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Archive for January, 2008

The focus of Career Secret Sauce is to help folks grow their careers without sacrificing job security or giving up all of their personal time. I know of no single job skill that does this better than learning how to make killer presentations. Like anything, you must crawl before you walk and walk before you run.

Then there’s Steve Job’s at MacWorld. Steve’s presentations are virtually religious sermons to his true believers.

I just ran across a very nice piece in Business Week that discusses some Job’s Secret Sauce.

Enjoy,
Dave

 
Communications January 25, 2008, 8:52AM EST text size: TT

Deliver a Presentation like Steve Jobs

Our communications coach breaks down the ace presenter’s latest Macworld keynote. The result? A 10-part framework you can use to wow your own audience

When Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs kicked off this year’s Macworld Conference & Expo, he once again raised the bar on presentation skills. While most presenters simply convey information, Jobs also inspires. He sells the steak and the sizzle at the same time, as one reader commented a few years ago.

I analyzed his latest presentation and extracted the 10 elements that you can combine to dazzle your own audience. Bear in mind that Jobs has been refining his skills for years. I broke down his 2007 Macworld keynote in a previous column (BusinessWeek.com, 7/6/07) and in a chapter in my latest book. Still, how he actually arrives at what appear to be effortless presentations bears expanding on and explaining again.

1. Set the theme. “There is something in the air today.” With those words, Jobs opened Macworld. By doing so, he set the theme for his presentation (BusinessWeek.com, 1/15/08) and hinted at the key product announcement—the ultrathin MacBook Air laptop. Every presentation needs a theme, but you don’t have to deliver it at the start. Last year, Jobs delivered the theme about 20 minutes into his presentation: “Today Apple reinvents the phone.” Once you identify your theme, make sure you deliver it several times throughout your presentation.

2. Demonstrate enthusiasm. Jobs shows his passion for computer design. During his presentation he used words like “extraordinary,” “amazing,” and “cool.” When demonstrating a new location feature for the iPhone, Jobs said, “It works pretty doggone well.” Most speakers have room to add some flair to their presentations. Remember, your audience wants to be wowed, not put to sleep. Next time you’re crafting or delivering a presentation, think about injecting your own personality into it. If you think a particular feature of your product is “awesome,” say it. Most speakers get into presentation mode and feel as though they have to strip the talk of any fun. If you are not enthusiastic about your own products or services, how do you expect your audience to be?

3. Provide an outline. Jobs outlined the presentation by saying, “There are four things I want to talk about today. So let’s get started…” Jobs followed his outline by verbally opening and closing each of the four sections and making clear transitions in between. For example, after revealing several new iPhone features, he said, “The iPhone is not standing still. We keep making it better and better and better. That was the second thing I wanted to talk about today. No. 3 is about iTunes.” Make lists and provide your audience with guideposts along the way.

4. Make numbers meaningful. When Jobs announced that Apple had sold 4 million iPhones to date, he didn’t simply leave the number out of context. Instead, he put it in perspective by adding, “That’s 20,000 iPhones every day, on average.” Jobs went on to say, “What does that mean to the overall market?” Jobs detailed the breakdown of the U.S smartphone market and Apple’s share of it to demonstrate just how impressive the number actually is. Jobs also pointed out that Apple’s market share equals the share of its top three competitors combined. Numbers don’t mean much unless they are placed in context. Connect the dots for your listeners.

5. Try for an unforgettable moment. This is the moment in your presentation that everyone will be talking about. Every Steve Jobs presentation builds up to one big scene. In this year’s Macworld keynote, it was the announcement of MacBook Air. To demonstrate just how thin it is, Jobs said it would fit in an envelope. Jobs drew cheers by opening a manila interoffice envelope and holding the laptop for everyone to see. What is the one memorable moment of your presentation? Identify it ahead of time and build up to it.

6. Create visual slides. While most speakers fill their slides with data, text, and charts, Jobs does the opposite. There is very little text on a Steve Jobs slide. Most of the slides simply show one image. For example, his phrase “The first thing I want to talk to you about today…” was accompanied by a slide with the numeral 1. That’s it. Just the number. When Jobs discussed a specific product like the iPhone, the audience saw a slide with an image of the product. When text was introduced, it was often revealed as short sentences (three or four words) to the right of the image. Sometimes, there were no images at all on the slide but a sentence that Jobs had delivered such as “There is something in the air.” There is a trend in public speaking to paint a picture for audiences by creating more visual graphics. Inspiring presenters are short on bullet points and big on graphics.

7. Give ’em a show. A Jobs presentation has ebbs and flows, themes and transitions. Since he’s giving his audience a show instead of simply delivering information, Jobs includes video clips, demonstrations, and guests he shares the stage with. In his latest keynote, the audience heard from Jim Gianopulos, CEO and chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment, and Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel ((INTC). Enhance your presentations by incorporating multimedia, product demonstrations, or giving others the chance to say a few words.

8. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Despite your best preparation, something might go wrong as it did during the keynote. Jobs was about to show some photographs from a live Web site, and the screen went black while Jobs waited for the image to appear. It never did. Jobs smiled and said, “Well, I guess Flickr isn’t serving up the photos today.” He then recapped the new features he had just introduced. That’s it. It was no big deal. I have seen presenters get flustered over minor glitches. Don’t sweat minor mishaps. Have fun. Few will remember a glitch unless you call attention to it.

9. Sell the benefit. While most presenters promote product features, Jobs sells benefits. When introducing iTunes movie rentals, Jobs said, “We think there is a better way to deliver movie content to our customers.” Jobs explained the benefit by saying, “We’ve never offered a rental model in music because people want to own their music. You listen to your favorite song thousands of times in your life. But most of us watch movies once, maybe a few times. And renting is a great way to do it. It’s less expensive, doesn’t take up space on our hard drive…” Your listeners are always asking themselves, “What’s in it for me?” Answer the question. Don’t make them guess. Clearly state the benefit of every service, feature, or product.

10. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Steve Jobs cannot pull off an intricate presentation with video clips, demonstrations, and outside speakers without hours of rehearsal. I have spoken to people within Apple who tell me that Jobs rehearses the entire presentation aloud for many hours. Nothing is taken for granted. You can see he rehearsed the Macworld presentation because his words were often perfectly synchronized with the images and text on the slides. When Jobs was showing examples of the films that are available on the new iTunes movie rental service, one poster of a particular film appeared at the exact moment he began to talk about it. The entire presentation was coordinated. A Steve Jobs presentation looks effortless because it is well-rehearsed.

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Once you leave the corporate world, you lose the help of “Corporate IT” when your computer breaks. Over the past few years, I’ve had to become my own IT guy. Accordingly, I have subscribed to a web site called www,techrepublic.com. It has a lot of tech tips and a lot of career advice for technical specialists. Every now and then you get a good article that applies to everyone. Here is one that is worth reading… 

Dave

Never underestimate your work reputation

Toni Bowers 


Author: Toni Bowers

You hear all the time about the advantages networking has on your career. To those of you who are on the introverted side, the thought of networking might make you cringe. If you’re like me, networking conjures visions of making a cold call to the uncle of the wife of the cousin a guy you used to work with to see if he has any job openings.

But networking, in the best sense, is a simpler, more organic endeavor. You start “networking” the day you start sharing office with other people. Here’s what I mean.

If your co-workers (and your boss) find you knowledgeable and friendly and easy to work with, they will carry that impression of you when they go on to other jobs.If you’re undependable and absent-minded and are a general production headache, they’ll remember that too.

Even if you’re a certified genius, but you’re surly and you give off a palpable aura of bitterness and acrimony, it’s more than likely they’ll remember that aura before anything else.

And in either of the last two cases, if this person happens to be hiring for another company, you can rest assured they’ll go with their gut feeling about you.Think about it. If you had a bad experience at a certain restaurant, you wouldn’t go around recommending it to your friends even if it’s entirely possible they’d have a different experience. It’s just human nature.

Also, don’t discount the notion of six degrees of separation (roughly the idea that anyone can form a chain of personal contacts leading to any other person, with no more than six links in the chain). Consider the nightmare of going in for an interview for your dream job and discovering the interviewer is the man or woman you worked with years ago that you smarted off to every chance you got.

You can’t be nice all the time

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How to Quit!

dave-horne-photo.jpg

On Friday a reader sent in a great question as a comment to my piece on Termination. His question appears below along with my response. I’ve heard the same question many times, so I thought I share this with everyone. 

“Hello Dave,

This is an excellent guide for how to terminate a harmful employee – could you talk about the best way to quit? I have had it up to the ears with a very frustrating boss, and am ready to leave, but doing so will be very harmful to this small company which has invested a fair amount into my development, but I am ready to change. What advice can you give on how to leave with as little damage as possible and to not spoil future opportunities (should they contact prior employer, he would not say good things…)”

Bill

Dear Bill,

Thanks for posing this question. In fact I have received the same question from another reader, so I suspect it’s on the minds of many!

Bad bosses are one of the worst problems you can encounter at work. It’s very difficult to avoid your manager and they have the ability to make you miserable whenever they please. My general advice is to try and transfer to another department with your current employer, but since you mention that working in a small company I’ll assume that is not a viable option.

So let me walk you through some advice for moving on.

1.      Don’t feel guilty – The vast majority of all workers resign at least once during their careers. Your current boss may have already quit himself and will probably do so again. While you may feel like you’re only one in the company thinking about quitting, the truth is virtually everyone does it sooner or later.

2.      Line up a great new job first – Not only is this a universal career rule, in your case, it’s also the best way to minimize any damage your current boss can do to your career. Once you start your new job and work there for several years, no one will care what your old boss says about you. In fact by the time you look for your next new job he may be gone, dead, or at the very least forgotten all about you!

3.      Prepare the right “talking points” and stick to them – Although I am major proponent of “telling the truth,” I do make exceptions from time to time and this is one of those times. There is nothing to be gained by telling anyone that you’re leaving because your boss is driving you crazy. So don’t do it. Once you have your new job lined up, you can make a list of reasons why you’re changing jobs. The list doesn’t have to be long, or even overwhelming; just keep it positive and avoid mentioning anything negative about your boss. The odds are pretty good that your boss knows he’s a pain and so do most of your coworkers. They’ll guess that he’s the real reason you’re leaving, but you will earn goodwill points from everyone – including your current boss – by remaining silent about it.  This is the classy way to resign and people are more likely to remember you as “the guy who resigned with class,” than “the guy who walked out and left them hanging.”

4.      Bend over backwards to avoid abandonment – One of most painful resignations I ever tendered was with Concentra. It was a small company and I cared about everyone I worked with. I just had a much better opportunity (Aspect Development) and had to move on. I negotiated the “option” for a 30 day transition period with Aspect before I resigned so I could offer Concentra extra time to prepare for my departure. I helped them find a replacement and even worked up to the day I day I started work at Aspect (I actually went to work at Concentra in the morning, left at noon and flew to Chicago and started working for Aspect that night). I also helped Concentra wherever I could after I began working at Aspect. Your current employer may not want your help, but if you offer, you’ll be enhancing your reputation as a classy guy.

I hope this helps – good luck in whatever you do and keep me posted.

Dave

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Over the past few months we’ve talked a number of times about about toxic employees. It’s kind of fun, but if your their boss, it must come to an end and that means TERMINATION. Having done a few and received a few, I can honestly say that either one is equally unpleasant. I thought I offer you an article on how to properly fire someone in case you’re a manager facing this trama. I also think it’s good for an employee to understand what might happen if that day comes and if they do it right. If they fail to do it right, you may have a bargaining chip you can use to sweeten your severance package.

Dave 

  

The Right Way to Fire Someone

Firing an employee may be the hardest thing you’ll have to do, but if you follow these tips, you can get the job done right.

Firing an employee–looking someone straight in the eye and telling them they no longer have a source of income–is one of the toughest things you’ll ever have to do as a business owner. It’s often as hard on the person giving the bad news as it is on the person receiving it. And yet it still needs to be done, especially if you have someone who’s “poisoning the well” and bringing the entire business down with them.

Assuming this person is an “at will” employee–someone who doesn’t have an employment contract that guarantees employment for a specified time period–here are ten tips to help you remove the bad apple cancer from your business with a “zero to low” risk of being sued for wrongful termination.

1. Check your past feedback. If you’ve been giving this employee glowing performance reviews and a raise each year, they’ll understandably be shocked when you call them into your office and give them the boot. Look back at your relationship with this employee, and if you’ve been sending them overly positive signals, don’t fire the employee immediately! Instead, start changing the signals and let them know in no uncertain terms that they’re not “living in Kansas anymore.”

2. Give them a warning. Sit the employee down in your office, explain that you’re unhappy with their performance, and give them a limited period of time (I would suggest 30 days) to turn things around. Make it very clear that if they continue to “fill in the blank with their bad behavior,” you’ll have no choice but to terminate them immediately. Prepare a “memo to the file” detailing what you told the employee.

3. Focus on specific behavior goals. Give the employee a list of behaviors you find unacceptable, and tell them exactly what they needs to do to get back into your good graces. Do not allow the employee to drag you into a discussion that focuses on anything other that what you’ve just covered.

4. Fire early in the week and never on a Friday. Assuming the employee doesn’t turn things around for the better, fire them early in the work week. Never fire someone on a Friday, because then they can “stew about it” over the weekend and come into work the following Monday ready for a fight, or even worse.

5. Make it short, sweet and to the point. Do not get caught up in the employee’s emotions–have a box of Kleenex handy on your desk. Have a witness present during the meeting in case the employee threatens retaliation. Then proceed with the following steps:

  • Tell the employee that they’re being terminated and when they’ll be expected to leave the office.
  • Explain that the firing is “for cause,” but avoid going into detail about the grounds for termination. You don’t want to start an argument. Just point out that the employee did not attain the goals you wanted them to reach in their latest “performance review.” If the employee objects or becomes defensive, say simply “I’m sorry, but my mind is made up.”
  • Explain how much severance pay (if any) you’ll be providing and what other benefits they’ll be entitled to after they leave your employment.
  • Explain to them what you’ll say should anyone call and ask you for a job reference. Be sure you’ve spoken with an employment law attorney first and have agreed on the exact wording.

6. Do not let the employee linger. Unless there’s an urgent reason to keep the employee around for a few days, tell them that they’re to leave the business premises immediately, after a short stop at their desk to pick up any personal items. Escort the employee to the door, so the employee doesn’t have the chance to steal any company files, trash any computer data or change any computer passwords without your knowledge. Better yet, have another employee change these while the other employee is in your office, so they can’t go back to their desk and wreak havoc with your computer system. Collect any office keys and company credit cards this employee might have.

7. Ask for a release, and give the employee an incentive to sign it. If the employee is a minority, a female or is over the age of 40, I would recommend asking them to sign a release of liability. Do not draft this yourself–there is very specific language a release form must contain in order to hold up in court, especially if the employee is likely to claim “age discrimination.” Have your employment law attorney draft the necessary release before the “exit interview”–it should take only about an hour of the attorney’s time.

Offer the employee something in exchange for signing the release, along the following lines: “You’ll be entitled to one week’s severance pay, Mary, but if you sign this release form, I’ll be happy to extend that to three weeks. Talk it over with your attorney if you like, and let me know what you decide to do.” You cannot force an employee to sign a release, but you can give them a strong incentive to do so. Also, giving the employee the chance to talk to their attorney demonstrates that you’re not worried about being sued.

8. Reassign the terminated employee’s job duties promptly. As soon as the employee leaves the premises, call your other employees together, tell them that the employee is no longer working for the company (but avoid giving details), and reassign their duties to other employees. That will prevent a “rumor mill” from starting and will inoculate the employees against any negative phone calls or e-mails they may receive from the terminated employee.

9. Do not fight the employee’s claim for unemployment benefits. If you do, there’s likely to be a hearing, which will be transcribed by a court stenographer. No matter what you say during the hearing, your ex-employee is likely to be awarded benefits anyway, and if you say one thing out of line, you’ve just given your ex-employee “Exhibit A” in their lawsuit for wrongful termination. 

And the most important tip . . .

10. Get the job done. There’s only one thing worse than firing an employee who’s likely to get emotional, angry or violent, and that’s not firing them. Holding onto an employee who’s not performing or wreaking havoc with your business poisons your workplace in two ways: It allows the harmful behavior to continue, and it sends signals to other employees that they can get away with similar behavior.

Firing an employee is tough, and there’s no guarantee you won’t be sued no matter what you do, but if it has to be done, you do both yourself and your business a great disservice by putting off the inevitable.

Cliff Ennico is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series MoneyHunt. His latest book is Small Business Survival Guide (Adams Media). This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. Copyright 2006 Clifford R. Ennico. Distributed by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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New Job Proverbs

I just found a new web site called http://www.collegegrad.com. They offer a rather extensive list of tips for your new job entitled; “new job proverbs.” It’s a little daunting for my taste, but for those of you who want to succeed at all costs, it definitely represents a formula that should help you on your way.

Dave

Your first few days:

  • Understand fully what your company does for a living. Be ready to give a thirty-second overview to anyone who asks, from your friends to your grandma to your next-door neighbor.
  • Understand your role in contributing to the bottom line of the company. Keep your eyes (and your career) focused on the big picture rather than on your own little cube.
  • Get a copy of your company’s most recent annual report and read it cover to cover (if you haven’t already). Read all of it. Then read it again.
  • Dress conservatively—at or above the conservative median within the company. You should always speak louder than your clothes.
  • Remember the names of those to whom you are introduced. In your first few days on the job, jot down names until you remember them. They only have to remember one new name, while you will have multiples.
  • Take the time to understand your company benefits plan. Don’t wait until you need to use one of the benefits to understand it.
  • Personalize your work area, but not too personal. Frame your degree and hang it on the wall. Put a small picture on your desk. Get a nameplate so everyone will know who you are.
  • If your employer provides the option, have your paycheck set up for direct deposit. It will save you the time and hassle of depositing each paycheck and will give you quicker access to your money.

The daily routine:

  • Rehearse what you need to accomplish that day during your morning commute.
  • If you can take public transportation to work, do it. It not only saves energy, but also gives you time to read. Always have beneficial work-related and professional development reading materials with you. And no, the daily paper does not qualify.
  • If you drive to work, get in the habit of “reading” books on CD or iPod. It’s amazing how much reading you can accomplish over the course of a year.Your real education begins after graduation.
  • Always carry a notepad or pocket organizer with you. If you drive to work, get a windshield-attached notepad. Get in the habit of writing down both your brilliant thoughts and daily reminders as they occur to you. Otherwise, you may lose them forever.
  • Be a morning person. Always be on time.
  • Plan your day. Ten to fifteen minutes in the morning will equal an extra hour or more of productivity throughout the day.
  • Develop a routine only where it increases personal productivity; don’t get into the rut of doing something only as part of a standard routine. Make sure everything you do have a value add.
  • Be the first person to say “Hello” to others in the morning. And say it with a smile.
  • Never leave a half cup of coffee in the coffee maker for the next person. Always make a fresh pot.
  • Keep a toothbrush and breath mints in your desk for bad breath emergencies. And remember, just because you can’t smell your breath doesn’t mean it’s sweet and clean.
  • Keep an extra shirt or blouse, pressed and boxed, in your car or tucked away in your workspace. Also consider having an extra tie or an extra pair of nylons available at the ready. You will need them, it’s just a matter of time.
  • Always check your appearance in the mirror before leaving the washroom. If it’s windy or raining on your way in, stop at the washroom on the way to your workspace.
  • Arrive at meetings on time. Bring extra work so that you can pass the time with while you are waiting for others.
  • Don’t doodle or daydream at meetings. If topics being covered are outside of your area, take out your pocket planner and review what you need to accomplish that day.
  • Eat lunch in. You will save both time and money. Even just $8 per lunch eating out (and it can easily be quite a bit more) adds up to $4,000 per year. Plus it’s healthier to bring your own. Use a resealable lunch container and bring last night’s leftovers or soup or pasta. And as a by-product, you will often be viewed as a hard worker for consistently staying in when others are going out.
  • If you do go out for lunch, make it work related. Take others in your company out to lunch to learn more about their jobs and their departments. Let them do the talking. You do the listening.
  • Go for a brisk walk each day. Park at the far end of the lot in the morning. Or stretch your legs during lunch. It will clear your mind and make you more productive for the remainder of the day.

Work ethics:

  • Draw a solid ethical line and never cross it. Especially when others are encouraging you to do so.
  • Integrity sold cannot be repurchased. Do not allow yours to go on the trading block, for there will always be a ready buyer.
  • Integrity means doing what is right, even if it is unpopular, unfashionable, and unprofitable. Actually, especially when it is unpopular, unfashionable, and unprofitable.
  • Develop a reputation for honesty and integrity. If you have failed in these areas in the past, your new job is an opportunity to start fresh. It is a reputation you must earn over time. And live up to that reputation at all times, at work and everywhere else.
  • Don’t use profanity, even when others do.
  • Never tell dirty jokes, racist jokes, or sexist jokes. And simply walk away from those who attempt to share them with you.True ethics are not situational.
  • Don’t lie, cheat, or steal, even when the temptation is great—stand for honesty and integrity in all you do, and you will be amazed how far it sets you above your peers.
  • Make good on your promises. If you are not sure you can deliver, don’t promise.
  • If you are not sure, don’t do it. That’s your conscience talking. Listen closely.
  • Always seek the good in others, and they will be more likely to find it in you.

Interpersonal skills:

  • Talk 20 percent and listen 80 percent. And avoid those who talk 100 percent.
  • Always take the opportunity to praise others who are worthy of praise. If someone has done well, take the time to compliment them. Praise publicly. In front of others whenever possible. And copy their boss if your praise is via e-mail.
  • When someone is telling you a story, don’t interrupt. And don’t try to upstage them with a better story of your own.
  • Smile. A lot. Even when you feel like frowning.
  • If someone is confrontational with you, avoid the confrontation. Take time to cool off before you respond.
  • Be the person in your office who makes everyone else smile. Everyone loves a cheerful person.
  • Look for solutions, not problems. Anyone can identify problems.
  • When someone compliments you for your work, don’t say “It was nothing” or try to talk them out of it. Just say “Thank you” with a smile and move on. Nothing more, nothing less.
  • Life isn’t fair. And sometimes work isn’t either. There will be some days when just getting through the day is the best you can do. Wait until tomorrow to see if things clear up. They usually do.
  • Don’t be a complainer. Every work environment has a person who somehow feels responsible to fill the role of office complainer. Let someone else fill that role. And ignore them when they attempt to practice their art upon you.
  • When you are unhappy on the inside, do your best to stay happy on the outside. You will eventually turn inside out.

Office politics:

  • Show respect for your boss in everything you do. Don’t join in when others are boss bashing. It can be contagious.
  • As a subordinate, you must be willing to submit to the plans of others. Submission is not found in obeying the requests of those with whom you are in agreement. True submission is found in obeying another when you are not in agreement.
  • Never discuss your salary with your coworkers. Your refusal to discuss will drive them crazy wondering why you are making so much more than they are.
  • The work washroom is located at work. Don’t let your conversation change to match the surroundings.
  • When you are personally complimented for something that was a team effort, always give proper credit to the team.
  • When others begin to criticize, fight the urge to join in the slaughter.
  • Be a builder, not a destroyer.

Education and training:

  • Know and understand the company training and development program. And take advantage of it.
  • Seek to match your training with immediate application of what you have learned. Apply it and it’s yours forever. Don’t apply it and it’s lost.
  • Continue your education. Even if you do not pursue a formal degree, make learning a lifelong vocation. What you learn will affect what you earn.
  • If you are a “hunt and peck” typist, learn to type properly. It will save you immeasurable time over the course of your career. And keep you from looking silly.
  • Become fully computer literate. You don’t have to be a computer wizard, but you do need to become proficient in the use of technology in your work. Stay ahead of the technology curve.
  • Learn to become a team player. College rewards individual performance. Employers reward team performance.
  • You probably don’t know nearly as much as you think you know. It often takes the maturity of a lifetime to come to this realization, but if you are willing to acknowledge this fact early in life, you will capture a lifetime of learning and growth.

Financial:

  • There is more to life than the endless accumulation of wealth. There will never be enough money. You must find your wealth elsewhere in your life.
  • Money does not buy happiness. Happiness is found in being content with who you are and what you have.
  • Read your company’s annual report every year. And study the President’s Message to the Shareholders. That’s both the history of the past year and the vision for the coming years. Keep your career focused on doing your part in helping your employer reach that vision.
  • Sign up for your 401(k) plan as soon as possible and have 10–15 percent automatically deducted from your paycheck. You will never have it, so you will never miss it. And you will be well taken care of later in life while others continue to struggle just to survive.
  • Buy some stock in your company. If you are not willing to invest financially in your company, why are you investing your entire career with them? If they have an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) where you can buy at a discount, sign up. But remember to diversify—don’t put all your savings here.
  • Always pay your bills on time. Especially credit cards. And student loans. An unblemished credit record is an asset that should be cherished and protected.
  • Don’t run a monthly balance on your credit card. If you can’t pay it off, don’t buy it.
  • When someone offers you “the opportunity of a lifetime” in the form of multi-level marketing (a/k/a MLM, a/k/a network marketing), save your time and professional reputation with a polite yet firm “No thanks.”
  • Regarding any financial venture or investment, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Extracurricular:

  • Limit yourself to one glass of beer or wine when dining out with coworkers or clients. And wait for someone else to order liquor first—don’t be the only one.
  • Don’t drink at all at the holiday party or other company social activities—besides, it’s much more fun to watch others who are drinking.
  • Don’t do drugs and avoid those who do.
  • Beware of office romances. Keep personal matters outside the work environment.
  • Listen to your home answering machine message from the perspective of your boss. If you don’t want the office to hear it, change it. Cutesy messages usually don’t sound cute when played over a speakerphone at the office. And if it’s real cutesy, they will probably tell others to call and listen to it as well.
  • Join a health club. Go before work, during lunch, or after work two or three times a week. It will increase your level of energy in your life. You will look better and feel better.

Career progression:

  • Watch and emulate those who are successful in the company. Allow them to be your mentors from afar.
  • Know who your boss’s boss is. This is the person who may either recommend or authorize your promotion in the future.
  • Ask your boss to point out areas for continuous improvement.
  • Become known either as the person who is the first in to work or as the person who is the last to leave. Or both. But don’t do both forever. It’s a good start in your career, but it’s not a good life balance in the end.
  • Develop a reputation as a problem-solver. If a problem lands on your desk, don’t pass it on to someone else.
  • Even if you receive a good performance review, ask what you can do to improve your future performance.
  • Be aware of the work that is going on around you. These are your vistas of potential future growth and development.
  • Get copies of your competitor’s annual reports. It will keep you in tune with your industry and help you to better understand and appreciate your company’s competitive edge.
  • If you love doing what you do, success will follow.
  • Learn to tap into the office network. Career progression is more like climbing a web than climbing a ladder. Make sure you tap into as many connection points as possible.
  • No one owes you a living. No one owes you a job. You earn it, each and every day, all over again. And when you cease to earn your job on a daily basis, you will cease in your career progression.
  • If you do more than what you are paid to do, you will eventually be paid more for what you do.
  • Don’t ask for a raise because you need more money. Ask for a raise because you are worth more money.
  • When faced with earning $30,000 and loving what you do versus earning $50,000 and hating what you do, take the $30,000 job and sleep well at night. Your life will be much richer than if you had taken the other job.
  • Take the pillow test to assess your career satisfaction. When you take your head up off the pillow in the morning, are you excited about going to work? And when you lay your head down on the pillow at night, are you happy about what you have been able to accomplish? The answer will not always be “Yes,” but if it is consistently “No,” it may be time to move on.

Skills for a lifetime:

  • Life is never exactly what we want it to be. Life just is. It is what we make of life that will bring it nearer to what we want it to be.
  • You are the best investment you will ever have. The dividends received on this investment will pay you back for the rest of your life.
  • Be proactive in planning for the future. To gain things in the future, you need to pursue them today.
  • Expect great things from yourself and hope for great things in others.
  • Set goals in your life. Break down your long-term goals into near-term goals. Then break down your near-term goals into annual goals. Then break down your annual goals into monthly goals. Then break down your monthly goals into weekly goals. Then break down your weekly goals into daily goals. Then break down your daily goals into specific tasks which will lead to results. And make sure it is all down on paper. Then do it. You are on your way to accomplishing all the goals in your life.
  • Begin to use a Day-Timer, Franklin Planner, or other pocket planner religiously. It will quickly become your daily guide to accomplishing your goals in life.
  • Be observant—learn from the mistakes of others so that they are not repeated in your life.
  • When you do make mistakes, take responsibility for them immediately. Denial will only prolong and intensify the error. Acknowledge you were wrong and move on. And do your best not to make the same mistake again.
  • Every journey begins with a single step. And with each new step, the objective comes into clearer view.
  • Don’t put your ballet shoes in the attic. Do your best to keep your life multifaceted.
  • Always give back to those who are less fortunate than you. No matter how hard you have worked to get where you are now, there is always someone who has not had the same opportunities that you have had in life. Do your best to give to help meet the needs of others.
  • Stop to smell the roses. And drink in of their fragrance until it emanates from within you.
  • Listen when children speak to you.
  • It’s not where you start out in life—it’s where you end up.

And finally, always remember that work should never be your sole purpose in life. No one ever said on their death bed, “I wish I would have spent more time at the office.”

I wish you all the best in your new life after college!

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Happy New Year 2008

Before you place an order for the first month of Nutrisystem’s food, buy a new treadmill, or join the health club, take a few minutes and give your career a New Year’s diagnostic. The new year is great time to update your career plan for success and these seven questions are the best way to get your post-New-Year’s-Day juices flowing.

Question #1:  How good are my 2008 job objectives?

If you’re like most of us, you’ll be updating your annual or quarterly job objectives with your boss within the next few weeks. Rather than simply dragging out the old ones and giving them a tune up, take a few moments to think about what you might do differently to make 2008 your career breakthrough year. Specifically, think about new areas of responsibility you can rope into your job scope, major initiatives in adjacent departments that you can volunteer to represent on behalf of your department, or a new system or procedure you can implement to make everyone’s life easier. Once you’ve zeroed in on your breakthrough objective, start selling it to your boss and coworkers immediately. Make it synonymous with your name by the end of January – then you’ll have no choice but to pull it off.

Question #2:  Is my January 2nd Action List worthy?

Unless you make a point to do things differently, you’ll drift into the “same old, same old” by lunchtime today. It will be easy to do since almost everyone in the office will be doing the same thing. But the winners and leaders in your organization will march through the door this morning looking to shake things up in 2008. Look around and take notice of who is taking charge of 2008, then make sure your action plan links into the objectives they’ve laid out for the year. Chances are you can drop half of those 2007 leftover action items in exchange for something bold in 2008.

Question #3: How will you make a big splash at kick-off meetings?

Everyone holds major planning sessions for the new year in January. If you’re not already on the agenda, get on it. If you are on the agenda, seize the opportunity. It’s one of the few times of the year that you can stand up in front of your boss, coworkers and often even a broader audience and show them your stuff. Don’t just go through the motions; use these meetings as a platform to launch a more successful career.

Question #4:  Is there an adversary out there I can neutralize?

Everyone has someone in the office they bump heads with. Most of the time they’re just an annoyance, but if an opportunity for promotion emerges in 2008, they can suddenly become your biggest obstacle to landing that key job you’ve always dreamed about.  Take a minute and survey your work group and make a list of people who might undermine your next promotion. Then start softening them up; buy them a coffee, say something nice about a project they’re working on at the next staff meeting, or just stop by their desk and chat every now and then. Your goal is not to win them over; you simply want to get your name removed from their enemies list.

Question #5: How can you improve your personal career network?

How strong is your relationship with all the winners and future leaders in your organization? If one of them left tomorrow to take a key job in a hot company would he give you a call to join him? Did the power base shift in 2007? How well are you aligned with the top dogs for 2008? These are the people who will be making the best speeches at kick-off meetings. Take notes, think about your job responsibilities and come up with ideas for synergy with these key players. Then get on their agenda and tell them what your plans are. They will appreciate your initiative and you will earn a spot on their radar screen for the future.

Question #6: How can you boost your career equity before summer vacation?

When your summer vacation comes around you can find yourself in one of two positions: You can be scrambling to wrap things up so you can sneak out of town, or you can find yourself enjoying the accolades of your boss and coworkers for a project well done. Be the latter. Create a plan now that consummates a week or two before your summer vacation. Envision how much more relaxing your vacation will be if it comes on the back of a major accomplishment. Use that vision as motivation for the first half of 2008.

Question #7: Is 2008 the year to move to greener pastures?

If you found yourself asking this question frequently in 2007, it’s unlikely to go away in 2008. Is your boss a career asset or impediment? Can you see your next promotion? Is your boss going anywhere soon? Have you exhausted all transfer options with your current employer? If so, it’s probably time to move and the first quarter is often the best time for job openings. Budgets have been set and headcount increases have been approved. People who are hiring want to get their new team in place early in the year. If you find yourself in this situation, January is the time to act. Update your resume, start calling close allies in other companies and figure out what’s out there,  

2008 will come and go. You have a career today and God willing, you’ll have a career on January 1, 2009. There is only one person who can make your career better this year – it’s you. Make you plan today for a great 2008.

Dave

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