Business Topics

Four ways a new job is like Back-to-School 0

Back to school cartoon

Going back-to-school is a lot like starting a new job

When you begin a new job, it’s a clean slate. Just like the first day of a new school year, everything is before you. The opportunities are endless. Then comes:

  1. The first pop quiz (A question from your boss about how you would handle something)
  2. The first written test ( You must write the proposal to land  the Attwood Sewing Machine account)
  3. The first report card (Your 90 day review can be nerve-wracking even if you know you’re doing a good job)
  4. Parent/Teacher Night ( Ok, your job won’t have that, but you may be invited to social functions that your significant other is expected to attend)

Have a plan for your new job, set your own expectations. You will be better prepared for the first pop quiz and everything that follows.

Who Should Think Big? 1

Are You Thinking Big?

Traveling to Yorktown, Virginia from New Jersey, I cross the Potomac River on Route 301. Three miles from the river, at the top of a rather steep hill, is a furniture and carpet shop. The shop has been in business for decades. I’ve been driving this road for 21 years, but the store never stood out in my mind until….

On a recent trip, I saw a giant chair in front of the store. I had a flashback to Lily Tomlin and a character she developed that sat in a humongous rocker. Now, as I cross the bridge into Virginia from Maryland, I am anticipating the chair.

I might have the radio on but I’m concentrating on the road as the two lane Potomac River Bridge is very narrow and Route 301 is a major tractor-trailer highway. Then, out of the blue, a vision of the chair flashes in my mind. I think, “is it still there”? As I drive up that steep hill from the riverbed area up onto the rolling hills, I spot the chair at the front of the parking lot.

I don’t think I will ever drive this section of highway without thinking about this chair. Thinking BIG paid off for this business. I certainly remember them.

Everyone should think big. In business, stores don’t take 75 cents off a $300 TV, they slash prices to the bone! As a candidate for a job, you don’t say you can do slightly better than the next guy, you spell out the tremendous skills you have and then share stories that highlight those skills. As a parent, you don’t encourage children to be average, but to reach for the stars, to follow their dreams. Even in our personal relationships, there’s a place for thinking big.

If you are ever on Route 301 in Virginia, between the Potomac River Bridge and where Route 3 crosses it leading into Fredericksburg, look for the chair. And when you are going to do something, choose to do it BIG. Big gets remembered!

Are You Using Your Vacation Time This Year? 1

 I met Steve when he spoke this spring at a WCBS and The Wall Street Journal sponsored Small Business Breakfast in Connecticut. He’s a fascinating guy with an interesting background. The story of how he became the spokesman for Jobs on WCBS is a story to itself.

Take a listen to Steve’s thoughts on vacations from his recent Podcast.

Then weigh in on your vacation plans.

 

In Your Business, Do You Tack On A Header? 0

A good friend of mine from college sailed in a regatta last weekend to raise money for charity. When I went on-line to make a small donation, the website, Mississippi Leukemia Cup Regatta, asked me to send a comment of encouragement. I told Cathy to “always tack on a header”.

If you are not a sailor, I offer the following paraphrased quote from Steve and Doris Colgate’s Offshore Sailing School:

More can be gained or lost in one healthy wind shift that can usually be made up by any amount of boat speed or superior sailing. Racing skippers are often so concerned about whether their boat is sailing faster than the one next to them that they neglect to consider the effect of wind shifts.

To the layman, this means if you are being pushed off course, you need to do something to get yourself back on course.  In this case the wind is changing so the boat is forced to move further away from its goal of reaching the next marker. If the captain of the boat doesn’t do something to change the boat’s relationship to the wind, the boat will stall, the energy of the wind will just rush past the sail and not provide lift to move the boat forward. To get moving forward, closer to the next marker, the captain must tack, change the direction of her boat in order to get the most advantage out of the new wind direction.

In business, you must be constantly ready to tack, to change your approach in order to keep your business moving forward, growing and expanding in a changing sea of challenges. The changes I’m addressing here are subtle, not cataclysmic. When  you tack on a header, you are adjusting your relationship to the goal, not changing the goal. When the captain of a sailboat tacks, her goal is still to get to the next buoy. Changing the direction of the sailboat at that moment is necessary to keep it moving towards the goal.

Sometimes you can just ride out a small change in the wind. But if the header is severe enough, you are being pushed further from your goal. On top of that, those who have already tacked are being helped by the change in wind direction. In business, this means that those who saw the wind changing are already reaping the benefits because they adjusted their course first.

So keep your business growing, moving forward by staying up on the latest wind movement, and don’t be so concerned about whether your business is moving faster than another. If you stay on the right side of wind shifts, you will reach the finish line ahead of the competition.

Does Your Organization Create Bottle Necks? 6

 You never know when and where a bottle neck will occur. I had arrived in plenty of time for the new officer training class. All I wanted to do was to meet with a friend before the morning session began. But the only entrance into the meeting room was blocked by the registration table.

At the time it was a little annoying, but I finally worked my way through, registering as I passed the table. Perhaps that was the idea. But the meeting was being held in a private company’s conference room and the building was back from the road on a tree-lined campus. I don’t think they were afraid of gate crashers.

After almost three hours of presentations, we broke for lunch. Guess where the lunch table was positioned? Just outside of the only exit from the meeting room. By this time, getting out for many was very urgent.  There had been no bathroom break.

As I struggled to maintain my composure while the line slowly moved towards the exit, I made the attached sketch.

I wonder how many times this happens? Are there bottlenecks in your organization? Are they merely inconvenient or do they impact productivity and cost money?   What types of bottle necks have you seen?

 

Five Ways To Bring Your Job Search Into Focus 4

Is Your Job Search In Focus?

Yesterday I had an eye exam. I was left alone by the nurse and  I was looking at all of the equipment. I realized that together these were tools to help my Doctor understand clearly what was going on with my eyes, helping him bring my vision into focus.

As he was very busy, I had a few minutes to ponder how job seekers could bring their search into focus. Before he came into the examining room, I came up with five:

  1. Know What Your Greatest Strengths Are – If you really understand what you do best, you can match that to specific job postings, not wasting your time “spraying and praying”.
  2. Include Key Words on Your Resume – If you are applying online and you are not doing this, you are probably wondering why you haven’t heard from anyone. LinkedIn offers help with Key Words. Click on Your Profile, go into “more” and you will see Skills and Expertise. Enter key words from the job posting and you will see additional ideas
  3. Do Your Homework – If you need to ask the interviewer “what they do”, you are wasting their time. Set up Google alerts for every company you are considering. Search the companies websites for interesting facts. Read up on regulations that may affect the industry.
  4. Practice – The more you practice interviewing, the more comfortable you will be. Enlist a friend or family member and conduct mock interviews. Or put sample questions on cards, stand in front of a mirror and practice answering them,
  5. Stay The Course – It’s easy to get very excited when the phone rings. Landing an interview could mean you are one meeting away from a job. But you need to treat your job search as an on-going process. Your focus needs to be on the big picture, which means continuing to research companies, continuing to send out resumes and continuing to follow up on applications you have submitted.

My Doctor, when he finally got to see me, corrected my vision and brought things into focus. You can bring  your job search into focus by doing these five things.

Five Ways People Burn Bridges When They Leave A Job 10

There are times when wanting to get out of a situation seems like the only thing that matters. “Just get me out of this job”. And the consequences? You’ll “cross that bridge when you come to it“. So something happens at work that you see as the last straw and you decide to quit, to give notice, to say “take this job and shove it”.

However you may feel on the inside, when you finally make the decision to leave, you must do it on good terms.

Don’t be the person who:

  1. Failed to give proper notice
  2. Slacked off after you gave your notice
  3. Talked trash about those in the office you never got along with
  4. Called out sick two days before your last day (but went clothes shopping for your new job)
  5. Failed to thank those that mentored or helped you

At the time, you may feel justified in doing these things. Later, you may find that things aren’t as great in the new company and those problems you had with your previous job seem smaller and smaller. Now what do you do?

If you pulled any or all of the five things above, your chances of getting your old job back are pretty much slim to none. Leaving on good terms sets up a safety net. And if they can’t re-hire you, they can and will give you a positive recommendation, perhaps even a contact they know is hiring.

Don’t let getting out of the job at any cost cloud your vision of how you should leave. Keep your bridges in good repair instead of burning them. You never know when you’ll need to cross one.

Students – What You Get From A Summer Job That You Can’t Get In The Classroom 4

You may get more than a paycheck from your summer job

In high school, I had after school jobs doing landscaping and I pumped gas. Each summer when school was out I would work the grave yard shift at a gas station. I’d go in at 11PM at night and get off at 7AM the next morning. I thought it was great because then I could spend the day with my friends in a boat on the water. I’d sleep a little bit in the evening, sometimes a very little bit,  and then go back to work.

To get through college, I drove a school bus and I was the Assistant Manager and Projectionist at Cinema City Theaters in Tabb, Virginia. Later I had jobs on campus in Student Government and even taught sailing for the college as an adjunct professor to earn some extra money. I made it through high school and college with all of those part and full-time jobs. At the time all I thought I was getting from them was a paycheck. But as I look back at them know, I know got a lot more.

I learned about alarm clocks and how to get places on time. I learned that employers expect you to show up at 11AM if they put you on the schedule for 11AM. I learned they don’t mean show up somewhere around 11AM ’cause we know you were out late and you may need a little extra time to get going today.

I learned about raises by watching what happened to those who had been at jobs longer than I had. I saw that those who were rewarded were usually the ones who were solving problems for the boss, taking on extra responsibilities and making the day go smoother. I saw that the employees who always had a problem with something were not well liked and in time were no longer employees.  I also saw that the Boss’s son seemed to get away with things that no one else could (and never got fired).

I learned how to deal with supervisors and managers and owners of the small businesses I worked for. I found that the relationships I developed with them were far different from the ones I had with my teachers in the classroom. Each workplace had its own structure, its own set of rules. Some places I worked were very strict.

I spent three weeks and three days as a fry cook for a new fast food restaurant that opened near the college. Very strict, very high expectations and very greasy. At the movie theater, my boss was just the opposite. She was much more laid back and as long as things got done when they needed to be done, life was ok. She even let me borrow the company van so I could take five friends with me to the Hampton Roads Coliseum to see Jethro Tull in concert.  Pretty wild.

Some of my friends actually thought about the types of summer jobs they took and found internships and jobs in the field they wanted to pursue. At the time it just seemed kind of cool, but now I see how helpful that was to their ultimate career choices. You might want to give some thought to the types of jobs you seek out in high school and beyond. They really can be the groundwork for rewarding jobs after school.

It’s not too late to find a summer job. And if you already have one, congratulations! Enjoy your summer away from the classroom, but as you work and earn a paycheck, don’t be surprised if you actually learn something.

Seven ways to take charge of your To Do List 9

So you want to be more organized and have a list of things to accomplish. Now what?

  1. Create your list at the end of your workday, before leaving the office (give yourself permission to plan your next day, you’ll sleep better and will arrive at work feeling organized)
  2. Budget 10 – 15 minutes for planning and solitude (make this a daily priority on your list; Without a plan, you are just busy, not effective)
  3. Rank your list (deadlines for projects, client calls to return, you know what’s most important)
  4. Do the task you ranked #1 first (this is soooo… hard when there is e-mail to look at, YouTube video to share The Tickle Me Plant and co-workers to talk with)
  5. Check your tasks off as you complete them (there is a certain satisfaction in completing a task and the act of checking it off causes the body to release positive endorphins. Occasionally, I will write something I did on the list, just so I can cross it off)
  6. As new items come up during the day, add them to the bottom of the list. You will rank them at the end of the day (KEEP ONE LIST. If I write a note on a little slip of paper, I carry it in my hand until I can write it on my list. When I put a note in my pocket, the odds of it ending up on my to-do list decrease exponentially)
  7. “Do first things first and second things not at all” – Peter Drucker (The point of a list is to focus your attention on the most important aspects of your job. When you cross off your number 1 item, number 2 becomes your new number one.)

Apply these seven techniques and you will find you have taken charge of your To Do List.

Job hunting is a delicate balance – Here are three ways to cope 1

Are You Stressing Over Your Job Search?

“Job hunting is a delicate balance between pride, desperation and humiliation.”        Amy Crabtree

Here are three ways to cope:

  1. Don’t stop- You may have found a lead to the best job on the planet and you’re sure after the telephone interview that next week will be it because they scheduled an interview. Now you have six days to kill until the interview, so you start thinking why should I keep looking, this job is in the bag. Instead of stopping your job search, pause for a few minutes, write down everything you remember from the phone interview, especially things that got a positive response and then keep searching. It  doesn’t matter if this job works out,  you have many more coming. Don’t stop until you are in a new hire orientation
  2. Don’t marry the company - I’ve said many times before, you can end up on an emotional roller coaster if you play the “I’ve got to have this job, it’s perfect” game. All jobs have perks, benefits and all jobs have drawbacks. Make sure you are painting a realistic picture of the company;  you may decide after the first interview that you don’t like their culture. Be open about the company and realistic about what they are offering and your stress will be less.
  3. Don’t think traditional – With all of the competition for jobs today, standing out is imperative. In the end, it’s about getting the attention of the company you want to work for. Within the corporate culture of the industry and workplace you are targeting, you need to tell your story. Share your personal brand with specific stories that give the interviewer a reason to remember you.

Amy caught the spirit of the problem. “Job hunting is a delicate balance between pride, desperation and humiliation.” Don’t be so proud that you stop searching because “they would be nut’s not to hire you”. Don’t be so desperate that you take the first thing that comes along, without making sure it is a good fit for you. And don’t worry about being embarrassed when you market yourself in a memorable way. It may end up being the talk of your first company picnic.