Keeping Tabs on Growth- E Myths Busted

One of the initial mistakes many entrepreneurs make is believing that they can achieve all of their goals without reflection.  As mentioned in an earlier post, frequent journaling about your career, productivity, or business can help you achieve your goals.  In order to improve the performance of my small business, I frequently ask myself the following questions to determine the strengths of my decisions, whether or not I need to revise my business strategies, and embrace my biggest fears in my business.  Add this practice to your daily routine as an entrepreneur.  My favorite questions are:

  1. What are the strengths in what I am doing as an entrepreneur, manager, or CEO? I’m a firm believer in working with and recognizing your strengths as a focal point of reflection. Acknowledging what you do well will help you address and face your weaknesses more effectively.  Additionally, you need to address your different roles as an entrepreneur, manager of employees, and CEO. Where are you succeeding here?
  2. What opportunities spring from these strengths?  Consider this a daily version of SWOT lite. You need to see the patterns and trends of what you can manipulate as an advantage in your business.
  3. What has become difficult and inefficient? This is a difficult question to answer.  As entrepreneurs, we tend to create operating systems and methods that work for a period of time, yet fail to recognize when they have outlived their usefulness.  It’s smarter to keep tabs on what’s not working on a daily basis as opposed to adhering to failing methods for weeks, months, and years.
  4. What can be done to make the company more efficient and effective? Start with the observations as initial insights, and reflect on comments from workers, customers, and vendors. How can you make the company more effective for the people you serve?
  5. If it is difficult and/or inefficient, should it be given to someone else(manager, employee, hire a service or contractor)? Perhaps one of the most difficult transitions from a startup entrepreneur to a settled corporation is the understanding that settled businesses need specialists to handle tasks. You may have handled many aspects of the business in the startup phase, but need to hire others to take care of those tasks now.  Now it’s time to ask some tough questions.
  6. What did I accomplish today? Bragging rights!  List all of your accomplishments, especially in each role you play in your corporation. What did you accomplish as a manager, business owner, coach?  Write it down and be proud of what you’ve achieved.
  7. Are my goals and mission statements apt, timely, and relevant? As a coach, I have found that far too many business owners and managers simply set goals for the sake of having them.  This unfortunately creates problems for employees and companies because they don’t see a firm direction for the corporation and/or department.  Reflect on the 90 day, quarterly, and yearly goals you established in the past year.  Are they still relevant?  Are your daily actions and plans focused on your larger goals?  If the answer is no, you need to spend some time adjusting your strategy.
  8. What lessons did I learn as a result of problems or setbacks today? Smart entrepreneurs see the opportunity in setbacks, whether it’s room to build a skill, acknowledge a flaw, or change course.  Instead of looking at obstacles as permanent obstacles or indications of major character flaws, seek to learn and change from these issues.
  9. What should I spend more of my time? Let’s get real. We all know that part of your business that you’d rather get root canal than handle. It’s going to catch up with you.  Eat the frog and prioritize more time doing the things you’d rather avoid.
  10. What are my biggest fears about my business, and what should I do about them? Starting a business isn’t for the faint of heart.  Are you losing revenue, scared of new competition, or just burned out?  Be honest here and start brainstorming ways to cope. If I notice a reoccurring theme in your fears, consider whether or not you need resources to address these problems.  Creating a plan of action and investing in coaching, new services, or addressing these issues with staff can do a lot to alleviate these fears.

I use these questions to assess my business every workday, and it’s been instrumental in facilitating growth, strategies, and efficiency.  While you don’t have to commit to all 10 questions every day, answering these questions at least once a week will make a huge difference in your business or department.  Try it for 90 days and chart a new course!

Good Things Come to Those Who Procrastinate

For many of my clients, procrastination is a bad habit that to be decimated through a New Year’s resolution.  Stereotyped as the natural habit of the lazy, misdirected, or scatter brained, procrastinators are considered unproductive.  However, research has found that certain types of procrastination are beneficial to solving bigger problems.   Additionally, the procrastination tendency can be harnessed to accomplish goals. I gave a compendium of techniques on the subject for my NPR recording this month.

There are two forms of procrastinationActive Procrastination is “planned procrastination” that allows you to work under pressure and a deadline and “waits” to perform a task or project.  An example is doing research for a paper for a few days, then pulling an all-nighter to write it.  Passive Procrastination is the type most commonly associated with the dilemma.  Characterized by paralyzed decision-making, fear, and not completing tasks under pressure, passive procrastinators are often “stuck” when attempting to embark on a project.

Ironically, many successful people are active procrastinators.  They’re the star students who wait until the last-minute to write a paper.  They’re scientists who don’t worry about errands to solve global warming.  They’re prize employees who focus on customer outcomes instead of paperwork.

For the month of February, I will offer a four-week program on how to make procrastination work for you. I’m a productive active procrastinator with tips for my peers.  The articles will address the following:

The Bigger Picture: Using Procrastination to Determine How to Solve Problems

Unschedule: How to Manage Your Time as a Procrastinator

Getting Unstuck:  How to Break Free from Passive Procrastination

Procrastinators of the world, unite!  Tomorrow!

Riveting Resumes: Tips on How to Create a Resume that Will Get You Noticed

Objective, work experience, and an education section was once all that necessary to create a persuasive resume.  However, changes in technology, an employer based job market, and swamped human resources personnel have altered the essential job search document.  Indeed, applicants must survive applicant tracking systems that scan their resumes for keywords (skills, occupational titles, technology, etc.).  Finally, a hiring professional only glances at the document for 30 seconds or less.  Needless to say, your résumé needs to be designed in a way that gets you noticed.

DESIGNING YOUR FLYER

The best analogy for resume writing is creating a flyer.  You’re enticing employers, your potential customers to view your skills, creativity, and what makes you a stronger candidate than your peers.  You also need to grab the reader’s attention in 30 seconds or less.  In order to optimize the “face time” with HR, your résumé should be formatted to sell your accomplishments and work experience.  Consider the following format:

RESUME FORMAT

Headline (Optional)

Summary of Qualifications

Industry Specific Keywords/Skills

Professional Experience

Education

*Optional Headings

If you’ve done community service or served on boards related to your industry, add a “Volunteer” or “Civic Engagement” section.  Have you published a book or an article in a journal, magazine, or blog?  Then add a “Publications” section.  A “Presentations” section would highlight your aspiring TED Talks speaking savvy.  Other possible sections of your résumé to include are “Professional Affiliations,” “Technical Skills,” and “Languages.”

SUMMARIZING YOUR QUALIFICATION

The Summary of Qualifications has ushered the death knell of the Objective.  A good summary should answer the following questions:

  1.  What are the characteristics of achievers in your industry?
  2.  What personality traits do you have?  Which traits are important in your field?
  3. What are your top skills?
  4. What are your big accomplishments in your industry?
  5. Why do you think you’re a superior candidate for this position?

OTHER FORMATTING NOTES

FONTS- The best fonts for resumes are you can choose both sans-serif and serif based fonts, but understand that applicant tracking systems prefer the sans serif variety. Palatino, Helvetica, Garamond, Arial, and Calibri are acceptable fonts.   Please keep the size between 11-12 points.  10 point font is too small.

DITCH THE PAPER COPY- Unless you’re on an interview or attending certain job fairs, don’t worry about the paper copy of your résumé.  You don’t need resume paper either.  Simply save a copy of your résumé in Word .doc or .docx format.  Make sure you “lock” your résumé by establishing your authorship when you save it in Word.  A few fields may request a PDF copy of your résumé.  Please make sure you create your document in Word to ensure that you have a copy of your résumé that you can edit.

WOULD YOU RESPECT ROCKSTARGRRRL@ANYPLACE.COM ?  Your email handle says a lot about your professionalism.   Most hiring managers would not take this candidate very seriously.  A more professional email  username would use a client’s first and last name.  If you have a common name, don’t be afraid to add numbers, punctuation (periods are not just for ending a sentence), or adding a middle initial.  A word of caution about numbers, please don’t include your birth date, year of birth, personal address, or telephone numbers in your email.  These missteps open up issues of identity theft.

Ex. sarahsmith@gmail.com, s.smith@gmail.com, smithsarah@gmail.com, sarahmsmith@gmail.com,

Sarahsmith20@gmail.com

This is the first segment in the resume series.  Come back to learn more about resume writing, productivity, and other elements of professional development.

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Research Essentials: Company Research for the Interview

Many of my clients don’t research companies before interviews and are shocked when they don’t land the coveted job. Ironically, the primary reason why candidates fail interviews is lack of knowledge about the company. Knowing about the mission, values, services, and products within an organization is integral to succeeding on a job interview. Check out the following sources to guide your company research.

1. Google– Use Google to find different pages. I use it to find company web sites, articles about the company, CEO, and the department, and the annual report of the company.
2. LinkedIn– LinkedIn is an excellent resource for company research. Follow company pages to find job openings, articles, and department heads. Peruse the Groups feature to find company and recruiter groups. Note that recruiters do post job listing within regional job seekers groups. Use this as an opportunity to connect to recruiters.
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Another wonderful feature from LinkedIn is the ability to research your panel before you arrive on an interview. Connect with recruiters, human resources personnel, or employees at a company before your interview. Check their 2nd degree connections from their company or the department you intend to work for at this time. These “connections” are often members of your interview panel. Browse their profiles and record information on their professional passions, habit, education, or association that you have in common. This will help you make small talk during the interview.

3. AnnualReports.com– This site is another source of annual reports for companies.
A quick note about annual reports:
Clients ask me why I encourage them to read annual reports for companies. I know, they’re boring, and who wants to wade through strategic plans and statistics, right? However, I endorse the practice for the following reasons.

First and foremost, you need to know the financial health of the company. Research the net worth, total holdings, and market growth for a company. Unless you like working for turnarounds or realignments, why invest in company that may fold? If you’re leaving a bad work environment, you may be leaping from one bad situation to another one.

Secondly, you need to understand the direction of the company and your potential department. Are they expanding in your department or contracting it? How does your potential position fit with the bottom line of the company? If you can’t answer these questions, you’ll have a difficult time selling yourself to a prospective employer.

Finally, reading an annual report is essential for career management. Several clients have revealed in coaching session that they realized their annual reports hinted at possible layoffs, but they ignored the warning signs. Unfortunately, they didn’t heed the warnings and were blindsided by a layoff.

4. Hoovers.com– No, this isn’t a link to the famous carpet sweeper company. On the other hand, no one does market research like them. A great website featuring company reports, industry trends, and competitive insights for your field.

5. Wikipedia-Wikipedia is a quick reference for general information about a company. Don’t forget to check linked reference articles for talking points during your interview. Additionally, do a quick Google search to see if the company has its own Company Wiki. Employers want to see if you’re doing adequate research.
6. Yelp.com– Yelp isn’t just for checking out customer service at your local Applebee’s. Use the company reviews Information to learn how customers view the company. Are there problems that need to be solved? Create a few solutions before you attend the interview. They may ask you hypothetical questions to see how you’ll solve their problems, especially if you’re interviewing for a management position.
7. Glassdoor.com & CareerBliss.com– If you can’t contact an employee within the company before your interview, Glassdoor and CareerBliss are excellent substitutions. Learn how past and present employees rate working conditions, salary, and compensation packages before you interview for a company.
8. Know your worth: Use a salary calculator to figure out your “asking point.”- Many of my clients don’t know how much their skills are worth on the open market. I usually ask them to use a salary calculator at Salary or Payscale to help them determine their salary and benefits package. However, I caution them to use the median (most frequently occurring salary) as opposed to the average salary for your field to ensure that they don’t inflate their incomes.

Get started on your interview research with my Company Research Questionnaire. Simply download it from the Box.com widget.

Interviewing Master Class- 6 Week Program

Resumes may help a job seeker gain the attention of human resource professionals, but nailing the interview is essential to convert initial interest into a job offer. Far too many job seekers “Google”  answers to the most frequently asked questions before a traditional interview the night before the big day.  Learn  a more systematic approach to interview preparation by reading the “Interviewing Master Class” articles.

Topics covered will include:

I. Research Essentials-  What you should know about the company before the interview.

II.  Image Control- Dress for Success, Making an Entrance, Verbal Cues, Portfolios, Thank You Letters

III. Traditional Interviews- STAR Techniques, Frequently Asked Questions, and Checklists

IV. You Against the Machine- Phone Screens, Phone Interviews, and Skype

V.  What would Freud do on an interview?  Behavioral Based Interview Tips

VI. Survival of the Fittest- How to Claim Victory Over Stress and Panel Interviews-  Panel Interview tips, Situational  Interviews, and Surviving “Stress” tactics

Articles and resources for each module will posted on Wednesdays beginning July 09, 2014.

Career Journals- Unlocking Focus, Clarity, and Precision in Your Career

What do General George S. Patton, Ernest Hemingway, Anais Nin, Oprah Winfrey, and Benjamin Franklink have in common?  They were avid diarists.

Recent research has led credence to this practice.  James Pennebaker found journaling helped his trauma clients achieve better immune function and resiliency, adjust to college life, or find a job more quickly.  Harvard researchers Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer found that their students yielded personal growth.  Indeed, Amabile encourages students to record six “small wins” (accomplishments or victories) at the conclusion of your work day to track your progress and make more effective decisions.

Additional benefits of work journals include:

  1. Focus for resolutions and goals.
  2. Patience and appreciation for the process of setting goals
  3. Planning- Learning to appreciate your planning, thought process, and discovering your methods for tackling projects and problems
  4. Personal Growth- Keep a record of your daily work habits, work out put, and establish reminders for important tasks *
  5. Reflexive Practice– Learning to pay attention to your actions to cultivate more efficiency and more insight into your actions

As a career counselor, I keep three different styles of career journals to enhance my performance and give me clarity about my career decisions.  Each style highlights different professional goals, including reflexive practice, productivity, and making a career change. I encourage clients to commit to the practice for at least 10 minutes for 30 days, and we have astounding results.

I encourage everyone to participate in my “March Madness” career journal challenge. I will post more information on each journal style Friday, February 28th.  Select a journal style and write for 10-15 minutes each work day for the month of March. We’ll report our findings at the end of the month.

The Reflexive Practice Journal

While my clients may have grandiose plans and ambitions for their working lives, they are less likely to accomplish their goals if they don’t write them down and commit to learning from their mistakes.  The reflexive practice journal is designed to help clients track their setbacks, small wins, and room for growth.

The Reflexive Practice Journal includes questions that address the following:

Strengths: How are you using your strengths during your workday?

Planning:  How many hours in your work day? What have you/can you get done in a work day?

Accomplishments:  What are you accomplishing during your work day? What were your small victories? * Record the small wins you have every day.

Inspiration:  What items, ideas, or people inspired me today?

Setbacks:  What setbacks did I have today?  How will I approach these setbacks? Do I need extra help or resources?

Work Environment:  What are the positive elements in my work environment (people, resources, technology, tasks, etc.)?  What are the negative elements in my work environment?  What can I do about the negative things in my work environment?

 

Journaling for Habits:  The Yes or No Journal

This journal style track your daily tasks, learn where you need to delegate, and discover your work input.

Step 1:  Track daily tasks.  Include scheduling, emails, meetings, and phone calls.

*Consider using Toggl or RescueTime to track your time if you want to improve your efficiency.

Step 2: Say “no” (or consider saying no) to at least one task a day.  Why? You need to track what tasks are distracting you from getting your work done.

About those “Nos”

  • Are you spending a lot of time doing menial tasks that could be delegated to someone else?
  • Are the activities/tasks you perform contributing to your growth as an employee?
  • Are you spending too much time fixing another employee’s mistakes? 

Step 4: Use this journal in your evaluations. Determine whether or not your skills are being used effectively or whether or not other employees may need more training, counselling, etc.

 

Career Transitions Journal

This journal style is geared toward helping clients discover whether or not a career or job change would be an effective choice for them.

  1. What do you enjoy about your current job (tasks, prestige, working hours, coworkers)? 

2.    What don’t you like about your current job?

3.    Why do you want to change careers?

4.    What personal transitions necessitate a career change (having a child, taking care of an aging parent, putting kids through college)? 

5.   What impact would making a career change have on my life? My family?  My significant other?

6.   Do I have the time and perseverance to invest in the education or certification needed for a new career?

Learn more about career journals from my interview with Paul Guggenheimer from NPR Essential Pittsburgh.