Archive for September, 2007

In Lesson 2: All Employment Opportunities Are Not Equal we’ll be spending a lot of time discussing the difference between chosing a career vocation and chosing where you’ll work, and who your employer will be. It’s actually quite complicated and may have a huge impact on your career satification. Here’s an article from Forbes that does a great job of introducing these concepts.



Business Basics
Big Fish Seek Small Ponds
Tara Weiss, 05.01.07, 3:00 PM ET

Minneapolis is known for its lakes, lush greenery and cold winters–not necessarily its social scene.

That’s why 28-year-old Elizabeth Mahler’s decision to head there in September to work as a brand manager for General Mills was “a little scary.” It recently hit her hard when she was visiting friends in New York. “I was sitting in Central Park along with hundreds of other young singles and realized I’ll never have a moment like that in Minneapolis,” says Mahler, who will receive her M.B.A. from Northwestern University in June.

It’s not that she and other soon-to-be grads are forced to go to smaller cities. With a national unemployment rate of 4.4%, this year’s graduates have options–in fact, many grads have multiple offers to choose between. One recruiter said this year’s job market is so good, it’s reminiscent of the dot-com era. 

Rather, many companies in smaller cities are offering such great professional opportunities, some grads have a hard time turning them down. Young employees say they get more face time with higher-ups, excellent professional development, a great cost of living and more responsibility.

But with those perks come drawbacks. Singles worry that there are less dating opportunities, hip restaurants and cultural events to keep them entertained. In spite of all that, though, Mahler–and about 25 of her colleagues in graduate school–decided to move to Minneapolis. She was impressed by General Mills’ reputation and the career trajectory she’d take by working there. She had a similar opportunity in Chicago (her hometown) but couldn’t resist General Mills.

She doesn’t plan on making it a hit-and-run, either. “I made the investment in my degree, and I want to make it in my next employer,” she says. “I hopped around in the past. I foresee putting in more time there and not less.”

Once grads are intrigued by the professional opportunity, companies need to hook them on the lifestyle. General Mills knows Minneapolis is a challenging sell. That’s why it brings prospective hires for visits several times. Select first-year M.B.A. students are flown to Minneapolis on the corporate jet to get them acquainted with the company. Next comes the “sell weekends,” when students who are invited for an interview are brought to town to see the city, visit its famous lakes and meet other candidates. “We don’t want to go into the dating business, but if there are others from their school, we try to make connections,” says Kenneth Charles, director of U.S. recruiting at General Mills.

Mahler has visited four times so far, courtesy of her new employer. Once was during a snowstorm, and she was impressed with how many people were playing ice hockey and cross-country skiing. In Chicago, people tend to hibernate when it snows, she says. “I already have favorite restaurants,” she says. “And I foresee myself having a boat on Lake Minnetonka in five years.”

That she might be able to afford a boat in five years says a lot about the cost of living there. “Once students see there are cool neighborhoods and that they can buy a house there one year after working–which they can’t do in New York City or San Francisco–they become very attracted to Minneapolis,” says Roxanne Hori, assistant dean for the career management center at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

When Gallo Wines was wooing 29-year-old Johanna Abbinante to join its Modesto, Calif., headquarters, it addressed the social aspect. Higher-ups emphasized that she’d be more likely to afford a home there than in San Francisco, which is a little more than two hours away. “It’s a plus, but being young and single, it’s not that important,” says Abbinante, who will also receive her M.B.A. from Northwestern in June.

She was in talks with other companies, but she cut off discussions after spending time with Gallo’s leadership. “Ideally, I’d like to live in a big city, but in terms of priority, I want to learn and grow at work,” she says. “I was really impressed with the people I met there. It’s a privately owned entrepreneurial firm, and I felt could get a lot of exposure there.”

California’s climate speaks for itself, but Gallo managers were sure to bring it up a lot. For Abbinante, who has lived in New York City and Chicago, that was a definite plus.

In contrast, weather isn’t Cleveland’s best draw. For Seth Engler, the people are.

Engler, who will graduate from the University of Pennsylvania next month, will start at McKinsey & Co.’s Cleveland office after graduation. The 22-year-old was deciding between that offer and one with another firm in Boston. Both were comparable, but Engler was so impressed by the staff in the Cleveland office that he decided to go there.

“It got to the point where every time I advanced in Cleveland, I had eight people calling me, coaching me, helping me through interviews,” he says. “It was literally the people that helped me decide.”

That and the opportunity to work in a smaller office, where he’ll get to know the higher-ups better and have one-on-one time with his bosses. He visited the firm for a “sell weekend,” and by the end of the two days, he knew the managing directors. That’s not the case for his friends going to work in New York City.

Still, his University of Pennsylvania friends look at him like an alien when they find out where he’s going. “It must be an East Coast thing,” he says. “When people ask what I’m doing next year and I tell them I’m going to Cleveland, people are like, ‘Why?’ Here, it’s like, ‘New York City or bust.'”


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Check this out — perhaps it’s your resume!


10 Ways Your Resume Irks Hiring Managers


Posted: 2007-08-31 14:39:46

Fashion designer Coco Chanel had a personal rule: Before she left the house, the style icon always removed one piece of her ensemble to avoid the faux-pas of wearing too many accessories.  Were Chanel alive today and working as a hiring manager, she would likely offer similar advice to job seekers: You don’t have to include everything. 

Job seekers do themselves a disservice when they send out resumes with more information than they need. Most employers don’t have the time or patience to sift through the irrelevant details. Here are 10 things your resume could do without:

1. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. “If you are careless enough to send out this most important document with a mistake … I immediately assume you’ll never care enough about the work you send out representing my company,” says Jose Bandujo, president of New York-based Bandujo Advertising. He recalls one candidate who misspelled Manhattan, despite having worked in the city for a decade and another whose great educational background didn’t compensate for the fact that he couldn’t spell “education.”

2. Opening objectives. “These are generic … They do nothing to differentiate one candidate from another,” says Donna Flagg, president of The Krysalis Group, a human resource and management consulting firm in New York. 

3.  Personal attributes. Listing personal information such as height, weight and age and providing photographs is a pet peeve for Heather Mayfield, vice president of training and operations for Snelling Staffing Services. “It is amazing that we still see this on the resumes of today, but they are out there.”

4. Interests and hobbies.  If these points of information don’t pertain to the job in question, there’s no need to include them.  “Create a mystery and save these kinds of data points when you start the job,” advises Roy Blitzer, author of ‘Hire Me, Inc.: Resumes and Cover Letters that Get Results.’ 

5. Details of every task you’ve ever performed in every job you’ve ever had. “It’s too much information. Managers and recruiters need to know at-a-glance what makes a candidate special,” Flagg says. Focus on those details that pertain to the job for which you’re applying.

6. Excessive bragging. Stating one’s accomplishments can be helpful, but when it’s overdone, the candidate can come across as narcissistic, a huge turnoff for employers, Flagg says.

7. Outdated information.  Leave off the activities that you did in high school if graduation was a few years ago and omit jobs you held 10 or more years ago, as the information is probably irrelevant to the position you’re trying for now.

8. False information. “Putting that you have a B.S. on a resume when you do not have one is BS,'” jokes Stephen Viscusi, author of ‘On the Job: How to Make it in the Real World of Work.” Not only is lying on a resume unfair and dishonest, it’s also not very intelligent.  “Companies verify dates of employment — often after you start. If you have lied, they fire you…Nobody wants to hire a liar. Nobody.”

9. Unexplained gaps in work history.  While job seekers should account for these gaps, they should be careful with their wording.  “One of the weirdest things that I ever saw on a resume … was a candidate who explained a 10-year lapse in work experience as being in jail during those years for killing her husband,” recalls Linda Goodspeed, marketing recruiting manager at VistaPrint.  In such a situation, she says, the best thing to write would be “left work for personal reasons,” and the candidate would be able to explain the criminal record later. 

10. A lack of professionalism.  Colored paper, cutesy fonts, links to personal web sites and childish e-mail addresses all scream unprofessional and are a turn off to hiring managers.  One otherwise qualified applicant didn’t get an interview at Bandujo’s firm solely because of the name in her email address: “weird2themax.” “I recognize the advertising industry is full of talented, interesting ‘characters’,” Bandujo says, “but did I really want one who thought she was weird to the max?” No, he decided, he did not.

Copyright 2007 CareerBuilder.com.

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Thank You Tom Jenkins!

An old friend of mine – Tom Jenkins (of Churchill Downs) –  is an email feed subscriber and took note of my ongoing series on public speaking. He sent me a link to Jeff Jonas’ blog with a number of hot tips “how to make your presentations better.”

I have posted his piece in it’s entirety below. Note there are a number of links to real material that I recommend you review — they may inspire your next speech.


On Public Speaking

My Photo

 Jeff Jonas

I do a fair bit of public speaking. In 2006 I spoke to approximately 7,000 people over the course of the year and this year I am on track for something like 15,000.

And while I get pretty good feedback, make no mistake about it … I hate public speaking.

This generally comes as a surprise to those who have seen me make a presentation.

I have come a long way. Believe it or not I used to be unable to speak to more than three people at a time. Back in my SRD days, when my staff grew to three employees, I stopped having staff meetings. Then one day in the early 90’s I attempted to present a time and attendance system to the CIO of the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino and his staff (6-8 people in total) … I was dysfunctional to say the least. I stared at a grease board, my back to the room, shaking, sweating and senseless mumbling.

Be afraid … be very afraid!

After this horrifying incident, I realized that an inability to effectively communicate my ideas was going to severely blunt my lifetime potential. So, I asked my friend Doug Pool how he became such an accomplished presenter. His answer: Toastmasters. This amazing organization took me step-by-step from no ability to more ability … one super-scary step at a time. And guess what? It worked. Mind you, public speaking is still nerve-wracking … the difference now being … I know how to do it.

And now that I am doing a half-decent job at this whole speaking thing, here are a few tips (should anyone care):

PowerPoint is a Sedative

The more you presentation deck resembles everyone else’s deck, you lose. Most likely your audience has already been punished with grueling PowerPoint charts. You know what I am talking about … those information-overloaded charts with a mish-mash of tiny fonts, over animated, busy architecture and plumbing diagrams and loads of words which often state the obvious. The only thing worse is when the presenter then reads the words off the chart. No one is interested in this. So … if you are going to use PowerPoint, I recommend you spend some time developing a style and deck that is all you. By way of example, when I spoke at O’Reilly’s Third Annual Web 2.0 Summit, I buzzed through 41 charts in less than 10 minutes. It was almost all pictures (hand drawn by me in the PowerPoint scribble mode). I dreamt up this style about a year ago and think it is akin to a slow-motion movie synched up with a speed reader! [The story line here.] [The actual PowerPoint deck here.]

Crank Up the Signal!

When presenting … you had better say something every few minutes that strikes most of the audience as either “huh?” or “wow!” Otherwise, your audience may only be hearing “blah blah blah.” In my attempt to do this, I might say something like, “The faster you collect data, the dumber you are likely to be.” Without constant and meaningful signals, they will wish they were somewhere else, and then in self-defense direct all their attention to their BlackBerries. Creating signal can also involve doing something that will make it hard for them to ever forget you – for example, smash your guitar. Oh wait, that is a heavy metal band tip.

Don’t Punish Them On Your Watch

Never take advantage of the fact your audience is captive. Don’t waste their time by telling them anything obvious or widely known. And, if you discover you are boring them – the remedy is to jump to material that has a better chance of resonating with them. When in smaller settings, I preempt any fear by starting some presentations by saying, “If I start talking about something that you already know – stop me immediately” and “if this material is not interesting to you in the first five minutes, I’ll leave and give you some time back on your calendar.” You would not believe the relief this creates. Furthermore, never ever overspeak your time. It is not fair to your audience or for that matter the next speaker. One exception, throwing the ball to the next speaker 20 minutes ahead of schedule (catching them off-guard), is not nice either … I did this once and felt real bad.

Make it Easily Digestible

If you find you are frequently losing people when you present, spend more time making your material more consumable. For starters, don’t use any words or acronyms your audience may not know. Don’t use any words or acronyms that may mean very different things to different people (e.g., data mining is such an overloaded term I often avoid using it). When I break this rule, e.g., when I use the word Context, I make a huge effort to explain what I mean. Another approach is to create your own terms and then explain them well (e.g., my use of terms like perpetual analytics, sequence neutrality, etc.). As a general principle, the deeper the think, the more simplistic and crisp the concepts must be presented. Don’t be afraid of bloating your presentation with pictures: pictures trump text 1000:1. Duh. (Word of caution: not all graphs qualify as helpful pictures!)

Miscellaneous Tips:

1. The bigger the venue, the more important it is to rehearse both lighting and sound. Have them demonstrate show time lighting because: (a) it is nice to know before hand if you are going to be blind up there and (b) it is wise to know how clearly your materials will project (if you have any). Do a full sound check during rehearsal to see if you are going to be in an echo chamber (something I discovered by accident twice this year in both cases at show time with great horror – the echoes were so distracting I could hardly think).

2. When you hear little voices in your head like “Run” or “Am I stuck in a thoughtless loop yet? How about now? Now?” … don’t debate these evil demons. Just move on.

3. Never call out (by name or otherwise) a competitive product or company. Never stoop that low.

4. The number one way to calibrate how effective you present is inversely proportional to the number people with glazed eyes, nodding off, and/or escapees.

I have a long way to go. For example, I still <quasi-expletive> at delivering a succinct and meaningful closing, I talk too fast, and I often wander off on a lot of unnecessary tangents. Gotta have goals! On this front I have this friend named Dick Hardt of Sxip Identity. He presents hundreds of charts in 10 minutes. His style is so unique and world-class that his video has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times.

Check out this inspiring video: Identity 2.0 Keynote by Dick Hardt

Anyway, while I may never come to actually enjoy public speaking, without a doubt Toastmasters has made an enormous difference in my ability to express myself.

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