Talent pinned on noticeboard

Talent pinned on noticeboard

In my reading and musings over the years, I have discovered four key themes that every talent (skill, gift, aptitude, expertise, God-given ability, pick the synonym you wish) seems to have. Here they are.

1. You have an instinctive, top of the mind ability to use it. World class athletes don’t have to think about how to stroke a tennis forehand, counselors have an innate ability to hear emotions, engineers naturally gather data for decision-making, etc. You need not think about how to do it. It just happens.

2. You have a desire, a yearning to use it, EVEN IF YOU REALLY CANNOT DESCRIBE IT. I am constantly amazed by individuals who clearly have an innate ability that they practice daily in their work and/or play, yet are unable to recognize the significance of this ability in planning their careers and their lives.

3. When you are called upon to acquire knowledge in this area, it comes easily and quickly. I still recall my struggle with learning geography (“Why bother?” – I asked myself. “That’s what maps and Google Earth are for!”), yet I was able to soak up information on computer technology and New Testament Greek like a sponge!

4. As you look back on the practice of this “talent,” you experience TRUE SATISFACTION. “Flow” is the term used by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (I have a number of his excellent books in my library) to describe what he calls the “psychology of optimal experience.” When you are in Flow, you lose track of time and space. When finished, you feel that you have accomplished something worthwhile, something of true value.

Have you identified any “talent” that meets these criteria? What are you waiting for? START TO USE IT!

I can see him now. Rumpled raincoat, stub of a cigar, tousled hair and knitted brow, driving around in his old Peugeot looking befuddled. Yet, from 1971 to 1978, in 55 episodes and 14 specials, Columbo always seemed to crack the case wide open. What in the world, you may say, does this have to do with me and my employment search?

Quite a bit. Let me introduce you to what I like to call the “Columbo style” of job hunting – four key principles that you can apply to increase your opportunity for success.

Columbo always had insight into what was really happening.

If you recall, the episodes started by showing us “who done it,” someone who had carefully prepared an airtight alibi. No one thought that person could have possibly committed the dastardly deed. No one, that is, but Lieutenant Columbo. Somehow or another, he seemed to have an inside track on the events before him.

You also have insights. You know that many of the better opportunities are hidden from public view, will never be acknowledged in the traditional market (Internet, newspapers, recruiters, etc.). You also know that contact with others to seek information, advice and referral can be a powerful and highly successful way to tap into this hidden market. Furthermore, you know that most of the individuals you network with are inclined to feel that the only way they can help you is to either provide you with the Lead of a Lifetime, or hire you themselves. If they can do neither, they feel that they have nothing to offer. You, however, understand that through networking with others, they can become more informed about you and your interests and can begin to connect the dots between your skills and abilities and opportunities they may encounter in their work and life. Not to mention what you can learn from them!

Columbo never tipped his hat on this insight.

He never barged right into the obvious “Where were you on the night of . . .?” questions. He often spent considerable time talking around the issues at hand, to the point of having conversations that seemed totally unrelated to what was really important. One of his typical questions, “What did you pay for those shoes?” even became a famous catchphrase for comedians and impersonators, even though he uttered it only once.

How does this relate to the job search and career development? Just because you understand more about the process of networking than your contacts doesn’t mean you should approach them that way. For example, you should not start out by saying something like “I know you think the only way to help me is to offer me a job, but I know that you’ll come up with contacts, advice and insights that you’re unaware of that will really help me.” Such a lead-in is a recipe for failure. You want to start with friendly, conversational topics that tap into the individual’s interests and activities, then move on into seeking his or her perspective on things. We have a solid article on this very topic called “Networking Questions” you may want to read.

Columbo was willing to be confused to get the answers he needed.

As a matter of fact, more often than not he appeared to be totally perplexed. Of course, that gave the criminal false confidence that this disheveled character was no threat at all, a misinterpretation that the lieutenant used to his advantage every week!

You need to be confused, too. As a matter of fact, you are confused, whether you believe it or not. According to Barbara Sher in Live the Life You Love, most people are natural problem-solvers, relishing the opportunity to figure things out, give advice and share their perspective. You can use this “I don’t know what I am doing” technique to admit to your contact that you are not sure what your next steps should be, wonder if your resume represents you properly, are not at all sure you are identifying the best fit for your skills, etc. Most individuals will rise to the occasion of your “confusion” and provide assistance.

Columbo was always seeking to “put two and two together.”

As he managed to extract the facts from the criminal, he took full advantage of these gems to bring the offender to justice.

Our application? OK, I admit that you’re not trying to catch a murderer or throw the keys away on a blackmailer, but you are seeking to get the key information necessary to take action towards a meaningful, satisfying career. That is where you need to be constantly investigating, considering and applying what you learn as well as continually tapping into the people and resources that are all around you to be successful in your career development.

Skip the raincoat. Forget the cigar. Comb your hair. But stay confused!

It worked for Lieutenant Columbo!

In his excellent tome “The Passion Plan,” Richard Chang writes of making decisions regarding your life and work from two sources: your Head or your Heart.

If your decisions move from your Head to your Heart (based solely on rational thought, logic, what “makes sense,” etc. and then considering your subjective side), you will ultimately experience Regret“I wonder what might have happened if I had done this or that…?” Or, according to Chang, if you stay with Head decisions, you’re likely experience Sadness, as you realize that you failed to consider your deeper needs and desires before taking action.

Heart decisions can have their pitfalls as well. As Chang notes, if you start from your Heart and stay with your Heart, you are likely to make Risky, totally impractical decisions, placing your future in danger as you never tempered your Heart ideas with logical considerations from your Head.

The best process, he suggests, is the Heart-Head journey. Identify and clarify your Passions, those deeply held beliefs and drives that make you the extraordinary person you are and then evaluate alternatives and drive your actions through your Head to seek out the best path(s) to achieve your Passions.

According to Chang, this Heart-Head process is the ultimate way to achieve what he calls “capital P Profit,” Profit that feeds the soul as well as the body! In the introduction to his book he quotes Benjamin Disraeli- “Man is only truly great when he acts from the passions.”

How about you? Do you know where your passions lie? If not, take action to discover them.

True GritI was introduced to this extraordinary word while listening to an interview with Dan Pink on his Manga Masterpiece “The Adventures of Johnny Bunko.” As Dan was recounting the key lessons learned by Johnny through that winsome sprite Diana (no spoilers here, you need to get and read this book!), he introduce me to Rule #4 – Persistence Trumps Talent. Dan went on to describe how the world was littered with competent, talented people who never realized their potential because they simply gave up, while others pressed on (perhaps even with less ability) to excellence.

Enter Angela Duckworth, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and her research on the personality trait she calls “grit.” She describes grit as “sticking with things over the very long term until you master them.” In one paper, she noted that “the gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina.”

Her research showed that the West Point cadet’s grit score was the best predictor of success in the rigorous summer training program known as “Beast Barracks.” It eclipsed more obvious traits such as intelligence, leadership ability or even physical fitness. In another example, the grittiest contestants at the Scripps National Spelling Bee were mostly likely to advance at least in part because they studied longer, not because they were smarter or even were better spellers!

As a marathon runner, this reminds me the anonymous paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 9:11 – The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running.

How about you? Do you, like Marshall Rooster Cogburn, possess “True Grit?!”

A recent insurance ad has a young lady bemoaning the accident that totaled her beloved car. She and that car had been through so much in the 4 years she owned it…2 boyfriends, 3 JOBS!

Welcome to the new job market, Sports Fans! The Rules have clearly changed!

Lets remind ourselves of the Old Rules:

  • Get a good job with a solid company.
  • Do what you are told.
  • Take every promotion they offer you.
  • Stay until they present you with the “Gold Watch.”
  • Retire and get a hobby.

WRONG! I would respectfully suggest the following “Rules” for the New Workplace looming before us:

Be prepared for change at all times.

Only two things don’t change – God and change. As a company, stay flexible, forward thinking and open to adjustments for you, your industry and your personnel. As a worker, you need not fall in love with change, but you’d better learn how to handle it. Change happens.

Act as if you are self employed.

One of my favorite sites to follow is Careerrealism (http://www.careerealism.com), which touts the tagline “Because EVERY Job is Temporary.” Well, it is. As a company, don’t assume that you will be ordering gold watches on a volume discount. Help your employees see themselves as integral parts of the solution. As an employee, take action at work as if your paycheck is directly related to your performance (because, ultimately, it is!).

Never stop learning.

Employers should provide opportunities for employees to acquire new skills, knowledge and expertise that enhance them as individuals as well as enabling them to contribute at higher and higher levels. Employees should be seeking these opportunities continually, even if they must do it on their own. To borrow a title from another one of my blogs, your workers may be saying “Play Me or Trade Me!”

Continually add value to your work.

“What have you done for me lately?” sounds very ungrateful, but it’s a Fact Of Work these days. The best way to stop advancing in your job is to simply do what is expected of you. Employers, create opportunities for the employee to contribute more to the position. Employees, never be completely satisfied with your performance. Always seek to improve. I like to call this mindset “Professional Dissatisfaction.”

Take charge of your attitude.

When I’ve been called in to work with employees, it is never on how to use a spreadsheet or fill out a time card. It’s to teach them how to “play well with others!”  Employers should seek to enhance the communication and teambuilding skills of staff through modeling the appropriate behavior as well as providing training and support in these areas. Employees should invest time and energy into enhancing their interpersonal skills.

Is it a New Workplace? You bet it is!


It’s Wednesday, and the Internet is replete with images of that now famous “Hump Day” animal… Camel

Gallup research tells us that there is a certain percentage of any work force that will remain “disengaged.” What a great word – DISENGAGED.

I still recall reading a license plate on the front of a vehicle in Western PA which opined, “I LOVE PAYDAYS, VACATIONS, WEEKENDS.” Some quick mental calculations told me that the driver must HATE most of their existence!

There are, of course, people out there who will never be happy unless they are miserable. While I was discussing this phenomenon in training with a company, one of the attendees raised his hand in the middle of the presentation to “give his two cents.” Anyone who has trained knows that the raised hand can go one of two ways – very badly or very well! Breathing a silent prayer, I acknowledged the gentleman’s presence and gave him the floor.

I am happy to report it went well, and this is why: he shared THE STORY OF SMITTY.

Smitty was a long term employee of the company. Smitty was also a pretty miserable person. Smitty wore a perpetual scowl, seemed to be trying to decide between staying on the job or having root canal without Novocain. His interaction with his co-workers was consistently negative. If queried as to what he liked about work, his response would probably be something like “Payday, lunch and leaving.” That’s assuming he answered at all!

Smitty’s job, by the way, was working in The Pit. I never found out exactly what that involved, but it clearly did not sound good.

One day, his supervisor decided to ask, “Hey, Smitty, do you like working in The Pit?”

“Nah,” said Smitty with his typical venom-laced voice, “I HATE it!”

Deciding to wade in deeper, his supervisor then asked, “Well, what would you LIKE to do?”

Smitty responded immediately, “I’d like to work in Banding” (Once again, I really did not know what this entailed, but clearly Smitty preferred it to The Pit).

The result of this exchange was that the supervisor was eventually able to transfer Smitty to Banding. When this happened, something AMAZING took place!

Smitty became human! He actually smiled on occasion, working more effectively with his co-workers and becoming more productive.

Here is the Big Question: Whose fault was it that Smitty was so miserable for so long? The supervisor or Smitty?

And the Big Answer: BOTH!

To quote from two companion books by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans (Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em and Love It, Don’t Leave It, my reviews on Shelfari, of course), “ASK!”

Smitty should have thought of asking if there were any other positions that he felt he could enjoy/do better at (often these two factors work together), and the supervisor should have checked much sooner on Smitty’s interests and skills. To paraphrase a favorite author of mine, Marcus Buckingham (formerly of Gallup), “Companies should stop trying to make people what they aren’t and use them for what they are.”

By the way, so you do not consider me to be a starry-eyed idealist, I realize that EVERY position will require the employee to perform some tasks they would rather give up. I like to call this “The Grown-up Stuff.” I don’t want to do it, but I have to because they told me to. Welcome to Life.

However, by asking about and considering the employee’s key interests, satisfiers and skills we can come as close as possible to eliminating that favorite term for Wednesday touted by morning DJ’s – HUMP DAY!

I must take issue with the 80’s rock group Loverboy – Not “Everybody’s working for the weekend!”

I was “chatting” with a client over the Internet regarding career alternatives based on some assessment work we had done to unearth what I liked to call their “Best Stuff.” As he was recounting some of the potential options coming up, his email opined, “Here I go again… rambling…”

One may argue that this was indeed true, but my instinctive response was, “I like ‘rambling’… it’s when you get to see the most scenery.” The more I thought about my response, the more I liked it! (my friend Scott Ginsberg, at http://www.hellomynameisscott.com, once said, “If you don’t quote yourself, no one else will!”)

Here are some of my key points on why I’m a fan of Rambling:Career Road Map

  1. You DO get to see more “scenery.”

A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it also reduces your field of peripheral vision substantially. If your travel is a bit more meandering, including switchbacks, occasional detours and winding roads, you may not get “there” (wherever THERE is!) as quickly, but you will certainly have a lot more to look at. I see this as a good thing. The more scenery that you see, the more opportunity you have to discover a marvelous “destination” that you never knew existed.

  1. It bucks the traditional vocational system.

I feel for the job seekers and careerists who invest almost all of their time and energy in newspapers, the Internet, employment agencies, company career ladders and other “traditional” resources. To be sure, these methods all represent possibilities for success and may even hold clues to their career development or next position. The problem is: they are investigating the smallest number of opportunities in direct competition with the largest number of candidates. My statistics training goes back a few years, but these don’t sound like good odds to me! Rambling can get you beyond “the smell of the greasepaint and roar of the crowd” and may actually be the shortest distance to get to the better career destinations, whether you are seeking or new job or wish to grow in your present position.

  1. It starts the “trip” sooner instead of later.

If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, You’ll Probably End Up Somewhere Else, an excellent book by Dr. David Campbell, makes some strong points supporting a targeted career process. The problem is, I’ve had many clients who were loathe to even start a Career Road Trip until they could describe their final destination in clear, concise almost meticulous detail. Since they couldn’t do so, they never started and remained parked in their vocational driveway, never even backing out onto the road. With apologies to Dr. Campbell, I may rephrase his title to “If You Wait to Figure Out Exactly Where You’re Going, You May End Up Staying Right Where You Are.”

  1. It increases the possibility of “luck” showing up.

Luck, serendipity or delightful surprises are hardly ever planned, but they have a greater opportunity to show up for the Rambler than the Laser-Guided Careerist. To requote one of my favorite authors, Barbara Sher, “The amount of good luck that comes your way depends on your willingness to act.” (From I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was). Rambling creates the dynamics for serendipity to show up.

Allow me to “ramble” just a bit more on this subject. Here’s what you should do:

  • Get a general idea of where your trip is headed.
  • Unplug the GPS.
  • Pull out of your driveway, take off and keep your eyes open.

You may be surprised by what you drive by!