Building Your Own A-Team

28 06 2010

This weekend, I had the opportunity to see the new A-Team movie as part of my birthday celebration.  Throughout the movie, I took several mental notes that have inspired me to write this post.  Believe it or not, it was my wife’s idea to see the movie!  Needless to say, she has excellent taste.  To quote Col. John ‘Hannibal’ Smith, “I love it when a plan comes together.” 

I realize that not everyone is an A-Team fan, so I’ll keep my references to a minimum.  Instead, I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts on how being part of your very own A-Team can increase productivity, innovation, and help you advance in your career.

Recruit for Special Forces.  As a manager, recruiting the right team members is extremely important.  You want people who work well as a team, not simply as individuals.   Build a relationship with your team, creating trust, loyalty, and a creative, fun work environment.  Select those that you want to be part of the mission, classified or otherwise. 

Strategize.  “I believe no matter how random something may appear, there’s still a plan.”  – Col. John ‘Hannibal’ Smith.  Have a plan!  As crazy as it may seem at first, it’s always best to have a plan.  You can adjust as needed along the way.  Be sure to work with your team on this plan, ensuring that everyone is on board.  Communication is key here.  There is no Plan B – give every project all you’ve got.  You may not have a second chance. 

Fight (for what you believe in).  Don’t let others steamroll you, your team, or your ideas.  If you believe in something, stand up for it.  Fight for what is right and make sure that everyone on the team is fighting for the same thing.  This could be the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your entire life, but if you fight for what you truly believe in, you may just be surprised at the end result. 

Cover me.  In any operation, having back-up is very important.  You’re not looking for someone to cover up when you screw up, but simply to be there for assistance as needed and support throughout.  As a team, you’ll need to back-up each other and work together! 

With these things in mind, also know that whether you’re the leader like Hannibal, the rogue playboy Face, the conscientious muscle like B.A., or the slightly off-kilter Murdock, know that it’s what each person brings to the group that truly makes for an A-Team.

Photo credit:



22 06 2010

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” -Jim Valvano

This past Sunday, I joined millions of sons and daughters across the globe as we celebrated our fathers.  I’m incredibly lucky to have mine in my life and as I get older, I’m beginning to realize just how awesome he is.  There comes a time in a lot of kids’ lives that dad IS Superman, then he becomes goofy (especially when you bring a date home to meet the parents or when you’re seen in public with them), then once again, he becomes the Man of Steel.

I thought I’d share a few takeaways I’ve learned from Dad over the past few decades and how it relates to where I am today in my career.

Be yourself & honor your word.  Always do what you say you’ll do.  When you’re at work, be there 110% and hold true to your word.  Dad never made crazy promises that he couldn’t keep.  When I asked for something he wasn’t sure about, he said, “we’ll see” or “maybe”.  As a kid, that drove me absolutely bonkers.  But as an adult, I understand why he did it.  Under-promise, but over-deliver.  This is very helpful in any career.

Know when to take a break.  Work hard, play hard.  When you’re away from work, do things that matter most to you.  Spend time with family and friends.  If you’re always too busy to have a little fun and relax, people will stop inviting you to be part of the fun.  Learn how to let go for a moment and take a vacation.  This allows your mind to take a break, clearing your head for productivity and innovation when you’re back at work.  Try it sometime!

Know when to put your foot down.  As a kid, dad lets us get away with a LOT.  But, he always knew when to draw the line.  He knew when enough was enough. Knowing when to put your foot down at work can help you with coworkers and the management of employees as well as helping develop your management style.  It’s okay to be lenient and flexible, but don’t let people walk all over you.  Be tenacious, but kind!

Have a sense of humor.  Life is funny.  My dad can tell the best jokes with the perfect punch-line.  Learning how to laugh at life helps us get through challenging situations.  Don’t take yourself too seriously.  What seemed like the “end of days” at one point can be really funny when you look at it later.  Step back and have a chuckle.  Then, move on.

Here’s a picture of me and my dad having fun, not taking ourselves too seriously…

On Sunday, I tweeted “Things Dad has taught me: How to make perfect pancakes, laugh a lot, ride a bicycle, work hard & pay it forward. What about you? Please share!”.  Here are some of the responses I got:

@nikkidiorio: My dad taught me to love music, to be generous, to work hard, how to be funny, and that love transcends distance.

@KellyLux: My dad taught me to love dogs, wine, food & photography, to stand up 4 myself & my opinions & that being *grown up* is boring.

@LisaTetzloff: My dad taught me how to handle money. He was so proud when I saved for a special bike I wanted. He still talks about it!

@NikiRudolph: My dad taught me my sense of direction, how to drive a stick shift & to not speak poorly of ppl.

There are a lot of families where one parent is both Mom and Dad.  I can’t forget these wonderful people.  This response stood out:

@KARupert: things mom taught me in place of Dad: how to ride a bike, drive stick shift, throw a softball, and be confident in myself.

These, along with the above responses, are just a few of the things that Dad has taught us over the years.  The great part about this is that we’re still learning from him.  We may not all be close with our fathers.  Some of us never got the chance to know him.  In my opinion, that simply provides the opportunity to grow as an individual, developing into the perfect superhero for our kids.

I’d like to leave you with the quote below.  It speaks volumes to the importance of being a dad.

“Any man can be a Father but it takes someone special to be a dad.”

-Anne Geddes

What have you learned from dad (or mom)? Please feel free to add your comments!

Photo credit: paurian (Super Dad) & Chris Billings (Superman/Supergirl standee)

Take a Vacation!!

15 06 2010

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. – St. Augustine

It’s officially Summer!  School is out, the days are getting longer, and your colleagues are starting to take their vacations.  But, you have soooo much work to do at the office.  Who has time for a real vacation?  Let’s face it, you’ll still be tempted to check your Blackberry every waking moment, driving everyone around you absolutely NUTS.  I know.  I’ve been guilty of doing just that.  We all have. 

You work hard at what you do, right?  Think you deserve a little break?  I do.  Here are a few reasons why you should take a vacation as well as some creative suggestions on just how do get away.

Why you should take a vacation:

Recharge.  Recharge your batteries.  A vacation, when done right, will get you away from work.  This allows you to recharge and reinvigorate yourself.  You’d be surprised at what innovative ideas pop into your head when you’re not trying to think about them!

Disconnect & Reconnect.  Disconnect your devices.  Say it with me: “I will turn off my Blackberry.  I will not check emails.  I have left my department and colleagues in good condition in order to survive the short time I’m away.”  I found out first-hand that disconnecting also allowed me to reconnect.  Without the distraction of worrying about work and constantly checking my devices, I was able to reconnect with my wife, family, and friends, strengthening our relationships.  My full attention was devoted to this.  And yes, I did survive without posting updates, pictures and videos to Facebook and Twitter.  People usually don’t care about your vacation – you do.  I took lots of pictures, uploaded them to Shutterfly, and created a photo book with my wife so we could look back on our vacation with fond memories. 

Have Fun.  If you’re not having fun, is it really a vacation?  Take the time to relax, let your guard down, and have fun.  That’s it.

Give Back.  Use the opportunity to give back.  Whether it’s volunteering in your community, church, or simply offering to help a neighbor with yardwork, use your vacation to give back.  You’ll get a great feeling from it and those you help will certainly appreciate your help!

Some creative ideas:

Explore Your World.  If you have the chance to travel the country or world, do it.  The experiences gained during my travel across the world are ones that will stay with me for my entire life.  It’s a great way to learn about different cultures, history, and see things you’ve only seen in books and on the Travel Channel.  Take the chance and spend the money.  It’s worth it for the experience!  There are even opportunities to take educational tours.  I took a two-week tour of Europe that covered 8 countries with EF Tours, a company providing international travel opportunities for teachers and students, after graduation.  They are highly recommended.  Their website:

Explore Your Backyard.  With budgets tight, many families are opting for the “stay-cation”, where they do things in their hometown or state, but not making the trek to Walley World like the Griswold family.  This is a great way to find the hidden gems right under your nose.  Check with your local Chamber of Commerce or travel bureau.  They’ll know about the fun things happening in their city. 

Go to Summer Camp.  I think we can all identify with the concept of summer camp.  As a kid, we went to sports camp, band camp, Boy Scout/Girl Scout camp, computer camp, camp, camp, CAMP!  The more activities we had to keep us busy in the summer, the happier our parents were and more “well-rounded” we became.  But, as adults, we don’t think about going to summer camp.  But, it’s making a comeback!  There are tons of camp programs out there for adults that include opportunities for learning the culinary arts, the art of wine tasting, fishing, hunting, skiing, even learning bull riding.  Just Google it.  You’ll find some interesting options.  Summer camp is no longer just for kids!

Go on a Vocation Vacation.  Are you in career transition?  Been laid off?  Want a new job?  Vocation vacations are a great way to test drive your dream job.  Becoming more popular in our current economic situation, vocation vacations are a way for job seekers to learn what it takes to be an actor, artist, restaurateur, even veterinarian.  Check out their website:

 Regardless of what you do, do something.  It doesn’t have to be a 7-14 day period that involves cross-country travel.  Take a few days here and there.  Recharge.  You owe it not only to yourself, but to your company.  You’ll come back refreshed, happier, and quite possibly with new innovative ideas!

Career Happiness Contest Winners Announced!

10 06 2010

Photo credit: Gianmarco Vetrano

Last week, I launched my very first contest on Campus to Career.  In honor of the launch of Tony Hsieh’s new book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion & Purpose, I asked my readers a few questions.  

Have you found career happiness? 

Do you love what you do – every day?  

Does your team make everyday FUN?  

After a week of submissions, three people made the finalist list.  The submissions were voted on by a panel of judges (those that love their job, of course) and a WINNER HAS BEEN NAMED!

Congratulations to Grand Prize Winner, (drumroll, please): Steve Browne!!

Here’s his testimonial:

“I’m one of the few people I know that chose HR as a career and have only known HR. I have more “joy” than happiness because over the years HR has led me to meet literally thousands of people. People who have left an eternal mark on my life in both positive and challenging ways. I have a career that allows me to learn every day and to continue to meet people around the globe. I wouldn’t trade this career for anyone’s. Not a catch phrase – a reality. I’ve seen so many people grow and become personally and professionally successful throughout my career in HR. It continues to drive me and have passion to improve the profession so other’s can find happiness in HR as well.”

Also, congratulations to Ashley Schmidtke!  Her entry below earned her a Starbucks giftcard:

“Career happiness is something that I experience everyday as a college admissions director. I work with hundreds of high school seniors each year and nothing brings me a more sense of pride when I see them walk across the graduation stage in 4 years. My career happiness comes from seeing others achieve their dreams and hearing them say thank you for doing something that I love.”

Thanks to everyone for participating in the contest.  Congratulations to the winners!  Without readers like all of you, I’d just be talking to the deep emptiness of cyberspace. 🙂

That’s it, folks.  Have you found career happiness?  If not, how can I help?  Let’s connect!

Finding True Career Happiness – Culture Counts!

7 06 2010

Career happiness: for some, this may sound like an oxymoron. For others, it’s a reality. What does it take to achieve this? Well, for CEO Tony Hsieh, it’s all about culture and at his company, the culture is one-of-a-kind. Tony has a book launching today (June 7th, 2010) called Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose. As a blogger, I had the opportunity to receive an advance copy of it so that I may review it here for you.

My review will be simple and to the point, not a comprehensive Cliff’s Notes version that I’ve seen floating around from others. The whole point is to get you to read the book. As professional in HR & Recruiting who has truly found my passion in helping others help themselves in the job search, this book hits the perfect mark. It’s about innovative thinking, not being afraid to fail, and having fun in your career.

It’s about culture, people, and ultimately customer service. We all have customers. Are we WOW’ing them every time with our service? While this seems like a simple concept, it’s one that a lot of companies and individuals still struggle with. gets customer service. They have culture. They also have happy employees thanks to programs that help them with professional development, a healthy dose of weirdness, and really a LOT of fun. Innovative thinking like creating a culture book where all employees are asked to give an honest review of the company, which is compiled, printed and distributed to employees every year (the good and the bad – there is no censorship outside of correcting typos) is just one of the reasons why is #23 on FORTUNE’s Top 100 Best Companies to Work For (2009). They weren’t even listed the previous year.

Zappos has created a culture of their own, taking customer service to the next level. I would highly recommend Delivering Happiness for students, job seekers, and simply anyone in business! It’s an excellent read and one that you can go back to again and again for resources.

Link to the book’s website:

Purchase the book:

On Twitter: @dhbook (Tony is @zappos)

Here’s a really great example of just how FUN (and a little weird) the company is:

Zappos Commercial: 5 Ways to Add Elegance to Dresses

 FTC Disclaimer: This is my review of Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos.  In return for recieiving the book in advance, I have been asked to give an honest review.  The book can be purchased at Amazon  I do not receive any proceeds from the sale of the book or any other compensation.

CONTEST: Finding Happiness in Your Career

1 06 2010

Announcing Campus to Career’s very first contest!  Have you found career happiness?  Do you love what you do – every day?  Does your team make everyday FUN?  Let me know! 

Contest details:

1. User must submit a short paragraph on the subject.  NOTE: the post must be related to career happiness by Friday, June 6th 11:59 PM CST.

2. User must subscribe to Campus to Career blog (maybe bonus points for liking us on Facebook). 🙂

That’s it!  It’s a two-step process.  From there, all submittals will be reviewed and entered into a drawing for Starbucks giftcards and a few other goodies. 

Grand prize:  An advance copy of Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh (CEO, and featured in my June 7th blogpost, reviewing the book! 

Good luck!

Photo credit: Scott Ginsburg

Disclaimer: My June 7th blogpost will be reviewing the book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh.  In return for recieiving the book in advance, I have been asked to give an honest review. The book will be available for purchase June 7th at