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Five Life Changes to Become More Supportive

April 5th, 2021

Last week I had an eye opening chat with one of my favorite people, Shelley Benhoff. You can watch it on YouTube here.

Pluralsight YouTube Shelley Benhoff

I asked Shelley about her advice for girls and women who are interested in a STEM/tech career. I also asked her for advice to guys who work with women in STEM, and how they can be more supportive. This has really been on my mind lately (as I was getting ready to talk to her about it), and I just can’t stop thinking about it. I recently woke up with some very specific ideas I think will help people be more supportive of women, and really, anyone, at work.

I have to say, I think most of us are trying to make work a better place. If that is you, think about these five ideas. I know they have helped me think about how I can support others.

First, nurture an abundance mentality.

I hate hearing people are mad that someone else got a job or promotion because of reasons outside of performance. Of course, this happens. And no, it is not fair. But you need to change your focus from disgust and hate and jealousy to thinking “okay, how can we make this pie bigger?”

Abundance mentality is so powerful. Instead of thinking “they got that job, and so there is no other opportunity for anyone else,” think “they got that job, and we are doing really well, and soon there will be more opportunities.” Abundance mentality is the opposite of zero-sum game theory. Zero-sum game says “if they get something, I don’t.” But during my entire career I’ve never seen where someone gets an opportunity and that shuts doors for everyone else.

Please, I beg you, start thinking about abundance mentality. There is an abundance of opportunity. We just need to find or create it. When you start to believe in abundance mentality it becomes a lot easier to support others, even when we think they got something we thought we deserved.

Second, celebrate wins of others.

When my wife and I bought our first house we were over-the-moon excited. The house was really nice for us, and where we were at. I had just gotten my first real (big) job, and we had a couple of kids. The house was big enough for us to grow into. And it had a (very old but functional) hot tub under a covered patio!

We had friends and family come over… you know how that is. People are curious to see how others are doing, so they come see your new digs. My wife was shocked when some people made comments that expressed jealousy, or other negative feelings. She really thought others would be as excited for as as we were, and was disheartened to hear comments that were less than supportive. We had a few conversations and she taught me an important lesson: Instead of comparing our lives and wins and accomplishments with others, we need to celebrate with them.

Is this easy to do? Not always. When you feel like you have worked harder, are smarter, etc., and you deserve goodness, and then you see someone else get what you thought you deserve before you get it, it’s hard. Shakespeare wrote plenty about jealousy. The old religious books write about jealousy. This is nothing new. Recognize that jealousy is not good, nor is it healthy. Work through the jealous feelings and get to a point where you genuinely care about others to the point of being happy for their wins.

This goes hand in hand with abundance mentality thinking. If you think the pie is a limited size it’s easier to be jealous. When you shift to an abundance mentality you can think “they got goodness, and we can all get goodness!”

Third, recognize your colleague has a whole world outside of work.

It’s critical that we think about people as humans. They have a mother, father, aunt, spouse, kids, even neighbors and other friends, outside of work. When you have jealous, unsupportive feelings about others you are discounting the goodness that others see in them. Maybe they donate their time or resources to good causes. Your lack of support impacts their ability to function and contribute to their other circles.

I think too often we see one another at work as a title, a role, and sometimes a competitor. We worry about what they’ll take from us, not realizing that when they get a raise, promotion, bonus, or even just recognition, that might carry over into how they parent, or their outside relationships. Why shouldn’t we be happy for, and supportive of them, as they have professional accomplishments?

Many times when we think about our own accomplishments we think about how that will change our home life, or our future. We need to think of our colleagues as humans, and afford them the same benefits.

Fourth, admit that you can’t possibly do it alone.

Funny story: When I was in college I had finally settled on a major. It wasn’t computer science… it was the business college alternative (computer information systems). I had two programming classes, and a handful of other tech classes. I looked at others in the college of business, especially marketing and management, and thought “well, good luck getting a job or having a meaningful career.”

Yes, I was immature, short-sighted, and dumb.

Anyway, at my low point in this thinking I remember walking through the liberal arts building with the English and history majors. I remember thinking they made some really, really bad decisions. They chose easy majors to get through school, and would pay for it later when they tried to have a meaningful career. I regret that line of thinking.

Fast forward a bit and I had an epiphany: while I might be the one to create cool technology, or lead teams that created cool technology, without people who knew how to write and communicate and do other things, I would not be able to see the success I wanted. I needed other people. I needed their diverse skills and thinking.

Since then I’ve worked with some brilliant non-technologists. Wordsmiths, presenters, negotiators, leaders, etc. My thinking was so myopic I couldn’t understand why I’d need others around me. And then, when I had them around me, and I could see their brilliance, I realized I was probably the least important around.

No… even that is wrong thinking. We all contribute. We are all needed. We all add value.  Please, appreciate what others can bring, when they feel safe. Think about what you can bring when you feel safe! Appreciating this can help you move past the feelings of jealousy and into a place where you are supportive of others.

Fifth, remember others supported you, even when they maybe shouldn’t have.

At some point in your career you were wrong. You were new, stupid, immature, and probably made plenty of mistakes. I’m not saying that “marginalized people” are stupid or immature or full of mistakes, but I want you to remember that when you were a dork, or an expensive investment, someone took a chance on you. Whether that was hiring you in the first place, sending you to training, giving you a promotion, letting you work on a hard project or with a key customer, you have likely been the beneficiary of someone giving you a chance.

The reality is that someone supported you. I’m not saying they put you on easy street. I’m sure you have worked hard and taken advantage of opportunities. But I’m sure that some people thought, “Maybe I’ll give this person a chance and see what they can do.” I beg you to give this same opportunity to others. Help them with a chance, and then mentoring and coaching. Some of the most rewarding parts of my career have been when I’ve done that, and seen people step up, grow, and deliver.

Bonus, do all of this without any expectations.

I know how disheartening it is to support someone, to go to bat for them, and get nothing in return. Not acknowledgement, not a thank you, not even a head nod. Maybe, you support someone, and it bites you later.

Please support others without expecting or hoping that you’ll get anything more than self-fulfillment. The more you expect in return, the higher the chances people feel your intentions are not genuine. I’m not saying to give everything away and hope for nothing, but if you were to give and support because it is the right thing to do, goodness will come back to you. It might be through wealth and friendships, but it might just be through a peace of mind you get from a clean conscience, and knowing you have lived a good and noble path.

This is our life.

Our life is too short to be a jerk, harbor unfounded hatred, and be jealous. Sure, you could do that, but you’ll live in a level of miserable that you don’t need to. Doing the things above have allowed me to have more joy and happiness than when I don’t.

Let’s all work for an more enriching, meaningful life. Supporting others is a great way to get there.

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Pluralsight’s #FreeApril is back! Check this out!

April 1st, 2021

Last year, during quarantine, Pluralsight opened their entire library of courses to the entire world. I was anxiously waiting to hear whether they would do it again this year and was delighted to see that this morning, April 1 (this is not an April Fools joke!) they did it again!

Over 8,000 Pluralsight Courses

I want to share some ideas on how you can best take advantage of this. First, go sign up. No credit card required (THANK YOU PLURALSIGHT!). That means you don’t have to worry about getting billed next month, or having to cancel anything. Just get your account and get free access.

This can be a bit overwhelming, I know. Who is going to watch 8,000 courses in a lifetime? Nobody. Who is going to watch 80 courses (1% of the library) this month? Probably NO ONE.

Don’t let this be a Netflix moment, where you spend hours scrolling through the entire library and not figuring out what you should watch. Instead, make a plan, make a list, and then schedule time each day to watch a course.

30 Days of Soft Skills Courses (an email reminder)

I just created a new 30 day email drip series. Sign up below and I’ll send you a VERY SHORT email with a course suggestion every day. 

It’s hard to sift through thousands of courses. This 30 day drip will send you very short emails with daily suggestions for Jason Alba soft skills courses. Easy to sign up, easy to unsubscribe.
Pluralsight is free during all of April 2021. No credit card required. Go to www.Pluralsight.com to get your free account.


In addition to my own soft skill courses, there are plenty of other amazing courses. You can pick topics, like project management or product management, leadership or management, communication or teams, and use the search box to find relevant courses.

Or, you could look through the cultivated learning paths, like these:

Agile Business Management

Introduction to Professional Scrum

AWS Machine Learning / AI

Becoming a Business Analyst

Communications for Project Managers

Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers

Embracing and Managing Change

While it’s true that Pluralsight was designed for developers, and goes very deep into most aspects of technology, there are plenty of non-techie courses. I have 36 of them here.

Figure out your topic.

Then make a list of courses to watch.

Schedule time on your calendar… and take full advantage of a free and open library during the month of April!

Enjoy!

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How To Use a Job Tracker App?

March 15th, 2021

JibberJobber has been called a lot of things, but what we specialize in is how to track jobs in your job search. Since 2006 we have been on a mission to help people who outgrow the job search spreadsheet (which is a great job tracker for about the first two weeks of a serious job search) use an online and more sophisticated job tracker to keep track of all of the stuff that comes your way. Here are the steps to use a job tracker app to manage your job search:

  1. Track new contacts you make while in your job search
  2. Track everyone you send a resume to
  3. Track who who you have interviewed with
  4. Track every target company
  5. Track conversations or touchpoints you have with everyone
  6. Track any follow up you need to do
  7. Track every job you have applied to, or been interested in

I realize each of these might seem like overkill but let me go back to the “spreadsheet is good for about two weeks” idea. A job search is HARD for many reasons. It can be one of the most emotionally taxing things you go through. You can do everything you should and find that hiring managers and recruiters put you off for months, and networking goes south. There’s nothing linear about a long, hard job search. The last thing you need is to be so disorganized that you can’t communicate well with people, your forget follow up opportunities… you even forget that you have applied to certain jobs at certain companies (I’ve done all three).

Let’s go into each of steps to track a job search listed above:

Use a job tracker app to track new contacts

A job seeker should network. Period. No ifs-ands-or-buts about it. You should talk to people, hopefully getting introductions to more people. Then you talk to them and get more introductions. Supposedly most jobs are found because of networking. This happens when people know and trust you… and when they know about you. Getting known, and sharing what your brand is, should be a significant part of your job search. I started to make traction only when I got out and talked with people, not when I spent hours and hours and hours applying to jobs online.

JibberJobber is a great replacement to the job search spreadsheet to track jobs.

Use a job tracker app to track where you send resumes

Regardless of how much networking you do you will send your resume, or fill in an online application. I’ve gone through the job offer process and been asked, after accepting the job, “will you fill this out so we have you in our HR system?” If you find a job posting that is PERFECT for you, apply for it! I’m not going to tell you to not apply for jobs online. But once you apply for it, figure out how you can network into that job, or the decision maker for that job. Tracking who gets your resume might seem easy but then consider which version of which resume you sent to who? I might give someone two or three different resumes, depending on the job I’m applying to. Fun fact: it was when I had applied to six different jobs at eBay, which was just a few miles from my house, that my spreadsheet blew up. It was too confusing to track so much complexity with a spreadsheet (as opposed to a relational database).

Use a job tracker app to track who you have interviewed with

I know you won’t forget who you interview with… for a day or two. But once you start having a lot of conversations with people, and more and more interviews, and let’s throw in some panel interviews just to multiply the number of interviewers… it gets confusing! If there is anyone you SHOULD NOT forget, and definitely SHOULD foll0w up with, it is the person/people who interviewed you! These are the main influencers and decision makers you need to have conversations with!

In JibberJobber you should keep track of every person you interview with and then try to network with them, when the time is right. Look, there’s so much volatility in our careers that we really need to be open to to expanding our professional networks, even with people who don’t choose us to work with them on a particular job or project. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be on the other side of the table from them!

Use a job tracker app to keep track of your target companies

Target companies… I thought this was such a boring part of the job search. My target company was any company that would actually hire me. The more desperate I got the less targeted I got. I’ve come to realize that having a list of target companies is critical. Knowing your target companies can help you have a more focused job search, better conversations, and make decisions on where to spend your time. Tracking who is at your target company, and what conversations you have with them, is a critical part of networking.

Having a current list of target companies will help you in many more ways than just knowing what your target companies are. I thought this was a data point but soon came to realize your target companies are central to a successful job search strategy. (Speaking of job search strategy, check out the Job Search Program)

Use a job tracker app to log important and relevant conversations

Alright.. we’ve talked about resumes, companies, people… those generally don’t change much. Names and numbers and email addresses generally don’t change. But here’s what does: where you are at with each of them. We track this in JibberJobber with “log entries,” which is basically any touchpoint, even any thought, that is relevant. Did you talk to a recruiter after an interview and get good information? That should go into a log entry. Did you email someone, have a phone call, or talk to someone at a networking event who could help you in your job search? That should go into a log entry. Not just that it happened but any details around the conversation.

Have you learned something about a job or target company that you want to keep track of? Put it into a log entry. It’s easy to think you’ll remember all these details but putting these things in a log entry can give you a peace of mind that you need in your job search. This can help you with interviews, networking, and how you position yourself.

Use a job tracker app to track any and all follow up

Follow up is one of the secret weapons of effective job seekers. Imagine the opposite: you talk to people, you interview, you send your resume… and you wait around for people to get back with you. Look, here’s the deal: people are busy! I’m busy! This morning I made a little to do list to get a bunch of ideas out of my mind and make sure I do certain things by end of day. I probably listed about 20 things on that list! I guarantee the people you are talking with… that friend who said they’d introduce you to their boss, or someone on a panel interview that said they’d get back to you on something… are busy! They want to. They have the best of intentions of helping you! But they are busy. Don’t sit around waiting for them to get to you. Instead, keep a list of your follow-up opportunities, and YOU work your list.

Can you imagine a salesperson just sitting around waiting for everyone to get back to them? Nope. Good salespeople will be proactive and reach out. As a job seeker, you need to get really good at the art of follow up.

Use a job tracker app to track jobs you find and/or apply to

Here’s another thing I didn’t realize was so important to keep track of. Tracking jobs you like, and especially jobs you apply to, is critical. These jobs can show you patterns of hiring at companies an in industries. If you record the job descriptions you’ll have some great information on words and phrases you could use in job interviews. Learning about the trends in a company or industry can help you have the right language when networking or in an interview. Oh yeah… do I even need to mention that you should keep the job description you apply to because by the time you interview you might not be able to find it online? That would be awkward… you want to know the exact title and the points in the description so you have a better interview.

Tracking your job search can feel tedious at first. But the more you track, and the more details you add, the better your job search should go when you have a lot of activity. The alternative is feeling like you are constantly confused, missing things, and wondering if you have follow up you should do.

Ready to get started? JibberJobber has pioneered online job search tracking since 2006. Sign up here

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Advice for High Schoolers Getting Ready to Go Into the “Real World”

March 12th, 2021

High school. The greatest time of your life that really doesn’t matter.

Forget High School Musical and all the other shows that show high school as the peak of existence. One of my pet peeves in school, including college, was when teachers/professors would say “when you get out into the real world…”

The real world? What is this? A safe simulation where nothing matters? Sorry kids, you are already in the real world. If your life is different than what you see in the shows, welcome to the real world. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

A friend reached out and asked me to share some of my career advice for high schoolers preparing for life after high school. If you have any advice for high schoolers reading this feel free to leave a comment below. Here are some specific topics he asked me to comment on…

What do you need to know about finances?

Financewhat? Finances, not fiancés. A word you probably have heard that will now have a lot more meaning to you than before. Many of you will be blindsided by what finances are.

(1) I remember working at Taco Bell in the 1900s. First check… I calculated what I should have gotten by multiplying (yes, you’ll use real math as an adult) my hourly pay times the hours I worked. I actually saw that number on my check! Awesome! But then there were these things called “deductions”… minus this and minus that and minus something else. What I got in my paycheck was a little more than half of what I thought I was going to get.

I felt deceived. Welcome to being an adult.

You need to know the difference between gross and net pay. Here’s how I keep track of them: Gross… the amount I thought I was going to get but I didn’t… this is gross. Net… think of all the money going to deductions slipping through the holes in a net. What you have left over is your net pay. I’m sorry… not my system, just how things are.

(2) Old boring people talk about spending less than you earn. How lame. How can you get a nice car, a TV for your apartment, a game system, nice clothes, or eat out if you spend less than you make? I mean, maybe just this one time I’ll get a loan to buy that thing I really need. After all, getting a loan is EASY.

This is a quick path to regret, and feeling like you are never getting ahead. Seriously, go without. Figure out how to live without the needed TV or the needed clothes or the needed nicer car or the needed constant eating out. One of the problems kids have when they leave their house is they think they need to maintain the lifestyle they had when living with parents… who have decades of getting their finances in order (hopefully), getting raises (hopefully), etc. You want to skip the hard parts of sacrifice and waiting… steps your parents likely didn’t skip.

How do you spend less than you earn? Make a budget. I know, I know. BORING. LAME.  Guess what? It’s how you get ahead financially. A budget is an intentional activity to help you spend less than you make and prepare for the future. This is a healthy habit that can help you with your marriage relationships. Want to be rich? Want to retire early? Want to enjoy regular vacations? Your budget is the key. Why not start now, while you have just a few items to put on your budget, rather than wait until you have poor habits and have to do some correcting? Budget monthly.

(3) Find healthy financial mentors. I believe that most of us have a bad relationship with money because of conversations we’ve had or heard at home. Money is a funny thing. I say “the more you have, the funnier it is!” But if you don’t have any it’s not funny at all. Bad money habits can ruin relationships, even marriages. Good money habits can enhance relationships. You can have a better, funner marriage when you have great money habits, and the enhanced communication that comes with it. You can find mentoring in books and articles. There are plenty of people out there that have principle-based ideas on money. Just be careful to not stray into the get-rich-quick thinking that is so toxic… and as unrealistic for most of us as being in High School Musical. By the way, my money mentor is Dave Ramsey. I listen to his short clips on YouTube.

(4) Shovels and holes. Speaking of Dave Ramsey, when people call in with their issues he’ll regularly talk about their debt as a hole and their income as a shovel. Someone with $200,000 in debt and an income of $30,000/year has a massive, huge hole and a tiny, spoon-sized shovel. The goal is to get rid of the hole, but filling a huge hole with a tiny spoon is nearly impossible. In a call like that he’ll talk about how to get a bigger shovel. You seriously need to stay out of debt (keeping your debt “hole” as small as possible) while figuring out how to get a bigger shovel. I think about this analogy regularly.

(5) Wealth vs. Peace. Speaking of getting rich quick, listen to Ramsey’s millionaire hour calls. These are only a few minutes long. Dave asks each person how they became a millionaire. I’m not saying you have to take your whole life to get there, but it’s really interesting to learn about his studies showing how people achieve wealth. If you were like me, coming out of high school, I was not interested in waiting years. But I’ve learned being that 20 year old rich guy on YouTube is… hard. So have a principal-based plan that benefits from the path many other wealthy people have had. But here’s a mindset change: is wealth what you are after? I was. Honestly, I still am. But I also want financial peace. Dave’s programs are all about “financial peace,” not getting rich. Can you get rich on his program? YES. But his principles and teachings are first geared towards helping you have financial peace. At my old, old age, I can attest that this is a more important lesson than wealth.

How Do I prepare for employment opportunities?

I couldn’t wait to get in the “real world” and start making my own way. I loved my family, and living at home, but I was so excited to figure out how to be a great success. It was scary, of course, but it was just plain exciting. The early part of my career went as well as I could have hoped. I worked my way through school with an okay job. It wasn’t a career job but it was good enough. Then, I took a risk for a lower paying job with NO benefits, but in a field I knew could be a real career. I forwent income to get experience. The sacrifice was 100% worth it.

My wife and I also tried to stay out of debt as much as possible. Instead of living off of student loans, which is so tempting (so you could enjoy college more), we hustled, working and schooling. I am NOT a morning person, and my brain shuts down around 9pm, but a regular day Monday through Friday was getting up around 6am (ouch!) and getting home around 10pm (ouch!). It was hard for both of us but it was worth it to leave school with a very small student loan that was paid off pretty quickly. I got my MBA while working full time and, if I remember correctly, had only $3,000 to pay off from that loan, which was also paid off quickly. I am pushing 50 now (which is crazy, I don’t feel this old) and I know people my age who are still decades away from paying off their student loan. There’s no financial peace in having this loan hanging out for decades, haunting you.

So, speaking of college:

What about college?

College is a funny topic. In the mid 1900’s getting a degree was really important. It was also more valuable because not as many people had one. Today, it’s pretty easy to get a college degree. I have three questions for you:

(1) What do you want to be when you grow up? If you want to work in a machine shop, or some other blue collar job, you need to figure out the path to success in that field. When I was graduating from college (I got a degree in Computer Information Systems… commonly referred to as CIS or BIS or MIS, depending on the college) I heard that pipe fitters (aka, plumbers) were making $250,000 a year in Las Vegas. Not sure how true that was, but I think I read it in a newspaper.

Um… excuse me, what?? People coming out of my program were looking at $30k to $50k/year starting out, and whatever debt they had accumulated.

Look, there are a million ways to make a living. You can get old aunt Ethel’s secret family BBQ sauce recipe and actually make it big. You can open a deli, and then expand. You can start a landscaping business and end up a millionaire. There’s no shame in blue collar when you have financial peace and the lifestyle you want. I started my full time tech career at Varsity Contractors, a few blocks down from ISU. Read about Don and Arlo, the founders. There are stories of Don walking across Pocatello with a bucket and a sponge to clean someone’s house. No, he didn’t drive. I’m guessing he didn’t get paid a lot. But he and Arlo built that company into a massive industry leading organization that, I think, did over $300 million dollars a year. I imagine they did pretty well along the way.

The other company I worked for in Pocatello was Simplot. Have you studied J.R. Simplot? He has a fascinating story. He had a sixth grade education, but started buying farms and growing potatoes. Who can be successful without having even gone to seventh grade, and growing potatoes? He was one of Idaho’s few billionaires. Like I said, there are millions of ways to make a living.

(2) How will you finance your education? If you choose to go to school, think about how to finance it. Ramsey has a lot to say about this, helping you find alternatives to very expensive schools, or at least choosing a degree where you will be able to get a job (instead of some of the ridiculous, unmarketable degrees that just burden you with debt and don’t prepare you for a career).  Like I said, I worked full time while going to school. We lived in some bad places. We kept our expenses low knowing that we were in a phase of life that would not be forever.

You can get loans but if you do, please don’t spend them on jewelry or other treats. Get a job (see “get an internship” below) and pay for your expenses as best you can. It might not be as fun as hanging out with the college kids but you can save yourself decades of pain trying to pay the stupid thing off. Be creative, go to a less expensive school, etc. You really can get out of school without a massive debt holding you back from financial peace.

(3) Why are you going to college? Years ago there was a debate about why go to college. The person asking the question is someone I have a lot of respect for. However, we disagreed on why college. His answer was to learn, of course. We need to gain knowledge to improve our lives, circumstances, the world, etc. Ignorance won’t lead us to progress, and college is the path to get out of ignorance. My answer was that, no, we don’t go to college to learn. I don’t think I knew anyone who spent tens of thousands of dollars and years of their life just to “learn.” We were all there to get a degree. A degree meant a career. Sure, I learned stuff. But I felt like the learning process was painfully slow. I also knew that learning could happen without a professor and tests. I could learn with books from the library, or online with courses, articles, blogs, etc.

If you want to go to college to learn you’ll likely be a little disappointed. Just realize that your education is a life-long adventure. You could, and should, strive to learn for the rest of your life.

So, why college? Want to be a programmer? Get online courses (I do courses for Pluralsight, the leading tech course library that costs around $300/year… compare THAT to college expenses!) and read articles. Join the #100daysofcode movement. But do it. Don’t take it easy… put some SERIOUS time into learning and building your skills.

Want to work in construction, welding, plumbing, etc.? Find the right trade school for you (ask others who are in your desired trade what they would recommend) and give it your all.

Want to own a landscaping business? START ONE. Seriously, you don’t need to take history and English classes in college to help you learn how to own and run a business. I have a business undergraduate and an MBA and I’ll be the first to tell you that you DO NOT need a degree to start a business. Oh, but the entrepreneurship degree… um. No. You DO NOT NEED IT to start and run a successful business. If you are an entrepreneur you’d have been doing entrepreneurial stuff since elementary or middle school.

There are plenty of good alternatives to a traditional college education. Most alternatives will get you what you need at a fraction of the cost, and get you earning money in your chosen profession much sooner than a 4+ year degree.

In case you think I’m a college hater, I’m not. I think it’s a great alternative for some people. But it’s not the only alternative, and it certainly doesn’t mean people who choose something else are lesser than those who have gone to college (many of which call Dave Ramsey and ask how to get out from a ton of debt).

What professions should you look at?

Which of the million professions should you look at? I have no idea. I don’t know you. Here are some thought processes to go through:

What is your risk level? If you have a high risk level you are open to doing some weird, unproven things to create income. Realize that if you are in a family or household that depends on your income you might have to consider the risk level of others. High risk might mean trying and building and failing and trying again. Low risk means you get a “steady” job, which, by the way, is usually more socially acceptable. Being an entrepreneur is hard for many reasons, including not knowing when you will get paid and being different than your peers.

What kind of lifestyle do you want? You have to figure out if you need the big house on the hill or a decent and clean house in an okay neighborhood. Of course, most of us would love to live in a castle in Genovia, but I’m guessing you weren’t born into royalty. What you get will come from what you earn. Want to shop at thrift stores or do you want expensive clothes from expensive retailers? I don’t care what your answer is… that’s your preference. But you have to consider the lifestyle you want as you choose your career. Working at a job for $16/hour might seem like an amazing job while in high school but it’s hardly enough to live on your own with your own little family. Going back to the shovel concept, you need to figure out how big your shovel needs to be in order to finance the lifestyle you want, and then do what you need to do to be able to earn that shovel.

Do you want your earning to be capped? If you want unlimited income then either own your own business or go into sales (only in a company that doesn’t cap commissions). This can be such an exciting world, but it can also be really stressful. Maybe talk to people who look like they have a lifestyle you want and ask them for career advice. You might find that a career you were really interested in is too limiting, while something you never considered actually looks fun and can earn you what you want.

How important is stability and security? cough cough… I have a news flash for you: NOTHING is secure. Not a government job, not a big, bureaucratic  job. Your income security has to do with your ability to learn, your soft skills, your ingenuity, your ability to manage change, your network, and your brand. But if you want an illusion of security, consider this as a part of the career fields you look at. Talk to people who have been in that field for decades and ask them what it’s like (see “informational interviewing” below)

Do you want to travel? There are some jobs where you are travelling all the time. Sounds fun, right? It is… the first time you get on a plane. But it can get really old after that. I know people who HATE travelling. Business travel is not the same as vacation travel.

What jobs will be great stepping stones to your desired career? There are early jobs you can work in for a few years that will really propel your career. Plenty of people get an accounting degree, work in one of the grueling Big 4 companies for a few years, and then go to work for a company as a CFO with decent pay and much better hours. Sometimes you need to think about your job as a stepping stone to get you closer and closer to what you really want. That could be because you are learning your craft, or expanding your network… don’t discount the early years of your career. They might not feel rewarding, but they can be an important part of your journey. I wish I would have enjoyed those years a lot more than I did, understanding that it was temporary and a great learning opportunity.

Get an internship (or, experience)

I was lucky to get a programming internship, during my junior year of ISU, at Simplot. I was luckier that my boss treated me like a full time programmer, which meant she gave me real jobs instead of little time-wasting jobs. This was the job I was saying I took for less money and no benefits. It seemed backwards and more than one person pulled me aside to tell me I was making a big mistake. It was no mistake. The value I got working as a programmer helped me get on a fast track when I graduated.

The value was so significant I would have done it even if they didn’t pay me.

That is a very unpopular opinion, and I’m not here to debate it, but I’ve thought about it for years, and it’s true. I would have loved to have an unpaid programming internship, even working another job just to pay my bills. Getting experience I got in my internship was invaluable.

My internship was about 18 months long (then I graduated). You can look for summer internships but if you can let me advise you to find a role that you want to be in so you learn the skills for as long as you can. Great if you can get paid for it… definitely look for someone who pays you to train you, but do anything you can to get experience.

Job Search Skills

Alright let’s jump into what I think John was asking for when he sent me a request for this blog post :) If you read through my blog here on JibberJobber you’ll see that job search is what I do. I’ve travelled the world and have done countless webinars on how to find a job. I’m all about high impact activities that will get you closer to the right job. I’ll share three ideas:

Networking: This scares some people but you need to get over it. Talk to people. You don’t have to go to networking events and mingle. For a lot of people that is intimidating. For me it is largely unfruitful. I encourage you to talk one-on-one with people. Maybe talk to your friends’ parents, or neighbors, or other adults about careers. Most adults would be happy to give you their opinions. We tend to want to help people transitioning out of school, who have a lot of decisions to make. Heck, look at this super long blog post, and I don’t even know you. But I want to share some ideas that I wish I would have heard when I was getting out of school.

Use your status as “student” or “recently graduated” to your advantage. “Hey, I’m looking at some career options and am really interested in what you do for a living. What would you advise me to do right now?” People generally love talking about themselves and giving advice, and that’s exactly what you want. Just soak it up. Learn from everyone. Don’t discount anyone.

Informational Interviews: This is easily the most powerful job search tactic I’ve come across. Most people do them wrong, and I haven’t talked to a career counselor who knows how to really do them. It’s such a powerful tactic that I created the Job Search Program. This isn’t free but it’s a powerful job search strategy where I help you, daily, for six+ weeks. Informational interviews is “networking on steroids.” It is “having the right conversations with the right people.” It is one of the fastest ways to the job you want.

Personal branding. I had no idea what this was when I started my big, first job search. Your brand has been “high school kid.” Maybe it was punk or band nerd or geek or jock or quiet one. Whatever it has been, once you graduate, things change. Your brand might become “graduated and has since lived in his mom’s basement playing video games for the last three years.” Think anyone wants to create that brand on purpose? No, except maybe a few youtubers. But that brand happens. I invite you to think about what your brand could, or should be, and figure out how to create it.

I have courses on career management, informational interviews, personal branding, etc. but you can get some good info from your own research. One of my messages is to be intentional in your career. Have goals, and plans, and get to work.

Feeling overwhelmed?

You should. But you should also feel excited. The world is literally at your feet. You have a lot of choices, and that can be scary, but you get to write your own story. Most people your age are sick of living at home and want to do things better… their way. This is natural. Realize you’ll get beat up a bit, and life will be harder than you thought. You’ll learn that your parents weren’t as dumb as you thought, and some people who seemed to have made bad choices didn’t really have other options.

You’ll also learn you are more resilient and smarter than you might have thought. You can do this. Billions of people before you have done it. Listen a lot, and do things on purpose.

Good luck!

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Personal Branding Course Updated for 2021

March 8th, 2021

Last week my newest course update went live. It is called Developing Your Personal Brand.

Pluralsight Developing Your Personal Brand Header

This course is about 2 and a half hours. I talk about what personal branding actually is, who has a brand, and what you can do to create the branding you want. I share specific tactics, tools, ideas, etc. In the last module I share examples.

When I got certified as a personal branding strategist a hundred years ago I had already written my book on LinkedIn, and I think I had written my book on Facebook. I had been blogging for years, and had been actively doing the personal branding tactics I was learning about. I was doing personal branding online and offline. I didn’t learn much in the strategy certification program because it was geared more towards people who hadn’t been thinking about personal branding… but it was good to make sure I was aligned with the best practices being taught to career leaders.

In my Career Management 2.0 course and on-stage presentations I talk about the two major components to career management: your network and your personal brand. I’ve been forced, on stage, to keep this to 45 minutes. That is really hard. Once, in Maryland, I went for almost three hours, which seems long but no one left and there were still questions after.

Personal branding got on my radar when my 2006 job search sucked and I realized part of it was my branding was non-existent. It hurt me to not have an intentional brand. So, I did a deep dive and came up with a structured approach to creating, developing, communicating, and influencing your brand.

That’s what this course is about. It’s for the active job seeker, the passive job seeker, the entrepreneur, and even the person who’s sat in the same chair for 30 years, getting close to retirement. Check it out here:

Developing Your Personal Brand

 

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The Job Search Program is INTENSE! (Updates)

March 4th, 2021

Last night I finished rerecording the Job Search Program, a six week program that focus on working an informational interviews strategy.

Currently the whole program is audio (with a bunch of text supplements), but once the editor is done with my videos it will be audio and/or video. I’m excited to have this updated with video even though I wish there was a better looking model :)

As I was recording last night there was one line that jumped out at me… I tweeted it here:

Yes, the program is intense. As you move through each of the weeks the tasks get increasingly more challenging. I start of gently so you can get your sea legs, and feel some confidence that you can work the program, but the reality is that within a few weeks you might feel uncomfortable. I’m okay with that. When I was in my job search I was uncomfortable 24 hours a day. I did things that were hard and out of my comfort zone. And, I like I said in the tweet (and the program), I’d rather do the hard things that get me back into a great job than do the hard things that come with long-term unemployment.

So, no apologies. But you have my support and my enthusiasm. If you are a Job Search Program customer, reach out to me. I invite you to, multiple times, email me. I want to know how you are doing, what your challenges are, and how I can help. Seriously, reach out to me.

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A Recruiter Is a Broker Not an Agent

February 26th, 2021

I searched “broker” on google and got this (supposedly from wikipedia and LinkedIn):

A broker is a person or firm who arranges transactions between a buyer and a seller for a commission when the deal is executed. A broker who also acts as a seller or as a buyer becomes a principal party to the deal. Neither role should be confused with that of an agent—one who acts on behalf of a principal party in a deal.

I’ve always thought about the job seeker / recruiter relationship because when I was in my Big Failed Job Search I misunderstood it, and wasted a ton of time, effort, and hope on recruiters. It wasn’t until Dave, a recruiter who I thought was going to be my golden ticket, told me “you’ll find a job for yourself faster than I’ll find a job for you.”

My world stopped spinning and I suddenly and finally understood that the role of a recruiter wasn’t even close to what I thought it was.

I thought recruiters would love to have my resume, and would work hard to match me to openings. I assumed they would spend hours looking at openings and pitching me to decision makers. No, no, and no.

Once you understand that recruiters have a list of openings they are working hard to fill you can understand what your value to, or relationship with, recruiters is. You are a number. You are a commodity. You are hopefully the round peg they can fit into the round hole.

Of course some recruiters are amazing people. Some of them are job seeker advocates. Many of the recruiters I know are just splendid people who really care about you and your success. But their job, what they get paid to do, is to find a great hire. If you are not a great hire they are not secretly going to bat for you, and putting hours in for you. They are doing their job: searching for that great hire.

I thought I was networking with agents. I most definitely was not. And that explained why they ghosted me so often.

If you have a recruiter-heavy strategy, fine. Just make sure you understand who a recruiter is, to you, and who you are to a recruiter. Otherwise you’ll hit brick wall after brick wall.

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Reminder to Be Physically Healthy

February 24th, 2021

Maybe it’s because the weather where I live is in the mid-20s this morning, when I looked. Maybe it’s because the Texans experienced devastating lows last week. Maybe it’s because I’m longing for warmer weather where people are out and about.

This morning I woke up with physical health on my mind.

In 2006, during my horribly failed job search, I literally would roll out of my bed, walk a few steps to a recliner, and sit there until dinner time. I’d go to the bathroom, and maybe the fridge, but my life had become just about 100% sedentary.

It took years to recover from that physical neglect. Muscle atrophy is a scary thing… not to mention lack of pushing your cardio system.

I did this because I felt that doing anything other than a job search was cheating on my family. Seriously, that is what I thought. I needed to find a job, and recover our income, so I could pay my bills. If I chose to do anything other than get that next job I was cheating my family… and maybe my future.

I learned I was indeed cheating my family, but not because of my focus. Neglecting my physical health had long-term implications. And so with this post I want to remind you to take care of your physical health. I think the saying that resonated was that you better take care of your body, or your body will take care of you!

Garbage In, Garbage Results

My son’s friend told me “you get abs in the kitchen, not the gym.” What a profound statement! As a job seeker you feel like you want need comfort. Comfort foods are great at satiating, but don’t give your body comfort. Please, please make good food choices. You need to be your best for an interview, or when you are networking, or even just to keep your head above water during your daily routines as a job seeker.

I’m not going to tell you how eat, or what to eat, but donuts should generally be on the naughty list while fruits and veggies likely belong on your binge-all-day-long list.

Motion Is Lotion

Four years ago I kicked a heavy bag (aka kick bag) and broke my ankle. Lest you think I am a seasoned kicker, this was probably my first really hard kick where I completely neglected form (hence, the broken ankle).

So a month or two later, after surgery, I’m at the physical therapist, pretty much getting beat up. He said this phrase, “motion is lotion,” and I loved it. We need to move. Our bodies were made to move. When we move, our body reacts well (unless you are in a bad place). Movement is not only good, it’s necessary.

I have this dream that when I have time and money I’ll be like Tom Hanks in the Da Vinci Code movie (side note: the book is WAY, WAY better than the movie)… remember at the beginning of the movie Tom is swimming laps in the pool? My dream is to have lazy mornings where I can swim laps at my leisure. But I didn’t have a gym membership, and swimming takes too much time before/after. I had some weights, but weights only go so far for me… I just didn’t have what I needed to get a good workout.

Or did I?

Really, you need some kind of resistance… gravity works well for that. And most of us have access to gravity.

I don’t care if you choose yoga or walking, but I invite you to choose either of those. I got to a point where I needed to walk. I had to. I felt that if I didn’t I would go to a really bad place, physically. My legs ached, my weight suffered. I’m not a runner, but I can walk. SO I started to walk. My goal was 500 miles in a year because, well, I can walk 500 hundred miles, and perhaps I could walk 500 hundred more (get it?).

That year I walked, I think, 353. It wasn’t 500 but it was enough to jump start my journey back to health. I lost weight, felt way better, gained muscle in places I didn’t know I needed it… it was the most amazing thing I’ve done physically, ever. Consistent walking, whether it’s 1/4 mile or 3 miles, is the key. Almost every day I’d walk. I invite you to do the same, even if it feels slow and meaningless.

Mental Health Is Critical to Physical Health Is Critical to Mental Health

I’m not an expert here but I know that what happens between your ears will have a significant impact on your physical health. And what happens with your physical health can have an impact on your mental health. These are usually and strongly connected.

I’m not saying you can exercise yourself out of mental health, or that you can think yourself to better physical health. But improvements on one side can help the other side.

When I was in the deepest part of my depression, and feeling an utter failure, both my mental and physical health suffered. One of my favorite ideas is that self discipline creates (or improves or helps or whatever) self confidence.

This didn’t mean doing 1,000 pushups. Maybe it meant doing ONE pushup. Or walking one mile. Or choosing one healthy meal. Self discipline leads to a feeling of “okay, maybe I CAN do something right!” Stacking a few, then a bunch, of small wins leads to “I can” instead of “maybe I can.”

As a job seeker, you need to be on your game. You can’t be filled with maybes and “I’m not good enoughs.” You need to perform at a higher level. People can tell when you are down, and they are hesitant to introduce you to their networks or recommend you to their companies when you are out of sorts.

Guard Your Physical Health

So that’s my reminder. I give you permission to take care of yourself, EVEN THOUGH you feel like you don’t have the time. Make the time now or you will HAVE TO in the future. Trust me, it’s better to do it now than do it when you HAVE TO.

 

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Are You Working On The Right Things?

February 22nd, 2021

I have this imagine in my mind of a mime, or circus performer, who has a bunch of sticks holding up spinning plates. The performer’s job is to keep every plate spinning so that they don’t fall.

Keeping the plates spinning is really the analogy of my career. From early on, when I was IT manager of a national company I had a LOT of things I did. I had no idea what a normal day looked liked because one day I might work on programs and applications, another day I might be in meetings ALL DAY, other days I might work on a big computer order, or actually unpacking and setting up machines. Those were just some of my plates.

Right now my plates look different. I have owned my own business since 2006, and have had many opportunities to learn (read: fail) how to run a business. I’ve had different income streams… one month my quarterly royalty check for my LinkedIn book was my biggest check I’d received, other months I banked three or four speaking checks (those were good months!), other months we had specials on JibberJobber.

The phrase “you eat what you kill” describes the life of many entrepreneurs, and it has definitely defined much of my life since 2006. The safety and stability of getting a check deposited in my account every 5th and 20th became a fond memory. And with that change, I learned to change what I choose to work on.

Choosing Priorities

I have a Pluralsight course called Prioritizing Tasks and Managing Time for Greater Productivity where I talk about figuring out how to make the best use of your time, and accomplish the right things.

I am also a fan and student of Mark LeBlanc, who has an excellent program for small business growth. With his permission I have borrowed a few of his principles and created the Job Search Program, a six week program to help job seekers find their next job. In that program I have you focus on the three most important things you should do, over six weeks, for one purpose: to get a job. The key to your success as a job seeker has to do with “having the right conversations with the right people.” It’s a neat program that helps job seekers focus on the right priorities.

Focusing on the right priorities means ignoring, delaying, or removing the wrong priorities. This can be painful when some of those wrong priorities have a special place in your heart. Maybe they have a special meaning, or you think they might impact others you care about, or they are just projects you want to do. Letting go of things on your list can be emotional. Geesh, I have some pants in my closet I’ve had for years long than I should have kept them. They don’t fit or are have rips that just don’t work for my style. But these are pants I’ve had experiences with! Getting rid of the pants might feel like I’m getting rid of the experiences!

People: your pants are NOT your journal.

Removing things that don’t belong on your to do list is is a healthy activity.

Schedule time today, or tomorrow morning, to make sure you are working on the right things, and removing other things from your list. Release them.

What I’m Working On

As you know, I’m a fan of multiple revenue streams. I also have self-diagnosed as having “business ADD.” I think if I were more focused I would have sold JibberJobber ten years ago, but I have always had too many business plates spinning. With all I do, I even have some business ideas that I’ve either given up or put on pause. Here’s what I have chosen to work on, or, put another way, where I’ve chosen to invest my time:

JibberJobber

Well, of course, since this is the JibberJobber blog, I’m going to talk about JibberJobber. I started JibberJobber in 2006 with me, a full time programmer, and a full time QA person. We have been busy since day one. There is a ton of work to do… right now the biggest project we are working on is redoing much of the infrastructure of JibberJobber to modernize and speed up most of the user experience. Additionally, switching the architecture allows us to easily work on some of the other projects we have on our roadmap. I’m really, really excited about this change, and hope our users see speed improvements right away, and my team is able to push out new changes in a much better and longer-lasting way.

My role has been reduced quite a bit as we have put systems and processes in place, and as my team has assumed parts of my role. Liz, who some of you have interacted with, is my right-hand-woman. She is fantastic, and plays a big and important role in the daily affairs and the future of JibberJobber.

The Job Search Program

I created the Job Search Program almost two years ago. I am about to re-record the whole thing in video instead of just audio. I’m really excited about this, and a few other enhancements to the Job Search Program. I need to review the entire script to figure out what changes I need to make, and then will get this produced. I’ll also be involved with the redesign and optimization of the whole UX as we update the program.

Pluralsight Online Soft Skill and Professional Development Courses

If you’ve spent five minutes in JibberJobber you know I’m a Pluralsight course creator (aka: Author). This weekend I uploaded the last changes for a course revision for my personal branding course. I have 36 published courses right now. I have a lot of courses I need to revise (older courses). Eventually I’d like to have maybe 60 courses. It would be out-of-this-world to have 100 courses. That would be a vanity goal for me… not anything I need to do but if I do that it would be epic. Of course, I’d have 100 courses I would need to keep updated. This has been a huge part of my time since 2012. When I go heads-down on these courses I tend to neglect a lot of my other work, which is why I have the systems and processes in JibberJobber (so JJ doesn’t depend too much on me).

I should note, recently Liz mentioned that we need to up our customer service game on the JibberJobber side. With some of the other stuff I’ve been working on it has suffered… my apologies, and we are more sensitive to that now.

Snowfly: Employee Performance and Rewards

Almost two years ago I made my first angel investment in a Saas company called Snowfly. I’ve been friends with the owners for a number of years, and have watched from the outside trying to figure out how I could get on the inside. Of course, timing was an important part of becoming an insider. In July (I think) of 2019) I became an equity owner in Snowfly and assumed some of the marketing tasks. I have written on their blog almost every week, and started sending customer/prospect newsletters. I also made a few first-passes on their marketing website. There’s still a lot of work to do there, which I’m reprioritizing. A lot of the marketing updates are “do it once” and walk away for a little while (as opposed to repeat tasks). I am also on the Board and get to meet with the CEO and other team members in a consulting/coaching capacity.

This has been a lot of fun. I told my wife that if I were to retire I think I’d like to find more Snowflys where I could contribute in a coaching/consulting way. I also get to have conversations that make me think about my own CEO role in JibberJobber, which is really good for JibberJobber.

Rentals

I have always wanted to own rentals. Before JibberJobber, or before entrepreneurship, I was living paycheck-to-paycheck and keeping my financial head above water was a challenge. I moved from a low-cost state to a higher-cost state without a raise. We went from “I think I might be able to get ahead” to really understanding the cost of living impact of a bigger city. It was difficult.

Fast forward a few years and, because of life circumstances, my wife and I moved. The plan (ha ha ha ha ha) was to sell our house and put whatever equity we earned into our next house to have lower payments. Well, even though houses were moving like hot cakes and we were in a great neighborhood, our house just wouldn’t sell. Long story short, we kept the house as a rental. Within days of us moving out we had renters in, and have not missed one month of rent payment in 4+ years. We’ve had tasks there… some cleanup and repairs between renters, some maintenance, etc., but for the most part this investment has been safe (knock on wood). I’d like to think I got a nice rental because we were fiscally wise, instead we were kind of pushed into this dream. But so far it’s been very good.

Coincidentally, the house we moved into has a mother-in-law apartment that we rent out. That was a big factor in choosing to buy this house. So now I own two rental properties. It has gone so well that I think I’d like to do this a hundred times over, but I also realize there are some big risks with renters/rentals. I think I’m not going to get any more anytime soon, especially with this ridiculous real estate market. But if the right opportunity pops up, at the right time, and I’m somehow ready, I’m in a much better position to make a wise decision on moving forward.

I don’t spend much time with my rentals, but I’ll certainly put in a few hours (or more, depending on what’s going on), with them.

Life Balance and Family and WHY

Those are my main business plates. I have been married for over 25 years and have five kids, from preteen to a couple in their twenties. I take my roles of husband and father seriously. I try to mentor my kids as they become adults and spread their wings. I try to nurture my marriage and “show up.” I believe these roles I’ve chosen (husband and father) are the most important things I can do. It takes time and thought. Fortunately, it’s a great break from my other plates, and it is immensely rewarding. I’ve been blessed with a great family that I enjoy being around.

I put this section in here because without a bigger WHY we can become barons and scrooges without a direction. Having a business and accumulating wealth is not a big enough WHY.

My family is a big part of my WHY. I want to make an impression on this third rock from the sun. I want to impact and inspire. I hope I do that through my work with my projects I’ve listed above, and those in my close circle. It’s why I get out of bed each day.

What is your WHY? How do you invest your time? Which plates do you keep spinning, and which do you let go, to work towards your WHY?

The title of this post is “Are You Working On The Right Things?” It could have, maybe should have, been: “Are You Choosing Working On The Right Things?”

I invite you to do a personal self assessment to make sure your choice of where to spend your time is right for you right now. Be intentional at this thing called life. Most of us only get one shot.

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Job Search: Age Discrimination or Convicted Felon?

February 4th, 2021

This is a long post about working through, or around, job search discrimination. I’ve written quite a bit on this topic over the years.

My friend Paul sent me this set of questions, which got me thinking about how hard it is for older (definitely over 50, but many over-40 job seekers feel it too) people to get into interviews, and then get an offer.

Years ago I had a friend, Makini Harvey, who’s mission was to help convicted felons find jobs. Makini had a heart of gold, and I loved seeing her at conferences and chatting on the phone with her. She was hope and love all bundled into a ball of fire. I think all of my career colleagues would agree with that. I was always impressed that she took perhaps the hardest group of people and jumped right in, willing to help.

I don’t know nearly as much about the felon job search, but I think a common tactic is for them to just start their own business. Practically anyone can start a business, whereas going applying to companies that would discount you because you were convicted has got to be so discouraging.

In my own Big Failed Job Search, in 2006, I faced age discrimination from both ends. I was too young to have the things I had on my resume. I can thank starting my career in a small town, and becoming a VP of tech and general manager very quickly. When I moved to a much larger city, the people who had the same things on their resumes were easily twenty years older, and had much deeper experience with those titles in more sophisticated companies. I was just too young for anyone to consider me.

At 32 I was just too young.

Guess what? 32 is too old to be considered for the other jobs I was looking at, including project manager, product manager, and business analyst. There was a healthy group of just-out-of-school kids who cost about half of what I was looking for, anxious to get their foot in the door. Guess who got hired… someone with experience, or someone who cost 1/2 of me?

At 32 I was just too old.

Maybe my Great Failed Job Search of 2006 wasn’t all my fault.

Age discrimination sucks. It’s also illegal, but so what? It happens all over the place, all the time. Just because it is illegal doesn’t mean you can prove it, would win in court, or that it doesn’t happen. Deep down in our human nature we judge others based on things… many of those judgements illegal in the hiring process. But this judgement is in our lizard brains, and it just isn’t going anywhere. So, then, what do we do?

You can’t blame everything on ageism

Paul says this: “I am 64. There are several issues. 1. There is ageism, but you can’t blame everything on that.”

Paul is absolutely right. Let me rephrase this to “you can’t blame not getting an interview or a job 100% on age discrimination.”

Hire a job search coach, especially one who has worked with older workers (that is, not college grads), and they will have experience working around age discrimination issues. Their job is to help you understand what the red flags are, and how to position yourself in your branding (resume, LinkedIn profile, etc.) and your networking (30 second pitches, 5 second pitches, etc.) and your interviewing so that you minimize age as a reason for people to not consider you.

When you are looking for career professionals, resume writers and job search coaches, ask them about their experiences with people your age, in your industry, looking for jobs you are looking for. You want to get an understanding of how they might help you. Some of them will recognize the issues you are facing and know that it is not a big deal, if maneuvered correctly.

You CAN blame everything on being old, and how age discrimination is just plain horrible. But Paul is right, and has the right attitude: blaming everything on that will not help you address the problem at hand. Maybe you need to work on certifications, work on communicating your expertise better, network differently, or for crying out loud, get off the job boards.

Huh? Job boards? Where did that come from? Check out Nick Corcodilos’ post, and the 300+ comments, on the effectiveness of job boards, here: The Bogus-ness of Indeed.com

Paul’s next question is:

How do you redefine yourself?

Ah, a big question. I guess the first three questions I have are:

  1. How are you currently defining yourself?
  2. Who is the audience to which you want to be defined?
  3. How do you want to be defined?

I think one of the problems is that too often older job seekers see pretty much one definition:

OLD

Old has a lot of stigma: expensive, slow, won’t put in extra time, expensive, health issues, set in old ways, can’t teach an old dog, did I mention expensive?

When you feel like age discrimination is the issue, you see yourself as old. Washed up. Has been. Of no value. I don’t discount those feelings at all. A couple of years ago I wrote a tweet (I’m not going to look for it) where I challenged tech companies who are all about no discrimination to show their age numbers. They are real big on making sure that race and gender are not discrimination points, but my experience with high tech funded startups is that they are full of people right out of college. No hate towards those people, they need jobs. But if you preach anti-discrimination, please show me that you are hiring people who are 64, also.

They are too outdated, you say?

No, they are not. You are simply discriminating.

Okay, that’s a tangent. But a good one.

The irony about the people who say that too old is too outdated is that one day those people will be too old. Irrelevant. And in as much distress as people now who can’t get an interview or a job because they are too old.

Sorry, I’m ranting again. Back to Paul.

You redefine yourself through a strategic, intentional personal branding strategy. You go through the process of figuring out what your brand boundaries are, and then come up with branding statements and use branding tools (LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn articles, LinkedIn group, maybe a blog, your 30 second pitch, your resume, etc.) to ensure you are communicating the right message that is on brand, and of value, to your target audience.

You understand your target audience, and what they are looking for. Maybe they are tired of hiring people with no experience, and they could really use someone with your background to lead the team, or reengineer processes, or develop prospect or customer relationships.

Job search seminars I’ve been in talks about how you need to identify the problems organizations have, and then address those problems. Phrase your value in a way that shows them how you will save or make money (I am not 100% on board with that, but in some cases it can be an important position).

If you know the role and industry and even organization you want to work for, and can identify their problems (through networking you may be able to identify real, current issues they need help with), you can devise your marketing assets to address those. Imagine if I’m looking for help growing my pipeline… and you have a few blog posts or LinkedIn articles that show exactly how you have done that for other organizations… I do not care about your age at all… I’ve seen what you have done for other organizations and I want you to do it for me!

Find the problems and address those exact problems.

Too often I see laundry lists of skills and characteristics. They mean nothing to me. They are noise. I want substance, stories, examples, and some sense that you are the exact person to solve my problems, because you have done it before.  If you can communicate that, I’m all over you. I want to talk to you. I don’t care of you are 85, if you can solve my problems.

In my personal branding course on Pluralsight I talk about this… the why, what, and how of personal branding to define or redefine yourself. You can watch it with a free 10 day trial.

What jobs are better to try to do?

Hm, this is a big question. Every job seeker, young and old, is trying to figure this out. And, the 70+% of people who are at work but don’t like their work are asking the same things.

Early in my career I took jobs I thought would help me get to where I wanted to be when I was old enough to retire. Jobs that would put me on the right path.

At that stage in my career it was a “put in your time” attitude. This meant doing things that would lead to the next promotion, and then the next, etc. It meant working hard and maybe more hours, volunteering for things, etc.

I don’t know when it happened but somewhere along the line I realized that where I wanted to work, and what I wanted to do, shifted. I wanted to work for an amazing boss, in an amazing team, impacting the world somehow. I needed my work to make an impact. I needed a certain amount of money, of course, but I would not take higher money sacrificing the work environment.  I had worked for crappy leaders and I had worked for excellent leaders, and I knew I didn’t want to work under crap anymore. In addition to those things, I value a flexible schedule.

So, what are better jobs to try to do? I’m not sure what you have done. What have you liked from what you have done? What organizations did you enjoy, what roles and responsibilities and impact gave you satisfaction? What did you NOT enjoy? Before you make a list of companies and titles, make a list of characteristics you want in a job. Start there, then work backwards.

Once you get that list, and prioritize it, and figure out what you might sacrifice or swap out, then you can start to come up with your list of jobs. Job titles you end up with might surprise you.

What companies are better to apply to that will be more accepting (like smaller companies)?

I’m assuming you mean “more accepting of hiring older workers.” A few years ago when I was looking at local companies I was interested in working with I noticed one, a high tech funded startup that was on everyone’s list to work at around here. I was researching that company and found the about us page, with a recent picture of what looked like all of the local employees… maybe a couple hundred. I enlarged the picture and scanned through… and something jumped out at me: the owner looked like he was my age, maybe older. Every other person in that picture looked like they were right out of college.

I knew, or at least I assumed, that I didn’t have a chance. It was a disgusting realization.

That’s an example of a small(ish) company only hiring young people.

Ask the in-house recruiters and they’ll tell you that no, absolutely not, is there age discrimination. But there is. We all know it. They know it. Company owners know it. Job seekers especially know it. So, just cross that company off your list.

I’m not sure if all big companies are discriminatory and all small companies are not discriminatory. When I go to Home Depot (ahem, The Home Depot) I see a bunch of old people. People who have had great careers as electricians, plumbers, handymen/women, etc., now roaming the Home Depot isles helping people pick put the best products for their job. The last time I talked to one of them, we chatted for almost an hour (not about what I went there for). Rather than being bored in front of the TV, these people with decades of knowledge and experience got to be out helping and chatting with people.

That’s an example of a big company hiring older people.

I’m not sure what the best companies are… I bet AARP has some “best companies for older workers” list. But I want you to go back to your list of ideal characteristics and make sure they match before you do a job search based on who hires older workers. Then, make sure your brand communicates the right things, and see how you can network into those roles.

My 6 week Job Search Program is designed for recent grades and older people alike… it’s based on informational interviews. I think informational interviews is an excellent strategy for just about any job seeker.

Back to Felons and Older People

If discrimination is the issue, and it might very well be THE ISSUE (regardless of what I wrote above), maybe you need to do what felons are advised to do: figure out your own thing.

I wrote a book about creating alternative income streams based on things I’ve heard about from people who have done it. I don’t sell the book anymore (I’m pretty much out), but you can find similar lists online (here’s a list with 55 ideas). Look for side hustle lists. If you don’t have a job, these side hustles become your main hustles. This list doesn’t quite do it for me, but I only took one second to actually look.

I had a guy come clean my windows. I think I paid him around $450. He was in his mid sixties, but his age wasn’t a deciding factor at all. As we were chatting he told me about taking his whole family, including grandkids, on a European vacation. Who imagines their window cleaner is making that kind of bank?

When you start your own business, whether it is consulting or web design or delivering flowers or whatever, you don’t face age discrimination like you would at a job. You have other challenges, like sales and marketing. But usually when I hire someone to do something (like my windows, or marketing consulting, or video editing, etc.) I don’t ask their age, nor do I ask if they just got out of prison.

Business ownership… not easy, but perhaps easier than finding a job when faced with blatant discrimination.

One last thought about these lists of ideas… many will be like “um, NO!” Cosmetologist, for example… here in Utah you have to be in school for it, which is expensive, then get I think 2,000 hours practicing, to get licensed. Unless it is your passion, I’d advise you to pass on it.

What I want you to get from those lists is inspiration. Figure out your own gig. Watch Shark Tank to see the crazy ideas people have to create income and value.

I know this is super scary. But if you have expertise in an area, why not hang your shingle and do consulting on that? It wouldn’t cost you anything to fish for clients, and see what kind of interest there actually is.

When I started JibberJobber I was still looking for a job, hoping to finally get a corner office on the top floor, and be called Mr. Alba (not really, I prefer Jason). But there came a point where I realized I was getting a lot more attention from my side business idea that I was as a job seeker. It was a lot easier to do my own thing. Maybe that is where you should focus your time.

Lost

Paul ended his emails to me with this: “I am truly lost at this point.”

My heart breaks. I know the feelings of being lost, and hopeless. For me, everything changed when I got hope, which came as I conceptualized JibberJobber. It has not been the smashing success I thought it would be (you don’t read about me on the front page of anything), but it provided HOPE at a time when I had pretty much lost all hope. It was enough to get me on a good path, instead of a path where I kept hitting dead ends.

JibberJobber lead to blogging, which lead to my first book, which lead to getting paid to speak, which lead to consulting and writing and more books, and eventually to my Pluralsight courses. All of that lead to a 10 month job a couple of years ago, which was one of my best and most favorite jobs, but even that went away. Even so, my other things were still there, waiting for me to pick up again. I was sure I knew how to create an income… and I have.

It took creativity, persistence, courage, etc. But most of all it took HOPE.

It is my earnest desire that you, Paul, can find hope in whatever you choose to do. When you get that hope, the whole world brightens again, and opportunities somehow present themselves.

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