Category Archives: talent

Fixing your career and job search: As intense as possible is more

The harder I work on me, the better my life gets.  But I can only improve a little each day.  So I focus intensely on one or two things that I want to be better at. That makes my career much better with the least effort for the reward.  It also improves your job search.

Light is very intense in a laser.  Laser pointers are under 1/200th of a watt.  Focus that pointer laser’s beam to the size of a period and you can burn paper.

Intensity at one small spot is the secret of lasers.  Intensity at one spot can also be the secret to advancement in your career.

Some examples:

  1. Some programmers study 20 different programming languages.  As a recruiter, it is almost impossible for me to find a job for someone who has only worked a month or two in 20 different programming languages. It is easy for me to find a job for someone who has studied and worked in one programming language for two years.
  2. In accounting it is easier for us to find a top paying job for an internal audit specialist CPA, than a job for an uncertified general accountant.  Finding a high paying job for a legal secretary is easier than finding a high paying job for a regular secretary.

You cannot get better at everything at once.  An hour a day carefully spent studying a single skill that is in high demand will turn you into an expert in a few months. An hour a day studying new subjects each day won’t help your career nearly as fast..  Now is the time to start narrowing your field and increasing your intensity.

I had learnt to seek intensity – more of life, a concentrated sense of life.  (Berberova)


Something To Do Today

What is the hottest skill in your profession?  What is the most important bit of that skill?  Study it an hour a day for a month. You will be an expert.


Next week:  When I ask what time it is, how can someone look at their watch and give me the wrong answer?

Later:  Put your feet up on his desk.

Sunshine collecting

Job and job search help I saw at the library

My email signature is, “The harder I work on me, the better my life gets.”  There is only one person I can control.  There is only one person I can manipulate into changing.  Me.

Years ago I decided I can work on “me” an extra 30-45 minutes a day.  I converted brain dead commuting time into learning time.

My local library is as large as an average two bedroom house.  Small.  So, I decided to go to a much larger library 10 miles away.  I expected to go in and find a few dozen books on tape.  That’s not what I found.

The library had thousands of books on tape and CD.  There were courses in physics, history, philosophy, music, foreign languages and a hundred other subjects.  Novels, biographies and non-fiction books that have been bestsellers filled bookcase after bookcase. I can even order them by inter-library loan from our little library.

Invest in yourself.  Your mind is the only thing the government can’t take from you.

I listened to a book on how to think.  What makes a genius like Leonardo Da Vinci a genius, different, and great?  Another series of books was on Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Napoleon, and others.  I listened to Freakonomics.  I’m learning.

“If you want to be truly successful invest in yourself to get the knowledge you need to find your unique factor.  When you find it and focus on it and persevere your success will blossom.” (Sidney Madwed)

I’ve got the next 30 years figured out.  I’m learning something. I’m going to invest in myself.


Something To Do Today

What is your dead time?  How can you most easily transform your dead time into head time?

The 7 highest demand job categories are…

After years hearing about the lack of IT professionals, you’d think those are the hardest jobs to fill. But a new report by human resources firm Manpower indicates they are not.

Electricians, welders, and other skilled trades professions are the biggest headaches to hire for in the US and globally…

Read the full list here.

How to find out what you want to be, do, or pursue

I went to a Boy Scout camp where a fire company put on a rescue demonstration.  They had 3 cars.  One by one they ripped them apart using hydraulic tools.  Right then I decided that I want to be a fireman when I grow up.  I was 49 and ineligible, but I’m willing to dream.

A friend told me that he was the fastest machine operator at the plant where he worked.  They always put him in the job that would challenge him the most. If there was a bottleneck, he’d clear it up.  He also cried at times because he hated the work so much.  He studied to take up a different profession for 8 years.  He struggled with very low paying jobs, serious health problems, and a wife and kids he solely supported.  Finally he started working as a Mechanical Engineer at a major DOD contractor.

Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.  (Aristotle)

Why do people stay in jobs they hate? No one is legally bound as an indentured servant or slave anymore.  Why do people need help finding what they like to do?  There are a lot of reasons.  Fear, money, social pressure and unexplored possibilities can all be reasons.

You are a slave if you believe you cannot change.  You are free when you think about, study for, and work towards a change for the better.  So take a little time today and write down a list of things you always wanted to do.  Make a list of jobs and careers you might enjoy.

Need help? Every university has a department to help students discover what they would like to study. The internet has sites to help you choose a career.  Every state run job center will give you interest and aptitude tests for free.  Friends and family are always happy to tell you where to go and what to do when you get there.

You may want to consult a career coach or a consulting coach.  For example, I work with people who want to be consultants to help them have a viable business without worrying about where the next client is coming from. Others help you figure out and pursue your best and happiest career.

It is worth taking time to find out if you really want to be a fireman, mechanic, professor or plumber.  If you start working towards a career goal you can always turn back later and be better off for trying.  However, you will never get anywhere without taking the first steps to think about, study for and work towards a change.


Something To Do Today

Make a list of every hobby you have attempted.  List every subject you have studied.  Rank them all as “liked”, “don’t care” and “disliked.”  Look for a pattern.  You may be surprised.  Take an interest test or two.  They’re actually fun.  Many are free.  Contact me.  I can help too.

Next:  Mortal combat: win every time

Find out if you have Olympic Class job talent

We are always more anxious to be distinguished for a talent which we do not possess, than to be praised for the fifteen which we do possess. (Mark Twain)

It doesn’t matter how hard I practice, I will never be an Olympic class sprinter.  My muscles aren’t built for it.  If I had large, efficient lungs, I might be an Olympic marathon runner.  I don’t.  My talents are the natural advantages I have over others.

I have a lot of talents.  I’m good with computers.  I’m a decent salesman.  People trust me.  Some things just aren’t my talents.  I like running and physics, but they are not my talents.  How do I know?  I am slow at learning the basics.  I’m always in the bottom third when I run.  There are many things I like.  Some things I am good at.  My talents are the things I learn more quickly and do better than the average person, like working with computers.

Some talents are difficult to develop.  They require years of effort.  The average professional concert musician practices their instrument 5000 hours before getting good enough to regularly solo professionally. The book Outliers claims the number is 10,000 hours.  Louis L’Amour, a prolific writer, submitted story after story at the beginning of his career and very few were published. He developed his talent until he sold over 100 million books.

So how do you discover your talents? 

Take an aptitude test online.  They also give them at job centers and military recruiting centers.  They are designed to find out what you do well, not what you like.  If the test asks a lot of questions about what you like the most, it is NOT an aptitude test.

Honestly assess what you found easiest in school.  Where did you get by with the least effort?  What teachers liked your attitude the most?  When did others come to you with questions?

At work you have probably been given some particular tasks.  Is it because you are better at those things?  Maybe that’s a talent of yours.  Do other people have trouble seeing answers that seem obvious to you?  That could point to a talent.

Discover your talents and you can use the gifts you’ve been given to excel.  That’s what Olympic athletes do.   You will find work more interesting when you are flexing a talent.

You will also be paid better.  Talents are worth discovering.


Something To Do Today

Write down what you can do easily or what you excel at.  What do you pick up more quickly than others?

Tomorrow:  I want to be a fireman when I grow up.

“Ash breeze” can fix your job search

Sometimes your job search just isn’t working.  Fix your job search using what the old sailors called “ash breeze”.

You won’t go anywhere in your sailboat if you are becalmed, no wind.  Sailors on the old 3 mast boats used to dread finding themselves where there was no wind.  There are places in the ocean where you can go weeks without a breeze.  The old mariners often had only one way out, “ash breeze.”

When becalmed, a rowboat full of men would be sent out tied to the front of the ship.  They would take their ash wood oars and start rowing.  Progress was always painfully slow.  Any breeze would move a ship faster, but “ash breeze” was better than dying becalmed.

Are you becalmed?  Are you stuck in a company or job that just isn’t getting you anywhere?  The book, Carry On Mr. Bowditch, is the story of one of the greatest mariners of our age.

Bowditch was stuck in a nowhere job.  Born in 1773, with little formal education and  apprenticed to a storeowner, Bowditch became an expert bookkeeper.  He wasn’t where he wanted to be.  He studied mathematics and astronomy on his own.  Eventually he became a sea captain, author and educator.  He received an honorary PhD for his accomplishments.  His book on celestial navigation is still used at the US Naval Academy.

The most important thing you have is your attitude.  Couple attitude with an intense desire to better yourself and you cannot be stopped.  Start preparing now for the job you want to have in five years.  Learn what you need to learn.  The more you work on YOU, the better your life will get.

The harder I work on me, the better my life gets.


Something To Do Today

Read the book, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, by Latham.

Tomorrow:  IBD and what’s hot

The healthiest way to look at jobs unfilled

Needlessly unfilled jobs get me mad.  They keep you out of a job.  They lower profits at the companies that desperately need the right person.

This article calls the over qualification of a job opening “zombie thinking”.   I like the solution Lou gives to solving the problem.  Unfortunately it has to be solved by the employer, not the job seeker.

What a big house or a great job costs

I was at a gorgeous house.  It had radiant heating, an indoor basketball court and swimming pool, wonderful view, and enough room for anyone’s desires.  I loved it.  The hosts were generous and kind.  Then I decided to tally up the cost of owning a house like that.  My estimate is $24,000 per month without mortgage payments.  Owning that great house had a price tag that I can’t ever see myself paying.

Last week I also talked with people in jobs that paid $100,000 – $250,000 per year.  They are wonderful jobs.  Nice offices, private secretaries, authority over others, and a sweet lifestyle come with the jobs.  They are leading financial and accounting people. 

There is a price those people pay.  First is education and certification.  Then comes an apprenticeship with 60-90 hour weeks for months at a time during peak seasons.  Without that apprenticeship with the “right” companies, they would be earning half of what they are.  The “right” companies now means choosing from 4 major CPA firms and toiling there for at least 4 years.

With all that hard work, we still need to mention another 5-20 years of always putting in 50+ hours per week. There is a very high price for those jobs, and there is high pay. Many people try to get around the education, certification, and apprenticeship.  Notably, a few people make it without those exact experiences.  But those who get around it are either obviously geniuses, or have worked even more to rise from obscurity to notoriety than the path I outlined would have taken.

If there is a high and mighty job you want, there is also a price to be paid for it.  Go ahead, get that job.  As you earn that job, make sure that you always understand the price of the next step or two in your progression.

Both a big house and a great job have fine rewards.  They also have their own unique costs.  It can be worth it.  Is it worth it for you?

Something To Do Today            

Invite to lunch a person who has the job you want. Ask them about the price they paid in the past and they price they pay now for that job.


Later:  What may happen in the next recession

The most common bad career goal

The only thing worse than not reaching your goal, is reaching it.

The most common bad career goal

As a recruiter I talk to some people who are miserable that they reached their career goals.  Of course I also talk to those who have reached their goals and are loving it, so they set new ones.  What’s the difference?  Setting the right goals. What is the most common career goal?  I do/do not want to be a manager.

It is a terrible thing to climb the ladder of success, and find out it is leaning against the wrong wall.

I want to be a manager

This is the biggest misery making goal I see.  As a programmer, accountant, salesperson, or engineer you get to regularly do something concrete.  You can see what you did.  It is obvious.  Managers often work a whole week resolving problems and dealing with emotional issues.  At the end of the week, they often cannot point to a single thing they really accomplished.  When someone quits, it is their fault and their responsibility to fix the problem.  Then someone else quits.  They also feel isolated from their coworkers. Managers have to discipline, give raises, and fire people.  It gets lonely at the top.

It can also be the perfect job.  Some people thrive as managers.  If you want to be a manager find out if you will like it.  Lead some projects.  Lead a team.  Reflect on what it will really be like if you no longer “get your hands dirty”.  Ever.

I want out of management

It’s funny that this too is a common bad career goal.  Be honest, do you really want to get back to the daily production grind, or is your current position the problem.  Sometimes you have to change what you are doing, change your boss, or change your company.  If you loved management in the past and did well, but you are no longer allowed to succeed, getting back to a production job isn’t the solution.  Figure out what else must change, and change that.

Being a manager can be great if it fits your personality and you are in the right place.  Before you get out of management, make sure you should be out.  You can volunteer for a project leader job where you go back to work in the trenches for a while.  Get your hands dirty in a temporary assignment to see if that is what you really should be doing.

Be careful that you set goals you will be happy with. See if you can try out that promotion or production job before you take it full time.

Something To Do Today

Figure out when you can spend some time with your goals every day.  Just sitting with a pen and paper for 15 minutes each day can change your life if you are thinking about where you want to go.  Figure out how to try out your goals.


Have a great New Year.

How to get your pay above $125K

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. (George Bernard Shaw)

I talked in depth with salespeople earning over $200,000 per year.  I asked, “How did you get into the position where you won’t even consider taking a base salary under $100,000?”

The answer is very simple he said, “It is all in how you position yourself.”

I talk with accountants, programmers, managers, salespeople, engineers, and others every day who would never take less than $100K.  Others doing similar jobs can’t conceive of earning over $40K.

The difference is that the well paid people are always trying to develop the skills and experiences that are rare.  One salesman said, “I’m highly paid because of who I can get in to see.  I can talk to people in research laboratories and CFO’s of companies all across America.  I know how to get their attention and sell to them.  In Philadelphia there are thousands of salespeople who sell well in Philadelphia, but can’t or won’t sell in New York or Boston.  If you are competing with a thousand salespeople for that Philadelphia only job, guess what?  You may think you are worth $200K, but there are at least 500 other people willing to do it for $50K-$80K.  You will never get paid $200K because you have positioned yourself wrong.  Too many salespeople have positioned themselves to sell in Philadelphia for $50K.”

The same applies to computer programmers, managers, accountants, and even call center technicians.  I know a lot of people earning over $100K because they have looked at their business carefully for years.  They constantly ask, “Why is Joe earning more than me?  What jobs are paying big bucks?  What do I have to do to get there?”

First you need to position yourself at entry level so you can get experience. Then you have to see where the rare talent is.  What are people doing that earns them the money you want to earn.  Then you need to educate yourself, volunteer to help on projects, and get involved in decision making.  Eventually you will work up to the rarefied air of the best paid people in your field.

So how are you positioning yourself?  How will you be positioned next year?

Something To Do Today            

Make a list of 5 people who are doing what you want to do and earning what you want to earn.

Now go invite each one to lunch.  Whether they accept your invitation or not, ask them for help.  Ask them how you can join the rarefied company at their level.