Tuesday, September 05, 2006

It's like camping..

First, let me offer an apology. This is the time of the year that I speak at schools. I will try to post once-a-month through the fall and winter. If you need help, give me a shout.

It's hard to blaze a trail without a guide. How do you know how to move in your career if you've never done it before? My mom used to make me visit the local Jewish Home for The Aging when I was little. I got sick more on those days than any other time in my life. I didn't like the smell, the close-talking, the involuntary spitting (I would leave and look like I ran through a drizzle). The funny part was that when I listened, I learned. I learned more from those visits than I did in years of business school. When I embarked on my career; I was hungry for the stories and guidance like I got from my childhood visits.

I started calling industry pros and asking them if I could take them for a cup of coffee because I was doing a report on "Captains of Industry". I made this up but who could turn down a kid doing a school project? Many. But, I met with four different guys that were at the top of their game. These were guys that smelled like money and had a certain "I don't swear the small stuff" air about them. They handled their business. Each meeting became more interesting as I would detail obstacles at work versus my goals. These were my guys, my mentors and they guided me through the workplace wilderness. I never asked them for a job, a lead or anything but a small piece of their time (which was worth $$$). All of my mentors offered me gigs and all kinds of great advice over the years. Most of them are retired and we still meet. I find their take on life more fascinating now that they have settled down. They made the trail very clear for me and really set up my career.

This is one of the most valuable pieces of advice I have to offer. Try it, extend yourself a bit. At the very least you'll have some kick ass references to put on your resume.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Karate Kid!

Remember The Karate Kid? I had such a thing for Elizabeth Shue. I think I spent the next three years practicing kicks and miniature golf. Alas, no Elizabeth Shue sightings. I used to live next door to one of the Cobra Kai villians, a young actor dedicated to his craft, martial arts. Although, he would tell you his craft was acting. He worked very hard on his fighting skills, hungry to practive, learn and keep adding to his arsenal of techniques. But, when it came to honing his acting chops, he seemed to put in the minimum amount of work. Every once in a while he would get called back on an audition but never got hired. There are many resons why he had such a hard time parlaying his fame and I don't pretend to be a casting agent or producer but his predictament makes a transition to most work places.

Ever heard, "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have"? It certainly is true but you also have to practice for your next audition and unlike my Cobra Kai neighbor, you will not often know when that audition will come. When you boss drops the ball, are you ready with the answers? Do you have the skill set requireds for your next promotion. A student of mine has the job descriptions for all executive positions at his company that he found on his own corporate job postings. Whether it be management communications classes, sales strategies, computer skills or interaction with more clients, he is always prepared for his next audition. I have never seen a faster cat. His colleagues think he is always at the right place at the right time. Not true, his hard work allows him to confidently and swiftly rise to the occassion.

Want your blackbelt in promotability. Practice for the job you want in addition to the job you have.

"Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything" (Miyagi)

Monday, July 10, 2006

You Need A Drink!!!

"If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am not drinking any fucking Merlot." Remember this quote from the movie Sideways. I love Miles (Paul Giamatti) and this is one of my favorite movie quotes. Like Miles, I am a bit of a wine snob and when a vendor takes me out to dinner and they opt for the Mondavi Merlot the odds of them landing my business go way down. I immediately start forming impressions of my dinner companion based on what they drink...and eat. Why, partially because I am an ass but most importantly because it is a part of the dance. Do they understand my corporate culture? Office/business politics extends to the pub, lounge, bistro and wine bar. How you carry yourself outside of work can have a direct effect on how people treat you at work. My wife says that the corporate boozings are a window into a lifestyle. Culture is a tool. You don't need to be a oenophile or an Iron Chef to be skilled at wining and dining. You just NEED A DRINK.

So, my wife is out to dinner at a previous job and she wants a promotion. She is trying to impress the boss. The boss is a big foodie; she knows her stuff. The server comes around and takes the drink order. My wife sweats nervously, trying to figure what to drink and asks for a...Midori Sour. Boooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!! Midori sours are great if you are on a sorority trip to Reno or trolling "fuh chicks" after a hard nights work at an Italian Dinner Theater Show. It says that you are young and have a kiddie’s palate. My wife was embarrassed when she was asked if she wanted some Pinot Noir and she told them she was allergic to dairy. She thought Pinot Noir was French Cheese. As Miles would attest, Pinot Noir is a wine full of character and life not fromage, sweetheart. Knowing wines, the difference between a Caymus Cabernet and a Shafer Cabernet is super but not necessary. Pick a drink that aligns with the image that you want to gleam. For instance, I am a Gin and Tonic drinker. It is a refreshing and clean drink. I order a Tanqueray Ten and Tonic; that's my drink. If they don't have Tanqueray Ten, I will order another premium gin like Boodles, Wet by Beefeater, Hendrick's or Bombay Sapphire. With all of those backups, I am almost assured a nice G&T in most metropolitan cities. To my guests, it lets them know that I know my gins and am drinking a more grownup drink than my wife's Midori Sour.

I realize that this may sound silly but perception is key and if you can get a leg up or enhance your company's impression of you (or a client's impression of you), you do it. My suggestion is to experiment with different wines and booze. Find your drink. Hey, if you don't drink booze try premium waters like Voss, Tynant, Evian, Hildon...fancy shmancy.

A quick note about food. When in doubt, ask the server what they love on the menu and order that. And one final note, gauge your group. Going casual, go with the flow. Skip the Pinot Noir at TGIF Friday's and just go for the beer and tater skins.
Se magnifique!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

..."Need a job that will help me to ultimately start my own business."

These tasty treats of trabajar (my junior high spanish is rusty) or total crap (depending on your perspective) that I write to you kids about are inspired by you. You are the candidate that I place in a job. You are the referral from a friend of a kid whose cousin knows my dad's accountant. You are the frustrated job seeker that I counsel. You are the people that turn on the light in my dim bulb. Thank you.

I get asked the same question again over-and-over and I never write about it. Thank you, Ilona, for reminding me of a super important subject. I call this The Launch Pad. When you embark on a career for a bigger goal/purpose it is important to plot a course for your mission. The beginning of this process is THE LAUNCH PAD. I promise to spare you the full aresenal of NASA metaphors.

When you have a goal of starting your own business down the road and you are looking for an entry-point for this mission DON'T LOOK SHORT, LOOK LONG. That is, look for a gig with the best access to the CHIPS. The Chips are the people, resources, contacts, vendors and favors that you will need to call upon in the future to launch your company. Sometimes these Chips Jobs are sexy/cool jobs. Often, these are the behind the scenes gigs, the jobs that sew up loose ends and take care of the boring details. I feel the need to sharpen the resolution on this with an example.

My wife is a fashion designer. She has a sexy/cool job. It has taken her five years to compile a small portion of the vendor resources and contacts that one of my students has while working in production for the past year. When someone wants access to people in the biz, they go to my student versus my wife. This student travels to the factories/vendors; people solicit her for business. If she wanted to start her own line of clothing she would have access to a larger load of valuable Chips than my wife. She also has an insiders perspective of the business and infrastructure that my wife is partially isolated from. Marinate in this one for a minute.

Benefits of looking long:

1) Potentially easier entry-point into a great company
2) Faster promotion track (less competition means greater possibility to shine)
3) Getting noticed. I believe that once you are in a company and the company sees that you are a performer/star, most companies will allow you to write your own ticket vs. risk losing you.
4) Flexibility to try new jobs, departments, business techniques
5) Learn on someone elses dime!!!
6) The beauty of learning from someone else's mistake. This is MAGICALLY DELICIOUS.

Recap. When you have a goal, create a mission that allows you flexibility and access to those great Chips. Weigh the upside of companies and jobs against your mission. Don't look at the FABULOUS position for NOW; look at the fabulous position against the mission. Does it give you the best access to the good Chips or is it just cool for now...

Think, research, plot. It isn't sexy like Wolfgang Puck's Slogan but it may be just as tasty...mmmm CHIPS.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

the politics of dancing...

You have a job and you're skilled. Damn, you are good at what you do! You take care of business!!! How about the dance? Can you shuffle, moon walk, crump, running man or whatoosie? An honest days pay for an honest days work sounds great and fair but the game has changed. You need to learn how to dance to be successful. I could spend years schooling you on the finer points of navigating office politics but, alas, this is a blog not War And Peace and I am student, too. It takes more than skill to succeed in the modern workplace. YA GOTTA DANCE!

Do you get the credit you deserve? Did you get that promotion, raise bonus, perk??? If you have ever felt under appreciated, overlooked or under-utilized, your antennae are rising.

My wife is a young gun, excellent at what she does. But, we have "strat meetings" once a week to game plan her work week. Wha??? Serious, we review her week and plan for the coming week. She understands her weekly goals and drives to achieve them, which requires some gamesmanship. She knows how her boss works, when to approach and when to scoot. She understannds her organizational chart and knows how the company players work. From what they covet, to their work ethic, to their kids' birthdays, she knows them like a good therapist. She knows hot to play that role, too (she has a couch in her office). Sometimes she makes the wrong moves but the bulk of her steps are solid gold.

Investing in your career is so layered, so complex. There are so many levels of investment, dedication and execution that it is overwhelming if you were to really analyze it. So, don't. Research the players, observe people as they interact with your boss. How did your boss react when challenged? How did your boss react when lauded? What time of the day is your boss least busy? What time does she leave at night? Study study study. Your research will make you move like the players at your company, it will become intuitive. I call it The Office Tango. If your Tango turns into a Bob and Weave we need to talk...cha cha cha.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Texas Hold 'em

Like many, I have been swept into the tornado of fun called, Texas Hold 'em. I am certainly a poor poor player but every so often I bluff someone out of a nice pot and it feels, it feels soooooooo good. Okay, back to the job stuff. These days it seems more and more employers want to know what kind of $$$ you make before they will even speak with you. Many place ads that read, "Only submissions with salary history will be considered". Many companies will email you after they receive your resume and ask you about your salary expectations. These questions are TRAPS, as they say in the poker world (see, I'm learning). They are baiting you to see what you are holding, to see if they can afford to CALL you. Now, you can CHECK by telling them your salary history and your salary expectations...but, if you are like me you gamble a little...RAISE.

"Only resumes submitted with salary history will be considered"

THE PLAY: If I think my resume is exactly what they are looking for but I am not sure if I am too high or too low on their pay scale I will send my resume sans salary history.***I know that there are HR people that would like to shoot me for saying this...in the immortal words of Ross Gellar, "Fine by me!"***Finding talent is hard, I have yet to meet an HR professional that cast aside an awesome resume because there wasn't a salary history attached (especially for niche positions). I realize that their are some sticklers out there but do you really want to work for a company that would pass up on speaking with an awesome candidate like you over a technicality? Call their BLUFF, you have a winning HAND.

"Can you tell me your salary expectations?"

THE PLAY: If you get a call or an email and they ask you this question, PRE-FLOP (before the interview), CHECK. "Shirley, that depends on the scope of the job". Maybe that sounds coy, but you want her to CALL. You want to just get a face-to-face interview. You can follow up with, "Shirley, this sounds like a wonderful opportunity and my experience as an Animator for Dream Works has offered me vast exposure to your new niche, the mobile gaming world". I RAISED with my knowledge of her company and the niche. She is going to CALL me, know matter how much money I make or don't make.

Friends, "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run..."

If you have overplayed your hand and want to exact a little revenge on me, join me at Celebrity Poker Showdown Online at Bravotv.com. I play 20/40 NL and my name is
"Physed". I always BLUFF.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Something in Miami

I get that some of you have to be in a general area, locale, city because the circumstances of your life have geographic limitations. But alot of candidates that I counsel want a dream job in Miami, Chicago, St. Cloud or Nowhere, USA. To be so focused on a locale is very limiting and makes me pose the following question, HOW HUNGRY ARE YOU?

Even though the job market has improved a little, it isn't all roses and pumpkin pie. It is hard to get a great job let alone a great job that exists in your backyard. GO FOR THE GIG! Look at a job for what it is and then if it looks good, apply. Firgure out after your interview(s) if it is something to invest in. Moving your life to a different city or doubling your commute is an investment just like any other financial and/or emotional undertaking. You have to gauge if it will pay dividens for you, your family, your Chihuahua...

My point is that I want you to be open to opportunities. The loyalty you extend in your work lineage is to you. Companies don't last forever so you have to make shrewd moves. Be open and be ready...for anything. And if your work quest takes you to NYC, send me a slice of Ray's Pizza, YUM!!!