Take Off Your Career Blinders

31 05 2011

The 137th Kentucky Derby was May 7th.  Millions of people were watching, drinking mint juleps and wearing the finest hats they could find.  It’s what all trainers, jockeys and owners dream of.  It’s what makes a three year old horse a legend.  As I was watching the Derby this weekend, I found some inspiration that I’d like to share with you.

Have you ever seen a horse race with blinders on?  You know, those cups that fit around their eyes, causing tunnel-vision.  The intention is to focus the horse on the task at hand, making it blind to other distractions.  For some, this is effective, but for most, this could be a real limitation.

How does this relate to the job search or career advice?  You see, blinders keep us focused on one specific task with one specific goal.  We don’t see everything else around us.  That could be good for a limited time, but in the end there’s so much more potential.  We all have career aspirations.  As a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut, cowboy, cartoonist, and yes, even a marine biologist (who didn’t want to do this in the 80’s and 90’s.)  Even as an adult, I’ve found myself with my blinders on, oblivious to the opportunities just to the left or right of my focus.  In fact, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t take those blinders off.  When I was called to interview for the opportunity at my current employer, I was holding out for another position.  I went ahead and traveled in for the interviews and my perception and goals were immediately changed.  I saw great potential, but also knew that this career move could be a risk.  I took that risk and can honestly say it was one of the best decisions in my life.

This is just one situation where the blinders had to come off.  As you’re in the job search, think to the left and right (outside) of your current goals.  Have a healthy “what if” plan and don’t be afraid to take a few risks.  You never know where those decisions will take you.  Relating to the horse race analogy, don’t always bet on the sure thing or the longshot.  Aim in between.  I don’t think anyone saw Animal Kingdom winning the Kentucky Derby, yet it happened.

Stay focused, but don’t be afraid to deviate a little from the safe path.  You might just find the best opportunity and true happiness where you’d least expect it.

“The spirited horse, which will try to win the race of its own accord, will run even faster if encouraged” – Ancient Roman classical Poet and Author of Metamorphoses, 43 BC-17

Photo credit: MRMTechBlog

This post was written originally for JobHuntChat.com, where I am a guest blogger every other week.  There, you’ll find great resources for job seekers as it relates to the job search, social media, and some seriously good advice.  To learn more, visit www.jobhuntchat.com.  


Do Good, Do It Now (Please)

24 05 2011

Experience: It’s a word that can either help or haunt you.  Everyone seems to be looking for experience, yet there are so many people without it.  It’s a catch-22.  You need someone to give you a chance (you having no experience) in the first place to gain said experience.  Have you ever thought of volunteering in your community?  The bottom line is that volunteer experience is experience.  You’re helping those in need.  There’s really no downside.  Whether it’s helping those affected by disasters like the recent tsunami in Japan or helping those affected by the tornadoes that ripped through the southern U.S. last month and earlier this week in Joplin, MO, there’s a lot of good you could be doing in your community all while gaining valuable experience.

How does this relate to job advice?  Well, I wrote a post last year titled “Get Involved, Get Experience” that gives you a few pointers.  Check it out.

Whether you have a job or not, it’s important to volunteer your time and resources to help those in need.  Giving back to your community will prove to be very rewarding.  You’ll most likely come away from the experience energized, enthusiastic and with a little more humility.  Helping others reminds us that there are people out there that don’t have the things we take for granted.  Their biggest struggle isn’t finding a job – it could very well be the struggle to find food and shelter.

Here’s how you can help:

Just do it…now.  Remember the words from an earlier post?  “You won’t regret going, but you will regret NOT going.”  Don’t wait for a disaster to happen.  That’s when everyone jumps on the charity bandwagon.  Look up the local SIFE team (they’re  creating a better, more sustainable world through the positive power of business), American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts, your church or simply ask a friend or co-worker.  You don’t have to go to South America to volunteer and make an impact.  Your local community needs just as much (or more) help.

Bring a friend.  If you can, bring a friend along.  If it’s a volunteer activity that requires a subject matter expert (construction: electrician, contractor, etc.), ask if they’d mind consulting or doing some pro bono work.  Everyone likes to be needed.  Express that their expertise is needed to make a difference in someone’s life!

Pay it forward.  You’ve already made an impact if you’ve gotten this far.  Don’t let the good stop with you.  Encourage others to volunteer and help their fellow man.  Express to them that it doesn’t necessarily mean giving up a lot of time.  One hour can make a real difference.  The next time you’re just sitting around at home watching reality television, ask yourself this: “Can I use this time differently to help others?”  I’m not saying that TV time is bad.  We all need to relax.  I’m simply suggesting that you keep the principle of helping others top of mind.  You’ll love the way it makes you feel and will come away with some good experience.

How does this relate to the job search or job advice?  Well, you’re interacting with people (Skills: Customer Service / Communication), working together towards a common goal (Skills: Project Management / Teamwork), and you’re taking the initiative to help empower others in need (Skill: Leadership).  Volunteering can also be a great networking experience, so be prepared and bring your “A” game.  Like any other networking or professional interaction, don’t forget to follow up.  Building a relationship with your teammates around volunteerism may just be that common ground that will help get your foot in the door.

What are you waiting for?  Get out there.  Get involved.  Get experience.

If you’d like to help provide assistance to those affected by the recent disaster in Joplin, MO, please click here.  Links to the organizations referenced earlier can be accessed by clicking directly on the organization name above.  Any assistance, whatever the amount, is appreciated.  Please help if you can and remember that everyone can make a difference!

The Right Stuff

17 05 2011

Image credit: NASA, May 16, 2011

Do you have the right stuff in your career?  As I watched the Space Shuttle Endeavour blast off for the last time ever on Monday, I was inspired (Endeavour is the program’s 2nd to last shuttle launch ever – Atlantis will embark on its final mission June 28th, 2011.) Growing up, the universe has fascinated me.  Even now as an adult, I’m truly astounded at just how enormous space really is.  I have good memories and some horrifying ones as a child watching the shuttle launches.  I always wanted to be an astronaut, but in 1986, Challenger made it very clear that this was a potentially dangerous profession.  At that very moment, I knew that I wanted to help people succeed.  Rather than becoming an astronaut, I wanted to help others pursue their dreams.  That was now my dream.

When Endeavour launched, I was overcome with such admiration for those that are part of the space program that I simply had to blog about it.  But let’s stay focused – there is relevance to the job search and your career.  You have to have the right stuff to be an astronaut, but it doesn’t stop there.  Do you have the right stuff in your career?  Here’s what I realized:

It’s all about communication.  In any job, communication is a key to your success.  When you’re being catapulted through the atmosphere at 13,000MPH with over a million pounds of fuel, it’s even more important.  Treat every situation like that.  Think: How can I communicate more effectively to help others, as well as myself, succeed?

Everyone needs a backup plan.  While watching the shuttle launch, NASA TV also broadcasted the mission control communication to the shuttle commander.  Being prepared for your career also means that you should have a backup plan.  At several points during the launch, mission control announced several checkpoints (points of return/no return) so that the astronauts were aware of their contingency plan at all times.  In your career, have a backup plan.  Have a plan just in case things don’t work out the way you envisioned them.  That backup plan may come in handy someday, helping you bounce back.

Support systems are crucial.  Do you have a good support system?  Surrounding yourself with the right people (friends, family, co-workers) can really help you succeed in your career.  Treat the support system like an astronaut would.  Their support systems include a healthy supply of oxygen, food, water and tools to do their job effectively.  Your support system should be just as crucial to your success.

I end with the support systems topic because I have an excellent FREE resource available to you as you embark on your journey.  It’s all about the interview.  I had the chance to sit down with Marty McDonald, Recruitment Consultant & Career Coach, a couple of months ago to put together a great e-book, Don’t Be Scared…Be Prepared: Interview Tips & Stories from Top Industry Experts.

In Marty’s own words: “The purpose of this project is to help the job seeker feel comfortable at an interview or to pick up one new idea or tip to help them land the job. I am so excited that so many great people wanted to help out with the book, Our contributors aren’t just on Social Media pretending to be experts, they’ve conducted hundreds, if not thousands of interviews, coached just as many job seekers, and are successful doing it.

If one person gets a job, or if one person gets inspired to write a blog or start a business because of this book then it is a success.”

Click here to download your FREE copy of the e-book.  I am honored to be part of such a great group or professionals in this resource to help you succeed!

So, do you have the right stuff?  I’ll leave you with one final quotes from James (“Jim”) A. Lovell, commander of the Apollo 13 mission and perhaps one of the most famous astronauts of all time.

“There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened. To be successful, you need to be a person who makes things happen…”

Now, go out there and make it happen!  As always, thanks for reading.

No Regrets, No Excuses

10 05 2011

A very close friend once told me, “you WON’T regret going, but you will regret NOT going,” in an effort to motivate me to exercise one day.  I’ll come back to this in a bit.

We all have regrets.  We’re human.  There are things we shouldn’t have said and done.  There are things we should’ve said and done.  Those regrets either haunt us for the rest of our lives or we learn from them to make ourselves better.

That’s a heavy statement, isn’t it?  Yes, but you can learn from it.  Whether it’s about the job search or not, strive for excellence takes commitment.  Here’s how you can turn potential regret in to motivation:

Take yourself seriously.  Accountability – it starts with you.  Hold yourself accountable to your actions.  If you set a goal, make sure it’s attainable (but not too easy) and achieve that goal.  There’s a personal story about this below.  “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.  Take yourself seriously and keep moving towards your goal.

Know that you’re the only one that can change youYou’re the only person that can truly change you.  You have to put forth effort and work on the little things first before tackling the big issues.  They’re all related.  Work on self-improvement because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s what someone else wants you to do.

Experience is experience.  Before you dismiss the job that’s “beneath you”, ask yourself, “What experience could I gain from this opportunity?”  One of the best decisions I’ve ever made came by chance.  I had no intentions of going down the path I did, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without taking that risk.  Whether it’s scrubbing the toilets, working customer service, or managing 300 employees, there’s experience to gain.  Apply that experience to your dream job.  We all have to start somewhere.

Here’s my personal story:  This year and going forward, I set some pretty lofty personal goals for myself.  One area involves constant exercise and training to help me live a healthier, longer life.  I want to be on this planet as long as possible.  I want to be a Dad, a Granddad, Great-Granddad, even Great-Great (my Great Grandmother achieved this in her lifetime.)  This reality hit home for me one day when I had some chest pains (turned out to be nothing) a few years ago.  Since then, I’ve done some serious work on myself, losing over 55lbs.  My goal is not to be the body-builder or skinniest guy on the planet.  I simply want to better me for me and those who love me.  My wife, family and friends have been extremely supportive as I continue this journey.  The tough, yet attainable goal for January-June 2011: Run a 5K race under 30:00 (my best time to date: 32:00) and log 310 miles running by my 31st birthday in June.

So, where am I going with this?  Friday, I was sitting in my cube at work when I received an email from a local contact about the May Day 5K in Republic, MO benefitting parks & recreation and the new Veteran’s memorial in the town.  You’ll never regret going, but you will regret not going.  Those words haunted (and inspired) me.  I got up early the next day (Saturday), put my running gear on, loaded my iPod with a playlist to get the blood flowing, and headed to the race site.  I got my official race number and lined up with 400 other people.  I was about to run my first 5K race – no time better than the present!  The gun went off and we all started down the course.  I remembered the words of friends, “start steady, keep a good pace and kill it during your last half mile.”  I did just that.  Remember my goal from earlier?  My personal best time to beat was 32:00 for 5K.  I crossed the finish line with a time of 28:33! !  This was made official, thanks to the microchip attached to my race number.  400 people raced that day.  I finished 89th.  Oh yeah, this goal was achieved 7 weeks early.

Here are the before and after pics:


I hope that story inspires you.  It doesn’t have to be about running or exercise.  Just get out there and learn.  Take yourself seriously; know what it takes to change for the better, and experience life.  Apply what you learn to your future.  Be tenacious.  Go for the gold.

Paying It Forward: We Are What We Give…

3 05 2011

As promised, this week’s blog post is by a special guest, Kate-Madonna Hindes.  Read my post on her blog at www.girlmeetsgeek.com.  Note: the video link below includes some very honest language.  Please know that by providing this link, Campus to Career isn’t endorsing, but rather sharing a guest author resource.  With or without the video, the message is clear.  Pay it forward and be true to yourself.

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people that rekindle our inner spirit.”
– Albert Schweitzer

You have an opportunity at this moment to decide something that will quite literally set your path for the next minute, hour and journey of your life. Here is your opportunity to decide….

Are you a reactionary or revolutionary?

Reactionaries: To know which one you’d like to be, we need to define what exactly they both entail. Reactionaries often jump to new media, trends, and simply go along with the crowd. Their preference to abide by the status quo leaves them content, but often wondering what the bigger story is. Reactionaries bring themselves into the conversation, but always side with the ‘norm.’

Revolutionaries: Revolutionaries function a little differently. They wear their beliefs, ideas and thoughts on their sleeves. They stand up for what they feel at it’s core, deserves a voice. They often find themselves out of the ‘social norm,’ but they magnetize others who believe what they do. Revolutionaries are the thought-leaders of tomorrow.

Social Media is becoming reactionary. We’re starting to get afraid to step outside the box. Losing a follower can give a blow to our ‘Social Media Esteem,’ but losing our ability to respectfully engage others in conversation, will create more damage. Just how far can we go? I offer these words of advice: If you feel obliged to give a different point of view, always offer one with personal insight and story. If respectfulness and credibility meet, your opinion will weigh heavier than a witty retort.

Become a Revolutionary. Your first step is to watch this video by my friend Joe Gerstandt. Never before have I said, “YES!” so many times at my computer screen before. Pass it on, encourage others and realize: If we are NOT ourselves, we are NOT at our best. It really is that simple. Today is National Pay It Forward Day. Give yourself more credibility and pull in the online world, by not being afraid to BE yourself. You’ll be surprised at the results.

A huge thanks to my friend, Joe Gerstandt for allowing me to share his greatness. Visit him at : JoeGerstandt.com

Kate-Madonna Hindes, is an industry leader and national author and speaker on emotional integrity and authenticity in today’s online media.  Her columns are regularly published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Women of HR, GirlmeetsGeek, Brazen Careerist and JobDig.  Kate-Madonna currently is the Recruiting Director for Brigham Group Staffing. With 15+ years of combined, published, experience for news media, state government and Fortune 500 businesses, she regularly covers national Social Media Technology events from an HR / Recruiting perspective, including CES 2011. Notably, she sits on the coaching panel for Keith Ferrazzi’s  Relationship Academy alongside Chris Brogan and Tony Hsieh.  Her speaking and writing credits include bookings at the Keith Ferrazzi’s Relationship Academy, 2010 WordcampMSP, 2010 ReBarCamp, MCAD, Social Media Breakfast in Imation Headquarters, 2009 Cervical Cancer Conference  and recent onair appearances with WCCO and International Radio Station, CJOB, GirlTalkRadio, WomeninBusinessRadio, YouCanGetHired.com, JobHuntChat.com and more. She owns and operates GirlmeetsGeek Media.