Category: job search

Key Hiring Question: When & Why Will You Leave?

When you are interviewing for a job… probably one of the last things on your mind… is why and when you might leave. You’re thinking… I don’t even have the job… why would I think about when I might leave?

Great companies make this complex question part of the interview process.

In an insightful article by someone I admire, Charlene Li of Altimeter Group, How I Hire: Figuring Out Fit — And The Exit Strategy… she outlines the criteria and process for assessing candidates based on culture, skills and my favorite and what I consider relatively unique…  sense of purpose.

“As part of the hiring process, I also talk with people about how they will leave Altimeter one day. The idea of lifetime employment is dead, so why not face up to the reality that this person we’re hiring will one day leave? It’s a core part of us living the value of Integrity — that openness and transparency develops trust.” Charlene Li

The last regular, ‘show up in the office’ job I had, I actually negotiated my departure date as part of my hiring package. When they offered me the job, I told them I would stay one year.  It allowed me to focus on getting the job done without worrying about how I’d leave. It was very empowering.

I am not suggesting that every time you take a job, you should negotiate your exit. What I am suggesting is that you think about what you want to get from the assignment… even it it’s just to earn some money or stay for 6 months.  Be conscious of what it will look like when you have reached that goal.

By the way, this takes courage and it puts the responsibility for finding your next ‘step’ right where it belongs; with you.

Image credit: Diane Arbus Moving On

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

Shut Up and Listen. You Can’t Learn If You’re Talking.

<a href="http://voxterra.blogspot.com/">TerraVox</a><a href="http://voxterra.blogspot.com/">TerraVox</a>

Have you ever tried listening to someone who is annoying you? Have you ever tried going a whole day without giving your opinion, not even once? If you’re an introvert, this may be easier for you. But for outgoing people, this  is a big problem.

And, by the way, it can be a problem for all of us. Most of us love to hear ourselves talk. We love to tell our side of the argument, our thoughts on other people’s lives etc. That’s why people love stories. It satisfies the need we humans have to know about others and compare ourselves to the them.

But the truth is WE CAN’T LEARN IF WE ARE TALKING.

Put a sock in it. The more important the relationship, the more we need to work on listening. Try it and let me know how the experiment works for you. I’ll let you know how I’m doing.

(By the way, if you have a job interview and the question comes about areas of self- improvement; a statement about the sincere desire to improve one’s listening skills for both personal and professional reasons can work. Just be prepared to talk about what you are doing to improve and make sure you are really practicing!)

Photo credit: Shhh Vox Efx

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

A Dog Never Tells What She Knows…

A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing. Mary Oliver

This is my dog Gildie. She is the first dog I have ever had.

What is there to learn from your first dog? Wow. Everything. She is so excited to wake up every day and play. I need this.

She is motivated by food and people and toys. She is completely engaged in life except when she’s asleep and then she’s completely engaged in that.

I got a dog so I would have to go for a walk everyday. Rain or snow, whatever the weather, I needed a reason to get up and walk. Since she has the energy of 2 toddlers, I am compelled to play, walk, laugh and be completely engaged with her.

The quote above about how a dog perceives the world — through her nose– was brought home to me on one of those walks. She trusts her nose more than her eyes and it got me thinking. Which of my senses do I trust the most?

I am certain my eyes deceive me. Happily, I learned to trust my gut. Take all the information and sift it through the sensor that is my years of experience.What do you rely on? What you see, what you hear, what you believe? Do you jump to conclusions about people?

Understand how you learn and make decisions and you’ll be more effective in everything you do. How free are you with your opinions? Do you offer to give everyone the benefit of your wisdom? Or do you use your experience to let others find their own path? Use all the information given to you to help you be a better friend, co-worker, partner and parent. We’ll all benefit.

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

Finishing: Be First or Last… But Finish

The Raleigh Elite host the Carolina Dynamo in a PDL match at SAS Soccer Park in Cary, NC on Wednesday, May 31, 2006.  The Dynamo won the match 5-1 on 2 goals from Darryl Roberts and 1 a piece from Ben Hunter, Randi Patterson, and Jamie Franks.  Be...

“You have to finish things … you learn by finishing things.” Neil Gaiman

When I think of all the projects I have started and never finished… it’s a little embarrassing. There was a point in my life when I tried a lot of different creative endeavors; basket weaving (really, really hard), Ukrainian eye dying (maddening), calligraphy (oh brother), etc. I do crochet and want to learn to quilt, so I have big bags of yarn and fabric. Someday, I am going to create a lot of great stuff. (wink, wink). I like to start things, sometimes I fall apart when it comes to finishing. Am I alone in that or are you the same?

When I read the above quote… it caused me to stop and think. Do we really learn from starting things or finishing things or both? Think about the last project you started at home. Did you finish it? Think of a really big project you started at your current or past job. I assume the project was broken down into smaller pieces. Did you celebrate a little when each step was completed?

There may be limited benefit to debating the starting/finishing question, but my guess is that a few minutes contemplating both might lead to some personal insights. What causes me to procrastinate? What causes me to abandon something before it’s done? I’m not lazy; I accomplish a lot everyday.

Think about specific projects. Share your thoughts with someone and then decide to take one action.

Photo credit: wjarrettc  photo

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

Got Your Six

I just learned about this… Got Your Six.

In the military when someone tells you that they’ve “Got Your 6,” it means they’re watching your back.

This post is about 2 things:

1) Who’s back do you have and who’s got your back?

2) What are you doing to help our Veterans who are returning from service?

Regarding #1 – I think it’s my job to care for every person I meet. By  ‘care for’ I mean see them. Look in their eyes, smile and listen. As for who has my back… there are so many people who have watched over me; I am blessed. I am sending out a loving thank you to each of you today.

Regarding #2 – Our Veterans are coming back from service– they need our support. The “all-volunteer” group of servicemen and women face significant issues resulting from multiple tours of duty and injury — to the body and to the spirit. We can all do something.  We just need to find it. They need support in– jobs, education, health, housing, family and leadership.

We need to take the skill and experience of those who have served and let them show us the way — while we stand by them and stand up for them. It is our duty and privilege.

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.