If you have any doubts about reading Career-ology, read this. . .

If you have any doubts about whether you should read Career-ology, consider these common misunderstandings:

Myth #1: I will get these skills from my employer and as part of my day-to-day job.

You will probably not receive training in all of these skills. Even if you do, how will you continue to hone them once the specific training is complete? If your employer does provide this type of training, your colleagues are also being trained. How will you differentiate yourself?

Myth #2: My job or career is __________ . (Fill in the blank with your position). The skills in this book don’t apply in my situation.

The skills and concepts presented in this book apply to all industries, professions, and roles—from entry-level to the C-suite. You may use some skills more frequently than others, but they are all important.

Myth #3: I already know this “stuff.”

You may have been introduced to these skills and concepts. You may even have acquired a working knowledge, but you have not mastered these skills as a new professional. Most successful professionals will say they practice and improve their skills throughout their entire careers. Professionals who believe they are finished learning will not be successful. Those who believe in and practice lifelong learning, however, will always find opportunities and success. Approaching your career with the right mindset could make the difference between simply having a job and having a successful career.

Myth #4: I took a public speaking or a business writing class while in college. I don’t need those chapters.

See the answer to Myth #3 above.

Preparing for a Networking Meeting (or an Interview)

The following advice adapted from Chapter 3: Professional Networking applies equally to preparing for an interview.

You can prepare for any new networking situation (or interview) by planning and practicing ahead of time. Think through what you will say and practice saying it. When you’ve prepared and rehearsed, your words will sound natural and the conversation will flow. You and the person with whom you are speaking will both feel more comfortable.

Preparation will take time and effort. Don’t wait until you walk in the door to begin preparing. Take an hour with a blank page and put some thought into this work. The investment of time and effort will be rewarded.

The most common question at a networking event is “What do you do?” Many interviews begin with, “Tell me about yourself.” Since you can be reasonably confident that you’ll have to respond to some version of this question, prepare your answer. Write two versions of your answer:

  • short response—a 20-second or less version (approximately 30-40 words depending on your rate of speech).
  • long response—a two-minute version (approximately 200-250 words).

Short Response

The short response of your answer to the question, “What do you do?” should be no more than 20 seconds long. This equates to approximately 30-40 words depending on your rate of speech. Your response to “Tell me about yourself” should be longer. You will want to combine your short and long response. Keep reading. . .

In other books and articles about networking, you may see the term “twenty-second pitch” which is similar to the term I am using here. The idea is similar, but the emphasis is different. If you are pitching or selling in the first 20 seconds you meet someone, then you’ve missed the point of networking and the importance of building a relationship.

The first 20 seconds are critical. Answer the question, “What do you do?” in such a way that you make a memorable impression in the mind of the person to whom you are responding. Your answer should help move the conversation forward.

You might say, “I am a lawyer,” or “I am a graduating senior,” but answers like these don’t move the conversation forward or make it easy for the person to remember you. You reveal little about yourself and miss the opportunity to share how you are different from the one million lawyers or college seniors across the country. You make it difficult for the person you are meeting to respond. “That’s nice,” is about all they can say, or just “oh.” If you’re lucky and the person you are meeting is in the same profession, you might get “me too” as a response. At this point, the conversation is headed off the rails.

Instead, your short version should add some detail, color, or flavor about the type of lawyer, salesperson, or other professional you are. What is your specialty or expertise? Who are your customers/clients? What about your role is unique? Compare these:

“I am a lawyer” vs. “I advise small to medium-sized corporate clients about employment matters.”

“I am a college senior” vs. “I am a college senior and will graduate with a degree in Marine Biology. I am pursuing roles with NGOs and large aquariums.” 

The answers that will enhance the conversation are obvious and they will make you more memorable. This part of your short version answer is the “hook”—the details that prompt one or more follow-up questions or comments in response. Your hook should be intriguing enough that it is memorable, it sparks curiosity and invites further discussion.

With that as guidance, develop your short response by writing several versions of your response. Then continue to refine them. Once you are happy with the words on paper, speak them out loud into a voice recorder. Listen to your recording. Evaluate how it sounds to you. Revise as necessary. Now is also a good time to check the timing, which should be no longer than 20 seconds (ten seconds is better). By now, these words should sound and feel natural to you. If not, find new words.

After you’re satisfied with the results, practice out loud with friends or colleagues. Seek their feedback. Continue to practice until your response sounds natural instead of rehearsed.

TIP: By combining your short and long responses, you have an answer to a classic interview question—“Tell me about yourself.” In an interview situation, you’ll want to expand on your answer and take full advantage of this opportunity to focus on your skills and accomplishments.

Long Response

Since your short response to the question, “What do you do?” is interesting and includes an effective hook, the person to whom you are speaking will likely ask the follow-up question. Remem- ber that the hook you include in your short response should prompt a follow-up question or comment. You will likely be able to anticipate the question or comment that you get in response to your hook; you can prepare and hone your long response.

Sometimes referred to as a two-minute pitch, two-minute commercial, or elevator pitch, your long response is meant to provide additional information about what you do. It shows how the person with whom you are speaking might help you. You want to answer the question for the other person.

Continuing with the examples from above, here is a sample dialogue to consider as you design your own long response.

The lawyer’s short response was:

I advise small to medium-sized corporate clients regarding employment matters.

Here is what the lawyer’s long response might sound like:

Our firm has been established for 50 years and we have more than 150 lawyers in our offices in New York and Connecticut. The firm has several Fortune 500 clients, but we focus on smaller firms that don’t usually maintain in-house counsel with the expertise our firm provides. We specialize in employment law and labor relations. Recently, the three managing partners of our firm were all named to the “Top 100 Lawyer” list.

If you met this lawyer at a networking event, what do you know after listening to his/her short and long responses? First, you know from the lawyer’s short response—“I advise small to medium-sized corporate clients regarding employment matters.”—that the lawyer would welcome an introduction to someone in your network who works for a small to medium-size corporation. From the lawyer’s long response, you also know the specific area of legal expertise—employment law.

Next, you know that a potential client for this lawyer would likely be based in New York or Connecticut since law firms practice within state boundaries. You also know that this law firm is well established—having been around for more than 50 years and, finally, that the managing partners are well regarded in the legal profession.

With this information, you can mentally scan your own professional network and determine if there is someone who might benefit from an introduction to this lawyer. Perhaps your own organization needs this type of expertise or you have a friend who is currently negotiating his own employment contract and needs legal advice. If you can’t think of anyone who might need this law- yer’s services immediately, you could consider an introduction to someone else in your network who might have a direct connection.

Put This Advice Into Action

While this is a highly simplified example, it illustrates how to prepare for a networking event or interview and how you can start the conversation in a productive way.

How I Emptied My Email Inbox?

In the first part of the this blog post, I discussed the very real and growing problems that are a result of the increasing volume of email.  In this post, I will tell outline the simple process that I use to empty my email box each week.

The important thing to remember is that there is not one method that will work for everyone.  The way you use email for your work is a function of many things including your job function, your colleagues, your managers and customers or clients, therefore, the solution for emptying your email box on a regular basis will vary.

This is how I approach the task. Read more

10 Principles for a Successful Career

10 Principles for a Successful Career

  1. Make your first impressions count.
  2. Expect change to happen. Change is the only constant and adaptability will help you navigate any storm.
  3. Be bold, but not careless.
  4. People are the key to all professional success. The quality of the relationship you have with your colleagues, customers, clients, business partners, managers, patients and investors will have a direct impact on your success. Focus on successful outcomes for them and your own success will follow.
  5. Information is power. Know everything you can about anything that matters.
  6. Practice the skills you use in your profession like a rock star, a professional athlete or a blockbuster actor.
  7. Focus on the 80/20 rule in all aspects of your career.
  8. Build and maintain a robust professional network of people you know and trust.
  9. You may be the smartest person in the room, but no one will know if you can’t communicate effectively.
  10. EQ always outperforms IQ.

How many millions are in a trillion?

Do you know how many millions are in a trillion? According to Econ4u.org (Employment Policies Institute), only 21% of the people in a national poll answered the question correctly. That’s not good. You definitely want to know the answer to this question and here’s why. . .

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/4428480]

Read more

Teamwork – There is no “I”

In November of 2012, I wrote a blog post about the culture associated with Tough Mudder– the obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie (see A Muddy Corporate Culture). I also discussed the need to understand the culture of your organization.

This past November, I participated in my first GORUCK Light. Fellow Georgetown alumnus, Jason McCarthy is a Special Forces veteran and launched GORUCK events to prove the quality and durability of the rucksacks he was selling. The story of how Jason built this company is very interesting, especially for entrepreneurs (or entrepreneur-in-training). Read more

Keys to Career Advancement

Kaplan University and LinkedIn recently published the results of a survey of 1,000 individuals about their views on career development. The headline is:

Nearly eight-in-ten survey respondents agree they need to obtain new skills to advance their careers

This is Career-ology’s core belief.  Career advancement is based on continuing skills training and development. Don’t wait for your company to provide the training you want– find it and complete the training on your own. YOU are responsible for building YOUR skills set.

Here is a brief summary of the survey’s key findings:

  • 78% respondents agree or strongly agree that they need to obtain new skills to advance their careers.
  • 64% agree or strongly agree that continuing their education will play an important role in their career advancement.
  • 53% agree or strongly agree that they need a more systematic process for planning and tracking their career journey.
  • 68% respondents indicate that they would like a better method for finding opportunities to be mentored or to serve as mentors for others.

It doesn’t take a survey to tell you what you already know.  The question is . . . what will you do about it?  You can read the full press release at Kaplan University’s website.

Gratitude in the Office – An Experiment

This is a great experiment by SoulPancake showing the personal benefits of expressing gratitude. Gratitude is not only for your family and friends. . . tell you colleagues, peers, boss and customers what it is about them that you appreciate.

Who in your career has been influential? Who did something really amazing for your career? Remember professional relationships are the key to your success. By expressing your gratitude, you’ll improve the quality of those important relationships and feel good yourself. Everybody wins! Check out this 7 minute video.

Best Advice from Leading Executives

Business Insider compiled a list of “best advice” from 22 top executives. I’ve pulled the top 10 bits of advice that apply to new professionals and summarized it here.  The full Business Insider post will provide the context for each quote and reveal who the wise sage is behind each pearl of wisdom.

  1. There’s a finite amount of time you’re going to be doing this. Do this really, really well. – Terry J. Lundgren, CEO, Macy’s
  2. Never to look back in regret but to move on to the next thing. – Richard Branson, founder and chairman, Virgin Group
  3. I see a bunch of good choices, and there’s the one that you pick and make great. – Marissa Mayer, VP, Google
  4. First, it’s good to solicit your people’s opinions before you give them yours. And second, your people will be very influenced by how you carry yourself under stress. – Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO, Goldman Sachs
  5. You’ve gotta learn to listen!” – Maureen Chiquet, Global CEO, Chanel
  6. Follow my instincts and take the risk. I wanted to create a new way of looking at retail – Tory Burch, co-founder and creative director, Tory Burch
  7. Never forget Warren, you can tell a guy to go to hell tomorrow — you don’t give up the right. So just keep your mouth shut today, and see if you feel the same way tomorrow. – Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway
  8. Just remember, it’s a small business and a long life. You’re going to see all these people again. – Richard Parsons, former chairman, Citigroup
  9. Always have the courage of your convictions. Always state what’s on your mind. Follow your gut. And observe what other people are doing around you. – Joe Uva, former CEO, Univision
  10. Remember—you’ve got to make your deposits before you can make a withdrawal! – Steve Schwartzman, chairman and CEO, Blackstone Group

Inner Confidence

Last week, I attended several networking events with current college students.  Each student’s level of confidence varied.  I believe that some of them could be more confident based on their accomplishments to date.  Others– just a few– were a little more confident than their resumes could support.

Confidence as a professional often comes with experience (i.e., years on the job).  At Career-ology, we believe that you can acquire, practice and develop most of the critical professional skills in a proactive way.  Very simply, instead of simply waiting for the passage of time, adopt a mindset or way of thinking about inner confidence.

John Keyser, a highly accomplished leadership coach in Washington, D.C., has a great blog post today.  John writes, “When we have inner confidence, we:

  • Realize that asking for help is a sign of strength
  • Allow ourselves to help others learn, grow and succeed
  • Want our colleagues to do great work
  • Are comfortable sharing credit for success
  • Shine the spotlight on others

Read John’s post, “Inner Confidence Coupled with Humility,” to learn how to become a more effective leader, a more successful professional and a better person.