Archive for December, 2013

Silence: How to Get Fired, Ruin Your Personal Brand

Friday, December 27th, 2013

Silence_SqWant the perfect summary of what will get you fired and ruin your personal brand? Penny Pritzker who is currently the US Secretary of Commerce and a former executive at her family’s Hyatt Hotel empire provides this excellent sound bite in the New York Times Corner Office column by Adam Bryant.

“If you want to get fired, here’s what you need to do: first lie, cheat or steal. But the other thing that will get you fired is if you have a problem and keep it to yourself.

That thing about knowing there’s a problem but not telling your boss? That’s the real killer of your personal brand and likely your employment.

In case you haven’t been told: as soon as you know there’s a problem with making a deadline, getting people to comply with the rules of a program or anything else you can imagine impacts the company in any way: tell your superior. Don’t grumble. Don’t ignore it. Don’t destroy your personal brand by letting it go.

Whether it’s a problem you are having or whether it’s a problem you see someone else having or creating: speak up. Pronto.

When we discover you knew something was wrong before we did? And you did nothing to alert us?  Guess who pays the price in terms of reputation, and perhaps your employment? You. That’s who.

Here’s why. All you really have in business is your performance. And the number one attribute of that performance is whether you are a completely trustworthy team player. Nothing matters more to your personal brand than trust.

Ask yourself. Do you tell the truth before we have to wring it out of you? Before we have to guess what’s wrong? Before the big story rolls out over time and you only told us a tiny piece of it?

You ability to rapidly and responsibly report a machine malfunction, an email that went out to the wrong person, another employee violating a company policy – is such a clear and simple test of who you are, that it’s dumbfounding when you fail to do the right thing.

That’s the single most important thing about you: doing the right thing. Surprised?  It isn’t the number of clients you bring in. It isn’t the amount of code you write. It isn’t how many tweets you get out.

Your personal brand has to embrace the belief that you are accountable for looking out for your company’s best interests. Your personal brand is built on your showing that you know what’s building or destroying the organization that employs you.

It’s the quality of your response when things going wrong that is the litmus test of your value as an employee, consultant, contractor or freelancer. That’s what you put into jeopardy when you hold out information your boss should know.

Are you having a moral crisis or perhaps just an ethics question about what you should or shouldn’t tell management? Email me. I will help you decide the right course of action. Email: [email protected]. Subject line: Right Thing

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Interview: What Inspires You?

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

InspirationSquareMost recruiters want to know the single most important thing about you, which is: do you know yourself? You may not hear the literal question, “what inspires you?” during a job interview. However, your being able to articulate what inspires you, may be the linchpin to scoring the job you want.

Inspiration is that thing that keeps you going: the North Star of your career.

In a media interview last week, I was asked, “What has been the single greatest driver behind your career?” What the interviewer was really asking is, “What explains the choices you made?”

Does this sound like something you have to answer?

You may need to answer, “what inspires you?” even when that’s not exactly the question on the table. In fact, you may need to address the nature of your inspiration in your cover letter or email, just so you can get a meeting with the recruiter or hiring manager.

Is this you?

Perhaps your resume leaves you open to an accusation of job-hopping. Or, you were fired or laid off, your job was eliminated, or you quit without much notice. Perhaps your work experience is varied. Perhaps you’ve moved from one industry to another. Perhaps your education doesn’t match your current aspirations.

For example, I have a coaching client who studied to be a mechanical engineer, and did a stint in a manufacturing plant where she measured job performance on a production line. Every hour she sat watching employees and charting their widget production on a spreadsheet. She thought she would lose her mind. Turns out she isn’t suited to do the job she is educated to do. After taking one extension class in strategic marketing, Daria wants to transform herself. She wants to transition to marketing, without going back for an MBA.

Of course she can. She simply needs to explain the source of her inspiration – NOT what is inspiring her change of mind. She needs to explain that the same thing that inspired her to study mechanical engineering is the very thing that inspires her choice to move into marketing.

Here’s what I recommended she say:

Of course it seems unusual to first ‘know’ that mechanical engineering was the best choice, and now know with equal certainty that marketing is where I belong. So, I want to explain the source of inspiration for my career choices. I love measuring processes and progress. I love finding the way to optimize, replicate and continuously improve what is successful in business.

I found out that a marketing department needs this approach. The inspiration for my career is to be logical and systematic, in my thinking and contribution. Because marketing is creative and experimental in its approach to generating responses to advertising and other messaging, I can add value with a systems approach to assess what marketing programs are working.

Do you have an unusual or problematic work history? Could you benefit from a story that explains what happened, and why you are a great hire? I will help you for free. Just tell me your problem. Email me at [email protected]. Subject line: Inspire.

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Interview: Can You Work Overtime & Weekends?

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

ClockFoldersOf course, you can work overtime and weekends. The real question is: WILL you work overtime and weekends, WITHOUT being resentful? Will you work those nights and weekends with the same energy, diligence and good attitude that you are promising you’ll bring to the job every day?

Wow, you might think. They haven’t even hired me for this job and its regular hours. Now, they want to own my nights and weekends, too?

Actually, whether you do or don’t work overtime, many jobs depend on your so-called personal time to contribute to your productivity. When I was first hired at a mega ad agency, the CEO told me the company had a no-freelancing policy.

“Everything you think –whether it’s while you’re driving, showering, or taking a walk: all that is ours. We are paying you for your ingenuity and your creativity. Most of that activity can’t go on during the day, because you are working. Your best thoughts are going to come after hours, and we own those,” he concluded.

Ask any successful person enjoying a stratospheric career, or any entrepreneur and business owner. Their best ideas come when they are bathing their dogs, baking brownies and doing the assorted chores of life.  Or they visit a museum, shop in a well-curated store or sightsee a new place. These are springboards for their relaxed brain to imagine and problem solve, whether its ways to be more productive or ways to develop new products.

Who does own your time? And, how can you define what you will and won’t do after regular hours?

Recently one of my coaching clients who is job hunting called me with his problem about working overtime and weekends. Lynden said, “I observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday night to sundown on Saturday. How do I explain in a job interview that I can’t work overtime and weekends during this time?”

I recalled famous Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax. Koufax refused to pitch in the first game of the 1965 World Series because as Jew, that would have caused him to violate the religious practice of abstaining from work on the high holy day of Yom Kippur. Koufax went on to win the last two games of the series, including the championship-winning seventh game, pitching 2-0.

Not only did the Dodgers accommodate him and keep him on the team for as many years as he cared to play, they re-hired him this year as a special advisor.

Of course, my client Lynden had a more routine problem, since his Sabbath occurred each week.  When asked if he could work overtime and weekends, I recommended Lynden reply:

“Yes. On weekends I am able to work starting on Saturday, in the early evening. During weekdays, I can almost always work overtime, except on Tuesdays in Spring, when I coach my son’s soccer team.”

You might be taking a class, have a regular yoga session, attend a book club or have other time you need to protect.  You may even set aside certain hours to simply relax. In those cases, you may say,

“Yes, I can work overtime and weekends. I am able to work (fill in the specifics).”

This is a three-step communication. First, you say “yes.” Second, you define the terms by telling them what you can do. Third, you outline the exceptions.

Do you have a problem with job interviews or job-hunting that you need help with, so you score the perfect position? I will help you. Email me at [email protected]. Subject line: Hunt.

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Interview: Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

GuyPonderingSQ2Among the silliest questions you get in a job interview, is the one that won’t die: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

If you’ve written a business plan, you know your five-year forecast is the least reliable outcome you “predict.”  Same thing when you ponder your investment portfolio, the height of your infant, or the state of your love life.

There are days when I cannot make a good guess about what’s going to happen five minutes from now. Clearly the question about where you’re going to be in five years is ridiculous. Well, sort of ridiculous.

The five year question is meant to show you have some personal insight, that you spent time reflecting on your goals, and you have a sense that the job you’re interviewing for fits into your overall life plan.  A great answer doesn’t guarantee a bus won’t hit you as you leave the interview, which of course might change everything.

However, a great answer to “where do you see yourself in five years” is a chance for you to shine, in the here and now.

This week I coached an 83-year-old woman on this question. Lauraine recently had her hours changed at the hospital where she’s worked for more than two decades, as a patient advocate. Administration moved her start time from early morning to late afternoon. So, she’s about to go on a job hunt. Her goal is to find a place where her being wide awake and cheery at 7 AM is to everyone’s advantage.

Lauraine reached out to me because this is the toughest question she fears she might encounter in a job interview. My uncle is a few years older than she is, and recently started working in the pro shop at a country club. So, like almost all tough questions: I have already helped answer this one successfully. Here’s what I recommended Lauraine say.

Thank you for asking! My plan is to continue working in a customer service position. I like listening with empathy to people, helping solve their problems and putting a smile on their faces.

If you are a bit younger, or quite a bit younger, with the desire to have greater responsibility in some capacity – then your answer will focus on a longer term career path. Show how you see the position you’re interviewing for, will enrich your future value to the organization. Your answer might be:

My plan is to continue to be in administration, enlarging my skill set so I can effectively administer increasingly complex projects. I see myself developing people and leading a strong team, and becoming a person that this organization can count on – and be proud of.

Do you have a tough question that you cannot ask anyone for help with? Is there something that is holding you back from aggressively pursuing your job hunt? Is there a question you fear being asked in a job interview? Ask me. I will help you work it out, for free. Email me [email protected] Subject line: Help.

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