Creative Problem Solving: The Boulder Analogy

February 1st, 2016

Many years ago, I heard a story about a builder who wanted to put a house in the perfect place, but there was one problem: a boulder.  This boulder was so big that the builder just couldn’t make it budge.  Pushing it, pulling it… nothing seemed to get it to move.

As the story unfolded it was clear that there was no good option, except maybe to build around the bolder.  Until one day, the builder figured out a terrific solution.  There was one direction he hadn’t previously thought about moving this boulder: down.  Instead of pushing or pulling, he simply dug a really deep hole, almost directly under the boulder, and the boulder eventually was coerced to drop down.  Problem solved.

Let’s ignore any problems you have with the engineering of this solution and just accept that it was a brilliant, indeed a creative, solution, to a seemingly impossible problem

Like the seemingly impossible problem of finding a job.  When you feel like you got kicked in the teeth by the rat race.  When you know what you need to do, but just don’t want to go through the motions because WHY?  Why do the stuff when you might not like the job, or the boss… or you might get laid off in a year or two and be back at square one?

That is an unmovable rock that I understand.  I lived it, exactly 10 years ago today.  Ten years and a couple of weeks ago, though, I figured out what it meant to stop pushing, and stop pulling, and just dig a hole the rock could drop into.  And that I have done, over the last ten years… dug, dropped the rock, and brushed dirt over the hole.

I imagine we all have boulders that are in our way.  They are debilitating, they are intimidating.  But they are not unconquerable.

My friends, push and pull if it’s the right thing to do to your boulders, but be open to different solutions.  Creativity is not just for artists.  You, as a problem solver, are entitled to coming up with creative solutions to your problems.  Just realize that sometimes creative sounds brilliant, sometimes it sounds nuts.  If it sounds nuts, you might need an extra dose of courage to follow-through with your idea.

 

 

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Nutrition for a Job Interview (StandOutCV Infograph)

January 26th, 2016

I remember an interview I went to where I was exhausted. I’m sure the interviewers picked up on that.  My body and brain were not ready to be “on stage.”  I did not get the job :(

In my time management and productivity course on Pluralsight (watch if free, following these instructions), I have a video titled “hacking your body and brain to be more productive.” I’ve been thinking about how our physical environment, body, nutrition, exercise, etc. affects our ability to focus, work, be productive, etc.  Shortly after the course went live, I found this post, titled “What to eat before a job interview.” Here’s the infographic.  How are you doing with your nutrition?

What should you eat before an interview

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What Good Is A Log Entry in JibberJobber?

January 22nd, 2016

Remember in the olden days, watching TV and you would see the test of the emergency broadcast system?  You might remember the TV to show this:

jj-blog-emergency-broadcast-system

I had that in mind as I saw this email come from one of my users, who was testing the Email2Log.  See, I invite people to test the Email2Log by sending me an email, using Email2Log to see if (a) a new Contact record was created (with my info), and (b) the Log Entry was created properly.

And it’s is FUN for me to get emails from users :)

Anyway, here’s the message from a new user, Lorne:

“This a test. If this was a real log I’m not sure what I would do with it.”

Thanks Lorne, for the laugh :)  As a friend of mine said last night, one of my problems is that I’ve been “in the forest for so long” that I will not see JibberJobber, and it’s complexities, the way a new user would.

So let me share some thoughts on what you “do with” a Log Entry.

To put it into perspective, a Log Entry is like a note that you have jotted down that you don’t want to lose. Perhaps you’ll refer to it later. And that, my friends, is the most simple way to describe a Log Entry.

What is the source of these “notes?”  It could be a thought I had about you. It could be a conversation that we’ve had. It could be information, details, facts, words said, intentions, or actions. This week I logged the payment of some bills, as well as conversations, into JibberJobber.

In my pre-JibberJobber life, I would have notes jotted down all over the place… some in my email inbox, some in my car, some in a notebook, some on my desk, some on or in my night stand, etc.  Now, with JibberJobber, I capture notes and ideas and conversations that I might want to refer to later in JibberJobber.

Back to Lorne’s question: what do you do with a Log Entry?

Usually, I do nothing.  Sounds weird, huh?  Why even jot it down if I do nothing with it?

I find myself with an active mind, with lots of things buzzing around. The less I have jotted down, the more I try to juggle in my mind.  That is no fun.  That causes sleep problems, and I find myself forgetting to do things because my mind is juggling too many things.  I’m no psychologist but that’s my self-diagnosis.  When I jot it down I give myself permission to forget about it, and mentally move on. I can focus on tasks at hand, and not worry about trying to remember a bunch of different things.

More important than that, though, is that I’ll sometimes want to refer to something I noted down later. A day later, a week or month later, and in the case of a reconnection with someone last week, 5 years later.

Last week I reconnected with a colleague.  This was a voice from the past, and honestly, I couldn’t remember what conversations we’ve had over the last five years.  Fortunately, I had logged those conversations (they were all through email, and I used Email2Log to easily capture them all). Instead of lingering on “who are you? Have we met?” it was easy to look this person up and look at the Log Entries and see how our relationship has evolved over time.

I continually hear from recruiters who talk to job seekers who don’t remember who they are, or that they had applied for the job the recruiter is calling about.  The recruiters tell me that when a job seeker doesn’t remember, and can’t find notes to jog their memory, they think the job seeker is not interested. This is the wrong message to send to someone who thinks that you might be the right person.

Over the years I have disciplined myself to add more details to Log Entries.  ”We had lunch” is an almost useless Log Entry (but, it’s better than nothing).  ”We had lunch at Red Lobster, I paid, we talked about X, Y, and Z, and I need to follow-up with Jill on Monday about A, B, and C” is a much better Log Entry.  Why?  Because two years later, reading “we had lunch” isn’t helpful… but reading what you talked about might help you pick up the conversation, and relationship, at the right place.

So there you go.  Over time you’ll get a feeling for what, and how much, to log.  Email2Log makes this really easy. I’ve always found that adding more is better than adding less, but just start where you are, and create your own system that works for you.

 

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JibberJobber: One of the Best Job Search Websites for 2016

January 20th, 2016

jibberjobber-best-job-search-website-logoThis is a list worth being on… JibberJobber has been on many lists over the last 10 years, but some of those lists that say they are “here are the best” are really “here are all of the sites we could find”… being on a list made up by someone who is just trying to list everything out there was not flattering.

This list is different.  Hannah Morgan, The Career Sherpa, put together 43 Best Job Search Websites 2016, and included JibberJobber.  Hannah is a career practitioner, subject matter expert, and a thought leader.  To have her vet and include JibberJobber is meaningful.

Check out the other 42 recommendations:

jibberjobber-best-job-search-website

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Jobs in 2020: Freelancing Rules?

January 8th, 2016

Here’s another goodie from Chris Russell… he pointed to this TechCrunch article: The Freelancer Generation: Why Startups And Enterprises Need To Pay Attention.

On Facebook Chris wrote:

“It’s also predicted that by 2020, contingent work (freelancing jobs) will become the dominant form of labor, making up to 50 percent of the labor force. Another interesting stat is that 43 percent of freelancers are Millennials. That’s important to know, because 1 in 3 American workers today are Millenials.”

I was talking to Robert Merrill years ago and he said something like “it won’t be long until we are all 1099 contractors.”  This is a huge shift from the 1900′s when we were full time employees and had some expectation of security, benefits, and a long-term relationship.

To think that our new workforce is going to shift to 1099… the implications!  To me, this means that we are much more likely to change our main income source (previously known as “employer”) with regularity.  Sometimes months. Sometimes years… but nothing will be constant.

It means we will be responsible for our own training, benefits, lifestyles, etc.

Wait… isn’t that already happening for many of us?

I think about a lot of the friends I talk with… they are W2 (full time employees), but many are changing jobs and careers every 2 to 5 years.

Whether you are a full time employee or not, you better start thinking like an independent contractor.  Continue networking, and always keep an eye on the current job landscape.  Continue your education so you can stay relevant, and make sure you know what stories you can use to help others understand your brand.

The alternative is to get really comfortable with an employer and hope they like you for the duration of your career.  I think we all know how that usually ends.

 

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When Employer Branding Becomes More Than a Buzzword

December 14th, 2015

Or, I guess, buzz phrase. You get the point.

What is employer branding? It’s been a hot topic for a few years, and I think it will only continue to be hot.

My first taste of employer branding, as it relates to job seekers, was when I went to a network meeting and someone was telling about a bad experience they had with a target company they interviewed at. Demoralizing.  Yucky.  Someone else shared a similar experience.  In that room, about 30 professionals who were in transition were making a decision to not buy products or services from that company again. And you can bet that none of them would keep that company on their target list.  The company’s brand had been tainted because of one job seeker who shared a negative experience.

Digest this image:

vw_van

Talk about employer or company branding. I bet this van has lost sales for VW.  The message is clear.

I have a friend who was recently let go buy his employer for one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. In my mind, it really boiled down to horrible management and leadership.  Guess who isn’t going to be shopping at that chain anymore?  Me.

What I find interesting is how much talk there is about employers, and the experience job seekers have, at the job clubs.  This is where real employer branding happens. Job seekers are a passionate bunch, and they talk.

What employers and companies have you had bad or good experiences with?

 

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Watching out for Numero Uno When You Are (Too) Loyal to Your Company

December 10th, 2015

Tuesday I wrote Windows of Opportunity to help you rethink how losing something is really the beginning of something new. Wednesday I wrote The Writing on the Wall, to help you trust your gut, and encourage you to NOT ignore the writing on the wall, but to use it to help you prepare for the future. This post is for those of us who are sometimes too loyal to a company, and give too much to the company, even though the company would walk away from you at the drop of a hat.

Some of you have come to me (in person, email, etc.) and asked what’s going on, and what changes are coming up.  It’s true that I have some changes planned for all of 2016, and I’m excited for the day when I can start to share some of those changes with you.  What’s awesome is that instead of being forced into these changes, I have had years to create the opportunities that we are about to embark upon. I’m scared, for sure, but I’m also really excited about what the future could hold.

So, on to today’s topic: Numero Uno. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, Numero Uno means YOU.  What are YOUR interests?  Who cares about your interests?

A few decades ago, even for a good part of the 1900′s, your employer watched out for Numero Uno as much as you did. You could go home after work and not worry about losing your job as much as you do today. Today it is different.

That reminds me of a conversation I had with an employer a few years ago. Not my employer, mind you… I was already doing JibberJobber.  This person complained that “employees just don’t have loyalty to their employers anymore!”

Uh… no, they certainly don’t. It’s probably because of how quick an employee will get terminated. A friend of mine was recently terminated from a great, long-term job (I know you don’t think those exist, but in some industries or professions, they certainly do), for the most petty of petty things. It was policy-related, and his boss was spineless to the point of letting this great employee go.

No loyalty to employers?  If they are whining about it, they better look in the mirror first.

So we are at this really weird intersection of watching out for Numero Uno (yourself) while also doing our job.  To do our job right we will have, to some degree, bought into the vision and culture of the company, right?  If we are in management or leadership we will have likely created part of the vision or culture, and we are MORE bought into it.  At this level, any unloyalty we have seems like we are cheating on our company (I’ve been there, done that).

The more loyalty we have towards our company, the more we tend to drift away from being loyal to Numero Uno. And then, almost without warning, we are given a severance or a handshake (or a box and the walk of shame), and we are left alone with Numero Uno and without an income.

What just happened?

I’ve talked to plenty of people who have gone through this and they have found that being loyal to a company is not the right choice. They sound cynical and jaded, even anti-company. They have learned that Numero Uno is numero uno, and companies come and go, lie and change. Don’t get me wrong, they do their job, but they are ready for a change, and they know a change is coming.

Is this a generational thing?  A cultural thing?  Are we ever going to be able to be comfortable at work again, not worrying about some fickle thing that can impact our job “security?”

I don’t know.

For me, I continue to find myself too loyal to organizations and companies. I buy into their vision and culture.  But here’s what I’ve learned, as I’ve matured in my career: change will happen, and when it happens, it’s better to find something else and move on than to wallow in pity and other bad feelings.  I’ve wallowed too long before. I have JibberJobber users who still wallow. Maybe give yourself a few hours to wallow, but more than that, it’s only hurting Numero Uno.

The point of all of this is that there is a balance.  You can’t watch out for Numero Uno too much, and you can’t disavow the company you work for. You have to know what the right mix is.

If you get off-balance, and give too much to one or too much to the other, the changes that will come can be very, very difficult to navigate.

What do you think?  Where are you at on your loyalty to company vs. loyalty to Numero Uno?

 

 

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The Writing on the Wall

December 9th, 2015

Since yesterday’s blog post title was cliche (Windows of Opportunity), why not today’s?

Ten years ago I was the general manager of a small software and networking services company. My path there was interesting… I was an IT manager for a bigger company, and we acquired this little tiny software company, and then we acquired another tiny networking company.  For various reasons, things weren’t working out. Looking back on it, the intentions and plan were great, but it was a perfect-storm environment where we didn’t have the right support, financing, leadership, talent, etc. to really make it work.  What could have been a very cool, nationwide company, was a floundering, stressful mess.

I wasn’t qualified to do what I was doing, but neither were two others, who were about 20 years older than I was. What we were trying to pull off was tricky, and the board was much more of a heavy-handed “why isn’t this working” partner than a “let’s make this work, here are the right introductions” partner. They totally could have been the latter, but they were the wrong partners, really. Everyone was stressed, from the top to the bottom, and our customers were feeling it. Even though I wasn’t qualified, I was up to the challenge to learn, figure it out, put in the work, etc.

Not fun.

I remember when one of my key guys decided to leave the company. I was crushed.  Not too long after that, another key guy decided to leave. I didn’t have very many key guys, and this was making a bad situation worse.

So there we were, ten years ago, and it was clear that changes were going to happen. I was not happy, and the stress was taking a toll on my physical well-being as well as my family relationships. I needed to get out, and my wife and I both talked about how to get out of that company, but I was a very loyal guy. I also had a steady paycheck and “benefits” (I use that word loosely). I found it hard to walk away from my team, and the vision I had been nurturing. We were on a good path, I thought.

And then, it happened. I didn’t have to wallow in the choice making anymore, because others made the choice for me. What happened to me was no different than what happened to hundreds of thousands of others. Politics. Bad chemistry. Someone spending time fighting for that job, regardless of who would be hurt. Regardless of what was best for the company. Regardless of anything sane. In the end, politics won out.  Those who were easily swayed by a salesman who could sell ice to eskimos, as they say, were swayed.

I’ve learned that they have regretted, but have had to live with, that decision since then. That’s the bed they made though.

I was free. Weight was lifted, and my health was on a path to be restored. I was also scared to death. I had never been forced into a transition before. I had never been in a real job search before. I didn’t like not knowing where money would come from to pay my bills. We had bills to pay, and a baby on the way.  Having feelings of fear and uncertainty and elation and freedom, all at the same time, was new and weird.

The interesting thing was that I knew this was coming. I knew what our financials were, I knew what we had in the pipeline, I knew where our products where, I knew where our customers were, and I even knew, to a small extent, how much politicking was going on (only later would I learn the extent of politicking that was really happening). But I knew enough, and I could “see the writing on the wall.”  Like a big brick wall, with big, graffitied letters. The messages were clear.

BUT, I didn’t trust the messages. I didn’t trust my gut. I ignored the writing on the wall. I thought “that’s what happens to others, not people like me.”

Indeed, the writing was right. My gut was wrong.

And that’s why I’m writing this post, because I want to share a message with you: TRUST YOUR GUT.

I’m not saying be paranoid, but I’m saying to take in the information around you, read the writing on the wall, and trust your gut. Don’t think that you are above the horrible things that you don’t think will happen to you.  Your gut might be wrong, but the more you fine tune this skill, and trust yourself, you’ll be more prepared for things that happen that are out of your control.  But you will be prepared to handle those things by doing things that are in your control.

This is a key element of career management.

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Windows of Opportunity

December 8th, 2015

I don’t like change. My personality likes to know what’s coming up, likes to plan for things, and if I’ve invested in something, I want to know it’s going to be around for at least as long as I thought it would.

That means getting laid off is no fun.

I remember the first time the concept of “windows of opportunity” had real meaning for me.  It was when the window closed.

Window closings are change, the type that kind of overloads my system.

The thing is, when the window abruptly closed, other windows were open, or opening. It was hard to see then, but looking back on it now, it’s obvious.

Here’s a window I never thought I’d see close: professional speaking on the road (for money).

I wrote I’m on LinkedIn – Now What??? in 2008, and in 2009 I was doing my first $5,000 speaking gig. It was amazing. I thought I had arrived. The presentation, for various reasons, wasn’t as good as it should have been, but I was now a “professional speaker.”  I was blessed to have opportunities to speak in many different places in the U.S., and once in Istanbul (Turkey).  The money was ridiculous, and flying around made me feel successful.

Then, the window started to close.  This is what it sounded like when a window closes:

Me: “I charge five thousand dollars plus expenses….”

Them: “Um, we were hoping you would get yourself out here and speak… and we would feed you lunch.”

Me: “As much as I would like to do that, I can’t afford to fly out, get a car, and a hotel, to speak at your luncheon that people are paying money to come to.”

Them: “oh… darn. I’ll talk to my brother-in-law. He said he would do it for the free lunch.”

The brother in law.  At some point, in the U.S., every town had a brother-in-law that was a LinkedIn “expert.”  Well, expert is too strong of a word.  But they would stand up at the meeting and talk about LinkedIn, for exactly $5,000 less than I charged.

The LinkedIn speaking window was closing.

That’s okay, it wasn’t my main income stream, and it wasn’t the focus of my business. There are plenty of other qualified people who do this, and honestly, power to them. I was okay to focus more on my main thing (JibberJobber).

For the past few months I’ve been feeling a disturbance in the force.  That’s a geeky Star Wars reference… which I would apologize for, but he, EPISODE 7!!! In all seriousness, I’ve been feeling like my windows (I have multiple revenue streams) are changing. I recently realized that, different from the time I got laid off, these windows are closing slowly. And I have been trained, as an entrepreneur, to look for opening windows all the time.  And I see them.

What this means is that things are changing. Not in a bad way for you. JibberJobber, for job seekers, is always at the core of my projects and revenue streams. But I’m likely going to shift my time from some projects that are ending to new ones.  In fact, two of them, which I’ll spend most of my time on next year, will be really fun, and frankly, exciting.  It will be new territory for JibberJobber, and I hope it will provide opportunities for many, many people.

Sorry to not go into more detail, but the point of this post isn’t that things are changing for me…. it is that things are always changing for all of us.

When your windows close, look around for the other windows that are wide open, and still have some life.  Or for windows that are opening, or that are waiting for you to open them.  They are there.  Even in my darker hours, when I was wallowing in pity, obsessed by the unfairness and poor timing of a window recently closed, other windows were waiting for me to look up.

That is the story of JibberJobber, in one sentence. I lost my job, wallowed, and a few short months later was announcing the birth of JibberJobber.  This was 9 years and 11 months ago, almost to this day.

I know some of you have recently had windows close. You might even feel like your fingers (and hopes) got crushed in the closing windows. I’m here to tell you that there are other windows, and that in today’s world, we need to get good at recognizing the opportunities. That’s your job – identify those opening windows.

Are you up to the challenge?

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Pluralsight 40% Discount Through Dec 6th (Monday)

December 1st, 2015

I’ve introduced Pluralsight to a lot of people over the last couple of years.  Online, in my presentations, etc.  Many of you have taken advantage of the 30 day pass I’ve given you through JibberJobber. You should have watched my courses on job search, soft skills, and professional development (and each time you watch a Jason Alba course you qualify for another 7 day JibberJobber upgrade).

If you want to take advantage of Pluralsight for more than the 30 days, check out this killer 40% off sale on a one year subscription:

pluralsight_40_off

This is a discount from $299/year to $179.40, which comes out to about $15/month.  You have until next Monday to think about it.

So get this… pay for the one year upgrade, then watch all of the Jason Alba videos you want over the next 12 months (even multiple times), and you will easily get months and months of free JibberJobber Premium.  That is a sweet deal!

My courses on are job search and soft skills.  There are tons of courses at all levels to learn programming, graphic arts, mobile development, UI/UX, and more. I don’t know when they’ll have another killer deal like this…. if you can, take advantage of it!

what where
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