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Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Redefine what it means to be successful
“If you lie to me and tell me you’re sick and can’t come to work when it’s really your child that is sick, I will fire you.” That’s what we told our employees, and we meant it. We wanted their truth so we could always trust them. We wanted them to say, “I’m staying at home so I can focus on what is most important to me at this moment in time, my child.”
When women and men must choose between being a good parent and being a good employee, it sucks the passion right out of them. It’s demeaning and belittling and encourages second-rate work and remorse-filled parenting. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and we proved it.
We held the national rights to a retail company and became wildly successful selling things no one really needed. We weren’t brought up to take that lightly. Our employees and staff were 95% female. They made sure we flourished financially so we made sure they had guilt-free lives that were as seamless as possible.
Imagine a company that believed you should practice the same values from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. as you do from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. Imagine a company that had a daycare center called “The Department of the Future” right in the middle of the building. Sick rooms for children who were too sick to go to school, but not so sick they needed to stay home. Breastfeeding rooms, cutting gardens, vegetable patches and a cafeteria given over to a mentally-challenged youth group so they could operate a business selling 125 employees breakfast and lunches. Imagine being paid to work in the community during your regular working hours at safe houses for women who were escaping violence so you really understood the issues, being encouraged to take courses paid for by the company that would fuel your imagination like cooking, gardening, flower arranging (all activities that help a marketing mind) and getting six months’ paid sabbatical after 10 years of employment so that you could become reenergized.
Far from being “extras,” these simple practices nurtured fearless originality. We didn’t do this to be generous. We were parents ourselves and recognized the issues of home and heart not only affected our employee’s lives, but had a tremendous impact on our corporate pride and our bottom line too. Nothing mattered more to our economic future than the well-being and happiness of our employees and the more creative and compassionate we became at solving their problems, the better our financial results were. You simply cannot ask people to place their emotional lives directly behind their professional lives and hope for loyalty.
It is interesting to note that socially responsible businesses, seeded by basic human values and nurtured by an unchanging code of ethics, are often started by demoralized employees. Usually when they discover, working in traditional management systems, they are wearing personal and emotional lives two sizes too small.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
I have suffered whiplash over the decades, having changed so sharply my definition of success. But, if I know anything, I know that success—along with life—is sequential.
In my 20’s, so consumed with ambition and possibility, success, to me, meant a salary. It meant not relying on my cash-strapped parents for help. And, if I just worked harder than everyone else, I deduced, sheer drive would trump the Ivy League degrees with which I competed—an ideal which sometimes had its shortcomings.
Success also meant landing the “it” job of college dreams. So, in those two regards, I was successful. After a stint in the Ford White House as an editor of the news summary, then as a press aide for a U.S. senator, I landed my “it” job: I was hired as an associate producer for ABC News. I found success at the intersection of Ambition and Luck Streets.
In my 30’s, the same success metric applied from the prior decade, but simply gained cyclonic momentum and a frenzied intensity well-known, fueled and even expected in TV land. As a “Nightline” producer, I traveled all over the world covering interesting stories, leaving unused theater tickets and broken dates behind. There was always tomorrow.
Just as I was feeling very A-game and cocky, a wise and accomplished woman doused me with ice-cold reality: “Don’t make the same mistake I did,” she warned. “Your job is far more interesting than any man could ever be,” she said with her professionally-manicured finger wagging. “One day, you will wake up and it will be just you and a bunch of Christmas packages under a tree. You will be all alone.” Ugh. Stab. I loved my job. I worked hard to get there, but did not feel very successful any longer.
When I turned 39, newly married and pregnant, I forced myself to revisit and, indeed, redefine all prior definitions. No longer did success mean moving up to the next big professional thing. Nor did it mean wanting to be sprinkled with the fairy dust that always surrounded the famous people with whom I worked. I no longer cared about securing the best assignments or even making more money. While I was happy to enjoy all those things, if it didn’t come with flexibility, it was a non-starter.
In this decade, a flexible schedule was, to me, the new metric by which I measured success. Of course, the fact that our family was not dependent on my salary alone was not lost on me. I was extremely cognizant of my situation, knowing so many did not have that choice. We lived modestly, though very nicely, because I did not want to be forced into a full-time salary to support a lifestyle and house.
Fortuitously, I met then-Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown who, to her credit and my everlasting gratitude, didn’t care where I parked myself. She knew that, as a former television producer, I was a “get shit done” person, so I was afforded time and geographic flexibility (sadly, a rare situation these days). So, with two small children, I worked while they slept and made calls while they played under my home office desk and from outside the birthday party room at Chuck E. Cheese. I had the ultimate luxury—indeed, flexibility—of kissing their pink cheeks when they awoke from their naps, organizing May Day Parades and picking soggy Cheerios out of their hair. I was a huge success, the biggest… at least, in my own mind. That ability to make the choice to work at home was my nirvana. My version of success.
Now, this world of “part-time” work is an anomaly. It generally means one gets paid a part-time salary, but rarely does one actually works “part-time.” As a so-called “part-time” magazine and book editor, I could work when it was more convenient or when the house was quiet. But, in those 12 years, I don’t believe there were many actual part-time days. There was, however, a slower track, a track on which I was happy to walk—temporarily.
Did I care that my peers were climbing up the career ladder? Sure, I watched their advancements with pleasure and pride. And sometimes, I felt a little jealous. But it was time to make my own fairy dust—which came in for form of cupcake sprinkles.
Monday, May 20, 2013
The U.S. Military is all about efficiency and effectiveness.
In the eyes of the military, the best way to approach any operation is one in which the greatest amount is accomplished by using as few resources as possible. These ideals and parameters fit into the profiles for all of the renewable energy systems that are being developed today. As the military adopts renewable energy, they are able to get jobs done more cheaply and with less strain on the equipment that is already spread very thin.
Net Zero Initiative
This military initiative is meant to drastically lower the carbon emissions being produced by military personnel and military operations. The ideals are based on an inverted pyramid of concerns. At the top of the pyramid is Reduction. Under this idea is Re-Purposing, followed by Recycling and Composting. Energy Recovery is next, resting on top of the pyramid’s smallest component which is Disposal. Heads of U.S. forces in the southeast cite climate change as a primary reason for adopting the program. It is currently making its fastest advances in the technologies used to recycle water and dispose of human waste.
Fossil Fuels Cost the American People
The military is striving to move away from vehicles that use fossil fuels because of the expense of acquiring and transporting these gases. Fossil fuels are not just going into transportation vehicles. The military has been using them to run generators in addition to many other applications in the field. The estimates suggest that using generators to run air conditioners alone in desert regions occupied by the military racks up bills that are close to $20 million. The fluctuation of the markets for fossil fuels is also burdensome on estimating the military budget. A rise in the cost of fuel by $1 translates into a $130 million dollar rise in military expenses over a one year period.
Reducing Dependence and Supply Lines
The U.S. military is the single biggest consumer of energy and oil on the entire globe. Using so much energy requires that they haul around supply lines, truck liquid fuels, and deliver resources via helicopter to various parts of the globe. Military operation extend far beyond combat. They involve disaster relief and peacekeeping efforts as well. These efforts are all more successful when they are not hindered by late fuel deliveries or sieges. Part of eliminating this variable involves making great use of solar and wind power.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Healthy workplace practices
For the most part, we all got into this Primal stuff to improve our own health and that of those close to us. Maybe we’re hoping to avoid the diabetes and heart disease that got our loved ones. Maybe we’re trying to lose a few pounds. Maybe we want to know what it’s like to walk ten miles without getting out of breath or having to coax our creaky joints out of their torpor. Whatever the motivation, we’re in this to make ourselves healthier and happier.
That’s how it starts. Once you reach your goals or even just begin to make headway, you notice everyone around you, especially the ones with visible health issues. It’s not that you’re looking down at them or that you’re superior in some way. You feel lucky enough to be privy to a secret is all, and you’d like to share what you know with the people around you – even strangers – who appear to be hurting unnecessarily. And your co-workers are no exception. Ah, co-workers. Many of us see these people more than our own spouses or children. We essentially live with them for eight hours a day. We learn their foibles, their habits, their quirks. In the best workplaces, our coworkers become a kind of family to us, and what do we do with family?
We care about them, especially their health.
The quickest way to get someone to stop listening and brand you forever as “that health nut guy” is to blather on and on about your diet, your exercise, your new healthy lifestyle that seems diametrically opposed to whatever they’re doing. Because when you do that, you’re telling them that they’re unhealthy, that they’re doing it all wrong. Even if you don’t explicitly criticize or question what they’re eating or “doing in the gym,” by talking up the stuff you’re doing (and discussing how bad wheat or vegetable oils are), you’re indirectly criticizing them. Or at least that’s how it might be taken.
So what are some unobtrusive ways to encourage healthy workplace practices? What might be done on the small-scale, individual, micro level? What might be done on a larger, office-wise scale? Let’s explore ten, simple (and not so simple), basic (and more complex), and effective ways to get your workplace healthier.
Ah, the mid-afternoon meeting. Is there a drearier human social activity? We’ve all fiddled with our smartphones through enough boring, pointless, useless meetings to last us a lifetime, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can walk and talk (and chew Stevia-sweetened gum) at the same time, can’t you? So why not try it? You’ll get your 10,000 steps for the day, along with your colleagues, you’ll get fresh air, you’ll get sun (hopefully), you’ll get a change in the group dynamic that might spur creative thinking, and if the ancient tales are true, you’ll be in good company: Aristotle was said to conduct his teachings as he walked the halls of the Lyceum in Athens.
Unless you’re the boss, I don’t expect you to instate walking meetings across the entire office and discard all standard sit-down meetings. That’s not realistic. But next time you have an informal meeting with another coworker or two, suggest you go for a walk outside (or even through the confines of the building and down hallways, Aaron Sorkin-style). It might catch on.
Why your boss should care: There’s reason to believe that walking meetings may be more productive that sit-down meetings, since walking has been shown to boost brain connectivity and function. Better functioning brains with better neural connectivity come up with better ideas.
Sitting all day is terrible for your health, it hampers your ability to oxidize the fat you just ate, increases the risk of obesity and diabetes, and it’s an evolutionarily novel environmental factor with drastic consequences. Forget the health aspects of it and focus on the qualitative, subjective effects, even. Whenever I’m forced to spend all day sitting down, I can actually feel my zest for life being snubbed away. I feel like a slug. When I do get up and move around after having sat for a long time, I’m slower. My joints are achier, my muscles less responsive. It’s just awful. I can’t imagine trying to work with that frame of mind and body.
Lobby for a standing workstation, or build a makeshift one. They’re getting more and more popular, so your office may already have a few pioneers. At any rate, start a trend and others will soon follow. You may be that weird guy who stands for awhile, but that’s okay. One or two curious and brave souls will inevitably join your ranks.
Why your boss should care: Since sitting kills, quite literally, and a dead workforce is an unproductive workforce, standing workstations may improve productivity (and increase liveliness). If the boss is concerned about standing affecting the quality of work, one study found that standing (or walking) workstations improved metabolic processes without hampering the quality of the work.
Plants in the office.
My post a while back on why working outside (at least some of the time) is ideal if you can make it work got a lot of responses. Problem is, most people can’t make that work. Not yet, at least. But some of the benefits of being outdoors come from being close to plants, trees, and other green things. Save for most trees and a select variety of plant life scheduled by the DEA, we can bring plants into the office, where they can improve the quality of the air and make workers more productive. Even if you don’t buy into the physiological underpinnings of why plants are good to be around, almost anyone would agree that plants are just nice to look at. A bare room is awful, but stick a big green plant in the corner, and you’ve suddenly changed the vibe of the room to be more positive and welcoming. That counts for something, doesn’t it?
Start small. Adorn your cubicle/office/desk with various plants. Maybe buy a few extra to give as gifts to each “area” of the office. Hook your boss up with a fern or something. Just get people exposed to plants and the rest will follow. And if it doesn’t, at least you’re reaping the benefits.
Why your boss should care: Research shows (PDF) that plants in the office can improve productivity, increase concentration, and make workers happier and less stressed. This effect is greatest among workers who spend more than four hours a day in front of a computer (sound familiar to anyone?).
Start a (healthy) breakfast club.
Okay, I get it. Fried rings of sugary dough dipped in even more sugar covered with sugary glazes satisfy (or at least trigger) some deep-seated primal desires for salt, sugar, fat, and crispiness, but they aren’t Primal. And yet they enjoy persistent popularity as a breakfast item. What about muffins? At least everyone knows donuts are health disasters, but the muffin has somehow retained the reputation for being a healthy breakfast food. Meanwhile, they’re cupcakes without the frosting and they seem to be getting bigger and bigger every time I see one (c’mon, who needs a pound of muffin?).
If you were to start a healthy breakfast club (double points if you have the classic movie running in the background), where people bring in food to share with the office that isn’t cake-related, you’d have an easy avenue to show off what’s truly possible when you eat Primal. Think hardboiled eggs. Think reams of bacon. Think actual fresh fruit. Think Primal pancakes. Think sweet potato hash (with more bacon and more eggs). Nominate yourself to be one of the first to bring breakfast and set the tone.
Why your boss should care: Donuts and muffins elicit massive spikes in blood sugar, followed by a subsequent drop-off, while protein-and-fat-rich breakfasts result in steadier levels of blood sugar. Why does this matter? Steady blood sugar levels improve cognitive function.
Sponsored gym memberships.
Lots of employers are doing this nowadays, and it’s a great thing. Gym memberships are seen as a luxury item for many household budgets, particularly in these difficult times, so an employer who includes a gym membership among the other benefits afforded to their employees is a great one.
If your boss won’t sponsor you for the gym, consider assembling a group of willing and able coworkers to head on down to the gym and angle for a group rate. Once the higher-ups notice that there’s a demand (and the tax breaks outlined below won’t hurt), they may change their minds. And if they don’t, at least you just got yourself a bunch of gym buddies.
Why your boss should care: What you might lose in gym fees (which you’ll get a great package deal on, no doubt), you’ll gain in savings on health care costs. Stronger, healthier, fitter employees are happier, more productive employees who are less liable to use sick days. Plus, you’ll kill the other office in the annual softball game. Oh, and you can probably even get some tax write-offs while you’re at it.
Integrated exercise equipment in the office.
I’m a big fan of peppering my day with activity. Dedicated extended workouts are great and all, but I think working exercise into the flow of your normal day is more sustainable for the average person – and it more closely approximates how our ancestors would have “exercised.” The problem is that most of us get our exercise in gyms. We have to suit up, get in our cars, drive to the gym, file inside, and wait our turns for whatever machine or weight we need to use. Some people have home gyms, but not most. What if you could have a “work gym”? What if there was a pullup bar leading in to the break room, a climbing rope hanging from the rafters, gymnastics rings attached to the overhead beam near the bathrooms? How awesome would that be? How many pullups do you think you’d be able to do after a year of doing them every time you went to fill your water bottle?
Start with a pullup bar in a doorframe somewhere. As long as you don’t damage the building, your boss should be receptive to it. Then, expand from there.
Why your boss should care: Intermittent bouts of exercise will keep workers alert, productive, and engaged. They won’t be “going to failure,” after all, but rather hitting a few reps here and there. Plus, healthy workers get sick less often and use less health care.
Competition breeds progress. Wanting to beat the other guy or girl can make the prospect of working out regularly seem doable or even pleasurable, even in the normally sedentary. Having others with whom to share your pain (or triumph) makes the task more bearable.
Suggest some fitness challenges to your workmates. Stuff like “first to 100 pushups” (or 50) or “first to 15 pullups” (or 5) or “first to deadlift twice your bodyweight” (or just bodyweight) are simple and easy to keep track of and prizes for the winner may heat things up. The challenges don’t even have to really be competitive, either. You can all pledge to “hike for six miles” or “take a walk every night” or “do fifty pushups a day.” They can be common goals you all rally around, where the prize is simply completing the goal.
Why your boss should care: Whenever you get people together in an enclosed space, rivalries and politics and pettiness will arise. By channeling all that energy into fitness-related competition, you can avoid the office politics that are the downfall of many a workplace.
Start a walking club.
I’d never heard of this before a wife of one the Worker Bees told me about her workplace’s walking club. Basically, this is how it works. The floor is split up into groups of four people. Each person is given a basic pedometer, paid for by the company, and the groups keep track of their daily steps. Each week or two, the groups add up their steps and whichever one gets the most wins a prize. It’s pretty simple, but it gets the people walking a lot. They keep track of steps taken on weekends, too, so people are motivated to be more active away from work.
Start with a mini club – just a few people, perhaps – and expand from there. Since standard pedometers are pretty cheap, you can even buy the first round for your club. It’s a few bucks out of your pocket, but you’ll have triggered a monumental (yet simple) change in people’s lives.
Why your boss should care: As mentioned above, walking improves cognitive function. Healthy, well-functioning brains do better work, which increases productivity. Plus, if your employees are consistently hitting 10,000 steps a day, they’re going to be healthier.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
These Simple Techniques Can Help
It is very common knowledge that work related stress due to “bosses” and others in similar positions, collectively known as management, can be very high. Folks from all over make jokes concerning their awful supervisors. Still, the existence of this one cause of stress can be the worst type at times. Supervisors have the authority to do what they want because of their position and they sometimes abuse this.
Annoyance and even anger can be caused by feeling that you have no say whatsoever in a situation. Handling stress on the job pertaining to supervisors in a practical way is something we will observe.
We wanted to give you a good selection of points on panic puzzle, and we hope you like what you have read, thus far.
So what we did was try to break things up as well as possible, and we have written other articles about this.
Just be sure to enhance what you already have discovered in this article because that is just the smart thing to do.
Everything you can find out will be of service to you in some way, and maybe that will be in the far off future; but that is all right. Do not deprive your self of the ability to create the best decision environment because that is the most intelligent thing you can do. The main query is how you can rid yourself of tension attached to your job. There are more plans than we will be able to investigate in this one piece. You can employ a variety of schemes with every one of them using a distinctive slant. First, find a way to get some kind of exercise in at home. In order to achieve a relaxed attitude when stress levels are peaking, a training session can be the ultimate stress reliever. Secondly, take a look at your profession, apprehension and what it is all about. There are a lot of situations that are outside the limit of your control, in this case you need to move past it. Just recognize it for what it is and move on.
Just the opposite of bringing stress home is taking it to work with you from home. To put it another way, the stress you pick up in your home follows you around and turns into a piece of stress you pick up from work. It is as if your workplace has not already offered you ample amounts of stress to start with. It is all fretfulness, stress and a higher blood pressure. This is a related scenario in which a higher amount of awareness will be a good thing. It will be effortless to determine the stressful factors in your life if you already are aware of the things occurring in your life. It could even oblige you to give up your home stresses once you are at work. Put forth the energy to apply concentration at work with the tasks you have in front of you. Once you are able to do that, you will typically see that you have re-directed your mind from the things at home that stress you out.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Over the last 5 years I’ve made some radical improvements in my life. I’ve reached my financial goals, found an amazing life partner, built confidence, and become much happier.
How did I do all this?
I read a lot of books and experimented with over a dozen different techniques to change my life.
And today I’m sharing with you the 7 most effective tools and how I use them:
An affirmation is a statement about you that you say to yourself. For example, “I am very patient.” Write out your affirmations and say them every day with feeling and belief, otherwise it won’t be effective. When you practice this, your affirmations start to become deeply embedded in your subconscious mind. Do it for a couple of weeks and you’ll see how effective it can be.
Most people leave the vast power of their imagination largely untapped. Our imagination is what allows us to create what we want in our life. Here’s how I use visualization.
Imagine yourself in a particular situation and what you want your ideal performance or behavior to be like in that situation. It might be at your job, at a party, or anywhere. Now imagine yourself doing, saying, and acting exactly how you want to. Imagine it in vivid detail, noting what you see, hear, and feel.
Visualization works because it tricks your brain into already having had the experience that you want to have. This creates past experiences as if you’ve actually had them, making it easier to do these things in real life.
Even though journaling isn’t a sexy idea, when used properly it can be extremely effective. Here are two powerful ways that I journal.
The first way is by stream of consciousness. You can write candidly about any issue, problem, or situation. Assuming that you keep your journal hidden and private, no one is going to judge you. Unlike talking to even the most trusted friend, your journal is a safe space to say anything. It will greatly increase your awareness.
The second and more effective way to write in your journal, is to ask yourself specific, guided questions. It’s the questions we ask ourselves that determine our future. For example, if you want to be successful but lack confidence or doubt yourself, ask yourself, “What are 5 reasons that I’m going to be successful?”
Don’t be turned off by the term “prayer” — it’s spiritual, not religious.
An affirmative prayer is believing that what you want to happen has already occurred. I like to do my affirmative prayers like this.
“Thank you Universe for having already given me an amazing week at work, a ton of joy in my relationship, and happiness every day this week.”
Not only am I believing that what I want has already happened, but I’m expressing gratitude for it (see about gratitude below).
Overcoming Limiting Beliefs
The trickiest thing about limiting beliefs is finding them. As entrepreneur Dane Maxwell has shown, you find a limiting belief by first asking yourself 3 questions.
What do I want to accomplish?
Why haven’t I accomplished it yet?
What beliefs are stopping me?
Write down your answers. Now you’re ready to “undo” these beliefs. The way to do this is to answer Byron Katie’s four questions from what she calls “The Work”:
1. Is this belief true?
2. Can I absolutely know that it is true?
3. How do I feel when I believe this thought?
4. What would my life be like if I couldn’t believe this thought?
There are numerous different types of meditation and ways to practice it. The best way to start is by learning about zazen (Zen meditation), which is basically counting your breaths as you inhale and exhale. If you spend only 5 minutes meditating every day, you will greatly increase your awareness.
Friday, May 10, 2013
I’ve spent the last several months launching a startup for life coaches while also working at my day job. I’ve had to work productively and effectively to get a lot of things done in a very short amount of time.
Today I’m sharing with you the top 4 guidelines that I’ve distilled in my pursuit of supreme productivity. It applies to working as well as studying. If you don’t already have a life coach, consider getting one or becoming your own.
Rule #1: Optimize Your To-Do List
Do not keep your to-do list static.
If the work that you’re doing is anything like mine, then you might need to re-prioritize your to-do list several times a day. The most important tasks that you need to accomplish might change daily or hourly.
For some people, the top of your to-do list might be the same two things every day. For instance, a salesman friend of mine has the same 2 top priorities every day: prospect for new customers and follow up with prospects. The point is this:
Always keep the most important things at the top of your list.
It’s human nature to avoid the things that we don’t like doing. So we often do what we feel like doing first, and push off the things we don’t feel like doing for another day. This will keep you comfortable, but not productive.
If you really want to be productive, you’ll have to bite the bullet and do the most important tasks first, whether you feel like it or not. This is your job — to do the tasks that will allow you to reach your goal as quickly as possible.
When you finish a task or you don’t know what to do next, keep going back to your list. Be systematic. “Task A is done, what is Task B on my list? I will start Task B right now.”
Rule #2: Keep Your Ultimate Goal at the Top of Your List
Keep your clearly stated overall goal at the very top of your to-do list. Let’s say that your goal is to get a new customer. At the top of your to-do list, write:
Goal: Get new customers.
Every task you have is subordinate to whatever goal you’re trying to attain. Keeping your ultimate goal at the top of your to-do list will keep you focused. It will allow you to keep re-prioritizing the most important tasks so that they align with your goal.
Without your goal at the top of your to-do list, it’s easy to get sloppy and have less important tasks near the top that won’t really get you much closer to your goal. Demote that task and replace it with something more effective.
Rule #3: No Distractions Allowed
Don’t set yourself up for failure. Give yourself the right environment to be successful. You don’t need people talking to you, Facebook open, or to be checking your email. If you have to, lock yourself in a room.
If you really want to be productive and get things done, then block out a period of time in which you will commit yourself to doing your tasks. In this time, you will disallow any and all distractions (except for true emergencies).
For example, let’s say that you’re going to work productively for 1 hour. In that hour, there is:
a quiet, distraction-free environment
no Facebook allowed
no checking email allowed
cell phone turned off
no people around you who will distract you
complete focus on your tasks
Pretty simple. Sound harsh? If you want to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs. I would rather work with intense focus for 1 hour than to work half-focused for 4 hours and get the same amount of work done.
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Show that you have the skills and would fit in, but above all make it clear how much you want the job.
Do not curb your enthusiasm. Win Sheffield, 55, a coach for the last seven years with the career counseling firm The Five O’Clock Club, says a lot of job seekers forget that one of the most crucial parts of interviewing is convincing the hiring manager that you truly desire the job. Interviewers don’t just look for applicants who have the requisite skills and will fit in with a company. Now more than ever, they want candidates who want them.
Sheffield is absolutely right, says Cynthia Bragdon, owner of Urban Indigo, a gift store in Oakland, Calif. “I don’t know why some candidates miss this,” she adds. “Maybe because they think it seems desperate.” She says the most eager applicants quickly make her A list. “If they seem aloof, I get very worried, because any job requires a full commitment,” she explains. “And if they are aloof in an interview, they will probably be aloof to my customers, which is a very bad thing.”
You can get across your enthusiasm in many ways, coaches say. Sheffield suggests that you prepare an arsenal of stories illustrating your skills, strengths and accomplishments. Rather than bragging in a general way about your abilities, describe specific experiences that show you putting those skills to use. You can speak animatedly about the pleasure and pride you took in overcoming obstacles. One advantage of storytelling over plain boasting, Sheffield says: “It’s the interviewer who draws the conclusion.”
In addition to offering stories that illustrate your strengths, use a direct approach and tell the interviewer how thrilled you’d be to work for her and for her organization in particular. Describe other offers or discussions you’ve got going, and let the interviewer know she is your first choice.
Most applicants understand that they should do their homework, learning as much as they can about a company and a job, before going in for an interview. But Cynthia Bragdon says candidates who haven’t done basic research still show up. “If they ask me what the store hours are in the interview, that shows me they don’t give a rip about getting the job,” she says. “Or they’re just plain stupid--and intelligence is a big, big factor for me.”
Ahead of time, take a notebook, jot down a few points to help you remember your best stories and note three questions to ask about the specific job and the company. Then, when the interview starts, ask permission to take notes. Use your notebook as a cheat sheet.
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Job interviews are not fun.
Candidates hate to do them, and hiring managers struggle to find the time to squeeze them in. For most executives, they’re viewed as a necessary evil to building a team — a box to be checked, a hurdle to get over, so they can get back to business.
Worse, interviews are notoriously bad at predicting a candidate’s success. Studies show that a quarter of new hires wash out within one year and nearly half by 18 months.
This makes sense given that no one presents their most authentic and honest selves in interviews — after all, the game is to be wanted so you have the best negotiating power. And hiring managers fall prey to self-deception as it’s continually shown that perception bias plays a huge role in interviews. We form decisions quickly about whether we like the candidate, then ask questions and seek information that supports our viewpoint. We take it easy on the candidates who give a great first impression, and drill the ones who don’t.
So how do you get more adept at hiring solid employees with initiative? What can you do to determine culture fit and aligned expectations?
Considering how heavily weighted the interview is in our hiring decisions, our best bet is to get better at them. If we want more credible information, we need to ask revealing questions even if it feels forced or uncomfortable to do so. The standard vanilla interview questions simply don’t cut it, nor does the tendency to scrap the questions mid-way through and devolve into friendly chit chat.
Interviews are your chance to save yourself a lot of time and money so it pays to get a script of illuminating questions and listen hard for the answers (even if you don’t always want to hear them.)
I’ve conducted more interviews than I could count as an entrepreneur, and put together my own favorite questions that get to the heart of how a person thinks, works, and is motivated. I owe this list to colleagues and fellow business owners who’ve shared what works, plus lots of personal trial and error over the years. I’m not claiming these are the holy grail of interview questions, but they elicit far more than the standard “tell me your strengths and weaknesses” fare. More importantly, they reveal thought patterns and prior behavior — the surest predictor of future behavior.
Interview Questions for the Candidate
1. Tell me about our company. Give your top-line analysis.
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Increase your chances of success
So you already know the economy is terrible and it’s a very tough climate if you’re trying to find a job. But what does a really good job search entail? It turns out there are specific things you can do to increase your chances of success, even in a down market. I recently heard of an outstanding job hunt executed by a Gen Y who left a coveted job in management consulting for a position in a new field. His story and advice apply to every job seeker.
Some background: Adam Willard has a B.A. and MBA from two Ivy League universities. After completing his B.A. in 2004, with a major In Religion and Creative Writing, he worked in leadership development consulting at a healthcare research company. After three years he decided to go to business school to learn some fundamental skills and have a broad look at different industries and functions, since he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do.
After business school Adam was hired by a large consulting firm, and during the next two years, while learning and growing professionally, he struggled as he found his personal life falling by the wayside to make way for his hectic work and travel schedule. Adam told me, “Balance is very important to me, and the lifestyle at my firm affords you great growth opportunities in a short amount of time; there are a lot of perks. But ultimately I didn’t feel I was living my values. I couldn’t dedicate my energies to family and friends and interests outside of work. And that became more and more frustrating.”
The other thing that Adam found was missing for him was industry-specific experience. Consulting by nature offers you a glimpse into different industries, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to become an industry expert as a consultant. In talking with consulting alumni who had gone to industry, he learned that in order to gain real industry expertise he would have to go to work on the client side.
So the decision was made. Luckily Adam worked for a firm that greatly values its alumni network and makes a point of creating a culture where one can seek new opportunities while still being employed at the firm, within a specific time frame. At this point, through numerous conversations with colleagues both within the firm and outside, Adam had narrowed his potential sector choices to media, provider-side healthcare, non-profit consulting, and government.
The day he told his firm he was leaving he reached out and set up more meetings. He also created a spreadsheet of the names of people he would contact in those industries. He created a list of more general conversations he planned to have with people he respected who could provide perspective, including a career expert (me), and those he found to be creative thinkers. Through his conversations, he had a list of books that were recommended. He bought the books and planned to read them and complete the exercises.
After three weeks into his job search, Adam says he was having an “existential crisis”. So much of his identity was wrapped up in being a consultant at a prestigious firm, and he worried he was letting go of too much. The “Who am I?” question kept rearing its head. To help organize his thoughts, he decided to: 1. narrow down the field of things he was exploring, by starting to think more concretely about what he did and didn’t want to do; 2. read Working Identity, a book I recommend to those who are considering a total career shift, and which focuses on the transition process as an experiment—as adopting new careers and trying them on to see whether they fit. The book helped Adam commit to a structured process of career experimentation, while giving him the latitude to make mistakes. And, he says, it gave him permission to go with his gut and trust his intuition, while still remaining rigorous in his approach.
In the interests of homing in on particular fields Adam decided, after another set of conversations, to rule out a job in government; the roles that were coming his way did not entice him. The other field he ruled out was non-profit consulting, since one issue with his firm was the consulting work they did, which he no longer felt he wanted to do.
The final contenders were hospitals and media. Adam describes his feeling that with hospitals, every step along the way, the doors would keep opening. Each person he met with would introduce him to the next person. And all along, he never said no to a conversation.
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