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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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How does a leader develop emotional intelligence?

January 29th, 2021

I recently did a webinar, sponsored by Pluralsight, for people interested in becoming managers and leaders. I think you can sign up here and see the recording.

Pluralsight Emotional Intelligence

The conversation with Kevin Miller and Heather MacDonald was really good. I enjoyed learning from them as they talked about their experiences and paths into management.

Callie Kennel was on the webinar and messaged later asking for my thoughts on helping managers and leaders develop emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, or EQ, had come up on the call a number of times. I talked about how I created a course on leading with emotional intelligence. I think that may be the most important topic I’ve ever covered. It’s not my most popular course, but if people watched and internalized the ideas from that course, which are basic principles of emotional intelligence…. wow! I can’t imagine how great the world would be! As I thought about this I thought “if everyone would start on the path to better emotional intelligence, companies, work environments, etc. would just be so much better!”

My course is a great primer on emotional intelligence. There are plenty of books and tons of articles on it. Instead of repeating some of the oft-repeated bits of advice, I’m going to share four suggestions based on my own experiences:

Strive to Become Self Aware

The first (of five) pillar of emotional intelligence is self awareness. We must understand who we are, how we think, what motivates us, how we act, etc. If we don’t understand ourselves, or increase our self awareness, can we ever understand our impact on others?

Becoming self aware can be pretty cool if you are pretty cool. But if you are a jerk, or have social issues, become more self aware can be very painful. You may have thought you were a good person, but then you come to realize you have a lot, maybe an insurmountable amount, of growing to do.

Becoming self aware is a lifelong journey. It requires being brutally honest, in a healthy way. It requires accepting you for where you are at, and figuring out what you should work on, without beating yourself up. Just as becoming self aware is a lifelong journey, making improvements is, too. The best leaders I’ve had the privilege to work with were continually doing something to better themselves… whether that was reading up on certain topics or trying new tactics, methods, systems, etc.

If you only work on this pillar for decades to come you will make great strides towards having higher emotional intelligence.

Learn to Respect Others

The third pillar is awareness of others. Becoming aware of what makes others tick, what motivates them, what they care about, etc. This pillar isn’t saying you need to be best friends, chummy, or overly social. Actually, it’s not even saying you need to be social. It is saying you need to really want to, and practice, understanding others.

Why do people choose to work hard? Is it for money, or because they want to be in good favor with a leader they admire? Why do people have a problem getting to work on time, or not finishing projects? What is making one person on your team struggle to get their work done, and why is your best performer the best performer?

When you respect others, you have the best hopes for them now, and for their future. In my experience, when a leader has this healthy respect for others, they feel it.

I’ve seen (and experienced) this. When a leader shows they care about the individual, not as an employee or a number, but as a real human with real issues and challenges, the person notices. When you are on the receiving end of this type of dignity and respect, you become super loyal to the leader.

I’m not saying you should increase self awareness just to have loyalty from your team, although that is a great benefit. You should increase social awareness because it makes you more emotionally intelligent. How do you do this? Talk to people. Really talk. Ask them questions… and then listen. Listen a lot. Practice active listening. Of course, I have a course on that, also: Becoming a Better Listener. Click the 10 day trial on either this or the other course, and you can watch both for free :)

Seek to understand (a 7 habits principle) what each person on your team wants, and how you can help them with their personal goals.

Becoming aware of others can be one of the greatest, and most satisfying, parts of your journey to increased emotional intelligence.

Pick a Social Skill and Practice It

When I talked about social skills (the fifth pillar) in my course, I advised you to pick a skill and spend time practicing it. Not an hour or two, but weeks, even months. Whether you are practicing presenting, negotiating, listening, empathizing, motivating, educating… whatever you choose to work on, do a deep dive to learn more. Learn everything you can. Write about it, maybe teach others about the skill, and definitely find opportunities to practice it.

I’m not sure that practice makes perfect, but practice definitely makes progress. Practice with the idea that you will make mistakes, or even fail. Get dedicated to getting better at whatever skill you’ve chosen to work on. Tell others you are working on that particular skill… this is what we call “making your path public.” You might find others, hopefully organizational leaders, will help you with more opportunities and even mentoring.

Making your path public means you have to be vulnerable, but I think the benefits will outweigh the risk.

Seek out opportunities, and then bravely practice. It might feel really weird at first. Maybe you are completely outside of your comfort zone, or perhaps you feel like everyone is watching and analyzing your every move. In either case, who cares? You are doing this for you. Anyone who might make you feel uncomfortable will most likely be completely out of your life in five or ten years. You aren’t doing it for them, you are doing it for Future You.

Learn about Emotional Intelligence

Want to get better at it? Do a deep dive into the topic. You can watch my course free here: Leading with Emotional Intelligence. Take notes and then start practicing some of the things I talk about.

Daniel Goleman is the author of THE book I kept getting recommended to, titled Emotional Intelligence. He has other books… get these and have them on your nightstand to get a regular infusion of the topic.

In addition, I’ve found that business classics like Win Friends and Influence People, 7 Habits, Good to Great, and the others have a foundation of emotional intelligence. Great leaders, great companies, great managers, and I’d argue highly satisfied and happier people have a high emotional intelligence, even if they never say “emotional intelligence” or EQ.

Study successful people through this new lens.

There you go. Learn and practice. Be the tortoise (note the hare) and let this journey be fun and forgiving.

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Big Data Big Questions Video Interview with Jason Alba and Thomas Henson

January 28th, 2021

Thomas Henson asked me to have a chat with him…. and it was a lot of fun! Jump over and check this out.

For those of you who haven’t heard me speak, or haven’t heard my story, or know much about me, and why I am so passionate about JibberJobber and Pluralsight and the Job Search Program, listen here (and what the heck, while you are there, give it a like):

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Organize Your Job Search: How to Log Networking Calls and Follow Up

January 22nd, 2021

I got this email question from a new user:

How do I log networking calls and follow up? Ideally, I want to have reminders set for follow up action items? I would like too jump start transitioning my paper notes as I am having multiple calls a day.

Thank you for this question! There is actually a lot to talk about here…

Organize Your Job Search With JibberJobber: Transition from Paper Job Organizing System

I want to start with this because it is critical. If you are starting to use JibberJobber (or any job search CRM or electronic job search tracking system) after you have already been using a paper-based system for days, weeks, or months, DO NOT TRY TO GET EVERYTHING YOU HAVE RECORDED INTO JIBBERJOBBER.

This could take a lot of time, and is generally a frustrating process. Of course, you have collected great information, so I’m not saying get rid of it, but I personally wouldn’t sit down and try to copy everything over to JibberJobber.

I would, however, start to move stuff over as it is relevant. Here’s how:

I would go through my old notes, looking for follow-up opportunities. Let’s say I contacted Joe and Sally two months ago and really should follow up with them. I would use the Email2Log feature, which I might argue will be your favorite feature moving forward, to (a) send them an email with my follow-up message, and (b) get them, and a new Log Entry, into JibberJobber.

This is easier than reading that last sentence. Simply put your special Email2Log address in the BCC field of the email you write to Joe or Sally, and we do all the work for you.

Here’s my big tip: In your follow-up email, include any information you want from your old notes, so that information becomes part of the Log Entry (meaning, you’ll transfer your old notes into JibberJobber). The more details you put in your email, the better. For example:

Sally, thanks again for the conversation we had a couple of months ago. I learned a lot, and have already reached out to Jim, John, and Tiffany, the three people you introduced me to. I’ve had great conversations with them and have found them to be valuable additions to my network.

When we talked you mentioned you were seeing some pretty significant changes to the industry. You mentioned how that might impact Competitor One and Competitor Two, and I’ve seen your predictions play out. That has become significant to me because it has opened up some new opportunities, which I’ve been investigating.

I’d love to have a follow-up conversation, and share what I’ve learned. Can we schedule a call early next week?

In this example you’ll see a lot of details that might have been in my notes from a couple of months ago… and now they’ll be in JibberJobber!

Just by sending an email this way, with Email2Log, you’ll be creating:

  1. A new contact record with first and last name
  2. The right email address under that contact record, important for future use of Email2Log
  3. A Log Entry with relevant information

Pretty soon you’ll find you have all of the important and relevant notes and contacts from your paper system into JibberJobber. As a bonus, you are getting one more touchpoint in with each person… something you should be doing anyway.

For more, check out this blog post I wrote a few years ago: JibberJobber Competition: JibberJobber vs. the Excel Spreadsheet.

How to Log Network Calls in Your Job Search

Okay, back to your first question. I wish we could log calls based on your actual call, tapping into your phone system, etc. But that is just too hairy. We are not a multi-billion dollar organization… so we don’t even have that on our roadmap.

However, the way to do this is as important and easy as what I described earlier: Use Email2Log after every call. Same as before, this ensures you get another touchpoint (follow-up is critical!!) and easily get the right information into JibberJobber.

And, same as before, make sure you write a detailed email including the main points of your conversation. Instead of, “Hey Jason, thanks for your time today! It was awesome!”, I recommend you write something like this:

Jason, thanks for your time today. I feel like we covered a lot of ideas, some of which I’m including in this email. I have more notes than this but wanted to include the highlights.

[put your notes here… maybe bullet points… something that will make sense to you in a year or so when you revisit them]

Also, I’ll make sure to follow-up on the introductions you’ll make to Jose and Pam. And, I already ordered the book you recommended (Shoe Dog, the Phil Knight memoir) and am excited to dig into it!

Thanks again, I’ll be in touch!

In a month or two, when I am set to follow up, I’ll be able to read this Log Entry and see what we talked about, who I was supposed to follow up with, and the book I need to talk about. Much better than “hey, thanks!”, right?

I know this adds a step to each call but IT IS WORTH IT. As you network more, and have more activity in your job search, you will be forever grateful for taking this extra step, and adding detail, to your notes. And, that immediate follow up with that level of detail. But that’s not the only follow up with this person, right? Afterall, we are looking to build our professional network, and these calls shouldn’t be a one-and-done thing. That brings us to the next question…

How to Create Follow Ups in the Job Search

Well, now we are getting to the fun stuff. What I’ve talked about above is the basics of Email2Log. The advanced stuff isn’t hard, but it is very, very cool.

I’m not going to share everything you *could* do, but I’ll tell you how to do this one thing (create a follow up (aka Action Item, aka Reminder)) with your Email2Log. To learn more, watch this short video (Getting Started: Email2Log: Special/Reserved Lines (4.3))

Simple put this line anywhere in the email (I recommend below your signature, and change the font to white if you want it hidden (although if the recipient prints your email, it will likely show on a printout):

startdate:1 week

What you put after startdate: could be absolute (like, a specific date) or relative (like, +1 week, +3 months, etc.).

What happens when you do this? Well, this is just Email2Log with one enhancement… so:

  1. You will create a new contact (unless the contact is already in, in which case it will match the email, and not create a duplicate)
  2. You will create a new Log Entry (like the examples above)
  3. You will create an Action Item date on that Log Entry. This will show up on your JibberJobber calendar, and on the Reminders list.

Easy… super easy. Once you get used to adding that you’ll love it.

And that’s about it. I don’t want to write a novel here, and sorry for how long it already is. But that’s how you move forward from where you are at.

 

 

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When the Job Search Is Like a Puzzle

January 21st, 2021

About a month ago my wife and our youngest kid decided we were a puzzle family. So they bought three puzzles, cleared off the dining room table, and started the first puzzle.

It went well. As it should have. We are (relatively) smart, and we had time. It was fun to spend time on a project as a family. The puzzle finished pretty quickly and I was left wondering “what is this huge hype around the world about doing puzzles? It’s too easy!”

Then, we started the second puzzle. It was way harder. Significantly harder. That’s okay though… we were puzzle rookies, and maybe we just happened to buy the hardest puzzle on the market. Somehow, with persistence, we muscled through it and finished the puzzle. Because, you know, we were smart.

Harry Potter Puzzle Job Search

So then… the third puzzle. We dumped it out on the table, flipped all the pieces right-side-up, and started finding all of the corners and edges. Immediately we realized that about 90% of the pieces all had the same coloring (black or almost black). This Harry Potter puzzle is (we still aren’t done) freaking hard. The pieces are way more varied than the other puzzles we have done. The colors are not helpful. And the way the pieces fit together are different than the other puzzles. We have definitely stepped into a new level of puzzling here. And we have, many times, questioned whether we are indeed a puzzle family or not.

Of course, me being me, I’ve thought about the parallels between our puzzling experiences and the job search. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

The System that Worked Before Won’t Work Every Time

The way I did the first puzzle was WAY different than how I am approaching this puzzle. The first puzzle had so much variety in coloring and patterns of the image that I only looked at the picture. And it worked just fine. But with this puzzle there are probably 50 or 100 pieces that are just plain black. No color patterns or differentiation.

When I started my Big Failed Job Search in 2006 I had to learn completely new tactics than what I thought I would be doing. Gone were the days of buying a newspaper and sitting at the kitchen table circling job ads in the wanted section. No, no, no.

When you start your job search today you’ll learn there are new ways to do things, and that some of the old ways just won’t work anymore.

Learn Job Search Tactics From Others

While working on the last puzzle our neighbor kids were over… a seven and a ten year old girl. I was sitting at the bench and they were on either side of me, standing. They kept saying “oh! I found a swoosh!” with glee. It was exciting for them. I kept looking at the picture of what I was creating and wondering “where in the heck is the swoosh??” After about the tenth time of their excitement I asked: “What is a swoosh?” Like it’s some little girl secret that I wasn’t privy to.

I was honestly shocked when they showed me the swoosh was a certain shape on some puzzle pieces. I realized they didn’t care about the colors of the pieces, or the pattern we were looking for… they ignored both of those. They were looking at the shapes of individual pieces. These girls could have put the puzzle together upside-down because they were looking at how pieces fit together!

And, while I was staring at what was in front of me, making no progress, these girls had put in like 10 pieces. This was the perfect example of learning from others, no matter who they were. In fact, learning from these children opened my eyes in new ways. I invite you to learn from others in your job search. Learn from people outside of your industry. Learn from insiders, old-timers, and as they say in India, “freshers.”

Just learn. Be open to new ideas, methods, approaches, etc. This, by the way, is a life skill that applies to just about everything we do… not just a current job search.

Progress Is Progress

Sometimes we’ll go to bed having put in like 3 or four pieces. Or, none at all (as is the case with this Harry Potter puzzle). I’ve learned that even finding ONE piece can be a major victory. And, over time, with the help of others, one piece leads to two, which leads to three, which leads to a whole section done, and the next thing you know you are putting in that last piece.

In the job search it is easy to feel like we are not making progress at all. We go to bed and think “well, I’ve sent ten emails and left three voice mails and haven’t heard back from anyone.” Dejection. Depression. I know it well.

But, ten emails and three voice mails today, and then again tomorrow, and then again the next day, add up. Eventually you’ll talk to someone. And then you’ll get closer to, as I say, “having the right conversation with the right people.” That is, eventually talking to a hiring manager about an opportunity you are hot on. Which, by the way, what my six week job search program is all about.

I know slow progress is frustrating. Not seeing forward movement is discouraging. Just realize that everything you are doing is moving you closer to your job. I know it doesn’t seem like you’ll ever get there, but you will.

Blaming Everything Becomes the Distraction

When we started one of our recent puzzles we were absolutely sure there were pieces missing. There were about 7 edge pieces missing… and we just couldn’t find them. So we counted puzzle pieces. Have you ever done that? It’s like counting goldfish in a bag (side note: I’ve done this plenty of times, since one of the snakes I owned only ate goldfish… counting goldfish is HARD. Harder than counting chickens :p).

We counted 504 pieces. Oops. Let’s try that again. 507 pieces. Um… we were supposed to get around 493 pieces, but we aren’t just short, we are over. Turns out, we are puzzle-counting-failures. After doing this a few times we just gave up counting. My wife looked up how to report missing pieces, and we finally just realized we should get as far as we could and then figure out what was missing. That seemed to take the romance (or, sense of accomplishment) out of the whole process… but what could we do. Probably never buy from that company again.

Frustration led to blaming the system and vendor and product.

Turns out, we had exactly 500 pieces, and they were all the right pieces. We just put one piece in the wrong place, which caused a chain reaction of bad placements. Once we figured that out we moved groups of edge pieces around and finally got it right. A few days later we had a completed puzzle. All of the time we spent trying to figure out what was broken, and taking the puzzle company’s name in vain, was time misspent. Wasted.

In the job search there are plenty of people to blame. Our last boss for letting us go. The executives for having made bad business decisions. The economy, the government, our “friends” who aren’t helping us get a job at their company, the resume writer we paid, LinkedIn for being dumb, etc. etc. etc. One of the worst targets to blame is OURSELF… for whatever. This leads to self-doubt and all kinds of destructive thinking that isn’t helpful to job seekers.

Blame takes time, and it is generally destructive. Don’t get me wrong: honesty, self-evaluation, and looking at reality are all good and healthy. But don’t make this central to what you need to work on. You need to get a job. You need to figure out what the right tactics are. You need to focus on working those right tactics. Focusing on blame, and letting that consume you, will waste time and make you angry at parties that really don’t deserve your time and energy.

Compartmentalize this for later… for now, focus on the task at hand.

Puzzles, Like the Job Search, Can Be Fun and Rewarding

After all of the frustration of working through a puzzle, putting that last piece in is so rewarding! The sense of accomplishment! The feelings of pushing through the impossible, making slow progress, and finding your groove! The rewards of finishing this trivial little project are hard to explain to people who weren’t involved. But the feelings are real.

This is going to sound weird to some of you, especially introverts, but I’m here to tell you: the job search, with a heavy networking focus, can be really fun! I hated networking until I realized that networking can easily mean deep one-on-one conversations, not going to a conference room with 500 people and being super superficial. I love learning about people, and their lives and history and what drives them and what they are looking for. I love helping people, once I understand how I can help.

The job search can be so lonely. I felt like I was the only one going through the struggle… all of my friends were gainfully employed. I was the ugly duckling. But finding my groove, working through things, and having mini-victories regularly was rewarding. Finishing my job search was rewarding. Small wins were sometimes my lifeline. And the final reward was ending the job search. Enjoy the journey… appreciate your growth and success. This is another life skill.

Vision Is Everything

Everyone who does a puzzle knows how important it is to keep the picture of what you are building in front of you. Usually this is the box the puzzle came in… which is always right next to your puzzle pieces. One of our puzzles had a big “poster” that we could reference. This picture helped us know where a puzzle piece might go. It also helped us keep the end goal in mind.

In the same way, you NEED to have a vision of what you want out of your job search. I recommend visualization tactics: what kind of company do you want to work for? What kind of boss, colleagues, projects, products, customers, schedule, commute, salary, benefits, etc.?

To get through the discouraging tedium of the job search, where you feel like you are making no progress day after day, hanging on to your vision of a brighter tomorrow, and a real reason for doing what you are doing, might be the only thing compelling you to send one more email, or make one more call. Experts and motivational speakers today talk about finding your WHY. Why are you doing things? What is it you are trying to get to, or create? You have to know your why, which will drive everything else you do.

Have a vision, believe in it, and work towards it. Your next job might not fulfill your vision, but could put you on the right path to getting there.

Puzzles and the Job Search

And so there you go. My kids have no idea that while I’m looking for that next black piece I’m really thinking about you, and your job search. My Big Failed Job Search was 15 years ago, but it has left an impression that won’t go away. It was life-changing. Yours might be, too. If nothing else, I hope you come out of this more empathetic towards others struggling in their careers, and with a resolve to be more helpful.

 

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Blogs for Branding: Length of a Post

January 18th, 2021

Blog posts can be as short as you want, and still be effective. Like this one.

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Becoming a Leader: Free Webinar

January 7th, 2021

Next week, on Thursday (1/14/2020) I will be part of a conversation Pluralsight is hosting along with Kevin Miller and Heather MacDonald.

Pluralsight From Individual Contributor to Technical Leader

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“I’ve been laid off 26 times!”

January 6th, 2021

Years ago, at the beginning of my JibberJobber journey, I was in Houston presenting at a few job clubs. I was invited to an outplacement networking group… which was a far cry from the churches I normally presented in.

This outplacement office was swanky. Seriously swanky. It was in a super nice building, on a top floor so it felt like an executive office. No expense was spared. It’s what they call a Class A facility, which means really expensive.

So I get there early and got to chat with a few of the job seekers. One guy said, with a weird mix of pride and conflicting feelings, “I’ve been laid off 26 times! What do you think I should do?”

JibberJobber Job Search Attitudes

“Write a book!” I told him. He was thinking how bad it was to be laid off 26 times… maybe he chose the wrong companies to go to, maybe economy happened, maybe Enron happened… but 26 times has to take a hit at your moral. When I said write a book I was looking at it from the other side: he had found a job 26 times! He was an expert in finding and landing jobs!

I often wondered what he would write in his book (which I’m sure he never wrote). Job search ideas, tactics, strategies, and attitudes that only someone like him, who lived through the emotional rollercoaster 26 times, could write.

This morning I was chatting with a friend and colleague about a pending job offer that was at a small, funded startup. She was concerned that working at a startup was risky… riskier than working at, say, a Fortune 500 company.

My advice came down to this: you have to understand your own risk tolerance. Then, figure out if the risk is worth it. Startups don’t inherently mean you’ll get laid off any more than Fortune 500 means you’ll have job security. I’d say the job security risk is about the same.

As we were chatting I remembered the 26 layoffs guy. I thought that perhaps the most important takeaway he could leave us is to be mentally prepared to always be looking for a job. Not necessarily applying, but you should always be networking. Always reinforcing and strengthening your personal brand. And eventually, when the time is right, get your multiple income streams up and running.

Really. I think more important that job search strategies (which will change with time) is the attitude that we have. Looking for job security? That’s probably the wrong thing to look for. Instead, figure out what you can do to be more hirable. How can you tap into the “hidden job market?” How can you have a presence in the right communities, EVEN IF you are an introvert? What skills can you work on to make yourself a more appealing hire?

Attitude over tactics. I’ve never thought about it that way before, but if you have the wrong attitude then tactics won’t matter that much… because you’ll just be back to “searching” sooner than you want.

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