Quality vs. Quantity: 3 Points to Consider

24 04 2012

My grandparents taught me many lessons throughout my life.  Isn’t it funny how you’re reminded of things like this?  Nana and Granddad lived in a small town in the Texas Panhandle.  The town was Shamrock, TX, which is along the old Route 66 and home to the tallest water tower in the state.  Ever since Route 66 was basically made obsolete by Interstate 40, communities like Shamrock have gone the way of the ghost town.  I still have great memories of that little town.  Puckett’s Grocery, Mahnken’s Drug Store, Mitchell’s Diner and Hasty’s (hamburger joint) were frequented by my grandparents who were know well throughout the town.

The grandchildren got to ride into town with Nana or Granddad from time to time to visit the coffee shop or see a movie.  I remember seeing Return of the Jedi in the theatre with my oldest cousin, Aren.  For some reason, I also recall the memory of the candy that I bought: Nerds.  The packaging was an enlarged figure of the Nerds mascot (bright green) with the delicious candy inside.  I used my $1 that Granddad had given me to make the purchase.

My Granddad gave each grandkid $1 as we left to go home.  We didn’t get the chance to visit too much because my family has always lived about 300 miles from Shamrock.  So, when we got Granddad’s dollar, we used it wisely.  Okay, sometimes we used it for ice cream.  Sometimes, we saved a few of those dollars and used them for something better, like a dart gun or Super Ball.  We were kids – it didn’t take much.

I started this post with a personal story to make a point.  It’s more about quality than it is about quantity.  For me, the experiences and interactions were about quality.  I wouldn’t remember them today if they weren’t.  Quality also meant that my dart gun didn’t break after the first shot.  I invested in quality (getting 3 darts) vs. quantity (cheaper gun, more darts.)  Ask my sisters how that worked out.

How does this relate to you and the job search?  Quality vs. Quantity:

Point #1: Don’t overextend yourself.  You can’t be awesome at everything.  Find the things that you do well and learn how to do them better.  Focus on just a few things and master them before moving on to the next challenge.

Point #2: Know when to step back or step away.  This relates to the first point.  You can’t be on every committee, task force or volunteer squad.  Choose what makes the most sense for you.  People will understand if you decline their invitation.  Here’s a tip: Rather than just turning down the offer, suggest an alternative contact to keep things moving.  They’ll respect your time and appreciate the thought.

Point #3: Choose strategy.  How does this align with your strategic objectives?  If it doesn’t align, then you might reconsider why you’re doing what you’re doing.  Keep your strategy simple so you can easily figure out if there’s alignment or not.

There are many memories and experiences like the ones I mentioned earlier, so I guess that means it’s both quality and quantity for me.  I may not have all the marbles I bought with Granddad’s dollars, but I do have fantastic recollection of the times we had together, from learning how to drive a tractor in the pasture to going to the coffee shop (for a Coke) to counting cattle every night, yelling as loud as we could from the pickup window.

Quality always wins in my book.  You can do 10 things moderately well or you can master one thing.  What will you choose?


Communicate Like a 2nd Grader

17 04 2012

Photo credit: The Pioneer Woman

Remember the popular television show, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?  You know, the one Jeff Foxworthy hosted where contestants were asked trivia questions based on basic subjects for Kindergarten through 5th grade.  There may have even been a few “you might be a redneck if” jabs in there as well, thanks to Foxworthy’s knack for finding humor in nearly everything.

As you might recall, I recently had the opportunity to participate in a read-aloud activity at a local elementary school in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.  Don’t remember or haven’t read the article?  Here you go: Leaving a Legacy.

I’m getting somewhere with all of this, I promise…

Before I began reading my tale of leprechauns, shamrocks and pots of gold, the class of 19 2nd graders had the chance to quiz me in a Q&A format.  I got some great questions.  Some were basic as expected, but some really surprised me. All of them got me thinking that those 2nd graders had figured something out: communication in its simplest form.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

2nd graders know what to say upfront.  They needed answers and by golly, they were ready to ask questions!!  Not everyone did, though.  One little boy was so shy that when called upon, he forgot what he was going to say.  Unfortunately, we never had the chance to go back to him later.

Lesson: Prepare your questions in advance.  The students knew I was coming a few days before.  Some even had a list of inquiries ready when I arrived.  Guess what?  The students who prepared the most got their questions answered!

2nd graders get to the point.  Have you ever heard someone ask a question that is so complex that you find yourself thinking what exactly they were asking in the first place?  Keep it simple.  The students didn’t have a huge story in front of their question.  Instead, they got down to business, bombarding me with all kinds of questions from my favorite color, dog, number, etc.

Lesson: Don’t over-complicate things.  Get to the point without too many fluffy words, complicated vernacular, or unnecessary detail.  Keep it simple.

2nd graders are curious.  Everything fascinates them.  They want to know why the sky is blue, why the grass is green and why you can’t really dig a hole to China from the U.S. (technically, if this were possible, you’d end up somewhere in the Indian Ocean – that’s IF you were able to get through the Earth’s nickel-iron core and it’s 9800-degree heat.)  Not only does this knowledge come in handy during a festive game of Trivial Pursuit, knowledge like this is also helpful when striking up conversation with a complete stranger.  The more you know, the more likely you are to find something in common!

Lesson: Be curious.  Ask questions!  Life is full of wonder and surprises at every turn.

I’m sure you’re wondering what kinds of questions the kids asked me.  Well, I won’t disappoint you.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • What is your favorite color? (Blue)
  • What is your favorite number? (I said 27, but my wife reminded me it’s simply 7 – we were married 07/07/07! :))
  • What is your favorite dog? (Notice they didn’t ask my favorite pet – just dog. My answer? Long-haired Chihuahua. Had to give mention to @furrybrwndog!)
  • What is your favorite shape? (NEVER in my life have I ever been asked this, nor really contemplated the question…my answer was triangle. No idea why I said that.)
  • Do you like your wife? (Of course I do! After all, she IS the teacher. I learn from her all the time!)

What lessons have you learned recently from kids?  I’d love to hear from you.  Please leave a comment below.

Have a great week and as always, thanks for reading.

Make the Most of Mondays

10 04 2012

Have you ever noticed how much people look forward to the weekend?  Exclamations of “TGIF” (Thank God It’s Friday) can be heard in just about any workplace setting.  Before TGIF, there’s Wednesday, which is “Hump Day,” meaning that the week is almost over – the rest is downhill.

We look forward to the weekend so much that we lose sight of what the week actually holds.  Instead of focusing on making the most of our days, we drag ourselves to the office on Monday, complain all day that “it’s Monday,” and then spend the latter part of the week looking forward to a 2-day break that we’ll complain is too short upon our return the following week.  Sounds pretty silly, huh?

Here’s the thing: there are 24 hours in a day.  No matter where you are in the world or whether you’re a CEO, Administrative Assistant or active job seeker.  Factoring in 6-8 hours of sleep, 4-6 hours of personal time (this varies greatly, just like the sleep time. Ask someone with kids if you don’t know what I’m talking about) and commute time to/from work, you’re looking at the same 8 hours of time for work that everyone else has.  Why not make the most of it?  My math may be a little off, but I never said I was good with numbers.  🙂

Oh, and if you’re thinking, “well, I don’t have a job,” think again.  If you’re seeking a job, that’s your job.  Make every minute count!

So here’s my challenge: Stop wasting time and start working towards your goal.  Use your time wisely.  Instead of complaining, find solutions.  No excuses.

Next Monday when you arrive to work, say, “TGIM!!”  Then include Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  It’s all about attitude, right?

Until next time, thanks for reading.  Have a great week!

Leaving a Legacy

3 04 2012

Have you ever taken a step back and thought, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this?”  A job should inspire and create enthusiasm, bringing excitement to everyday tasks, right?  Sound like a job that might interest you?

Here are the straight facts: I absolutely LOVE my job.  I get to work with college students and alumni who are in the job search, as well as with employers who are seeking top talent for their organizations.  Every day, I’m inspired to be better.  Not just to be better at what I do, but to be a better person, better human.  I’ve seen what young professionals are capable of achieving when they apply themselves 100% to something they believe in.

Who inspires me? 

  • The college senior that has four job offers on the table, but doesn’t make hasty decisions based on salary or perks.  Ultimately, they’re not looking for money or fringe benefits – they’re looking for the opportunity for advancement and the chance to give back.
  • The job seeker that is so passionate about what they do that it’s simply contagious.  You have to smile.  (For me, I sometimes have a “moment” that makes me all watery-eyed.)
  • The corporate employee that truly understands that their success is intrinsically linked to the success of the organization as a whole.  They’re not just hamsters on the wheel – what they do matters!
  • The teacher that not only delivers the content to ensure their students’ success, but cares enough to help those that fall behind as well as those that truly excel.
  • The employee that not only asks “why,” but also “why not.”  Good enough isn’t good enough anymore.

The list goes on…

Here’s the bigger question:  Are you building a LEGACY?

I have been inspired by many people throughout my life.  Teachers, mentors, friends, family members…all have played an instrumental part in my success.  Perhaps one of the best examples is one that happened just recently – it involves 19 children, a St. Patrick’s Day read-aloud, and a very special person.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to visit the 2nd grade classroom where my wife is currently completing her student teaching.  She invited me to read her students a book about St. Patrick’s Day.  I’ve been known to do a few voices in my day, ranging from Irish to Scottish to voices like Kermit the Frog.  Can you tell I had a little fun?  I had an absolute blast.

I read the story of The Leprechaun Who Lost His Rainbow to a group of rambunctious and curious 8-year olds who seemed to be enamored with the fact that I immersed myself so deeply in the story.  Try to get 19 2nd graders to sit still – you’ll soon find out what kind of challenge this was!

My takeaway from this experience isn’t really about the story.  It’s about the passion and pride that exuded from my wife as she showed me all the activities and lessons she’d taught the class.  She was so humble, showing me around her small elementary school.  The way the students light up when they see her, the respect she’s earned from her co-workers, and how she commands the classroom with authority.  I was in awe.  You see, it’s about the legacy she’s building (and leaving) with those very young, impressionable minds.  She’s changing the world.  It doesn’t matter how large or small the task.  She’s making a difference to those students who might not have the support network at home.  She believes in their skills and abilities, encouraging them to follow their dreams.  Her students will not only remember Mrs. Baumann, they’ll remember what she taught them, how it affected their lives, and how it made them a better person.  They’ll remember her LEGACY.

I told you this short story for one reason – to get you thinking about your LEGACY.  How will you make your mark on the world?  What will you leave behind?  Will you leave things a little better than they were before, or will you rise to the challenge and go ten steps beyond that?  I hope you’ll do the latter.  I believe you can make it happen.  Your move.