Category Archives: Focus

How to choose (or decide to change) your career

Ladder into the clouds

Is your career really going somewhere?

It isn’t easy.  You won’t be sure you made the right decision.  So how do you decide what your career should be?

This link will take you to an interesting article on choosing a career.

The summary?

  1. Pick a career by really thinking about what you want and exploring your subconcious. Get help from lots of people in this step.
  2. Figure out what is achieveable by dividing the career into doable actions, steps, time periods.
  3. Just do it!  But do it in a series of steps.  Not like a long long long long long marathon.  Like a bunch of steps you can do.
  4. Enjoy! Profit! (and adjust)

You know what?  This version is a lot shorter.  The other one will give you a lot more food for thought.

Cover letter with impact

Tree hit by lightning

Your cover letter can have incredible energy.

The best cover letter I ever heard of was a clean sheet of paper that literally only said,

“I can do that job.”

The resume beneath it was thoroughly read. The candidate was carefully considered. A cover letter can have no greater success.

I always read the first sentence or two of a cover letter. Unless I am intrigued, I never read more. I don’t have time to read that you work hard, like people, are a team player and deserve a chance. Everyone says that. It just proves you are average.

I thoroughly read cover letters that have useful gems in the first sentence. I keep reading sentence after sentence until it gets boring. A cover letter masterpiece has me convinced to do an interview before I see the resume. It extracts 2 or 3 gems from the person’s background and displays them briefly. I want those gems. I make a decision based on those gems of information.

If you explore beneath shyness or party chit-chat, you can sometimes turn a dull exchange into an intriguing one. I’ve found this particularly to be true in the case of professors or intellectuals, who are full of fascinating information, but need encouragement before they’ll divulge it. (Joyce Oates)

To discover gems in your background, ask yourself:

  1. Why haven’t they filled this job already?
  2. What are the most critical job skills?
  3. Which of those skills is hardest to find in the job market?
  4. What have I done that proves I am way better than average?

Now craft a single short sentence that shows you are exceptional.

Create 3 more on different subjects.

Now write several short cover letters based on those sentences. Make sure each sentence in the letter proves you are extraordinary.

I would be intrigued by your gem filled letter. I would decide to interview you before I even looked at the resume.

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I know 4 people who have gotten jobs without a cover letter, and whose resume only said, “I can do that job.”  The only thing else on the resume was their contact info.  Do you say too much?

Something To Do Today

Hand your cover letter to a friend who is somewhat distracted. See how long it takes them to look like they are slogging through the letter. That’s where the boring stuff starts.

Mental Hygeine to Get a Job

lego man in a shower

Job search? Cleaning your mind may be the most critical part.

“Why are there no blacks and only 3 latinos out of 1200 employees?” I figured there was a good reason, and the president of the company gave me one.  However, a manager got me into his office and yelled at me.  He really yelled at me.  I had a choice to make as I got in my car.  Should I replay the incident over and over and get madder and madder, or should I concentrate on something else?

I chose badly for 15 minutes.  I got madder and madder.  Then I realized what I was doing.  I figured out that something must have triggered that outburst.  The president was not bothered by my question.  The manager that yelled at me was badly embarrassed.  I forgave him and started concentrating on something else, anything else.  In 10 minutes I was enjoying life on my terms again. And, yes, I found out three months later that they were now actively recruiting and training blacks specifically for that division.

Most jobs you apply for, you won’t get.  That’s just the statistical truth.  So how do you handle it when you lose?  You certainly have to notice what happened.  It is great to try to figure out what went wrong, if anything.  After you’ve evaluated what happened, start planning your next job success.

If you keep replaying every negative thing that happens while searching for a job, you’ll go crazy.  When you concentrate on what went well, you reinforce your positive behaviors.  When you relive the things that went wrong, you reinforce the negative. You also feel worse.  Work at feeling better.

My wife is a good piano and organ player.  When she is learning a new piece she is careful NOT to practice known mistakes over and over.  She slows way down and practices it right.  Then she speeds up.  In her mind and in her fingers she concentrates on minor victories.  It can take her a month of practicing 2 to 4 hours a day to get a piece just right.  She’d go crazy if she concentrated on her mistakes.  She enjoys practicing because she celebrates every minor success.  She can find a success every minute.

You need to look for successes in your job hunting. If there is something you know you did wrong, slow down.  Instead of rehearsing the errors in your mind, mentally see yourself doing it right.  Find a quiet place and relax.  See yourself correcting mistakes and getting a positive response.

If someone else screwed up, slow down.  Concentrate on what you did right.  You can’t control the other person.  You can’t change history.  You can find a quiet place and relax.  You can rehearse in your mind what you did right.  In your mind you can practice correcting any mistakes you made.

Good mental hygiene is the difference between self improvement and self destruction. It also just plain feels better.

Something To Do Today

Get the book Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz.  It has a lot of great ideas about how to control your thoughts and happiness.

Go to JustServe.org and find a place you can help someone else.  It will help.

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Next:     Cover letter anesthesia

3 most critical words on your resume

job related words in a mass of confusion

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. (Mark Twain)

3 critical words

12 words is the most that people will read on a billboard.

(That was 12 words.)

1 ½ or 2 inches of print is what most people read at a glance.

12 to 15 seconds is all the time a resume normally gets in a screener’s hands before it is trashed or put in the “review” pile.

3 critical words can make or break your resume.

How to get your point across in a resume

Worry about the first 3 words people read in every paragraph and bullet point.  Those are the critical words that have to drag the resume reviewer into the rest of the line.  Think of the hiring manager.  What action, accomplishment or benefit can he see in the first 3 words?

Can’t do it?  Get a thesaurus, or use the one in your word processor.  Find the main word in that paragraph, find a high impact word to replace it with, and put that word in the first 3 words of the paragraph.  In most cases it is better to break any paragraph over 3 lines long into bullet points.  Long paragraphs are intimidating.  Reviewers don’t want to read them.  Make sure you worry about the first 3 words in every bullet point.

3 words can make or break your job search.  Work on them.

Something To Do Today

Take an electronic copy of your resume and delete everything except for the first 3 words of each paragraph or bullet point.  Leave the spacing and formatting the same.  There will be a lot of white space and blank lines.  Print it out. Put it face down on your desk.

Come back tomorrow and look at the skeleton you created.  What is its impact?  Fix it.

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Tomorrow:     email exploitation and cowardice

Later:              Absolute proof it is time to leave your job

How to tell if you should be a CEO

Woman on a ladder of success

Is your ladder to success helping you climb the right wall?

Too many people climb the ladder of success, only to find it is leaning against the wrong wall. (unkn)

Should you be a CEO?

Jim just took a job as a manager of a small company.  He’s been a CEO before.  He took the lowly manager’s job because he likes it better than being CEO.  He didn’t even put his CEO experience on his resume. He got the “lowly” job he really wants because he left the word CEO off his resume.

I can tell you the same story, with the exact opposite twist, of technicians and engineers who worked their way up the technical ladder, only to finally figure out that they should have quit and gone to work as the CEO of a small company.  These are guys making $150,000+ as technicians.  Not bad money at all.

There’s a way to find out if you really, truly, in your gut would like to be a CEO.  Get a couple of practice jobs.  First, become a team leader or manager where you are. Also get involved in your local or national trade association.  While you are at it, volunteer to head a charity organization.  Your local school has a PTO, swim team boosters, band boosters, etc.  The YMCA, Boys and Girls Club and Scouts all need people who are leaders. Another great way is to run for the school board, town council or state legislature.

Leading any of these organizations will help you see if you like management.  In them you need to set your own goals and agenda.  You need to persuade people to work with you.  Selling others on your ideas is essential. You’ll also build a network of people who can help you become a CEO.  You’ll get to show true executive leadership.

If you talk to CEO’s, you’ll find that many of them evaluate executives in their own and in supplier companies by how they perform in volunteer posts.  Being a CEO isn’t just telling people what to do.  It also includes creating a network that will draw talent and contracts to your company.

If you want to be a CEO, get started now.  There are teams, associations, charitable organizations and political organizations looking for leaders.

And pay attention.  Being CEO may not be for you.

Something To Do Today

If you have any desire to be a manager or a leader, make a list of places where your leadership

could have an effect.  Go out and get started in those organizations.  You could easily be the “CEO” in 2 years.

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Later:                          3 critical words on your resume

email exploitation

Absolute proof it is time to leave your job

How to AVOID Psychobabble and get useful self help tips

matches about to be lit by a single match

The right help can light a fire in your life.

This applies. Just give me a second.

I can light a match on a window, my pants, a fingernail and my teeth. Some people can barely light a match using the strike pad on the matchbox.  If someone cannot light a match on their teeth, it doesn’t mean the match is bad.  It doesn’t mean they are bad either.  It just means they can’t light a match on their teeth.

Psychobabble and useful psychology

Using a self help book can be a lot like lighting that match.  Just because a book works for someone else, but not you, doesn’t mean the book is bad or that you are bad. I have a whole list of books that helped me at various times in my life.  But, that was because they were the right book at the right time. If they are of no use to you, wait awhile and they may be.

The difference between psychobabble and useful psychology is often timing, need and preparation.

Here are some books that I’ve found exceptionally useful.  All are available from Amazon. They are in no particular order.

  • How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big, Scott Adams
  • Looking Out For Number One, Robert Ringer (Relationships that work)
  • Winning Through Intimidation, Robert Ringer (How NOT to be intimidated)
  • Action! Nothing Happens Until Something Moves, Robert Ringer
  • The New PsychoCybernetics, Maxwell Maltz (Freedom through reality)
  • The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale
  • How To Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie
  • How To Win Friends And Influence People, Dale Carnegie
  • Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl
  • Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, Susan Jeffers
  • Think And Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill

I’m always looking for more great books to read.  I’d love to get your list of the most life changing books you’ve read.

Something To Do Today

Make a list of books you would like to read.  My personal “to read” list currently has about 40 titles.  I read and listen to 2 to 6 books a month.

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Next:    Facts would be nice

Later:  Wrestlers in feather boas

Resumes, interviews and a baby’s grasp

When failure is successful

failure can lead to success

Failure can be an outstanding success.

Being in an exciting startup company that fails can be great.  First a couple of success stories, then what happens with massive failure.

Success Stories

A handful of people I know have become multimillionaires.  People I have placed at their companies have gotten bonuses as high as half a million dollars.  Two companies were started and sold in less than 10 years.  One was for $200 million, the other for $400 million.  Not bad money if you can get it.

One company sells ads on the internet.  The other started out processing healthcare claims but quickly changed to selling prepaid credit card processing.  The company founders and key employees made a lot of money because they found “the next big thing.”

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

When FAILURE is successful

For each company that reaches this level a hundred startups fail.  Still, half of the startups are absorbed into the successful companies that put them out of business.  The best people in ALL of the failing companies find jobs in the best companies.  People with experience in “the next big thing” are rare and not wasted by their industry.

The way to find what “the next big thing” is in your field is to ask.  When you have one minute alone with managers, top technicians and salespeople, ask them.  I guarantee that they have spent a few minutes trying to figure it out themselves.  They also will want to show their expertise by sharing their vision of the future with you.  In your job journal write down what you are told.  You can review the lists you come up with occasionally and extract some gems.

Another way to find the next big thing is to subscribe to weekly and monthly trade journals.  Most are free.  Again, go to the managers, top technicians and salespeople.  Ask them, “Which trade journals do you get in your email?  Which do you read?”  Have them forward a copy so you can subscribe.  Get your own subscription.

Once you have a few choices for the next big thing, exploit your knowledge.  If you are an adventurer, get involved in the beginning stages of “the next big thing.”  If you are more security oriented, look for an opening where there is already solid revenue, but lots of growth potential left.   The job you take could be at your present company.  Find out if they are planning to fund a startup division or if they already have something going.   The other alternative is to get a job in another company.

Chasing “the next big thing” is not an easy life.  There are fantastic rewards and great challenges.  There are also company bankruptcies, mergers, acquisitions and layoffs.  But, I’ll say it again, the best people in those hot expanding fields are always absorbed into the competitors.  It is scary, but not as dangerous as it sounds.

Now, go do some dreaming.  It never hurts.  In your field what is “the next big thing?”

Something To Do Today

Do a survey.  Ask everyone you have a one minute conversation with what “the next big thing” will be.

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Next:     Psychobabble and usable psychology

Later:              Facts would be nice

Wrestlers in feather boas

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”?