Five Thoughts For Friday

ONE: Weekend HW Find an accountability partner. Recruit one person to support, encourage, and motivate you in your job search. This can be a friend, another job seeker, or a coach/counselor. Just be sure to choose someone who can be objective with you — and critical of your efforts — when they need to be. That role might be too difficult for a spouse/partner.

TWO: 2019 could be the year of big changes for you. If you are having difficulty finding a job in your area, consider relocation. If you live in an area with high unemployment — especially in your industry — consider whether moving to another city, state, or region would improve your chances of getting hired.

THREE: Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, and others make it happen. You know which one you want to be. Stop thinking and start doing!

FOUR: Job searching can be lonely, especially if you are used to a busy work environment. But you don’t have to go it alone. Get the support of a team to help you. Ask your family and friends to support you. Join a job club. Use the services offered by your city, county, or state employment office. Contact your university alumni association….or hire a resume writer or career coach. *cough cough*

FIVE: Job searching is hard, especially as time rolls on and you are still looking. So be honest with yourself. Recognize that your motivation is going to increase and decrease, depending on the success (or lack of success) you are having in reaching your job search goal. Reward yourself for effort, not for results. Build in break, treats, rewards.

Career Advice From Ralph Waldo Emerson

Pick up any book of quotes, or one of those ubiquitous quote-a-day calendars and you are sure to stumble upon Ralph Waldo Emerson. He is one of those authors who everyone quotes, but few actually read. Even if you are unfamiliar with his body of work you’ve most likely heard the famous line, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” This comes from his essay, Self Reliance.

Emerson (1803 – 1882) was an American philosopher, essayist, and poet who is best remembered for championing the Transcendentalist movement. He was a strong proponent of individualism and a critic of the pressures of society. He published dozens of essays and gave more than 1,500 public lectures across America throughout his lifetime.

I came across an author recently who was extolling the virtues of reading Emerson. He even went so far as to claim he was one of the wisest philosophers he had read. I went through a brief period of being infatuated with the ideas of the Transcendentalists in college but had not given the movement, or its leader, much thought since. So I dug out my college text and reread Self Reliance. Much of it still held appeal, though some of Emerson’s thinking seems lacking to me now. On the whole though there is some solid advice that one can apply to their life and career.  I’ll attempt to show where I think he gets it right and where he may be over-reacting to prevailing traditions of his time.

While Self Reliance has no section headings, the essay falls into three basics sections.

Education vs. Experience

The first can be summarized as the importance of self-reliance. He stresses individual experience over any knowledge gained from books or teachers. This is the core of self-reliance, that you rely on your own thoughts and ideas and not simply regurgitate what you have read or heard from others. I can certainly see the appeal of this kind of individualism, especially when you consider the world in which Emerson lived.

Emerson’s America was still laboring under the specter of self-doubt in its own intellectual and structural integrity. Many in America, if not most, still considered themselves essentially European. There had yet to be a truly American philosophical movement. For Emerson to place such a high regard in one’s own ideas rather than the older traditions of Europe makes perfect sense.

However, to discount all the wisdom of the past in favor of current thought, which while Emerson does not expressly state as his aim, is nonetheless the natural extension of this philosophy, seems folly. Emerson wants us to trust ourselves and that if we are to reply on other’s judgment rather than our own we are somehow being cowardly. What he does not take into account is that our own thoughts, ideas and morals need a formative structure.

Our inner instincts are not always correct; many would argue that they are rarely correct. Humanity needs a foundation of values around which to base its systems. Emerson discounts this entirely, believing instead that we should apply our own standards to what we see rather than any societal norms.

“No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature . . . the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it.”

This is the beginnings of our current moral ambiguity. According to Emerson there is no real right or wrong; objective-ism is being replaced by moral relativism. Again, I sympathize with a desire to break from certain stale traditions as America was just starting to spread its wings, but taken to its logical conclusion Emerson’s idea of individualism leads us down, what I feel, is a dangerous road.

Career lesson: Today, as in Emerson’s time, we have a natural tendency to want to be told the next step. We read books on success that are heavy on story, but light on actionable advice. We follow blogs that promise -10 Steps to Financial Freedom- and expect to be sitting on a beach in six months. We are a society that wants success-now! But Emerson is wrong in saying all we need to do is listen to our inner voice. The truth is, success takes time and requires both an understanding of traditional and classic principles and hard-won experience.

Consistency vs. Adaptability

However, Emerson does have some things to say that I feel can be applied to modern business realities from which we could learn quite a bit. I’d like to point out one area where I think Emerson has something significant to teach the modern 21st century citizen of the world.

Emerson’s idea of consistency has to do with the inability of some people to allow their views to evolve. He believes that striving to remain consistent over time to views you held in the past saps you of creativity and doesn’t let your true personality come through. He goes on to say that, even worse, are those who belong to a groups whose opinions you share and to which you remain utterly consistent.

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — `Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”

One need look no farther than the modern business world to see this dynamic at work. Too often companies refuse to evolve, instead holding on to what worked in the past. While on the one hand we want companies to stand for something and not simply twist in the winds of fads and trends, we also need managers and executives capable of analyzing the world as it shows itself and make conclusions.

We could do worse than heed Emerson’s advice and look for men and women of character not simply consistency. It is people of character- character which can only be developed through an honest accounting of views and opinions held in youth that may need to be changed over time- who move the world forward.

“Character, reality, reminds you of nothing else; it takes place of the whole creation. The man must be so much, that he must make all circumstances indifferent. Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age; requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his design; — and posterity seem to follow his steps as a train of clients. A man Caesar is born, and for ages after we have a Roman Empire. Christ is born, and millions of minds so grow and cleave to his genius, that he is confounded with virtue and the possible of man. An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man; as, Monachism, of the Hermit Antony; the Reformation, of Luther; Quakerism, of Fox; Methodism, of Wesley; Abolition, of Clarkson. Scipio, Milton called “the height of Rome”; and all history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons.”

Career Lesson: While having a foundation is important, we, as business leaders, also need to be adaptable. Staying consistent to a vision that has grown stale is not leadership. True business leaders see future potential and grow their vision to include new possibilities and new opportunities in the marketplace.

Progress vs. Tradition

Emerson’s final section of this famous essay deals with four social areas where we need self-reliance: religion, which fears creativity; culture, which faults individualism; the arts, which teach us only to imitate; and society, which wrongly values progress. As I said before, I feel that much of Emerson’s essay is a product of its time. His critique of religion is less valid today when there is a much greater amount of freedom in terms of denominational variety. His knock on culture and art is largely due to the fact that America was still trying to get out from under the shadow of Europe’s influence. However, his thoughts around society still hold true today.

Emerson argues against the style of progress that creates ever new ways and new technologies and yet leaves us fundamentally no better off. He uses the example of the watch. While a watch certainly makes telling time more convenient, we also lose the ability to read the sun’s path across the sky. Therefore according to his reasoning we are no better off. He makes sense here, to a point.

The harm of the improved machinery may compensate its good. Hudson and Behring accomplished so much in their fishing-boats, as to astonish Parry and Franklin, whose equipment exhausted the resources of science and art. Galileo, with an opera-glass, discovered a more splendid series of celestial phenomena than any one since. Columbus found the New World in an undecked boat. It is curious to see the periodical disuse and perishing of means and machinery, which were introduced with loud laudation a few years or centuries before. The great genius returns to essential man. We reckoned the improvements of the art of war among the triumphs of science, and yet Napoleon conquered Europe by the bivouac, which consisted of falling back on naked valor, and disencumbering it of all aids.”

There is a lot of value in technological progress. (I run a virtual business, so it would be fairly hypocritical to claim otherwise.) However, we can become so enamored of our technological toys that we forget the core truths. Just because technological progress is available to us, we do not have to take advantage of all of it.

Career Lesson: Without a foundation in the basic realities and truths of our common history as citizens of western civilization, then the bells and whistles of progress can not add, but only subtract, from our collective advancement. Be open to new modalities, but don’t become a slave to the newest shiny toy.

The writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson might not, at first blush, seem like career development material, but upon closer inspection the old master actually has quite a bit to teach us. Read on.


Don’t Complain At Work. Do This Instead

We have all done it. Sat in the break-room whining about the latest round of productivity or accountability goals passed down from those on high. Or maybe you are in management and you wish those under you could just see the big picture and stop worrying about their individual fiefdoms. No one demographic holds the patent on complaining.

Letting off some steam now and then is OK and can even be healthy – in moderation. But when your job feels like one big gripe session it may be time to make some changes.

Maybe your job really does suck.  Maybe you have been looking for a new career for months with no luck.

None of this is fun and none of it is easy, but you know what doesn’t help? Constant complaining about it. Your job won’t get better and you’ll still be looking for that next step on your career ladder.

You know what will help? Taking a positive step. It doesn’t matter how small that step is, just move in the right direction. You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind. Believe me, I’ve tried and it just doesn’t work.

Of course we’d love to be able to eliminate those things about our jobs that drive us crazy, but often that isn’t a possibility. So we must deal with what is in our control – our response to things.

This doesn’t mean we should put up with legitimately poor, or abusive, working conditions. Rather, we should stop and recognize those things that we can change, and those things we should just accept and get on with our day.

Believe me, I realize this is easier said than done, so here are a few concrete tips to help.

Take a leave of absence- No, you can’t go on sabbatical, but you can remove yourself from a poisonous situation. If the break-room turns into the “gripe-room” just step out of it.

Have a gratitude attitude- The next time you feel the urge to whine, remember all the things you should be grateful for. No matter how bad your job may be there are over 10,000,000 without one.

Be a problem solver- If there is a bad situation at your job, do what you can to fix things. Focus on what can be done.

So take a deep breath and remember that the calmer we become, the greater our influence and success will be. After all, the best way to take out your frustrations over the annoying aspects of your job is to succeed in spite of them.

“When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it…What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them.  It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.” ~ Epictetus

10 Tips for Success In Your Job Search

Most people have never been taught how to find a job. However, research shows that the average worker only spends 4 years in a job — and you’ll have as many as 12-15 jobs over the course of your career.

Here are 10 things every jobseeker can do to be successful in your job search.

Follow these checklists to learn how to find your new job faster. Remember, you only need one company to hire you. Instead of focusing your efforts on making dozens or hundreds of contacts with prospective employers, be selective!

  1. Start with the end in mind. Take the time to think about what kind of job you’re targeting. What job title, functional roles, and industry are you interested in? Any specific companies you’d like to work for? If your ideal job was available, how would you describe it?
  2. Take time to organize your job search. Outline a strategy and then use your plan to create a weekly list of activities.
  3. Create a schedule each day for your job search activities. Make a list each day of the activities you want to complete. However, if an interview or networking opportunity comes up, of course you will rearrange your schedule to fit it in!
  4. Set aside a workspace for your job search. Designate a specific area to use when conducting your job search. This should be an area free of distractions.
  5. Devote sufficient time to your job search. The more time and energy you devote to your job search, and the more aggressively you network, the faster your job search will proceed. If you are not currently working, commit yourself to a minimum of 40 hours per week devoted to your search campaign. If you are currently working, devote 15-20 hours per week at a minimum.
  6. Recognize that your motivation is going to increase and decrease, depending on the success (or lack of success) you are having in reaching your job search goal. Reward yourself for effort, not for results.
  7. Get the support of a team to help you. You don’t have to go it alone in your job search. Ask your family and friends to support you. Join a job club. Use the services offered by your city, county, or state employment office. Contact your university alumni association. Hire a résumé writer and/or career coach.
  8. Enlist an accountability partner. Recruit one person to support, encourage, and motivate you in your job search. This can be a friend, another job seeker, or a coach/counselor. (Choose someone who can be objective with you — and critical of your efforts — when they need to be. That role might be too difficult for a spouse/partner.)
  9. It can be easier to get a job if you have a job (even if the job isn’t related to the job you want). Employers sometimes see hiring someone who is unemployed as “riskier” than hiring someone who is already working.
  10. If you are having difficulty finding a job in your area, consider relocation. If you live in an area with high unemployment — especially in your industry — consider whether moving to another city, state, or region would improve your chances of getting hired.

Resume Length- Just the Facts

One page? Two page? Red page? Blue page?

OK, apologies to Dr. Seuss for that one, but the truth is everyone seems to be asking about resume length lately so I want to clear it up, once and for all.

The whole one-page rule comes from a time when you went to the store and bought fancy “resume paper” to type out your resume on (yes, type, not wordprocess).  And it was more or less just a list of jobs you’d had with some minor description. Times have obviously changed and so has the one-page rule.

Here are five guiding principles about resume length that should set you straight.

  1. The one-page résumé myth persists, despite significant evidence that most hiring managers have no problem with a two-page (or longer, even) résumé, if appropriate for the candidate’s qualifications. And there is the key. If your qualifications require more space, then by all means, use more pace.
  2. Don’t put too much weight in what recruiters say about résumé length. Recruiters only place about 25% of candidates in new jobs, and not all recruiters subscribe to the one-page “limit.”
  3. The one-page format is unique to the printed page, because résumés submitted online aren’t affected by page limits. Approximately 30 percent of résumés are only stored electronically (they are never printed out).
  4. Traditional college students and those with five years or less of experience should be able to fit their résumés onto one page. Most everyone else, however, can (and should) use one page OR two.
  5. And finally, what I believe is the most important guidelines of all – make sure everything you include on the résumé — regardless of length — is relevant to your job target and what the hiring manager will want to know about you! Don’t add anything that is not directly related to you landing an interview for this job.

Just Do It

Do what your career requires.

Don’t waste time perseverating, just get to it.

Don’t look over your shoulder to see if someone is watching. You’re not doing this for them. You’re doing it because it’s right.

Don’t wait until you think you can reach Elon Musk level brilliance, just be satisfied with each small step you make in the right direction.

Then, once you have made that step, do it again and again and don’t stop to congratulate yourself. Just keep doing what you have to do.

*This post was inspired by equal parts Nike and Marcus Aurelius. Wisdom comes in all places.

8 Questions to Determine if it is Time for a Change

The average careerist changes jobs every 5-7 years, but deciding whether or not the time is right for you can be fraught with self-imposed obstacles. When you contemplate looking for a new job or switching careers, do you find yourself focusing on more than 3 of these?

  1. Consider the cost of switching before you consider the benefits?
  2. Highlight the work of jobsearching over the benefits of a fresh start?
  3. Exaggerate how good things are now in order to reduce your fear of change?
  4. Grab onto the rare thing that could go wrong instead of  all the likely things that could go right?
  5. Focus on short-term costs instead of long-term benefits?
  6. Worry about losing status earned only through tenure and longevity?
  7. Imagine that your competition is going to be better positioned than you and therefore more likely to get the job?
  8. Compare the best of what you have now with the possible worst of what a change might bring?

If you answered yes then you may be sabotaging your own success. Take a fresh look at those above statements, but this time, turn them around.

  1. Consider the benefits of switching rather than the shrt term costs.
  2. Highlight the excitement of jobsearching over the work.
  3. Remind yourself why you are thinking about a change in the first place.
  4. Think of all the things that could go right with this possible decision.
  5. Focus on long-term benefits instead of short-term costs?
  6. Think about the new experiences you will gain that will add to your resume.
  7. Know that you are highly skilled and experienced and that any employer would be lucky to have you on their team.
  8. Compare the worst of what you have now with the possible best of what a change might bring?

A change in mindset like this can help you decide whether or not now is the time for a move.