Category Archives: Uncategorized

3 big ways to do “Thank you” wrong

HR said, “We are still going to bring George in, but his Thank You note wasn’t professional at all.”

I cringed as she told me the problem.  Then I decided to do a survey of managers, directors, and HR folks to see how a Thank You can be done wrong.

The 3 biggest mistakes:

  1. A text message Thank You
  2. A sloppy ugly note
  3. Spelling and grammar errors

A text message thank you

Nothing says I didn’t really want to send this message as much as a text message.  The short, compressed, choppy text message can only give a bad impression. An email is the most common thank you note.  Email is fine but text messages reek of insincerity to many managers.

A sloppy ugly note

A clean typewriter paper page with a short handwritten note is great.  A card from the store with nothing inside but your neatly written thanks is wonderful.  Typed is okay if your handwriting is bad.  Short is best.

Paper ripped from a spiral notebook is horrible.  A napkin with a note — please, don’t even consider it.  A pen that skips and was restarted on the page, don’t send it! A card printed from your PC – don’t!  They just don’t look professional.  We are going for professional here.

Spelling and grammar errors

If you have any doubts, don’t send it.  Hand it to someone who is good at spotting bad grammar and spelling.

In a nutshell

You will be judged by what you send.  If it looks professional, heartfelt and personal, you will be judged well.  If it looks unprofessional, you will look unprofessional.

It is best to send a nice professional looking note.  If you aren’t sure, sending nothing is better than broadcasting your incompetence.

Give up and go elsewhere when things are good

(Before you lynch me, read tomorrow’s column about giving up when times are bad.)

Most revolutions happen as things are getting better.  That happened in the Marxist revolutions and the revolts against the Communists.  It happened in the American revolution.  Things were getting better and people rebelled.

People seriously think of quitting their jobs as things get better.  As life gets worse they are afraid to change.  They want more stability, not more change. When life is bad, they tend to stay where they are. It’s easier. When life is getting better is when they think of change.

In reality, it really is time to change when life is easy and the economy or your company is soaring.  That is when people start slacking.  You are most likely to get noticed when you are the new guy on the block with something to prove.

In your current job push hard. If you aren’t getting raises and promotions, ask for them.  If not now, when? But start looking.  If you are pulling ahead as a superstar, others outside your company may be even more interested than those who know you well.

It is probably time to get a new job even if you are getting raises and promotions.  Career advancement, pay raises and opportunities usually come more quickly to those willing to change jobs in good times.  There is an immediate raise upon taking the new job.  There are also faster raises for the first 3 years.

Yes, it is a fact.  People who change jobs get raises and promotions faster for a few years.  It may be that there is no history to judge against, only current need and performance. It is likely that you are “irreplaceable” at the position you have had for 5 years so they don’t want to promote you or give you a new opportunity.  Whatever the reason, raises and promotions come faster for the first 3 years with a company.  Someone already there and doing the same job will NOT get the same pay raises, promotions and opportunities you get by coming in fresh.

Another reason to leave when life is good is that when life is good, people are hiring.  It is much easier to get into that company or job you always wanted. There is money to pay for your eager attitude.  It is easier to find a job when you are employed than when you are laid off.

Life is good now for 90% of Americans.  Think about changing.  Position yourself for change even if you don’t make a jump to another company.  When the economy eventually turns ugly for your company, those who have been making minimal progress will be laid off

Something to do today

Really assess where you are.  Are you coasting?  Have you relaxed?

Then start pushing hard in your current job.  Set a personal goal and meet it. Get ahead now while others coast.


Coming up

Give up and go elsewhere when things are bad

Why changing jobs can mean a LOT more money in 10 years

Lou Adler wrote an article, but he titled it wrong.  The article is really about why changing jobs a little more often can make a huge difference in how much you earn and how much you learn.

He gave it the misleading title “When Working At A Troubled Company Makes Sense.”  Go down to the graph, and see how it applies to switching jobs either internally or to another company as often as you sensibly can.

How to get to sleep at night

Tense because of work and your job search?  The comments on this article list a lot of real ways people get to sleep.

My most effective way to get to sleep is to count to 2.  In my head I lie down and count 1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2….. until I fall asleep.  If I count any higher it takes enough mental energy that it keeps me awake.  Counting clears my mind and lets me rest.

Avoid big IT project failure

1/3 of all huge projects never get finished.  1/3 of all huge projects cost several times more than planned and are months or years late getting implemented.

Here are 5 really important ideas.

7 interview tricks to be clean and undistracting

There is nothing like being trapped in a small, poorly ventilated interview room with a noisome, pungent candidate (or interviewer).

One guy I worked with….. smelled…. funny.   Another always wore each white dress shirts for 4 days.  A woman I worked with had a mouthwash she used at lunch with a bouquet like bourbon (hmmm). I lived with 3 elevator installers who showered once a week, used lots of cologne, and changed their bed sheets daily. No one wants to work with someone whose lack of cleanliness is distracting.

Clean is a minimum for an interview.  Clean and sharp looking is better.

Consider these ideas for the 24 hours before a job interview:

1.         Fill up your gas tank the day before so your hands don’t smell like gasoline at the interview.

2.         No onions, garlic, beans, curries, pungent cheese, or other strong smelling foods.

3.         Avoid perfumes, colognes, perfumed deodorants, strongly scented soaps, etc.  Some people react allergically to the smells and their sinuses plug up.

4.         Consider buying 2 or 3 shirts or blouses just for interviewing and take them to the professionals to have them cleaned and pressed before every interview. Buy new neckties so the knot is crisp and clean.

5.         Polish those shoes.  A few people still set a lot of store by how shoes shine.

6.         Shave before an afternoon interview.

7.         Put a TicTac in your mouth when you pull into the parking lot.

A lot of people are hired despite being sweaty, having wrinkled clothes, and a 5 o’clock shadow.  But, it is always at a lower salary than they could earn otherwise. Cleanliness will make a difference.

Something to do today

Put a box of TicTacs in your glove compartment just for job interviews.


Later: Interview like an Eagle -Final

Start a salary bidding war

Top secret job hunting

Read want ads even if you are NOT job hunting

Free career intelligence

How to turn your dishwasher into a snowplow

Replacing engineers with a robot that can even use Skype?

Watch out. Those simple questions that help desk folks get tired of are now being answered software robots.  They can even use a Skype like interface.  Read more here. It is the ultimate outsourcing.

Politically correct seasonal salutation

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit my best
wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low
stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter
solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions
of the religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice,
with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or
traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or
secular traditions at all;”


“a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically
uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted
calendar year, but not without due respect for the calendars of
choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have
helped make America great, (not to imply that America is
necessarily greater than any other country or is the only
“AMERICA” in the western hemisphere), and without regard
to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious
faith, choice of computer platform, or orientation of
the wisher.”

(Disclaimer: By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these
terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It
is freely transferable with no alteration to the original
greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually
implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, and is void
where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion
of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected
within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one
year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting,
whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of
this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the
wisher who assumes no responsibility for any unintended emotional
stress these greetings may bring to those not caught up in the
holiday spirit.) 

4 questions that reveal secrets of job ads

Do job ads ever look like murder mysteries to you?  You know, there is way too much information and you can’t tell what is important.

It was murder.  The victim had bits of onion in her mouth.  The butler had prepared a sandwich with onions for her, yet claimed to have not seen her.  Is he guilty?  No, the onions are a red herring.  They are a diversion to keep you from seeing who the real criminal is.

Job ads all seem to be long lists of skills you absolutely have to have in order to get a job.  My experience is that job ads are more red herring than meat. When a company sends me a job ad and asks me to find a person for the job, I always have to talk with the person who wrote the ad.  I ask,

  • “What are the absolute minimal qualifications for the job?”
  • “Which of these skills in the ad are the hardest to find?”
  • “What has kept you from hiring the people you have already talked to?”
  • “Is there a hidden qualifier that was left out of the ad?”

As you look at a job ad, ask these questions.  You may even want to call up the HR (Human Resources) department and ask them the four questions.

If you know any of the answers, you can change your resume.  Put your most important qualifications first in a group of bullet points. Mention them in the very first sentence of your cover letter.  Make sure they come out in a phone call.

Most job ads are huge.  The minimal qualifications and the most important skills are usually hidden in the middle of a school of red herring.  Figure out what the most important need is, and point out in an unavoidable way that you qualify.

Something to do today

Have you ever called an HR department to find out the real qualifications for a job?  Try it today.  Use the 4 questions above.


Later:              Resume red herring

Interview red herring

Ruthlessly exploit yourself – 9 good ways

Under capitalism, man exploits man.  Under communism it’s just the opposite. (John Kenneth Galbraith)

My 16 year old daughter just looked at me with big eyes and said, “Daddy, will you take me to school?  You know my foot hurts and I shouldn’t walk on it.”  She used every emotion, trick of voice and heart string she could muster to get me to drive her and her sister a quarter mile to school.  I’ll get back to writing this in a second.  I have a quick errand to run.

I’m back.

As we went out the door Katie said, “I have to practice my feminine wiles for the part I want in the school musical.”

EPHS is doing “Damn Yankees”.  She wants the part of Lola the temptress.  There is a famous song in the musical with the refrain, “Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.” Lola does everything she can to get the hero to sell his soul to the devil. She offers herself, but he sells his soul to beat the Yankees.

Don’t do something illegal or immoral to get a job. Sex for a job, lying, blackmail — you know better than that.

Ruthlessly exploiting everything good about your life is not wrong.  Let me give you some things people have said to me that I think are crazy.

You are crazy if you say:

  • I will not exploit my family connections to get a job.
  • My friends are too close to my heart for me to ask them for help.
  • I refuse to use their emotions about my situation.
  • Inviting them to lunch is brown nosing and sucking up.
  • I won’t tell them I left because I was sick.  I don’t want their sympathy.
  • I want the job, but I don’t feel right pressing them to choose me.
  • It is greedy asking for more money.
  • Taking this job to get experience, when I plan to leave later, is wrong.
  • I’m a veteran, but it is not fair to use that to get a job.

Let’s look at that last point.  A few veterans actually forget that the leadership, teamwork, calmness under fire, discipline and fortitude they developed is uncommon.  They feel they just did their duty. No big thing.  Why bring it up?

Your life experience makes a difference.  Whatever that experience is.  You need to use it and exploit it. People connect emotionally and help each other all the time.

Because so many people have a problem ruthlessly using every advantage they have, I’m going to go quickly through most of those bullet points tomorrow.

Something To Do Today                              

Think about your job search. Just think.  And then take notes about your conclusions.


For 2 weeks:       Zen and the art of getting a job

Tomorrow:           Ruthlessly exploit – 2

Later:                    Measure and maul

Making a silk purse

Why you aren’t paid what you are worth

A man dying of thirst



Diamond in the rough

Cleat marks up your back