The Importance of Clarity

I run into this kind of thing all the time when helping people with their job search (see if this sounds like anyone you know):

Me: “So, what do you do / did you do at work?”

The Other Guy: “I made sure stuff turned out. I understand business goals, and I worked with (programmers, engineers, accountants) to achieve the outcomes the client wanted.”

Me: “And that means?”

The Other Guy (TOG): “There was a (programmer, engineer, accountant) who was really good at the technical side of things, but they only had one speed: fast forward. Whatever the client asked for, this person would say sure, they could do it.”

Me: “So what did you do?”

TOG: “I was the contact between the clients and the technologists.”

Me: “So what was it that was special about what you did or how you did it?”

TOG: “I made sure the projects resulted in what the clients expected…”

As you can probably tell, this isn’t very helpful. For your job search, your resume and what you say to potential employers, you’ve got to get what it is you do clarified.

If you ever want to make above-average money, and get your job search over with quickly, you are going to have to stand out to employers. If you are unclear about what it is that you do that makes you special, you are going to be just another commodity. Commodities live and die by price. Cheapest supplier wins. Hello, low salary. You have to be unique. The key to being unique in an employer’s eyes is to be clear about what it is you have to offer.

The rest of the applicants are going to blubber and go on and on as in the above example. If you are able to communicate the key few things you do well so that the employer gets a ringingly clear picture of how you are going to benefit their organization, you’re going to stand out like crazy. And when it comes to salary discussion, you’ll have much more leverage at the negotiating table.

If you’re having trouble being able to clearly define what makes you special, get me involved today. If you want expertise to help you get started right now, click here.

Seeking killer job hunting tips for a really low investment? Check out my ebook, “Get Hired FAST!


Why Your Job Search Drags On

What most people do when they lose their job, based on what I’ve witnessed, is not take it seriously enough.

They run down to the EI office to get their claim started, call their friends and family to give them the bad news, then go home. They might look at job ads, but more probably they spend the evening with a few drinks and possibly a confidante. The next few days are spent lolling around, getting used to the idea of being unemployed, taking time off. Maybe four or five days later they get their resume out and start marking it up.

Then the blizzard of applications begins. They start applying for everything in sight—usually through the same job sites everyone else is using—sending out 20 to 30 packages in a few days. At the end of this sprint, they’re tired, demoralized, and for sure not interested in putting together any more darn resume packages.

So after a week and a half we have a typical job seeker who is burnt out, demoralized, and figures they’ve done all they can do. Is it any wonder the job search drags on, while the EI dribbles in just enough to keep the situation going?

An uncomfortable thing that persists is one you aren’t taking seriously enough. If you were taking it seriously, you’d deal with it. Car breaks down? You deal with it. Roof starts leaking? You deal with it. No food in the fridge? You deal with it. Why, then, do you not deal with the problem of being unemployed?

If you ask for my help, I will not let you founder around in your job search. I will give you the process and the tools for an effective job hunt that will be over fast. You won’t be competing with thousands of other applications for the same one position. There won’t be any sprinting, no discouragement. You won’t be tired. Take your job search seriously, and get things started by sending me a message today.

If you want expertise to help you get started right now, click here.

Seeking killer job hunting tips for a really low investment? Check out my ebook, “Get Hired FAST!


The Master of Incorporating Sources Into Writing

For those of you who love tales that embark on a path that leads to growth of the soul, I have a favourite in mind that I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find you’ve never heard of.

This work of art was published first in 1949, and if you’re lucky you can find a copy of the Ace paperback edition that brought it back from limbo in the mid-80s. Mine is pretty tattered, the victim of being my company on several air trips, and I am darn sure it’s a replacement for one or more previous incarnations loaned out and never seen again.

The Ace edition has three forwards (three!), individually penned by Poul Anderson, Jerry Pournelle, and Larry Niven—master writers all. The man who put this literary clockwork together knew more about myths, heroes, religions, blackguards and wretches from history than I ever will…and that’s why I’ve been reading and rereading the book every so often since I was 16 or so. I’m resisting the urge to start reading it again now, because I’m in the middle of The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao which — while being hilarious and brilliant itself, I have already interrupted for another turn at The Guns of August — became assigned bedtime reading as a Christmas gift.

  • Robin Hood
  • Beowulf
  • Paul Bunyan and the blue ox, Babe
  • Hamlet
  • The Green Knight
  • Zeus’ philandering
  • Fautstopheles and the Divine Comedy.

These and countless others are to be encountered, sometimes in easily recognizable form, sometimes not; poetry, wenching, duels, song-singing and battle twist their way ‘round one another as a boring, burnt-out sot (with a BA in Business Administration!) gradually finds meaning in life.

That one man could himself be so aware of all these stories, and wind them together in such an entertaining, well-written and engaging manner is…well, it’s about as rare as finding the Hope Diamond in your back yard.

Perhaps some of you don’t like ideas. Maybe, even in this Internet age, the idea of Reference Hunting has never occurred to you (I’m a guy who looks newly-encountered things up immediately) or puts you off. If so, then Silverlock by John Meyers Meyers isn’t for you. “Incomparable…Glorious,” Anderson called it. Niven exclaimed, “You’ll get drunk on Silverlock.” Pournelle labeled it “A Masterpiece.”

For a delicious instruction on how to work sources into your proposal, you can learn at the knee of the master with Meyers’ Silverlock. If you find you need help with your writing, let me know.

If you want expertise to help you get started right now, click here.

The Tao of Pooh and The Jobhunt

Any of you read The Tao of Pooh ? It’s a slim little volume with a cute message: Eeyore grumbles, Piglet worries, Tigger rushes, Rabbit connives–but Pooh just is. These are animals in a set of children’s stories, if you haven’t encountered them before.

I believe the Tao of Pooh is very relevant to the jobhunt. Look at how the caricatures would each approach the problem of looking for work:

  • Eeyore the donkey would sulk about nobody paying attention to him
  • Piglet would worry he’d left something critical off his resume or cover letter
  • Tigger would send in a half-complete application package
  • Rabbit would overindulge in cerebral activity, and come up with some complicated (I was going to say hare-brained heh heh) scheme to force an encounter with an employer, laden with so much overkill his entire entire plan would crash and burn under its own weight
  • But Pooh would just Be.

What, then, can we deduce from this analogy? First, everything everybody but Pooh does simply wears them out. Not to mention accomplishes very little. Pooh, certain of his own value, would send in the best application package he could, and not spend much time worrying about it. He’d patiently enjoy the time passing as the opportunity revolved to him (and it would, much more swiftly than other animals would imagine). During the interview, he would be confident but not cocky, clear about what he wanted, and so at ease the employer would not be distracted by visions of what would go wrong if he hired the bear. Pooh would cheerfully fall into the job.

To be fair, Pooh bear is lazy. Yet when he’s motivated, he’s quite capable of strenuous activity to help his friends. But he doesn’t stress himself out. He goes into situations without getting all worked up about what they could mean, or what should happen.

Let me give you a real-world example.

Some of the best sales calls I’ve ever made were ones I “shouldn’t” have made. I “should” have known better–the prospect was too much higher on the totem pole than me; the number of people and resources they were in charge of dwarfed anything I had dealt with previously; they did not talk to cold-calling salesmen. In some cases I have actually check-mated myself out of making a call for awhile. I researched the prospect a bit too thoroughly. I became in awe.

Yet, thinking like Pooh, they’re just another person. By learning just enough to move ahead, and moving comfortably into a situation with confidence that we can deal with it, we can find calmness. The Tao of Pooh has a great deal to teach us in our approach to the problem of quickly finding meaningful work. If you’re finding yourself in need of the Tao of Pooh in your job search, drop me a line.

If you want expertise to help you get started right now, click here.

Seeking killer job hunting tips for a really low investment? Check out my ebook, “Get Hired FAST!


The Power of Reframing

Reframing is a powerful perspective-changing tool with which someone takes a thing out of its expected context and forces the viewer to re-experience it as something that completely changes his or her mind about it.

Ronald Reagan did this to Jimmy Carter in 1980. President Carter was going on about something anti-Republican in that year’s debates, and Reagan busted him up on national television saying “There you go again…”

And in ’84, when a much-younger Walter Mondale was trying to make his opponent seem too old, Reagan replied that he had no intention of making an issue of the Democratic candidate’s “youth and inexperience.”

For those readers that were born after 1984, let’s take an example served up to us by director Quentin Tarantino. At the end of part one of his two-act play Kill Bill, Tarantino uses a piece of music that I’ll bet for thirty years had been laughed at as “lame” and “girlish” to thunderclap the piece to a close. It’s James Last (and oh yes, I remember James Last Does His Thing on LP from my childhood) and pan flute player Zamfir combining for “The Lonely Shepherd”, backed by a rockin’ updated bass and horn beat. Now Zamfir may have sold 40 million recordings, but did you ever hear anyone offer up one of his albums as a Saturday night suggestion?

This is the power of reframing. Millions of people who never heard of Zamfir and never would except for Tarantino’s winding of a flute-playing Bill into the mix were exposed to this music and loved it. For those of you who need to listen to it now, it’s here.

That’s the power of reframing. How can you use it to turn what was the geeky and awkward into a success? If you’re looking for ideas personalized to your situation, let me know.

If you want expertise to help you get started right now, click here.


My Heart Bleeds for Brutus

I’ll admit it: I’ve always been a nut for the Fall of the Roman Republic. Anyone who’s seen the two brilliant (and outrageously luxurious) two seasons of HBO’s Rome and doesn’t have an apoplectic fit every time a boob appears on camera will probably agree it’s a great story. At any rate, it brought the ideas to people who would never have watched a History Channel show on Rome. Given our vast lack of knowledge about exact conditions at the time–and you scientists say you’ve figured out everything back to the Big Bang of the universe, except for the first few cajillowseconds…riiiiiight–I thought they did an amazing job bringing it to life.

Of course there were “dramatic rewritings”. One of them was Brutus…

I’m sorry, I’m assuming you know the plot. Here it is: Rome just said No to kings, and has had a patriarchal, senate-driven republic for a few hundred years. One G. Julius Caesar decides his best way out of the legal problems that would entrap him following a career of probably illegally killing hundreds of thousands if not a million Gauls and Germanic tribespeople for his personal gain, is to instead of standing down and returning to Rome, come back with his army and take the lead becoming dictator. The senate, their authority and good sense threatened, conspire to murder Caesar but need the approval of his um, sort of adopted son, Brutus. They get it, and Brutus goes down in history as JC’s most famous killer.

Then Brutus, along with the conspirators, is ousted by Mark Anthony–no, not the singer–and retreats to the far (Balkan) side of the Empire. There he gathers an army to return and clear his name as a defender of the republic. Anthony and the soon-to-be emperor Octavian’s armies meet them sooner rather than later, and…

In Rome, Brutus has a totally cool, I Am The Man ending where his forces are defeated and he discards his armor while going alone to fight the oncoming legions. After being a bit in awe of him, and watching him slice a couple of their friends, they close in and pierce Brutus to death in a way that recalls Caesar’s end.

In real life, Brutus’ legions were defeated and he fled to some hills with a remnant. In totally acceptable Roman style, he there committed suicide.

One can, through Shakespeare anyway, admire the flair of Mark Anthony. Caesar was nowhere near as bad as nearly all the men who ruled after him. But for me, Brutus is the most compelling character in this Roman drama: he has many moral and personal decisions to make, about who and what he will support and why. He is a killer yet a defender of a kind of democracy. Any way he turned was going to make him enemies. As an individual who has had to make choices and because of which been deemed “against” certain groups that felt someone who didn’t unconditionally agree with their point of view was an enemy, I can say that I know how he felt. The difficulty and responsibility of retaining one’s own judgment makes my heart bleed for Brutus.

And you? Have you ever been in a situation where whatever choice you made would make you enemies? How did it turn out?


A Case For Writing Things Down

OK this is an “idea” post. Comment, disagree, whatever. Participate!

There’s a guy named L.E. Modesitt, Jr. (I don’t think we should hold that against him, though I do wonder why you’d choose to be a published author who goes by his initials–“What do I call you, Le ?”) I’ve read exactly two books of his, and they were both recommended to me by a friend who I think has Big Brain. This one is called Adiamante…I think that’s Spanish for diamond…and in it, Modesitt does the shocking thing of writing down his rules about how society can actually work. The whole novel is in fact a psychological suspense story that rests on the fulcrum of a moral dilemma (yes, I’m using the word dilemma in its correct meaning): when should we apply force to ensure our way of life continues? Early on, or later?

I highly recommend Adiamante, not for the prose but for the clarity of ideas. Modesitt has lain down two documents, the first being The Paradigms of Power (about morality and mutual respect in society), and the second being The Construct (about when force ought to be used, juxtaposed with retaining one’s own sense of moral right in a dog-eat-dog universe). Pretty much it’s an argument for holding off on delivering violence until the last possible moment, giving the other guy the chance to come to his senses and survive too. Of course, you have to have a big–though assuredly hidden–stick. These aren’t fictional ideas. They’re excellent and I see ways to implement them in everyday life.

In contrast, there’s a guy named Donald Kagan who compiled a tome called On The Origins of War And The Preservation Of Peace. Seriously, the second part of the title is way smaller. Anyway, one of the recurring messages in his review of the Romans responding to Carthage’s aggression between the two Punic Wars, and the European powers in the mid-1930s reacting to NAZI military buildup of Germany, is this:
If smackdown was delivered earlier, a whole lot of trouble and loss of life could have been avoided.

So tell me, gentle reader, which is it for you? Why? Should force be the first or the last thing we should apply when confronted by our “enemies”? In any case, both these authors make an excellent case for writing things down, so we can think about them for ourselves–rather than have the answer dictated to us.


Quantify, Quantify, Quantify

Six years of grant applications for municipal funding of non-profit society programs crossed my desk from 2003 to 2008. Half the time somebody else would drop the ball and as chairman I’d have a last-minute assignment to complete their assessments, too. As a business administration and operations management grad, the financial and functional sections were no big deal. But here was the kicker:

  • no matter how much I liked the organization
  • no matter how good I felt the program they were offering might be
  • no matter how much they insisted their program was unique and helped people

I was held to a strict criteria of evaluation in order to determine whether funding ought to be recommended or not.

One of the major “quick checks” I had to go by was this…How many residents of the municipality were served by the program? Exactly how many?

You can do a lot of thinking about numbers like this. Such as–is $1000 that helps 100 people deal with having a stroke, or $10 per person helped, better than $8,000 to help 8 blind people have seeing-eye dogs?

But the sad truth is, I rarely arrived at this kind of question (I had written ‘dilemma’, but that’s a choice between two equally undesirable alternatives…). The fact of the matter is that the large majority of organizations seeking municipal grant support were unable to clearly or believably quantify how many people in that municipality that they actually helped with their program.

If you’re writing a proposal or a grant application, don’t go on and on with warm and fuzzies about how great you are and that you “know” you are or are going to help people. Quantify. Tell the reader, at least as an estimate, how many people you’re going to help or how much money you’re going to save or how many hours you will shave off a process. Quantify. Yes, you’re going to have to build in a feedback loop into the delivery of your program. But you should have that anyway–not just float from year to year, executive director to executive director, sometimes paying more attention and sometimes not. Quantify. You’ll see your successes grow.

If you’re having trouble quantifying how your proposal will be deemed as a success, and want to get the attention of The Powers That Be, drop me a line.


The Key Secret With Resumes…

…is that nobody reads them. Not in detail. Based on all my personal experience, that of the hundreds of job seekers I’ve helped, and interviews with many HR professionals, and having been a hiring manager myself, I can tell you that employers do not read your resume.

They scan.

They scan the top third of the first page of your resume. If you don’t make the case of why they ought to talk to you in that small space, goodbye. It’s over. Hello trash bin.

For the straight goods about what to put in that small space to generate immediate callbacks, stay tuned for the e-book Get Hired FAST! or send me a note.

Seeking killer job hunting tips for a really low investment? Check out my ebook, “Get Hired FAST!