The Truth about Passion

As this year’s class starts looking towards graduation, I have seen a disturbing trend.  There seems to be this idea that university students should focus on finding their passion in their first job.

Find their passion?  Most teenagers cannot find their pants.  How can we think that they will find their passion somewhere between the pub, the classroom and the dorm?

I think expecting to find your passion before you can legally drink is pretty unrealistic.  As parents, we are setting up a pretty big failure platform if we set those expectations before they even leave high school.

There are exceptions: gifted athletes, artists and musicians have their talents identified early on so they are pretty advanced on the passion scale.  People following in the family footsteps of law or accounting, have a prescribed path too.  (Sometimes in spite of their passion)

University and first jobs are more about finding what you don’t like.   Learning about the kind of professors/bosses that you don’t get along with.  Working with group members who don’t pull their weight.  Figuring how to identify the room mate who parties too much; that sort of thing.

The world is really, really big.  You have to get out there and explore it beyond just university.  Don’t be surprised if your passion does not start to reveal itself until you are well into your 30s or even later.

In the end, it’s not about when you find it, it’s about recognizing when you are in the right place at the right time and really enjoying yourself.  That‘s what we are all shooting for.

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Extreme Career Makeover

My company recently went through a “re-branding exercise” and have all kinds of new stuff.

Watching the various changes in the works got me thinking about how a “career makeover” would look.  Think about when you get a haircut and everyone thinks you look younger or when you get glasses and everyone suddenly thinks you look smarter.

If you did a wholesale refresh on your resume today, how would it look?  Would you use more contemporary fonts?  Change the focus of your objective?  Maybe you could add some different achievements like the webinar you co-hosted last week or the big project that your team just completed.

Maybe you would sign up for that course you have had your eye on.  You could do one night a week, couldn’t you?

You could take a look at your Linkedin profile.  Does it really reflect who you are today and more importantly, where you want to be tomorrow?  Is the picture fresh?  Please tell me you are not using the photo of you and your ex…..that would be bad, really bad.

You can go ahead and make a haircut and brow renovation appointments.  You can visit Warby Parker and pick out some new glasses but you don’t have to go great expense for a career makeover.  Just give it some time and some thought.  That’s all it takes.

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How to Make the Most of an Information Interview

Information interviews are pretty popular these days. They can be a great way to learn about different roles and different organizations.

These conversations, usually more casual than an actual interview, also provide a great platform for you to leave a lasting and positive impression.

But only if you are prepared.

So don’t blow it.

When someone grants you some of their valuable time, be respectful and use the time wisely.

Do some thinking and research before you go.

What specifically do you want to know?  What knowledge do you want to take away from the meeting?

  • What was the most valuable part of their education?
  • How do they deal with the challenges of their job?  You can show off your knowledge here by citing a particular challenge.
  • Is this where they imagined they would be at this point in their career?
  • What is the best piece of advice they ever got?

Notice that there are two questions that are not on the list. How do I get hired here and will you be my mentor are out of bounds for this type of conversation.  They should only come up if it is initiated by the person you are meeting.  The point of the meeting is to get information, not ask for a job. Respect that.

They are just some ideas to get you started. Powerful and interesting questions will allow you to make the most of your time together.

And if you are going to shower, shave and put on a suit, you want to be the best investment possible.

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There might a be Gamer in the Next Cube

I have been reading a lot lately about the gamification of work. While I support making anything having to do with making work interesting and engaging, I am not in favor of people treating their careers like a game.

I can hear it now.  “Go ahead and try to fire me. I have infinite life and infinite money.”

Or how about this:  If I don’t like your proposal, I’ll get a few birds and a slingshot and show you how much I want to destroy it. (I’ve been practicing this one……)

Although, there are good parts of gaming too. Gamers have been using enterprise software and chat technology way longer than us corporate wonwks. This has created a generation of multi-taskers who can talk, make decisions and choose complex button combinations at the same time.

Also, gamers are always trying to get to the next level. That’s good in the workplace isn’t it?

And gamers have been collaborating since long before it became fashionable. I remember my son playing on the same team as his cousin and a guy from camp who both lived far away at the time. No silos there. True, they were trying to kill bad guys with automatic weapons but they were doing it together, as a team.

Perhaps it’s time for Electronic Arts or Ubisoft to start management consulting practices.  Maybe they could help organizations sort out which parts of gamification make sense for their work groups.

Until then….keep playing Minecraft and Candy Crush.  You never know when you might have blast apart someone’s proposal.

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What’s Your Superpower?

I am reading Michelle Obama’s new book, Becoming.  It’s really good.  I am not the only one who thinks so.  It’s been near the top of the New York Times bestseller list for 19 weeks.

She has had the chance to support, counsel and mentor many, many people.  One of the things she often asks is “what is your super power?”

I know it sounds trite but this is a really important concept when you are looking for your next role, especially when you are employed.

When you have to balance your day job and your outside-work responsibilities, finding time to look for another job is a huge challenge.  You want to make sure you are investing that precious time in the best way possible.

It is essential that you start by figuring out exactly what it is that you do.  I am not talking about your job title or your daily responsibilities but what you actually do.  I don’t mean something vague like “I solve operational problems”.  First of all,  who will understand what you really mean by that and second, doesn’t everyone do that?

I mean the real meat and potatoes of what you do.  Here are some examples.

  • I create and implement policies in a complicated environment.
  • I pull together subject matter experts to solve customer escalations.
  • I hold people accountable in a fast paced environment.

You can add words to make it reflect your own specifics but you get the gist.

This exercise serves two purposes.  It sets you apart from the crowd and also allows people to get a handle on how you might fit into their organization.

Here is how this concept worked for me.  When I describe myself as a Recruiter, people just nod. Everyone knows  a recruiter.  (For better or for worse…..).  But if I say that I find people for strategic and demanding roles in manfuacturing and industrial environments, that usually gets a thoughtful eyebrow lift as they process what I have said.

It’s that stop-and-think-about-me thing that you want to create.  That’s how you get noticed and stand apart from the crowd.  And in the jobs game, that’s the secret sauce.

 

 

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Time to “Marie Kondo” Your Network

This weekend marks the hypothetical beginning of spring. I know the calendar says it is has arrived but I can still see my breath in the mornings so it’s not here yet.

Spring is when we think about cleaning, decluttering and generally freshening things up.  This should include not  just your living room, fridge or stinky, salt stained car but also your network.

Yes, I said network.

I am not saying you should unfriend people in droves however, once in a while, you need to take a look at your network to see if it reflects your needs and brings you joy. Your network is a bit like insurance.  You really only learn about the consequences of choosing the cheap plan when you get into an accident and realize what is not covered.

You don’t want to figure out that your network is made up of mostly peers from the same company or industry when there is a downturn in that business.  You will all be moping at the same time.  Not helpful.

Here is what really drove this home for me:  Justin Bieber.  Seriously.  We re-watched his roast on Comedy Central this week.  It was hilarious (on many levels) but what struck me was the diversity of the people willing to go on tv to roast the kid.

You might expect comics like Kevin Hart and musicians like Ludacris.  They are his natural, industry network.  They probably go to the same parties and award shows and have  a lot in common.

Guess who else was on the stage?  Shaquille O’Neil, Snoop Dog and, wait for it, Martha Stewart.

No matter that they were only there to make fun of him.  That’s not the point.  The point is that they were willing to expose themselves by telling jokes about him to a live audience.

That is a powerful network.  With that kind of diversity, Justin should be able to steer clear of all kinds of career obstacles.  He should be able to use them to evaluate opportunities and get doors opened for new ideas.

So, who would do your roast?  Can you pull together people from difference industries and backgrounds?  Do they know enough about you to tell some stories?

Forget cleaning the fridge.  Spruce up your network instead.

 

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How External Recruiters Help with Diversity

One of the best ways to change up your work groups and increase the diversity of your company is to use external recruiters and I am not just saying that because I am an external recruiter.
When you work with someone outside your company, you are focused on describing what the new person is going to do and where they fit into the greater scheme of things.
Your talk about the activities and leadership style, their technical knowledge and priorities.

The external recruiter does not know that people in your organization all went to Stanford and all play broom ball.

So they hit the candidate marketplace and start talking about your company and the great things that are happening and within a few weeks, you have a new group of candidates who would not have applied to your posting or been a part of your employees’ networks.

There is going to be some fresh new thinking in that group. It can be a pretty interesting experience to interview someone who understands the role but is from a different environment.

They have credibility but none of the baggage. This can be a tremendous help with innovation based roles or where a group has become a bit stagnant.

The key is to keep an open mind when you are interviewing. Review your questions before hand. Be sure to remove things that contain company specific acronyms or personalities.

When you find the gem and hire them, make sure you have a very inclusive on-boarding process. Hiring managers and peers alike sometimes need to be reminded that even though someone can’t play broom ball, they can
still contribute some great ideas.

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