Category: future of work

You Must Go to College BEFORE You Start a Company

We're midway through the judging at the <a href="http://www.dfj.com/venturechallenge">DFJ Venture Challenge</a> today…Here you see a UC Davis team demonstrating light-dimming demand response to help reduce utility bl...

I was skimming through a book titled, “The $100 Startup, Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, ” by Chris Guillebeau (a wicked cool guy). In the first pages, he tells the story of Michael Hanna, the successful sales professional.  Twenty plus years experience and he is called in to his boss’s office, the HR person shows up, he’s let go, handed a cardboard box and walked to his car. He moans and worries for a while but then something happens.  He starts a company by accident and ends up a successful entrepreneur.

Kids, You Must Go to College

I am stunned when I hear parents and teachers say, you must go to college before you start a company. You don’t have enough ‘experience.’ What could you possibly do? How will you live? and on and on. Thousands of reasons why not.

Hey folks, for many, what you learn in college won’t get you a job, a career or make you happy. There are wonderful alternatives to college (40 Alternatives to College) but we, as a society, don’t support or value them.

Don’t get me wrong, I think college is great. I understand about “education-related income”and there are lots of successful people who are high school drop outs… Peter Jennings (new anchor), Princess Diana, Bill Gates, David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, etc.I have a young friend who was accepted to MBA programs at MIT and Stanford who opted to skip grad school to start his first company.

My point is that encouraging every kid to go to college, whether they want to or not, is dumb. Look around at Gen Y, they are starting organizations and changing the world including Warren Buffet’s ‘heir apparent.”

Photo credit: Enlightening. Jurvetson

Job Interview Question: Why Are Tennis Balls Fuzzy?

I recently gave a talk in front of a group of senior executives (older folk) who are ‘in the hallway’ (looking for work). I was talking about the collaborative economy and I made a reference to Porter’s 5 forces model. Now, you may never have heard of this, no big deal. But for a group of people over 50 who made over $100,000 in their last corporate job; it surprised the heck out me that only one them had heard of it but couldn’t accurately describe it.

Let’s be clear, on any given day… there are 1,000′s of things I don’t know and this has nothing to do with Porter’s paradigm specifically. My comment to them was, “good thing this isn’t a job interview.”

I work as a consultant so I go on a ‘job interview’ several times a month. As I’m networking, I never know who is going to be a connection to a gig.

Fuzzy Tennis Balls? This article, “13 Weirdest Interview Questions – 2014” offers us some of the oddest questions people were asked (submitted via Glassdoor). If you got this question in an interview, how would you answer? Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, thank goodness I’m not looking for a job or I’m going to pray that I don’t get a question like that. That’s one approach.

How about this? What if you use these odd questions as a chance to stretch your mind? Just for exercise. Talk to someone about it over lunch. Ask your kids what they think. Have fun for crying out loud.

For those of you who are looking for work, old or young, remember the goal of these questions is for the interviewer to see how you think, how quick you are on your feet, what happens to you when faced with a (small) challenge. Do you stumble and stutter or do you let your creative juices flow? Creativity requires practice so I suggest you play games, answer silly questions, get out those crayons; maybe you’ll get that job after all.

Photo credit: Tennis Kevinzim

This is Your Life. Do What You Want…

“This is your life. Do what you want and do it often.
 If you don't like something, change it.
 If you don't like your job, quit.
 If you don't have enough time, stop watching TV.
 If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love.
 Stop over-analysing, life is simple.
 All emotions are beautiful.
 When you eat, appreciate every last bite.
 Life is simple.
 Open your heart, mind and arms to new things and people, we are united in our differences.
 Ask the next person you see what their passion is and share your inspiring dream with them.
 Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself.
 Some opportunities only come once, seize them.
 Life is about the people you meet and the things you create with them, so go out and start creating.
 Life is short, live your dream and wear your passion.”

Holstee Manifesto, The Wedding Day

 

Nothing to add… just do it.

May 2014 be your year to shine and give. We’re in this together folks. Peace.

 

 

No Boss, No Office and My Peers Decide My Pay… What?

“Imagine a company where everyone is equal and managers don’t exist. A place where employees sit where they want, choose what to work on and decide each other’s pay. Then, once a year, everyone goes on holiday together.”

There is such a company, it’s called Valve.

For those of you who think this is: stupid, could never work, is just an experiment and could only work in a handful of cases, perhaps you are correct. I’m not here to argue with you. The point of this post is to challenge our ideas of what is ‘necessary’ in the work environment.

You can read the Valve Employee Handbook here. It is titled: “A fearless adventure in knowing what to do when there’s no one telling you what to do.”

If you are in any kind of leadership role in ANY organization… I encourage you to browse their handbook.

… if you are a 10 year old company that has worked hard “to recruit the most intelligent, innovative, talented people on Earth, telling, them to sit at a desk and do what they’re told obliterates 99 percent of their value.”

The handbook goes on to outline what to expect and how a new employee can find their way through this new way of working.

Check this out: “While people occasionally choose to push themselves to work some extra hours, at times when something big is going out the door, for the most part working overtime for extended periods indicates a fundamental failure in planning or communication. If this happens at Valve, it’s a sign that something needs to be reevaluated and corrected.” And then they give you guidance as to how to get help to resolve the problem.

Would you like to work here? If not, why not? If yes, why?
Most importantly, what about the Valve culture can you adopt at your organization to make it more effective?

Image Credit: Banksy

Why Grit, Not IQ, Predicts Success

I wish someone had told me this when I was in middle/high school.

I am thinking of two mid-30′s business leaders.

One went to Yale and had a lot of advantages in life. He’s good looking in an Abercrombie kind of way, soccer star… you know the type. The other is also good looking (by that same standard) and athletic. He has a degree from a state school. His parents are teachers.

If IQ or ‘what college you attended’ or grade point average were the measures of success – the Yalie should win. But  something else is really at the heart of  business ‘success’ and it relates to:

– whether you see obstacles as opportunities or things that slow you down.

One way to to learn about obstacles as opportunities — is to grow up WITHOUT advantages. This builds grit and grit builds success. I wrote a post a few year back about people who failed time and again. Michael Jordan and Ulysses S. Grant. I had a college professor tell me I’d never graduate from college. Haha. I showed him.

Bottom line is — if you think that people who went to Ivy League schools are automatically successful, I ask you to think again.

As a country, we are suffering from ‘elitism fever’ (we think we’re better than others) – but deep in our hearts we know – the American spirit is grounded in pure grit. So next time you go to hire someone, why not ask… what obstacles have you overcome to be here? That might tell you everything you need to know.

Image credit: Elia Locardi

Become a Connoisseur of Your Mistakes

“The chief trick to making good mistakes is not to hide them – especially not from yourself. Instead of turning away in denial, … you should become a connoisseur of your own mistakes, turning them over in your mind as if they were works of art, which, in a way they are.” Daniel Dennet

Many of us want to shrink when we make a mistake. We deny that we’ve made one or we hesitate to own our part. While it may seem easier to avoid ‘consequences’ – the truth is we (almost) always  feel the consequences one way or the other. For instance, if we avoid taking risks for fear of looking foolish – we deprive ourselves of opportunities to grow and learn. Not good.

If we take a big risk… e.g. wholeheartedly sponsor a big project at work… and it goes well; we might get that promotion. If it fails, we will suffer from the ‘slings and arrows’ of people’s looks and possible gossip. But who learned? You did. While they were sitting back and judging you, you were out there talking, promoting, learning, growing and gaining visibility. Instead of hiding from your mistakes; what if you embraced them? what if you just say, “Wow, I made a mistake. I learned a lot and I won’t make that mistake again.” Imagine how confident you would seem and feel.

Billy Joel has a great line in his song… You’re Only Human:

“You’re not the only one who’s made mistakes
But they’re the only thing that you can truly call your own”

If mistakes are the only thing I can truly call my own, then I should make MORE not less. We encourage our small children to make mistakes and assure them that it’s ok when they do. Then they get to be teens; we start to bear down on them — don’t make mistakes!. As adults, we are mortified when it happens to us. Why? Because we are afraid to look anything less than perfect. We set a better example when we own our risks/mistakes.  We then have the satisfaction of knowing that we created something – all my own. Smile, it’s just a mistake.

Photo credit: Hand over mouth Mel B.

Because Every Job is “Temporary”…Confidence is Key

Confidence is defined as “belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities.” Where does your confidence come from?

If it’s from your work and you’ve been forced to make job changes then your confidence might be rocky. But if your confidence comes from self-awareness and continuously updated skills… then you might be feeling ok.. no matter what your employment circumstances are.

An author I admire, Darmesh Shah, wrote an excellent article titled,  “Nine Qualities of Truly Confident People.”  He describes confidence as, “quiet: a natural expression of ability, expertise, and self-regard.” Note that the article doesn’t describe confidence as bravado or swagger; but the ability to listen, to be wrong in front of others, to freely ask for help and shine the spotlight on others.

I would add two things to his list: knowledge and discipline. People who are confident usually are disciplined. They get more done than other people because they understand what’s important. In addition, they keep their skills updated. They don’t make excuses for why they don’t know things… they work hard.

If you are looking for a new resource to help you in your journey to career confidence.. check out CareerRealism - their tag line.. “because every job is temporary” … speaks to the modern condition. Most of us don’t like change, but there is one way to be sure that you can cope and that is to create it.

Be confident. Be happy and go with the flow. Change is good, timing is everything, patience is the key.

Photo credit:  3 WCAP boxers medal  photographer

Career Advice: Give

This blog is a rant.

I’m probably getting old and cranky (ok, not probably) but I am tired of people who want ‘help’ — get it through the generosity of selfless people and then boom – they take and take and largely never give back. All the ‘takers’ just stopped reading! I didn’t really expect to change any ‘takers’ but I am hoping to get to the ‘matchers.’ (read on!)

In his research-based book, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success Adam Grant (Wharton School)has identified three types of people — givers, takers, and matchers. Matchers return favors tit-for-tat (they care above all about fairness), Takers try to tilt most things in their own favor (focus on themselves), Givers are generous (focus on others).

Most people are givers in their personal relationships. Interestingly, at work, people change. Grant notes,  “An extraordinary number of people who are in a giver mindset at home are a matcher or taker at work.” Only 8% describe themselves as givers at work because most people think “givers are chumps who will fall behind in the game of work”.

Grant’s research shows that givers are among the most successful people in business and may also be the happiest. “There is powerful evidence,” “that givers experience more meaning in their work than takers or matchers.”

Back to my rant. I have probably met one on one with 500 people in the past 5 years. Many people thank me and that’s all I ask. But there’s a whole segment of people (both men and women) who act like they’ve never met me when I see them later. They are so focused on themselves… they don’t even remember meeting me! Often these are the same people who.. didn’t offer to buy the coffee (when they asked to meet me), never asked me one question about myself, never bothered to write an email saying thanks or following up in any way. In the tug of war of life — are you helping to pull for the greater good or shoving people out of your way?

Ok. I’m done.

Photo credit: Navy & Marines in tug of war   NYCMarines  (I wouldn’t bet against any of these fine human beings)

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