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Weekly Summary of To Dos and Already Completed

December 2nd, 2020

I got a question yesterday from Cecilia, asking:

“Is there a feature or method to create a weekly to-do. and ‘have done’ list?”

There are two ways to see something like that. Hands down, my favorite is on the homepage, right when you login. What you see on the screen are called “widgets,” which are like “tiles.” Note that these widgets can be repositioned by dragging them.

You should see a widget called Reminders, which will show you all of your action items you’ve set up, right on your homepage. I have this widget at the very top because I want to see what I have coming up this week more than anything else:

JibberJobber Reminders homepage

The other widget you want is the Log Entries widget. This shows all of the things you have done (or, logged). It’s a nice way to see how busy you were. More importantly, it’s an important widget to regularly review to see if you should follow up with anyone. Make a habit of looking at this maybe at the beginning and end of each week to see of there are follow-up opportunities that you didn’t explicitly make into action items.

JibberJobber Log Entries Widget Homepage

Another place that you might find interesting, because it’s not bound by the week, is the Reminder’s Dashboard. You can get there by clicking on the Reminders main menu link. This shows all open action items you have in the system… pretty convenient to look through, unless it is overwhelming. In which case I applaud you for making good use of the reminders system (aka, action items), but give you full permission to IGNORE this report. I don’t want you to be overwhelmed to the point of not doing what you need to do. Here’s the top of that page:

JibberJobber Reminders Dashboard

Hope that helps!

 

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How To: Best Take Advantage of a Pluralsight Free Pass

November 20th, 2020

I just noticed on the Pluralsight homepage they are offering another Free Weekend. This one is from today, Friday, through Sunday.

Pluralsight Free Weekend

I also have on good authority that Pluralsight Authors (aka, content creators) might have 30 day passes you can take advantage of (just ask an Author you know if they have one).

Disclaimer: I have 36 courses in the Pluralsight library. See them here (they are mostly on soft skills, careers, and professional development)

I wanted to share some thoughts on how you can get the most out of any free access to Pluralsight when your time, and the access, is limited.

Number One: Make a Plan

Pluralsight has over 7,000 courses (and more than 40 interactive, hands-on courses). That number continues to grow. The problem is SEVEN THOUSAND. You could literally spend hours… days just going through the library to see what you might want to learn.

If you just learned about the Pluralsight free weekend and haven’t had time to make your plan, it’s kind of too late to spend much time on it. The clock is ticking.

If you were to get your hands on a 30 day pass I’d say to spend two or three days figuring out what you wanted to learn and watch, make a list, and then work your way through that list over the 30 days.

Pluralsight has the most comprehensive technical library you’ll find. One of the easiest ways to find courses that are really appealing to you is to look at the Learning Paths.

Pluralsight Learning Paths

On that Learning Paths page you’ll see tons of techie content. If you are looking to enhances any technical skills go find the write courses for you. Weather you are into security, graphics, machine learning, web development, front end, back end, databases, etc. you’ll find plenty of awesome courses. There are what I call HIDDEN GEMS in Pluralsight, which include:

All the courses you need for the PMP (Project Management Professional) certification prep courses (14 courses, 37 hours), which you would otherwise pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars for. This is a certification that can definitely help you in your career.

Also, the PMI-PBA Business Analysis certification prepartion (5 courses, 14 hours). If you want to be a PMI-PBA you could binge-watch this all weekend, for free.

I was honored to be able to do a course on emotional intelligence. Here’s a learning path called Emotional Intelligence for Leaders and Managers (7 courses, 10 hours). I can only hope that our world becomes more emotionally intelligent… can you imagine what a difference that would make for your career?

Embracing and Managing Change (8 courses, 7 hours) would have been an excellent path to watch in February 2020, am I right? My heavens, if anything is constant it is change. This is a must-watch learning path to help your adjust your mindset on how change can help propel your career, and even add more satisfaction to your job.

The Graphic Design (21 courses, 30 hours) learning path shows there is a lot more to Pluralsight than developer courses. This is a great learning path to upskill your graphics chops.

The Upgrading Your Technology Career (33 courses, 65 hours) has a bunch of my courses. You know I’m passionate about career management, and I hope you are too. These courses help you rethink your future, and your role in driving your future.

The Learning Paths section of Pluralsight take some of the prep guesswork out of your plan. Once you get started you might find there are favorite authors you want to hear more from. On the top-right of an course page you’ll see a link to the Author’s page, where you can see all of their courses. Find an author you like? See what else they have you’ll be interested in!

Here’s my author page.

Make your list, check it twice, Then get watching. You only have three days this weekend!

IF YOU GET A 30 DAY PASS, I recommend you spend a few days creating your list, and schedule when you’ll watch the courses, and then redeem your pass.

Number Two: Choose Your View Speed

The default speed that you watch your Pluralsight videos is 1x. You can easily change that, and many people do. On the Pluralsight player, click the 1 in the box, and you’ll see the option to change your speed to slower or faster.

Pluralsight Speed

I’ve heard from plenty of people that their favorite way to watch courses is to change to 1.2x or 1.3x. I usually can’t do 1.4+ because that gets too distracting, but increasing by .2 or .3 can get you through a course faster, which means you can watch more courses.

Number Three: But Slow Down

The purpose of watching these courses aren’t to “get through them” or “cram them in.” You really want to skill up, to learn, to grow. Sure, increase your speed, but make sure you are really learning and internalizing. Perhaps this means you pause the course every once in a while to write down some thoughts on what you are learning.

You should be taking notes anyway, but this strategy to pause and write down your thoughts should really help you learn the content more. Note taking is a learning skill, and doing a personal debrief, where you go over what you have learned and put it into your own words, can be immensely beneficial.

If you are going to invest the time into yourself, and learning, slow down and really think about what you are learning.

One of my favorite ways to do this is to write a comment in the Discussion area of the course telling the author what you got from the course. Not everything, not all your notes, but perhaps the top three things you are taking away, and will work on.

Number Four: Implement What You Learned

In all of my courses I share many, perhaps dozens, of actionable things you can work on. I invite you to choose one or two things to work on, and when you feel you are somewhat proficient, add another one or two things to work on.

For example, in my course on becoming a better listener, I talk about taking notes, or just being quiet, or listening to understand and not thinking about how you’ll react, or having better eye contact… these are specific things you can practice over the next few months.

When you watch a course, include what you will do in your notes. I do this with a checkbox or an underline so I can easily browse through my notes and see actionable things.

In the learning world people talk about Bloom’s Taxonomy, a popular model on how we actually learn. Higher learning happens when you “apply”… which is practicing what you have learned. Also, “analyzing” is part of higher learning, which happens when you have better notes and do a debrief.

Number Five: Teach What You Have Learned to Someone Else

Okay, let’s go to a much higher level of learning… as you take the course, take notes and think about things as if you were going to sit down with someone else, or perhaps your team at work, and teach them what you have learned. You know teachers get a lot more out of a lesson than a student does, right?

Back to Bloom, the steps are remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create. In order to do a 40 minute session with your team, and teach them what you have learned, you will spend hours doing each of those steps. During those hours of understanding and analyzing and evaluating you will really learn this stuff much better than if you just watch a course and walk away.

Even if you just sit down with your bestie and say “hey, let me share what I just learned from this course I watched,” you’ll have a higher level of learning. Articulating the concepts and ideas, and choosing what to share or not share, will help you critically analyze the content.

I dare you to try this. You’ll only increase your proficiency.

The End

You may know that Pluralsight Authors get compensated when you watch our courses. I want you to watch all of my courses, all day long :p I will get more money.

Actually, I’m a lot more interested in your learning and progression. If you only watch one of my courses, but it changes your life and career, I’m fulfilled. I want you to have more peace and happiness because you are taking career management seriously. Whether that means you improve your hard skills or your soft skills, it makes no difference to me. Everything you do will improve your career.

Being intentional, doing this on purpose, and getting something out of it, is all I can ask of you.

The first step is to get your account… here.

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My Kidney Stone and Your Job Search

November 18th, 2020

Part I: Back Story

A couple of years ago, when I was working at BambooHR, I had an immense pain in my belly/back/gut. I hoped it wasn’t something life-ending like cancer, but you never know. I hadn’t felt anything that painful since I had my gall bladder attacks, many years ago. I really hoped it wasn’t my appendix, which would only mean surgery. The pain was so bad I just couldn’t imagine it being anything that was no big deal.

I think it was a Sunday when I finally dragged myself to the urgent care to get checked out. The visit was a memorable comedy of errors… I’ll never forget when the doctor said I had a kidney stone. I was completely surprised. I didn’t even think about that having been an option.

JibberJobber Pain

So, off to the internet to see what my options where. I like and appreciate doctors, but sometimes their remedies are a little too… cutting. I read a lot of articles and watched a few videos and settled on a tonic that was pretty gross. Basically it was about one or two teaspoons of organic lemon juice, one or two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, a squirt of stevia, and water. The higher the pain the more the juice. I’d do this three times a day.

I dreaded the day I’d be in the office bathroom screaming in pain as I passed this little beast. I had nightmares about it. I didn’t want to be “that guy.” Alas, I never had to. About two weeks into my tonic, my pains were completely gone.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I’ve told you the entirety of my ideas on what to do. If you have gut pains, go to a doctor and get a real, qualified medical opinion. 

Part II: Current Story

Fast forward to last weekend. Pains where back, in full force. I immediately self-diagnosed because this is a type of pain you just don’t forget. I didn’t even hesitate to get back on The Juice, aka, my homemade tonic of gross (straight lemon juice + apple cider vinegar).

JibberJobber Hard Things Gross Drink

I was listening to Dave Ramsey a few days ago and ironically/comically he talked about having a kidney stone. I’ve listened to probably hundreds of hours of Ramsey and I haven’t ever heard him talk about kidney stones. Dave was talking to a lady who had a bad toothache and was empathizing with her. The line that stood out was something like this:

“When I had a kidney stone, I would have given a house to someone if they could have gotten rid of the pain!”

It’s funny because no one says “I’d give a house to someone if you could…” But Ramsey is a real estate investor, so he has a few extra houses lying around ready for kidney-stone-relief aid. The message, though, is that kidney stone pain is so bad it really should be talked about more. Perhaps it could be included in the list of the hardest things that people go through.

Friday night was the worst… turning around in bed was really, really painful. I didn’t sleep well Friday night. Saturday was super painful, and getting up from a sitting position required help. I could walk (hobble) after I got up, but getting up was almost a show-stopper. Saturday night was really painful, but not nearly as bad as Friday night.

JibberJobber Sleepless Nights

And here we are on Wednesday, each day (and night) having gotten way, way better. The Juice is working, I hope. I’ll continue to horse it down, even while I hold my breath, because I know that horrid concoction is somehow helping do something magical to the little beast in my precious kidney.

If this is like last time, in a week and a half I’ll have no memories of the pain, and go back to the diet that probably caused it :p That’s how we roll, isn’t it?

Part III: Your Story (Or, Your Job Search)

 

As a job search blogger I have somehow figured out how to have just about everything, every life experience, relate back to blogging. This morning I woke up thinking about how this relates. Surprisingly, my focus wasn’t on the pain… I know just how painful and scary and painful (yes, I said that twice) a job search is.

Instead, the correlation is The Juice.

There are two parts to this. The first is that it is weird. I normally don’t drink organic lemon juice, nor do I ever choose to drink apple cider vinegar. I would definitely not normally choose both. Seriously gross.

When we are in job search, we have to do things we normally don’t do. Like, talk to people. Reach out to people like a salesperson, cold contacting them. We have to get out of our comfort zone and do the hard things.

The word that comes to mind is “amargo.” I learned that while living in Mexico. Amargo literally translates into “bitter,” and can be for taste as well as phrases like “the bitter truth.”

The bitter truth of the job search is that you will have to do the lemons and the vinegars. Actually, that is your blessed opportunity: you get to learn and grow, and along the way you will meet some amazing people who will become a part of your professional network.

JibberJobber Bitter Truth Lemons Lemonade

At first it is super hard. But as you do it, it becomes easier. It isn’t something you dread, rather it’s okay. And then, after a while, when you got the hang of it, it is actually enjoyable.

NOTE: I don’t think lemons and vinegar, especially as much as I’m taking, will ever be enjoyable. But networking and branding and career management really can be enjoyable!

The second part of The Juice solution for my kidney stone, and the analogy for you, is that this is something I need to do three times a day until the problem is resolved. And, in your job search, you need to do the right things consistently, every day, until you land your next job.

SPOILER: Please, please, please do not stop networking and personal branding and career managing once you land your job! Your next job transition is statistically in the next 2 to 5 years, and if you continue doing this stuff during that time (as we say, “between job searches”) you will have a much easier transition!!

I created the JobSearchProgram.com to take the guessing out of what your tonic should be every single day. Even weekends (optional!). I tell you exactly what three things you should do every day for six weeks. By the end of the six weeks you will know what to do the seventh, and eighth, and eightieth week. I train you, gently, to manage your own career.

Just as it is critical that I drink my tonic three times a day, every day, until my problem is gone, it is critical that you do the right things for your job (or career) every single day. Depending on your situation that might mean you do networking and informational interviewing, or you focus on personal branding, or other things. I don’t know what your tonic is (unless you are a job seeker, then your tonic is The Job Search Program!), but I do know you need to do this stuff every single day.

Sure, take a break on weekends and holidays.

But don’t take too many breaks. Or you’ll end up where I was in 2006: no job, no network, no brand (reputation). It was a horrible, depressing place to be, and a difficult hole to dig out from.

The Conclusion

And so now you know about my personal life, and how my weekend was. And you can see how I can turn a kidney stone into advice for your job search. Charming, right? Please, please take my two points to heart:

  1. Figure out your tonic.
  2. Drink it daily, even multiple times a day if necessary.

My immense, intense pain sucks. But I know that soon, even in the next week or two, it will be history.

JibberJobber Peace of Mind

I know the pains of a job search. They are far reaching and acute. I also know that they can go away. Whether that is because you start a side hustle selling Aunt Ethel’s Famous Spaghetti Sauce or because you land your dream job, your pain will go away.

I’ve seen it happen, across the U.S. and around the globe. We land on our feet. We are resilient. And even though things seem hopeless, you will get through this.

As the good book says, and as a kidney stone doctor says, “this too shall pass.” 

With the right tonic, and time, and discipline, your pain will pass.

 

 

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Election Results and 100% Unemployment

November 6th, 2020

There are a lot of big questions waiting to be answered over the next few months, based on whoever wins this unprecedented election between Biden and Trump. One of the questions is, what will happen to/with the economy?

This question translates to, “what will happen to me? My income, my spending power, my ability to finance the lifestyle I want.” What will happen to the unemployment rate, which for at least a couple of years has been really low? How will COVID-restrictions impact economic growth and jobs and an economic recovery?

Who will work, who will not work?

I am reminded of a trip I took to Minneapolis. I think it was the trip where I have 14 keynotes in 3 days. It was exhausting for my voice but exhilarating for my mind. Minneapolis remains one of my favorite places to speak because of the amazing, forward-thinking culture of career management the volunteer leaders across the city have created (yes, I’m talking about you, Lonny Gulden!).

Anyway, I met a friend for breakfast at some pancake house and noticed the headline on the newspaper in the lobby. It bragged about how amazingly low the city or state’s unemployment rate was. Something to be so proud about, I imagined there was a lot of back slapping and congratulating in the state’s government offices.

I was struck with the contrasting feelings of those I was about to meet with. Everyone in the room I was soon to enter, and address, didn’t have three point something unemployment. They had one hundred percent unemployment. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT.

Being unemployed is suffocating. It is one of the most scary things you can go through, and it can last months, even years. It is horrifying.

While there was congratulating at the state offices there were people who were terrified at the meetings I was about to attend.

100% unemployment struck me in 2006, during an amazing economy. Regardless of how I was “awesome,” as people who reviewed my resume said, and regardless of how everyone was hiring and no one could find talent, I was some kind of anomaly. I was so horrible I couldn’t get a job even though there were plenty of jobs to be had.

100% unemployment can touch anyone at any time.

It is the cancer of our career. You never know how or when or why. It could be because you went to an awesome company but your boss is toxic. It could be because you made a big-enough mistake at work and there were no options to keep you on. It could be because winds shift and there just isn’t much demand for what you offer.

Unfortunately, it could be because you are old, or any of the other reasons people discriminate.

You can prepare for this. Unemployment is a brutal mental game, and I’m not sure you can be completely ready for what you are going to face during unemployment. But you can certainly prepare with tactics, and techniques.

I’ve been blogging about these tactics and techniques since 2006. I’ve created over 35 courses on Pluralsight to help you prepare. Many of them are clearly for job seekers. Some of them might not seem to be for job search, but they help you with soft skills like listening and communicating and having empathy and presenting yourself well and nurturing relationships and following up and… oh wait, that is all good stuff for job search.

The tactics and techniques are not a secret. That you’ll likely go through a job search that you didn’t want to be in before you retire is not a secret.

Get serious about YOUR career management. This is your responsibility, and your opportunity.

We’d like to help, however we can. But it’s up to you to put the work in, before, during, and after this unwanted job search.

Go. Do. Improve.

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“Do The Thing!”

October 29th, 2020

My eleven year old son asked me to watch The Last Airbender series with him. It was one of the most brilliant series and animations I’ve seen. Like a good Pixar movie, this was excellent for kids and adults… clever, complex, etc.

In the next Avatar series, based around a different character (Korra), there is a brilliant-but-wacky entrepreneur, or business tycoon, named Varrick. His assistant’s name is Zhu Li (which sounded like Julie), and she was uber-competent and patient with Varrick. Probably about a hundred times Varrick would yell:

“Zhu Li, do the thing!”

And no matter what Varrick was thinking, Zhu Li would do the thing to save the day. She was that awesome.

This morning I was going to title this “do the right thing” but I decided to change it to Do The Thing, as Varrick would have yelled. And somehow, Zhu Li would get it done, even though Varrick didn’t say what the thing was, or how it needed to be done.

I want you to tap into your inner Zhu Li and do the thing, every day.

Last night I went to bed and told my wife I didn’t even touch the #1 project I was supposed to do. I had a few things on my calendar, but spent the day doing everything else. I caught up on some emails, and a project I’d been putting off, but I neglected The Thing. The most important thing I needed to do that day. And now that has delayed a few other things.

Today I woke with new resolve to do the thing. I have a lot of respect for the thing. I know that if you do it you feel like your day has been successful. But, you can kick it to tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and do other things… and you don’t feel successful. You feel like this nagging thing just won’t go away.

What is the thing?

JibberJobber Focus One Thing

I don’t know what it is for you, but every day I know what it is for me. It changes, of course. It’s not always one thing… Yesterday I had some slides to finalize, and so I could record at night (when things are quiet). But, I put a dozen other things in front of my one thing and when it was time to record, I wasn’t ready.

While I did a lot of good things yesterday I felt like my main goal was a failure.

If I were to have done that one thing early on, and then the dozen other things, it would have been a success.

Today, I start over, with the same one thing as yesterday. I will finish it, I promise. And I’ll record tonight. And today will have been a success, even if I don’t do anything else.

Figure out your most important thing… the thing that you need to do that will help you make progress, and DO IT.

Just do the thing. Every day.

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Question: How Do You Move Up The Ladder?

October 28th, 2020

My Twitter friend from the UK, @itsamatar, asked me this:

I’m inspired by your journey from intern to VP to MG and wanted to get your advice on how to move up the ladder from your experience. I’ve been stuck in Infrastructure and Technical roles for nearly a decade and want to know if you have 5-6 tips I should implement that would increase my chances. Thank you :)

That’s a good question and it probably has a million answers. My journey, which drives my answer, will undoubtedly be different than your journey.

Walking down memory lane, I remember well my interview to become a web dev intern. I was working at a comfortable job that maybe could have been a career, although it was not anything I would have enjoyed for a long time. It was the typical massive organization where you kind of wait for people to get promoted, retire, or die in order for positions to open up.

I found out about the internship position because I asked my professor, on a Saturday morning as we were both walking away from the school, what I could do to enhance my career. I have no idea why I hadn’t heard about this internship before… probably because the computer professors only told the top students to apply. Apparently I wasn’t on anyone top list of anything. Alas, I found out and was in an interview on the following Monday.

I remember getting out of my junker car in a horrible suit and just laughing… why in the world was I interviewing? I already had a job… But I went in, did the interview, even had one memorable and horrible answer, and long story short got the internship.

My boss was straight from heaven. She treated me as if I were a full-time employee, not a college intern. She gave me real projects and put me in situations where I could really understand web dev. Even though I lost all of my benefits, and made less per hour, than in my big-0rganization job, this was an amazing opportunity.

My next job came because my cubicle-mate got a call from someone who wanted him to do some freelance web work. My buddy had zero interest in doing anything like that but I was hungry for it. That turned into my next real job… the first IT Manager of what would become a $300M organization. First, I went in as a contract developer, but it was clear I became their trusted IT voice, and was brought into a lot of cool opportunities. When my contract opportunity was over, I think maybe 6 months later, I was getting ready to graduate and move to Texas (my dream was to work with Dell Computers in Austin). I sat down with my boss and said, “You guys HAVE TO hire someone to replace me, and be an IT Manager. You can’t go back to having five IT vendors who just blame each other for any computer issues.” He totally agreed. He asked me to write a job description, which I did. Then he asked me to put a salary on it, which I did. And then he asked me to stay… please don’t move to Texas, stay here in freezing Idaho.

And so I stayed. I got the job I created at the salary I made up. And it was a fantastic run.

Our vendor approached me and floated the idea of our company acquiring his tiny little IT shop. That is its own story that should be in a book… long story short, it was a mess. But I was in MBA mode, and very interested in owning our mission-critical software to have more security (“What if he got hit by a bus? It all depended on him.”) and more control over the roadmap to meet our growing needs. Lots of drama during this process and my job was in question. Long story short, I stayed around and chose to work in the newly formed subsidiary (as opposed to staying in the big company and being the main contact for the subsidiary… a role I figured would be a rubber stamper with no executive involvement).

At the new company they asked what role I wanted… having read CIO, the magazine, for a few years, I said “why not CIO?” And so, like that, I became CIO of an organization that had all of 17 employees. I really was young and had horrible mentoring at the time. While I think I did a fine job, it wasn’t like I was CIO of an successful, big organization. Later, I can’t remember why, VP was added or amended to my title. Nothing else had changed.

After about 18 long months the CEO left the organization and I was offered his role. I asked to be CEO or president but the big organization CEO pointed to his hair and said “you don’t have enough of this.” Gray hair. I wasn’t old enough to have that title. Plus, he said, his other execs of the big company would be jealous/mad that I had a president title.

So I was “general manager.” No pay increase because the company was a mess.

That is how I got my titles. I kind of cared about the titles, but as far as the work went it was just work. No matter my title I loved doing strategy, vision, running operations. I had an amazing team of developers and we had a lot of fun, and a lot of hope for the future.

But, as they say, “nothing gold can stay.” My old boss, who was also an owner, came back and politicked for his job back. Ruthlessly. I was busy trying to right the ship and he was busy trying to get his paycheck back. The big guy decided this old boss should have his old role back because, well, I wasn’t an owner, and so how could I possibly be as passionate about the company success as that old guy.

The drama, seriously.

And thus ended my executive career in Corporate America.   Easy come, easy go. I think they gave me the old beat up laptop I had been using and maybe one or two paychecks as severance. And a swift “don’t let the door hit you…” on the way out.

My next phase of titles was owner, founder, president or CEO… of just me. I started JibberJobber a few months after having been laid off. I had one developer and one QA person, and then me and my phone. I was on a call with a friend/recruiter a few years later and said “what kind of job could I even get??” and he said “dude, you are a product manager! Look what you’ve done with JibberJobber!” I loved the idea of product manager… you get a bit of ownership, and a lot of varied duties… and you get to create stuff.

In 2018 I was offered a role to build something but I wasn’t on the PM team, which was very different, so my title was “program manager.” Not super common, but whatever. I didn’t care what my title was, I just wanted to create one of the most amazing, industry altering things that we could have created. But, a few months after I started my boss announced his departure, said he had hired me to replace him, and good luck. The execs decided to kill the entire program and my team was booted.

I was not a program manager anymore.

My titles have been cool, and impressive. But back in 2006 when was looking for a new job my last title was “general manager.” I remember sitting in a job club next to a guy 20 years older than me, and his resume looked the same, except he was a real general manager with 20 years more experience.

I realized my titles at tiny companies in small towns for just a few years wouldn’t even compare to his experience.

Having said all of that, let me address your question. I’ve seen this play out in the careers of others… here are the five or six things you can do right now:

Declare your intentions

Make your path public. Let others know that you want to move up and out. This could backfire if you work with idiots, but generally if management knows you want to move up, they might decide to invest in you and your future. They also might worry that if they don’t have a place for you that you’ll be a flight risk, but that’s less of an issue now than it was 20 years ago (because everyone is a flight risk now).

Be strategic about who, how, and when you declare your intentions. Maybe you do this with your immediate boss, in a one-on-one. Maybe you talk to other executives. Maybe you DON’T tell certain people who might sabotage your intentions. Definitely tell YOURSELF, and believe in yourself

Find Mentors

Not just one mentor, multiple mentors. Some might be in your company, some might be in the roles you want, others might be in other industries (or even at competitor orgs). This isn’t formal coaching… this is mentoring. You have a lot of heavy lifting to do, and you’ll get value as you put in the work. Be smart and strategic about what you can get from (and give to) your mentors. Be respectful of their time. And be appreciative of the wisdom they’ll share with you.

It will be your job to determine whether their advice or ideas will work for you. Be open and humble, and willing to try, but also learn and know for yourself. The outcome of what you choose to do will have a huge impact on you, but not necessarily on them. It is your responsibility to do the work, and think critically about your next steps, not theirs.

In my mentoring courses on Pluralsight I talk about how mentors come and go. You might find a mentor for speaking, a different mentor for strategic thinking, a different one for negotiating, etc. Some might be good for one meeting, others for years. Be flexible how you approach this, and learn as much as you can.

Take classes

If you want to go into management you might get value out of taking some finance classes. This is probably the topic I see most executives struggle with, but the ones who understand finances have a lot of influence. I don’t know your strengths or weaknesses, but whatever your weaknesses are that would impact your ability to move up the ladder, see what classes you can take to fix that. You might find college classes (which might carry more weight with some execs), Pluralsight courses, etc.

Leaders are readers, they say. You need to learn, the rest of your life. I’m guessing you are excellent in your hard skills… list what soft skills you need to go deep on and get serious about those.

Volunteer strategically

I’m not talking about volunteering by serving food to homeless people… although that’s great, too. I’m talking about going to the org that helps homeless people and volunteering in an executive, board, or leadership role. Volunteering might give you opportunities to lead and direct at a level you won’t get at work… yet. You can learn, try, grow, etc. in your volunteer role.

You also prove you really want those roles and responsibilities. And, mega bonus: you might meet people who will have an influence in your next leadership role. The people who tend to have those volunteer positions are people who have leadership influence in their organizations.

A word of warning… you’ll probably be known as “the tech guy” and asked to do all things tech for the organization. Be very careful to not get pigeon-holed in that role. Make it clear that you are there for a leadership role, not a behind-the-scenes network role.

Speak and teach

Speaking and teaching involve a lot of soft skills you should develop as a leader. I strongly suggest you join a local Toastmasters chapter and actively participate. Be uncomfortable, stretch yourself, and be a better communicator. If you are great now, go for excellent. Every leadership role you would have will be enhanced by your ability to speak in small or large groups, and the confidence in communication you get from that training.

Teaching will help you refine how you communicate to individuals. One of your (our) problems is that, as a technical expert, people expect you to talk in ones and zeros, and have a hard time talking normal with humans. This is a stereotype you can break by learning better communication. More than once people have asked me, after I spoke on stage, if I really had been a developer. They were shocked that a developer could have communicated on stage like I had. Bad branding precedes us.

One final thought

I’ve talked to plenty of people who wanted to go from technical to management, and then hated it. If you hate it, that’s okay. Just go back. When I went from technical to management, there was no backward path. I was out of tech too long and, while I was okay to manage technicians, my technical days were over.

I hope this helps, and I hope you get the rich results you are hoping for! This is your career, your path. You get to write your future.

Good luck!

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Reputation Question: When your reference is BAD

October 26th, 2020

I have a great question from a friend and JibberJobber user, I’ll call him [Name Redacted]. His question:

Jason, I have a less than great reference. The issue is that it was a government job and if someone asks when I worked there, there is sort of like a check box that says something like “separation for performance.” The superior did this to many people, and was actually fired in part for it, but those who were hurt by it are in the city’s record and they don’t think through the implications of that on the record.

What do I do? Especially if I am going to be checked out for a similar job?

This is probably one of the main reasons employers can’t give much more information than to answer the almost-useless question: “Did [Name Redacted] work at your organization between these dates?”

Advice #0

This is legitimate advice, although I think it is too much work. But, it might be necessary since we are talking about city records and potential government employers, who might care about this.

I remember back in, maybe it was around 2004 or so, HR told the entire company that we were not allowed to say anything more than yes or no to that question. We were not allowed to talk about performance, reason for separation, “would you hire them again,” etc.

Lawsuits, my friends, lawsuits.

I’m not suggestion [Name Redacted] sue the city because lawsuits are just plain sloppy. They are expensive and time consuming and emotional and just painful (unless you are the lawyer). Having said that, it might make sense to get some legal council to see what can be done to remove that information from the city records. My first guess is that the city won’t even share that part of your past history… and that people might not even ask for it. But it could impact looking at other government jobs. If you want to stay in that sector, perhaps talk to the city to see if something can be done.

By the way, you can pay a firm (AllisonTaylor.com – I met them at a conference once a million years ago) to call and do background checks as if they were a future employer, and then tell you what came up in those calls. It’s a pretty cool service. They also have a service called “Cease and Desist Letter for Bad Job References,” which probably won’t help in this case but it might.

Advice #1

This is what I would normally advise people to do.

BURY AND ADDRESS IT.

This advice is two-part, both equally important.

First, bury everything you can.

This advice comes from years ago, when I was asked about other negative stuff you might find in a google search. I know this isn’t a google search, which is why I put Advice #0 above, but I think the idea is still relevant. Figure out everything you can do to have POSITIVE things show up before people find the negative things.

This might mean you get lots of LinkedIn Recommendations that talk about your professional competencies… everything from your hard skills to your leadership skills and integrity and ethics. If I were looking at someone’s stuff (resume, profile, portfolio, website, etc.) and I see a lot of positive talk about this person, I’m going to concentrate on that stuff.

Back to the google example, if you had something bad showing up on your first hit, first page, you would want to have 20 or 30 other pages show up and push that first hit down to page 3 or 4. Most people don’t read all the way to page 4… they’d just see a bunch of other pages of really flattering things.

Do this with stories, articles, blog posts, testimonials, etc. Make no mistake, this can be a big job. Some people actually hire firms to do this for them… these firms use SEO and design and writing and other tactics to push bad stuff off the front page.

The second part of the advice is to ADDRESS IT. Head on.

You have to be extremely careful about how you do this.

Have you heard that you shouldn’t bad mouth a previous employer? It really does make you look bad. But just because I’m saying you have to address something doesn’t mean you have to bad mouth the person.

Now, my tendency, as the interviewee, is to tell you the whole story about how I was wronged, and how stupid the old boss was. That is exactly what you SHOULD NOT do. Don’t use the interview to vindicate your honor. That’s not the purpose of the interview… it is to get closer to a job offer. Stay focused on that purpose, and tuck those urges to find a sympathetic ear aside.

Here’s how I might phrase this… you need to wordsmith your own response, then edit and edit until you get what you need, then practice it so you don’t sound jaded.

Note I would ONLY say this if it came up:

“Oh, are you referring to the “separation for performance” on my record from Gotham City? Yeah, that was an interesting situation. Turns out my supervisor regularly marked her team members with that, and abused it to the point where she was terminated for it. It was an unfortunate situation that hurt a lot of my colleagues, and it’s been hard to rectify this with the city. But, I have a number of references from people I worked with at the City, from my colleagues to my supervisors managers, and even internal customers. I’m happy to provide those to you.”

Or, you have those posted somewhere.

Man, just writing this makes me mad… there are some seriously stupid people out there that have had too much power, and abused it.

Another way to address this head on is to use the “bury it” idea and post those references on your site (or in your LinkedIn profile). You might have to keep names off, and just use partial recommendations, but you could say something like:

“My colleagues from the City, from the Director to people who worked side-by-side with me, say I’m dependable, have integrity, and an excellent team player. I was well-known for getting the job done right the first time, and would regularly be brought in to impossible situations to clean them up.”

It would help if you had any element of that from past coworkers… but you get the point.

So, without knowing more about your situation, or how this is coming up in your job search, that is my advice. I’d definitely do #1, but if it continues to be an issue I’d definitely see what you can do with the city to rectify it, even if that means getting some coworkers together and using a lawyer.

Good luck!

 

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The 6 Week Job Search Program

October 23rd, 2020

Hey, so I’ve been crazy busy spinning all my plates… that is, I have a lot of things I’m working on, each of them are like plates spinning on sticks. If any of them slow down too much they will fall, so I’m busy keeping each plate spinning. All good stuff, and I’m super excited about some pending changes to JibberJobber that will, among other things, make JibberJobber FASTER for you. Also, more mobile friendly. I’ll talk more about that soon.

Today I wanted to share a video I did a few days ago talking about, introducing, really, my 6 week Job Search Program.

This program isn’t made for you to “get a job in six weeks!” I’m not a used car salesman. I care about processes and procedures, and that you are doing the right things in your job search. You’ve probably seen my www.JobSearchProgram.com stuff before, but now you get to hear me talk about it… the what and the why. I tried to keep this down to about 6 or 7 minutes but, well, I just coudln’t : p So you get eleven minutes of me talking about how I think I can help you. Here you go:

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An Embarrassing Tale and Lessons Learned

October 16th, 2020

A few years ago my wife and our found ourselves in a whirlwind of a few months as we surprisingly packed up our house and moved. Wow. That statement summarizes so much. My days were so busy I would say I did “cross fit” for 12 to 14 hours a day… packing boxes, moving things, taking donations to thrift shops or the dump, fixing things… it was exhausting.

We found ourselves in a move we didn’t imagine we’d be in. It was good, but it was a ton of work.

JibberJobber Job Search Lessons Moving

The plan was for us to sell our house and use the earned equity as down payment on the next house we would move into. As you can imagine, this would reduce our overall financial risk and help keep our monthly mortgage payments lower.

Unfortunately, and to everyone’s surprise, our house didn’t sell. It was a hot market, they told us. We had a great house, they told us. The location was perfect, they told us. This would be a slam dunk, and we should have multiple offers within the first couple of days.

Instead, we had no offers, even after putting a significant amount of money into some construction to fix the place up (it was sparkly nice and had that new-house-smell — so good!).

This was unplanned and scary. Plan B, which we hadn’t even thought about, became to turn our house into a rental property. So there we are, in a new learning curve, with a high sense of urgency. I didn’t want to pay for two mortgages, and was anxious to have a positive experience with renters.

We’ll four years later, I can say that has been a blessing. We’ve had amazing renters in that house since day one. We haven’t had any problems that I can think of, except one.

The first family that moved in came from out of state. They seemed like a great family (and they were… we were so happy to have them in there). They drove in late, around 9 or 10pm, and had a crew of family helping unload their truck. I was sure they would be exhausted. My wife and I made a little “welcome to our home, now your home” kit which had our favorite Papa Murphy’s pizzas in the fridge, our favorite ice cream, and some green smoothies in case they were healthier than that. We had paper plates and napkins and nice “welcome” note. We wanted to start this relationship off warmly.

I got a call from the dad as they were moving in, in November, saying the heater wasn’t working.

JibberJobber Job Search Lessons Heater

OH BROTHER. The heater. Stupid heater. To be honest, we hadn’t had problems with the heater before, so this was news to me. I went down to check it out and I couldn’t figure it out… I think by this time it was 10 or 11pm, and this poor, tired family just wanted to finish unpacking (there were at least a dozen guys around unloading their truck – it was chaos), and I wanted them to have a pleasant experience. I wanted to be a responsible landlord.

So I called a heating and air company. I don’t remember why I called the one I did, but they have a very big name here locally. I thought “well, if everyone else uses them, they must be good.”

You might imagine where I’m going with this.

They came out and did some diagnostics, and said something surprising: “You have a very slow carbon monoxide leak.” Carbon monoxide. This is seriously scary stuffy. The new renter was standing right next to me, but even if he wasn’t, I was scared. I was a bit panicked. I absolutely didn’t want my new, my first, renters to not wake up the next morning because of carbon monoxide.

I’m not an HVAC expert. I just knew carbon monoxide was bad. And so I had them fix it. The fix was to replace EVERYTHING. To the tune of $20,000.

$20,000

That is a ton of money. I did not have that money. I would have, if I would have sold my house, but we just dumped a lot of money into finishing the basement, and fixing things up, and I was at the end. It was okay, though, because this HVAC company had a financing partner, and we could finance the whole thing.

Not fun, but I was not going to have four deaths on my name. So the only answer seemed to be YES. FIX IT.

Looking back now, I should have said, “wow, you guys, go to a hotel.  A nice one. I’ll pay for it. Get a couple of rooms, rest from your trip, and I’ll make some calls in the morning to get this resolved.”  It might have cost me $500 or $600 to do that, but that is a far cry better than the panicked decision-making I did that cost me $20,000 PLUS criminally high interest. Seriously, I felt, and still do, duped.

JibberJobber Job Search Program Crying

A few weeks later I read an article that said that HVAC companies have devices to measure carbon monoxide and can always detect very small, trace amounts, and that is how they convince home owners to replace their entire systems.

Fast forward a few months and we had HVAC issues at our own house. I was disgusted with this HVAC company (for more reasons, which is too much for this post), and I mentioned it to my mechanic. “Who do you use?” I asked. He said, “Oh, call Tony! He is amazing, and does all of my stuff.”

I called Tony, on my mechanic’s recommendation, and he came out and replaced a unit for maybe $4,000. One fifth of what the huge, well-marketed company charged. I was sick to my stomach. I had made a rush decision with little information when I was in a place of fear. And it cost me dearly.

Enough about that story. Here’s how it applies to you:

Lesson #1: Uninformed decision based on scare tactic

I’m not an HVAC expert. I didn’t know that many systems emit a tiny bit of carbon monoxide. I talked to someone from a different company who taught me that this is one of the ways that other company gets people to spend thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars on something they don’t really need. Shameful, horrible, but it works for that company.

Take a minute, take a breath, and decide later. “If it’s a good idea today, it will be a good idea tomorrow. Or next week.”

Like I said, I should have sent the family to a hotel and paid for their food instead of signing my name on a $20,000 contract. But I was scared, and their little poison device showed there was a danger. I just didn’t realize that might have been a normal reading.

When you are in a job search everything is scary. When will you lose your house or apartment or car? When will you not be able to buy food? When will utilities get shut off? Slow down, take a breath, and think and make decisions with a level head.

Lesson #2: Get, and value, advice and input from others

I found an honest, amazing guy who wasn’t trying to meet a quote or get me to drop way too much money on something I didn’t need. I found him by asking others I trusted. I guarantee you know someone who knows someone who knows someone they trust. Instead of asking people I went with effective marketing, and I paid the price. It’s even okay to ask multiple people. Facebook makes that easy… I see posts like that all the time. But talk to people who have been in a home for a while and they will tell you who their favorite tile person or electrician or whatever service provider is. These are people already vetted.

In the job search, ask people how they landed their job. Maybe everyone will say through job boards, or maybe most people will say they knew someone who knew someone (that is networking). You don’t have to do this alone… ask others. There is no shame in asking, and many people are more than glad to share what they have learned, help you avoid pitfalls, and learn about tactics and tools that actually work.

My tale is still something that makes me wince. But I won’t have to learn that lesson with that company again. I’m done with them. The good lessons I learned, though, will stay with me. I’ve even got my own little list of service providers I trust, and I’ll share them with my neighbors… if they ask.

JibberJobber Job Search Program Helping Others

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Job Search Tools or Job Search Tactics?

October 13th, 2020

I’ve recently seen two posts on social media talking about resumes that struck me as odd. One was from a job seeker talking about how much time and effort you need to put into your resume, and then comments came in like “I did all this and I am still not getting jobs!”

The other was from someone on LinkedIn who talked about resumes to resume writers who collaborate with their clients to create a resume vs. creating one without collaborating…. insinuating they just pump something out that maybe misses the mark. The comments were, I’d say, passionate, because there are different ways of doing things, and people felt they needed to defend their way.

JibberJobber Resume

When I read the “I did all this and I’m still not getting jobs!” comments I thought about the difference between tools and tactics.

For the last few weeks we’ve been without a kitchen at my house. We are having some work done and decided to pull our kitchen out and get this work done right, instead of patch here and patch there for years. So, we have tried out all of the frozen pizza brands and now have strong opinions on that… as well as frozen burritos.

Sidenote: if you plan on remodeling your kitchen, you definitely need to factor into your budget new food costs. You can’t just go the store and buy stuff and make it at home… now you are shifting your entire eating and shopping and probably eating out a bit more.

Anyway, my contractor has some pretty sweet tools. Lots of brands that I like, and lots of little attachments. He has the right tools for various jobs, whether that be drilling or cutting or pounding or painting or whatever. If he needs a new tool for a different job he goes and buys it, or he brings one from his shop.

He doesn’t skimp on tools. Tools can make the job go better, and faster.

At night, the crew cleans up and leaves. The tools are piled up neatly and really, available for me to use. Of course, he didn’t say that, but if I wanted to I could grab a drill or a brush or a hammer or a tape measure and do something with it. I haven’t yet, but I could if I wanted to.

JibberJobber Job Search Tools

The problem is, aside from not having time, and not wanting to mess something up that they would have to spend time fixing, I don’t really know all the tactics. Those professional tools, in my hands, without training, are kind of worthless. Sure, I could learn. Sure, I know how to do stuff. But the building process in my kitchen is calculated and complex, and I wasn’t invited to any of the planning meetings.

The parallels to the job search are too good. A specialty tool in my untrained hands is about as useful as a resume, whether excellent or poorly written, in the hands of a job seeker who doesn’t know what he/she is doing.

Case in point: I get people coming to JibberJobber who say, “Delete my account, I’m not finding any new job postings here.” And, I gladly delete their account (or tell them how to do it). If you think your job search consists of looking for jobs on boards and then spending all day applying, you probably aren’t ready for JibberJobber. You have chosen the “easy” button, along with millions of others. Easy but not effective.

So they delete their account and move on. However, if you were to come to me and say, “Jason, I’ve been doing this for six months. It’s not working. What am I doing wrong? What should I do in my job search?” Now we are talking… now you are ready.

You realize your resume is a tool. You start to figure out you have a little toolbox, perhaps filled with phrases, questions to ask in networking, interview techniques you can use, your LinkedIn profile, even JibberJobber to track your job search progress and networking, etc. And you are ready to learn how to use all of these tools in a calculated manner to address a complex process.

Look, the job search is tremendously complex. I’ve tried to simplify YOUR part in the JobSearchProgram.com, which I think is one of the greatest things since sliced bread, at least to job seekers. I’ve removed a lot of the noise you might have allowed into your job search and give you specific, daily tasks to move closer to interviews. I am providing you training to land your next job. I’m not making you a job search expert… most people I talk to don’t want that. They just want a job. And do I take the expertise I’ve learned and earned over the last almost 15 years and have a very simple, concise, and effective system for you.

JibberJobber Job Search Program Easy

It’s like if I contractor hired you to work in my kitchen and said, “I have all the tools, and I’m going to show you how to lay tile today. You aren’t learning to measure or cut the tile yet. You are just going to sit on the floor and we’ll give you tools to do this one job. I’ll show you the tricks, and help you avoid common mistakes.”

You get to specialize in that one thing. And when you figure it out, you’ll be ready for the next thing, which might be to measure, or to cut, or whatever. But master this technique first, get really good at it, and then we’ll move to the next thing.

You know how good those tools are after 5pm? They are just put in a pile. They sit and wait for someone to pick them up and use them the right way.

Your resume is a tool. It sits in a pile. Your 30 second pitch is a tool. If unused it’s as good as sitting in a pile. Many of you have a pile of tools. You are just waiting for the right time or opportunity to pick them up and put them to use. That’s where my Job Search Program comes in.

One more thought on that. Years ago I was talking to a friend of mine who owns a roofing business. He’s been a professional roofer for years and has a nice little business. We were talking about tool quality and he said he loves this brand and that brand… but if he has a little job and needs to replace a tool quickly, he sometimes goes down to a store which I will not name and gets a “throw away” tool. It will work fine on the job, for that job, but it won’t last long. It will break soon, but hopefully he will get the job done. He’ll also buy it at a fraction of the price.

He is calculated in strategic in where he invests his money in his tools. Sometimes he goes with excellent quality for tools he’ll use for years. Other times he gets something that can do the job, but knows it is not an investment.

Similarly, you have various tools in your job search that need high quality, like your resume, and other tools that can be disposable, like a 30 second pitch.

JibberJobber 30 Second Pitch

Sending a resume to someone that is “cheap,” something that has bad formatting, bad grammar, bad punctuation, or weak messaging (I think this is the hardest part for most people) is BAD. It’s not just “might work for now and I’ll upgrade later” bad, it is “this person is sloppy and doesn’t pay attention to details so we can’t hire them” bad.

You have to put time into having a solid, powerful resume (and LinkedIn profile).

Your 30 second pitch? That is different. Yes, work on it. Yes, try to have a good one. But if you don’t have a good one you can probably talk your way out of it…. and you should definitely work on it regularly. Improve it every time you deliver it. You have time to make it better… just be intentional about it.

Tools and tactics. One without the other is weaker than it should be.

Have the right tools, but don’t think that just because you have them the work will get done by itself. You need to master the right tactics, and then put them into practice. Again and again and again, until you land your job.

 

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