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“Daddy, are you going to lose your job?”

July 9th, 2020

I finally got around to watching Moneyball. I’m only half way through so no spoilers…!

There’s a scene in the first half were things are not going well for Billy Beane, the main character played by Brad Pitt. Beane took a leap of faith on the econ nerd from Yale and constructed a team of what were apparently considered misfits. Against common sense and the advice of his scouts, they went forward and lost a lot of games. Things were bad and of course the internet was not kind.

Billy Beane’s daughter, Casey Beane, was chatting at her dad’s house one night while he was serving her ice cream and asked,

“Daddy are you going to lose your job?”

It is hard to feel sorry for someone who makes a ton of money, and will likely be fine financially, and since he became a main character of a movie played by Brad Freaking Pitt, well, I didn’t feel sorry for him.

Okay, maybe a little.

Alright, honestly, when Casey asked the question I got all the feels. My kids never asked me if I was going to lose my job because they wouldn’t have known about all the crap going on at work. But to hear that 12 year old girl as, with genuine concern, if her daddy (and their family) was going to be alright, it hit me.

JibberJobber Afraid Lose Job

From my perspective it hit me because losing a job can be so devastating. It should be life changing. It feels derailing.

From the kids perspective you take all of your sense of normalcy and throw it out the window. Forget about dance classes and violin lessons… the entire ecosystem of whatever-your-normal is is about to change big time. Even if it doesn’t change, there is a huge dark cloud of unknown that is uncomfortable for everyone and tangible enough for even the kids to feel.

Losing your job is one of the top five most stressful things to go through, according to studies.

I submit that it doesn’t have to be.

I think it is so stressful because in the 1900’s there were ways to not lose your job. When companies had more loyalty towards their employees, and bosses tended to stick with employees, and pensions to encourage staying at one job, losing a job was indeed a life changing event that could have long lasting repercussions.

Today, though, I’m going to say that losing your job is NORMAL.

It happens all the time.

It happened to tens of thousands of people one day when the Enron fantasy died.

It happened in the recession of 2008, and again in the Covid quarantine.

It happens in cities where plants shut down. Losing jobs just happens, and it happens with more frequency now than what we are used to.

Because of that I think we need to rethink what a job loss means. Heck, I think we need to rethink what a job is!

I came to realize a job is simply a revenue stream. You can have more than one. If you lose one, and the others are healthy, then losing that one is not as bad. You can also find new revenue streams. Lose one, find one. Lose two, find three. There’s no law that says you can’t find a new one. Just mental barriers.

We need to release the stigma associated with job loss. I don’t think we’ll do that as a society (although gaps on resumes and changing jobs every few years is not as taboo as it used to be, thank goodness!), but you can certainly do it for yourself.

Stop thinking you are broken.

Stop thinking you are a loser.

Stop thinking you are hopeless, or that you are in a hopeless situation.

I had to be around other accomplished professionals who were out of work to learn that no, I was not a loser or broken. I was just in a situation that plenty of people find themselves in.

This is not a time to doubt yourself because you need confidence to be successful in your job search.

Daddy, or mommy, may have lost their job, but that isn’t the end of the world. It’s just a step on this weird path we call our career. Stigma free.

 

 

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The Job Search: Steak or Bacon?

July 8th, 2020

I love cooking.

When I was young I wanted to be a professional chef. Not because I knew what that mean, only because I loved creating things in the kitchen. My mom instilled a love of cooking in me. I wasn’t much a baking aficionado, I was interested in doing entrees and stuff like that. I have fond memories of watching Wok with Yan back in the 80’s, laughing at this super hilarious guy. We’d make a list of ingredients, shop for them, and then cook up some marvels.

Those were the (simple) days!

Today I still love getting into a kitchen and creating. I will print off five or so different recipes for the same dish, then pick and choose my favorite ideas from each recipe. I love experimenting. My latest is a pretty simple attempt at making jalapeno poppers, which don’t last even a few minutes at my house.

I loved learning how to cook steak. I have done it on a grill, on a smoker, in a broiler, and on a pan. I choose a different method depending on the time I have and what I have going on. If I’m pretty busy I can through them on a smoker… if I want the amazing crisp outside I’ll pan fry or broil.

JibberJobber Steak

I remember learning that the best way to cook a steak (I like medium rare) was with really high heat. Especially at the beginning, you should sear the sides of the steak to keep the juices in. I’m not much of a BBQ or roast person but I love a good seared steak!

I thought I knew how to cook bacon. I love crispy bacon… not burned, but not soggy. My wife turned me on to the BEST way to cook bacon: in the oven.

I thought that was blasphemous. Bacon should be pan fried, shouldn’t it? How else do you get just the right crisp than to cook it in hot pan in its own fat?

Okay, now I’m hungry.

I learned, though, that if you cook bacon in an oven you can get PERFECT bacon every single time without babysitting it. I line bacon on a cookie sheet, then put it a non-pre-heated oven. That is important! Then, I turn the oven to 425 and set the timer for 20 to 25 minutes (depending on how thick the cut is). Once you figure out your time you will get perfect bacon and your life will be changed forever.

Sometimes I don’t want to do a full pan of bacon, so I pan fry. Just depends on my mood, I guess. I learned the best way to pan fry bacon is (a) starting from a not-hot pan, and (b) cook on very low. This goes against everything I would have guessed. It still takes a while, but that’s okay, as long as I plan ahead. In about 25 minutes I can have perfect, crispy bacon.

JibberJobber Bacon

YUM.

Steak: Super high heat. Some say the hotter the better.

Bacon: start cold and keep low.

Let’s transition to the job search. I have heard 65% of jobs are found through networking. Something like that… the number changes depending on who you talk to.

I had lunch with a guy who landed an amazing job. I asked him how he got it… for sure through networking, right? Nope. He found it online, applied, and landed it. Contrary to all of the stats and best-practices advice, he didn’t network in.

How do you get a burger flipping or taco filling job? Differently than you get an executive or board role!

How do you get a job as a programmer or a marketer or manager? Differently than a laborer or data entry clerk or front desk receptionist.

Sure, you could network into any of those roles. But try and look for a burger flipper entry level job on a job board. You’ll have as much luck there as you will finding the board of director roles.

JibberJobber Burger

You get a burger job by walking into the restaurant and asking for an application.

You get a board role by having other board members or owners know who you are, which can happen because of your network, or the press on you, or your past company exits.

Steak vs. bacon. One isn’t better than the other… but they are different approaches.

When I was in My Big Job Search (the failed one) I read a lot of articles about job search. Many came across as one-size-fits-all. None, I thought, were 100% applicable to me. I needed to learn a little from this one and a little from that one and then put together my own eclectic strategy.

When you get job search advice and just know it isn’t your cup of tea, learn what you can and move on. Tuck away the good stuff to include in your own strategy. If something works wonders for one person, don’t assume it will work wonders for you.

You have to create your own strategy. 

Having said that, in both the bacon and steak example we need heat. There are some constants for everyone. You should be presentable, and be able to communicate enough to get through an interview. You should be able to do the job (see my post about hard skills and soft skills).

There is not one single silver bullet, or one solution for everyone. The job search is complicated because we are dealing with different industries, and humans making decisions, and different levels and expectations and regions and _________. There are a lot of fickle variables. So learn what you can from multiple sources, create your own system that works for your situation, and continually improve as you learn more.

You can do this. 

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Almost Everything Comes and Goes

July 7th, 2020

Jobs come and go.

Great bosses come and go.

Crappy bosses come and go.

Companies come and go

Economic swings come and go.

Health comes and goes.

Relationships come and go.

Self esteem comes and goes.

Just about everything comes and goes.

When good things come I tend to settle into comfortable. When bad things come I tend to panic.

JibberJobber Change Come and Go

Stephen

My thinking about how much I control things have shifted since I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People book. I think I read it in 1991 and was shocked at what I was learning. Focus on what you can… what is in your circle of influence. #profound

One of the most fascinating parts of the book was when Stephen talked about your “center.” You may not know that Stephen Covey died at 79 after a bicycle/car accident. He lived a very full life and impacted probably tens of millions of people. I was one of them.

Stephen was a religious man who valued his family. I never met him, although in 1991 he was one of the very few people I would have loved to meet and talk with. I did, however, stay a few nights with his personal secretary. She was the mom of a friend. I didn’t know it until the very last hour I was with them. If I had known who she was I would have begged for time on his calendar. Oh well.

Anyway, when Stephen talked about what your center is he offered up some ideas that many people have at their center. Their religion, their family, their spouse, their job title. I’ve seen people put their kids, their politics, their status in the community, their smarts, their wallet, and other such things as their center.

See the problem?

Money can come and go. Smarts can come and go. Status can come and go. What your political leaning represents can come and go (or shift). Your relationship with your kids can come and go. Things can change with your spouse or your religion or … the list goes on.

When I was in high school I had great hair (although I didn’t like it). Now I’m balding in ways that suck. My hair came and it went.

If my hair were my center I would have been top of the world as a teen, and bottom of the world as an adult.

Devastation

I know how devastating a job loss can be. I lived through it. It was the longest low period in my life. My ability to be a breadwinner was part of my center. My job title was my identity. My team provided me confidence. My wins at work gave me validation.

When “a room full of chickens**” made the decision to let me go I lost it all. I lost salary (which was too low anyway) and benefits (which were pretty weak). I lost my identity, confidence and validation.

I did not lose my wife or kids. I did not lose my soul or my core beliefs. Because of parents who were in a position to help I did not lose my home or car.

Losing parts of my centers caused me to flounder. But over time I recovered. I got HOPE back in my life. I refigured out why I was on earth, why I was alive, and how I could best use what I had to find a purpose.

Please think about this concept of centers. A job loss is a great, jarring time to really think about WHO you are and WHY you are and WHAT you can and should do. It’s not fun at all, but it’s a valuable experience to work through.

P.S.

** The room full of chickens remark comes from my idea that not one person would have decided to lay me off, but all together, in group think, they set aside logic and what they knew to be right and were persuaded to make a stupid decision. I have on good authority that that decision ended up costing the organization easily six, maybe seven figures. Karma, baby, karma.

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Understanding Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills #careers

July 2nd, 2020

When I’ve hired, or evaluated candidates, in the past, I consider hard skills and soft skills. There’s lots of talk about soft skills and how important they are. At a point they supposedly become more important than hard skills. I want to share some important thoughts to help you put the two into perspective.

I recognize that some people don’t like the phrases “hard skills” and “soft skills.” I’ll let them debate that… for the purpose of this post it doesn’t matter what we call them… just imagine whatever favorite phrases you want :p

HARD SKILLS

Hard skills are the skills you need to do the job. If you are a widget maker and need to run machinery, can you run the machinery? Have you had training? Do you have certificates or licenses?

If you need to pull levers, how many times have you pulled levers? How many levers have you pulled in your life? Have the levers been different colors, or different sizes?

If you program, which languages do you know, and how proficient are you at those languages?

If you write (ie, a marketer), how much have you written? Do you write blog posts, or ebooks, or copy for websites, or manuals?

If you train people, what methodologies do you use? What size is your idea group, etc.

Hard skills can usually be trained in a classroom and on the job. You likely can learn hard skills for the rest of your career. I had some plumbing work done recently and the licensed journeyman plumber was stuck… he called in his mentor, a master plumber. They were both licensed but the master plumber had 30 years on the job and had seen a lot more than the younger journeyman. I appreciated that the journeyman plumber was wise enough to recognize he had reached his limits and wanted to consult with someone more expert.

JibberJobber Hard Skills

Hard skills can be hard to define. Usually we say things like intermediate or expert to describe our hard skills, but those descriptors can be meaningless. I know a programmer who said he was intermediate at a certain language but I would have said he was expert. There is too much subjectivity from the person self-assessing and too much interpretation from the person on the receiving end.

Tangent: This is why Pluralsight Skills IQ is so awesome for techies. Instead of arbitrarilly guessing your proficiency you can essentially rank yourself against thousands of peers and come up with a number that tells you what percentile you fall in. It’s way less subjective. If you can find something like that, to assess yourself against others, DO IT. Pluralsight Skill IQ is free, btw.

When Hard Skills Are Important

As a hiring manager I *might* ask you about your hard skills in an interview. If I do, it’s usually in the first interview, and less with each interview that follows.

I say might because I might have already looked you up and done a bunch of research on you before you come in. This is a critical concept… before you get an invitation to the interview I will have already answered this question:

Can this candidate do the job?

This is 100% a hard skills question. My invitation to you is this: communicate the answer to this BEFORE you even get to the interview.

How do you do that? There are a few elegant ways:

  1. Have a portfolio. A portfolio is not just for artists. You should be able to create some kind of documentation or collection of projects or thoughts or writing to showcase your work. If you can’t showcase your work because of confidentiality then here’s a simple suggestion: write some articles on LinkedIn or Medium or your own blog. The articles should showcase your professional breadth and depth and passion and experience. When I see your portfolio I should say “yep, this person can obviously do the job. The experience and passion and thoughtfulness is here.”
  2. Have testimonials. You can tell me you are qualified, but what if you had peers, colleagues, bosses, and customers tell me how good you are? There are many ways to collect testimonials… I usually recommend LinkedIn Recommendations. This is something you can’t fabricate or falsify, and they are pretty easy to get. I talk about how to do this in one of my LinkedIn courses on Pluralsight (one or two, I can’t remember which). Here’s a quick tip: too often recommendations are too generic and weak. I suggest you ask for a recommendation and say “It might read something like this” … and then hit the main points you want to hit (bringing out specific hard skills). I cover this in my course, but #AMA.
  3. Have ministories. In my personal branding course on Pluralsight I talk about crafting ministories… I think I talk about it in the LinkedIn profile course as well. These are SO powerful to (a) claim you have a skill, or can do a thing, and then (b) substantiate and quantify your claim using a simple story. These should be used on your LinkedIn profile, other online places where you market yourself, in social media interactions (like a post on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn), when you network with others face to face, and definitely in interviews.

Make those three things easy to find and understand.

The most important thing I want to communicate about hard skills is that they help you get into the interview. I do not ask you to an interview to see if you can do the job. By the time I have you in the room I assume you can do the job, but I might ask some qualifying questions to dig deeper into your hard skills.

BONUS: if you can quantify the value of your hard skills, all the better. When you show me you can do a certain job with a certain proficiency and you understand you bring value, I LIKE THAT.

SOFT SKILLS

Soft skills is the funny-named cousin to hard skills. This is the one I hear people saying “we need to rename that!” I don’t care what it is called but society calls it soft skills and I doubt we’ll see that change anytime soon.

JibberJobber Soft Skills

Soft skills are harder to quantify. “I’m a really good presenter” is very subjective. Too subjective. I once interviewed someone who was an excellent presenter… until this person did a presentation. I learned they thought they were excellent but I was cringing a lot.

It’s a lot easier to quantify proficiency in hard skills because we have tests and assessments, but there isn’t really a test or assessment for presenting. A presentation received very well by one person might have been received horrible by another person.

A lot of times soft skills are just kind of … felt. Perceived. Gut reaction. You might tell me you are a great listener but when we actually talk you do all of the talking, talk over me, and don’t give me a chance to talk at all. I’ve been there. It can be equally funny and frustrating.

Soft skills have to do with cultural fit. Is your communication style and demeanor a good fit for our team or our culture? I hired someone once who I thought was a fantastic fit… turned out they were a horrible worker. I have passed over people who had soft skills that were just not a good fit… either too quiet or too loud. This wasn’t anything I could read on a resume or LinkedIn profile… this is something I had to experience myself.

My courses on Pluralsight are all about soft skills… 36 courses and counting. How to communicate outbound (in writing, presenting, talking, etc.) and how to communicate inbound (becoming a better listener is one of my most popular courses)… there are probably a couple hundred soft skills courses on Pluralsight to choose from. If you want a 30 day pass hit me up and I’ll see if I can get you one.

When Soft Skills Are Important

A few months ago I was chatting with my fifteen year old who was asking what I do for Pluralsight. I told her I create soft skills courses…. courses on communicating, listening, working with different personalities, emotional intelligence, and job search and career management. She said “oh, most of Pluralsight’s courses teach people how to do the job and your courses help them get jobs and promotions!”

YES!

I wish I had written down word-for-word what she said because it was better than what I just wrote, but that’s the idea.

Soft skills help you get the job.

Soft skills help you get promotions.

When I bring you in for an interview I want to know if you will be a good addition to our team. I want to know if you’ll be as “cultural fit.” That doesn’t mean I want to hire you if you will fit in… maybe I’m looking for someone to shake things up and bring us up a few notches. But I definitely want to know about your likability or coolness factor. I’m not looking for the most popular or likable person, but I certainly want to know if I’ll like working with you.

My team and culture are different than where you just left. I don’t want to go backwards on our team environment, for sure. The only way I can really assess that is by bringing you in and chatting with you. Behavioral questions give me an insight into your soft skills and communication. Listening and watching how you think, react, respond, and treat others gives me insight into your soft skills.

By the end of the first interview I usually know whether you can do the job or not (see hard skills, above). I will have an idea of your soft skills, and whether I think I’d like to work with you or not. If I think you can do the job and you might be a good fit, and I might like working with you, you make hte cut and might come in for another interview. Usually this is with a panel, or with other people. Of course they’ll ask about hard skills because they haven’t done the same level of research on you as I have, and they’ll want to know “can this person do the job?” But when we all circle back and talk about the candidates I think most people will come back with their gut feel. By that stage everyone should be qualified to do the job, so hard skills isn’t much of the conversation… we tend to focus on who we “like.”

How does someone “like” you in an interview when they know you can do the job? It comes down to your soft skills. Your emotional intelligence. Your likability.

The Great Thing About Hard Skills and Soft Skills

I think the great thing, and a hopeful message, is that you can learn and improve your hard skills.

And, you can work on and improve your soft skills.

Improvement in either area will take time and practice and intention. But you can definitely improve.

And that is why I hope to continue creating courses for you.

 

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If I Were In A Job Search Today…

July 1st, 2020

A friend called me asking for advice for a friend who has been out of work for the last two months. I told him I’d write a post with my recommendations for a job seeker in today’s environment.

Stay organized in your job search

In 2006 I conceptualized JibberJobber as a CRM for job seekers. Today, people use JibberJobber as a job search spreadsheet replacement. If you are networking at all, and are applying to jobs and interviewing, a spreadsheet gets too cluttered. JibberJobber works similar to the software a salesperson uses to keep track of target companies, prospects, meetings, follow-up, etc. The cost is $60/year.

Learn how to job search

I have created almost three dozen soft skills and career courses for Pluralsight, a leading online continuing education organization. I have courses on personal branding, informational interviews, communicating with different personalities (a critical concept for job seekers), listening skills (super critical as you network and interview), creating a better LinkedIn profile, and having a proactive strategy on LinkedIn. Those are just 6 of 36 courses… if you are interested in my courses (or anything on Pluralsight) hit me up and I might have a 30 day pass available for you.

BONUS: When you watch any Jason Alba course on Pluralsight you can self-report on JibberJobber and we’ll give you free JibberJobber upgrades. If you watch a course a day for the duration of the 30 day pass you can earn 90 days of premium on JibberJobber… making both Pluralsight and JibberJobber free to you!

Focus on networking and informational interviews

“If I had to start a job search today I would spend 90% of my time in informational interviews.” I remember saying that on stage years ago, and it shocked me. But I stand by it, even now, having thought about it for years. Informational interviews is probably the closest silver bullet secret weapon you’ll find in job searching. It is all about networking the right way.

While I love courses, I think this is a very powerful program. Basically, for six weeks I give you three things to do every day. I was talking to someone who just landed a job, while using JibberJobber and the 6 week Job Search Program, and he told me that having the three tasks per day helped him stay on track with the basics. This program is the culmination of 14 years of learning about how to help people get jobs. It is one of the best things I’ve come up with. The program is $197 for now (normally $497) and includes a year of JibberJobber. Click here to learn more.

Do research (BUT NETWORK)

Use job boards. Really. Experts say they aren’t the most effective way to land a job and I agree. In my job search I was obsessed with finding and applying to jobs online. I sat on my computer searching and refreshing and hoping and wanting to be the first to apply. Out of a ten hour day of job search (which I did Monday through Saturday) I spent most of my time on job boards. It was an utter waste of time… with one exception: I learned a lot about what was going on.

I learned which companies were hiring, I learned some names of hiring managers and recruiters I should have reached out to, and I learned what roles were in demand. I also learned, from job descriptions, what I needed to brush up on and be able to talk about. If I were in a job search today I would scour job boards and learn, but not waste time applying. Sure I would apply here and there, but not obsessively like I did before. Use job boards as the tool they are, and then NETWORK. Have smarter conversations and smarter interviews because you are current.

Understand what is happening

They say the job search is a numbers game. I say the job search is a head game. I didn’t get that until I started going to job search network meetings (I know, that was so pre-Corona!). I thought I was broken. I thought I was a loser. I secluded myself, which was bad, and I invested all of my time applying to jobs online, not getting any positive results, which was super bad. I was in a bad place, mentally. When I went to a job club and was listening to the other 30 second elevator pitches I finally realized I was neither broken nor a loser. I was simply in a weird situation that plenty of other qualified unbroken people were in.

Not having the right perspective put me in a bad place. It wasn’t truth… is was misperception. You need to have the right perspective and understanding of what is going on or it will mess with you.

I realize today’s economy is not ideal. It is horrid. It is scary. But companies are hiring. Recruiters still have jobs to fill. Executives need help. It is a different job search than it was a few months ago, but it is not impossible.

Reach out to me if I can help… 

 

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What Is Job Satisfaction?

June 30th, 2020

I remember speaking in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2011 (9 years ago!!), for the years ago. I think it was me and Dan Schawbel in front of maybe 200 or 300 people. It was really quite fun and charming. Southern charming. I was waiting for someone to drop the “bless your heart” bomb, but no one did.

Look how young I was here :p

Jason Alba Charlotte Pronet 2011

I guess I left the South unscathed, then.

Anyway, the morning of the presentation I was driving through downtown Charlotte. I didn’t know what to expect from Charlotte, or downtown Charlotte, but I soon learned that they (whoever they is) regards Charlotte, North Carolina, as “the Wall Street of the South” because a bunch of financial institutions had major offices (or headquarters?) there.

Downtown Charlotte was beautiful. Massive buildings… not like New York City, but much bigger than what I was expecting. I remember beautiful architecture and a clean city.

I also remember, on that early morning drive, passing people at bus stops waiting to catch their next bus to work. I was going to speak to some three hundred people about getting a job while I passed dozens of people waiting to go to their job that morning. Every single person I passed looked… gloomy. Unhappy. The morning was beautiful but there was like individual dark clouds over these poor people who had to go clock in.

The irony was I was about to enter a conference venue with hundreds of people who couldn’t go to work because they didn’t have a job… and they were HAPPY! I was there to give them wisdom or ideas on how to land their next job, and they seemed happy to be there. Was I just there to trick people into being miserable?

No… no, of course not. I know that many of the smiles were because people were finally getting out of the house, and having something to look forward to in the job search. I realize that being out of work is miserable, and many of the people in that audience would have gladly traded places with the bus stop people.

Lately, in my work with Snowfly Incentives, I’ve been thinking a ton about employee satisfaction. Actually, I thought a lot about it when I worked at Bamboo HR, and was working on creating an academy of sorts for HR practitioners. My boss was a thought leader in the HR/culture space and working with him was an honor and a privilege.

Employee satisfaction. We talked about it from the perspective of HR and managers and leaders, creating a culture and environment where employees loved coming to work and brought their best selves to the job. Increases in employee performances and impacts on employer brands and retention were regular conversation topics.

But my roots are in the job search and personal responsibility for OUR OWN career management. So this morning I was wondering, what is OUR role in our own employee satisfaction?

This is a critical question

If you believe that you need to take care of your career (career management), why do you think you should let your company determine your satisfaction level?

Own it. Figure out how to have your own satisfaction.

Will your company do everything right for you? Nope. No company will. There will always be problems. Even in the best of times in my career I’ve had things at my employer I would have liked to have different. A jerk I had to work with, an unfair decision about who gets to do things, lower compensation or raises than I felt were fair, etc. The list could go on and on.

I watched people whine and moan and complain about these things. Really, they are little and inconsequential, but when we obsess about them and talk about them we feed them and make them bigger.

We let this feeding hijack our satisfaction. We empower the little things to contribute to our work misery.

I’m not saying we need to be ignorant, ignore everything, and play Work Polyanna. I’m just saying let’s be intentional about what we decide will give us satisfaction.

Here are some ideas:

Get a hobby. People say to follow your passion and the money or a rewarding career will follow. I don’t agree. If you can monetize your passion, and that remains your passion for the entirety of your career, great! Congratulations! But for the rest of us, my advice is to find a hobby. Do you want to write, create, travel, watch, eat, cook…? Find your hobby(ies) and spend time on them after work hours.

Spend time with humans (or pets). When I was at Bamboo they were really big on work/life balance. More than once an executive would walk past me after 5 (like at 5:01) and tell me to go home, the work would be there tomorrow. Go home because there is much more to life, and mental and physical health, than working late. There are plenty of studies about the importance of socializing with others. Of course this can be done at work, but I suggest you figure out how to do it outside of work. Be around others. Laugh and cry, give and receive. Human interaction is powerful and we need it more than we think.

Decide. Decide who you are, and what you are after, and what makes you happy. I believe a lot of times we haven’t decided what we want in life and that leave a gaping whole for our boss and culture and society to tell us what will make us happy. That is a mistake. Figure out who you are. “Find yourself,” as they say. Make some decisions. Own yourself. Don’t look to others for satisfaction or validation. When you don’t need the approval of others life becomes more simple.

Grow. Figure out how you can progress. I grew up thinking that you have phases in life, one of which is your growth phase. This is when your body grows, your brain develops, and you suck as much information as you can through the education system. Then, after college, you enter a new phase where you have a career and perhaps a family. No one told me this but I think I assumed you didn’t really learn, at least the way you did in school, once you were done with that phase. I’ve learned that is far from the truth. I love learning, whether from books, conferences, chats with experts, and just trying new things. If you feel stagnant then enroll in a course or do something to really dive deep into an area and grow. You have the world at your feet (or fingertips, on your smart phone) and the same amount of time as the rest of us. Own your personal growth.

I think satisfaction comes from shifting perspective, and each of these things help you shift. I invite you to rethink employee satisfaction and not wait for your company to provide it… seek it on your own. Your boss, the HR person, even the company might go away, but your responsibility to owning your own satisfaction will not.

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My Boss Put Me In Urgent Care #CultureMatters

June 26th, 2020

Once, for years, I worked for a bad boss.

Without naming names, because this person is still alive, I’ll tell part of the story.

I have a certain level of integrity. We all do.. even the worst people out there do. Maybe theirs is like 2% while yours is like 90%. Big lie? No way. White lie? Sure, why not. Do the right thing when it is easy? Of course. Do the right thing when it is hard, or even dangerous? Um… no, I don’t think so.

Our integrity is on a scale. Sometimes we have more. Some people have more. Circumstances can change our level of integrity.

The problem between me and my boss was a mismatch in integrity. I felt like there were certain things I WOULD NOT do, or things I WOULD DO every time. Like be nice. Like respect others, regardless of title. Like be honest. If you were to have asked my boss, he or she would have said the same thing. Of course be nice! Of course respect others! Of course be honest!

But saying those things vs. doing those things were different.

I found there was a gap in our levels of integrity. I could tell you stories but, again, I can’t have this traced back to the person or the company where I was.

Plus, I don’t need to tell YOU stories because you have your own stories. I’ve heard them as I traveled around the U.S. and spent time with job seekers. From Boston to San Diego, Seattle to Miami, I’ve heard about crap bosses. There is no shortage of bad boss stories.

So, back to my story. My boss and I worked pretty closely together. I found there were misrepresentations about what was happening with customers and our team and the product and the market and the finances and … just about everything. My boss came back from a meeting and said one thing… because of my new role I called the customer to say “thank you… I just heard that you agreed to _____.” I then got chewed out by the customer saying that absolutely not, under no condition did they agree. But my boss just told me that… and there was no way his or her words could be misconstrued.

Toxic CultureThis was lie number 4,771.

Everything was a lie. Really big stuff, really small stuff. Everything. While I am generally a pretty honest person my boss couldn’t make it a few hours without some grand lie.

Fast forward a bit, having worked in this toxic environment for a while.

Wait… you say that’s not a big deal? That doesn’t warrant toxic? I’ve thought about this a lot. The mismatch in our integrity was really, really bugging me. I did not like being in a meeting with someone I couldn’t trust. I did not like knowing that my boss might be misrepresenting our situation, or capabilities, our product, or me. If he or she couldn’t be trusted to tell the truth about the small or medium or big things, he or she couldn’t be trusted with anything.

One night I was flying home from a conference or customer meeting or something. I don’t remember where I was, or why I was there, but I remember connecting in Las Vegas. I think it was around 9 or 10 at night. I was exhausted. The airport was half empty, with other exhausted travellers. These were the business flyers who commuted a lot and weren’t there for a vacation. I remember standing outside of my gate and realizing “You are going to have a heart attack on the plane.”

Heart Attack On The Plane?

I’m not one to have those kinds of thoughts or feelings. But that night I just knew I might. I wondered if anyone on the plane would be a doctor or nurse. I wondered what training or equipment the flight attendants had. I wondered if I’d be on the news… if I’d die, or if this would just be a big sign that I needed to slow down.

All of those thoughts came out of nowhere and flashed through my mind in a few seconds. I wondered if I should not get on the plane and have a heart attack on the ground instead.

Heart Attack

My chest was tight. I was worried. But I just wanted to get home. So I got on the plane and … nothing happened. I had a normally, boring flight.

I landed, grabbed my luggage, and drove 30 minutes to my home. I kissed my wife, dropped off my bags, and said “I don’t feel good. I am going to urgent care.” I drove myself to urgent care and said some words about “tight” and “heart” and “chest” and found that when you say the right words you don’t have to wait. You don’t even have to fill out paperwork. They scoot you right into a room and hook up stuff that you don’t want hooked up. Cold gel, wires, beeping machines. It’s surreal, like in a movie.

I was able to relax knowing I was in a good place. Safe. Would be taken care of.

Finally, a doctor came in. He said “well, it looks like you didn’t have a heart attack. There is nothing abnormal about the rhythm.”

Relief and Ticked Off

He would soon explain to me that the pain I was experiencing was what he called a “pre ulcer.” That is, I didn’t have an ulcer (in my stomach) yet, but I was close. He told me I was stressed, and gave me some medicine. I was so mad.

I had gone through a lot of stressful situations in my life and had never had an ulcer. I remember hearing about kids stressed out in school trying to get their 4.0 GPA, and working themselves into an ulcer. I had heard about others who were mega stressed and getting an ulcer. I prided myself on being more level-headed and managing my stress better. I had gone through lots of school, various jobs, a few kids, and plenty of other things, and none of those stressful things had given me an ulcer.

But this boss, with our mismatched integrity, did it. He or she pushed and pushed and pushed. I had a very hard time coming to terms that  I was working in an environment where honest and integrity and ethics were not valued. And month after month after month, it took a toll on me.

My symptoms were real and scary, but I could finally know what my medical problem was. And I realized that the turmoil I was feeling had physical consequences.

Toxic Work Environment

When people talked about a toxic work environment I always thought they could suck it up a little. No workplace is perfect. There will always be friction.

I had no idea that some workplaces were so dangerous, though, to our physical and mental well being. Just do your thing, and be yourself, etc. Be strong, water off the ducks back… whatever you need to tell yourself.

But I have not been sexually harassed at work. And all that positive self-talk doesn’t alleviate or resolve sexual harassment.

I have not been targeted by a workplace bully. All that positive self-talk doesn’t make the bully any less annoying.

My issue was that my boss and I didn’t see eye to eye, philosophically, on what is right and what is wrong. I had no idea that there would be a level of toxicity that would so greatly impact my physical health.

My advice to others in situations like this is generally to leave. It’s just not worth it to stay. I’ve heard about people leaving work and crying all the way home because their work environment is so toxic. If the leadership can’t address this, and either move or remove the boss, I lose respect for the leaders. I know why they do it… they are unsure how to proceed. They are betting that the value the bad boss brings will outweigh the harm they are doing. Or, they are just afraid of confrontation.

I saw this in another job where a boss was cancerous to the organization and the leaders did NOTHING. It was shameful. In a situation like that, where the bad boss stays, or gets promoted, it seems the only two options you have are to (a) wait it out or (b) leave.

Wait

Waiting it out might be the right strategy if the toxicity is something you can manage, and your hope is great. You might hope for your team, or your product, or your customers, or for opportunities. This hope is like a magnetic force that keeps us at work, even when it’s bad.

Waiting could be the wrong answer though. Early in my career I worked at an organization at an entry level job. We were told that the only way someone could get promoted to the next department, which would come with a substantial pay raise, would be if someone in that department died. Well, finally, someone died. And they decided to NOT fill his position.

You could wait for your boss to leave. For leadership to wake up and realize your boss is so bad they need to kick him or her out. But that might not happen. Leadership might give the boss the benefit of the doubt, or put them in coaching (with a year or more of time), or just turn a blind eye.

bored

Your waiting might result in nothing but more toxicity.

Like I said, it might be worth it. Sometimes it’s better to have a job than to be out of work and looking. This is a measured risk you must decide on.

Leave

I respect people who decide to leave. The value their own sanity and health. They value themselves and know they shouldn’t be treated a certain way. And they think they can land somewhere else. Sometimes that works out nicely. Other times they flounder for months and go through a lot of emotional stuff during a tough job search.

The may jump out of the frying pan into the fire, but it was an intentional choice. Rarely do I hear someone say “I wish I would have stayed with that toxic boss.” More often than not I hear them say “I left and now am working at my dream job.” Even if they took a cut in pay, a better work environment, or better boss, or better commute, or whatever made it all worth it.

Leaving could be hard. When I KNEW I should have left I worried first about my team. I shouldn’t have, because they were all going to be fine (many of them left). But I worried about them. I had been their leader. What message would leaving send? (Of course, it would have sent the right message. I can see that now).

I worried about abandoning my projects, and not participating in grand success. I worried about losing my benefits, an my salary.

It was hard. But I should have done it. Instead, I put it off. I look back now and see that was an immature time in my career. Where I’m at now, I would not have put up with that crap. I would walk away. There are plenty of fish in the sea.

Green Grass

There are lots of little sayings about the grass NOT being greener elsewhere. Or the grass is green where you water it.

Green Grass

I recently wrote a short ebook about measuring the culture in an organization. I’ll make that available soon, but what I learned from some feedback is that the idea of a great culture or a horrible culture is subjective. It depends on the person. Instead of a great culture we should be looking for a cultural FIT. Said another way, what might be a great culture for ME might be a horrible culture for YOU.

Is grass greener elsewhere? Yes. It’s green, and brown, and purple, and blue, and yellow, and all kinds of colors. When you think about where you would be most happy it’s not necessarily at a “best companies to work for” place. It might be at a government job. Or a small startup. Or in software, or in a bakery, or … I don’t know. YOU need to figure out where YOUR green grass is. You need to figure out what your best fit could be, and where you’ll be most happy.

I’m most happy at an executive level, where I have decision-making, authority, strategy, influence, vision, an a role in operations.

I was offered a job for close to 200k. It was appealing… not just the money but who I would work with. But I would be about FOUR levels below where I wanted to be. I turned it down. I can’t go in at a lower level at this point in my career… I know I’d be unhappy.

You need to know what your green grass scenario is. What would be your dream job, your dream role, your dream level, your dream culture, etc.

And then, go find it. It’s out there.

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Think Like An Entrepreneur, Not An Employee #CareerChange

June 19th, 2020

I recently did a 6-week series for Pluralsight on jobs and careers. It was a lot of fun (and a bit of work :p).

In some of the emails I’m getting from people I can sense a great deal of frustration. This frustration is coming from being in the hamster wheel we call the job search. Again and again, doing the same things, not getting anywhere. I remember waking up during my Big Job Search and thinking “why get out of bed? Why do the same stuff I’ve been doing? I’m not getting any reactions.”

I made a career change. I went from employee, at a corporate job, to entrepreneur. Many of the people emailing me are talking about career changes. I’m reminded of the fabled 10,000 hours that it takes to become an expert. You’ve heard that, right? You need to spend 10,000 hours on something before you can claim to become an expert? That is 5 years of full time work. Nobody I know, in the job search right now, has 5 years to develop expertise and then start their job search.

The urgency is now.

I’m not going to dispute the 10,000 hours thing. People smarter than me claim that. It sounds catchy. And I’d rather a surgeon with 10,000 hours work on me rather than a self-described surgeon with 100 hours works on me.

What I want to dispute is the level of knowledge, skills, or expertise we need to START SOMETHING.

A couple of years ago, at my dream job in a dream company with my dream boss (all that lasted 10 months) I remember watching people slowly do stuff thinking “man, thanks to the amazing sales team there is time for superflous, slow, unproductive meetings.” People could literally sit around, not adding value or producing, and still collect a paycheck. The rhythm we sometimes see in the corporate world is slow. Measured. Good for our mental health. Intent on reducing stress. Focused on creating a great (read: fun) place to work.

Fun Work Culture

But I had been an entrepreneur for about 12 years. My mantra was “you eat what you kill.” You don’t produce, you don’t pay bills. You don’t pay bills, you got problems. There was no paycheck that came every other week. If I wanted to pay my mortgage, or go grocery shopping, or even think of something like a vacation, I had to have revenue lined up.

If corporate was peaceful, which I think too many of us slip into when we land our job, then entrepreneurship was anxiety. I’m not saying that is necessarily bad (or that peaceful is necessarily good), but it was definitely a major shift to go from entrepreneur to “I have a job, and no matter what I do today, I’m going to get paid.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for you to have more anxiety in your life. I do, however, want you to think differently about your career. You see, if you listen to experts telling you that you need to wait, that you aren’t ready, that you don’t know enough, that you haven’t put the hours in, or that you can’t do something, you have a problem. You have been fed a line of bull, and you accept it. And that is harming YOU.

Entrepreneur Waiting

When I put my entrepreneur hat on, back in 2006, I learned about “sense of urgency.” I didn’t think of myself as anxious, rather I had a sense of urgency. If I didn’t know something I had to learn it. Consider:

How do I create an online business from scratch? From product management to design to development to QA to marketing to sales to pricing to customer retention to customer acquisition to financing the venture to …

How do I become a blogger? Is it a consistency thing? Is it a messaging thing? Do I need to write to a human or am I playing a Google/SEO game?

How do I write a book? How do I get a publisher? How do I self publish? I had no idea. But I had to learn all of that, even though I wasn’t an expert.

How do I become a professional speaker? I was confident in my public speaking skills, although I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. How do I create a business line out of professional speaking? How do I get more gigs, how do I engage with my audience, how do I get repeat business, how do I do all of the logistical stuff a professional speaker deals with, should I have “back of the room sales, etc.?

How do I create a DVD, which I can sell at a much better margin, and have more control over than my books? NO IDEA. Never done it before.

How do I start doing online courses? Where do I host them? How much do I charge for them? What exactly constitutes a course, anyway? Do I need special equipment and software? How do I edit and produce my stuff? Is it a long webinar, or a chopped up series of small clips?

These are SOME of the things I’ve done since 2006. I didn’t have expertise in any of these areas.

But my sense of urgency, and my need to create income, led me on the path to learn. Did I make mistakes? YES. Did I work crazy hours? YES. Was there sacrifice? YES. Did it cost money? YES. Was I out of my comfort zone? USUALLY.

Instead of taking it slow, and spending tons of money to “do it right,” I had to just do something. I talked to people about each of those questions I listed (and more). I talked to people who had been down the path, and learned from them. I found people willing to share and help. I studied. I applied critical thinking. I weighed alternatives and juggled priorities.

Entrepreneur Love To Learn

And most of all, I just DID IT. I tried. I threw the proverbial spaghetti on the wall, and some of it stuck. I learned from everything I did.

Here I am, 14 years after The Big Job Search. 14 years * 2,000 hours is 28,000 hours. So maybe I’m 3 times an expert (if 10k hours makes you an expert).

My point, though, is that you don’t have to be an expert to do stuff. I wasn’t an expert in any of those things. I still don’t consider myself an “expert.” But I had a sense of urgency that drove me to think, and try, and be okay to fail, and try again.

My first book? Not proud of the quality. Super proud I wrote a book, but not proud of the book. Even the fourth edition of it… not super proud. I think “it needs to be better.”

But guess what? I did it. I wrote it. And I’ve written two others. Why? Because my sense of urgency drove me.

Get your own sense of urgency. Get on that path, and get off of the “when this happens, then I’ll be qualified” path. Want to change careers? Then DO IT. Figure it out. Try things. Learn as you go.

Want to start a blog, or a podcast, or a consulting business? DO IT.

Entrepreneur Podcast

If I spent 30 minutes with you on a call right now I could coach you on how to become a consultant. Save your money, put away your wallet. Here’s what you do:

  1. Go to LinkedIn, create a new job on your profile. Call it [Last name] Consulting. Or, call it [Your specialty] Consulting. There. You are now a consultant. This is, as they say, hanging a shingle out.
  2. Email everyone in your network telling them what you are doing, and then work the phones.

That’s it. You’ll get your first customer and you’ll do okay. Maybe a little worse than okay. But you get that customer, you bring value to them, you bill them, and you learn from the whole experience. Then you get another, and another, and another, and in a few years you think “man, I kind of feel bad for my first customer. I’ve learned so much.”

Don’t wait for five years from now. Start now, learn along the way.

The first freelance website I built was for a new realtor. She paid me $400. It was okay-ish for the time. But really, it was horrible. Especially compared to now. But doing that first one, working with a client, delivering a product, was a great learning experience. It was a stepping stone to get to where I’m at today.

DO SOMETHING. Don’t wait. Don’t listen to the experts telling you you aren’t ready.

Try. 

Fling the spaghetti. 

Flinging Spaghetti Entrepreneur

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New Pluralsight Course: Using Critical Observation on the Job

June 18th, 2020

Last night I got this in my email:

Pluralsight Jason Alba Using Critical Observation On The Job

One of the coolest things about this course is that it is my 35th published course (I consider it my 38th course I’ve done for Pluralsight… because one was retired and two were massive updates). Seeing this last night was really cool:

Pluralsight Jason Alba 35 Courses

Critical observation is an interesting topic. As I spent many, many hours researching and thinking about critical observation I grew to really appreciate the importance of it. I think some people are inherently good at critical observation while other people are more aloof.

This course builds on my Leading with Emotional Intelligence course. In that course I talk about becoming self-aware, and becoming more aware of others. Obviously, there is cross-over in both courses… especially since the fifth pillar of emotional intelligence is “social skills” (the ambiguous catch-all), and “improving social skills” is a big part of becoming better at critical observation. The other big tie-in was listening skills, which I happen to have a course on: Becoming a Better Listener.

It has been interesting to be on a journey of soft skills and professional development over the last few years. I realize I’ve taken soft skills for granted, not appreciating how important they are for our career. Whether on the job or in a job search, imagine how much more effective we can be if we increase our emotional intelligence, if we improve our critical observation skills, if we become a better listener, and proactively work on other soft skills?

Imagine how different the world would be! We can change the world, one person at a time… starting with ourselves. I’m on that journey… will you join me?

Oh yeah…

When you watch any Jason Alba course on Pluralsight you can self-report in JibberJobber and earn three extra premium days on JibberJobber. Simply go to to the video tracker page to self-report. Through the rest of this month (June 2020) you can click TWICE on the Critical Observation course to get double (6 days).

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Pluralsight Job Search Series Webinars Starts Today

June 1st, 2020

In a social post I wrote:

“Pls share with anyone you know is in a career transition, or worried about their job.”

And then I remembered that when I most needed this I was neither in a career transition nor was I worried about my job.

My job search kind of came out of nowhere. I was sure I had a great resume, background, and experience to land quickly and well. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Whether you are in transition right now, along with the 41,000,000+ others who have filed for (U.S.) unemployment, or you are pretty safe and secure (ahem… !), you should invest time in YOUR career.

Signup at this link – it is FREE

Today we are talking about the job search interview.

Tomorrow we talk about personal branding. Click the link to see what the other topics are…

Pluralsight Seminar Series Job Search Career Jason Alba

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