“We failed, but in the good providence of God apparent failure often proves a blessing. “ – Robert E. Lee

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

“Make excellent mistakes.” – Dan Pink (via Johnny Bunko)

“Failure is always an option.” – Adam Savage, Mythbuster

“Oops! I didn’t know THAT would happen!” Have you ever spoken those words after attempting something that “crashed and burned” before your eyes? I know I have.

Here’s another question: Did you learn anything from it? (Hint: The correct answer should always be “Yes.”) Some of our best lessons emerge from dismal failure. We all know the story of Edison who supposedly said of his lack of success along way to developing the incandescent light, “I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” Every “failure” is an opportunity for significant insight, if we will only pay attention.

Please allow me to quote the sprite Diana from Dan Pink’s The Adventures of Johnny Bunko (if you have not read this excellent little tome, you should, it takes only about 15 minutes!!): “the most successful people make spectacular mistakes – huge, honking screwups! …each time they make a mistake, they get a little better and move a little closer to excellence.”

So, get out there and make a mistake! You could LEARN something!

Chickadee-Handfeeding-BCBGNPWell, it’s finally happened.  Perhaps your hard work of pounding the pavement has yielded results.  Or, some kind soul has relented.  Or, you just “got lucky.”

At any rate, you now have a job offer. Being employed is a good thing, and this is not a bad position.  To be brutally honest, you could do worse… MUCH worse!  But, continuing to be honest, this is NOT the job of your dreams.  In better economic times, you would probably respond “Thanks, but no thanks” to their offer.

However, these are NOT better times and you’ve gotten used to eating regularly, having insurance and a roof over your head.  Although not ideal, this position can assist in these areas.  So, what do you do?  To quote Jack Nicholson from a recent movie, “What if this is as good as it gets?” Maybe the job of your dreams, or even a more attractive opportunity is just not coming.  In these challenging times, thinking about career development may be a pipe dream.  Be happy that someone wants you! After all, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” right?

Maybe, maybe not. Let’s take some time to think through this situation.  If you’re truly “sitting on” an offer right now, be smart enough to ask for some time to review it, talk to those you trust, etc., before you make a commitment.  If you have other job searches in process, be sure to advise any potential employer that you’ve just been offered a position but you are still interested in them.  Can they give you a sense of your chances?  This may encourage them to take action, or at least let you know where you stand.  I like to use language like, “Help me make the best decision here.  Do you see me as a serious candidate?  When will you make your hiring decision?” If they have no real answer, then it’s clearly time to move on.

Regarding the position “in the hand,” does it meet the criteria for what Barbara Sher calls a “Good Enough Job?” That’s a position that allows you, at least, to make ends meet, to keep your options open, perhaps to continue your search, to feed your better self with hobbies, other activities, etc.

I have three rules for such a position.

Rule One: Can you just go do it, without a lot of additional training or investment?

Rule Two: Will it allow you the time to work on activities that can create opportunities for a better position, or allow you to invest in building up skills, knowledge and experience to make you more marketable?

Rule Three may be the most important:  Can you enjoy it at all? Even if the job isn’t part of your long-term career goals, will the duties bring some level of satisfaction?  If not, you’re likely to find yourself bogged down physically, emotionally and spiritually, to the point that you better not interview for The Job of Your Dreams, because your performance as a candidate will place you in the Reject Pile.

Take the time to work through all of the pluses and minuses of the offer at hand.  Seek to negotiate for a better offer, if you can.  Seek to evaluate the offer in a comprehensive manner, talk to trusted individuals, then make your decision.

OK, let’s say you take the position.  What’s next?  Give them 110%? Eat, sleep and breathe the company slogan?  Get a tattoo of the corporate logo?  Commit your everlasting soul to the company mission statement? Oh, please!

Certainly, do a great job, learn all you can, forge positive working relationships. Demonstrate integrity, honesty and the good old Protestant Work Ethic.

And, one more thing:  KEEP LOOKING! Yes, you read that right.  Do the best job you can, but keep your eyes and ears open for other opportunities.  This position may work out for you, but there are certainly no guarantees these days. To quote the credo of the excellent site http://www.careerrealism.com, “Because EVERY Job is Temporary.”

I once read that the web portal YAHOO is an acronym for “You Always Have Other Options.” I truly believe that these days we all need to keep our eyes and ears open, continue networking, looking for the “two in the bush” even when we do have the “bird in the hand.”  This is not to be disloyal to your new position (which I am SURE you would never do), but to keep your ear to the ground just in case.

Then, if things don’t work out with this situation, you have O.O. (Other Options).

Social Media IconsThat IS the question for many of us, both employers and employees. And the answer is not as simple as it may appear to be.

Can time be wasted, hours of unproductive time spent posting mundane (What are you doing right now, what are you eating, where are you sitting, ad nauseam?) notes on any of these online programs? That answer is easy – YES!

…not to mention the possibility of sharing confidential information, posting inappropriate content or leaving something out in cyberspace where you have, at best, limited control over who reads it. Oh, I know there are privacy settings and related controls to reduce this possibility, but my rule of thumb has always been to assume that anyone may bump into your digital musings (your mother, your boss, etc.) and I type accordingly!

Even with these caveats, many organizations are creating Acceptable Use Policies (AUP’s) for social networking applications, fully aware that, even with the potential risks, there are true opportunities for their appropriate and professional use. I have  had the opportunity to speak to universities, professional networking groups, Human Resource organizations, etc. on the use of applications the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, et al as bona fide business tools.

Here are a few examples of how Social Networking can be beneficial:

  • Seeking real world, virtually immediate feedback from your customers on your products or services.
  • Providing an avenue for your staff to collaborate with peers in their industry or disciplines.
  • Opening up a communication channel to interact with clients (present and potential) anywhere in the world.
  • Creating an on-line presence for you and your organization that enhances your “Brand” in the marketplace.

Do these potential benefits have their downside? Most certainly, but in this global, digital age, failure to consider the appropriate use of these applications may leave you out in the cold!

Please allow me to start this “anti-resolution treatise” with a disclaimer: I have no problem with people who chooNew Year Resolutionsse the start of a new year to make life-enhancing commitments. The title of this blog is directed to my musings alone on the advantages and disadvantages of New Year’s Resolutions.

Early in my career I spent years working in fitness centers, both as a sales consultant and a trainer. The die-hard “gym rats” (not a term of derision, to my way of thinking) always dreaded the first couple of months of the New Year. Scores of “newbies” would descend on the equipment, monopolizing the machines while grunting and groaning, often in poor form with little chance of success, in search of that elusive, fit individual hiding deep within them. By the end of February, however, most of the smoke had cleared, and we were back to the “old faithful” regulars at the gym.

You can also observe this fanaticism for resolutions in the ads on TV and the blogs/posts/tweets/updates on the Internet. Lose weight, transform your business, embrace success, take charge, be all you can be, etc. And you are all but guaranteed success in any of your endeavors as, after all, it is the New Year! It’s all New! You can have a Fresh Start! It’s bound to work this time, right?!

Well, yes and no. Bless those dear souls who, with all the integrity and resolve they can muster, make these Resolutions. I read a tweet from someone just before the arrival of a New Year that noted they had just 2 days left to achieve the results they had committed to 363 days before! Well intentioned, yet not likely to be realized in the next 48 hours!

So, you may well ask, what’s my point?! (Go ahead, ask!) Simply this: To borrow a well-known phrase from Madison Avenue that originated in 1988, “Just Do It!” Start right away, whether in the shadow of the New Year’s fireworks, the excitement of spring blossoms, the oppressive heat of the dog days of summer, the panoply of fall colors or the grey skies in the dead of winter. To quote the title of one of my favorite books by Barbara Sher, “It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now!”

And, once you’ve started, stay with it! I recently encountered a T-shirt emblazoned with this pithy phrase“Just Doing It.” Two steps forward and one step back (the way I typically advance) is still a net gain of one step. Remember that success is more often the result of “grit” than anything else. To quote another favorite author of mine, Dan Pink (in the persona of Johnny Bunko), “Persistence trumps talent!”

Make your resolutions, whenever and however you can and, once you have done so, get caught “JUST DOING IT!”

Christmas ballsAs the holiday season bears down on us all, the pressing questions for the job hunter/careerist are: Should I take a break? Is anything really going to happen in the job market before the New Year? Don’t I deserve a respite from this brutal process and relax by the fire with eggnog?

Well, yes and no. To be sure, taking some time during the holidays to enjoy the delights of the season and appreciate those around you is an excellent idea. This is certainly NOT the time to pull out the plastic and run up a tab with the retail industry, but having a sensible, enjoyable holiday time with family and friends is something you DO deserve.

That being said, please allow me to make a case for maintaining a certain level of activity between now and the waning din of the noisemakers on the first day of the New Year.

  1. There is no better time to network.

The holidays represent an extraordinary number of opportunities to see and be seen by family, friends and folks from all over. It would be foolish to not consider all of this “face time” as a resource to increase your “Positive Visibility.” Please understand the importance of your attitude and approach, however. Nothing can put the damper on a festive gathering more quickly than someone who is pumping the crowd for job leads, or who has the “deer in the headlights” look of someone whose career is stalled! Be sure to focus your contact with others in a positive manner, seeking information, advice and referral to investigate and consider alternatives. Remember that most individuals truly would like to help, but are at a loss on how to be of assistance. Allow them the luxury of simply giving advice rather than 1) feeling pressed to deliver that killer contact for you or 2) staring through you to someone, anyone at the other side of the room. My experience has been that, in such cases, most people will choose Door Number 2!

An additional word of warning: be sure that your solicitation of “next step” options and advice is not the first question on your list, nor is it the only item of conversation. Ease into these topics. Ask how they are doing, what is new in their lives. Show honest, genuine interest and concern for them as people, not as networking contacts. Also, help them realize that you are in the investigation mode, not desperate for a pay stub or a lead to that next great promotion.

  1. Many decision makers are at home, not on the road.

One of the challenges of job search and networking is navigating through the maze of individuals who need to participate in any decisions being made. In mid-August, for example, it is often difficult to get the right people in the same room (or even in the same state) long enough to give their opinions, since Smitty is at Myrtle Beach and Ms. Jones just left for New England. This is not as true during the holidays!

Many people will be staying nearer to home, traveling less and becoming more accessible. Although staffing issues may not be at the top of the holiday list, there are still decisions being made, perhaps even more quickly due to the availability of decision-makers. In addition, the end of the year is often the time when budgets are being reviewed and finalized, and new business plans are starting to take shape. Remember: The best time to get connected is always the present!

  1. Your competition may be reduced.

This is one of my personal favorites! Many of your fellow careerists may decide that this is simply not the time to think career at all (for all of the reasons we recounted earlier) and mothball their power suits until the New Year. As a result, there is high potential that your competition will dwindle. Why not take advantage of this “thinning of the field” to forge ahead? As others decide not to take any action until early next year, your well-placed voicemail, LinkedIn update, tweet or short e-mail may improve your standing. After all, in the wild and woolly world of careers, you need to work every opportunity to your advantage!

  1. Most individuals are more open to being helpful at this time.

Admittedly, this will not always be the case. Certainly I would not recommend an intense networking contact at the checkout counter on Christmas Eve! It is true, however, that many are more full of the “milk of human kindness,” more willing to share and provide honest insights and assistance to a well-placed question or request.

  1. Pace yourself!

Now that I’ve made my unassailable arguments for burning up the snow-covered pavement with your career development, I want to introduce the other side of the issue – it IS the Holidays! Be sure to take time to care for you and yours, to be thankful for what you do have, to count your blessings. And perhaps, even sip a flagon of eggnog at least once in front of a crackling fire! Sounds good, doesn’t it?!

Happy Holidays and best wishes to you and yours!

Social Media IconsThat IS the question for many of us — careerists, employers and employees. And the answer is not as simple as it may appear to be.

Can time be wasted, hours of unproductive time spent posting mundane (What are you doing right now?) notes on any of these online programs. That answer is easy – YES!

…not to mention the possibility of sharing confidential information, posting inappropriate content or leaving something out in cyberspace where you have limited control over who reads it. Oh, I know there are privacy settings and related controls to reduce this possibility, but my rule of thumb has always been to assume that anyone may bump into your digital musings (your mother, your boss, etc.) and I type (or text) accordingly!

Even with these caveats, many reputable organizations are creating Acceptable Use Policies (AUP’s) for social networking applications, fully aware that they are true opportunities for their appropriate and professional use. I have  had the opportunity to speak to universities, professional networking groups, Human Resource organizations, etc. on the potential use of applications the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook as bona fide business tools.

Here are a few examples of how Social Networking could benefit:

  • Seeking real world, almost immediate feedback from peers, customers, contacts on “what’s happening,” their perspectives, insights and thoughts.
  • Providing collaborative opportunities with peers in virtually every extant industry or disciplines that’s in existence.
  • Opening up a communication channel to interact with others any where in the world.
  • Creating an on-line presence for you or your organization that enhances your “Brand” in the marketplace.

Do these potential benefits have their downside? Most certainly, but in this global, digital age, failure to consider the appropriate use of some of these potentially troublesome applications may leave you out in the cold!

First of all, WHAT is it?

Fuzzy Job Hunting (or Career Development) is a term I’ve coined, based upon the computer process known as Fuzzy Logic.Fuzzy Dice Fuzzy logic is an approach to computing based on “degrees of truth” rather than the usual “true or false” (1 or 0, on or off) Boolean logic on which the modern computer is based. It was first advanced by Dr. Lotfi Zadeh of the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960’s as he was working on the problem of computer’s understanding natural language. Computers are literal – they always do what we ask, not what we mean – while human beings are a bit “Fuzzier” in our ways of communicating and interacting.

Fuzzy Job Hunting implies that there is No One Distinct, Guaranteed, Always Successful Method for achieving meaningful employment or career satisfaction. Career Development is a moving target, requiring continuous action, adjustment, revision, sometimes even radical change in what you do and how you do it! This “Fuzzy” approach may relate to your vocational targets, your actions, your thought processes – everything involved in the career development and job-search process.

Let’s take a look at WHY you should employ Fuzzy Job Hunting.

1.   It will increase activity.

That old saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is quite true. There is however, another phrase: “paralysis by analysis.” In a desire to have your act completely together, your resume absolutely perfect, your career path target razor sharp, your employment search plan mapped out in 15-minute increments, you may never get started. Fuzzy Job Hunting encourages you to get an inkling of what and where and start moving. Laser-guided job search can create strategic and efficient action, if you ever come up with The Target! In the meantime, you are mired in the morass of planning the best course of action and end up going nowhere.

I like to think of this as selecting a basic direction for movement – Northernly, for example. As you move ahead, keep your eyes open. Maybe you’ll end up going Northeast or North/Northwest (with apologies to Alfred Hitchcock!), but at least you’ll be moving in a direction that is generally correct! If you never strike out in a direction, you’ll never see any sights at all!

2.   It will create opportunities.

I once heard that “If you aim at nothing, you will surely hit the mark.” Well said! As noted above, pick a direction and start moving. Fuzzy Job Hunting creates the potential for Serendipity, “the faculty of making fortunate and unexpected discoveries by accident” (The American Heritage Dictionary). Things happen when you are in action.

As Barbara Sher wrote in I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, “The amount of good luck that comes your way depends on your willingness to act.” When your job hunt is “Fuzzy,” you tend to move more, get more visible, interact with more people, create more networking opportunities. Oh, sure, some of this may appear to be a waste of time, but how do you decide where the best contacts should be made? Many of my clients have found the most productive contacts they ever made came from the most unlikely of sources. Fuzzy Job Hunting gives you the chance to discover and be discovered.

3.   It will introduce new perspectives.

As open-minded as you are, there is no way to have much of a viewpoint on reality other than your own. As you employ your Fuzzy Tactics, you will get introduced to new ideas, new alternatives and other ways to look at things. Do you remember the story of the four blind men and the elephant? They each approached the animal from a different vantage point. One touched the elephant’s side and declared, “An elephant is like a wall.” The second reached out to the animal’s leg and said, “No, an elephant is like a tree.” The third tugged on the elephant’s tail and stated, “You are both wrong. An elephant is like a rope.” Finally, the forth reached out and touched the beast’s trunk, declaring, “None of you knows what you are talking about! An elephant is exactly like a snake!”

Who was right? They all were, each from their distinct perspective. The Fuzzy Job Hunt works much the same way by allowing you to benefit from the views of others. Each person you meet will have a slightly different slant, evaluating things from another side. Take advantage of their perspective.

4.   It will provide results.

Fuzzy Job Hunting increases activity, visibility and alternatives. I’ve said it before and will say it again: the traditional approach to the job market is chaotic and ineffective. It does not work particularly well, either for employers or for job seekers. The vast majority of job-search success (at least 85%) is through “nontraditional” methods, such as research, networking, social media, volunteering, etc. There is no better way to tap into the “hidden job market” than by thinking and acting “Fuzzily.”