Category Archives: Training

How to keep your eyes open to office politics

Seeing office politics in the moment is not easy. Seeing the final disastrous result of office politics is easy. You can train yourself to see invisible office politics before they kill you. Let me give you an example of being trained to see what is already there.

I took my Boy Scouts out into the woods. We went to look for animal signs. The boys couldn’t see a thing. Nothing. Then one spotted a bird. They all saw it. Another heard a woodpecker. Suddenly they could all hear it and they also noticed the trees with woodpecker holes in them. I pointed out a rabbit run. The leaves were broken up into smaller pieces than the surrounding leaves and there was also a tunnel under some bushes. They started seeing rabbit runs. We walked down the road and I saw some deer tracks. They looked and found the path that the deer were using. It was just like a rabbit run, only bigger. As their eyes were trained, they saw more and more. Once they concentrated on looking for things out of the ordinary, they got good at spotting animal signs.

Animal Tracks, On Snow, Snow, Winter, Frost, Sunny Day

Training yourself to see office politics is difficult. Often you see the person who gets what they want, and not the people who enable it. Look at the interactions where you are. Who really makes the important decisions?

Choosing a guide is a great idea. Don’t choose the loudest person. Choose the most effective person. Who seems to get what they want? Invite them to lunch or just find a moment to be alone with them. Ask how they do it. Sincere interest is a form of flattery that is almost impossible to resist. You will quickly find out what you need.

Keep in mind! As you are finding out who the gatekeepers and roadblocks are, learn to keep your mouth shut. Getting experts to trust you with their secrets depends on your keeping their confidence safe. Ask questions. Don’t spill the dirt. Funny thing about gossip, effective people shun it. They like helping people understand how a department really works, but they shut down and hurt gossip.

You can have a training program you don’t have to pay for. If you are worthy of their trust, the people who know will train you. They will want you for an ally.

Something to do today

Take a few days and become an observer. Ask questions. Find out the lay of the land. Who are the people who benefit from the power brokers? Who really are the power brokers?

The best workers can still lose their job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ship, Listing, Galapagos Islands, Sea

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

Something to do today

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

Get a promotion by stacking the odds in your favor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Something to do today

Only do this if you recover quickly from sharp criticism!

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

Are you sowing seeds of success in your job?

The first winter in Plymouth Colony killed a third of the Pilgrims. During that winter one of my ancestors was caught eating the seed corn. He knew the whole colony would fail if the seed corn disappeared, but he talked himself into eating it anyway. I’m glad he was caught. I’m glad he learned.

Every job is the seed of your next job, even if you are changing fields entirely. Your future boss will be looking back at your accomplishments, drive, leadership and enthusiasm for your current job.

When you decide to sit back and relax at your job, you eat your seed corn. No one wants to hire an “average” person. They want to hire a superstar, or at least a hard worker.

Figure out how to make a difference. How can YOU make the company more profitable? Is there some way you can prove you are above average? 

When I was doing janitorial work at 4 a.m. every morning, I excelled. I only missed 2 days in a school year and I called in advance for those. I did my entire job no matter how tired I was. That work got me promoted to the afternoon shift. It was a lot nicer. The early morning job was the seed of my next job, and that was the seed of the next.

Don’t relax. Be at least above average. It will be the seed corn for your next job.

Invest some of the money you earn to get training. Use it as seed corn.

Something to do today

Be honest. Are you sliding by? 

List what makes you above average. Put it on your resume.

List what makes you below average. Eliminate it.

Keep learning, and you’ll never be out of a job

My grandfather was a modern farmer in 1930. The local farm bureau agent came by and said, “The government will pay you to rotate your crops.” Grandpa replied, “That is the stupidest thing I ever heard. I already rotate my crops because I can grow more that way. My land doesn’t get worn out. It gets renewed.”

Grandpa was stubborn and wouldn’t take the government’s money to do something he knew he should already be doing. The guys from the conservation bureau had problems with him. He always implemented the latest ideas without waiting for them to come up with a program to get him to do it. Crazy old coot? Really, he was a visionary farmer.

Do you have to be paid to prepare yourself to earn more money? 

Reading about your field, reading books, or even listening to audiobooks on your way to work is the best way to keep current in your field. College courses in the evening are a great way to build the basics you need for a foundation for growth. Enthusiasm will get you into seminars and conventions. Pay for it yourself if you have to. It is worth it.

Don’t wait for someone to come and tell you what you need to do and learn. Go out and learn it yourself before that happens. 

Something to do today

Find new articles, books, or audiobooks in your field and write down a few things that stand out or are new to you. How can you apply that to your work?

It’s easiest to become an expert in a NEW technology

If you focus on the innovations happening around you, it can change your career. When an idea, technology or procedure is new, it takes a week to become an expert. A year later it takes a year to become an expert.

Startup, Whiteboard, Room, Indoors, Adult, Office

I became a database expert in a week when Oracle 1.0 (yes, I’m that old) came out. I talked my boss into springing for $100 to get a copy. I parlayed that into becoming a DB2 guru by buying a book. One book. I became a data modeling expert because no one else had a clue what that was. One innovation led to another, and my bosses had no desire to stop me. All the industry magazines and experts were using the buzzwords I could implement. I was on the leading edge. I was riding the wave of innovation. Every career progression was caused by taking two weeks to prepare for an upcoming, essential, mystifying technology.

Do a little internal innovation and focus on using other’s ideas and new technology. It is always easier to become an expert when technology and techniques are new. What is new in your field?

Something to do today

Try it again. The greatest lunch topic you can talk about with your boss is, “What is the emerging world changing technology, technique or skill in our field?” Figure out what the buzzwords are that people are barely starting to define in your field.

Use raising technology and new techniques to get a great job

Fingerprint locks are used by tons of people on a daily basis, whether on computers or phones. People use them more often than the number or word locks because of convenience. They even have fingerprint locks for doors, and eventually I can see new locks like these being used more often than the everyday lock and key. The world changes a lot around us, and with that there are new ideas and new ways of life. 

Your job search should be like the world, always changing, always improving.

Every year thousands of people get great new jobs with massive pay raises because they have learned something new and exciting. I know average programmers who are earning $120,000 per year. They learned the latest technology and tools and have been riding the gravy train for 3 or 4 years. Accountants that can implement brand new systems are still worth their weight in gold. 

Adding a fingerprint lock helps sell thousands of new electronics to geeks like me. New technology, techniques, and skills can sell CEO’s and managers on your value.

What can you learn today? 

Something to do today

The greatest lunch topic you can talk about with your boss is, “What is the emerging world changing technology, technique or skill in our field?” Try it today.

Every candidate could use a bit of polish

Every few years a hiker in the United States finds a large raw diamond. Usually it was carried down by glaciers from Canada when sheet ice covered the north.  A raw diamond is interesting, but not exciting.  To reach its true value that stone must be turned over to an expert.  It will have scores of facets polished into it until it catches the light and sparkles with fire.  It is the expert polishing that makes people cherish diamonds.  Diamonds in the rough don’t stay that way for long after they are discovered.

My old partner got a Thank You note from a candidate she first placed 20 years ago.  She convinced a bank to take a chance on him.  He has worked his way up the corporate ladder and gotten promotion after promotion.  He was a diamond in the rough.

At the bank he first decided to stand out less while working more.  He watched closely how others dressed and acted.  How did they succeed with sales and politics?  Banks are calm on the outside, but full of opportunity and excitement behind the façade. Mentors appeared as he looked for them.  Some were his managers, some were higher up or lateral to him.  They gave him advice and helped him acquire polish.  Over the years he kept on polishing new shining facets into his skills and character. He learned management and leadership.  He figured out ways to fix problems instead of just enduring them.  Instead of being noticed for his rough exterior, he now stands out for his ability to make things happen and his polish.

If you get a job based on being a diamond in the rough you will only progress a little if you don’t acquire some polish.  You may have to get rid of the nose stud or the blue jeans you always wear.  It may be your technical skills that need work.  Effective management and leadership abilities need training and practice.  Look for mentors, people above you who can lift you up.  Move away from the group that is stuck in a rut.  Find the stars that are rising and do what they do.  Learn constantly.  

You can tell a human diamond in the rough from an average person.  If you truly are a diamond in the rough, you will embrace change.  You will actively seek polish and improvement.

 Something to do Today

Where can you polish up your skills? Write ideas down and think of ways to polish up on those skills.

You can’t make a silk purse out of a buggy whip

A while ago I talked to a very good programmer whose skills are hopelessly out of date. She was hoping to get a job as an intern so she could upgrade her skills. She has only one problem in her job search.

Only antique collectors say, “I like things that are outdated, frustrating, inefficient and dangerous.”

Train, Railway, Old, Abandoned, Outdated

Luckily she knew she might only be hired as an intern. Some people think that they should be hired as rocket scientists even though they have outdated skills. I have people severely infected with archaic abilities approach me every week. They freely admit their problem and then tell me they deserve a great job, a raise and happiness without their own effort.

Bosses want to hire the best people they can. They aren’t social workers. Some companies train the people they hire, but they are going to try and hire the best worker who needs the least training. It is pure common sense; they hire the best person.

If you are a master of buggy whip technology, don’t expect a job at NASA. There will always be a few buggy whip makers scraping by, but you won’t get rich working for them. Invest in yourself. Get the updated skills you need to be employable. Get out of the buggy whip age and into the computer age. Leave the stone arrowhead tools behind and become an engineer. Learn to be an expert.

That means YOU need to invest in yourself. It may be as simple as asking your boss for training. More likely YOU will have to study on your own. Read a new technical, sales or business book each month. Subscribe to journals and websites about what you do. There are community and online colleges that you can use to get a degree or advanced training. 

You can’t make a silk purse out of a buggy whip, but with time and patience you can turn a mulberry leaf into a silk purse. It takes specialized knowledge and a silkworm. Learn the specialized knowledge you need for your job. Go make a silk purse.

Something To Do Today

Think about what skills YOU have that are outdated. What can you do to update those skills or replace them?

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