No Lone Rangers

lonely officeI started this piece before we were all sheltering in place. Working alone, in isolation, has taken on an entirely new meaning. Yet the need for collaboration, the need to connect with others may have become even more acute. We’ve found new ways to create the connections and work together to create the teams in which we’re able to accomplish more than any one person can do alone. 

 

 

Human beings weren’t meant to work in isolation. Not today.

Humans are meant to collaborate. None of got to where we are in our careers on our own, we all had help. No one gets there alone.

When you fall on hard times, you didn’t get there alone either. Something happened. Economic downturn, corporate restructuring, the boss’s nephew needed a job.

Lots of times organizations “go in different directions.” Reorganize, reengineer, restructure, redirect, reduce redundancies. It seems that no word that starts with “re” means something good for employees. But remember that “reward” starts with those letters. So does recognition. Nothing is black and white anymore. There are two sides to every coin, and it seems the coin is spinning on a razor’s edge and there’s nothing you can do to make sure it comes up heads. But the more people you know, the more people you have on your side increases the likelihood that you’re going to come out alright. It’s called building your network.

Your network is something you have to pay attention to only when you need it.
And you always need it.

You can’t wait until your job is at risk, or you have a problem to tap into your network. That’s too late. You need to tend your network all the time because you never know when you’re going to need it. If your job is at risk because of some corporate “re” word then the more people you have in your network who know you and the good work you do increases the likelihood that the RIF winds will pass you by. You didn’t get to some lofty position on your own, you had help. And you didn’t find yourself on the brink of elimination on your own. Someone else had something to do with that as well.

It won’t be your knowledge, your skills, or your talent that will save you. All the people in the organization have those to some degree. It’s going to be the people you know, the people who like you, trust you, and want to work with you, your collaborative skills, your network that will keep the building pass on your phone and your 401k accruing interest.

No one gets there alone.

Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto.The-Lone-Ranger-and-Tonto

 

Try Something

david-full-frontYour first job will not be your last job, or very likely your last career. You’re going to try lots of things in your work life and as they say in Silicon Valley, fail fast. Get the false starts out of the way early. This will help you to figure out your true path. Don’t stay with a mistake just because you’ve invested months, or even years in doing it.

Take what I call the “Michelangelo approach” to your career. Allegedly, when a visitor saw the finished David sculpture they asked him, “How do you look at a block of marble and see the David?” Michelangelo was reputed to be a very snarky fellow, as many artists are, and replied, “You just chip away everything that’s not David.” Start chipping away everything that’s not you. But the only way you’ll know is if you try. So, try something. It’s better to try something and fail than to try nothing and succeed. Don’t be afraid it won’t be perfect, be afraid of being in the same indecisive place you are today a year from now.

Sam Levene said, “Learn from the mistakes of others, you don’t have time to make them all yourself.” Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, no one got where they are without help. No one does it alone. But at some point, you’re going to have to take responsibility for what you produce. Like the people who created the Declaration of Independence, make sure you create something that you’re proud to sign your name to. And remember, 56 people created and signed the Declaration of Independence. No one gets there alone.

declaration of independence

Fast. Cheap. Good.


handshake

Used to be that when you started a new job, you’d get training, advice, a “break-in” period of three, four, maybe even six months.

Not anymore. You’re expected to hit the ground running, and fast. Start producing. You’ll be expected to deliver something sooner than you might expect or have thought. So, remember this:Done is Better Than Perfect.”

Deliver. Something.

You’ll be afforded the opportunity to fix it and fix it you will. I’m not suggesting that you settle or lower your standards, but focus on what’s important to the company. Your new company may be a very agile and nimble organization. Speed may be more important than perfect. Get something out there and fix it later.

And remember Stephen Covey’s fifth habit of highly effective people when trying to determine where to focus your efforts. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Listen first and completely before responding. Listening may be the greatest skill you’ll use in your first weeks on the new job. This will help to focus so you can deliver.

I coached someone who started a new job. They were singularly focused on fast and needed to focus on best. They became successful when they focused on doing their best within the time parameters. As you figure out how and where to put in your best effort on the new job, remember this: Fast, Cheap, Good — pick any two. You can’t have all three.

Except pizza. Pizza is the only thing that is all three.pizza

What are you waiting for?

I saw something really curious yesterday. Something that wouldn’t have looked out place 30 or 40 or maybe even 10 years ago, but it looked alien to me. I saw people standing in line in a bank waiting to see a teller.

teller line

I can’t remember the last time I went to a teller in a bank branch. I thought, “Don’t these people have phones? Or computers? What on earth could they be doing?”  I mean I’ve been in a branch to use the ATM or talk to one of the account representatives about their products, but stand on line to make a deposit or withdrawal or cash a check? Can’t remember the last time.

I wondered what else people are waiting for. If you’re searching for a job, have you applied online and now you’re waiting for someone to get back to you? Don’t hold your breath.

Are you toiling away at a job, crunching numbers, writing memos, and putting out fires and waiting for someone above you to notice and recognize and reward you? Not likely.

Trying to figure out how to reinvent yourself, strike out on a new career and waiting for a bolt of lightning-like inspiration? Inspiration is for amateurs as the painter Chuck Close succinctly put it.

If you want something to happen, make it happen. Get out of line.

If you’re searching for a job, get off-line and start networking. Newsflash, no one’s going to hire you just because you’ve got 1000+ connections on LinkedIn. They’ve got to meet you face to face and in the flesh. “But I hate networking!” Get over it. You’re going to have to do it so start now.

You want recognition? Make people notice you. Don’t wait to be noticed, get in management’s face. While you’re building a better mousetrap someone else, who probably doesn’t do as much good work as you, is cozying up to the boss. I know a woman who complained that her husband never bought her flowers. (Full disclosure, it was my wife.) A friend asked her, “Does he know you’d like to get flowers every now and then?” She looked stunned for a moment and that night let me know that she would. She gets them often now.

Want a new career? Doing what? You don’t know? How do you plan to find one? Are you talking to people, taking webinars, asking people if they like their jobs? Have you thought about shadowing someone in a career you think you might like?

If you want something, this is no time to be polite. Don’t waste time waiting, in line or anywhere else. It’s time to make it happen.

What Else Can You Do?

post-itsThis phrase has been rattling around in my brain lately. What else can you do? It may be my mantra for this year. It seems applicable to almost every situation.

You’re unhappy in your job. What else can you do? Do you need to mend relations with a manager or co-worker? What’s making you so miserable? Is it the work you do or where you do it? If you need a change, what else can you do?

If you’re a manager frustrated by the performance of a staff member, what else can you do? What have you tried to get the person to do their job better? What’s worked in the past? Can the person be trained? Do they need to be replaced? What else can you do?

You want to lose weight and every fad diet or cleanse hasn’t worked. What else can you do? Unfortunately the answer might be eating less and exercising more but I’m sure there are those who will read that and think, what else can I do?

You worry about your children, young ones or grown. What else can you do? Because take it from me, worrying doesn’t work. It doesn’t prevent the bad or create some good. It generally just gets in the way of actually coming up with a new idea. So instead of worrying, ask what else can I do? Reach out, open the lines of communication, support them and unburden yourself. Because I’ve often found that while I’m being wracked by worry about my kids they’re out having a good time.

What else can you do is the phrase that frees you from repeating the mistakes of the past. In virtually every situation above and in countless others, doing nothing is a poor or unacceptable alternative. What else can you do is the first step toward trying something else and hopefully doing something better. What else can you do reminds us that there’s always something else you can do, something else you can try. You aren’t helpless and the situation isn’t hopeless. What else can you do is saying that there is something else I can do, I just haven’t figured it out yet. But there’s something. Everything turns out okay in the end, and if it isn’t okay, it isn’t the end.

What else can you do?

If not now

 

Don’t Blame Indeed!

IndeedNow every applicant knows that when an organization posts a job online they include a title, position description, required skills and then some verbiage about being an equal opportunity employer and a few words about their compensation and benefits package.

What you don’t often see are the keywords the recruiter uses to make sure that the posting winds up in the right searches done by applicants and will be used as part of the connect the dots algorithms used by their applicant tracking system to determine which resumes actually get past the ATS and into the inbox of a real live recruiter who will then spend 20 to 30 seconds scanning each resume until people are selected to be interviewed.

Some of the people with whom I’ve worked are frustrated by the job boards because they seem so indiscriminate in which jobs wind up in the person’s search. “How on earth did this nursing supervisor job show up when I’m looking for an Asset Manager position in a bank? These job boards stink! They’ll just throw anything at you and hope you’ll apply. They’re a waste of my time!”

Job search

I understand the frustration, I really do, but it’s not always the job site’s fault. People choose the keywords that will be used to make a match between posting and applicant, and sometimes this is done in a very slipshod, scattershot manner.

Below is an example of one I just found. These are the keywords that a recruiter used to attract applicants for an entry-level position in the marketing department. As you can see the recruiter included just about everything short of “must have a pulse.” They did include “Executive Vice President” and “HS graduate.” I will grant you that most EVP’s have graduated high school, but this is the reason many of your search results are filled with inappropriate postings. It’s because some recruiters aren’t doing their jobs well enough to properly serve their organizations by developing a list of keywords truly reflective of the kind of person they seek. It’s easier to just slug in this all-inclusive “must be able to enter the building without getting trapped in revolving door” list they developed and possibly use for every job they post.

The upshot is then I hear from recruiters that they aren’t getting the right stream of candidates in their pipeline and it’s so hard to fill positions. This is probably one more reason that LinkedIn is becoming so much more popular as a source.

The final irony is that the list below came from a posting from a management consulting firm. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and sit back if you plan to read through the entire list. And please share your comments, frustrations or horror stories. We need to do something to halt this spreading epidemic of sloppy recruiting.
Only the best,
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restaurant owner, part time retail, part time hotel, valet, valet supervisor, valet manager Entry level sales Entry level sales person Entry level sales rep Outside sales Entry level outside sales rep Outside sales rep Sales and marketing Team player Sales Entry level sales and mktg Sports-oriented Help wanted New grad Part-time Full-time business experience, business administration, small business administration, degree business administration, master business administration, management business administration, business administration bachelor, office business, small business, business restaurant, marketing business, international business, business sales development, management small business, global business, business sales marketing, marketing management business, marketing business opportunity, marketing business development, marketing advertising business, business in New Jersey, New Jersey businesses, business management skills, business manager, professional development, 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Good/Bad Thing

My old car died this summer. Over ten years old with well over 100K miles. So now I don’t have a car and that’s a bad thing.

Avalon

But it died just a few miles from home about a week before I was going to drive to a wedding a couple of states away. If this had happened while I was out on a highway hundreds of miles from home it would have been terrible. I’d have missed the wedding, would’ve had to find another way home and would’ve had to deal with a dead car in another state. So what I thought was a bad thing at first was actually a good thing.

Yesterday I cracked a tooth. This is a very bad thing, and painful.

I called my wonderful dentist and asked her office manager when I could come in. “NOW!” was the answer. My dentist was leaving for vacation for two weeks starting tomorrow. For various reasons I’d been putting off this dental work that I knew was necessary and if it had disintegrated a day later I would’ve had to go to whoever was covering for my wonderful dentist (I’ll give you her name if you need someone in NYC). So my tooth breaking on the day it did was actually a good thing.

Bad things happen. We rarely see them as the proverbial blessings in disguise. I’ve been using Zipcar and driving nice new cars instead of a bucket of bolts with almost 150 thousand miles on it. I no longer worry if the vehicle I’m in will make it back to where I started. My tooth has a temporary fix that my wonderful dentist (did I tell you she’s wonderful?) expects will hold until we can do the necessary work on my schedule.

Knee-jerk reactions to situations are often, “Why did this happen to me?” We need to learn  how to step back from our first reactions. I counsel a lot of people who’ve lost their jobs and their first reaction is usually panic, anger, depression or a pinwheel of all three. Most of the time within a few weeks these same people are saying, “This was the best thing to happen to me.” Because now they’re pursuing what they really want to do, or they’ve found a better job or they’ve just come up for air. They’ve taken the time to assess their situation, where they are in their lives and careers and made a pivot.

Give yourself the time to accurately figure out what’s really happened and then decide on a course of action. This is a skill to develop, it doesn’t just happen. It’s not a personality trait that some people are born with. Patience, paired with resilience, also known as grit (see my post of May 2016), are two of the keys to getting past clouds to the silver linings you deserve.

silver-lining

Independence

Fourth_of_July_HistoryNext week, in the U.S., we’ll celebrate Independence Day. Two hundred forty years ago the founding fathers, and the strong women who stood by them, made it possible for these brave people to found our nation, declaring themselves free and independent. They stepped out into the unknown “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence” and little else but their beliefs that they were doing the right thing. They believed in their goals, their actions and their abilities.
 
So my question for you is, from what are you declaring your independence? As you begin, continue or re-energize your job search, are you moving forward with confidence in your goals, actions and abilities?
 
Now is the time to declare yourself independent of fears, of doubts, of despair. These will not aid you in finding your next job. Know what you want, move confidently in the direction of your dreams and have confidence in both your abilities and your actions. Employers prefer to hire people with confidence. You may make missteps but one of the keys to success is when you get knocked down, don’t stay down. Learn from your mistakes and move forward, confident in what you’ve learned and how that will help you next time. It’s not how far you fall, what’s important is how high you bounce.
 
And remember that you are not alone. You have the support of the people around you. Cultivate your support network. Reach out to people who can help you define your goals, categorize your abilities and achieve your dreams. Declare yourself independent of whatever is holding you back, remember the fortitude of our founding fathers, and take the steps to personal independence.
 
Happy Independence Day!