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Are We Down For The Count? Never!

One of my all-time favorite movies is Cool Hand Luke with Paul Newman and George Kennedy. Remember the classic scene where both men fight in the yards and Newman’s Luke refuses to stay down? It’s right up there with the egg eating bet in terms of iconic scenes.

We’re all going to get knocked down. It’s a fact. And as so many wise folks have said before, it’s not the getting knocked down that’s the problem…it’s refusing to get back up again and keep moving. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I’ll openly confess that the past six months have been a strange, at times frustrating journey. I’ve been on job interviews that seemed like great fits for both me and the employer only to learn that I failed because I wasn’t exactly what they were looking for. I’ve also had a few potential contracts for Bailey WorkPlay dry up and disappear for reasons largely unknown. (And if you’re thinking there are lessons to learn when it comes to closing deals, you might be right.) But my point is not to lament these missed opportunities or seek pity. Instead, it’s to highlight how – when we get knocked on our ass – to get back up again.

Out of these experiences, I’ve learned to dream even bigger, work even harder, be even more persistent than before. Like Luke, when I get knocked down I’m dusting myself off, wiping away the bloody nose, and getting back up. Currently, I’m working on creating opportunities to do things I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to do. I’m chasing down a long-held dream I want to become real. And I can’t wait to share the outcomes when the time is right.

How about you? Are you struggling to get back up on your feet after taking one to the chin? Are you shoving aside a dream to do something you’ve always wanted to do? Know that you’re not alone and don’t stay down. See it as an opportunity to stand up strong and continue to move forward in your journey. Fully believe that you deserve good in your life, because – trust me – you do.

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Kill The Resume

I can’t possibly say how much I dig this article. Ben Popper at Business Insider advises companies Want To Hire Smart? Ditch The Resumes. Regardless of whether you’re in the middle of a job search or gainfully employed, I think the ideas highlighted in the article will resonate with you.

For me, resumes are like elevator pitches. Excellent at helping job seekers fine-tune their professional marketing focus but utterly worthless when it comes to adequately communicating overall strengths and value. And for HR pros and hiring managers, the resume becomes a lazy way out of understanding what a candidate can do for the organization. The reason is that a resume is all about past history and nothing about the present and future. And God forbid you want to move toward a different type of job or enter a different industry; that damn resume virtually locks you out of those options.

As Ben ends the article:

In an age of disruptive business models, a resume doesn’t say much. The smart hire puts the candidates ideas first, then looks to see how they network and collaborate. It’s about seeing what someone can go, not where they’ve already been.

Of course, this means that both company and candidate have to dance to the same tune. A few courageous business execs are out there rewriting how they find great talent. What’s your organization doing to kill the resume and start uncovering an individual’s actual value, their strengths that transcend a piece of paper?

photo credit: brymo (via flickr)

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Five Myths Perpetuated By Big Brand Employers

I wish I didn’t have to write this post. I wish it wasn’t required to point out something that seems so damn obvious. But it has become tragically necessary based on far too many things said and emailed to me lately. Therefore, I’m going to attempt to clear up an unfortunate misconception that blinds too many otherwise smart individuals. It’s called Big Brand Blindness and its based on a lie that seems to carry so much weight:

An individual with little-to-no “big brand” professional experience isn’t able to be effective in a large corporate environment.

To which I can only say, “Bullshit!” It’s pure crap and constructed from at least five myths. Let’s take a look at each one that unfairly stigmatizes the hard work of professionals in small and medium enterprises (I’m including nonprofits here with SMEs):

Myth #1: You can’t cope with complexity.
Yes, I get it. Your megasized multinational company is an elaborate, convoluted leviathan that defies the laws of reason. Guess what? Someone who has built a career within an SME also understands complexity. That’s because – unlike in Big Brand – we don’t have the luxury of specialization. We can’t and that’s honestly to our benefit. We wear two, three, sometimes four hats because that’s what is needed to complete the project and make the customer happy. We’re experts at creativity, constantly doing more with increasingly fewer resources. We can cope with complexity because we live it every single working day.

Myth #2: You can’t handle pressure.
Want to know what pressure is? When Big Brand has a bad quarter, looks like Wall Street won’t be happy. If an SME has a bad quarter, it could mean the end of the company. Now which one seems more pressure-intensive to you? And because SMEs are typically closer to their customers, there’s a tremendous amount of pressure to keep them satisfied. If they’re unhappy and tell others, there goes a potentially huge chunk of business.

Myth #3: You don’t know how to communicate with executives.
As if multinational corporate executives are some strange race of aliens that require knowledge of a special language only learned by toiling through the hierarchy of Big Brand. Communications skills are universal. If you know how to get your point across successfully to your SME’s senior leaders or Board of Directors, I guarantee the communication capability translates fine to the CEO or CMO of Big Brand.

Myth #4: Your skillset (feel free to plug in expertise, knowledge, etc) doesn’t scale.
This one drives me batshit. We’re not talking about going from CEO of a two-person office to the CEO of Big Brand (though you might argue that the CEO of an SME could run a company like aol., BP, Lehman Brothers just as well as their current counterparts). Just because you have experience within Big Brand doesn’t necessarily mean you’re any more qualified to do work at another Big Brand. I’m further convinced this myth is a smokescreen because you’ll never know if it does actually scale. You’ve already cast your judgment and you’ve already missed the talent in front of your nose. Good luck with that.

Myth #5: You don’t really know about business.
The coup de grâce. Let’s face it, this is what’s really being said every single time the charge of not having enough Big Brand experience is leveled toward a candidate. There’s a sense perpetuated by those within Big Brand that business is only truly conducted at the multinational level. SMEs are small potatoes where the real lessons of managing P&L, budgets, employees, customer relations, and executive expectations still mean little in comparison. Really? Sorry but I strongly disagree with that small-mindedness.

For my parting shot, I’m going to go out on a limb with my own hypothesis for what’s to blame (at least partially). If we’re honest, there’s some posturing going on – particularly when it comes to consulting agencies who work with Big Brand. The desire to fill the stables with people from a well-known, Fortune 500 corporation isn’t so much about their ability or expertise as it is about their prestige (“Oooh, he worked for Big Brand, he must be smart. And that’ll look great on our website’s About Us page.”) There’s a mystique that people like to attach to work done at Big Brands. Some of it is truly well-deserved and to be respected. Some of it is unspectacular but lauded because Big Brands get attention. And quite a bit of it is built on non-creative, safe, ineffective adherence to not rocking the Big Brand boat. In reality, work done within a Big Brand isn’t any better or worse than work done within an SME. So let’s stop with all this shallow Big Brand Blindness where candidates get overlooked not because of the quality of their past or potential of their future work, but just because of for whom their past work was done.

So, let’s hear it. If you’re currently working inside a big brand, what’s your take? And if you’ve been passed over due to big brand blindness, what have you done to heal this unfortunate affliction? Lay it down in the comments.

photo credit: spoinknet (via Flickr)

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Open Letter to Fellow Career Zigzaggers

Okay, here I go…out on the proverbial limb. For a while, I’ve been listening to a very persuasive voice within me that said, “Chris, you’re a marketer and that’s all you should be doing. Now go out and find marketing-related jobs.” Want to know something strange? I’m not really a marketer. Sure, I have a solid grounding in the profession and even have some experience doing it. However, In the end, I’m a mutt, a dabbler, a generalist. I’ve successfully tackled positions like customer service, sales, data processing, web design, and yes, marketing. I’ve worked in non-profits and for-profits. I’ve even tried launching my own businesses a couple of times.

My professional trajectory hasn’t been a straight line…more like a zigzag. This is both good and bad. The good? I possess a wealth of different experiences, skillsets, and knowledge. This diversity allows me to uncover patterns that many “straight line” professionals likely can’t see. The bad? Most organizations don’t value this eclectic background so much. They want straight-liners and set their hiring practices up to reward them.

So for many of us career zigzaggers, vocational searchers, and Renaissance Souls we tend to feel neglected and discarded and wonder what the hell we ever did wrong to find ourselves in such a world. We then do something that truly dishonors our selves and undermines our value: we try to emulate the straight-liner. We interview and market ourselves like the straight-liners, all the while downplaying our own richness, our own unique qualities. We try to cram our polygon peg into the square hole and then wonder why we’re so dumb because it doesn’t fit.

Does this sound familiar to you? If so, know you’re not alone. It’s time to acknowledge that we have tremendous value to give. It’s time to be bold and proudly profess our unique abilities. We’re quick learning, intensely creative, spectacularly curious professionals (to name just a few attributes). So here’s my call to action: Instead of hiding our light under a bushel basket, let’s not just uncover it – let’s throw kerosene on it and start a wildfire. Even if they don’t know it yet, employers need us. Business today is moving way too fast for the straight-liners and the specialists to keep up. Organizations truly need our broad skillsets, diversity of experiences, and ability to learn quickly.

If you find yourself identifying with the zigzagger ideal, come and share your experiences. What are your frustrations? Any tips for how you’ve overcome challenges and claimed your value?

Now go out there and set your fire today.

photo credit: marcelgermain (via Flickr)

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A Note From One Work Seeker to Another

I’m noticing a lot of blogposts, articles, and other resources focused on the jobhunt, as if the reason why is a great mystery. Yep, the current recession is putting many folks (myself included) into the growing legions of unemployed professionals. I was let go from my own full-time gig last month. This isn’t my first foray into this territory, which in some ways is comforting. If this happens to be your first time out of work or if it’s been a while since your last time, hopefully I can offer some suggestions to help you deal with this experience. These are more related to your emotional well-being since this can quickly become one of the casualties of unemployment. At the end of this post, I’ll toss out some of my favorite links on how to navigate the process of getting your next best gig.

Know and trust your value.
Just because you don’t have a job doesn’t mean you have little value. There are organizations out there who are looking for you and what you can bring to them. But you’ll never benefit from this connection if you undermine your own value, sell yourself short, or convince yourself that you have little to offer. You have the ability to define your value to a prospective employer.

Focus on good mental and physical health.
Being unemployed can raise all kinds of nasty thoughts and feelings. It’s important to be mindful of these. I won’t suggest that you shouldn’t feel pissed off, sad, or confused. But the absolute worst thing that can happen is to wallow in them for so long, they take up permanent residence. Feel them and then let them go. Sort of what I call “catch and release.” Easier said than done, I know. Which is why taking care of our mental well-being needs to be connected to physical well-being.

When I feel the negative thoughts arriving and getting comfy in my head, that’s my signal that I need to get out for a walk or run or bike ride. I plug into my iPod and get my heart pumping. And I’ve also lost some weight in the process, too.

Get social so you don’t get sucked into the cycle of depression.
If being out of work has reminded me of anything, it’s the importance of having a support network. Friends, family, and even acquaintances have been terrific in offering their support. It’s as true now as it was the last time I was out of work.

But here’s something else I’ve come to believe: you get what you give. My social network has grown wider and deeper, which was happening prior to being unemployed. And with that strong social network, I’ve come to realize that I can help other job seekers. For instance, I’m working with another workseeker, Alora Chistiakoff to put together a Jobhunters United Tweetup here in Austin. The point is that you don’t have to go through this experience alone.

Other helpful resources…
Here’s a set of resources that I’m finding extremely helpful right now.

And don’t be shy to add some of your faves here, too. Just post them in the comments area.

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Searching Or Planning Your Career Journey

Anne Zelenka at Web Worker Daily conjures up a nice bit of integrative thinking by linking the process of securing international aid to the process of navigating our career journey. She writes of the differences between a top-down strategy (planning) which is fine if you know exactly where you’re going and a bottom-up strategy (searching) if you’re less sure of your direction. It’s a cool leap and one that resonates with the WorkPlay philosophy of playful career experimentation.

To use a search strategy to move forward in your career, take small steps towards what you think you might like to do (and what might reward you financially), stopping and checking often to see if you’re getting the results you want. When you search, you’ll spend relatively more time acting and checking results and relatively less time setting goals and trying to predict an uncertain future.

This bears resemblance to advice offered in Herminia Ibarra’s book, Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career, in which she advocates taking short leaps to test possible career avenues rather than planning one big leap.

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Are You A Tourist To Your Own Career?

I just published my first post over at Career Hub where I’ll be writing a few times a month. Here’s the beginning excerpt.

Sometimes I get overcharged,
that’s when you see sparks.
They ask me where the hell I’m going?
At a 1000 feet per second,
hey man, slow down, slow down,
idiot, slow down, slow down.
Radiohead – The Tourist

I fondly remember spending a college semester abroad in Oxford, England. It was a wonderful opportunity to surround myself in a different culture and experience the world from a different perspective. It was also a chance to visit all the places I had read about in books and seen on television. Along with my fiancée (now wife), we discovered ruined remains of long abandoned castles, quaint villages with thatch-covered homes, and charming roadside pubs.

We also made a point to visit London. London is a magnificent city with no lack for things to see and do. If visiting unprepared, it can be overwhelming. So being the kind of guy who wants to be prepared for anything, I made a very detailed schedule for our first visit. When I say ‘detailed’, I mean down to the minute. How else can you see the Tower of London, British Museum, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and the National Gallery all in one day? That’s a lot to do and only a detailed plan can make sure it all happens.

The first thing you realize when trying to stick to a very full schedule is that other people may not want to cooperate. Sure, my fiancée was playing along, but the Londoners operating the Underground (their version of our subways), serving tea, and guiding the site tours just wouldn’t keep to my strategically created schedule. I even suspected my fiancée was an accomplice to their desire to subvert my plans. However, despite their best effort, they couldn’t break my resolve and by the end of the day we accomplished my mission of visiting each place on the list. We could leave the city saying that we had been to all the places you associate with London.

You may be thinking, “Sure, you accomplished your objective, but did you really enjoy the experience?” The answer would have to be ‘no.’ And worse, those around me didn’t enjoy it either. Sadly, I hardly remember any of those places on that trip. I was driven by the importance of being able to say I had visited those places.

My mad tourist dash seems silly, yet how many times have we done the same thing in our careers. So many of us race from task to task, project to project, and job to job. Perhaps we do this so we can check them off our strategically created career plans. Or maybe we become seduced by the thought that the next thing ahead is better than what we have right now. Ultimately, we find ourselves trapped by the notion that the destination becomes far more important than the journey itself and we lose ourselves in the process.

So, what can we do?

Find out by visiting Career Hub…

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