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The Dangers of the “Average of 5” Rule

I have learned profound wisdom from Jim Rohn, but one thing he taught, which many other coaches echo, is that we are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time. The advice around this is to surround yourself with people who already have aspects of the life that you want for yourself to elevate your station in life.

One study confirmed that it’s not only the five people closest to you, but also the people who are close to them, and so on. The reason, they identified, was norms. “Your perception of what is… acceptable … and your behavior changes” according to what you see more regularly.

A few dangers could arise from following the “average of 5” rule too strictly. Let’s explore some of them.

On one hand, if you aspire to be a visionary entrepreneur, by all means, seek out opportunities to spend time among visionary entrepreneurs. Spending time with people who have achieved what you aspire to achieve is one great way to keep you motivated, and it serves as a pull rather than a push. It will also most likely shorten your path from current reality to achieving your desired reality if you can learn from them how to overcome challenges, navigate most successfully, and expand your sphere of influence to include people in theirs.

On the other hand, people use this “average of 5” rule to justify cutting poor or unambitious people out of your life. I do agree that, while very hard, it’s important for self-preservation to put distance between you and toxic people in your life – those who seem to intentionally make you feel bad, whether conscious or subconscious. However, we know it happens – some people make it big and forget where they came from. They lose touch with the struggles of everyday people. It’s why self-aware executives participate in the show Undercover Boss. Even if you don’t intend to, you can forget the reality of not having money, status, luxury items and vacations, etc.

Yet another problem is that sometimes people do get left behind, and you can’t make and keep any guarantees.

Sometimes naturally, just as a byproduct of growing and changing your lifestyle, things you once had in common with people shift. You can become people that no longer have the same struggles that originally bonded you. The bonds can weaken and you could become unrelatable to each other. Sometimes ego is in the way of someone else wanting more for you (e.g. why should you get what they don’t have). Other times, people will “punch holes” in your plans because they fear losing you. They fear you changing or they fear being left behind. In another possible scenario, they could genuinely believe that you’re more likely to fail than succeed, which is really a reflection of their norms, and they are trying to “save you” from getting hurt or disappointed.

When people get left behind, the divide can widen. Feelings of hurt can manifest as anger and resentment. One person can turn the rest of your old crew against you.

Now, on the bright side, people can just as easily become more likely to succeed because you do – the same way you are more likely to smoke or gain weight along with those closest to you. So it stands to reason that if you intend to follow this advice, and cut out or intentionally distance yourself from these people who are below your measure of achievement, then their chances of being positively impacted by your success is much less.

Another danger is falling into a new crowd that may elevate your pay or status, but denigrate your core values. If you are not mindful of keeping your norms aligned with your values, you may start to lose touch with your values and act in ways that start to seem acceptable, because more of your close contacts act in those ways, even if they are in direct conflict to what you had decided individually were your values. Think about the celebrity college scandal. Even in that illegal situation, one person allegedly involved couldn’t see what was wrong with it – everyone was doing it.

Still more dangerous is this “go get yours,” “rugged individualism,” “drop the baggage holding you down” mentality.  While we are fighting as a nation about how to deal with mass shootings, seeing how we put controls on guns without taking away freedoms, and knowing that mental illnesses are on the rise and also contribute. What to do about this seems to escape us, except to try to strip away the stigma so that we can get that conversation going. Leaving people behind can also be dangerous.

There is another way to look at this. As per my last blog about raising corporate consciousness, just as people can elevate so much further in income and status and become removed from their poorer or less ambitious connections, people can also evolve too far in consciousness and lose touch.

Not all of us will be monks or spiritual gurus and live a life detached from material things altogether. It seems so far fetched. Most of us will not risk our 9-5 jobs, healthcare, etc. to chase butterflies, so to speak. However, some people have found ways to live in which their lifestyles are provided for as a result of imparting their wisdom to a following or tribe. Though the average everyday person* can certainly glean wisdom from these teachers, there is too much dissonance from the current reality of a guru to the current reality of an everyday person for a guru to serve as a true model.

* Let’s define the everyday person as someone who works for someone else to generate their income, carries some debt, follows a budget out of necessity, and would need a loan for very large purchases. This person may have religious beliefs but is not necessarily living according to them at all moments. Life is challenging, and sometimes also very time-consuming. So much so that self-care, self-reflection, and spiritual practices are sacrificed.

We need people at various levels in the middle to serve as ladders, to stay relatable and somewhat in resonance with the lower levels to inspire them to elevate.

So, if you’ve heard this advice and it felt wrong to assess your friends and family’s worthiness of being close to you, honor those feelings. Do bring new people into your sphere of influence to help you elevate, but keep your hand outreached to those below. Not everyone will be willing to take your hand, especially if your rise has been less than gracious. However, work with the willing, and, based on the science backing up the “average of 5” rule, gradually more and more will elevate at their own pace.

Pearl Jam – You Are

Pearl Jam – “You Are” (Riot Act Album) unoficial video clip

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a 13-year-old leadership and career development firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where some of her students won the 2018 national competition, were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, and won the 2019 People’s Choice Award. 

10 Reasons NOT to Apply for Jobs Online

Applying online is a dangerous job search habit, and one that can really restrict your opportunity and chances of landing something that is truly a great career move. Even though job seekers are taught and told over and over again by career experts like myself that applying online is a last resort, it remains a go-to resource for job seekers.

I believe there are three primary reasons for this:

  1. In this world of instant gratification, it seems to easy to resist the low hanging fruit. It seems logical to assume that you have to “strike while the iron is hot!” It’s really a case of FOMO (fear of missing out.) The thing is, fear is not a good emotion to make truly logical decisions. I will lay down some logic here that I hope will strike a chord and make obvious that applying to positions you find online is really the last activity you should invest time in.
  2. Habits run on autopilot in your subconscious mind. You may just go on applying without giving it much conscious thought. When I work with clients on their campaign, coaching and habit tracking tools are necessary to install a new workflow that will eventually run on autopilot – one that actually produces great results, reinforces your value, builds confidence and hope, and generates momentum with even less time and effort. These positive results further reinforce the more effective workflow until they become automatic. This turns career management into a pull rather than a push. However, if people are unaware of their automatic programming, it will continue to run undisrupted.
  3. The investment of time in more proactive, targeted efforts to pursue a role seems to feel and look like a delay to being in action. People get antsy knowing there’s a desirable position open and they’re not on record as being in the candidate pool. It’s true – the alternatives to applying online can take more time than simply clicking a button to apply. However, sometimes online job applications are time consuming and they still don’t get you any closer to being considered, let alone being in demand.

Still, here are the top 10 reasons why fighting the impulse to apply online will help your chances of positioning yourself as a real contender for the ultimate offer.

#1 – The Chances Your Application is Seen by Human Eyes

The quality of online applicants compared to the quality of employee referrals, in addition to other metrics that are more frequently tracked like time to onboard, have taught astute hiring professionals that their time is best invested proactively pursuing referrals from trusted talent and contacts while applications roll in as a last resort. Candidates who apply online will often only get looked at after internal candidates, referrals from employees, referrals from friends, and submitted candidates from approved recruiting vendors.

If you are a “cold” candidate, you have to rely on luck and keyword optimization to push you toward the top of the results in the case that referrals don’t pan out. This makes your résumé a tool that can either help you or hurt you, depending on how well it is written to match keywords. This doesn’t give you a whole lot of power to make something happen.

#2 – The Chances of You Getting Hired

Then, if your application is seen by human eyes, those keywords better show up in a context to validate the strength of your qualifications, at a minimum, and your unique value and culture fit, at best. If there are any anomalies in your experience, such as gaps or shorter stints, you have to cross your fingers that there aren’t applicants who appear equally or more qualified, and less risky. You can be moved from a “maybe” pile to a “no” pile quickly.

#3 – Inadequate Competitive Positioning

Even if you do get into the “yes” pile, you have no idea what the human’s perspective is on what position you are in to get an interview. I hope your LinkedIn profile is branded to help you make a strong case for why you’re a great hire and that other candidates don’t come from more trusted sources. It’s not always beneficial to interview first, but if the interviewer doesn’t have any insight as to who you are beyond your résumé, the interview will be conducted somewhat generically compared to how they would conduct the interview if someone had given you a strong endorsement or even if you had been able to effectively endorse yourself in a cover letter. From this position, the interviewer is then more interested in selling you the opportunity than in validating your résumé and mitigating the risk of the unknown that cold candidates present.

#4 – Nullifying Employee Referral Bonuses

While so many top companies have employee referral bonus programs and cite employee referrals as their top source of great talent, they are often under-leveraged, poorly promoted, and disorganized efforts. That means that when there is an opening in a company on your target list, even if you’ve given someone there a heads up that you’re interested, they won’t be made aware of the job opening, and they won’t be proactively seeking out opportunities to refer people for internal roles. I have certainly informed several people who were unaware that their company even offered an employee referral bonus, even though it was on their company’s employee or career page.

We’re all time starved, so it often takes incentives to get people to act on your behalf. Some of these employee referral bonuses can be over $1,000. I don’t know many people who wouldn’t want an extra $1,000 for spending a couple minutes referring someone. Of course, you will have had to reassure them that you will be a strong candidate and a good hire for them to stake their social capital on you.

If you are already an applicant, some employee referral bonus programs will not give credit to an internal referral source.

#5 – Disqualifying Recruiters from Presenting You

It’s certainly more beneficial for you to be recommended by an employee with social capital and clout, but some recruiters have done a fantastic job of building rapport and credibility with hiring managers. That’s why being presented for opportunities by a trusted recruiter may give you a bit of an edge over all the other cold candidates. A recruiter’s job, after all, is to weed out unqualified or unfitting candidates and whittle a candidate pool down to 4 or so top contenders.

When a great recruiter has a strong relationship and understanding of his or her client, the candidates submitted by him or her get top consideration. Of course, you’ll want to qualify your recruiters, and be forthright about where you have already applied. The clients will not involve themselves in any candidate ownership battles. Most of them are clear that only new candidates can be presented by their recruiting vendors; the company already “owns” candidates that come in directly through their career site or other job boards.

#6 – HR Arbitrary Check Boxes

As Liz Ryan pointed out on Twitter last week:

Liz Ryan on Twitter

A hiring manager – that is, your possible future boss – has a completely different perspective and set of of needs from whatever HR is looking for in their tick-a-box exercises. That’s why you have to reach your hiring manager directly, and skip the online job application

 

Why is that? Well, a number of reasons. Just like recruiters can have a solid reputation with hiring managers, they can also lose credibility with hiring managers. Still, they are required to comply with HR procedures, so they will pass along the minimal required details to get HR started on pre-qualifying candidates just in case their network or own individual efforts fail to produce quality candidates, who may or may not get a fair shake.

Another reason is that hiring managers are just more intimately familiar with the nuances of the job and what kinds of people, personalities, and talents lend themselves to success, but the internal HR system doesn’t allow for those nuances to be articulated. It can be too time consuming to communicate those nuances, or the hiring manager isn’t able to articulate them for one reason or another.

Still another possible reason is that passing along check lists is the only way companies have thought of to eliminate having to review unqualified people. They choose things they believe will help improve the chances of hiring someone able to ramp up quickly. At the same time, they systematically rule out people with unconventional careers who can add truly unique value.

A hiring manager has more latitude and perspective to see how out-of-the-box candidates might be able to add something to their team that conventional candidates can’t – IF they have vision, that is.

#7 – Time Suck

You might consider job activities a numbers game, but this is one of the huge myths that lead job seekers to become frustrated and discouraged. When it comes to ROI (return-on-investment) of time in your job search, online applications return the fewest results. Even the results they do produce can be a crap shoot in terms of opportunities that represent your best chances at thriving and succeeding in your new role.

If you invest time based on the probability of that resource producing quality results, you would spend 80% of your time networking (the right way) and 5% of your time on online job boards and filling out applications. After three weeks doing this, you will see your momentum shift at least 3 points on a 1-10 scale.

Limbo sucks. Change is hard. It might seem like applying online will be your best bet at a quick transition, especially if you have reached a senior level in your position. However, you will find that building momentum toward really GOOD opportunities takes more effort, more time and more energy when you’re spending most of your time online.

#8 – The Emotional Abyss

This is the real heartbreaking thing about online-driven job campaigns.  People start to question their worth, their viability, and their chances at improving their financial status. When online campaigns fail, people will blame themselves. This heightens the emotional stress of interviews, impeding your performance. Each interview feels like it “has” to work out. You may find yourself overselling yourself for opportunities that you wouldn’t even consider if you had a competing offer. You may even think you have to make yourself look less qualified. All of the visions of growing and developing in your career seem unlikely, like pipe dreams you have to abandon. You might feel like you’re letting your family down. Worse, you’ll feel like you’re letting yourself down.

In this emotional state, it’s much easier for unethical, inhuman employers to take advantage of your desperation. You may find yourself in a much worse situation, feeling stuck, feeling victimized – unaware that you can actually take control and make something happen.

It’s the whole negative tailspin of career confidence that is the worst part of relying on online efforts to produce results. You’ll never even know how great you could have had it, and you’re unlikely to believe you can have it any better.

Watching my mom go through this emotional abyss is why I do this work in the first place. It seriously breaks my heart.

#9 – The Flood of Irrelevant, Illegitimate Inquiries

I do recommend that my clients set up agents on job boards, and that they set aside 15-30 minutes twice a week to go through them all at once. This helps them better identify redundant postings, and decreases the chances they are persuaded by opportunities that don’t fit what they said they wanted.

Job boards are very misleading representations of how much opportunity is available. You might be tempted to pursue something that is not something you’d otherwise consider, as stated above, and that includes the flood of inquiries that you get to your profile on these job boards that are huge wastes of time disguised as “great opportunities for growth and income.”

Consider this – if technology has not progressed far enough to automatically send you relevant, legitimate opportunities that fit the criteria you entered, how well do you think it’s performing for recruiters in search of candidates? Even AI hasn’t yet made a dent in the quality of results.

#10 – It Is Passive and Inactive

Online resources keep you sedentary and tied to your computer, which isn’t great for your health or mood. Surrendering your power to some unknown force on the other end of an application also isn’t beneficial to you. The best job searches turn fun into results. Spend less time grinding away, and more time on self-care and enriching your life with new contacts.

If you don’t find networking fun, you’re probably not networking with your people. You also probably don’t know what to say that will inspire them to take action, and you were likely disappointed by people who weren’t able or willing to help you in the past.

Networking is not supposed to look like superficial schmoozing with people you don’t like. It’s more like a scavenger hunt that’s more fun with friends – a way to find the people who need you through people who like you and vice versa.


The bottom line when it comes to online campaigns is that there are just better, smarter, and more empowering ways to get yourself closer to the opportunities that are really right for you.

If you’re unsure what they are, I’ve embedded links to helpful articles throughout this post, but you can always reach out to me for some custom insights by scheduling a free consultation.

Mariah Carey – Make It Happen (Official Video)

Music video by Mariah Carey performing Make It Happen. YouTube view counts pre-VEVO: 21,232 (C) 1991 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT #MariahCarey #MakeItHappen #Vevo

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a 13-year-old leadership and career development firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where some of her students won the 2018 national competition, were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, and won the 2019 People’s Choice Award. 

Top 5 Reasons Why All of Your Efforts to Land a Job Are Failing

Business woman working on laptop in her office by perzon seo on Flickr

This is going to sound backwards, and I don’t blame you if you find it hard to believe at first, but give me a chance and I will prove that there is a way to do LESS, have MORE FUN, and get the BEST job possible, in spite of the fact that you have been doing everything possible, perhaps even everything you have been advised to do, and have not enjoyed or sustained momentum in your job search.

There is a huge misconception out there that if you are out of work, you need to HUSTLE. And yet, so many job seekers feel as though they are doing everything right, but not being offered the jobs that they feel are the best suited for them. Some receive offers they know are not the best suited, but accept them anyway. This is the cause for the 69% disengagement rate that causes US companies to lose over $400B annually.

If you have applied to over 100, even 50 jobs, and have yet to receive an offer, one of the following, or a combination of the following, are most likely the reason:

  1. Your efforts are not the right efforts

It never fails when I speak to a group of job seekers. I ask the question, “How many of you have heard that networking is the #1 way to find a job?” and everyone raises their hands.  Then I ask, “How many of you are spending at least 50% of your job search on job board or filling out online applications?” and 75-100% of the room raise their hands.

Even when they know that networking is the most effective way to find a job, they spend a small percentage of their time networking and a majority of the time on resources that only have a 5-10% chance of turning into an opportunity. And, even if they are networking, most are doing that ineffectively, either meekly asking for favors instead of boldly articulating their value, or collecting and distributing cards to essentially spam people, instead of asking rapport-building questions, nurturing their networks by providing value, and then inspiring contacts to generate leads based on the value to the employer.

I also think that many people have an inflated idea of how much time effective networking takes and that it has to look a certain way, for instance like schmoozing with people you wouldn’t normally associate with, or sucking up to people for whom you don’t have any respect or admiration. While it is outside of many people’s comfort zone, it can look a lot more like you engaging in fun and/or purposeful activities, even unrelated to your profession, and in small groups versus big events.

Spend over 60% of your time on people, who will always be much more powerful advocates than technology. Also, be proactive in your pursuit of a job over 60% of the time rather than passively filling out online applications and hitting buttons. You get what you give.

  1. Your goal is not the right goal

People are not as good actors as they imagine themselves to be. People can also genuinely believe that they are pursuing a noble goal, even if it is not the right goal for them. If you experience challenges pursuing a particular position, ask yourself if you are targeting the right position. You may have decided that something else you really wanted to do wasn’t viable, it would take too long to land or wouldn’t pay enough, but it’s actually the right thing, the thing you will attract like a magnet, and your best chance of increasing your income trajectory in the long-term. A job that utilizes your strengths and allows you to pursue a passion represents your best chances at success, but also happiness and fulfillment. Sometimes things don’t just happen TO us, they happen FOR us.  No good company wants to hire you for a consolation career.

This applies not only for pursuing the wrong position, but also the wrong employer. You don’t need to appeal to all companies in an industry if only a few of them would recognize you as a fit for their culture. Decide ahead of time what cultures you fit into and be proactive in pursuing them.

  1. Your brand is stale

So many people stop short of distinguishing themselves from their competition, feeling as though their qualifications are strong enough to make them an obvious choice. If you were on the hiring end, though, you would realize that there are a good crop of people with the qualifications to do the job. The one that gets the furthest the fastest, and ultimately the offer, is the one who can create excitement and a sense of urgency based on what they bring above and beyond meeting the requirements of the job. Your brand needs to be genuine and distinct.

It can be challenging to be objective about whether you are distinguishing yourself or not. So many people think if they call themselves “driven,” “a team player,” “passionate,” “a leader,” or “creative” that this is adequate branding. It isn’t. It’s probably true, but it isn’t distinct.

I have found that there are 4-6 major distinctions every person has that will help them rise above the rest. It’s frequently not WHAT they do, but HOW or even WHY. Everyone has his or her own unique set of experiences. This is where you have to dig to find the artifacts and evidence of your unique value.

  1. You are being perceived as a risky candidate

How critical, skeptical, even cynical recruiters and hiring managers are is vastly underestimated by job seekers. There are often more risk signals between a job seeker’s résumé and social media than there are value signals. As soon as the scale tips more toward risk, the job seeker gets passed over. What also gets underestimated is how clued in recruiters are to the tactics people use to hide risk factors. Instead of sweeping a risk factor under a rug, they often put bright red tape right on it.

Look, no candidate is going to be perfect, but the riskier candidate is the one that can’t admit where the imperfections are/were. If you can’t admit it, you can’t demonstrate your ability to learn from mistakes and even help companies prevent them.

You want MOST of the focus on value, but if there is a risk factor, such as being fired, having a visible project fail, experiencing long-term unemployment, or even having personal events interfere with work, then you need to craft a simple, relatable story based on facts that is appropriate to tell in various media, such as in your résumé (perhaps), your LinkedIn profile, or when networking or interviewing.

While some risks are common, how you might address them is very particular to your circumstances and target employer. If you want specific advice, I recommend a complimentary 40-minute consultation and some one-on-one branding and campaign assistance.

  1. Your mindset is out of alignment

We give off vibes. We pick up vibes. Even the most scientific, empirical people among us will admit that we get vibes from people. In fact, as I demonstrated in a previous post, science can actually explain why this is.  Maya Angelou said, “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Positive psychologist Shawn Achor proved that negativity and stress are contagious with an experiment at an airport. I don’t spend a lot of time talking to my clients about non-verbal communication tactics or things that they can do to manipulate the interviewer into alignment. None of these things has to be manufactured when there is real alignment, so that is what I coach my clients on. This is not “positive thinking,” which doesn’t fool anyone, including yourself. This is learning how to accept what is, truly appreciate yourself and know your own value, genuinely connect and empathize with the other person, trust in God (or the Universe, or whatever you believe is operating in your world,) and inspiring the support of others. You can’t put a band-aid on stress and anxiety and expect that no one will know it’s there. Others can feel it. And even if you walk in to an interview fully confident, there could be that one question you dread, and it can all go downhill from there. Your stress responses will take over and even if you learned how to tactically shift your non-verbal communication, you will forget or execute poorly.

If you network or interview without a fortified mindset, it can not only sabotage the results you want, but it can be a big waste of time and can make you feel worse, making it that much harder to get into a state of mind that lubricates your efforts and creates ease in getting results.

 

There are things that can be done just prior to an event or interview to help with mindset, but even the things you do behind a computer can be much more effective if you do them with a fortified mindset. Another Shawn Achor study proved that investing 10 minutes in meditation actually creates 62 minutes of productivity.  Exercising prior to doing work is another hack to improve your mindset, make you less vulnerable to getting thrown off your game, and boost your IQ.

Bananarama-It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It)

The band’s 1982 release with Fun Boy Three

Dear Soon-To-Be Graduates: The Last 2 of 7 Things You May Not Want to Know, But Need To

Graduation Day by MD Saad Andalib of Flickr

The big day is arriving soon, dear graduates.  You will be a full-fledged member of the “real world.”

Some of you are ready, while others are scared to death. The difference between the two groups is outlook. The ones who are ready perceive the real world will be able to offer them more than childhood or college life, such as independence and self-reliance.

I considered myself in the other group – the scared group. I perceived that the real world was harsh, and success was not necessarily dependent on my effort and talent, but on my aggressiveness, competitiveness, and self-preservation.

This was so unappealing to me, and I did not feel very powerful or self-reliant. As the youngest child and only girl, I was taught to be afraid of the world, that there are situations and places I should avoid, like the city. At nearly 40-years-old, my father still worries about me going to the city. He thinks I’m naïve. I’m not – I receive alerts of assaults where I go to work in the city every week. I grew in my awareness of a self-limiting belief that was formed by this conditioning and decided it was not truthful. I did not have to let other people take opportunities that the city offered so that I could stay safe in my suburb – which is equally untruthful.

There were a number of things I perceived about the real world that limited my early career growth, and one that I did not realize, but got lucky and unlucky in how things worked out.  Here are two things that I want to share with you that might have made a big difference to me, had I known them.

  1. The demands of life will become greater; enjoy yourself, but put in the effort to be a reliable performer.

It is very hard to help you form a realistic expectation of how limited your freedom will be once you settle in to family life, if that is the life you choose. Some may express resentment, in fact, for how free you are. As long as your personal activities do not interfere with your professional obligations, take advantage of this time in your life – travel, socialize, be civically engaged, volunteer, delve into your passions – whatever they are.

Attend conferences and make great new contacts. Maintaining relationships will become more challenging, even if you do not choose a family life, because OTHER people will, and that will limit their availability and freedom to connect. The more you connect and engage with people now, the stronger your bonds will be, and the easier it will be to reconnect with people after some time passes. You may not see some of your best friends more than once a year. This is okay, but do not give up on people because they become busy. In fact, it will take more effort as you age, but it is just as necessary, maybe even more so, to maintain these relationships.

Keep your word – it is your key to long-term success. If you say you are going to do something, deliver. Last week I shared how as you grow older it will seem harder to procure the help of others, because people generally grow more skeptical, if not cynical. However, if you have impressed people as a person of your word, and you come through for people (if they are given proper direction and inspiration), they will be more apt to come through for you, too. Making an extra effort on someone else’s behalf requires time. Many perceive time as a resource they already lack. To make it an effort they are willing to make, you have to be WORTH the effort. Use your youth to establish yourself as a person worthy of the effort of others. Remember to express gratitude to those who invest their time helping you grow and develop. Look for ways to give that value back and pay it forward.

  1. It will become less acceptable for you to not know what you want as years pass.

As you gain professional experience, it is expected that you will discover what you like and do not like in terms of role, culture, boss, structure, and environment. As you gain valuable skills and experience, the investment of hiring you increases, and the stakes for your employer become higher. Retention and engagement determine if a company receives a return on their investment in talent, so they will want to ensure that your intended career path coincide with the current AND future opportunities that they can offer you.

Though it was relatively early in my career when I discovered a field that lit my proverbial fire (coaching), I was also too early to have enough experience to be credible and effective. I had to spend several years learning more about how to make success more likely and failure less likely. Because I knew my ultimate goal and my reasons for staying in recruiting, I was able to ask for greater opportunities to interface with the clients (employers), and ask questions that helped me do my job better, but also learn more about how hiring managers in diverse organizations qualified top contenders and chose which one received the offer.

Then, when I started coaching at age 28, it was challenging to convey that I was senior, mature, experienced, knowledgeable, and credible enough to attract the volume of clients I expected. If I had not been so sure, however, that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing, that I had found the career where I could make an optimal contribution, I would have struggled (even more) to survive, and would likely NOT have survived to be celebrating 11 years in business in a couple of weeks.  By the way – I had a coach that helped me maintain my “true north” when challenges threatened to sway me wayward.

I had a nephew that died at 28. I have lost over a dozen classmates. You may feel like you have your whole career to figure out what you want to do, but I urge you to invest time EARLY and OFTEN assessing where you can be the most successful, happy, and effective.

 

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is NOW.  If you are NOT a soon-to-be graduate and you are just now learning these lessons, there is still time to have them make a difference for you.

What lessons would you share with future business rock stars?

 

Dear Soon-To-Be Graduates: 5 of 7 Things You May Not Want to Know, But Need To, Part 2

Respect – Undergrad Graduation by m00by of Flickr

 

It probably sounds a bit condescending, this, “Take it from me; this is how the world works” post. You are probably sick of that, huh?

Well, don’t tune out, because this is just what I wish I knew, and if I had, I might be much further along in my mission, which would actually mean that the fixes to what is broken in careering and hiring would be available and applied already. When I put it that way, can you see the butterfly effect of NOT knowing this?

So, here are two more things that, if I would have known then, I would have been much more prepared and confident to confront the “real world,” instead of wasting time avoiding it. And, yes, there are two more tidbits of advice that I will share next week. (Be sure to read the first part of this series, if you missed it.)

 

  1. At this moment, if you make a humble yet concerted attempt, you will find it easy to get advice, find a mentor, get inside information on the workings of companies that can help you get hired and succeed.

When I was advised that networking was the number one way to get a job, I was very discouraged. I did not come from a well-connected family. I did not perceive my inner circle to be influential, and I also did not feel confident that I was anyone who could make a strong enough impression to impress a stranger. That is what I thought networking was, and it seemed so inauthentic to me – shaking hands, schmoozing, BSing, bragging… I was more content to avoid corporate jobs, politics, and bureaucracy. I thought pursuing a career in radio was a way to do that.

I was NAÏVE.

Here is what I wish I had known – People LOVE helping other people! If I had seen it more as asking for advice and mentorship, I would have found that, whether I asked a stranger or an acquaintance, the percentage of the time I asked for help, I would have received it.

See, I thought most people were getting it all WRONG! I thought they were foolish to play along with this “dog and pony show” (the actual words of one of my former interns) only to get STUCK in corporate servitude for the sake of keeping up with the Joneses. So, I did not bother asking for advice.

I was POMPOUS and STUBBORN.

I just had not known many people who were fulfilled and happy in their corporate jobs, but that did not mean they did not exist. I did not know at the time I would even want that someday, but if I had taken the opportunity to sit down with someone in human resources or recruiting (the corporate kind, not the MLM kind – I did that!) to learn about skills required, the challenges, and the triumphs, it would have altered my past, present, and future.

Though I do feel I am exactly where I am supposed to be and believe that all things happen in their own good time, my curiosity will always lead me to wonder where I would be if…

When you are in college or beginning your career, people see you as very moldable, and will want to help you now more than ever.  As you grow in your career, it’s strange, but not as many people will make the time to help you – some still will, and it is worth asking, but there seems to be a more worthwhile endeavor in helping a young person. Perhaps it seems too hard to change a more experienced person, or perhaps there is an increased perception that you are competition. Either way, obtain as much support and advice as you can right now, and furthermore, FOLLOW UP on that advice. The more you reward people for taking the time by making it pay off, the more people will be willing to help you in the future. Also, pay it forward. In fact, the fastest way to learn is to teach. You do not have to be in a position of power to be in a position to help.

 

  1. No one expects you to know it all, but be prepared to PROVE what you do know.

As I have mentioned before, those that hire a lot tend to be skeptical, if not cynical. If you genuinely do not know an answer, it is best to admit it. There is the famous saying, “fake it till you make it,” and that has paid off for some people, but you should also note that many well-respected leaders do not know the ins and outs of the jobs underneath them, but they know how to hire, trust, nurture and support experts, and can get answers when they are needed. Being resourceful is much more valuable than being all-knowing, and easier to believe, too.

As far as what you do know, that will have to be proven. If you merely state that you have X skill, without a clear demonstration of how you used that skill to add value, you are leaving much to be guessed, and you want them CERTAIN of your skills. So, make sure you explain what you are capable of DOING with that skill to clearly convey your strength.

 

Next week I will share two more wisdom bombs to help graduates accelerate their professional growth. By the time you are 30, the “cool kids” are the ones who are rock stars at their jobs and can afford a great lifestyle.  It is okay to be a late bloomer like I was, but trial and error in your career can have a cost you will NEVER know.

Please share what you want today’s graduates to know.