Category: future of work

Finding a job: 1930 vs. 2015

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In 1930, many people found themselves without work; without a way to support their families. Have things changed?  Some have; some haven’t.

Take a closer look at the picture. This man, probably dressed in his good clothes, is walking the streets, advertising, ON HIS BACK, that he needs work. Imagine if you had to do this. That you were so desperate to work that you  literally had to walk the streets with a sign.

Humbling isn’t it?

Just for today, think about how fortunate you are. Whether you have a job or not. If you have a place to live, food to eat, a family, good health or any combination of these, you are one of the lucky people. For today, I choose gratitude for what I have.

(If you need a little help finding a job… check out, “What’s Different About Job Search in 2015?”)

Photo credit: I know 3 trades

Job Interview Magic: I and We

I recently had an opportunity to do help graduate students work through mock job interviews. I had 4 international students, all with impeccable credentials. The first young man was charming and humble. A musician by avocation, he’s looking to help the world be a better place. He was a sharp contrast to one of my other interviewees.

When I asked this next young man what he wanted to accomplish from his ‘mock’ interview, he said that he needed direct feedback about how he could improve. I started by asking him about his strengths. He mentioned that he felt that working with people and getting things done were his strengths.

When he described how he led teams, he mentioned that when an employee did something wrong, he would tell them, “You made a mistake,” and then he would tell them how to fix it.

While I didn’t like how he described his supervisory style, I couldn’t argue with directness in employee coaching.

In giving him feedback, I pointed out that the way he spoke about subordinates was different than the way I would do it. That didn’t make it wrong but I wondered if he was being too direct, and perhaps it was cultural.

When I read this post, “The 2 Most Important Words in a Job Interview,” I realized that perhaps what I sensed was too much “I”  in the discussion of his success and not enough “we.”

The entire experience was, for me, uplifting, as is all my work with young people. I get the feeling that the world is going to be in good hands.

You’re A Rookie, Good!

Are you trying something new? How does it feel? Exciting? Scary? Confusing?

Are you feeling like you want to try something new but you’re afraid? (Seems reasonable!)

Have you stopped considering trying new things because you are:

  • too old, too tired, too cranky, too dull, too young, too blah, blah, blah

In this inspirational talk, the founder of ModCloth (which she started at 17), talks about why it’s good and even powerful to be a ‘rookie.’ When we are rookies, we have no preconceived ideas about how it’s ‘supposed’ to work. That makes it easier (and even necessary) to innovate. We ask rookie questions, we make rookie decisions and we hopefully have rookie energy. Learning is energizing.

There is power in rookiedom. I’m not suggesting that you don’t ask for help or get advice from trusted advisers. Of course, that makes sense. But it’s also important to trust your rookie ‘gut’.

If you are accomplished at something but still want to get better or if you want to expand your capabilities, consider talking to a rookie. Someone who knows very little about the topic. They may have insights that all the experts in the world never would have had.

I was a rookie teacher… I cringe when I think of how naive I was. In many ways, I see how those early lessons shaped the teacher I am today. I’m excited to be a rookie again. I’ll keep you up to date on my, ahem, progress.

Photo credit: School Friends  Woodley Wonderworks

Develop Unconventional Skills

Beach of maria flour. Paulista. Janga. Pernambuco.<br /><br /><br /><br />
Artur jumping.

I studied French and German as an undergrad. I always thought I wanted to be a French teacher. Once I became a secondary school teacher, I realized I liked the kids, didn’t like ‘school.’ Ok, so now what?

I had worked in the University Library for my work-study money and I loved it. So next thing I knew, I was in a Master’s of Library Science program. I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do with this degree. I didn’t really seem like all the other ‘librarians’, but I loved all the adult learning, bringing order out of chaos, etc.

I moved from Washington, D.C. to Rochester, N.Y. and finished my degree at SUNY Geneseo. Now what?

The point of the story is not… what I did. The point is that it’s surprising and amazing how all the skills I learned along the way, helped me gain my future positions. Whether it was teaching that turned into training, or knowing a foreign language that turned into translating; I had a background that others didn’t. That brought me opportunity. That brought my skills and personality to the attention of people who could help me in my career.

Just when you think your weird/odd range of interests could be of no possible benefit to anyone… suddenly you find that you are the person who can get the job done. Make your career long by doing the following:

  • Constantly be learning
  • Learn different things than other people (stamp collecting? uni-cycling?)
  • Expand your network by deliberately including people of various ages, ethnicities, professions, etc.

Do not be discouraged if you are in a job (or looking) that isn’t exactly what you want or if you feel that your diverse skills aren’t appreciated. Hang in there and never give up. With patience if you come to see where you fit. The world needs you just the way you are.

Photo credit: Somersault Netjer-Lelahell

Wanna Be A Teacher? Be a Student.

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I have the privilege of being a teacher. I am grateful for the opportunity and in general, I work to learn as much as I teach. Every environment (classroom, one on one, online) provides me a chance to learn because of the students. Each one teaches me something interesting and often, important.

Life is a series of learning opportunities. How we approach learning is as important as our character.

When someone is a ‘student’ – they get space to fail/make mistakes/goof up. In fact, we expect it. But somehow, when we “grow up” – that changes. We aren’t students anymore; we’re expected to be confident, aware, ‘on top of things.’

Ugh. This drives me crazy. If we view everyone as a full time student of life… who happens to be employed as a (fill in the blank), imagine how much easier it would be to try new things and learn. Failure, mistakes and goof ups would be normal, good, desirable.

Good teachers are everywhere, but good students are hard to find. Look to teach others (it makes us feel smart and important) but WORK to learn (it makes us feel stupid and weak). Hang around other students (entrepreneurs, kids, artists)… they’re full of mistakes and joy.

Embrace the Mess – A Key to Innovation

Babies on BORSCHT

Do you embrace the mess?

If you want to hear someone interesting talk about problem solving like an artist, thinking like an artist; here is designer Marc Ecko sharing his thoughts on embrace the mess. He believes that the wealth that matters can’t be really be counted. Think about it. He also recommends that each of us be an “un-label.” When you have truly found yourself,  people are not sure how to describe the essence of “you.” They only know that you are true to yourself and encourage others to do so too.

What’s good about the mess?

It’s rare that innovation/learning/joy comes from a completely planned event. It’s the goof ups, the unexpected changes, the learning how to…, that often produces the good stuff. Are you afraid of the mess?

Try finger painting, with food from your refrigerator (not a lot, just a little). Hang around little kids, watch them experiment. What can we learn from them?

When you have a problem to solve, following all the rules, doing the same thing over and over, talking to the same people for advice and then expecting a breakthrough, doesn’t make sense. For today, I give you permission to do the messy thing. Let me know how it goes.

Photo credit: messy baby photographer

The Irreverent Resume

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Yes to irreverent, NO to  idiotic.

When I saw this article, “Resume Blasphemy” I thought, how great! I love this idea.

Instead of listing… where you went to school and worked… the author suggests you write how you would do the job including:

  • “A clear picture of the business of the employer you want to work for.
  • Proof of your understanding of the problems and challenges the employer faces.
  • A plan describing how you would do the work the employer needs done.
  • An estimate of what/how much you think you could add to the bottom line.”

Imagine you are the hiring manager and instead of skimming boring resumes, you get to read through descriptions of various approaches to the advertised job. This is at the heart of behavioral interviews but it goes farther because it requires the applicant to do all the work.

My suggestion… whether you send the irreverent resume or not… write it! Imagine how prepared you will be for that interview.

Photo Credit: How to…

Are You Part of the “Other Backward Class”?

I found this homeless man with his dog, he was ever so gentle and loving with man's best friend. Chris told me his dog, Brandy, was all he had in the world. His last dog was taken away from him by the police because he did not have tags or a ...

I read an article about the unexpected death of an Indian politician named, Gopinath Mundie. Mr. Mundie had risen to prominence from, what in India is known as, a low-caste grouping called the “Other Backward Classes.” When I read this, I almost cried. Can you imagine growing up in a country where you, your family and friends are referred to by this derogatory term?

I am not judging the Indian people, their culture or their politics (in fact, we could learn a lesson from them in democracy… if you haven’t seen this Daily Show segment on voter turn out… check it out.)

I am simply asking you to think about your life in America. We have a long way to go in many, many aspects of our young country’s democracy and fairness to our citizens. There are many problems. But one thing we don’t have are Backward Classes. Of course, we have ‘classes’ that ‘we’ consider ‘less than’ – so we all have a lot of work to do on understanding, kindness, sharing, fairness, etc.

Related to this… I hear many people complaining about our economy, but I see the restaurants are full. People complain about fuel prices, but we still drive everywhere. We worry about climate change, yet we leave our lights on, use drive-throughs and in general don’t pay much attention to our individual contribution to the problem.

I’m not blaming anyone… I have many improvements to make in my own life. For today, I am asking you to think about how lucky you are that you live in a country (with all its flaws) where education is universal and opportunities are abundant. The chance to live a life that most people on the planet would give everything to have a chance to experience. So the next time your dry cleaning isn’t ready on time or the grocery store is out of your favorite ice cream, will you stop and be grateful for the abundance that being born American has given you?

P.S. One other item of interest about Mr. Mundie… “His home district of Beed is infamous for female foeticide (where they find out if a fetus is a girl or a boy and then abort it if it is a girl) and given that he has three daughters and no son, he was often hailed as an example for others to follow. One of his daughters, Pankaja Munde-Palve, is a member of the Maharashtra state assembly.” Mr. Mundie.. you will be missed but your legacy lives on.

Photo credit: His Entire World: Homeless Man  Beverly and Pack

Feel Sorry For the Ferrari Driver

When you see someone driving a Ferrari, are you envious or do you feel sorry for him/her? Do you wonder, what do they, “do for a living” or do you think, ” that poor schlub really needs attention”?

Feel sorry for them? What are you talking about? They have money, probably a big house, lots of friends…

But the truth is that money doesn’t necessarily translate into happiness.

In a meritocracy (a society in which hard work, energy and skills are valued above other qualities), people thrive regardless of where and to whom they were born.  Those who give less and don’t try, end up at the bottom. Of course, this type of society doesn’t exist in the ‘modern world but we can adjust our attitude about effort and ‘success.’

We now view failure as something personal. We don’t see failure as a learning process.

I highly recommend this wonderful TED talk (15 minutes well spent) A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success.

We think we know what success means, but do we?

Why We Work?

Palmer, Alfred T.,, photographer.</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>Operating a hand drill at North American Aviation, Inc., [a] woman is working in the control surface department assembling a section of the leading edge for the horizontal stabilizer of a plane, Inglewood, Calif....

The Buddhist point of view is that work has 3 purposes, to:

  1. give a man a chance to utilize and develop his faculties
  2. enable him to overcome his ego-centeredness by joining with other people in a common task
  3. bring forth needed goods and services

To simplify, we work to:

  1. Develop our unique skills (Do you know what these are? Do you work to develop them?)
  2. Think about other people (get over ourselves) (Many people say they do but… WOW it’s still all about them.)
  3. Make/provide stuff of value to others  (This one is the easiest)
  4. There is an obvious #4. The reason most of us would say we work… to make money to live.

Just for today, When you are working, how about thinking about 1-2 instead of 3-4?  In the photo, the woman probably had never used a drill before the war. Then suddenly, she had to become proficient for a greater good. What ways does your work help you develop your unique gifts and help others instead of yourself?

Photo credit: Operating a Hand Drill   Library of Congress