Where’s the Beef?

March 28, 2011

Do you remember this series of commercials from Wendy’s in the 80’s?  The little old lady is standing next to her friends and they are staring at this massive bun, only to open it and find a little bitty beef patty.  What a disappointment!

Managing your brand is just like this.  You have to have a great package (hb bun), but the key is to also have a big juicy pattie in the middle. We don’t want to open the bun and find that there is no content, nothing to sink our teeth into, nothing to water in our mouths.  We want the real deal, flavors, thick meaty patties with all the fixins.

Job Seekers: It is great to be polished on the outside, but you have to know and understand the value of what is on the inside.  If I unravel that bow, I want to see something substantial in that gift.  Know yourself and what you have to offer.  It is great to be humble, but you still have to know what you have to offer. Know your skills.  If you don’t know your skills, ask people close to you what you are good at and see what they say. Take some professional or personality assessments to help provide the terminology to use to describe yourself.

And stop comparing yourself to other burgers. How could Wendy’s, Whataburger, and Burger King make it in the shadow of McDonalds’ success?  By not comparing, by being different, by differentiating themselves, but knowing what they have to offer and to whom they want to offer their product.

So I encourage you to not only package your professional image well, but really focus on what you have to offer a prospective employer.  Google a list of skills and circle the ones you think you are good at.  Then think of tangible examples of how you have demonstrated those skills within your professional or academic work.

And don’t forget…Always show me the beef!

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For your viewing pleasure: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug75diEyiA0

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Not Go-Getter…GO-GIVER

March 23, 2011

In every encounter and every situation, think about ways you can help. And think of it in terms that do not directly benefit you. I read a book a while ago called The Go Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann.  This book was given to me as a gift from one of my mentors.  It is a short read, but it delivered such a profound message about how we should stop working for ourselves and begin working for the benefit of others.  In fact, this book delivers a method to begin doing just that.  I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone, not just job seekers.

As a result of reading this book, I was able to reflect on my approach with my students, clients, family, and friends.  I have now given this book as a gift to many professionals and friends to aid in the development of their own professionalism and business perspective. Remember: it is through service to others that we find fulfillment and happiness.

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Just say yes…

December 22, 2010

As we grow up, there are many people who offer their words of wisdom; some of it is helpful, some of it is well…not so helpful. 🙂 So, of all the wonderful advice I have received, there is one piece of advice that sticks out that I would like to share with you.  I have heard this from numerous people over the years and have put it into practice many, many times.  My advice to you is…

Say yes, that’s it plain and simple, just say yes.

When asked for help, say yes.  When asked if you know someone who could help, just say yes. When asked for advice, just say yes.  This is how we leave our mark on others.  Now, I am not saying we can be all things to all people, and just saying yes doesn’t mean you have to be everywhere all of the time.  It simply means making a commitment to say yes when asked to stay late.  Say yes when asked to help with a project, not because you are paid  but because you want to help. In addition, you can say yes even before you are asked to do something. Offer help when you see someone in need. First recognize they are in need (pay attention), and then offer to help.

We all leave a legacy when we cross paths with others in our lifetime. What do you want your legacy to be?

How’s the weather?

October 14, 2010

Do you ever find it difficult to engage in small talk?  How do you feel  when you walk into a room full of people you don’t know?  Do you stand on the sidelines waiting for someone to come and talk to you?  How do you engage in conversation?

It’s easy…just start talking and asking questions.  Okay, maybe it’s not that easy, but the savviest conversationalists ask lots of questions.  They show genuine interest in the other person; they laugh at any jokes; they think of ways to understand and compliment the situation.  They seem to know every current event and historical moment in time.  You almost want to be a fly on the wall to watch them in action.

Well, you can do it too.  How? 

1. Read – Take a few minutes out of each day to catch up on current events in your field.  (Networking tip:  If you find something interesting about a company in which you have a contact, be sure to “ping” them by sending them the information.)  Pay attention to things you overhear from TV, the newspaper, people chatting on the street, and things you hear in any training sessions; jot things down that you need to look up or interesting tidbits of information.  All of these things can provide you with interesting topics to use as you engage in conversation. Do your research – If you are going to a meeting with a large group of people, research the topic at hand, the people invited, and utilize Linked In to find out about those people, their companies, interests and way in which you share commonalities. 

2. Know yourself – Remember that a conversation goes both ways so have interesting things to talk about.  What are you good at?  What are your talents?  Why are you interesting?

3. Engage – You’ve got to go for it.  Begin the conversation by introducing yourself, and then allow the other person to introduce himself or herself so that you can include his/her name in the conversation.  It shows that you are interested in that person. 

What about when you walk into a room of people you don’t know and you are supposed to be there to “network”…what do you do?   Now, if you are like me, you like to take in the situation, stand back for a little bit to assess the situation before engaging…somewhat like a Lioness before she leaps for her kill…only kidding.  I really like to look at the room, the people in the room, and the organization of the people to decide where I want to begin, and then I approach a group or person and introduce myself and take it from there.  One of my wonderful mentors told me something that really resonates with me regarding engaging with people in a group setting.  Think in terms of putting the other person at ease.  They are just as nervous and unsure of themselves as you, but you can help with that by being the one to initiate the conversation.

4. Listen –  Ahh the lost art of listening…There is nothing worse than someone who completely dominates every conversation.  Listen and allow them to tell their stories.  Act interested and entertain questions.

5. And finally, Practice, Practice, Practice…oh and have I mentioned that you need to practice?  Just go for it!  If it flops…oh well!  Try again with someone new, taking in what you learned from the last experience.  If the conversation is not going where you want it and you have Dudley Doorknob on the other side, just excuse yourself politely and make a restroom stop or grab a drink.  Then you can engage with someone new.  Not every conversation you have will be a great conversation with small talk, deep insight, and magical inspiration.  Learn from each of your conversations. 

Before you know it, you will be the King or Queen of small talk! 

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You don't want to be "that guy"

I know I have talked about it before, and please know I am not perfect with regard to a professional image, but there are some easily identifiable faux pas to stay away from.  Your image communicates who you are professionally.  Job seekers need to be aware of a few details that can have a huge impact on their career search as well as potential advancement opportunities.

For Men:

  • Stay away from the white socks!  Match the socks to your suit so that if you are sitting down, there is no distinction between your pants and ankles.
  • Check for dandruff (always noticeable with a dark suit)
  • Have your clothes dry cleaned (You cannot iron it better than them, so don’t waste your time…pay someone to do a better job)
  • Have your suits tailored.  Buy your suit to fit the largest part of your body and have the rest professionally tailored. 

For Women:

  • Hosiery:  This is a tricky one.  In some regards you will need to wear nylons when interviewing but with our hiring managers being younger and younger, there is less of a need to wear what could possibly be the most uncomfortable piece of apparel known to mankind.
  • Have a hairstyle.  It doesn’t matter if you have long or short hair, just make sure it is well kept and up to date. If you have frizzy hair and don’t have a lot of control over it, pull it back neatly for the interview.
  • Don’t go too trendy but don’t wear your grandmother’s suit.  Think class and tasteful. Learn the difference between fashionable and trendy when it comes to business suits.  Stylish business dress is taken seriously; trendy business dress is not.  Think class and tasteful.
  • Have your suits tailored.  Buy your suit as separates or but your suit to fit the largest part of you and have the rest professionally tailored.

Following these tips will help you show your prospective employer that you pay attention to details.  The idea is to eliminate the risk of not being considered due to your professional appearance and image.

Confidence – Own it!

August 13, 2010

I conducted quite an interesting mock interview a few days ago. This candidate has struggled in getting past the first round interview and came in for a mock interview to possibly identify where he needs the most improvement. So he comes in, sits down, looks very sharp and is very quiet and still, with no facial expression.  He waits for the first question…

  • Question: Tell me about your past experience. (For all of you job seekers, the truth behind this question is tell me about what experience you have that will benefit me/my company.) Answer: The candidate proceeds to list out his duties in great detail, and drones on and on.  So I try to dive in a little deeper to uncover how he has made an impact in his previous experience.
  • Counter Question:  What skills can you offer me?  Answer: Well, I have X years of experience, but I really have not done the abc which is listed in the job profile.  I have not had the opportunity to work with XYZ.  With my team, I have assisted with …etc. etc…
  • Follow-up Question: Can you give me some examples of your different leadership roles?  Answer: Well, I have not held any formal leadership roles. But I have led some teams in…
  • Question: If there were  a skill you could have continued to develop in your previous professional experience, what would it be?  Answer: Formal Leadership

The whole time during this interview I am thinking to myself…  “WHAT?  This guy doesn’t think he has anything to contribute.”  If he hasn’t done anything and has zero confidence in himself, then I surely am not going to take a chance on hiring him only to convince him that he is good enough for the job.  If you have been called in for an interview, it is apparent the company thinks you have the skills necessary to perform the duties of the assigned position.  Otherwise they would not waste their time and yours. Not to mention, if you actually look at this candidate on paper, he held numerous leadership roles, is incredibly involved, personable, and an active participant in literally everything in which he is involved.  But  here is the problem…he was too worried about over-inflating his answers that he ended up appearing  weak, incompetent, and lacking in self-confidence. With each question that was asked, he began with what he has not had the opportunity to do instead of focusing on what he has to offer.  He mentioned that he does not want to be perceived as being arrogant.  But in actuality, he was being too humble.

Advice:  Own it!  In the interview, you have to demonstrate what you have to offer, not from your team, from you.  If you don’t believe in yourself, I am not going to either. With each line on your resume, you are demonstrating a skill (if you have a good resume) and that is what you need to promote.  How did you make an impact with the skills you have?  How is that going to help me as the employer?  Does it relate to the position in which you are applying?

There are times to be humble but the interview is not one of those times.  Don’t get me wrong, it is also not a time to be arrogant.  You have to let the company know that you have what it takes to do the job, and if you can’t demonstrate that ability, then guess what.  I will go with the candidate who can.  Confidence is the key…the perfect combination of preparation and opportunity.

Own it!  Work it!  And don’t forget to smile.

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Each year as new students arrive, we can typically categorize our students in one of three different categories. 

The Dreamer: This student is shooting for the stars but doesn’t quite understand the politics, steps, hard work and effort it will take to reach the stars. Or this person is a bit over-confident in their abilities to reach their goals that they think they have to leave the petty hard work to the menials.

The Realist: This student typically understands their skills and how they can contribute to an organization.  They have a good idea about what they want to do and often times, you will find that these students have already had various experiences that have allowed them to understand who they are and what they want to do with their career

The Undecided: This student will ponder the many thousands of options and never settle on one.  They are reluctant to take the leap and try something new and different.  They have not explored their own skill sets, and don’t typically know where to begin.

So, which student is in the most frustrating situation?  That’s right!  The Undecided aka Unfocused.  You see, with the Dreamer, they at least have direction and just need a bit of professional guidance to steer the ship, and the Realists have it pretty figured out.  But the Undecided…they are a whole different breed.  I just want to look at my students and say, choose something and if you don’t like it…guess what?  You can change.  Many times, they know they want to make an impact.  They aren’t just people who don’t want to contribute.  They do want to help out, but just don’t know where to get started.

Start with baby steps.  Decide what skills you have to offer and what you enjoy doing. Then look at different career options that fall in line with your skills and values.  Now that you have narrowed it down to about 500 options, then choose one.  Try it out, then go from there.  Set up an informational interview, find some people in that field and talk to them.  Ask them what their days are like, etc…

Then, volunteer to help out for a few days, see if you like the atmosphere, ability to use your talents and skills.  Take the leap.