Apply Pink to Talent Acquisition, Career Transition, & Access to Education

I’m still working through my response to A Whole New Mind… and Drive… Now I’m challenging myself (and you) to apply the “new Operating System” to the field of talent acquisition, career transition,  and student success.  Pink claims that Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose are the basic elements of our new “Conceptual Age.” He indisputably demonstrates that these elements have displaced the traditional concept of rewards and punishment as motivation for solving all but the most routine problems.  I want to dig deeper; I want to think and discuss how these three elements can be applied to the dilemma facing individuals who wish to navigate the world of  employment, higher education, and entrepreneurship.  From where I sit and work, I see a disconnect between our 21st-C. workforce, which is creating the Conceptual Age, and the processes that govern recruitment, transition, and access to education.  I think the latter are stuck in the Industrial or the Information Age. How can we integrate the gatekeeping process with the Conceptual Age?

While I want to be an advocate for Pink’s “Operating System 3.0,” it has been my experience that few of those charged with admissions or recruitment actually seek-out those who admit to a preference for autonomy vs. teamwork; those who prize mastery over multiple task management; those who are purpose-driven vs. driven toward tangible outcomes. Is there a disconnect  between what science knows about human behavior and the talent acquisition process that is embraced by colleges, universities, and 21st-C. employers?  Do “fancy pants” consulting firms talk the talk of innovation while actually promoting more of the same management systems, supported by traditional incentives?

Can you chime-in with some thoughts about how Operating System 3.0 can become an engine of a more mindful transition process?  I’ll be coming back to this from time to time; your comments and ideas are what will make this discussion “pop.”

Career Acceleration MAP® (Mindful Approach Program)

Discouraging news about employment and the US job market affects job seekers and career changers.  It discourages the very behavior that we so desperately need to encourage: risk-taking, innovation, creativity, entrepreneurism, etc.

For many,  the  economic news causes people to stay in dead-end jobs, to invest too heavily in education/training, to give-up the job search altogether. Yet to others, the economic news offers opportunities (even with job growth at zero, more than 4 million job seekers are hired every month).

After a long hiatus, this post marks my return to this blog to comment on all matters related to jobs and careers.  My hope is that I will be able to offer something new to the discussion, whether in the form of  a new tactic, a new perspective, or a new challenge for readers.

In some way, I hope to contribute to our economy by stemming the negative behavior of would-be career changers and job seekers.   To that end, I will provide a Mindful Approach Program® – a MAP – that I believe can lead thoughtful people toward personal satisfaction and career acceleration.

You can expect that upcoming posts will be focused on “mindfulness,” which we’ll define in future posts. My current thinking has been influenced by so many incredible people, and by the work of Prof. Ellen J. Langer, who offers the following inspiration for the desks of thinking/working people:

“Mindlessness is the application of yesterday’s business solutions to today’s problems.” IMO, your can include traditional resumes, job postings, and “passive job search” to the heap of yesterday’s solutions; more to come…

Acting in tandem to the above, Langer and her team suggested:

“Mindfulness is attunement to today’s demands to avoid tomorrow’s difficulties.” IMO, such attunement requires a host of “right-brained” skills and abilities, including reframing, renaming, and redefining.

More on this in the weeks to come.  You can look toward the publication of my CAN_MAP®, a compilation of my CAN-tested tools and tactics to help you move toward a mindfulness as it relates to your work.  Thank you for reading and commenting…

Networking Valentine: What’s black & white and read all over?

Periodically, I like to remind my readers and prospective clients to look for networking and new business opportunities in the most obvious place: your daily newspaper.  It is still black and white (whether online or in-print), and it contains many gems if “red” (sic: read) all over!

Let’s take a look at the Monday edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, with its daily focus on different business themes (Monday = “Small Business”).  Since there is no business news over the preceding weekend, the editors publish the weekly “Business Calendar” and “People in the News” in the Monday edition. (BTW: It seems the calendar may not be accessible online anymore, so you’ll have to decide if there is sufficient ROI to warrant .75cent investment in the good-ol’ fashioned newspaper.)  My ROI analysis:

Business Calendar for week beginning Jan. 31st:

Week beginning Feb. 7th:

In the “People in the News” section, find names of people you know (or want to know) at companies that are alive and well: they are hiring and promoting people.

And of course, you can indulge in some of your own out-of-the-box thinking by reading about what others are doing, e.g.

  • Rajant Corp of Malvern, a maker of wireless communication networks whose products are now successfully exported to Australia, Canada, Mexico, and elsewhere, improving our balance of trade and local economy;
  • A cabinetmaker and fine woodworker “went with the flow” of a career change (suggested by his Dad); his elevator remodeling business is projected to generate $50 million in annual sales, with a new factory on the drawing board for western USA.

Upcoming glimpse into work & life of India

Next week, David and I begin a travel adventure in South India – we are so excited!  We’ll be guided by our son, who lives in Hyderabad and works for a nonprofit venture capital firm with offices in Pakistan, Tanzania, Kenya, and India.

We’ll visit a few cities (Hyderabad, Chennai, Pondicherry, and Mumbai); also several rural locations, including a tea plantation, a wildlife sanctuary, and many ancient temples (holy to several religions).  Our plans are to stay in small hotels and “homestays,” where we hope to interact with the owners and staff, as well as with Indian travelers.

I’m hoping that you’ll help me learn about work/life in India.  Think about the questions you would ask if you were having tea in India.  Please share your thoughts with me over the next week; I hope to be able to bring you up to date several times/week.  Namaste…

S-W-O-T: Another version of “Ask what you can do…”

Those in career transition – seeking new careers or new jobs – are frequently encouraged to be proactive in their search.  Coaches use words such as “brand,” “value proposition,” “significant selling points” to describe the “pitch” that candidates must make to stand-out from the crowd – to be a purple cow in a herd of black and white cows. purplecow in herd

Recently, I’ve been trying to generate some buzz around this concept by suggesting that candidates can create value for an organization by responding to what is most needed and least expected.  I’m not sure if the connection is transparent to others, but to me, this concept is reminiscent of the words spoken by John F. Kennedy on Jan. 20, 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you;  Ask what you can do for your country.” While my version is not so stirring, the concept has a compatible ring for those in career transition.

All this rises to the surface again this week, following the recent death of Ted Sorensen, who was the speechwriter to JFK and probable author of the most famous call to action uttered by the 35th President of the USA.  Media reports have suggested that Sorensen offered a S-W-O-T analysis to Barack Obama in November 2008; it was too late for the President to heed Sorensen’s advice to wait for a better Opportunity to implement his ideas; for a less Threatening political climate.

The burden is on you, the candidate, to understand the needs of the industries and organizations you are interested in; to discover what the strengths and weaknesses of the industry are; to identify people who can add a deeper dimension to your understanding of the needs of the company.  This process is explained by this author and others as S-W-O-T analysis.  Ask what you can do to meet the needs of your future employer…

Back to the ballpark: success when most needed & least expected

Let me take you back to the ballpark:  The San Francisco Giants have won the “World Series,” defeating the Texas Rangers in 4 games of 5 played in 2010.  They were clearly the underdogs, having barely qualified to meet their Division rivals during the last game of the regular series.  The Giants didn’t go into this series with marquis players:  they were described as a rag tag group of “cast-offs” and “spare parts.” Yet they managed to win the most coveted prize in baseball, despite the highly touted players they faced from Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Texas.

I want to take you back to the ballpark to suggest that the answer may lie in an idea I suggested during my previous ballpark blog post. Here it is:  Anyone can create an opportunity to embark on an encore career by creating great value for an organization when it is most needed and least expected.

The key is “most needed and least expected.”  The San Francisco Giants met that test.  How can those in career transition meet this test, and as a result, realize career goals?      

Think outside the ballpark re: Encore Careers

Watching and reading about the NLCS, I am beginning to see that encore careers are not really about age.  My evolving revelation: Anyone can create an opportunity to embark on an encore career by creating great value for an organization when it is most needed and least expected.

Think Cody Ross, the San Francisco Giants player who has become the nemesis of Philly fans during the NLCS.  As part of a team  described as a collection of “scrap parts,” Cody Ross has become a baseball folk hero.”  Against the most powerful trio of 2010 pitchers, he has hit 4 homers in 3 days, a performance that has put his SF Giants ahead of the defending league champions, the Philadelphia Phillies.

A radio announcer in SF dubbed him “Babe Ross,” a reference to Babe Ruth, once a pitcher who was traded by the Red Sox to the Yankees –  a big oops!  Ross will celebrate his 30th birthday in December 2010 – I think this may be the equivalent of age 45 -50 for a small business owner or wage earner, like most of us.  If you look at Ross’ baseball biography, some interesting career-related facts emerge:

  • He did not play college baseball. Many  of the highly-compensated in business have no college degrees or have unremarkable academic credentials.
  • His goal had been to be a circus clown, a legitimate career in the arts which requires vigorous training.  Clearly he is a successful career changer!
  • His first 4 years were quite mediocre – his best year was 2007 with the Florida Marlins, a team that placed him on waivers in August 2010.  Is this comparable to a layoff with limited outplacement?
  • San Francisco picked up Ross’ option primarily to prevent their rivals, the San Diego Padres, from acquiring  him.  Applying baseball strategy, as competitive intelligence would be applied in the business world.
  • Cole Hamels, the 2008 MVP of the Phillies and (losing) pitcher of Game 3, said of Cody: “He’s hitting pitches that most normal people can’t hit at this time.”  Is it possible for we regular folks to find opportunities that most others can’t respond to at this time?

“It’s been a dream come true,” said Ross, who went 4-for-14 with a homer and three RBI in the Division Series. “It’s been an unbelievable experience for me.”

Is it naive to believe that those of us between 45 – 65 years of age can identify opportunities (perhaps through S-W-O-T analysis) and  make their encore career dreams come true?

Do you think Philly is a ‘thinking’ city?

Inquirer Business news today:  Philadelphia has joined what sounds like an exclusive club of “thinking cities.”  So should we puff-up our collective chest and thank our  92 post-secondary educational institutions for generating the “thinkers” – college graduates?  Maybe the collaboration between the Phila. Chamber of Commerce & academia solved the brain drain that has contributed to Philadelphia’s population drop?  How to reconcile this ‘thinking’ brand with the Eagles fans who throw snowballs at Santa Claus and ask youz if you want your steak sandwich wit wiz or widdout…

Of course I’m setting up a contrary conclusion.  Mike Armstrong, blogger, has reported on an interesting, albeit geeky report that attempts to identify geographic clusters that share similar engines for generating their local economies. I think the report validates the need to find one’s authentic brand – whether a city or an individual.  Read on…

While it is indisputable that our global economy is based on ‘knowledge,’ this “Knowledge in Cities” report makes it clear that  economic development is not a “one-brand suits all” proposition.  The authors make the case that is important for business and political leaders to recognize their regional “brand” or regional economic identity so their human talent can thrive.  Here are a few descriptions of these regional brands:

Thinking Regions: High knowledge about arts, humanities, IT and commerce; low knowledge about manufacturing.  Philly joins 33 other areas, including NY-Northeastern NJ, Olympia, WA, San Diego, CA, and Victoria, BC

Innovating Regions: Very high knowledge about IT, arts, commerce and engineering; low knowledge about manufacturing.  In this group, you’ll find 14 regions, including Boston, MA & NH, Madison, WI, Raleigh-Durham, NC, Trenton, NJ, and Washington DC/MD/VA.

Comforting Regions: High knowledge about mental health; low knowledge about engineering and production. Look for 29 areas, including Amarillo, TX, Las Vegas, NV, Quebec City, QC, Springfield-Holyoke-Chicopee, MA, and Pueblo, CO.

So, should these descriptions of regional economic identity influence your career management plan?  How can you use this data to more efficiently target your skills, abilities, and knowledge to meet the needs of your local labor market?

Obituary for Personal Branding?

I was raised at a dinner table where the “devil’s advocate” helped us learn to  form opinions, so I am ready for a second-helping of the debate about the death of the personal brand (thoughtful post by blogger, Mitch Joel).

First of all, I am also turned-off by the use of the word, “personal” in the same phrase as “brand:”  it seems like a tautology.  When describing brands, we are accustomed to thinking of those who are people in law only, e.g. Nike, Coca Cola, Nordstrom.

It took me some time to get over what I perceived to be the bastardization of The Brand Called YOU, an article I still have in a hard copy of Fast Company.  Indeed, some folks have cashed-in on the concept, but I could not abandon what is otherwise the most effective argument for a self-reflective and proactive approach to career management and entrepreneurial success.

So I went back to the source and re-read Tom Peters’ 1997 article; I found a perspective that may take “personal branding” off the Obituary page: a Solomon-esqe view:

  • The problem seems to be one of semantics:  the process that Peters advocates is the time-honored self-assessment and S-W-O-T analysis that career strategists have promoted for years.  There are lots of acronyms, e.g.: “SSP’s – Special Selling Points, VIP’s – Values, Intrinsics, & Passions,” “Unique Value Proposition,” etc.  ”Brand” was indeed the term chosen by Peters – maybe he did so precisely to raise eyebrows and create a “buzz?”  The term may sound sleazy, but the process is justifiably respected by career professionals and employed under many names.
  • The Brand Called YOU describes personal marketing strategies, both online and traditional.  Let’s consider whether it is the marketing that may have added a layer of  sleaze to a process that has otherwise been the province of some very conservative career coaches and resume writers.  It is entirely possible that some of the tools and tactics employed in career management today are better suited to Advertising Age.

We are all looking for a process that will help clarify and convey our features and benefits.  Many career professionals  have refined the process; many are articulate and respected advocates of candidates for employment and entrepreneurs.  Let’s not prematurely bury a respected process and strategies because we don’t like the terminology.  Long live “the true you,” “the essential you,” “the unique U,” or “the brand called you.”

NYNT: Speed Networking with Net Impact-Philly

Kudos to Lindsey and Kate, who organized this well-attended event at the  Public House in Center City, Philadelphia.

What is “Speed Networking?” It is an event designed to promote business connections, in this case among a group of professionals who already share an interest in careers in the “Sustainability” sector of business.  In my role as a resource for people interested in this sector, this association-sponsored event was sure to attract people I would be able to relate to.

How does the event work?  Participants were assigned either letters or numbers.  Letters remained seated at small tables; numbers changed seats after a specified period of time  until most attendees had an opportunity to meet one another.  In other words, letter “C” met with number “3;” then number “3″ moved over to meet with letter “D.”

Where does “speed” enter the picture? These events are staged to promote a quick introduction to as many people as possible, with time afterward for socializing.   Time seems to be our scarcest resource these days: I was able to meet and make an initial assessment of 10 people in 65 minutes.

WIIFY-What’s In It For You?

  • For those who are not comfortable with face-to-face networking, this is an opportunity  to practice in a controlled environment and for a limited period of time – no need to reach-out to people ‘cuz they’ll come to you.
  • This type of event preserves a bit of anonymity – you may find 1-2 gems among the 10 contacts you might make, and there is no shame in leaving the 8 or so other contacts to be mined later or not at all.
  • In just a few minutes, participants  share business cards and discuss their goals, share their “1-minute commercial,” ask for recommendations”, etc.   Take notes, follow-up, be a giver…
  • Your group can suggest some “prompts” or conversation starters, or leave it to the participants.  Lindsey and Kate suggested 6-minute blocks of time, so there was ample time to share information and determine if connections were worth pursuing.

I’d like to hear about your experiences:  is this a legitimate method to build your network, or is it too contrived?  So far, my take on it is that speed networking could be a great ice-breaker for a group training exercise or meeting.  I recommend it as a NYNT – Nurture Your Network Tool.  Thanks again to Lindsey and Kate, (and to whomever jammed the parking meter outside the Public House so I could park for free)!

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