviewers don’t want to ask them plainly.  They figure you will lie.  So let’s deal with #1 today, and the rest later.

Tell me about yourself

When an interviewer can’t figure out what to ask next, they say, “Tell me about yourself.”

You now get to tell the interviewer what to ask next.

Your answer should prepare the interviewer to ask about your greatest accomplishments and your job progression.  They don’t need to know about your dog, fishing, or your marital problems.

Set them up to ask about how you can help them. What have you done that would help them the most?  What were you recognized for doing very well?  Why did you get a past job or a promotion?  What have you been doing well in your latest job?

Keep your answer short. 60 seconds is fine. You are setting up your interviewer to ask questions.  A 20 minute speech on your part is not going to help.

Practice answering, “Tell me about yourself.” Each interview is different.  Make sure you briefly mention the things that are most important for THIS job.

Tomorrow we’ll start dealing with the other questions.

Something To Do Today

Write down the two most important things you have done as far as your interviewers are concerned.  Practice working those accomplishments into an answer to “Tell me about yourself.”

Do you think Titus Livius was in a job interview when he said:

I approach these questions unwillingly, as they are sore subjects, but no cure can be effected without touching upon and handling them.  (Titus Livius 59 BC – 17 AD)


Later:  Unasked interview questions

Other most common interview questions – traps, money, intimidators

He ignored $100,000,000 to get a new job – it’s magic

ace up his sleeve

Resume magic may get you a job.

I turned a $100,000,000 food scientist into a Java programmer. Seriously, I did. I used resume magic to give him a career change.

It wasn’t as easy as it sounds.  He was proud of his PhD, and that was hurting him.  He had to stop emphasizing the $100,000,000 product revenue stream he had generated for his company.  Instead he had to emphasize his work in developing computer systems.  He had to finish getting his Java programming certifications. He also agreed to a 40% pay cut.

When we finished, he found his own job.

Writers fall in love with their work.  Every word is a work of art.  When you put together your resume, you are even more in love with your work because it is about you.  You can’t possibly leave out how you gave CPR to a chipmunk and saved its life. Leave it out anyway.

Now do something even harder.  Stop looking at the things YOU find most interesting.  Look in your career for proof that you can do the job you are applying for. Make a list of all the duties of the job you want.  Now make a list of all of the times you have done those duties.

That food scientist had helped design computer systems.  He had put together a few small applications to help him track data.  He passed the Java certification test.  We expanded those programming related accomplishments.  It took him a year, but he got the job.

Magic is the art of misdirection.  Illusion is achieved by getting people to concentrate on what you want them to perceive.  Put a little magic into your resume. Get rid of the things that don’t apply, even if they are your proudest achievements.  Emphasize what is important.

You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it come true.  You may have to work for it, however. (Bach)

Something To Do Today

Just for the exercise, take a job you want to apply for and create a ½ page resume for it.  Only leave your greatest accomplishments that apply towards that job.  I’ll bet you cut out a lot of fluff.

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Later:  Imperfect and highly paid

How To Deal With Bad References That Cannot Be Avoided

Evil man with a banana

The best way to protect yourself from a bad reference

What can you do if you know a reference check is going to kill you?  Here is what happened to a candidate I placed.

He told me, “I only have 3 references from my previous job. That’s all the guys who worked there.  My 2 coworkers will tell you how well I worked.  The owner will only bad mouth me.  He’s mad that I am leaving after 3 years.”

I called, and the owner was a terrible reference.  Since I checked all the references I was able to prepare the hiring company for what I heard.  They wanted to call to verify what I said. I cautioned them to find out what really ticked off the old boss.  It was things like, “He only gave me 6 weeks notice before he left. I may not have given him a raise in 3 years, but he’s essential to the project.  He knows that, and he is leaving.  He’s a quitter. I hate him and would never recommend him to anybody.”

I had them really dig into performance. I gave them specific questions to ask. The boss couldn’t deny the candidate’s accomplishments.  His answers were, “Yes, he did that well, but you don’t understand.  I hate the guy because….”

That candidate was hired. He got a 50% raise at his new job.  No kidding.

The easiest way to deal with a bad reference is not to give out that name.  In some cases the company insists on a specific reference, and you know it will be bad. Tell them in advance what the complaints will be.  Tell them precisely what to ask and how to word it. What does the bad reference have to confirm you did well?

It’s an uphill climb, but you can often overcome a bad reference you can’t avoid. You just have to prepare the ground in advance.

Something To Do Today

Go back over that list of potential references.  Expand it again.  You will never be hurt by having too many good solid references to choose from.

Next I’ll talk about the references that you don’t know are killing your job opportunities.

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Coming up:     References – phantom friends

You can’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd

Resume magic

Imperfect and highly paid

The most common interview questions

Your New Career Is Only 3 or 4 Steps Away

target-success-try-755802_640-pixabayThere are no secrets to success.  It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. (Powell)

Gary, a client of mine, decided the world needed a better way to pay insurance claims in 1996. He made a plan and took a step. It didn’t go quite like he expected.  Then he planned and took the next step which didn’t quite work out.  He missed his goal over and over.

Gary found out he could make money some ways he never dreamed of. Along the way he picked up investors, technicians, sales people and managers.   The company changed into a stored value credit card company.  A few years ago he sold his company for over $200,000,000.

Did you notice that his company is not the same as it started out in 1996?  There was a problem with the payment method they wanted to use.  When they solved that problem, they found the possibilities in the payment solution were greater than in their original plan.

There are no secrets to success.  It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. (Powell)

Let’s not concentrate on Gary.  Let’s concentrate on the people who work for him, the people who do what you do.  He has accountants, programmers, lawyers, salespeople, managers and secretaries who all took a chance.  They found someone who could daydream.  It was Gary.  They believed in his daydream.  They hitched their careers to his star and away the whole team went.

If you are doing exactly what you like, stay there.  If you want to do something else, look for someone who can help you achieve that dream.  You may first have to hitch your career to a place that will help you pay for the school education you need.  The time will come when you are too constricted there.  You will have the school education.  Next you need hands on experience.  First try to grow where you are.  If you can’t grow, start looking for the next place you can grow.

Your career will be a set of steps.  Your initial plan will undoubtedly change.  Plan three or four steps out and execute the next step.  Then when you accomplish that first step, re-plan.

The world changes incredibly quickly.  Plan to change your plans.  Now, work the next step and cause your future to change.

Something To Do Today

Write out your plan.  What do you want to do?  Then plan 4 major steps to get where you want to be.

Being a business owner, consultant programmer or the number one salesperson in your field may be right for you…today.   Or you may find that being a great mother or father is even more important.

Make sure your plan gets you to what will really make you happy, not just to where other people will worship you.

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Next up:     One hour interview prep

References

You can’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd

Resume magic

Imperfect and highly paid

The best resume focusing exercise in the world

hunter shooting an arrow

Your resume will be deadly if it is properly focused

As a recruiter, I use this exercise with problem resumes that just aren’t getting people interviews. First I need to explain why the world’s greatest resume focusing exercise works. Then I will explain the exercise.

For years the joke has been: “Yesterday I was a truck driver. I passed a test today, so now I am a network technician. What’s a network?”

If you started out as truck driver and worked your way up to become the COO of a company, that’s great. Don’t mention the truck driver experience, unless you want to be a truck driver again.

Your resume has one purpose: to get you an interview!

Leave out delightful tales unrelated to the job you are applying for. If you really need to show your job progression, then start out writing about your most recent triumphs at the top. At the very bottom of the particular job section write: I started as a truck driver.

So, you’ve worked there 15 years and only been a computer security expert for 2 years? I don’t care. Your resume is not a confession of crimes and psychological problems. Put down what you did for 2 years and let the interviewer find out more. Your resume is only to get you an interview. It is not a warning to potential employers.

If you emphasize what you have accomplished, the person reading the resume will know how “heavy” you are in the job you are applying for. List projects you completed, improvements you made, money you saved, and new clients you helped bring in. If the list is impressive it won’t matter that you spent ¾’s of your time filing reports and ¼ of your time as a sales manager.

Leave out disqualifiers. Emphasize how you have saved money, brought in new revenue streams, increased customer happiness, speeded up processes and helped the company succeed. Your resume is supposed to get you an interview. Leave out all the stuff that doesn’t apply to the job you want.

Something To Do Today

This exercise is to keep you from using the following idea in your resume:

“If you can’t beguile them with brilliance, baffle them with bulls**t.”

Writing exercise time. Take your resume and first expand it to 4 or more pages by including all the responsibilities and accomplishments you have ever had.

Make a new copy. Cut out every line that is only responsibilities. This second copy should list only the projects completed, customers pleased, money saved and new clients you brought in. There should NOT be any lines that say “supervised”, “responsible for”, or “supported.”

Make a new copy. Cut it down to ½ page. Yes, ½ page. List only the accomplishments that directly apply to a job you want.

Now cut that ½ page to ¼ page.  Use those incredibly brief but important accomplishments in your cover letter or email body.

This is an exercise. Apply what you learned to the resume you send out for a job.

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Later:      Persistence

Premature withdrawal

Job security – what permanent means

$250,000 too proud

How fast

Daydream