The Hail Mary pass with only seconds left on the clock-

The game winning home run-

The product launch that goes viral-

These are the things we dream about. But note, none of these big, dramatic actions are possible without a lot of smaller steps over time.

When I first started my resume writing business I thought my shiny new website and a few Google ads would lead to an overflowing of clients. I thought that one big action would lead to success.

I was wrong.

Building a successful business meant a lot of small steps. (Learn social media, create consistent quality content, build a client list, engage, engage, engage, write quality resumes, ask for referrals.)

Needless to say the above list is not a description of overnight success; it is a recipe for slow and steady growth over time. The same will be true for you no matter what your career.

Building a career requires many small actions executed over time, not any one big action. Here are three reasons why.

1. Big plans without checkpoints are doomed to fail. 

It is good to have a dream and to keep your eye on the end goal. But if you don’t have small checkpoints along the way you won’t be able to measure progress or make course adjustments.

If you want to achieve your dream in a year, create monthly benchmarks. Have a five-year plan? Then use six month benchmarks.

2. Small successes feed big dreams. 

There as psychological benefits to each small success you make along the way. Think of the last time you were on a diet. If you wanted to lose 20 pounds in six months, you would weigh yourself each week and get pumped as the scale moved in the right direction.

If you only weighed yourself at the end of the six months you may not have had the will power to make it through. Stack the deck in your favor.

3. Small steps guarantee success.

Not every dream comes true. Some of your big goals will remain un-reached. However, if you plan and measure the small steps along the way then you are guaranteed to have at least a few small successes. These will then help you plan better for the next big goal.

Just keep moving forward.

So what is your big dream? How can you break it down to guarantee yourself success?

I remember once, back in the early 90’s, right after I got out of college, my future wife and I got to pre-screen a film. I forget how we ended up getting the invite but as movie buffs we felt pretty lucky to get the chance to see a film well before its release date, and tell the producers our opinions.

The film was The Crow and it starred Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee’s son, who had tragically died during the filming, much as his father had 20 years earlier. It lent a certain weight to the whole experience.

To make a long story short, we loved the film, said so, and then watched two months later as the film became a hit. Alas, that was the end of our journey as gurus to the film industry.

The Crow is a very dark story, and fairly violent, but it had a hauntingly beautiful song that played a recurring role, titled ‘It can’t rain all the time.” It served as a reminder to one of the main characters that while things were pretty horrible now, that the sun would eventually come out and things would eventually improve.

It always reminded me of the quote, “This too shall pass.” It is a simple thought, that contains deep reservoirs of meaning and is something I actually bring to mind often.

  • When work is piling on and I can’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  • When we suffer one home mini disaster after another.
  • When the kids seem to be double-teaming us parents and we’re down to our last frayed nerve.

It’s a useful reminder that no matter how tough life may seem at the moment, that the page will turn and a new season will come. When we are in the middle of a pandemic storm in our lives it is often hard to see that, so we need to be reminded. For me, that reminder comes from a now forgotten action movie’s title song. Maybe for you it is scripture or a saying of a favorite teacher.

Whatever it is, try to make it something you can look to when the going gets tough.

Jobseekers in particular need this kind of reassurance that the struggle they are going through will not last forever, that there is in fact light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re currently looking for that next step in your career and you are either enduring a dead end job, or are trying to make ends meet while unemployed, just remember it can’t rain all the time.

Eventually the sun will come out for you, too.

 
Ever since I was a kid I have had a fascination with George Washington. If I think back to childhood I think it all started with a humble plaque situated in the center of my home town announcing the passage of Henry Knox through town on his way to General Washington’s encampment. Or maybe it was the fact that the great man himself once spent a night here at one of our old inns. Living in Massachusetts, historical reference points to the Revolutionary War are not in short supply, and of course General Washington is always a highlight.
 
Regardless, my admiration for him has only grown the more I have aged and  read. Washington, A Life by Rod Chernow is probably my favorite biography, and in it he goes into quite a bit of detail into the events surrounding both his relinquishment of power at the end of the war and of his refusal to serve more than two terms as president. 
 
Of course Washington wasn’t the first leader to step away once the need for his leadership had abated. Washington himself was often called a modern-day Cincinatus by his peers. Cincinatus was a Roman statesman whose service as consul in 460 BC and dictator in 458 BC and 439 BC made him a model of civic virtue because he too gave up near-absolute authority with the end of each crisis. In fact he has often been cited as the prime example of outstanding leadership and service to the greater good.
 
This concept of leadership as stewardship, the idea that those in charge have a duty to serve those who follow, is the central premise of a new book by Simon Sinek,  Leaders Eat Last. Sinek makes a powerful case that the Jack Welch-style chasing of short term profits at the expense of long term stability does irreparable harm to those companies. Instead he claims that companies that offer their employees a degree of safety and a sense of purpose are the ones that will win out in the long run.
 
Sinek’s Premise

[W]hen a leader embraces their responsibility to care for people instead of caring for numbers, then people will follow, solve problems and see to it that that leader’s vision comes to life the right way, a stable way and not the expedient way.

Sinek structures his book using multiple anecdotes and examples from both the corporate world as well as the military, which seems to represent his ideal in terms of leadership structure. While this tactic does occasionally lead him down rabbit holes that serve to showcase his political leanings, it nonetheless proves an overall effective means to get his message across.

 
Sinek’s Proof
 
Many times throughout Leaders Eat Last Sinek contrasts the definition of managers with that of leaders. In his view our business schools are churning out effective managers, but not true leaders. Managers are concerned with numbers and markers, where as leaders are concerned with people.

According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2013 called “State of the American Workplace,” when our bosses completely ignore us, 40 percent of us actively disengage from our work. If our bosses criticize us on a regular basis, 22 percent of us actively disengage. Meaning, even if we’re getting criticized, we are actually more engaged simply because we feel that at least someone is acknowledging that we exist! And if our bosses recognize just one of our strengths and reward us for doing what we’re good at, only 1 percent of us actively disengage from the work we’re expected to do.

More:

It is not the demands of the job that cause the most stress, but the degree of control workers feel they have throughout their day. The studies also found that the effort required by a job is not in itself stressful, but rather the imbalance between the effort we give and the reward we feel. Put simply: less control, more stress.

Clearly, employees want a relationship with their leadership. Time and time again he gives proof showing that companies that buck the management trend, and instead trust employees and essentially provide them cover to experiment,succeed to a greater degree over the long term.

Sinek spends a lot of time on this idea of leaders as protectors, keeping their employees safe.

Truly human leadership protects an organization from the internal rivalries that can shatter a culture. When we have to protect ourselves from each other, the whole organization suffers. But when trust and cooperation thrive internally, we pull together and the organization grows stronger as a result.

More:

When the people have to manage dangers from inside the organization, the organization itself becomes less able to face the dangers from outside.

This of course makes complete sense and it is a wonder that more companies do not follow this model. When employees have to spend their entire careers watching their backs, hoping to make it through the next set of layoffs (that are only made to satisfy the short term needs of investors, not the long term health of the company) it is no wonder that toxic and unproductive work environments abound.

Finally, Sinek drives home the point that those who lead well, lead not for privilege, but to serve. He relates the story of an Under Secretary of Defense who spoke at a large conference and revealed that the previous year, when he was still an under secretary, he was flown to the conference in business class, escorted to his hotel room, and treated to a cup of coffee in a ceramic mug.  Now, as a civilian, he flew coach, drove himself , and poured himself coffee into a styrofoam cup.

‘It occurs to me,’ he continued, ‘the ceramic cup they gave me last year…it was never meant for me at all. It was meant for the position I held. I deserve a styrofoam cup. This is the most important lesson I can impart to all of you,’ he offered. ‘All the perks, all the benefits and advantages you may get for the rank or position you hold, they aren’t meant for you. They are meant for the role you fill. And when you leave your role, which you eventually will, they will give the ceramic cup to the person who replaces you. Because you only ever deserved a styrofoam cup.

This is a point in which both George Washington and the famed Cincinatus would wholeheartedly agree. If you are a CEO, mid-level manager, or a simple shift supervisor, you could do worse than incorporate some of the ethos of  Leaders Eat Last into your leadership style.
 
*****

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Part 2 of a 4 part series. Part 1 here.

So how do you tap into the hidden job market? By having the right key. Because opportunities are filled both through employee referrals and recruiting, you will want to cover both bases.

Accessing the hidden job market works best when you have a clear target in mind — either a specific job title or, even better, a specific list of companies you’d like to work for.

There are basically three ways, or keys, to access the hidden job market:

•     Connect with someone at the company through your network (either an employee who can refer you or a hiring manager or a recruiter who works for the company).

•     Contact the company directly about exploring unadvertised opportunities.

•     Be visible enough in your industry or field to be contacted by a prospective employer.

Here are some specific tips for jobseekers looking to tap into the hidden job market:

•     Let your network know you are looking for a new position. While this can be difficult if you are conducting a confidential job search, it’s important that the people you know think of you when an opening comes up.

•     Following the advice of author Harvey Mackey, “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.” Having a large network of contacts pays off when it’s time to look for a new job — particularly when you want to tap into the hidden job market. Keep in touch with your former colleagues and bosses. Build your LinkedIn network by connecting with people in your field — but also by adding folks you know from everyday life — the other parents you sit with at your child’s karate dojo, the members of your recreational softball team, your neighbors, etc. All of these can potentially help you tap into the hidden job market.

•     Help others. “Give to get.” Zig Ziglar famously said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” Keep your ears open about unadvertised openings and help connect those in your network to these opportunities. This type of assistance is often reciprocated. Cultivate relationships with peers in the industry. These connections at other companies can pay off.

•     If there is a particular employer you are interested in working for, consider approaching the company directly. When approaching a target employer directly, research the hiring manager and see if there is a mutual connection you can approach to make the introduction. Focus on expanding your network until you connect with someone who works there. Ask him or her to keep you in mind for unadvertised opportunities — or even pass along your resume right away, even if there isn’t currently an opening.

Part I of a 4-part series.

You may have heard the term “the hidden job market.” What is it, and how do jobseekers get access to it?

“Hidden job market” is a phrase that describes job openings that are not publicly advertised.

There are a variety of reasons why a company would not publicly post a job opening.

•     The cost of advertising an open position can be substantial.

•     They don’t want to be overwhelmed with applications.

•     A new role is being created and they are unsure of the qualifications of the ideal employee.

•     They are replacing an existing employee (who doesn’t know they are being replaced).

Most of these job opportunities are accessed through referrals from current employees of the company. It’s estimated that 60-80 percent of jobs are found through networking. While not all of the jobs found through networking are accessing the hidden job market (after all, your friends/family/acquaintance network can help you access interviews for advertised opportunities too), almost all candidates who get interviews for unadvertised jobs do so through networking.

Current employees can be an excellent source of candidates. Particularly if the company has a strong workplace culture, having existing employees identify prospective candidates can help ensure solid candidates are encouraged to apply. Some companies even reward employees — with cash or gift cards — for recommending a candidate who is eventually hired.

Employee referrals provide an advantage for the jobseeker too. Employee recommendations can carry great weight. Plus, there is less competition for job opportunities accessed through the hidden job market than for openly advertised opportunities.

Being referred by a current employee may also mean that your application is set apart from the typical internal processes that most jobseekers have to navigate — such as an applicant tracking system for online applications.

Recruiters are another source of unadvertised positions. An employer may choose to work with a recruiter to fill a job rather than advertise it publicly. The recruiter sources job candidates, screens prospective hires, and sends the hiring manager a handful of handpicked candidates. This saves the company time and money. In many cases, when working with a third-party recruiter, the company only pays the recruiter if a candidate is hired, and only if he or she stays for a specified period of time (say, six months).

A three part blog chain on what should and shouldn’t be included on your resume. Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Remember, your resume is not an obituary that lists every job you’ve ever held. Instead, it’s a marketing document whose content should support the job target you’re seeking.

Consequently, you may choose to only include the most recent 10-15 years of work experience on your resume. Not only can this help reduce the likelihood of age discrimination, but in a world where things change at a rapid pace, your older experience may no longer be relevant. You likely have newer skills, experience, and projects that better reflect where you are going, not where you have been.

However, you should not leave a job off your resume that you held for six months or more just because you were fired, and you don’t want to talk about it. Instead, be prepared to address the reason for your departure, including taking responsibility for performance shortcomings, being able to describe how you took corrective action to ensure the situation doesn’t happen again.

For example, if you are sales professional who was let go because you missed two consecutive quarters of sales quotas, you might include the role on your resume, especially if you were selling a desirable product or working with high-profile clients, but be ready to explain that you didn’t have the depth of product knowledge that you should have had in order to be successful in that position. This is a particularly effective strategy if you have been successful in previous sales roles, but just not in this one.

Determining what to include — and what to exclude — on your resume to maximize your chances of getting an interview is one of the important functions a professional resume writer can assist you with. Having the guidance and experience of a professional to help you navigate your job search can save you time and money, landing you that dream job faster, and potentially even at a higher salary than you were expecting.

One important thing to note: If you are asked to complete a job application that requires you to list all positions you’ve held, you should include each and every role — no matter how short — particularly if you’re required to sign the application, and, therefore, attest to the truthfulness of the information included.

A three part blog chain on what should and shouldn’t be included on your resume. Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Next, consider whether this role is your only work experience relevant to your target job. For example, if you are a recent graduate but were “first in and first out” at your first job, consider including it if you were on the job more than 90 days. (Often the most recent person hired is the first person let go, and most hiring managers recognize this.) Having some experience — even short-term experience — is better than having no experience.

And remember, if you were laid off because of the economy, loss of a key company customer, or another reason unrelated to your performance, include that in the resume (and possibly also the cover letter).

If, on the other hand, the role doesn’t fit in the narrative of where you’ve been in your career — and, more importantly, where you’re going — consider omitting it. Sometimes you take a job because you think it will open doors or lead you to a new path, and it doesn’t end up that way. If including the job will raise more questions than it will answer, consider leaving it off. Especially if omitting it wouldn’t cause a significant time gap on the resume.

For example, Ted left the military after a career in naval intelligence and took a job at a startup software company, working in their security department. After being on the job for a few weeks, he decided that the laid-back company culture wasn’t suited to his personality and he left the role. Instead, he went to work for a defense contractor, and has been there for two years and has now decided to look for a new job. Ted may choose to omit the position at the startup from his resume.