Tag Archives: Business

If I only had a Brain?

download“I could while away the hours conferring with the flowers consulting with the rain, I could dance and be merry life would be a dingle darry…if I only had a brain.” C’mon y’all know the song. Dorothy Gale’s best friend from OZ who guides, protects and consistently places himself in harms way to keep her safe..and constantly claims he knows nothing because his maker did not invest him with a brain. What we come to discover, rather quickly, is our friend the Scarecrow has common sense oozing through every pore of his being. No, he does not have a formal education or as the Wizard himself bestows a diploma; however when the going got tough it was the Scarecrow who had the answers, the plans and the gumption to get Dorothy’s rag tag band of compatriots through the tough times.

Ok Betsy get to the point! Well here goes, I was talking recently with the CEO of a mid-sized company that I work with (yes he has a brain and no he is not a scarecrow). We somehow got into a long discussion about how to break out of the rut so many similar businesses seem to be stuck in (unable to address challenges or move at all). I asked what he’s been doing to encourage staff to innovate and push the limits of current business practices.  First he looked at me like I had a third eye then he informed me that he’d hired a business consultant to come and observe, research and provide feedback into what he could do differently to move his business ahead.

Now for the record, this is a very intelligent and successful business man who has worked hard to grow his enterprise into what it is. That being said I wanted to scream “Please Use Your Brain!”. He is overlooking his single most valuable asset to experience incredible innovation and growth… his current employee brain trust. They may not have a formal education or be Bill Gates, Nikola Tesla or Thomas Edison; however they know your business, sometimes better than you do. Why wouldn’t you engage them?

As leaders we are constantly looking for the next big idea, what can we do differently that will catapult us ahead of the competition? So we read books, articles and blog posts on the next big idea, industry trends and we chase unicorns across rainbows only to end up in OZ with no idea how to get back. Do you know where most great new ideas come from? They come from the last place most managers look, your current employees… your employee brain trust.  Remember Dorothy’s famous line, “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home“. She didn’t need to go looking any further than her own back yard to find all the answers.

If you are looking for industry trends, talk to the people who live it every day. If you want customer feedback, talk to the people who talk to your customers. If you want to tap into institutional knowledge and find out what is possible, impossible, too hard, too easy or will have a real impact ask the people who live it every day. Inside of your current organization are your disruptors, game changers,  and generally brilliant people. Talk to them, pose the questions to them…you may just be surprised at what you find.

yes change is scary and hard and often expensive however, never as expensive as staying still while everyone else passes you by. Not as scary as watching your hard built dreams unraveling before your eyes cause you didn’t anticipate future trends and certainly not as hard as telling your entire workforce that your business is closing and they are losing their jobs.

Really, what do you have to lose by engaging those who already work for you and have a vested interest in your success? I’ll tell you…nothing, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

What do I want to be when I grow up?

This has been one of those weeks that leaves me thinking about a lot. Now thinking generally is not something I have trouble with, unfortunately I’m one of those people who has a very difficult time turning off my brain…even when I want to.

This week I hosted a luncheon of  women leaders who’ve I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with. I wanted to give us an opportunity to hear an incredible speaker, enjoy a healthy lunch and forge a deeper understanding of one another. Yes it was quite the women’s power hour and I LOVED it! Hearing their stories of adversity, challenges, struggles, success and set-backs inspired me; however, there was one question that I’m still pondering? What is my purpose and am I happy where I am right now?

I spent a good part of the evening and the next day with those questions still in my head. What IS my purpose and AM I happy where I am right now? My answer at the time was, “Yes I’m happy with where I am right now however, I’m not done yet.” As for my purpose, well that’s a harder one. I have always been an incredibly mission driven person, I want to make the world better. How I have lived that out through the years has morphed; whether its working in education, non-profit organizations of all sizes, employment services or in the media; if I don’t feel like I’m making a difference I am not happy.

Today I attended a panel discussion composed of female leaders from across different industries. They shared their trials, tribulations and successes, what got them there, what lessons they’ve learned and the pitfalls they wished they had avoided. Again the topic came up…live your purpose. I was sitting with a friend of mine who is a source of inspiration, she lives her purpose every day. She knows exactly what impact she wants to make and how she’s going to make it, she has laser focus in her career choices.

Now I am the first to admit that my career path has not be planned. In each of my career moves, I was scared to death that I might not be able to do the job, which is ultimately what inspired me to make the jump, I LOVE a challenge.

The BIG question is, what do I want to do now? Is it time to have a more purposeful direction? Is it time for me to pick a career field and stick to it? Do I finally need to decide what I want to do when I grow up? Answer: NO! Not just no but heck NO!

I’ve had a wonderful roller coaster ride of a career path. In each of my fields I learned new skills, honed my talents and grew exponentially. I grew in ways needed to take my next leap. Not only that, but as I have been promoted, I look to hire people with similar paths. Individuals who have a varied background that bring new perspectives to what we do, challenge the norms and me. I love where I am and what I’ve become both personally and professionally, which wouldn’t have happened without my roller coaster career path. No I’m not done, I have LOTS left to do and I’m not the type of person to confine myself to one box, one purpose or one direction, where’s the fun in that?

My mother and father both worked for the same employer for 35+ years. I’ve seen their ups and downs and I’ll admit there were times that I actually thought, “that will not be me.” Don’t get me wrong they loved what they did, my parents taught me professional & familial responsibility, extremely high work ethic and integrity. All of which are incredibly important but, you don’t need to stay in the same job to exemplify those traits.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is, I don’t have to decide what I want to do when I grow up. Only time, opportunity, bravery and passion will tell. One thing I know for sure, it’s going to be fun and I will make the world better in whatever way i’m able.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Connect The Dots

connect the dots

I’ve gotten a few questions as to why my blog and my other endeavors have been titled Connect the Dot? It’s an honest question, with an equally honest and simple answer, it’s who I am.

I am a connector. I love it when someone approaches me with a question, concern, challenge or request for help and I happen to know just the person who can either assist them directly or introduce them to someone who can.

I recently read a book by “ Malcom Gladwell” called “ The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference”. This book illustrates the point very clearly. It’s very often not the big ideas that you have or even in the large scale implementaion of those ideas. It’s the small everyday things that you do, reaching out through your interconnected network that can bring about the change you desire. Whether it’s a job, a new program or commodity, it’s often the small things that you make happen that produce the biggest results.

Connecting people to eachother can have a huge impact, you never know who they know or who they know and on and on. Somewhere down the line there is somone you can help make a difference and by doing so, there is also someone down the line who can help you accomplish great things.

I learned very early on that the larger my network, the easier my work. Don’t misunderstand me, I have no aversion to working hard, quite the contrary, however the more people I know the more I can get done. I don’t have a compunction (any more) to do everything myself. In fact I’ve learned, often painfully, that I’m not the best at everything. HA! There are people smarter, more creative, more innovative, and more determined that I. By surrounding myself with these people, there is no end to what can be accomplished.

This concept of a connected network is never more relevant than in your job search. I didn’t start out looking to create some kind of mega network web that even Spiderman would be proud of. I just started out getting to know people. I listened to them; their needs, desired, dreams. I didn’t get to know them because I wanted something, it was actually quite the opposite. I wanted to be the person that helped them achieve their goals. The unexpected outcome was what happened next. Inevitably when I did have a challenge, need or issue they wanted to help.

Real people haveing real conversations about real issues, seem to simple, thats the beauty of it. It is simple and it does work.

Pay It Forward, the Golden Rule, call it what you want, people helping people achieve their goals is the only way to do business and the best way to approach your job search. Let people in your network; personal and professional know what you’re doing. If you’ve created a genuine relationship, they will want to help. With that kind of support, there is nothing that can stop you.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help, job search and career advice come back again to; “Connectthedotblog”.

Does Modality Matter?

networking

How many online applications have you filled out and submitted recently? Of those how many have you heard back from?

Is it rocket science?

Do you get a higher return rate from:

  • Online applications?
  • Applying in person?
  • Your personal network?
  • Your professional network?

Yes, I placed them in that order for a reason. Most folks spend the majority of their time performing activities from the top of this list, when in fact, you get the best return off the activities from the bottom. In your jo search as well as in business, in general, it really is often who you know.

In my world of finding jobs for graduates, the simple fact is, having someone in your corner ALWAYS get you better results than going it alone. Submitting 100 online applications will take longer and yeild fewer results than walking in and dropping off 20 applications in person. Even networking through friends and colleagues; vendors and clients can yield you 50% higher results, (aka interviews) than just dropping off applications/resumes.

Do the math, should you spend your time submitting appications into the black hole of the internet hoping they may reach a nameless, faceless person or should you spend your time leveraging the people you know?

The answer is clear; companies and organizations have yet to find the silver bullet of successful online recruitment. Yet more and more companies pop up each day clamining they have the answer, but they don’t. Nothing beats personal contact. Why do you think organizations spend literally billions each year on retention, recruitmet and onboarding programs? Because finding the right fit is hard, doing it over the internet is even harder. They may have a greater number of applicants, but are they the right applicants? No one has found an effective way to measure this.

If you leave this article with one pearl of wisdom, I hope it’s this; make it personal! Get others to speak on your behalf, let your personality shine, be memorable and don’t expect the internet to care about your job search results, because it won’t. Your friends, your connections, your network will care.

So to answer my initial question, yes modality matters. The internet is wonderful modality for making initial connections, however it won’t be as effective with your job search as will as a few connections and a sprinkle of personal contact.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help, job search and career advice come back again to; “Connectthedotblog”.

Help A Shark Ate My Resume!

interview etiquett

I had to put a catchy title out to get your attention. The truth is, everyone has an opinion about interviewing etiquette, which do you follow. I had an extraordinary high school social studies teacher and my junior year he gave me a great piece of advice. “Betsy”, he said, “the world is full of people with opinions. One thing you have to understand, opinions are like butt holes (sorry couldn’t use the real word), everyone has one and they usually all stink.” Dressing for an interview is not rocket science, nor is behaving like a professional. However several of my colleagues felt this was an area that may need further discussion so here we go.

  • Always arrive 15 minutes early.
  • Always leave your cell phone in the car not in your purse/pocket/portfolio.
  • Only 1 in 4 job seekers bring a portfolio to an interview. If you don’t’ have one, get one.
  • Smile!
  • Look everyone you meet in the eye, shake their hands firmly and speak clearly.
  • You have never had a bad boss, co-worker, customer, company or experience with a previous employer.

If you have spent more time figuring out your outfit than you’ve spent researching the company, you’re already in trouble. Make sure you google the organization, look up their mission and vision and any recent news about them. Never go into an interview with out at least three very thoughtful questions to ask the hiring manager that aren’t, salary, schedule or vacation centric. Always, always have a way to relate a personal connection you have to their organization.

  • There is a difference between interview shoes and Friday night shoes. Please differentiate!
  • When you look in the mirror after you’ve dressed for the interview and think, “dang I look cute”, it’s probably not the right outfit.
  • Sensible shoes, minimal jewelry and make up, hair out of your face, teeth brushed, deodorant on and no perfume.
  • If you think your skirt may be too short, it is.
  • If you think your shirt may be too low cut, it is.
  • If you question any part of your ensemble, there is a reason, listen to your inner self and make the right decision.

An interview is a time to shine. You want the hiring manager to see you for the diamond that you are; you also want them to be able to visualize you actually doing the job. If any part of what you say or what you wear makes them question how you will fit into their world, game over. No matter how casual the interview may feel, never let your guard down for a minute. Reframe all questions in a positive way. Only wear an outfit your mother would approve of and don’t say anything you wouldn’t want your father to hear come out of your mouth.

Again, it’s not rocket science, its common sense. Say please, and thank you, yes ma’am and yes sir. Shake hands, smile and follow up with a thank you note within 3-days. If you can take just these few tips with you to the interview, then you will be playing head and shoulders above your competition.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Finding A Leader Not A Manager

Finding Nemo

What do you believe are the key characteristics of a successful leader? How important are these characteristics to you as you look to move into a new position? Will having a manage or supervisor with these characteristics help you to be more successful? Do you want to work for someone who inspires you to do better, to grow and reach for higher goals?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I have one more for you. How do you identify these characteristics during an interview or hiring process? Better yet, how do you know the person you may be working for in the position you’re considering demonstrates these characteristics?

There is so much more to the work experience than schedule, salary, benefits and environment. There is the big ‘C’. Culture is often created and defined by the leaders in an organization; so how do you find out if you will be working for a leader or for a manager, because there is a big difference.

Navigating these waters can make you feel like Dory trying to find Nemo in the middle of the Ocean. Needle in a haystack doesn’t quite cut it. Where do you start? Who should you ask for help? Or do you, just keep swimming just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, swimming, hoping you don’t run into sharks, jellyfish or worse, humans!

Seeking a little assistance is never a bad thing. Here are a few questions you should stop and ask yourself and your interviewer/hiring manager before saying accepting any offer.

  • What is the management style of the person this position reports to?
  • What is their communication style?
  • What training and development programs are available to help someone new to this position be successful?
  • What does your new hire orientation consist of?
  • How does this position play a part in overall mission of the organization?
  • How frequently do individual reviews take place?

Yes this is a long list of questions and I could actually add a few more, but for the sake of brevity let me make my point.

  • Does the company care about your success?
  • Are they investing in human capital?
  • Do they value ongoing training and performance management?
  • Do you personally identify with the mission/vision of the organization?
  • Can you see yourself spending 70% of your waking hours working with and for these individuals?

If you can positively answer those questions, then you can feel confident you are making an informed decision. If you find that they either don’t know the answers to the above questions or are unwilling to answer them; then I say again you can feel confident you are making an informed decision.

An interview is a two way street. It has to be a good fit for everyone, that’s when the magic really happens. When it’s a one sided relationship or when you are unclear as to the value of your role, expectations or performance, then back away slowly and carefully consider the steps you are about to take and if they will align with your longer term goals.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Fired Up? You Should Be!

fired up

If hard skills get you hired, what gets you fired?

I’m sure everyone has heard from some source recently that soft skills are lacking in their job candidates.

What exactly is this? Working with college students and graduates, I like to show them this video“Entitlement Creed

I love how it sums up much of the soft skills gap so simply that it borders on remedial. However, I still hear from students and graduates alike:

  • So I was late a few times, what’s the big deal?
  • Yes I use my cell phone at work, that’s my personal business not theirs.
  • They won’t let me check Facebook at work.
  • They don’t like my language, but everyone uses bad words these days.

Yes these are real examples. Add these to the list of entitlement issues prevalent in our culture and we have a real problem.

A mentor told me that once you are labeled as; clown, lazy, foul mouthed, distracted, unreliable, unmotivated or entitled, it will take a very long time and a ton of effort to change that perception.

This is so true! It took me all of 6-months (probably less) to be labeled as a ball-buster that’s difficult to work with, and around 18-months (or longer in some cases) to repair and rebuild that perception. Not to mention an uncounted amount of home baked goodies. But it was completely worth it.

Trouble is, once individuals realize they’ve created the perception (if they ever realize it), they’re not willing to roll up their sleeves and dig in to fix it. They chalk it up to “This is the way I am.”or “They have to accept me as I am.” Then my personal favorite. “It’s their perception, their problem, not mine.”

I love the last line from the video, “If you think we’re asking too much (say the employers), then you’re entitled to look for another employer who will not ask these things of you. But the odds of you finding one aren’t good.”

Take ownership of your own behavior. Take inventory of what others say about you professionally, how are you perceived? Then dig in, dig out and make a difference. That is how you keep a job.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Why an interviewer wants to tell you why you were rejected, but can’t.

9-20-13 Rejcted

Have you ever wondered why you didn’t get the job? Have you ever been in the interview and known you weren’t going to be chosen? Have you ever thought you nailed an interview only to find out you didn’t? Well join the club; we have jackets, t-shirts, and hats.

In a perfect world, we’d get the feedback we so desperately need to grow, develop and do better; however, in the world we live in, it just doesn’t happen.

In my field, I work with literally hundreds of employers. Some will give me a call after one of my students has finished an interview to give me feedback. What they can do better, differently, more professionally. This is, indeed, rare.

Unfortunately, in today’s employment climate, there is such a fear that if you provide feedback, that information can in turn be used against you. Human Resource professionals have to be part recruiter, interviewer, counselor and lawyer. What they are and are not allowed to share is so limited that they are actually hurting today’s job seekers.

I would love it if my interviewer could tell me:

  • Your answers were too short
  • You didn’t seem prepared for the interview
  • Your presentation was not professional enough
  • You spoke too negatively regarding your past experiences and organizations
  • You weren’t able to articulate your skill-set well enough

If this feedback were offered to job seekers, they could actually improve their skills and do better the next time. Instead, we blame the educational system, our culture, the economy, and on and on, when we could allow HR and hiring managers to just offer back some helpful advice.

Instead we close the door and turn a blind eye to otherwise valuable employees without them having a clue as to why. And “Why don’t they?” you may ask. Simply, they are afraid of getting sued.

Just think what it would be like if at the end of an interview we could hear, “Thank you for coming in today to meet with me. May I give you a few helpful hints that may assist you with future interviews?” Bad um bump! How hard is that? Don’t send people back out into the cold job search world without giving them some kind of help to make them better for their next interview.

As a culture we have, in my opinion, become so afraid of helping people for fear of being sued, that we’ve stopped doing the right thing in favor of doing the safe thing. In the long (and short) run this ends up causing more harm than good.

There are a few things, however, you can do to try and get some feedback from your interview.

  • Contact the hiring manager after you’ve sent your thank you note and followed up (building rapport). Ask if they would be willing to offer you some advice on how you could do better in your next interview.
  • At the end of your interview, after you’ve asked for the job, ask if there are any concerns the hiring manger has about your ability to do the job.

While these tips may help you get some feedback, nothing will do as much good as being well prepared for the interview in the first place. Being proactive in your job search will get you so much further than chasing reactive information after you’ve been let down.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Kirk, Spock, Bones or Scotty; who would you pick to be on your team?

8-30-13 Star Trek New8-30-13 startrekoriginalcrew

I think one of the reasons we love Star Trek isn’t because we get to see one of our favorite actors do what they do to save the world. We watch to see how this amazing group of misfits conquers the universe together.

We’ve all had co-workers, supervisors, department heads, or CEO’s that resembled Captain Kirk (whether you’re a Chris Pine or William Shatner fan). All they have to do is walk into a room, and you want to load up your gear and follow on whatever hair brained adventure they have in mind.

Why? Because it seems like whatever they do, whatever they touch, turns to pure gold. How do they do it, you ask? Well, I believe it’s because they don’t. They do. Of course by they I mean the ensemble. Captain Kirk, like all great leaders, knows they aren’t an island, although their ego may want to believe it’s all about them sometimes. It takes a team of skilled specialists and a few misfits to save the universe.

Don’t believe me? Please name one episode or movie where the mighty Captain alone on the bridge of his flagship saved the Universe. Planet? Person? Anyone? You can’t because he didn’t.

He needs the data/information (Spock) to understand all his options. He needs is moral compass (Bones) to keep him from doing more harm than good, and he needs his miracle worker (Scotty) to develop, implement, innovate, or when all else fails, use bubble gum and bailing wire to ingeniously limp the Enterprise out of harm’s way.

Every high performing team needs their key players. The group looks towards these people to mobilize the resources to get things done. Can you imagine an Enterprise full of James Kirks? What could possibly get done between the ego trips, skirt chasing, fist fights, and distractions? NOTHING!

Teams need diversity of talents, ideas, perspectives, and experiences if they are going to be able to fully understand a challenge, obtain the needed resources to overcome it, and have the wherewithal to get things done.

So, back to the original question; who would you choose?

My answer, none; any one without the other, although an exceptional individual, could not get done by 1/4 what the whole crew could. In the end, one by themself might cause more harm than good.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help, job search advice, or developing high performing teams, check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

If you were a Muppet which would you be? The Strangest Interview Question I’ve Been Asked

kermit-the-frog-the-muppets

I’ve been working with students and graduates on mock interviews. The one question I always get asked is, “What is the strangest quetion you’ve ever been asked in an interview?”

  • Well, it’s not, “If you were an animial what would you be?” (A Lion by the way.)
  • “Which cheesy 80’s song do you listen to the most?” (Anything Richard Marx.)
  • “Which Muppet do you most closely identify with?” (This is a toss up between Kermit the Frog and Fozzy Bear, and is a constant souce of disagreement between my mother an myself.)

The strangest interview question I ever received came from a man I never thought would hire me, at a company I didn’t think I was qualified to work for, at the first interview I thought I’d blown. One question threw me into such a tail spin, I didn’t know if I was coming or going.

“So, I’m going to give you three minutes to ask me anything you want to ask, then you get 60-seconds to tell me what you’ve learned.”

I spent three minutes shooting off questions trying to discover family, home, hobbies, education, religious, and political information about my interviewer.

“Time’s up,” he said. “What did you learn?”

My response? “Well, did you want me to find out about you personally or professionally?

His response? “You probably should have asked that question first, shouldn’t you?”

OUCH! I began to shot off all my Holmesian conclusions and with a look of sheepish satisfaction, craving a fatherly approval, he looked at me and replied, “Thank you. We’ll be intouch.”

I forgot to mention this was my last interview of a day-long round robin of interviews for what I thought was a dream job and I just blew it, or so I thought.

I believe all stories should have a happy ending. Needless to say, I did get the job, and within 2-years, he was my direct supervisor. He promoted me to my first department head position and became my best, most infuential and beloved mentor. One day I got the gumption up to ask him about the question.

“Jim, what was the point of that question? What were you looking for in an answer?”

“Bets, there is no right or wrong answer. It is a question to see how you can communicate in a stressful or uncomfortable situation with executive level leaders. You did great. You didn’t stop. You fully used your time. Your answer was full of humor and insight, and you spoke articulately.”

It’s not alway about the right answer. but the right attitude. Be positive, be confident, and take risks. You never know where they can lead you. Mine lead me to a career path that, if I had hesitated trying to find the right answer, I might have missed out on.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog