Posts Tagged ‘opportunity’

I recall a conversation with a young lady near completion of her undergraduate degree in aKids in careers general business subject. I asked her what her next steps were. “Graduate school,” was her prompt reply. “What will you major in?” – I inquired. “I don’t know,” was her immediate response.

Perhaps as a parent myself, my head was spinning as I thought of the time, money and energy that had been expended to reach the response “I don’t know.” The cost of education continues to spiral upward and the number of career options before our young ones is growing exponentially.

What is a parent, grandparent, guardian, mentor, etc. to do? Education should be an investment in one’s future, not a repository for disposable income (if indeed any of us have it anymore!).

Here are some suggestions as to how to help those under your charge to consider what they want to be “when they grow up.”

PAY ATTENTION…

Even at the earliest ages there are often hints as to natural gifts and talents. I have a son who, at an early age, was constantly taking things apart (and occasionally putting them back together). A non-traditional student, he ended up in a successful career as an automobile technician, learning and doing things that are well beyond my meager mechanical skills. Those “hints” were so present at a young age that my father used to call him “Fingers.” Watch what fascinates and engages your young ones, looking for clues as to their natural aptitudes, fascinations and skills. To quote the great philosopher Yogi Berra, “You can see a lot by just looking.”

EXPOSE THEM…

We are constantly surrounded by people in a panoply of occupations, from delivery drivers and store clerks to banking professionals and business owners. Reading books, watching television, enjoying popcorn at the movies, browsing on the Internet, etc., all provide opportunities to identify and discuss potential careers. When Henry Ford built his first automobile, you could choose only one color: black. Careers in the new millennium are a virtual rainbow of opportunities. Do your best to introduce them to the vibrant colors that make up this new vocational landscape.

CONSIDER EXPERT GUIDANCE…

Although there is no assessment instrument out there to tell any of us what we should be “when we grow up,” the judicious, professional use of sound assessments can provide excellent insights regarding your child’s interests, skill confidences and values and how they relate to occupations and careers. This information is best used to investigate alternatives using my next suggestion: “Get Feedback from the Street.”

GET FEEDBACK FROM THE STREET…

I am constantly amazed how people spend so much time and energy in “due diligence” as they shop for cars, homes, technology, etc., yet they decide to become accountants simply because they are good at math (no disrespect meant to accountants, by the way, I need them desperately)! Use your network of contacts to find people in fields of interest to your kids and let them “shadow” them for the day (if possible), ask questions (I have an excellent list I can share with you), learn what it’s really like to be a _____________. No one knows better than someone who has been there.

KEEP OPTIONS OPEN…

Even as your young one moves ahead in their career decisions and vocational tracks, be sure to help them keep an eye on the shifting landscape that is part of the new career model. I am now reading that, rather than changing jobs 3-5 times in a lifetime, our kids may be changing careers as many times. This presents an excellent argument for helping them understand themselves and how what I like to call their “Best Stuff” relates to the vocational opportunities before them throughout their lives.

By the way, this process works for “grownups” as well!

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If any of you have spent time traveling with young ones in excess of 25 minutes (or if you can recall being that young one in the back seat of the station wagon for what seemed to be a lifetime), you have heard this woeful cry, perhaps in stereo or in incessantly regular 5 minute intervals:

Are we THERE yet?!?!?

With the advent of online maps, GPS, smartphone apps, we can “guesstimate” our ETA with improved accuracy, but this remains cold comfort for those who are merely passengers, possessing no ability to accelerate the process, to take action to get THERE sooner.

I know what you are thinking…”I thought this blog was supposed to focus on CAREERS, not trips to Wally World!” Well, you are right, and here’s the punchline…

IN CAREER DEVELOPMENT, YOU ARE NEVER THERE!

I won’t cite that “old chestnut” it’s not a destination, but a journey (oops, I just did!), but it is true that you are either moving ahead or you are falling behind. Often not in giant steps, to be sure, but you should constantly be practicing what I have termed “Professional Dissatisfaction.”  To borrow from their excellent book The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers, authors Citrin and Smith invoke what they call the “20/80 Principle of Performance.” In order to distinguish yourself, move beyond your assigned tasks (80%) to impact your organization, field, craft, etc. at extraordinary levels (20%). Invest time going beyond your job description to grow as an individual and a “human resource.”

To quote my good friend Scott Ginsberg (@Nametagscott), “Nobody notices normal.”

And, one more by Harvey Mckay (@HarveyMackey) “Real winners keep moving the finishing line.”

I am particularly appreciative of this concept of mine, although I will confess that it HAUNTS ME AT TIMES! This does not reduce its value, however!

Life is full of decisions, and career development has more than its share of them. As Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”

With due respect to the sagacious Yogi, that won’t work! So how can you decide whether or not to move ahead in a particular direction, return a call, schedule an interview, take a promotion, mail out a resume, etc.? I suggest that you apply what I have termed my “WHY NOT?” Principle(tm): simply stated, if you cannot answer “No” to a question (e.g., Should I consider taking on this new project?), the next answer is always “Yes.” In other words, until you can make the case for “why not?” – why you should not investigate the opportunity – you should move ahead at least one more step. After all, no answer will come to you if you just sit there!

Let’s investigate some scenarios where you can apply my “Why Not? Principle(tm).”

1.   You’re called by a company for an interview. The position under consideration seems to be significantly below your qualifications, but they still want to see you. Do you go in to see them or not?

WHY NOT?

No good answer. You don’t have adequate information to make an informed, intelligent decision. Perhaps the position is better than it seems from the outside. The company may see your skills and identify a better fit for you in the organization (this really does happen!). This is not the only position that will ever open up in this organization, and you have the opportunity to make a positive contact with the company.

  • Check it out. You have nothing to lose.

2.   A longtime friend provides you with a lead to a job that does not interest you at all, nor does it allow you to use any of the skills and experience you want to bring to the job market. Do you follow up on the opportunity?

WHY NOT?

Following up on a situation that you have no interest in is a waste of the company’s time and yours, as well as being dishonest towards your friend. It would be much better to thank your friend for the advice and the intended opportunity, explaining why you would not be interested and helping your friend better understand your career targets and employment goals. Also, you could damage your relationship by not telling your friend the truth.

  • Be kind but honest. Thank them but help them to help you better.

3.   Your company is pressing you to interview for a position that you know has no relationship to your career goals or personal interests. You know you can do the job, but don’t really want to! Do you go for the interview or not? After all, isn’t every promotion a good move?!

WHY NOT?

Wasting their time is not a good way to use yours. Some people might consider this a “no risk” opportunity to get some interview practice, but I see it as a disingenuous act, wasting the time of a company that obviously only wants to see  interested applicants. Here’s an additional concern: since you’re not under pressure, you may interview very confidently and end up receiving a promotion offer you didn’t want in the first place! THEN what do you do?

  • Politely turn down their kind offer, using this opportunity to help your organization better understand where your interests and best abilities to contribute lie.

4.   An acquaintance in the community wants to meet you for lunch to help you in your career development. This is someone you know to have no “clout” or real connections with any “heavy hitters.” Do you schedule or work up a believable excuse?

WHY NOT?

No good answer here, either. Everyone knows someone. You may think this person is not connected (and you may be right), but some of the best opportunities for serendipitous, extraordinary surprises can come from the most unlikely situations. It’s nice that this person wants to help. Give him or her the time and the benefit of the doubt. Remember: you don’t have to take all of the advice you get, just listen to it. The relationship you enhance may be much more valuable than any information you may get!

  • Have lunch with them and listen to what they have to say. There is no way of telling what opportunities could result.

Try employing my “Why Not Principle(tm).” It will press you into more action, reduce your second-guessing, create serendipitous possibilities and perhaps even help you to see more results.

“WHY NOT?”

The best path is always the positive one. I owe the following parable to my dear Grandma Lucy Matilda Rhoads Davis. She’s in Heaven now, but thoughts of her always bring a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. Here it is…

Old Saidie, an aged widow in a sleepy little town, always had a nice thing to say about everyone she met. She didn’t seem to have a negative bone in her body, and was consistently able to point out the good side of people.

Well, the town drunk died. This ne’er do well had never held a job in his life. His entire existence consisted of scaring toddlers, taking advantage of others or bumming money for cigarettes and alcohol. As he had finally Optimism buttompassed away, the entire town showed up at the funeral, if only to find out what Saidie would have to say about a man who seemed to be totally lacking any good qualities in his entire life.

As Saidie shuffled up to the casket, one brave soul called out, “Hey, Saidie! What did you think of Mr. Johnson?!

Without missing a beat, Saidie smiled and exclaimed, “Oh, couldn’t he whistle?!”

Let’s be more like Saidie, finding and celebrating the Best that’s around us. We just have to pay attention to find it!

Thanks, Grandma Lucy!

If any of you have spent time traveling with young ones in excess of 25 minutes (or if you can recall being that young one in the back seat of the station wagon for what seemed to be a lifetime), you have heard this woeful cry, perhaps in stereo or in incessantly regular 5 minute intervals:

Are we THERE yet?!?!?!

With the advent of online maps, GPS, smartphone apps, we can “guesstimate” our ETA with improved accuracy, but this remains cold comfort for those who are merely passengers, possessing no ability to accelerate the process, to take action to get THERE sooner.

I know what you are thinking….I thought this blog was supposed to focus on CAREERS, not trips to Wally World! Well, you are right, and here’s the application…

IN CAREER DEVELOPMENT, YOU ARE NEVER THERE!

I won’t cite that “old chestnut” it’s not a destination, but a journey (oops, I just did!), but it is true that you are either moving ahead or you are falling behind. Often not in giant steps, to be sure, but you should constantly be practicing what I have termed “Professional Dissatisfaction.” In flipping the ubiquitous Pareto Principle (80-20 Rule), the authors of the excellent book The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers introduce their 20-80 Rule: Invest 20% of your time doing your assigned work completely and effectively, applying the 80% balance to acquiring new experience, skill, knowledge, expertise to differentiate yourself from the crowd.

To quote my good friend Scott Ginsberg (@Nametagscott), “Nobody notices normal.”

And, one more by Harvey Mckay (@HarveyMackey) “Real winners keep moving the finishing line.”

I am presenting training for my yearly marathon (26.2 miles, for the uninitiated of my readers) and, God willing, I plan to reach the finish line sometime before dark (we start around 8:30 in the morning).

As any of you who have been involved in a job search, career development (or LIFE, if you’re really paying attention) know, the experience is more like a long distance race than a sprint! My chosen fitness pastime, running, has borne out this fact for over 30 of my years. I can still recall my first marathon experience: the gun went off, we all bolted out of the gate, and I took off like my singlet was on fire. I vividly remember bragging to my cohorts along the course, even as far along as the 15th mile of the 26.2, “this race is MINE!”

Then I met, for my first time, my now bosom buddy The Wall. Somewhere around mile 18-22, most runners reach a point where the body wants to be done but the finish line still beckons. For my first marathon, this meant that last 6.2 miles would be excruciatingly slow. I had not learned the cardinal rule of distance running: PACING. My credo now for marathons is one I borrowed from a T-shirt I read on one of my many 26.2 adventures – “Start out slow, then taper off.”

I have also gleaned one other pearl of wisdom, the title of this blog: Run through the finishing line. As the picture demonstrates, my weary figure has managed to finish ahead of a number of individuals, but NOT because I found another gear, my carbo-loading kicked in, or I reached down deep to burst past my fellow runners in a blaze of glory. I finished ahead of them because they slowed down. They saw the finish line and started to back off, since they were almost there. I simply determined to keep my pace, not slowing down until the finish line was behind me.

I think you see my metaphor. As you move ahead in your job search, your career development, or your life, there is no way to know if the present opportunity before you is the finishing line, or if the real result is around the next bend. My years of running have taught me that, whenever I slow down to jog through the finish line, I am almost always passed by someone who has not done so. To be sure, there have been times when my technique has still caused me to be passed by someone with more talent than me (there are a lot of them out there!), but at least by maintaining my pace I create the opportunity for the best results.

The morale of this blog: if you think you will get your dream opportunity by Friday, don’t stop looking ahead on Wednesday.  In some ways, there really is no Finish Line. Never stop learning and growing!

“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

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

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

“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 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!