Category Archives: Accomplishments

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

How to heal a project or job search before it breaks: Dr. No

Doctor No can heal a case of pebbles. It can fix a project or job search before it breaks. How?  You make the people giving you a pebble, one more little thing to do, fix the problem they create.  They become Dr. No.

stacked rocks

Is your to-do list impossibly tall?

The team leader I disliked personally the most was a good project manager. I loved working for him. One redeeming social skill was that he knew about Dr No.  When he was asked to add just a little more to a project he would agree and then ask what he got to drop to make up for adding that little bit.  He did it religiously. He didn’t just say, “No,” he used the Doctor No approach. He asked the person adding work to heal the problem he was causing. He asked the manager, boss team leader, or project manager, “What can I now say “No” to? My team can’t do it all, so help me say “No” to another project, specification, or task. He turned the person giving him the work into Doctor No, a healer.

I hate firefighters–people who commit a project to disaster.  The most difficult problem for firefighters is to say, “NO!”  It is hard to refuse to carry a mountain as it is thrust upon you one pebble at a time by smiling friends.  Still, you MUST gently refuse the pebbles.  The best way I have found to refuse pebbles of additional work is to require the person handing you the pebble to tell you which other pebble you can drop. They become Doctor No and fix your time and resource problems.

The velvet glove on the steel fist comes in handy here. As the person trying to hand you the pebble tells you how small it is, you have to clearly tell them it will not get done unless they tell you what else to drop. When they say, “You decide,” tell them, “I won’t do your task unless YOU tell me what to drop.” If you absolutely can’t get them to let you drop something, you then decide to drop something.  Tell everyone by voice AND memo what will not get done due to the specific additional burdens placed on you by this specific person.  Then “don’t do” what you said you wouldn’t do.

Circulate a list of unfinishable projects. Put them in order of importance. Let everyone else fight for the priorities on the list. Make it clear they will probably not get done. When you or your team gets lucky and finishes something unexpectedly early, you look like a wizard.  Remember Scotty in the original Star Trek series?  That was his management style.

The best defense against the atom bomb is not to be there when it goes off. (unkn)

Does this apply to job hunting?  Absolutely.  My blog and books can give you more information on job hunting than they can possibly apply in a day, week or month.  Doctor No is about prioritizing.  If you ask me what order to do things in, I’ll tell you.  Otherwise I expect you to figure out what is most important and drop the rest. For your job search, demand that you, yourself be Dr. No.

The team leader I disliked the most personally, was the best manager, and I really appreciated it.  He could get me to go the extra mile because he used Dr. No.

Dr. No is about setting priorities.  It is a nice way to get the people overloading you to help unload some of the burden.  Turn those people into Doctor No. Let them be the healer.

Something To Do Today

Most people are afraid to try the Doctor No approach.  Try it out the first time with a smaller project, something thrust on you that really is not that significant.  Don’t say, I’ll try to get that done and then stay late to finish it.  Ask the person to help you figure out what to drop instead.  If they won’t tell you what to drop, tell them it won’t get done until they open up a hole in your schedule for you to do it.  Then don’t do it.  Your pebble pushers need to find out you are serious.

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Later:               Dead fish

Poisons

Liars

How to work a convention

Great ideas are…

A great idea.

I got a furtive phone call from a candidate more than a decade ago, “Bryan, this idea can make you a fortune.  I don’t want to tell it to you unless you promise me half the money you make from it. This will make you rich.”

girl with an idea

A great idea can be a life changer

I answered, “You want half of my business for an idea?  Great ideas are wonderful.  I have them all the time.  What I need are people who can execute great ideas.  Will you quit your job and risk everything to make your idea work?  Will you be content to be rewarded only after your idea is making money?”

“Well, no.  Listen Bryan, if you do it, you’ll make a fortune.  You only have to give me half.”

Unable to keep the idea to himself, he eventually told me that his idea was to bring cheap programmers from India to the United States.  It was a great idea. One I was approached with literally every day by phone or email.  And many people made their fortune doing it.  I just needed someone daring enough to take the idea and run with it. I needed someone to execute the idea.

The most powerful factors in the world are clear ideas in the minds of energetic men of good will. (Thomson)

Do you have a great idea?  If you have the guts and energy to gather supporters around you and execute that great idea, you will have the ride of your life.  It can be done in your present company, a new company or your own company.  Make sure the idea and your plans are big enough.  As many companies fail from a big idea executed in a small way as from a small idea executed in a big way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.  (Goethe)

Write down your plans.  Get people to critique the idea. Use criticizers to figure out how to do things better.  When someone says, “It can’t be done,” consider the source.  Go out and make things happen.  Life will never be the same for you.

Something To Do Today

In your job journal write down all the great ideas you have.  Do it in a separate section.  Discuss your ideas with people who can help you make them happen.

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Coming up:     Forgetting

Firefighters

Poisons

Liars

5 Weeks – How to find a job in 5 weeks

Do you need a job now?  Then use the best job search plan ever created.

Come on!  How could it possibly be the best EVER created? Because it was created for only one person.  You.

I have seen it happen over and over.

One guy is out of work for less than a month, and he gets a job offer with a raise.

free from a bad job

Find a job in 5 weeks – that is freedom

It takes 6 months to get a job for the guy who sat next to him.  This poor guy was doing exactly the same job, got better performance ratings, and would get rehired first if the job was re-opened. To make things worse, the guy who took six months accepts a huge pay cut.

          It isn’t fair, but it happens every day.

It isn’t luck.  The guy who finds a job quickly did things differently.  He may have instinctively done the few most critical steps within the first days of losing his job.  He may also have mapped out a strategy and executed it.  Either way, he got the critical steps executed.  He got the job.

The critical steps most often screwed up by the guys who take 6 months to find a job.

For 22 years I’ve been watching people get jobs in days, or wait a year to find a job.  The steps most often screwed up are:

  • The resume stunk, and he never found out.
  • He burned his best leads before he was prepared.
  • Monster became his momma.
  • HR (Human Resources Department) was his master.
  • He never expanded his network, but he talked to a zillion people.
  • Interviews never seemed to go right.
  • He waited for a phone call back.
  • He thought recruiters were his friends

Give me a call or research these topics on my blog.

If you want to have the shortest job search possible.  Fill out the survey at this link and then contact me.  bryan@dilts.us or call Bryan Dilts at 717-975-9001.

No, I don’t guarantee that you will get a job offer in 5 weeks.  But I will put 22 years of experience behind your job search.

Guerilla job search, job performance, and gardening

Here is how I guerilla gardened and how you can guerilla job search.  Forget the box, just think.

I was down to 5 blueberry plants.  I had more in the past.  I love blueberries.  Because of the varieties I have, I get to pick them for 2 months each year.

I decided to plant.  I didn’t have the $200 in my budget for the plants I wanted.  So I looked up how to grow my own blueberry plants.  The instructions included mist boxes, planting medium, hormones, infections, mold and other horrible things. I wasn’t about to grow them that way.

Guerilla gardening was the only real possibility.  I spent a couple of months thinking about the problem.  I looked up some things about houseplants and roses.  That spring I gave some fresh ideas a try.

Guerilla in the mountains

Guerrilla job search, work project, or gardening.

I cut 22 budding branches from blueberry plants of 6 different varieties. I dug holes in the deep leaf compost of the blueberry garden and planted them.  Then I covered the cuttings with jars. The jars keep the moisture level high around the cutting.  It gives the twig a chance to develop roots.

I took off the bottles a month after planting the twigs.  18 of the 22 blueberry cuttings looked like they would survive.  Alas, they didn’t.  I took the jars off too early.  But guess what?  I’m going to try again.  This time I will leave the jars on another month or two.

Guerilla gardening triumphs again. Not only will we save $200, the new plants will grow just as well as mail order plants.  Mine won’t be yanked out of the ground and sent by mail to us.  They will just keep on growing where they are.

Guerilla job search ideas

Can’t get a reply on your resume? Why not come up with a guerilla campaign.  A series of things you can do to get a job.  Something more than just sending a resume.  Pick a company or 3 that you really want to get into.  Now figure out how to get to know the people who would be your coworkers and hiring managers.  Emails, phone calls, mailing them a bag of M&M’s or inviting them to lunch can all be a part of the campaign.

Projects at your current job to boost your job search

Unable to get the resources you need at work? It could be an opportunity to shine.  Think of ways to get the job done at low cost.  What resources can be diverted for your project? Study alternate ways of getting the job done. In Spanish “guerilla” means little war.  Figure out how to win each project as a little war of its own.

If your project succeeds, tell your boss in your weekly report.  If it fails, tell him all the alternate approaches you considered.  Let him know you are trying to get essential tasks done with less resources.  He will appreciate it.

If you are job hunting, the guerilla projects that succeed go on your resume.  The companies you apply to will want to know how you can make projects succeed without a budget.  Those projects are eye catching advertisements for your intiative.

Something To Do Today

Take a project you want to do, but don’t have resources for.  List 10 possible ways to make it a guerilla project. Do some research and list 5 more ways.  Is the result worth the effort if it works?  Then make the effort.  Succeed or fail, you will learn something.

Your “eureka” moment

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka” (I found it!) but “That’s funny.” (Asimov)

Making milk and getting the raise you deserve

Is there something you do that is critical? How many are there? Do you get credit for them? A raise?  When the kids were all home, I wrote this.

I make the milk

With up to 9 kids (we have 10) and 2 adults at home, we drink a lot of milk. There isn’t enough room in our 2 refrigerators to keep enough fresh milk.  We use powdered milk instead.

Where the milk comes from

Me, in the morning, getting ready to make the milk.

Every morning I get up early and write.  When I am done I make breakfast for myself.  The milk is usually gone.  Sometimes I grumble a little.  Why is it always me?  Everyone uses it.  Can’t they make it too?  Then I go ahead and make the milk.  Occasionally  I remind my wife that I made the milk.  She can’t leave me for another man. He might not make the milk in the morning. (Truth be told: she makes it more than I do, but I can’t have her believing I am totally useless.)

Do you “make the milk” at work?  Are there indispensable chores you do?  Then you need to remind your boss of them every week or at least quarterly.  Put them in your weekly, monthly or quarterly reports to your boss. He needs to be reminded.

Since you are reporting what you do as routine every week, you’d better add what the extra things are that you do every week. Write how you saved money, speeded things up, or made a customer happy.  Don’t forget to include training you gave or received.

There is no way that your boss can possibly know all the important things you do.  He has his own job.  Giving him a weekly, monthly and quarterly report reminds him.  It also gives him a weekly opportunity to think of new projects to give you.  It forces him to think of your career.

Make the milk. Then make sure you get the credit.   It really will help your career.

Something To Do Today

In your job journal make a list of the things you do every day, week and month.  What do you take care of so your boss doesn’t have to worry?  Keep adding to the list.  Friday, write up the list and give it to your boss.  You may just surprise him with how much you did this week.

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Tomorrow:     Guerilla gardening

Great ideas are…

Forgetting

Get a job by being like the guy who invented running

Experts are hired quickly.  They rarely look for a job very long. An expert knows all the answers – if you ask the right questions.  You can become an expert, just like Jim Fixx.

The guy who invented running died

Jim Fixx transformed himself into more than just another old runner like this guy.

Runners were either late to an interview or just weird before Jim Fixx.

Jim Fixx passed away in 1984.  Some obituaries said, “The man who invented running died.” Before his book, The Complete Book of Running, jogging and running were not sports.  They were just weird.  Jim Fixx didn’t revolutionize running, he just brought it acceptance.  In 1977 his book was the best selling non-fiction hardcover book ever. He is a legend in the running world.

Every month I run across at least one or two people whose names are synonymous with excellence in their field.  Hailed as legends and gurus, they aren’t necessarily the brightest people, but they are smart.  What they have done is study extensively, had a few successful projects and published a few articles or a book.  If the field is broader, they get involved writing the certification tests in their discipline. They all command a 30% to 100% earnings premium compared to people who are merely better than they are.

Hiring managers feel embarrassed to admit they don’t know who these people are.  It is obvious from their resumes that they are the “go to” guys in their narrow field.  I have to emphasize, these guys are smart, but not geniuses.  They have figured out how to be impressive.  They have psyched out managers, consultants and experts.  They have become the gurus in their field.

Can you become the legend or guru in your field?  How about in your company?  In your team?  Your name can become synonymous with a particular subject.  You may have to teach a few classes, write an article or a training course.  What can you do to become a legend?

Something To Do Today

Who are the gurus in your field?  Ask them how they built their reputation.  Scared to call them because they wrote a book?  Truth to tell, authors are human too.  They will succumb to the rapt attention of an informed audience.  Call them, email them or write to them.

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Tomorrow:     I make the milk

Guerilla gardening

Great ideas are…

Forgetting

The trick to working less hours and getting promoted

You don’t double your productivity by doubling your hours. Working lots and lots of hours may get you a promotion and a raise.  It may also get you burned out and fired.

A coupla months in the laboratory can save a coupla hours in the library. (Westheimer’s Discovery)

What you really need to do is double your productivity. Here is how to do it.

A friend sold me a chainsaw cheap.  She was doing me a favor.  She admitted that it ran, but it did not cut well at all.  I took the chainsaw home and reversed the chain.  It works great now. I could have just run the chainsaw more and eventually cut through any log (maybe). A little while ago my son decided to cut some monstrous tree roots with the chainsaw.  Suddenly it wouldn’t cut anymore.  The dirt on the roots had horribly dulled the chain.  I took it into my basement and spent half an hour sharpening it.  Now it cuts again.  But, I could have just worked a lot more hours cutting logs with a dull chainsaw.

The career trash heap is littered with the bodies of people who thought 20 MORE hours a week at work would get them promoted. While they were slaving away, someone else reversed the chain or sharpened the saw.  The thinker and planner got promoted.

You need to do your basic job well.  Other than your basic job, what will set you apart?  What will make you the best?  What will make you the natural leader?

How for YOU to get a promotion or raise

Your boss wants to look good and get a raise and promotion.  What can you do to help him? Is your working more hours the only thing that will make him look better?

Your company wants to make more money, spend less, and keep the customers happier.  Can you do something a little better while you are doing your basic job? Can you get involved in highly visible projects?  How can you set yourself apart?

In addition to being better, you have to get noticed, respected, and appreciated. Give your boss a weekly, monthly and quarterly report of exactly what you did better.  Then in your next annual review, you have ammunition.  And if you go job hunting, you have proof.

Take a careful look at your job.  Can you reverse the chainsaw chain somewhere?  Can you just sharpen the saw?  What do you need to do that will move you forward the fastest?  Is just putting in more hours really the most important thing you can do?

Ask your boss how HE is evaluated.  Now ask yourself how can you help HIM get a better evaluation?  Sharpen your chainsaw, don’t just work more hours.

Something To Do Today

Ask your boss how HE is evaluated.  How can you help him get a better evaluation?

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Tomorrow:    Confronting your boss

Later:              How to leave your job